Politically Active Christians

Gina Miller’s article, Should Christians Be Politically Active?, inspired me to comment.  But because of the substantial length of my comment, I decided to post it separately.  You can read Gina Millers article at http://barbwire.com/2014/09/17/christians-politically-active/ and also at RenewAmerica.com and AmericanClarion.com.  In her article, Gina responds to the verbal chastisement of a Christian who feels that speaking out against the  evils done by civil government is morally repugnant and the wrong focus for Christians.

Being a Christian in America should not be perverted to mean we must drop out of politics and let the ungodly rule over us! Being politically active is an effective way Christians can love their neighbors. The goal of Christian involvement in politics is to secure everyone’s God-given rights, for which God ordains government. In a republic, the civic duty of its citizens (the “rendering unto Caesar” if you will) means participating in their representational government. At the very least, that means staying informed and voting. It means using our freedom of speech and freedom of the press to keep the public discussion of issues available to all who are willing to hear it.  It also includes seeking and holding elected offices. We have the duty and responsibility of ruling ourselves. In a republic, there is no king or ruling class. By dropping out of politics, Christians are handing over the governing authority to scoundrels and fools — neither a wise nor spiritual thing to do.

As in so many other cases these days, the reason some Christians believe being politically active is wrong is because of their ignorance. And frankly, many of them are not only content to remain ignorant, but insist on doing so, resisting all opportunities to examine their position. Christians opposed to political involvement love to quote Romans 13:1, while shutting their minds to what it actually means. I challenge them to refute the book, Romans 13, The True Meaning Of Submission, by Timothy and Chuck Baldwin. It is written like a legal argument, so be prepared to use your grey cells.

Another book I highly recommend is One Nation Under God, Ten Things Every Christian Should Know About the Founding of America, by Dr. David C. Gibbs, Jr. Although we are no longer a Christian nation, the United States was essentially established by Christians for Christians. The important role played by the clergy before the Revolutionary War of Independence is described in chapter 7, The Black Regiment. “Because of the color of their robes, these patriotic clergy were known as the black regiment.” (p. 94) One member of the Black Regiment, Rev. Jonathan Hayhew, of Boston preached a sermon in 1765 in response to King George’s Stamp Act. In part, he reasoned,

The king is as much bound by his oath not to infringe the legal rights of the people, as the people are bound to yield subjection to him. From whence it follows that as soon as the prince sets himself above the law, he loses the king in the tyrant. He does, to all intents and purposes, un-king himself. (p. 96)

When work on the Constitution had been completed, Benjamin Franklin was asked what kind of a government had been designed. His answer was, “A Republic, if you can keep it”. The sad fact is that we did not keep it. In the past century, we have gone from republic to democracy to socialism as secular influence has increased and Christian influence has decreased. Yet some Christians still argue that the abrogation of our civic duty is good and proper, while being politically active is an “idol”. How much sense does that make to you?

Elections will be held in a couple of months. If past performance is any indication, half of the people won’t even bother to vote. We will continue to be ruled by fools and scoundrels, whether they have a D or an R after their name. Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit to a yoke of slavery”. Freedom means responsibility. If you let others decide for you and tell you what you must do and how things are going to be for you, you are not free. But that’s exactly what Christians are doing when they don’t vote or exercise their freedom of speech. By giving up their responsibility, they are giving up their own freedom, and forcing everyone else to lose theirs.

Christians owe it to their neighbors, to their communities — for the freedom of all their fellow citizens — to participate in politics.

Posted in Christian Attitudes, Politics | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Interesting Times

The “Chinese curse”, “May you live in interesting times,” apparently has gained control of our minds. As if drugged or hypnotized, we stared, blinking at television screens as the President of the United States of America told us, “ISIS is not Islamic. No religion condones the killing of innocents.” The fact that it was the President who said this convinces me the lunatic fringe is no longer on the fringe. It’s right there in the heart of the matter, ensconced in the seat of power. Indeed, these are interesting times.

The president’s statement, “ISIS is not Islamic,” ignores the very claims of ISIS, and discounts the significance of their religious motivation. Isolated from any context, the issue of whether or not ISIS is Islamic may be a good topic for polemic argument. But this is not a theoretical question. Yet, by saying, “No religion condones the killing of innocents,” the president confirmed a religious connection, just as if he had prefaced that statement with, “And even if ISIS were Islamic”. If ISIS is indeed not Islamic, there is no need to make the statement that no religion condones the killing of innocents. Such defensive “reasoning” is childish.

But the real kicker in this momentary scene, played out in the pageant of these interesting times, is the complete absence of any historical context, or documentation. Perception is the only thing that matters to the inmates running the asylum. There is only one politically permissible view. Reality be damned.

“No religion condones the killing of innocents.” What about the religion of Molech that required child sacrifice? Perhaps that example doesn’t carry much weight because it comes from the Bible. Alright, what about the human sacrifice practiced by the Aztecs, Mayas and Zapotecs? Ok, maybe that’s just ancient history. But in my lifetime there has been a religion that not only condones the killing of innocents, but incites followers to do just that. That religion is Islam.

“Hold it right there!” I can hear the chorus from the politically correct. Most Muslims are “moderate”. Islam is the “religion of peace”…interesting statements in these interesting times…The fact is that the Muslims I have met have all seemed to be nice people. I don’t doubt that for a minute. But what is it about their religion that these so-called “moderates” are moderating? In order to understand that, you have to turn to the authority of their religion.

First of all, Islam is not the religion of peace. It is the religion of submission. “Peace,” as envisioned by Islam, will be achieved when everyone is Muslim (“all religion is for Allah” — Koran 8:39). That means that pure Islam, as opposed to moderate Islam — the Islam taught by Imams from the Koran — believes that Muslims are to place all infidels (non-Muslims) into submission. Don’t look now, but that means there is no freedom of religion under authentic Islam. In fact there is no freedom at all. Everyone must submit to Islamic authority.

So, how is this vision of “peace” attained? By Jihad. What is Jihad? The politically correct will tell you it is the struggle (often an inner struggle) to bring about a better world, a better life. Such is the “moderate” view. But the meaning of Jihad, taken from the context of the Koran, means “fight”. At the very least, Islam is a religion that uses fighting to gain converts. Historically, (I realize in these interesting times most people consider history meaningless and irrelevant.) Islam has spread through the brutal conquest of nations. That’s what started the Crusades.

Muslim warriors would give innocent people three choices from the Koran: convert to Islam, submit to the humiliation of dhimmitude or die. This “killing of innocents” is exactly what ISIS has been doing in Syria and Iraq. The reason for it is not that these thugs are an aberration, not that they are fanatics going beyond what their religion teaches. But these Muslims are purists. They actually believe the Koran when it says to fight and kill the infidel. And they are willing to put that faith into action. But the president’s fantasy sweeps us into a world like The Emperor’s New Clothes. We all have to pretend, despite what our eyes are telling us.

We have to pretend that Mohammad wasn’t a ruthless warrior, that he didn’t slay anyone who wouldn’t submit to him. We have to pretend that when Mohammad wrote the word “fight” in his Koran that he didn’t really mean fight. He didn’t really mean to take the sword and slash others with it until they could no longer resist. He wasn’t really a murdering conqueror. He was a man of peace. He respected freedom of religion. He didn’t wish any harm to innocents. He was man of virtue, a wise prophet of God.

Should the Lord tarry, and historians of the future are able to look back at this time in history, they will most likely call it the Age of Ignorance or the Age of Deception. Ignorance leads to deception and deception promotes ignorance, so either way, it describes these interesting times in which we live. Recently, I read an article by Kenneth Berding about the declining level of Bible literacy among Christians http://magazine.biola.edu/article/14-spring/the-crisis-of-biblical-illiteracy/ . But we aren’t exclusively ignorant of the Bible. We are equally, if not more ignorant of the Koran. The fact that the President of the United States of America can argue against the reality of religious motivation for ISIS or any other Islamic terrorist group shows a troubling ignorance on the part of Americans.

