Franklin Graham, Christian, Makes a Bold Statement

(link: Are Christians The Only People Who Cannot Identify Themselves Publicly?)

No, there is no danger to Christians saying they’re Christians publicly.

The President: Christian
The Vice-President: Christian
The majority of the cabinet: Christian
The majority of the Supreme Court: Christian
The majority of the Senate: Christian
The majority of the House of Representatives: Christian
The majority of governors: Christian
The majority of state legislators and judges: Christians
The majority of all Americans: Christian

No, what Mr. Graham is alluding to is not that we Christians can’t self-identify.

What he is alluding to in an absolutely cowardly way is that Christians no longer get a pass for attempting to deny full civil, human rights to a certain minority who are despised by a minority of Christians.

He can’t come out and say it that way. That would make it clear what he believes: gay Americans are not equal to all other Americans.

Instead, he, like other Christians who are finding out that their peculiar beliefs about the humanity of some Americans are no longer acceptable, has discovered that when he says something bigoted he gets blowback, not just from other Christians, but from a lot of people in America who are simply tired of the way some Christians demand that everyone conform to their theology.

If Mr. Graham wants to deny gay Americans their full equality, let him make the case. But he should stop using Christ and the cross as his excuse. He should be honest that it’s his own personal bias.

Christ was a friend to all. Dined with sinners. Never spoke out against the unloved and unwanted.

Christ’s harshest words were to those who claimed to be most righteous and yet who were furthest from righteousness, holiness, love, and mercy.

Are We a Constitutional Nation?

I had a discussion recently with a friend over whether certain Constitutional statements had the same meaning when written/enacted as they do today.

The first answer we want to say is “of course the meaning of Constitutional statements is exactly the same as in 1787.”

We don’t want the applications of Constitutional guarantees to change, because the Constitution is fixed. The only way to change the Constitution is through the amendment process (28 times so far, once to fix a major mistaken amendment, others to enact new rights or to amend earlier amendments) or through an Article V convention (a method so rare as to have never yet been done). The law is king, and we can’t change the king without a significant and disruptive process.

However, while the meaning of the Constitutional principles might be fixed, their meaning and application is not.

We do not limit the right to free speech to include only spoken speech, for example. Written speech in the form of electronic texts is arguably “speech.” Freedom of the press doesn’t cover just paper printed using 18th century technology, and doesn’t cover just the owners of the press, but also is applied to the nebulous title of “journalist.” Freedom of religion doesn’t mean “free to believe any Protestant Christian religion” (a meaning the amendment never had, by the way), but means “freedom to believe or not believe as you will, with no greater or lesser privilege in any aspect of secular society.”

We started talking about the “right” to privacy, and what it meant when we talk about the interactions of police with the general public. Does the “right” to privacy apply to the interactions on a public highway between the public officials serving as the police and publicly licensed drivers of publicly registered vehicles?

There’s an interesting set of things to think about. Passengers and 3rd parties not part of the traffic stop might not have a say in the public release of any recordings between the LEOs and the driver, for example. LEOs, serving as public officials on a public highway where they can be recorded by anyone, cannot necessarily demand that a recording from the police dashcam be automatically suppressed from public review. Journalists might demand to see such recordings, and private drivers stopped by LEOs might have private matters revealed in a public recording.

It was an interesting discussion because it brings up the idea of “how do we define ‘privacy’ in an age where nearly everything we do can potentially be recorded and reviewed by 7 billion people?”

It’s gonna be interesting to work this out. We’ll have to figure out whether the “right to privacy” includes the right to never be recorded without our consent. We’ll have to figure out what “consent” means. We’ll have to figure out whether a business can sell our private records to 3rd parties (e.g., advertising based upon our common geolocations as reported by our cell phones).

It’s complex, and it might not be entirely resolvable—but I think we can make a good stab at having a fruitful discussion.

And it led me to think about other Constitutional statements that have diverse interpretations.

