Category: Cultural Analysis

Your Value? Mother Knows Best

We all know the phrase mother knows best. Most of us remember it as a tactic used to convince us to listen to their mothers, but for Beto O’Rourke and his supporters, it is also their approach to abortion. In a recent campaign event, the 2020 Presidential candidate fielded a question from a member of the audience regarding late-term abortion. The individual asked the former congressman whether his life had any value on the day prior to his birth in 1989. This question was a direct reference to O’Rourke’s opinion expressed during a previous campaign event in Ohio, during which he stated his favor for third trimester abortions.

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Why Legalism Can’t Be the Answer

Recently, I had a conversation with someone who explained their frustration at the amount of churches in America continuing to push a legalistic view of Christianity instead of applying theology to real life. She wasn’t against the need for discipleship, accountability and holding to biblical principles of morality, but rather the constant focus on enforcement of these principles through rule making. I couldn’t agree more. What came to mind was the phrase, “I don’t smoke and I don’t chew and I don’t go with girls that do.” It is a phrase which focuses on behavior, not the heart and fails to recognize the complexities involved in moral decision making within the modern society. If Christians are going to face the issues of today, a legalistic approach will simply not suffice.

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Stop Making Women Inferior

There is an increasing trend within the evangelical community to equate the instructions set forth by Paul in 1 Timothy 2:11-12 to male chauvinism and sexism; as if to hold this position results in women being classified as inferior. It is sometimes claimed that Paul was merely attempting to remain within a culturally established boundary in order to “become all things to all people” (1 Cor 9:22). Based on what we know about the Apostle Paul, it seems unlikely he would back down on this issue in the face of societal pressures, but not in other areas.

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Prioritizing Our Distractions

The phrase “being on the right side of history” has become increasingly popular today. Often it is used as a tactic for persuading people to align with a popular opinion on controversial topics. Western civilization as a whole seems increasingly consumed by this idea of ensuring history judges them rightly, so they are willing to adopt an ideology of acceptance for nearly any type of behavior, idea or decision with the only condition being it does not cause harm to anyone. In essence, no harm, no problem. Given this, it often seems as though this age will be known as the Age of Acceptance, but in reality, it will probably be best know as the Age of Distraction. 

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Don’t Forget These People on Sept 12th

It is right that we should memorialize September 11th because it will forever be remembered as perhaps the greatest tragedy in our lifetime. On September 11, 2001, nearly 3,000 people died in less than 120 minutes as part of a single, yet complex act of terrorism. The memories of that fateful day are still burned into our minds. Jumbo jet airliners crashing into two icons of the New York skyline, the Pentagon in flames from a third airliner impact and a smoldering crater in Pennsylvania instead of a building because of the brave actions of Americans onboard. A day which witnessed people jumping from the World Trade Center towers to escape the flames, first responders rushing in to save lives with no thought of their own and the eventual disappearance of two massive towers which once overshadowed the NYC skyline. Memories which will not and should not be forgotten. Memories which tell a story of how morally depraved mankind really is when such evil is even possible.

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The Problem Is Reading

The vast attention this week on Senator John McCain is a reminder that despite one’s political views, his death marks the passing of a political giant. McCain served America as a high decorated naval aviator, an uncompromising prisoner of war during captivity in Vietnam and most notably as a U.S. Senator. James Baker recently wrote that John McCain was one who “understood the importance of compromise” in politics, especially in a nation more intent on “wagging political battles than finding ways to advance the common good.” He rightly points to the fact that our social media frenzy culture is partially to blame because of the continuous attempts to use these platforms as a means by which to hold national debates on political issues which are deeply rooted in sometimes complex philosophical issues. Considering the cultural context of the statement, it is a strange dynamic to perceive of a society which places such a high value on education, but yet simultaneously considers it possible to debate such complex issues through 280 character tweets and Facebook emojis. This is really the point of James Baker, Americans are largely more interested in the battle than in discussing the ideas which determine the battle lines.

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MLK50: Matt Chandler Missed the Mark

The Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission (ERLC) and The Gospel Coalition (TGC) recently sponsored an event in Memphis known as the MLK50 conference. According to their website the purpose of the event was to “reflect on the state of racial unity within the church.” Although I was unable to attend, after listening to several of the videos there is a need to conduct a postmortem of what was said, especially since this topic is becoming highly emphasized and debated within the Southern Baptist Convention.