For anyone who cares to understand the threatening nature of Islam (I realize a lot of people prefer to pretend to admire the Emperor’s new clothes.) I suggest reading Robert Spencer’s book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (And The Crusades). While you’re waiting for the book you can go to http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/Quran/023-violence.htm and read many verses taken from the Koran (Quran) and the Hadith extolling violence for the purpose of spreading Islam. The choice is yours, whether you educate yourself or nurse your pet fantasies.

I do not delude myself into thinking that mere factual information will have any impact on how some people think. Everyone is his own authority. Truth is relative. It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you believe in something. You just have to make up your own mind as to what is true for you. It’s all good. We live in interesting times.

[UPDATE]

See the video and read the article from the Thomas More Law Center, in which British Imam Anjem Choudary justifies the actions of ISIS (or ISIL).

http://www.thomasmore.org/imam-educates-president-islam-law-promote-terrorism-killing-innocents/

Posted in Allah and the Qur'an, Islam, Religion | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Let’s Not Lose Our Heads

On June 26th an article appeared in Stars And Stripes (the newspaper “authorized for publication by the Department of Defense for members of the military community”) which reported on US personnel in Bahrain being required to abide by Ramadan practices. You can read the article here : http://www.stripes.com/news/middle-east/us-personnel-in-bahrain-prepare-for-ramadan-1.290721

What bothered me most about our own government requiring certain behavior for religious reasons was that if someone back home in the USA says, “Merry Christmas”, the politically correct response is that he is forcing his religion on others. Any vestige of religious practice in public seems to elicit a tremendous reaction based on the nebulous fancy that the state should be separated from influence from the church. The ACLU and others fight to restrict the display of Christian and Jewish symbols on public and government property because, they argue, it violates the “establishment clause”. But when US military personnel are in Islamic theocracies, they are required by our own authorities not only to respect the religion of Islam, but to actually adhere to its religious requirements, practices and traditions.

What’s wrong with this picture? Why is our own military — directed by our own government — not only respectfully compliant but eagerly proactive in conditioning non-muslim Americans to submit to Sharia? The American spirit used to aspire to universal freedom of speech. That means the freedom to publicly voice one’s opinion in opposition to the will of the majority. Free speech was designed for critical speech, not politically correct speech. In the article, under “Things to Know During Ramadan” is listed, “Avoid critical remarks about fasting or any religious practice.” In Islam, there is no allowance given for doubt, debate or disagreement. And our military goes along with that — not on the basis of following military orders, but on the basis of enforced religious behavior.

Is our military’s cooperation with Islamic theocracies justified because our presence in places like Bahrain is as much for political reasons as for military reasons? I understand as well as the next person the idea that when in Rome, do as the Romans do. Of course it makes sense not to offend the host country where we station our troops. But here is the problem. Islamic theocracies consider anything non-muslim to be offensive. And to those of us who grew up in the petri dish of Western freedom, the offense taken by Muslims seems quite irrational.

Another item under “Things to Know During Ramadan” is, “Arabs are good hosts and may offer you food or refreshments during daylight hours. Such offers should be declined.” So, even though natives to Islamic culture know full well that eating during the day is forbidden (Remember, their religious practices are enforced by law.) they do not see enabling others to eat as a wrong thing. Rather, they consider hospitality such an important virtue that it should be brandished for others to see, even when the acceptance of such hospitality constitutes a crime. Apparently, there is no culpability in tempting or abetting others to violate the strictures of Ramadan.

So, why does our military so willingly cooperate with the religious zeal of Islam? This question has a very real and rugged edge on it, in light of the recent beheadings of American journalists. The answer is hidden somewhere in the political fog of our foreign policy. That fog has made it difficult to see what national defense interests are so vital as to make us not just willing to fund major international military operations, not just willing to risk American lives, but willing and eager to forego the very freedoms for which we ostensibly are there to defend.

When it comes to geopolitical strategy, we supposedly maintain our military presence in the Middle East to promote regional “stability”. The justification for this is that it is in our national interest to promote stable oil production in the Middle East, in order to ensure prosperous economies in the West. The benefits of this strategy come at a cost, which now appears to be acquiescing to Islam. Will we soon be bowing down to Mecca?

Now, that wouldn’t be so offensive to Bible-believers if Allah really were just another name for the God of the Bible, but that isn’t the case. The bottom line is that in order to maintain the flow of oil to keep the pockets of industry stuffed with cash, we have surrendered the greatest freedom of all: to live according to our own faith, and not be forced to conform to any state religion. This fact is a great offense to Christians and Jews around the world. But the powers that be take little notice because Christians and Jews don’t cut off people’s heads when they are offended.

Perhaps we need to rethink America’s so-called super-power role in the world. Are we willing to continue to strain our already depleted economy in order to feed the fantasy that we are making the world “safe for democracy”? In order to sustain this fantasy, ideologue politicians, aided by a relativistic judiciary have perverted the principles of our Constitution. Read it. The Constitution did not design our military for the purposes of geopolitical influence. It is strictly designed for national defense.

Most people seem to be blissfully ignorant of that fact. Rather, they blindly accept our role as security police to the world, as practiced since the second half of the twentieth century. Frankly, as recent events illustrate, it is dangerous not to be aware of these things. It is dangerous not to question how Islam impacts us, not just personally but politically. A mere glance at current events in the Middle East and North Africa illustrates just how dangerous Islam can be. As Americans, living on the other side of the world, we must soberly ask ourselves where we stand, in terms of how we choose to relate to Islam. We can no longer afford to ignore a very real threat.

The cow trails in our minds force us to think of war as a struggle between nations. But Jihad recognizes no borders. What is happening in Syria and Iraq is a war of religion, made abundantly clear by the slaughter of non-Muslims. If we continue to view such atrocities as crimes, rather than acts of war, while using our military as diplomats of religious tolerance, rather than armed forces for the purpose of defending against war, then what will prevent Jihadists from raping, pillaging and cutting off heads in America?

History repeats itself. Is it possible we might be headed for a reiteration of the Crusades? Most people hold to the distorted view that the Crusades stand as a great black mark against Christianity. I find it fascinating that there is a striking absence of similar disrepute for Islam. Yet, the so-called “Christian” role in the Crusades was in response to ruthless Muslim attacks on civilians simply because they would not convert to Islam, an assault that did, in fact, encroach on Europe. And keep in mind, the Holy Roman Empire was not simply “Christian”. It was ruled by politicians and militarists. This was before secular governments. Almost every nation was a theocracy.

So, here we are today, wringing our hands because adherents of Islam actually believe the Koran when it instructs them to fight the infidel until all religion is for Allah. Remember, that first and foremost, Mohammed was a ruthless warrior. When he said fight, he meant slay with the sword. Present-day Jihadists are emulating their violent “prophet” with fanatic dedication. In the meantime, our military focuses on being as inoffensive as it can be, making sure that members of the US Armed Forces conform to proper Islamic etiquette during Ramadan. How’s that working out for us?

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Peace

Hamas terrorists purposely situate themselves among Palestinian women and children in Gaza, and indiscriminately fire rockets at civilian targets in Israel.  Israel takes appropriate military action to protect its people, warning civilians in Gaza beforehand to evacuate the target areas.  Hamas won’t let them leave.  Then, when those civilians are killed and wounded, supporters of Hamas accuse Israel of war crimes.  And now voices are raised, calling for peace: “Peace!  Peace!”, when there is no peace.

But what is peace?  What does it mean?  How do we define it?  And how do we obtain it?  Don’t assume everyone understands or agrees.  Peace is a vital concept.  To some, peace is simply the cessation of violence — an end to the killing.  No more bombs or rockets.  No more shooting.  Following this line of thinking, it is easy to see why some people are against gun ownership.  Their basic assumption is that without weapons, violence hasn’t got a chance.  Even if only one side disarms, that solves half the problem.  Of course, you understandably might not appreciate that if you are in the disarmed half, while those attacking you are armed.