We got to talking about the Constitutional direction that the Constitution itself is a directive for the government to “promote the general welfare.” What does that mean in a rich, 21st century America as compared to a hard-scrabble third-world colony in the 18th century? Should a rich, diverse America of the 21st century see this directive as adding more to what it does in providing for the general welfare? Or should the limited abilities of the 18th century America be the limits on the distributions of the blessings of liberty?

If we’re going to be a Constitutional nation, we’re going to have to have this discussion, frequently, and we’re going to have to figure out whether we want 18th century implementations to be the restrictions in place for the 21st century.

Free Book–“The Boy From Africa”

A friend of mine (Jerry Sarkwah) wrote a book about an orphan growing up in Ghana in the 1980s and 1990s. It’s quite interesting as it talks about the travails, dangers, and even blessings encountered along the way from a young boy around 8 to a mature adult in his 30s.

You can enter the contest for a free paperback book here:

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/enter_choose_address/138463-the-boy-from-africa

You can also purchase it on Amazon (paperback)

http://www.amazon.com/Boy-Africa-Jerry-Sarkwah/dp/1508786917

Or you can download the Kindle version here:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00UMMS2SS

Note that on June 10th the Kindle download will be free, if you can afford 99 cents for a book.

Tell Me Again How We Are a “Christian” Nation and a “Shining City on a Hill”

You Republicans and conservatives: maybe you can explain to me why denying poor people the ability to purchase and eat potatoes, lentils, beans, and other legumes is a smart thing for both diet and nutrition?

Why not just be honest and admit your view of poor people is that they should live lives of discomfort and shame?

If we were a Christian nation, this would make me ashamed of my faith, but as we obviously are not, as based on our behavior, I guess I’ll leave that alone for now.

Among the things not allowed are potatoes, beans, white rice, nuts, buying in bulk, Swiss cheese, sharp cheddar, shredded cheese, spaghetti sauce, bagels, pita bread, soups, herbs, seasonings, spices, and anything organic reduced sodium, or reduced fat.

The list of “disallowed” foods also includes the following:

  • Cranberry sauce and pie filling. (Poor people can forget about making dessert for Thanksgiving dinner.)
  • Creamed vegetables
  • Baked beans
  • Pickles
  • Pork and beans
  • Frozen veggies that come in packages featuring pasta, nuts, rice, cheese, or meats
  • French fries and hash browns
  • Sharp cheddar cheese, Swiss, and fresh mozzarella, shredded and sliced cheeses (except American cheese of course), cheese food, spreads, and products. Even Kosher cheese is banned unless you apply to get a specific check for it which basically could identify who the poor Jewish people are.
  • Canned peas and green beans
  • Albacore tuna, red salmon, and fish fillets
  • Bagels, pita bread, English muffins
  • White rice and wild rice
  • Taco shells
  • Almond, rice, goat, and soy milk.
  • Brown eggs and any eggs produced by cage-free or free range chickens, which basically helps corporate chicken farms
  • Several kinds of infant food
  • Anything in bulk
  • Anything organic or natural

Links

http://www.addictinginfo.org/2015/05/15/wisconsin-gop-passes-bill-banning-poor-people-from-buying-shellfish-potatoes-and-ketchup/

https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/publications/p4/p44578.pdf

Christians, We’re Doing It Wrong (Again)

I read in the news today where a family in Oklahoma is being threatened with death for the crime of … protesting the distribution of religious materials in secular, state-run primary schools.

Now, I’m a Christian. I’d like people to know that, and to know my Savior, and to know the God of the Universe. I will be more than happy to talk to you about that.

But I am also a citizen of the secular United States, with its secular institutions, and its secular schools.

No one religion can be permitted to represent the faith of all United States citizens. No one religion can speak for all believers. No one religion can be put in primacy over all other religions, or even over neutral, secular policies and goals.