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Thanks to Feminist, Convictions are Dead

Vice President Mike Pence has recently received excessive criticism over what has crudely become known as the “rule.” Something which should be considered encouraging, refreshing and humbling has been completely twisted and relabeled as disheartening, sexists and prideful. Once again the feminist movement is proving to us why they can never be trusted to accurately convey facts and confirming their inability to support anything which goes against their insatiable hunger to destroy any remnant of moral fabric which still exists in American culture.

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Avoid Politics, Offer Hope

Every national election year we are faced with the reality that both Election Day and Thanksgiving Day are located within the same month. This inevitable results in politics being at least one of the primary discussions at some point during the Thanksgiving celebration. This year the Holdness Family attempted to overcome this challenge by encouraging people to reconcile with each other for just this one day out of the year so everyone could take a much need break from discussing politics and focus primarily on being thankful. While the video skit is cute, entertaining and contains an underlining positive message, it does not offer a reason why everyone should “just get along” with one another and not discuss politics. This may create a temporary sense of reconciliation for one day, but the very definition of reconciliation implies the long-term restoration of a relationship, not a temporary truce. Soldiers of war have been know over the centuries to establish formal or informal temporary cease fire agreements to allow for the celebration of major holidays, but they certainly did not believe these would resolve the dispute, it merely suspended it for a short period of time.
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Politics Isn’t Sports

Human beings by nature are competitive individuals.  It was the competitive nature within the heart of Cain which motivated him to murder his brother Abel (Genesis 4).  However, it was not the result of God rejecting his offering that led to murder, but rather it was the contempt Cain had for his brother upon realizing that Abel found God’s favor and he had not.  Nothing exhibits the competitive spirit in human beings more so in modern day American than in the public sports arena.  Anyone with even a vague familiarity of sports would expect athletes to be ruled by an attitude of tough competition, but sadly in our modern day, the competition among sports fans often far exceeds the competitiveness of even the players.  It is the fans who invest so much in the team through the purchase of season tickets, hats, jerseys and endless other apparel items.  It is the fans, not the athletes who defend their favored team at work, participate in fantasy football and brag about the abilities of players; this is where the real competition exists.  While there are certainly exceptions to the rule, sports players are the ones who generally demonstrate a respectable degree of sportsmanship towards each other.  It is not typically the players who become unruly with each other or demonstrate contempt for one another, it is the fans.  Interestingly, the ones who have the most contempt are the ones who have the least to lose.

This election has no doubt generated high levels of tension, competitiveness and even contempt for one another, and it is for this reason we must be very careful in the weeks ahead.  Just as in sports, we selected a team, perhaps made donations and even offered proof of our loyalty by purchasing the team’s hats, shirts, bumper stickers, pins and other memorabilia; all with the hope of defining ourselves as a winner on November 9th.  But politics is not sports, yet one would hardly notice the distinction in modern day America.  A visitor to our country could easily be led to the conclusion that Trump and Clinton were merely the names of two sports teams on their way to a national championship game.

This may point to the unfortunate fact that in many ways we have abandoned a proper perspective behind the purpose of a presidential election and replaced it with a shallow desire to either find ourselves on the winning team or be proven accurate in our prediction of the outcome.  Is the emphasis behind our endorsement of any particular candidate based on our personal convictions regarding the issues at stake or merely from a desire to experience the excitement so often felt by sports fans leading up to the big championship game?  Perhaps it is our sense that the latter is true, which has caused so many to seriously consider withholding their voting privilege on November 8th. 

Our sports saturated culture understands the pride associated with being fans of the winning team, but both winners and losers can so quickly be led down a path which leads to contempt for the other side, especially when the stakes are so high.  Is it any wonder that one of the more popular bumperstickers after the 2008 presidential election read “we won, get over it.”  Perhaps that is the reason this presidential election has created so many divisions and even contempt for our fellow countrymen. Our competitiveness has been driven by the belief that, unlike sports, if our candidate is not elected the entire country and future generations will lose.  There may be some validity to this statement, but even though the President of the United States is recognized as one of the most powerful positions in the world, to consider it the primary position of significance in our government is to misunderstand the constitution which forms our nation.  While the President does retain a significant amount of authority, that individual is only capable of extending power to the point where the authority of Congress and the Supreme Court begins.  This distribution of power across three branches of government was wisely considered by our founders to be the best method of preventing one individual to retain all authority, as in the monarchical system which formerly ruled the original thirteen colonies.