Part and parcel of this anti-gun/disarmament point of view is that war itself is immoral.  It disavows war as a proper course of action for nations, on the basis that wars are never going to change the world.  But this contention is an intellectual dead end because nothing we do is ever going to change the world anyway — either for good or for bad.  Nothing human beings are capable of doing will ever change the world.  While we may indeed do things that help people and contribute to the quality of life on a temporary basis and in a limited scope, changing the world isn’t our job. That belongs exclusively to God.  So, while we do our best to be a good influence in the world, we must accept the fact that until Jesus comes, the world will continue to remain in its fallen state, as it has since the disobedience of Adam and Eve.

Today it is popular to see war and peace as polar opposites — end values on a sliding scale between violence and non-violence.  From this view, the idea that there could be a moral justification for going to war is unacceptable, since you then must commit immoral acts in order to defend your moral position.  In high dudgeon, supporters of Hamas — apparently blind to their own inhumane behavior — accuse Israel of war crimes, when all Israel is guilty of is taking military action to establish order and safety for her own people.  They stand accused of not living at peace with their neighbors.

So where is this “peace” that Hamas seeks?  Had cooler minds prevailed weeks ago, no teenagers would have been murdered; no rockets would have been fired.  Israel would not have been pushed into a military response in Gaza.  But would that prior restraint have meant “peace” for the enemies of Israel?  What do we learn from history?  Those opposed to Israel haven’t stopped accusing them of oppressive “occupation” ever since the U.N. approved their founding in 1948.  Not only the Muslim nations surrounding her but the dissidents within her own borders, have been continually trying to dismantle and destroy Israel.  Their idea of “peace” is to wipe Israel off the map.

Secretary of State John Kerry has called for “negotiations”, the latest iteration of a theme and variation called, “The Peace Process”.  Political leaders of all ilks have been negotiating for “peace” in the region for longer than I can remember.  Back In 1978, then President Carter, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin signed the historic Camp David Accords.  It was touted as the most significant Middle East peace negotiation ever achieved.  Sadat and Begin shared the Nobel Peace Prize for their achievement.

So, how’d that work out?  In 1981 Sadat was assassinated by Muslims who hated the peace treaty.  Israel became entangled in a war with Lebanon and Begin died in 1983.  American Embassy personnel in Iran were held hostage for 444 days, leading to Carter’s defeat in his re-election bid.  So much for those peacemakers.  Still today, the voices continue to call for more negotiations, in order for the peace process to “move forward”, whatever that means.  It sounds great, but like all deceptions, it doesn’t really mean a thing.

There is a definite confusion factor in how we look at peace.  Consider the notion that Islam is the so-called “religion of peace”.  That’s more than a bit confusing when you discover that most of the terrorist activity in the world comes at the hands of Muslims.  But it makes sense when you realize that the “peace” of Islam is when the whole world comes under Islamic law.  The Koran teaches a philosophy of fighting against non-Muslims and forcing them to submit to Islam.  Islamic terrorists are simply Muslim believers who are willing to put the Koranic teachings into practice.  They are willing to kill and die for the Islamic idea of peace.  That mind-set precludes the possibility of negotiation.  You can’t negotiate with anyone who thinks that way because they will lie and deceive and do anything they can to force their will on their enemies.  In fact, lies and deception are institutionalized as acceptable tactics in the advancement of Islam.  Look up Taqiyya and Kitman.

But you don’t have to look at Islam to find confusion about peace.  A lot of Christians also seem to be confused.  We like to think of Jesus as the loving Prince of Peace in Isaiah 9:6.  But remember that Jesus himself said, “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division” (Luke 12:51).  By this he meant that he draws a line between life and death, good and evil, right and wrong.  That line divides the rewards of faith and righteousness, from the punishment of rebellion and disobedience.

That division engenders spiritual enmity between believers and unbelievers.  Luke 12:52-53 describes a division that even pits family members against each another.  But we are still commanded to love those from whom we are estranged.  Hebrews 12:14 says, “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.”  And Romans 12:18 says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”  Those two clauses are very important: “If possible” and “so far as it depends on you”.  The implication is that it isn’t always possible to live at peace with others and the entire burden of living peaceably doesn’t rest on any one person or nation.  Even when we do our best, sometimes living peaceably is not an option.  It can’t be.

Sometimes nations are forced into taking aggressive action for their very survival.  Their “peace” cannot be measured by either the absence or presence of war.  There will always be threats such as terrorists and rogue nations.  Our attitude toward war should incline toward the preservation of all that is good.  If we cannot come to an agreement on what is good, then how can we ever find peace?  In John 14:27 Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.”  This has nothing to do with either war or the cessation of war.

There are two different categories of peace: that which the world gives and that which Jesus gives.  Peace negotiations in the Middle East seek to establish a peace that the world can give.  Who knows what that may be?  It could be a repetition of history — the cessation of violence for a time, without resolving the underlying causes of antipathy.  It could be the product of one power or authority enforcing its will over another.  It might even come as a result of negotiation.  But regardless of how a worldly peace comes about, it can never last long.  It will always be a short fix.  Jesus said he didn’t come to give that kind of peace.  He gives a different kind of peace.  And his peace is forever.

Some people tend to feel that peace is a product of love, as war is a product of hate.  Jesus told us to love one another (John 13:34 and elsewhere) and even told us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-44 and elsewhere).  But whether we love our enemies or hate our enemies, we still have enemies and those enemies are still prone to threaten our peace.  So, while we may love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, we still must do what we can to protect ourselves.  Loving our enemies does not mean repudiating our own self-defense or denying the courage of our own convictions.

There are two issues at stake here.   Jesus said, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Luke 20:25).  Jesus is saying we have two duties: to serve the purposes of national sovereignty and to serve the purposes of God’s sovereignty.  We are to do both.  In Matthew 6:24 and elsewhere Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters”.  So, rendering to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s is not the same as serving Caesar as your master.  If the government of a nation commands a believer to go against God’s sovereignty, it is the believer’s duty to follow God, not his government.  It is the citizen’s duty to make those moral distinctions.  And in that process, sometimes we discover that a moral decision to participate in war has nothing to do with hatred or anger, and everything to do with fighting for what is right.

The idea that peace comes by ending war, and ending war replaces hate and anger with love misses the most significant aspect of peace as the world gives it.  Like war, this kind of peace doesn’t change anything.  It only creates a lull in hostilities.  I’m not saying there is anything wrong with peaceful lulls.  What I am saying is that if you pray for peace, pray for that ultimate peace that doesn’t depend on a balancing act between opposing forces.  Pray for the peace that Jesus gives.  There are those in the world who cry for peace.  But they are like the deceitful prophets and priests of Jeremiah 8:11 who said, “‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace” because they are willing to sacrifice righteousness and compromise justice to get the monkey off their back.

There can be no peace in the absence of justice.  There can be no justice in the absence of righteousness.  Therefore, those who would pray for peace must be willing to establish justice through righteousness.  Ceasefires do not accomplish that.  Ceasefires for the purpose of negotiating with lying scoundrels have never established justice through righteousness.  Just as going to war does not require hatred or anger, ceasefires do not require the cessation of hatred or anger.  They are not the causes of war, nor are they resolved by ending war.

If the purchase price for peace includes compromising justice and sacrificing righteousness, what value is that peace?  We should love our enemies, yes.  But if that means giving up life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, what is the point?  Islam has an answer to this question.  For those desirous of a peace that the world gives, there’s always Dhimmitude, which makes apartheid look like Sunday school.  Simply lie down and accept the burden of humiliation and subjugation.  For those who want to think of Dhimmitude as myth, I recommend reading The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam And The Crusades, by Robert Spenser.

Dhimmitude is significantly different from Ghandi’s Satyagraha, which we think of as peaceful resistance.  India’s success in gaining independence from Britain was largely due to how a culture strongly steeped in Christian values was impacted by Satyagraha, a product of Hindu culture.  Islamic culture simply does not tolerate such resistance, but as history and contemporary events demonstrate, Muslim rulers ruthlessly eradicate any resistance.