In the case I’m referring to (http://the-daily.buzz/atheist-mom-complains-about-school-bible-issue-death-threats-ensue/), a school in Oklahoma permitted a primary school teacher to put free Bibles on her desk; the teacher then placed social pressure on students to take a Bible for their own.

I think that’s wrong. It’s wrong to distribute any kind of religious materials, whether they are Christian, Hindu, Muslim, or from the First Church of Satan, period. Schools should and must be places free of any kind of religious indoctrination.

I do not think there is any problem with schools using a variety of religious materials in the neutral, scholarly study of religions qua religions. For example, an age-appropriate Religious Studies class that studies major religions of the world (or even all religions) and that provides, for study, Bibles and Korans and other religious materials—that’s perfectly fine, because the religions are being studied. It’s not proselyting.

Fair enough.

But in this case in Oklahoma, it went further. The family was threated with violence and death. The threat was coming from the community who apparently felt that removing a sectarian religious book from public schools was wrong.

Can kids still bring their Bibles to school? Yes. They’re a personal book, like many other things kids bring—pencils, calculators, and so on. If kids want to read them in school during their non-assigned time, that’s fine. If kids want to talk to their fellow students about their religious faith, that’s also fine, within limits—as long as no bullying is going on.

That apparently isn’t good enough. The students and parents somehow decided that they needed to teach the atheist parent and family a lesson about Christian love, Christian charity, Christian acceptance, Christian tolerance, and Christian social values.

Now, I think religion is an important part of life. I think religious values are important and can be shared with a wider audience. But there is simply no place in American society and education for any one religion, no matter how “popular,” to be a force for bullying and shame.

I am deeply ashamed of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who have done this, and I apologize to my fellow Americans for the bad manners and regrettable behavior of my own brethren. And if there are any laws broken due to this slander and these threats of violence, I encourage the law to fully investigate, charge, and prosecute these people making these threats.

Being a “Christian” does not give you exemption from obeying the law, or even simply having the good manners to respect and accommodate those around you who do not believe as you do.

The Role of the Christian in Society

Monty today talked from Isaiah 58, the great passage about God’s heart for social justice:

“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rearguard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.”

The gist of the talk was that Christians, as Christians, are more than just an assembly of people who meet in a church building for fellowship, encouragement, and discipleship.

Christians are also the people of God who are to be in the world, like salt, like light, changing and transforming the world.

And the list of things to do that are transformative aren’t simply speaking out (which is good and important and necessary). It is also good and important and necessary to do the things of God in this world, which include actions such as feeding the hungry and assisting the poor with direct actions.

Christianity keeps getting pulled in one direction or the other. Either we are inward-focused in prayer and worship and song and instruction, never doing anything but what happens in a church service, or we are outward focused to do good things, but without a redemptive Gospel and Savior.

Both are needed in a Christian’s life if there is to be balance.

The role of a Christian in society is to be Christ’s body, whether it is the actions of justice and mercy, or it is the acts of worship and praise to God for his goodness and salvation.

A Christian’s life with only part of this is a half-life, not a whole one.

The King Is Coming

The biblical illiteracy in America is astonishing.

Nowhere in the Christian scriptures, dogmas, teachings or the example of Jesus do we find a directive to make non-Christians obey the peculiar religious instructions of a Christian denomination. (And by “peculiar” I am echoing the words from the book of 1 Peter, of course.)

No one can speak for all Christians in saying that “Christians believe that a certain behavior is required of all people, Christian or not.” These demands are made as if a spokesperson represents all Christians, or all members of a denomination, or even all members of a certain church, but it is a completely false statement. The best that can be said is “I think this is a requirement for behavior acceptable to my God and my belief in my God.”

http://blog.emergingscholars.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Wilhelm_Morgner_001-e1427246622965.jpg

The thing we are told that marks us as Christians is our behavior. Anyone can say they’re Christian.

The mark of being a Christian is what we do as Christians. Are we kind? Are we merciful? Are we restorative? Are we a blessing? Are we servants? Are we healers? Are we bringing about the kingdom of God (which is the rule of Christ in our hearts) by our actions?