For this reason alone, we can avoid a doomsday view of this election, but for the Christian there is an even greater reason.  Isaiah 14:24, 26 tells us, “The Lord of hosts has sworn: As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand…” (v26) “…this is the purpose that is purposed concerning the whole earth, and this is the hand that is stretched out over all the nations.” (ESV).  It is for this reason we can accurately conclude the elected winner will be one installed by the divine decree of God to fulfill His good and perfect purpose.  However, this should not be viewed as a justification to relegate our voting privilege. God has placed us in a county where such a freedom should be viewed as part of God’s grace and our responsibility as citizens of a country who should “seek the welfare of the city” (Jeremiah 29:7).  Yet, despite the outcome, it is also our responsibility to submit to the government who ultimately serves a divine purpose (Romans 13:1-7).

Attempts to find hope in an earthly system of government is false hope and hardly the basis for the inevitable contempt which is likely to ensue as a result of this election.  As Christians we already belong to a winning team, where victory is only found in salvation from the penalty of sin through Christ and the expected future return of our Lord.  It is for this reason we should always be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15, ESV). Without this perspective at the forefront of our minds, we are in danger of conveying the message that our hope is found not in Christ, but in a Presidential candidate.  Nor should we have any reason to share in any demonstration of contempt for those who are also made in the image of God.  The grace from God bestowed upon all who belong to Christ never results in contempt, only sadness in knowing there are many who are in danger of missing out on the grace of God for all of eternity.  This election is not the time for Christians to spurn contempt for their fellow citizens or fellow heirs in Christ, but rather it is an opportunity to highlight the flaws of a fallen world which awaits the coming restoration of all things (Romans 8:22, Acts 3:21) and to demonstrate our willful submission to God’s divinely ordained plan.

Vote for Conscience Sake

The news coming from last night’s election campaign brought forth either sentiments of disappointment or joyous celebration for conservative Americans, as they became aware of Ted Cruz’s decision to suspend his campaign; leaving Donald Trump as the front-runner candidate to become the Republican party nominee.  Those who did not support Trump are now faced with a decision regarding who they should support in the national election, especially given the two candidates will likely be Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.  Yet, unlike in previous election cycles there are now Christian leaders, some of whom I deeply respect, who are encouraging Christians to either restrain from voting at all in the Presidential election on November 4th or to vote instead for a third party candidate.

What does it say that we have now shifted from merely guiding Christians to examine specific positions of a candidate according to a biblical worldview, to now telling them which candidate they should or should not vote for in the Presidential election?  Even if you were to agree that such a practice is justified, why did Christian leaders wait until Ted Cruz departed the race before suddenly making it known that he was apparently the evangelical Christian candidate?  Is choosing not to vote or voting for a third party candidate a more biblical decision?  For those encouraging a third party candidate, how are we to believe that this unknown candidate would hold to a biblical worldview or even be guaranteed a victory?

It is well known and accepted by many people that a third party candidate victory in a Presidential election is statistically improbable and typically results in a victory for the party opposite of which the person most closely aligns.  In the case of this year’s election, a third party candidate which most closely aligns with conservative values will inevitably lead to a Hillary Clinton victory.  Perhaps this is an outcome you have considered and are content to accept knowing you supported someone in good conscience instead of merely a party line vote.
Allow me postulate that a Hillary Clinton victory will inevitably lead to an even greater increase in the erosion and intentional dismantling of religious liberty.  Mr. Trump certainly does not embrace a biblical worldview, but is it possible to conceive of a Clinton victory as the better alternative, because that is exactly what you will have if Trump fails to win the election in November.  Although Trump may endorse the pro-gay movement in certain areas, Hillary not only endorses it, but will aggressively push it down the throats of Christians by forcing religious institutions to conform or be shutdown.  Hillary aggressively supports the right of a woman to murder her unborn child in the womb, while Trump has indicated a shift in his position to no longer support abortion.  How could such a high priority issue for Christians suddenly become one in which we are willing to now choose Clinton, an avowed abortion rights supporter, to continue stretching the boundaries of abortion by not voting for the one candidate who could defeat her in the election?  Would it not be worthwhile to suspend our disagreement with Trump on other issues in oder to gain a small victory by having a President who does not support the murder of a child.

The impacts of the Obamacare bill, which will especially be realized this year, will continue to contribute to the decline of the U.S. economy under a Clinton administration because only Trump has offered to repeal this bill.  Even if you do not believe all of Trump’s economic plans align with conservative principles, it cannot be argued that they are much closer than Hillary’s socialist, Keynesian position.  Do we not as Christians believe that a strong, economy which enables human flourishing is beneficial for mankind?  Which candidate is more likely to support policies which enable the economy to return to it’s former luster?

Trump is determined to improve the condition of U.S. veterans who have given so much to our country, while Hillary has proven she could care less about the military let alone the veterans who have served.  Although many people may not consider the vast, world-wide influence of the U.S. military, it represents the most powerful military force in the history of the world.  As someone who has worked at the senior level of the Department of Defense throughout the Obama administration, the military is unable to survive another administration which has eroded the very principles which have allowed it to sustain such a globally recognized position.

The next President of the United States will likely have the opportunity to select new Federal judges to include several who will sit on the Supreme Court and have vast influence on our nation for the next few decades.  Even if you do not agree that Trump would make a good decision, is it possible that his decisions might prove to be a better alternative to Hillary?

This is not an endorsement of Trump over any other GOP candidate, that ship has sailed.  Rather, it is an endorsement of some semblance of conservatism against the guarantee of socialism.  It is an endorsement of some religious liberty over no religious liberty; or should we say no Christian liberty since Hillary certainly supports liberty for other religions.  If the argument is that Trump does not support religious liberty to the same degree as other candidates such as Cruz or Rubio, then perhaps we should make it clear that Trump is also not out to intentionally destroy it like Hillary.  Even if we agree that Trump’s policies may lead to a decline in religious liberty, which is certainly open for debate, he has not made it a mission to force conformance to the homosexual agenda like Obama has done and Clinton will inevitable continue.

As already stated, there is no hope for a third party candidate victory, so if your decision is to either vote for an unknown candidate or not vote at all, then understand you are voting for Hillary Clinton to become the next President of the United States and we can say goodbye to any religious freedom we may have left.  It may be difficult to vote for Trump in good conscience, but how will your conscience feel when you watch religious liberty deliberately be dismantled by Hillary, knowing you could have prevented it?

The Draft: A Woman’s Right?

Last week marked the twelve year anniversary of the opening of the WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C., honoring the more than 16 million men and women who served during the war.  When I walk the halls of the Pentagon each day there are memorials which surround me to honor not only men, but women who have honorably served to defend our nation.  In the center of Arlington National Cemetery there is an entire memorial dedicated to the women of our Armed Services.  There can be no doubt that over the past century women have shared in the rich heritage of military service.  Yet, the one element which has always distinguished these women from other woman, has been their freedom to exercise a choice in deciding to serve our country in this capacity.  Since 1917, when women were first allowed to join the U.S. Armed Services, this opportunity has always been a decision not made under compulsion, but under free will.

Yet, all of this could change within the next month if a bill which recently passed the House Armed Services Committee is approved by Congress and signed into law by the President.  Just as all male U.S. citizens are required on their 18th birthday to register for Selective Service, this bill would mandate all women to also register; making them legally bound to participate in the draft process in the event it was ever required.  It invokes the inevitable question regarding whether women should be required to register for the draft and if so why have they never been forced to do so in the past.  Before answering that question, consider for a moment the intent of the draft and the conditions under which it would likely be instituted. It is essentially the forced supplementing of a shortfall in military personnel, typically combat troops, who will be required to serve on the front lines of a battlefield. Although it could be rightly argued that warfare has changed since the draft was executed in WWII and the Vietnam War, the fundamental purpose is to fill a gap in combat operations.

So as we consider this issue it must be understood that fundamentally, an extension of the draft to include women, is the endorsement of forcibly committing young women to the front lines of a combat area.  Put another way, it is also the belief that not only men, but women have a duty to protect the homeland of America.  That is not an argument about whether a woman is physically capable of defending our nation, but rather a question of obligation.  In the event of a draft, there is little distinction made between the strong and the weak, the small and the large, because every man in this country is viewed as having an obligation to fight and if need be die, for the protection of this country.  Is this an obligation which should be shared with the women living in this country?

While there is certainly a legitimate argument that our military consists of jobs with non-combative roles, the fundamental justification for this law is to demonstrate equality across genders in America.  So in the event of a draft, how could it be argued that women would only be given non-combative roles, while the men are being sent to fight and die on the front lines.  Who would conduct the selection process to determine who serves in combat and who does not.  If the basis for this requirement is gender equality, then the integrity of the program mandates an equal dispersion of genders.

The Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter, recently opened all combat careers to any gender, but this the issue of the draft is a much different debate then permitting women to apply for service in combat roles.  Instead, the more urgent issue is whether women should be mandated to serve on the front lines.  Consider for a moment the practical impacts of enforcing such a law on the young women of America.  The preponderance of single parents in this country are mothers, although we certainly should not discredit single fathers who share similar circumstances.  Can we envision a young, single mother being forced to leave her children out of a duty to fight for her country or would we argue that there are enough men to take her place.  Imagine a mother and a father both being drafted at the same time; required to leave behind a family for someone else to care for.  Even if there are exceptions, who decides which one stays and which one leaves?  If the father volunteers what is to prevent the draft board from selecting his wife instead under the banner of equality.  Could a husband imagine sending his wife off to war while remaining at home with the children?