Do you pray for peace?  What kind of peace?  What is it and how do we get it?  For everyone who yearns for peace, who calls for peace, who strives to be a peacemaker (Matthew 5:9) Scripture advises us, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).  We begin to know the peace of Christ when we trust in God.  “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).  That peace goes beyond all understanding and as such, is not subject to political debate.  Do you pray for peace?  Guard your heart and mind in the Messiah, the Savior of the world who sacrificed himself for the sins of the world.   And you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace (Isaiah 55:12).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Have Some Compassion

I’m a naturally compassionate person. It’s just the way I am. The first time I can recall wanting to help someone, I was 2 or 3. My mother took me shopping. Those were the days before shopping malls. She drove to the part of town that had her favorite shops and department stores. The sidewalks were full with shoppers migrating from store to store.

I was holding my mother’s hand as we left a store where she had made some purchases. We passed along the sidewalk, randomly window-shopping with a vague anticipation that soon we would find another shop to enter. Drawn to sights at my own eye level, when I paused too long to examine them, the sure tug of my mother’s hand told me I was not to dawdle.

Then I saw something that made me stop and pull against my mother’s hand. Leaning against a store front, just below the big show case, was a little man playing a little concertina. He wore a funny old hat and was missing several teeth. I looked him in his face, which was almost even with mine. But he did not respond to my glance. My mother gently explained to me that he could not see, and that the coffee can in front of him was for people to put money in. He played his concertina, and that was how he made a living.

I didn’t think he played that well, but even at my age I knew the little blind man was doing the best he could. My mother asked me if I wanted to put some money in his can and I said yes. She took some change from her purse and put it in my hand and I carefully dropped it into the can. Up to this point, I did not think the man even knew I was there. But as soon as he heard the coins clink in the can, he smiled and said, “Thank you!”

I knew that something very important had just happened. For just a moment, my life had connected with another’s in a meaningful way. I learned that sometimes people need help, and sometimes the person who can help them is me. That made me feel significant inside. I had done something good. This all happened in 1947 or 1948. It established a pattern in my life. Ever since then, I have felt compassion toward people in need and have been willing to help others as best I can.

Growing up in my home town of San Diego, my compassion extended to the poor people in Mexico, just across the border. I remember men coming to our front door, asking for any kind of work. They spoke no English, or very little, but because my mother understood a little Spanish, she knew they were asking if they could work for food. She fed them lunch, gave them some yard work to do, then sent them on their way with a little food and money to take with them. This happened a couple of times. The men were very polite and thankful, and we were happy to help them.

We were aware of the poverty in Tijuana. We not only went to Tijuana for the usual tourist and shopping reasons, but we took money, toys and food to orphanages. During Christmas we collected things to take to them. They were very needy and grateful to receive these gifts. I became comfortably familiar with Mexican culture (my first memory of music is listening to a Mariachi band) and in high school, I chose Spanish as my foreign language, as did most of my contemporaries.

Throughout my life I have known Mexican-Americans — people who moved to the U.S. from Mexico to become Americans. I attended college with them, served in the Army with them, worked alongside them and called them friends. Those whom I have known have been law-biding, had a strong work ethic, good morals, family values and a respect for faith in God. They are the kind of immigrants who make a significant contribution to the fabric of American society. They ask for no special treatment — just a fair opportunity. They obey our laws, and they succeed — as Americans. The same can be said of legal Latino immigrants from other Central American and South American countries.

However, while those previous immigrants worked hard to become inculcated as Americans, an opposite trend was simultaneously at work. The number of illegal immigrants (people who simply walk across the border) has become so great, no one really knows how many there are. Those who come from Spanish-speaking nations aren’t as motivated as their legal predecessors to learn the English language, obey American laws or “melt” into our American culture. More common now are illegals who fight to retain their separate cultural and national identities, an attitude that guarantees they will remain separated from main-stream America, unprepared to participate in a political and social system foreign to their cultural upbringing.

Another way in which illegal immigrants today differ from their traditional predecessors is that there is a far greater criminal component now. Roughly one third of the American prison population is comprised of illegals. Gang violence and related crime has greatly escalated as a result of international drug and prostitution rings originating from south of the border, creating a law-enforcement nightmare in many cities. Illegals are bringing the worst elements of society with them, and our own federal government carelessly disregards how that adversely effects our nation. States and municipalities are burdened with unsustainable financial obligations, not only in terms of prison systems and law enforcement, but on health costs, education costs and housing costs, not to mention a job market that continues to be depressed.

Another difference is that there are many young Mexican immigrants who are convinced that a huge portion of the Southwestern United States really belongs to Mexico and their goal is to take back that land. These young people have no desire to become Americans. They do not respect American laws, traditions or our form of government. They actually want to take over the Southwest and force us to become Mexicans. This is not hyperbole. See http://www.mayorno.com/WhoIsMecha.html.

But the biggest difference between immigration policy now and during the 1950s when I was a kid, is that immigration laws used to be designed with our national interests in mind, and those laws were actually enforced. But many prudent and protective laws were struck down, including laws that prevented immigrants from bringing diseases into our country. Diseases we had eradicated were re-introduced into our population, because sensible immigration regulation was dismantled.

That is not to say our current immigration laws are all bad. But the call for “Comprehensive reform” is meaningless when even those laws are not enforced. When the federal government sues an Arizona sheriff for actually trying to enforce immigration laws, the only rational explanation is that our own federal government doesn’t want those laws enforced. The “broken system” we hear about is nothing more than the refusal of government to do their job according to the law.

Relaxing law enforcement in order to sustain an “open borders” policy is contrary to our national interests. No nation in the world can tolerate foreign nationals simply walking across their borders without going through the legal process of applying for residency. Why should we abrogate our national interests, our national identity, our national security?

Go to the other nations of the world and find out what they require in order to allow foreign nationals to relocate to their country. You will discover that it isn’t easy to immigrate to other countries. The reality is that the desire to protect national identity and cultural cohesion is universal. Legal restrictions to immigration are to be expected and respected by all potential immigrants. When legal immigrants weigh the difficulty of meeting immigration criteria against the promise and hope we offer, the U.S.A. still stands out as the land of golden opportunities. People from all over the world are still welcomed (legally) to our shores.

So, why should our government allow for additional millions of undocumented (illegal) immigrants to cross our borders without concern for our immigration laws? The short answer: cheap labor. Keeping labor costs down is a concern of big business that has both Democrats and Republicans looking the other way. By letting illegals enter the work force they are able to sustain their profit margin and keep prices artificially low. It’s similar to keeping costs down by sending jobs overseas, where they pay workers less. Only in this case, the low-paid foreign workers are right here in our own country.

Proponents of this arrangement like to say that these illegals do the work Americans aren’t willing to do. But I don’t believe that for a moment. Since the economy tanked in 2008 a lot of Americans have learned to appreciate having a job. If the younger generation isn’t willing to roll up their sleeves yet, they will eventually. Necessity is the mother of invention. My generation certainly was willing to work hard. When I was young, I did my share of menial labor. A lot of us did. That’s how you got your start in the working world. Then, after you got experience and education, you moved up. That used to be the American way. We all had to start at the bottom and earn the respect and trust of employers. Why should American youth think they’re any different today?

Now we have a crisis situation. Thousands of children from Latin American countries being brought into our country at the hands of cold-hearted smugglers. Children are separated from their families, exposed to untold dangers, diseases and criminal abuse. Their stories pull at our heart strings and we are asked to have compassion on them. And on a purely compassionate level, I applaud the efforts of Glenn Beck and mercuryone.org to provide relief to these children, but ultimately, they need to be returned to their own countries. We cannot feed, house and care for everyone. Nor should we, when many of our own are in need.