A political kingdom of God is simply not warranted in Scripture, and forcing others to do what we want is not enjoined in Scripture.

We should be very careful when we demand that others obey what we think are requirements for Christians. At some point, others who have strong beliefs that don’t match ours (including Christians with different interpretations of what is “pleasing to God) might take that very power and apply it against us.

And then where will our arguments be? We said we wanted this kind of enforcement of doctrine, and when it is applied to us, we will have no leg to stand on in any objection.

And yeah, this does apply to Palm Sunday, in which Christians celebrate the arrival of Jesus of Nazareth to Jerusalem, a king of those who choose him as king.

Which Party Is the “Party of Civil Rights”?

There is a canard circulating that the “Republicans are the party of civil rights and the Democrats are the party against civil rights,” based upon an gross misunderstanding of what happened in 1964, an incompetent search for the facts, and a malicious desire to change history for partisan advantage.

You need to know the facts so you can shut that conversation right down.

Let’s go back to 1964 and look at the vote counts in the United States Congress with regards to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

First of all, the actual breakdown of votes for the final bill in the House and Senate is easily discoverable in Wikipedia — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_Rights_Act_of_1964#Vote_totals

Here is the summary:

By party

Original House version
House: 152-96 (D) or 61-39%
Senate: 138-34 (R) or 80-20%

Cloture in the Senate
44-23 (D) or 66-34%
27-6 (R) or 82-18%

Final Senate vote
46-21 (D) or 69-31%
27-6 (R) or 82-18%

Senate version, voted on by the House:
153-91 (D) or 63-27%
136-35 (R) or 80-20%

Which is impressive. There was a significant majority on both sides of the aisle, Democratic and Republican, for the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Looks like there was a move to be decent to American citizens for the simple exercise of their civil rights.

But what is much more interesting is to look at the breakdown by region, and not by party.

Comparing the Representatives and Senators from the Old Confederacy states, here’s the breakdown (“Aye” is the first number, “Nay” is the second):

In the House
Southern Democrats: 7-87 (7-93%)
Southern Republicans:  0-10 (0-100%)

Northern Democrats: 145-9 (94-6%)
Northern Republicans: 138-24 (85-15%)

In the Senate:
Southern Democrats: 1-20 (5-95%)
Southern Republicans: 0-1 (0-100%)

Northern Democrats: 45-1 (98-2%)
Northern Republicans: 27-5 (85-16%)

The significant difference here is NOT the party. Both parties in toto supported the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights bill.

The significant difference here is that the elected officials from the states of the Old Confederacy, in both parties, voted massively against civil rights, and the elected officials from the states of the Union voted massively for civil rights.

Only the fact that the North, Midwest, and West (the states of the Union) voted overwhelmingly for civil rights counterbalanced the overwhelming opposition to civil rights for the citizens in the very states these men represented.

This canard that the “Republicans passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act” needs to be dispensed with. It is easily refuted by the facts of history. Repeating the false claims after being informed of the facts is a greater error of fact, and a shameful mark against character.

CHARTS

The South/Confederacy The North/Union
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Vote by Region / Party

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Vote by Region / Party (Combined)

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Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County: A Family, a Virginia Town, a Civil Rights Battle

I just preordered this book “Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County: A Family, a Virginia Town, a Civil Rights Battle
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0062268678

Two things about this fascinate me:
1) The movement to close down whites-only public schools rather than integrate them in the 50s and 60s came from conservative white Christians who would rather harm themselves, their children, and their society rather than admit that their prejudices were wrong.
2) There is a similar movement today to close down public marriage licenses rather than allow same-sex couples to get marriage licenses, a movement again coming from white Christian conservatives.

There is a pattern here among my own tribe of Christians that we do terrible things which seem right at the time and then later our children and grandchildren must fix.

We don’t have to repeat the mistakes of our past. But it seems like we’re about to.

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