What does it say about a culture that we are adamantly supportive about providing women adequate time to care for their children through maternity leave, nursing areas in the workplace and flexible work schedules, but are unwilling to admit that there just might be some fundamental differences between the roles of men and women.  Isn’t it interesting that many child custody cases in divorce court decide to award primary custody to the mother on the basis of studies which identify maternal care as a key element in the development of a child.  While the death of any parent in a family with young children is heartbreaking, there is something about the death of a mother who leaves behind young children which grips and moves us in a way which cannot easily be understood.  There is a reason for the metaphor, “just as a mother cares for her child” because the imagery epitomizes our understanding of love, nurture and care.  Is this really just antiquated imagery from a bygone culture dominated by male chauvinism or is it perhaps rooted in a human nature designed by God and not meant to be suppressed?  If it was not the result of God’s design then why would Peter write, “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life” (1 Pt 3:7).

As Christians we need to think carefully about what the Scripture teaches about the role of women and ask ourselves some serious questions about this topic while we still have the opportunity to influence the decision.  Would you send your wife to war?  How about your daughters?  Or try this one, would you send your mother to war; to fight and to die?  Don’t be so quick to correlate permitting a woman’s freedom to serve in a combat job and forcing them into one.  In the event of a draft, women will still have the freedom to join the military if they so desire.  The draft is ultimately about freedom, but only in this way; through the suspension of an individual’s freedom in order to fulfill the duty to protect America’s freedom.  This decision isn’t about granting women’s rights, it is about taking away a woman’s right to have her freedom’s protected.

Thankful to Who?

The Thanksgiving holiday is once again upon us and as one pastor I know put it, time for food, football and flop.  Once again we will watch the Macy’s Parade and likely see more commercials of stuff to buy on Black Friday then the actual parade.  Yet in the center of all this, most of us will at some point take the time to consider everything we are thankful for.  For some this may be easy, but for others it may be a struggle depending on their current situation.  Regardless of the situation, even the most difficult circumstances can allow for a heart of thankfulness if considered within the right context.

In fact, the story which most consider to be the historical origin of Thanksgiving is a story of great difficulty for a group of people who experienced starvation, disease, death and hostility.  It is a story of families devastated by the death of a spouses, children and friends where most likely the graveyard contained more tombstones than people living in the settlement.  Practically speaking the settlement was an absolute failure and their efforts were hardly worthy of thanksgiving.  Yet, in spite of these tragedies, they were filled with an overwhelming sense of thankfulness not because of anything they have done.  It was a thanksgiving which identified God as the provider of all good things, most importantly the grace of God received through Christ.  For them a heart of thanksgiving was not a one-time event which occurred once a year, but a continual state which likely helped them endure throughout their difficulties.

So to who are you directing your thanks towards this Thanksgiving holiday? It may seem like a simple answer, but consider the inconsistency in expressing thankfulness and gratitude without the recognition of a recipient. When most people receive a gift, they express gratitude towards the giver, but how often does someone mention gratitude for something without any recognition of the recipient.  Who exactly are you giving thanks to? Without a recipient, it is merely a meaningless catch phase used to describe good things which you are glad to have.

If you are thankful for your job, your home, your family, your friends or even your life, to whom are you expressing this gratitude?  For the Christian there can be no other answer except God, but for many other people the most honest answer is probably themselves.  Thankful for a job they worked to obtain, a house they purchased, a family they built and the good health they sacrificed to attain.  They have become the ultimate source of their own good circumstances; I’m thankful to me for me.

So this week as we visit with family and friends let us remember to verbally remind people of the recipient of our thanksgiving.  Avoid the overused phrase, “I’m thankful for” without saying to whom you are giving the thanks.  This may be the most powerful evangelism tool you possess this week as you interact with those who may not believe the gospel.  When someone speaks of their thankfulness, don’t be afraid to ask the question “who are you thanking?”  You may be surprised with the answer you receive.

At the same time let us also not forget that our response to God’s goodness comes not only in words, but action.  Living a life of obedience to God demonstrates our gratitude and thanksgiving to Him more than any words.  Be assured that at the same time people listen to us offer thanks to God, they are also watching us to see just how much we really believe everything we say.