Recently in the news I saw someone holding up a sign calling for open borders. It said something to the effect that the land belongs to everyone. That sentiment is born of ignorance, and simply is not true. Laws of land ownership are supposedly respected by every sovereign nation. Much of the land over-run and trashed by illegals on our southern border is private property, owned by people who paid for it and still are required to pay taxes and buy insurance for it. It’s their land, not “everyone’s”. It certainly doesn’t belong to Mexico or mythological Aztlan. Americans deserve to have their land protected. But their own government is failing them, choosing to ignore them in order to show compassion on foreign mobs.

It’s Americans who deserve our compassion — people who obey the law and take their responsibilities seriously. For these same fair-minded Americans also have compassion for the illegals, and try to do right by them. These Americans already have been helping and sharing and giving. We are the world’s deep pockets. But if things continue as they are, at some point our pockets will be empty, and strong-arm tactics will prove fruitless. Who will have compassion then? We should not allow false compassion for illegals to justify the continued criminal invasion of our land.

While there is still time, have some compassion for America.

 

Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near — Isaiah 55:6

But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. — Amos 5:24

 

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What Is Truth?

I recently was surprised to hear someone I thought was a traditional Christian enthusiastically quote and endorse Mata Amritanandamayi (or Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, or just plain Amma), a guru in India. I wondered why a so-called Christian would look to an Indian guru for wisdom, rather than referring to the deep riches of wisdom we find in the Bible. A pearl of that wisdom (something Jesus said) can be found in John 8:32: “…and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” It seemed to me this person was a bit confused about the truth.

In John 18:38 Pontius Pilate asked, “What is truth?”, responding to Jesus who had just said, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate was the Roman prefect of Judaea from AD 26 – 36. His interview with Jesus was to weigh the charges made against him by the Sanhedrin.

Did Pilate ask Jesus to clarify what he meant? What did “bear witness to the truth” mean? Who did Jesus refer to when he said “Everyone who is of the truth”? These seem to be crucial questions. Yet, in the context of this Biblical passage, Pilate did not wait for an answer. John 18:38 continues, “With this he went out again”. So Pilate’s famous question was rhetorical. Rather than seeking an answer, Pilate was implying a statement, that truth is something up for grabs, a matter of opinion, subject to one’s interpretation or viewpoint.

Today it’s popular to espouse world views that consider truth relative, not absolute, in the sense that Jesus intended. Many people today see truth the way Pilate saw it two thousand years ago. They see absolute truth as dead, while relative truth is “living”. It grows. It evolves. It changes. They liken the idea of absolute truth to the simplistic convenience of “one size fits all”. And in order to ensure truth is the right size, they believe each person should be empowered with the authority to judge for themselves what is true.

So, take a moment of honest introspection. In terms of spiritual reality, what do you believe is “truth”? Do you believe it is absolute or relative? Obviously, Jesus considered truth absolute, because a relative truth renders the phrase, “of the truth” meaningless. So, do you consider yourself a person who is “of the truth”? Do you believe in the God of the Bible? Do you believe he will welcome you into his heaven when you die? And if so, what is the reason you deserve to be rewarded with eternal life in God’s presence?

These questions are primarily addressed to those who claim to be Christians yet exchange sound Biblical doctrines for a variety of non-Biblical beliefs. A myriad of religions and belief systems outside of Biblical Christianity provide different responses to these questions. Inevitably, those who are Biblically ignorant, misinformed, disenchanted or deceived will accept many non-Biblical teachings as attractive options to unsatisfying dogmas.

For instance, karma and reincarnation are teachings that are not found in the Bible, and in fact undermine Christian theology. However, it is not difficult to find professing believers who include those teachings as part of their faith. But the problem with this phenomenon is that in order to include karma and reincarnation as part of your faith, you have to reject the Bible as being the foundational authority for your beliefs. You end up making yourself your own authority, because to you, truth is relative. This is mainly accomplished by relying on feelings, rather than the examination of a premise.

The appeal of karma and reincarnation is that they allow for an ever-unfolding progress toward spiritual perfection which can apply to anyone. While the reality of cause and effect produces consequences for everything we do, that’s not karma. Karma is like a spiritual tally sheet of rewards for doing good and punishments for doing bad. The idea of reincarnation gives everyone unending time and opportunity to develop the good, overcome the bad and move up the spiritual ladder. These feel-good doctrines are critically flawed and overlook a fundamental spiritual realization. They are impersonal forces that are part of the fabric of existence, the cycle of life. And as such, they obviate the need for a personal Savior.

The gospel, in a nutshell, is this: Sin separates us from the infinitely perfect, holy God. No amount of our own efforts to do good or do penance for bad can ever make us holy enough to have fellowship with God. So, in order to restore that fellowship, God provided the perfect sacrifice of his only Son to atone for our sin, that whoever receives him, that is, believes in his name, should be given the right to become children of God (see John 1:12).

If karma and reincarnation are “truth”, then there was never a need for Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. Christianity is gratuitous. But the Biblical reality is that God loves us and desires fellowship with us. There is no love with karma or reincarnation — no need for a personal God at all. Is it not crystal clear that our view of “truth” has critical consequences?

The Bible says, “…it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:7). We must meet God’s expectations, live up to God’s standards, and answer to God’s authority because we are subject to God’s judgment. Do you believe that? Do you believe that God created us? Do you believe he has sovereignty over us, requiring our obedience? Do you believe you are accountable to him? Or do you think that somehow you will eventually, by some long, protracted, hit-and-miss method drift closer and closer to heaven? What exactly do you believe?

The Bible says all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12). (Notice that Jesus referred to himself as “the truth”. Don’t you find that interesting?)

Right about now someone may be labeling me a “Bible thumper”. Please note, I am making the claim that the Bible teaches the truth, as opposed to Hinduism, New Age thinking or any other religious system. If I’m guilty of “thumping” anything, it’s the truth. And it is that truth that offends the ears of some. It sounds like a thump to them because they do not know the truth. It assaults the edifice of their fantasy. They are annoyed by the truth because it thumps against their relativity. Thump, thump, thump. Truth, truth, truth.

As fascinating, complex and diverse as Hinduism is, it is a far cry from the truth the Bible teaches. If you reject the truth of the Bible, could it be because you don’t want to admit you are a sinner who will stand before God’s judgment? Is it because you don’t want to answer to an authority higher than yourself? Is it because you want to be free but have forgotten that in order to be free, we must accept our responsibility to God? Freedom isn’t just being our own boss or doing what we like. It’s the relationship we have to God in Christ.

PS   Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15).  He didn’t say look to karma or trust in reincarnation.

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Fighting For Freedom

“I, _______, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.” — U.S. Armed Forces Oath of Enlistment

 
This oath is administered to all entering members of the armed forces. As it clearly states, the Constitution is the object to which they are swearing or affirming allegiance. Most of us would agree that the purpose of the armed forces is to protect and defend our nation, but the Oath of Enlistment doesn’t say, “My country, right or wrong”. A soldier’s ultimate authority isn’t a political entity or the person in charge, but the Constitution. There is no obligation to obey orders that violate the Constitution.

Armed Forces Day is an appropriate time to pay tribute to those American men and woman who have chosen to serve in the military. Often, we appreciate and honor their service to our nation based on what they do, forgetting who they are. Sometimes we tend to think of those in the Armed Forces as a special “warrior class” — Rambo types who are drawn to war. We like to think of the heroes who are killed and wounded in battle as somehow different — more adventurous or daring than we are. But my experiences in the Vietnam war taught me something contrary to that notion.

The men and women of the Armed Forces are just like everyone else. They are part of our communities. They are co-workers, neighbors, friends and relatives. They come from different backgrounds, have different interests, skill sets and beliefs. The single common factor that binds them together is their commitment to serve. According to the Oath of Enlistment, the purpose of their service is to support and defend the Constitution. So, what does the Constitution say about the military?

Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution lists 17 powers of Congress. In addition to the first power, which includes the phrase, “provide for the common defense”, powers 11 through 16 further develop that idea. Read it for yourself. These powers of Congress include declaring war, raising and supporting armies, providing and maintaining a navy, making “rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces” and providing for “organizing, arming and disciplining the militia”.

Article 2, Section 2 says, “The President shall be the commander in chief of the army and navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several States, when called into actual service of the United States”. Notice that the President as commander in chief doesn’t make the rules, Congress does. The job of commander in chief is to lead the armed forces according to the dictates of Congress.

It doesn’t take a genius to see that the U.S. Constitution designs our military for purposes of national defense. But through the implementation of various international treaties, the scope of national defense has been broadened to include issues of “national interest”, used to justify sending forces into hostile situations all over the world, using U.S. troops, in U.S. uniforms, under the command of U.S. officers. Many Americans seem willing to accept this blend of military involvement and foreign policy and they think of Armed Forces personnel as a warrior class for whom armed conflict is natural or routine. They stop thinking of them as friends, neighbors and family.

In February of 1993, a young man named Michael New enlisted in the U.S. Army. In October of 1995 he was removed from his battalion formation, read his rights and told he faced a court-marshal for refusing to wear a U.N. uniform. And in July of 1996, Michael received a “Bad Conduct Discharge”. Ever since that time he has been fighting in the courts to clear his good name and to set the record straight — that a President doesn’t have the legal right to order American troops to fight under a foreign banner or under foreign officers.

Before you write this story off as the doings of some wacky malcontent, please read the detailed time-line of events of Michael New’s story at http://www.mikenew.com/thecase.html You will see that well in advance of the U.N. deployment he voiced his concerns in a reasoned and principled manner, yet was never given a legal rationale for the authorization of the order. In fact, a consistently recurring theme in this case is that citizens (remember, soldiers are citizens too) must do whatever the government says because… “We say so!” To those believers who chant the mantra, “We are to submit to those in authority over us”, I suggest you read Romans 13: The True Meaning of Submission by Timothy and Chuck Baldwin. We are never justified in doing anything illegal or immoral just because those in authority order us to.

In 1994 President Clinton issued Presidential Decision Directive 25 (PDD-25). Please remember, Congress did not produce this document, yet Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution clearly states Congress is to make “rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces”. Obama has made so many Executive Orders that many people think that’s what a President is supposed to do. But not according to the Constitution. The President is not authorized to make laws. Only Congress is.

According to J. William Snyder, Jr. in “Command” versus “Operational Control”: A Critical Review of PDD-25″, “…PDD-25 states that the President, on a case-by-case basis, may authorize the placement of U.S. troops under the operational control of a “competent UN commander for specific UN operations authorized by the Security Council.” (http://www.ibiblio.org/jwsnyder/wisdom/pdd25.html).

Michael New’s legal team was denied access to this document by bureaucratic run-arounds typical of the abuse of power we see in a federal government out of control. Bottom line, they were unable to use it as evidence. The government has done everything imaginable to prevent this citizen from having any recourse to their abusive “We Say So!” attitude. This is not constitutional government. Learn the facts at http://www.mikenew.com/index.html

Recently I received a letter from Michael New’s father, soliciting donations to his legal defense fund. It began:

When my son Michael joined the US Army, he swore an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign AND domestic. Little did he know that the enemy he would be fighting was his Commander-in-Chief. When Bill Clinton tried to hand control of our military over to the United Nations, my son was the only man who stood up to him. Michael chose to be arrested and court-martialed, rather than become a mercenary for the United Nations…and he’s paying a heavy price for that patriotic decision. What happened to my son, Michael, can happen to any soldier. Which is why, when I’m done telling you this story, I need to know…Did my son do the right thing?

Though the Supreme Court refused to hear his case in 2007, his legal team has not given up. Since then PDD-25 has become available and now may potentially be introduced as evidence. Unfortunately this year their petition was denied in U.S. District Court, so now it is a moot point. In a recent email, Michael New’s father wrote:

“We are currently working on a series of FOIA requests to try to determine if there was “command influence” on the court-martial (we are sure there was, and it happens to be illegal). The question was how high it came from – we think it came from the White House, and our source is second hand, but reliable…Of course, we’re getting a run-around and the usual “stone wall” treatment. Six requests brought letters telling us nothing, yet sending us in fifteen new directions (no exaggeration here). In pursuing those directions, we’ve called agencies who have said, “What? We haven’t handled those requests in years!”

Their dogged determination to fight this is admirable. The Michael New story goes to the heart of who we are as a nation. Aren’t those who serve in the armed forces just like us? Are they not our very own friends and family? Are we not under the Constitution? Or are we simply beholden to whatever personality occupies the White House?

Free men don’t simply bend to the will of autocrats, bureaucrats or oligarchs. They act on principle and when they act in concert freedom wins. If you think like a free person, then the Michael New story should inspire you to live like a free person. We all should take a moment this Armed Forces Day to think about what our freedom means, how we got it and how we hope to keep it. We need more Michael News in the military if we ever hope to remain free.

You can listen to the Ballad of Michael New at http://www.mikenew.com/ballad.html

To paraphrase the end of the Oath of Enlistment, “So help us God”.

 

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Puzzling Reality

As I was trying to solve a “Hard” crossword puzzle, I came across this clue for a five-letter word: “Hadrons’ superiors”. Unable to figure it out, I looked up the answer, which was “atoms”. Atoms? I didn’t get it. So I did a search for “hadron” to find out who or what it was. Without realizing it, I had entered a portal into the realm of particle physics.

A hadron, as it turns out, is a composite particle made up of quarks. A quark is an elementary or fundamental particle, along with leptons, antiquarks and antileptons, called fermions. They are the matter and antimatter particles. Bosons are another kind of fundamental particle called “force particles”, which “mediate interactions among fermions”, whatever that means. Any particle made up of two or more of these elementary particles is called a composite particle, and that’s exactly what a hadron is.

Scientists used to think that the atom was the most elementary particle of matter, but they discovered the atom is made up of these even smaller building blocks. It’s all quite amazing. Scientists are continually finding ways to look deeper and closer into the heart of matter.

One would hope that their discoveries would help us all to better understand the reality we live in. But interestingly, the more questions science answers, the more new questions are created. Understanding reality has become a function of whatever theory seems most acceptable you. Without pretending to understand it, I offer this paragraph from Wikipedia’s article on the elementary particle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elementary_particle):

Around 1980, an elementary particle’s status as indeed elementary—an ultimate constituent of substance—was mostly discarded for a more practical outlook, embodied in particle physics’ Standard Model, science’s most experimentally successful theory. Many elaborations upon and theories beyond the Standard Model, including the extremely popular string theory, double the number of elementary particles by hypothesizing that each known particle associates with a “shadow” partner far more massive, although all such superpartners remain undiscovered. Meanwhile, an elementary boson mediating gravitation—the graviton—is generally presumed, but remains hypothetical.

In other words, despite all the knowledge gained through scientific study, our understanding of the physical universe we live in (our reality) is still basically a mystery. One of the questions string theory introduces is how many dimensions there are. My generation was told space has three dimensions and time was the fourth. In 1969 I heard the 5th Dimension sing the Age of Aquarius, and I mistakenly thought my consciousness was expanding. (C’mon, lighten up!)

But string theory concludes there are ten or even more dimensions to reality. At first glance, such a theory is mind-boggling, especially to someone raised on mid-twentieth century conceptualizations. However, when I consider that my idea of reality includes God, heaven and supernatural matters beyond a simple four-dimensional explanation, maybe science is onto something.

It’s hard to read the Bible without thinking there are dimensions to reality we simply do not understand. Where is heaven, if not in another dimension? Where are the “heavenly places” of Ephesians 6:12 and Hebrews 9:11-12? What did Paul mean in 2 Corinthians 12:2 by “caught up to the third heaven…whether in the body or out of the body”? Supernatural phenomena, such as miracles and angels or even the omniscience and omnipresence of God become easier to grasp as realities when you see them as functions of other dimensions we don’t understand.

Despite the greatest efforts of our finest minds, the mystery of what reality is persists. There is no unanimity in the field of ontology (the study of the nature of being). Just think about that for a moment. Those who study the nature of existence don’t even agree on what existence is! Similarly, there isn’t even agreement on the theory of knowledge (epistemology), as to what we can know or how we can know it. What this boils down to is that people see what they want to see and believe what they want to believe.

Our ability to live well isn’t as dependent upon our understanding of reality as it is our beliefs about reality. What we believe fills in the empty spaces in what we can know. If you are driving down a road and a tree has fallen, blocking your way, it’s not going to make any difference how well you understand the sub-atomic structure of the tree. Solving the problem of getting around the obstacle remains.

The scenario of a fallen tree in your way includes many more considerations. Perhaps it means you should turn back. Perhaps you are frustrated by the delay. Perhaps you see this as an opportunity to examine your purposes. Should you focus on yourself or help someone else, whose way is also blocked? Perhaps you are reminded to be thankful that this tree didn’t fall when you would have been driving on that very spot. Or you might even relish the challenge of the situation. The “reality” of the situation is partly the tree and partly you. Your part is what you believe.

It’s tempting to focus on the tree and miss the forest — just like it’s tempting to focus on a hadron, or even a quark. But they’re only tiny specks in the big picture. And to me, the big picture points to God. Assembling all those parts together is like solving a puzzle. What do we see when the puzzle is solved? In Romans 1:19 it says, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.”

The big picture is that we can see the universe God created and recognize his handiwork in it, just like we can recognize a painting by Rembrandt, a building by Frank Lloyd Wright, a book by Hemingway or music by our favorite composer. Creation points to the Creator. Particle physics points to something greater than tiny particles — not just to a solved puzzle, but to the Maker of the puzzle.

“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:16a, 17

 

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Resurrection Day

The Dating of Easter

This year Easter falls on my birthday. Not that it means anything, but the coincidence has caused me to do some thinking about Easter and what that day means to me. Dates hold a particular significance for us all. We look ahead on our calendars and mark the important days — vacations, dentist appointments, birthdays. But sometimes we get the wrong idea about dates. I have the same birthday as Adolph Hitler. That makes me living proof that astrology is bunk. Being born on a particular date doesn’t make me who I am. So, let’s not be so set about the date something happens that we lose our sense of responsibility for how we respond to it.

This year, on April 20th Christians will celebrate Easter — that is, in most Western churches. In 325 the Roman Emperor Constantine assembled the First Council of Nicaea, consisting of approximately 318 bishops, each of whom was allowed to bring two priests and three deacons with him, making the total number in attendance perhaps 1800 or more. One of the items on their agenda was to agree on when to celebrate Easter.

A problem existed because originally the date of Christ’s resurrection was marked according to Passover, as set by the Jewish calendar. Scripture instructs the Passover lamb to be slaughtered, roasted and eaten on the 14th day (beginning at twilight) of the first lunar month (Nisan) of the Jewish religious year. (The Jewish civil year begins in the month of Tishri, but that’s another story.) By the fourth century, the Christian church no longer identified itself as a Jewish sect. It sought to establish a distinctive Christian church calendar with its own non-Jewish time of year, in place of Nisan.

Calendar problems like this can seem pretty esoteric and confusing. A wide variety of civilizations and cultures have produced diverse calendars — none of them without flaws, including the now popularly standard Gregorian calendar. In 46 BC Julius Caesar reformed the Roman calendar, introducing the Julian calendar. That was the calendar in use by the Roman empire in 325. The First Council of Nicaea came up with its own method for setting the date for Easter. They decided Easter should fall “on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring (Vernal) Equinox.”  http://www3.nd.edu/~pantsakl/dateofeaster.pdf

The decision to separate Easter from the Jewish calendar was not without controversy. But the majority ruled and a new tradition began. I do not pretend to understand the formula set forth by the First Council of Nicaea, but apparently, tying the celebration of Easter to the vernal Equinox had the effect of causing the date to gradually “drift” away from the time of year set by the Council. So, in 1582 Pope Gregory upgraded the Julian calendar, giving us what is known as the Gregorian calendar, solving the problem of the drifting date. I use the term, “solving” advisedly. From The Dates Of Easter Sunday (linked above), Panos Antsaklis writes,

The Eastern Churches have fixed the above “Vernal Equinox” to be March 21 of the Julian calendar, which currently is April 3 in the Gregorian calendar. So, in Eastern churches, Easter falls between April 4 and May 8, while in Western churches Easter falls between March 22 and April 25.

The above “first full moon after the Vernal Equinox” is not the actual full moon, but it is a calculated, ecclesiastical full moon called the Paschal Full Moon.

If you’re anything like me, all this seems so unnecessary. The Jews still have their calendar and they still celebrate Passover according to the Biblical date. My opinion is that as long as we have Scripture that links the Resurrection to Passover events, why shouldn’t Christians celebrate it according to the timing of the Jewish (Biblical) feast of Passover?

Those 318 bishops back in 325 decided to set the date of celebration to a time of year, and chose the vernal equinox as their standard reference. But there is absolutely nothing in Scripture that ties either Passover or the Resurrection to the vernal equinox. The Council’s decision was strictly pragmatic, and strictly for the purpose of separating Christianity from the Jewish calendar, which as it turns out is the most reliable and accurate method for dating the Resurrection. Was this decision a mistake? I strongly believe so.

For one reason, Christians have largely lost the significance of Passover, particularly the fact that Jesus Christ fulfilled that Biblical feast. In fact, so far, Jesus has fulfilled four Biblical feasts. For Pesach, he was our Passover Lamb; for Unleavened Bread, he was our sinless Messiah; for First Fruits, he was the first to be raised from the dead; for Shavuot (Pentecost), his Holy Spirit was given. Three Biblical feasts yet remain to be fulfilled: Rosh Hoshanah, the announcement of Jesus’ second coming; Yom Kippur, the day of his judgement; and Succot, his kingdom banquet. Christians should not miss the fundamental and meaningful prophetic connection our faith has with the Old Testament.

Another reason is that by using the vernal equinox to determine the timing of Easter, an association was made with pagan fertility celebrations that has continued to this very day. Most Christians are not offended in the least by the supposedly “secular” aspects of Easter, such as the Easter Bunny or Easter Eggs. But traditions like these have their origin and find their meaning in ancient pagan religions, which celebrated goddesses of fertility: Eostre, Ishtar, Ashtoreth, Astarte and many others. The ancients celebrated “new life” in the Spring, but it was sexual fertility that they celebrated, not new life in Christ. These Easter traditions persist in the church. Yet nowhere in Scripture are we directed to participate in them.

The Meaning of Resurrection Day

When I was growing up, my family rarely went to church, and those few times we did go were on Christmas or Easter. I think that describes a lot of families. They aren’t that familiar with the Bible, but they’ve heard that the gospel is important. When I was in the 3rd grade, my mother sent me and my sister off to Sunday School at the neighborhood Methodist church, in order to “expose” us to religion. My mother went to the church for a while, but stopped attending after they transferred the Pastor who had made her laugh. After that one year of Sunday School, she no longer made me go. I had been “exposed”.

What I didn’t like about my brief exposure to church was that while my parents and older brother lounged around, reading the Sunday paper, I had to polish my shoes and put on a suit. In those days, going to church meant getting dressed up. And Easter was like that on steroids. My mother would buy new dresses for herself and my sister, and a new suit for me. Then, we’d have to pose for a photograph, documenting both our Easter outfits and Easter baskets. It was a kind of ambivalent ritual — having to dress up, when I would have preferred to don my knee-worn Levis, but enjoying the fun of dying Easter eggs and eating chocolate rabbits.

The fact that Jesus rose from the grave and ascended into heaven to be seated at the right hand of God the Father (Mark 16:6; John 3:13; Luke 22:69) never really made that big of an impression on me. I didn’t really understand it. I believed in God, but I didn’t understand why Christ had to die on the cross. So, of course I missed the whole purpose of his resurrection. The only religious thing I took away from my Easter experiences was that God makes things grow. Seeds, plants, flowers, baby animals, and even people. But I didn’t understand the resurrection. That’s most likely because neither of my parents did, either.

Thinking about that makes me sad. My parents grew up during a time when church-going was commonplace and very much a part of one’s sense of identity in the community . Born in 1909 and 1910, they were young adults from the depression through WWII, an era marked by a predominant appeal to Christian values and Biblical authority. My father considered himself a Christian by association. He felt that since America was a Christian nation, that made us Christians — sort of like a social distinction, without much of a theological distinction.

Fortunately that changed, and by the time he was in his eighties, he did make a personal profession of faith. When I became a believer, I learned that God forgave my sins because Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross paid for them, and that when I received him as my Lord and Savior, not only were my sins forgiven, but because Christ rose from the grave, he made it possible that when I die, I will live again, forever.

1 Corinthians 15:14 says, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” That means understanding the resurrection of Christ is vital to our faith. Being raised is all about who Christ is and what Christ has done. It’s not about being a religious person, or even a good person.

That is the message of Easter. Christ has conquered sin and death, not just for himself, but for everyone who believes. The Bible says it so many ways, but let me cite the verse that is probably best known. I don’t think it can be overused:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. — John 3:16

The Christian faith is about eternal life in God’s presence, and the resurrection of Christ is key to understanding the gospel. Jesus was the Passover Lamb, sacrificed for the sins of the world (John 1:29), he conquered death (1 Corinthians 15:55) and he went before us to prepare a dwelling place for us in glory (John 14:2). That is what Christians should celebrate on Resurrection Day — nothing more, nothing less.

Posted in American Culture, Christian Faith, Easter, Resurrection | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

“Treason, Bribery, Or Other High Crimes And Misdemeanors”

Article II, Section 4 of the constitution addresses charges that call for the impeachment of “The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States”. The term, “high crimes and misdemeanors” refers to illegal offenses committed by those in “high office”, not crimes that rise to the level of a felony. The constitutional standard for all civil officers of the federal government, up to and including the President, is that they should be bound by the law, just as all citizens are. They are not above the law, but are required to obey the law because it is their sworn duty to uphold and enforce the law. Law-breaking on the part of any government official demonstrates a breach of trust with the very citizens they swear to serve.

In a recent letter, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) wrote,

…President Obama abuses his “Executive privilege” to write and rewrite laws on his own, without the consent of Congress, without the consent of the people.

Like onlookers who see a rape being committed before their very eyes, yet do nothing because they are too afraid to get involved, many Americans are standing by, doing nothing while their constitutional form of government is being assaulted. Because they are ignorant of our constitution, our history and our form of government, these bystanders do not really understand what is happening right in front of them. The ACLJ letter continues:

In just the past few weeks, he has

  • raised the minimum wage on his own –
  • relaxed immigration restrictions on his own (to allow immigrants with “limited” terrorist contacts into our country –
  • and rewritten ObamaCare, AGAIN, on his own (even his Attorney General couldn’t tell Congress how he justified this).

He also

  • gave Congress and their staff members special taxpayer-funded subsidies for ObamaCare –
  • suspended the layoff-notice law –
  • cancelled the work requirement for welfare recipients
  • and stonewalled a nuclear waste storage application –

All on his own. Without an act of Congress.

The letter goes on to talk about the “recess appointments” Obama has made when the Senate was not in recess. This short list of unconstitutional actions by President Obama is nowhere near exhaustive. But the point is that Obama consistently assumes and exercises powers that are in violation of the constitution and therefore illegal and warranting impeachment.

Everybody today likes to whine, “That’s unconstitutional!” any time they don’t like some law. So, it seems no one cares or listens when it actually is the case that something is unconstitutional. And that is exactly what is happening now. Too many Americans are simply being ignorant bystanders, doing nothing to stop the demise of our constitutional government. But they are not innocent bystanders. They voted for “change”, and they got it. But change is an abstract concept. It can mean anything. And the change we are now witnessing is looking more and more like the transition from life to death.

The change America got was in our form of government. We changed from something like a representative republic to something like a dictatorial kingdom. Obama rules as if he were a monarch, with the powers of a monarch. But for anyone who cares enough to examine it, the U.S. constitution does not give the President the power to make laws. That power is reserved to the Congress. The President’s job is to administer the law. Constitutionally speaking, the President is an executive administrator, not a law maker.

Additionally, our constitution doesn’t design the federal government to regulate people’s lives beyond the limited powers it specifies. All other powers to regulate — most of them – are reserved to the States and to the People. Citizens who are standing around, doing nothing to fight government tyranny don’t understand that.  They think the government should ensure that their every need be met. But the fact is that American constitutional freedom means each person is free to do that for himself. When it’s the government’s job to take care of everyone, then the government is in charge of everyone’s life and there can be no more freedom, because the price of freedom is personal responsibility. The compassionate care of those who are unable to care for their own needs was not written into the constitution. That function was never intended to be part of our constitutional government. It is a function of private, voluntary charity.

NOTHING ABOUT ANY OF THESE STATEMENTS IS RACIST. Yes, previous (white) presidents have also abused the constitution. But they are not in office now. Obama is. And NO PRESIDENT HAS EVER ABUSED THE CONSTITUTION TO THE EXTENT THAT OBAMA HAS. To make things worse, celebrity commentators are calling for major amendments to the constitution. But the problem isn’t that the constitution needs to be changed. The problem is that the constitution isn’t being followed. If the constitution isn’t being followed now, what makes them think a new constitution would be followed?

These misguided efforts to make more “change” completely miss the sad and outrageous fact that representational government simply can’t work if the citizens don’t participate in their own self-governance. Without across-the-board citizen participation, government ceases being representative.  Those in leadership become a professional ruling class who decide they know best what’s good for everyone. So they gradually assume more and more power. And while the government increasingly resembles a dictatorship, the electorate increasingly resemble sheep — not free men.

Too many people want the government to be something it was never designed to be. It follows that they want the government to do things it was never designed to do. And when those people end up running the government, they simply do what they want to do — regardless of whether or not it’s in the constitution. Equally, they assume discretion in the enforcement of laws that are already on the books, acting as if they are sovereign and therefore entitled to ignore any laws they do not like.

This spirit of lawlessness characterizes Obama but is not limited to his administration. The “dictatorship” of Obama is enabled by the “oligarchy” of Congress and complicit courts. They represent themselves and their own agenda, not the people. Congress is culpable because they have participated in the breaching of our constitution by not doing anything about it. They have stood by, not wanting to get involved, while Obama exercises his imperial rule. I consider it outrageous that Obama’s actions, listed above, in the ACLJ letter, have not yet resulted in his impeachment. A congress that truly represents America’s interests would have already begun impeachment proceedings. But Obama seems to be able to do whatever he wants to do, without any accountability to the citizens of this nation or to the elected officials who represent us.

I see three reactions to this issue: 1) “It simply doesn’t bother me. I don’t see it that way”; 2) “It bothers me. I’m going to get involved or take some action”; or 3) “It bothers me, but I can’t do anything about it” (so they stand by and do nothing). I’d like to make some suggestions to those who identify with reaction #3. When the mid-term elections come up this year, plan to exercise your right to vote. Don’t be a bystander. Bystanders are no longer innocent in this day and age. Get informed. If you don’t trust the Republicans, consider a party who stands for what you believe. I recommend the Constitution Party.

But regardless of your political inclinations or your stand on various issues, consider adding your voice to a call for the end of Obama’s unconstitutional government. Check out the petition to impeach Obama and the Candidate Pledge to Impeach at http://www.pledgetoimpeach.com. It’s up to you whether you choose to care enough to act, or just stand by and do nothing. You’ll have to live with that choice, too, because whatever happens, it’s going to affect us all.

Posted in Constitution, Freedom, Government of the people, Obama, Obama (OWHNI), Politics | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment