Friday, March 27, 2015

Acronym Absurdity

Some excellent thoughts from World magazine, by Andrée Seu Peterson:
Sometimes I wonder if the inventors of the other LGBT brand are a tad embarrassed.  They keep having to add new letters to their acronym, and the more they tack on the weaker their case looks.  In simpler days when it was merely an “L” and a “G,” their position seemed stronger because all they had to persuade us of was that some people are born with a hard-wired romantic orientation to the same sex.  We were given assurances that if we granted “L” and “G” they would be happy and leave us alone, having achieved total self-actualization and a redressing of offenses against their long-aggrieved identities.
Then “B” came along, and they had to fairly sneak it in when no one was looking, because claiming that you have an orientation that goes both ways sounds a lot like saying you just like to fool around and you don’t care who with.  Suddenly we are plunged from the high-minded early visions of ineluctable destiny to the shameful little man behind the curtain who used to cause knee-knocking with his smoke-and-mirror routine.  There is a huge gap between campaigning on a manifest biological imperative (early “G” and “L”) and the later ravenous clamor for the right to anything-goes (“B”).
Peterson continues:
Nevertheless, “T” followed without fanfare, like a bill sneaked through Congress on a Friday afternoon, and I always have trouble remembering the new additions, which are (a quick online search tutors me) LGBTQQIAP.  I personally do not agree that the canon is closed with these nine unholy fruits of an unclean spirit, unless you let the “P” (pansexual) also cover pedophilia, and the “B” in the third slot do double duty for bestiality.
In science there is a rule known as “death by qualification.”  It is the idea that a theory about something loses its cogency when it gets whittled away by too many exceptions and contrary facts and when you constantly have to tack on new explanations to try to account for inconvenient evidence (evolution theory, for instance).  The LGBTQQIAP movement will soon need a wheelbarrow for its alphabet.  What started as a self-styled civil rights movement in the grand old tradition of social gains for African-Americans and women has metastasized into a free-for-all with no common denominator but the uninhibited acting out of all impulses and no cohesive agenda but the agenda to rebel against God in any way conceivable.

As for me, I will stick to plain old LGBT, “Let God be true though every one were a liar.”  And what God says that’s true, and what some are liars about, is that when a nation doesn’t consider the knowledge of Him worthwhile, He gives “them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done” (Romans 1:28).  In this mental debasement, “their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another” (verses 26-27).

My LGBT means that even if I am the last person on earth who still believed what the Bible says about the proper use of our bodies, I will choose to believe God over every other word, theory, testimony, report, feeling, persuasive argument, and complicated theology.
I like Peterson's idea that we reclaim “LGBT” for Christian purposes: “Let God Be True though every one were a liar” (Romans 3:4).

I never write a word about homosexuality without thinking of several people I know and truly respect (and, what’s more, like) who are open homosexuals.  But no matter how much—and precisely because—I love these friends, I will not wear the ribbon, join the cause, drink the kool-aid; because God says all sex outside heterosexual, monogamous marriage is immoral.

Why do I care enough to risk speaking publicly, to strain the friendships I have mentioned, and even to put forth arguments that could imperil my reputation and even my future job prospects?  Because I want people to inherit the kingdom of God.  And because, as a pastor, I see the harm sexual sin does to people even in this life.

I urge you to read Andrée Seu Peterson’s whole article and to subscribe to World magazine.
  

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Head of US Episcopal Church: Climate Change Denial is Immoral

The head of the Episcopal Church has finally declared something immoral, and even if the headline didn't give it away, it wouldn't take a knowledgeable person 5 seconds to guess what it is.

From here:

The highest ranking woman in the Anglican Communion has said that climate change denial is immoral and threatens the rights of the world’s poorest people.  Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori told The Guardian that she believes those who deny climate change are not using God’s gift of knowledge.  Her comments come at the start of a month-long campaign to encourage the church’s 2.5 million members to reduce their carbon footprint.

A former Oceanographer before her ordination at the age of 40, Bishop Jefferts Schori, one of the most senior women in Christianity, said that the campaign was needed to persuade her fellow Episcopalians of the need to do something about climate change personally, whether it was lobbying governments and corporations to fight climate change, or reducing their own carbon emissions.

So the Gospel-spreading organization, the Church, is instead going to lobby "governments and corporations to fight climate change."  Oh, I forgot, for the Episcopal Church, environmentalism is the Gospel, because "the world is God's body."

“I really hope to motivate average Episcopalians to see the severity of this issue, the morality of this issue,” she said. “Turning the ship in another direction requires the consolidated efforts of many people who are moving in the same direction.

Like lemmings.

“It’s hard work when you have a climate denier who will not see the reality of scientific truth,” she added.

You mean like a co-founder of Greenpeace who points out what a lot of codswallop this whole greenhouse gas/CO2 thing is.

But for Jefferts Schori, the question isn’t only scientific, it’s moral too.  Referring to those who do not believe in man made climate change theory as holding “a very blind position,” she compared the need to tackle climate change as a moral imperative, akin to the American civil rights movement.

Because we missed Selma, but we can still look important if we convince everybody this thing is real.

“[Climate change] is in that sense much like the civil rights movement in this country where we are attending to the rights of all people and the rights of the earth to continue to be a flourishing place. It is certainly a moral issue in terms of the impacts on the poorest and most vulnerable around the world already.

It is only a sin if it negatively impacts the poor.

“Episcopalians understand the life of the mind is a gift of God and to deny the best of current knowledge is not using the gifts God has given you,” she added. “In that sense, yes, it could be understood as a moral issue.”

Ummm, not buying that "best of current knowledge" canard.

She believes that evangelical strains of Christianity, more commonly associated with a conservative interpretation of the religion, are becoming increasingly concerned with climate change as a social justice issue.

“One of the significant changes in particular has been the growing awareness and activism among the evangelical community who at least somewhat in the more distant past refused to encounter this issue, refused to deal with it,” Jefferts Schori said. “The major evangelical groups in this country have been much more forward in addressing this issue because they understand that it impacts the poor.”

Most "evangelicals" who are jumping on this bandwagon are getting all their news from MSNBC and think having an iPhone is much more important than being a Christian.

But unlike many Christian denominations which are divesting from fossil fuels – the United Methodist Church has just sold its holdings in coal companies from its pension fund – Jefferts Schori does not believe that divestment is the best way forward.

Modern day United Methodists = Episcopalians with less money and bad liturgy.

“If you divest you lose any direct ability to influence the course of a corporation’s behavior,” she said. “I think most pragmatists realise that we can’t close the spigot on the oil wells and close the coal mines immediately without some other energy source to shift to.”

And of course, the Episcopal Church wouldn't dare make any investment changes that might cause it to lose money.

Her words come as the Vatican is preparing an encyclical on climate change, due to be released in June, which the Pope is said to hope will inspire world leaders to adopt tougher measures on climate change in Paris at the end of the year.

Apologies to my Roman Catholic friends, but I keep saying this Pope is only about five years behind the Episcopal Church. 
  

367 House Lawmakers Warn Obama on Iran

Why isn't this getting more media attention?
 From CNN, where there is more:
A veto-proof, bipartisan majority of House lawmakers have signed an open letter to President Barack Obama warning him that any nuclear deal with Iran will effectively require congressional approval for implementation.
A group of bipartisan senators have penned a bill mandating that any deal be reviewed and approved by Congress, but the House letter notes that lawmakers have another way to halt an agreement — by refusing to roll back sanctions.
"Should an agreement with Iran be reached, permanent sanctions relief from congressionally-mandated sanctions would require new legislation. In reviewing such an agreement, Congress must be convinced that its terms foreclose any pathway to a bomb, and only then will Congress be able to consider permanent sanctions relief," they write.
The letter, which was signed by 367 members of the House and released Monday by the House Foreign Affairs Committee, follows a similar one, issued to Iran's leaders and signed by 47 Republican senators, warning that any deal with Iran could be rolled back by a future president.
Read the rest.
 

Monday, March 23, 2015

15 Beliefs of the Modern Republican Party

As Republicans work strategically to take the White House in 2016, it will be important for the party to articulate their vision for leading America into the future.  But indeed, the GOP already has a well-defined ideological platform, with clear stances on both domestic and foreign affairs.  In fact, many political strategists believe that the Republican’s platform is currently much more defined than that of the Democrats, and this could give the GOP an advantage in 2016.  With this in mind, let’s take a look at the Republican Party’s core beliefs.

1. Economy: Supporting Small Businesses
Currently, small businesses are an integral part of the U.S. economy, as these businesses are responsible for employing millions of hardworking American laborers. But domestic entrepreneurial start-ups are occurring at levels lower than they have been in 30 years, and no doubt this is a result of the Obama administration’s heavy regulation and taxation of small businesses. In contrast, the GOP is firmly committed to decreasing regulation and taxation of small businesses in order that they may prosper more fully.

2. Economy: The Budget Must Be Balanced
Going forward, the Republican party believes that the American government needs a reformative overhaul with regard to how it handles budget affairs. The GOP sees Medicare as extremely financially unfeasible over the long run, and so they desire to enact structural reforms in order to make the program more sustainable. Furthermore, to the GOP, spending cuts across the board must be combined with further research into technologies that make the day-to-day operations of the government more efficient and more affordable.

3. Economy: Supporting American Businesses in the Global Marketplace
As American corporations presently experience the highest corporate tax rate in the entire globe, this reality greatly hinders the prosperity of American companies competing throughout the world’s economy. Republicans are committed to lessening the excessively high tax rate that is currently being levied upon American companies in order to ensure they have more flexibility in their endeavors. Through the GOP’s plan to lower the corporate tax rate, companies will be able to create thousands of jobs, increase wages, and fund further investments.

4. Energy: Comprehensive Energy Policy
As America presses forward into the 21st century, the Republican party firmly believes in a comprehensive “all-of-the-above” energy policy. With such a wide variety of excellent energy resources to choose from, the GOP believes it would  be irresponsible for the country to not invest in both traditional and alternative energy resources. The GOP recognizes that in order to further actualize the dominance of America’s energy sector and to create thousands of new jobs, the country must invest in any and all energy resources available.

5. Energy: Pursue Coal Research
The GOP readily recognizes that coal is extremely abundant on earth and is extremely affordable to convert into energy. For this reason, the Republican party considers that it is of the utmost importance that America further invests in coal production, as well as in technologies that make coal energy cleaner and more efficient. To turn away from such a vital resource now, as the Democrats would have it, would be a true mistake for the country’s energy sector. Thus, Republicans plan to rally around coal for years to come.

6. Environment: Remove Excessive EPA Regulations
Over the past several decades, the Environmental Protection Agency has exponentially increased the amount of regulations that it imposes upon American businesses, which has cost American companies billions of dollars. The GOP is dead-set determined to remove excessive EPA regulations in order to help American businesses, and the party is also strongly dedicated to ensuring that the EPA acts with more transparency and has adequate levels of congressional oversight.

7. Reform: Restructure Medicare and Medicaid
As millions of Americans currently depend on Medicare and Medicaid for their health needs, the Republicans recognize that is of the utmost of importance to ensure that these critical programs are restructured with sustainability in mind so that they may continue to serve Americans for generations to come. Currently, these programs are structured in a way that is absolutely unsustainable, as Medicare has nearly $40 trillion in unfunded responsibilities. The GOP is committed to getting Medicare and Medicaid back on the right track.

8. Reform: Modernize the Federal Civil Service
As the American Civil Service system has not been significantly restructured in its 130 history, it is ill-equipped and ill-prepared to meet the demands of modernity in the 21st century. Since Obama became president in 2008, the number of federal employees making more than $150,000 a year has doubled. Going forward, the GOP is highly motivated to reform the Federal Civil Service in order to make it more efficient and more sustainable. For example, the GOP is committed to paying public employees according to what they would receive in the private sector.

9. Reform: Ensuring Legal Immigration
As Republicans are firmly dedicated to the rule of law, they are adamant that the immigration laws of this country must be respected. Legal immigration is best for everyone, in that it allows a prescribed method for foreigners to come to America to start a new life. Legal immigration boosts the economy, protects American laborers, and enriches the cultural diversity of the country. Furthermore, legal immigration will mean that every applicant is treated equally, and thus the GOP feels that this is the fairest and most realistic option.

10. Defense: Countering Russian Aggression
The GOP views Russia’s militaristic actions in Ukraine as provocative, destabilizing, and extrajudicial. Since the Republican party views the violation of Ukrainian sovereignty by Russia as a grave act of aggression, the party is fundamentally determined to use all available methods to counter Russia’s nefarious geopolitical ambitions. With this in mind, the GOP strongly desires further rounds of crippling sanctions against the Russian economy as a reminder to Moscow that breaking international laws leads only to being ostracized.

11. Defense: Invest Further in Space
With Russia’s nuclear forces now more robust than America’s, and with China’s heavy investments in militarized space technologies, the GOP realizes that the United States needs to invest in space now more than ever in order to maintain strategic superiority. Investing in space will not only yield mineral resources, such as through mining asteroids, but it will also allow us to competently counter the military operations of enemies, whether it be by knocking out their communication satellites or by using laser-equipped satellites to shoot down ICBMs.

12. Defense: Staying Tough in Cybersecurity
The entertainment company Sony was recently hacked by IP addresses originating in North Korea, and such a hack resulted in $62 billion dollars of losses for the company. This type of malicious attack underscores the reason the GOP wants to stay tough in cybersecurity: the American government and American corporations are the biggest targets for cyber attacks in the entire world. With this notion in mind, the Republican party knows that it will be absolutely essential to bolster our nations cybersecurity defenses in the years to come.

13. American Values: Repeal Obamacare
With Republicans now controlling the House of Representatives and Senate, and perhaps the presidency in 2016, the party is sure to revisit its campaign to repeal Obamacare. With a large portion of the American population now having negative opinions of Obamacare, the GOP is dedicating to giving the majority of American people what they want: the repeal of Obamacare. Whether the GOP will defund the program in parts or whether the party will systematically repeal the entire law remains to be seen, but what can be sure is that they party will certainly do their best to take Obamacare down once and for all.

14. American Values: Protect Traditional Marriages
As the Republican party is founded upon conservative values, it is determined to do its best to protect the integrity of such values. Thus, ensuring the vitality of traditional marriage is a fundamental tenet of the GOP’s platform. Tradition holds that the sacred act of marriage can only be between one man and one woman, and any actions taken to undermine this traditional covenant will be firmly rebuked by members of the Republican party.

15. American Values: Improve the FDA
The Food and Drug Administration serves a critical role in determining the safety of food and medical products that Americans must consume everyday. For this reason, it is absolutely critical that the FDA is ran efficiently. But in recent years, the organization has been plagued by contradictions, unpredictability, and a lack of transparency. To this end, the GOP is strongly committed to reforming the FDA in order that the organization can perform its important duties with the utmost efficiency and openness.
  

Friday, March 20, 2015

Early Greenpeace Leader Offers Alternative Take on Climate Change

In eye-opening testimony, an early leader of the Greenpeace movement questioned assertions that carbon dioxide emissions from human activity are solely responsible for global warming.

Patrick Moore, Ph.D., testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee: "There is no scientific proof that human emissions of carbon dioxide are the dominant cause of the minor warming of the earth's atmosphere over the past 100 years."  Moore who, in his Senate testimony, recounted his early involvement with Greenpeace, beginning in 1971, says he left the organization in 1986 because Greenpeace  "took a sharp turn to the political left, and began to adopt policies that I could not accept from my scientific perspective."

Moore says, 
Perhaps the simplest way to expose the fallacy of “extreme certainty” [regarding climate change] is to look at the historical record....  When modern life evolved over 500 million years ago, CO2 was more than 10 times higher than today, yet life flourished at this time.  Then an Ice Age occurred 450 million years ago when CO2 was 10 times higher than today....  The fact that we had both higher temperatures and an ice age at a time when CO2 emissions were 10 times higher than they are today fundamentally contradicts the certainty that human-caused CO2 emissions are the main cause of global warming.
Climate change activists, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have asserted that: “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”  

However, Moore counters with the observation that, 
The increase in temperature between 1910-1940 was virtually identical to the increase between 1970-2000.  Yet the IPCC does not attribute the increase from 1910-1940 to "human influence."  They are clear in their belief that human emissions impact only the increase "since the mid-20th century."  Why does the IPCC believe that a virtually identical increase in temperature after 1950 is caused mainly by "human influence," when it has no explanation for the nearly identical increase from 1910-1940?
Citing what many scientists accept regarding the swing in temperatures throughout the earth's history, Moore observes, "Today we remain locked in what is essentially still the Pleistocene Ice Age, with an average global temperature of 14.5oC.  This compares with a low of about 12oC during the periods of maximum glaciation in this Ice Age to an average of 22oC during the Greenhouse Ages, which occurred over longer time periods prior to the most recent Ice Age."

Based on these temperature swings, Moore questions the dire predictions of some environmentalists regarding global warming:  
During the Greenhouse Ages, there was no ice on either pole and all the land was tropical and sub-tropical, from pole to pole.  As recently as 5 million years ago the Canadian Arctic islands were completely forested.  Today, we live in an unusually cold period in the history of life on earth and there is no reason to believe that a warmer climate would be anything but beneficial for humans and the majority of other species.  There is ample reason to believe that a sharp cooling of the climate would bring disastrous results for human civilization.
Moore concludes, 
It is important to recognize, in the face of dire predictions about a 2oC rise in global average temperature, that humans are a tropical species.  We evolved at the equator in a climate where freezing weather did not exist.  The only reasons we can survive these cold climates are fire, clothing, and housing.  It could be said that frost and ice are the enemies of life, except for those relatively few species that have evolved to adapt to freezing temperatures during this Pleistocene Ice Age.  It is “extremely likely” that a warmer temperature than today’s would be far better than a cooler one.
I would add the observation that, despite the many disagreements between creationists and evolutionists, biblical creationists believe that, in the period prior to the Noahic Flood, the earth was surrounded by a water vapor canopy in the upper atmosphere, so that the earth was very much like a tropical greenhouse from pole to pole--a view that is consistent with the fossil evidence and with what evolutionists believe about the earth's early history.

The claim of some scientists and politicians today that global warming is "settled science" has resulted in the loss of thousands of jobs in industries such as coal mining and continues to hamper the efforts of developing countries to become energy independent.  While Al Gore last week stated in a speech that "climate change deniers need to be punished" and that we should "tax carbon emissions," a more responsible view is that we need to insist that our politicians not adopt "solutions" to a problem, the existence of which is still anything but "settled science."  In fact, it is politicians like Al Gore (whose "carbon footprint" is ten times as large as anyone reading this column) who need to be punished until they accept the need to come to reasonable rather than coercive and politically-motivated positions regarding the world's climate. 

(Patrick Moore is the author of a number of books, including, Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout: The Making of a Sensible Environmentalist. (2011) Beatty Street Publishing Inc. ISBN 978-0-9864808-2-9)
 

Monday, March 02, 2015

Annual Litigation Survey for the Episcopal Church (USA) 2015

Attorney A.S. Haley has just published his annual survey of litigation for the Episcopal Church (USA) 2015.

In it he lists 83 lawsuits where the Episcopal Church has sued departing parishes or dioceses and 8 lawsuits where the Episcopal Church has been sued by departing congregations or parishes.  In the latter case, suits were filed by the departing congregations or dioceses usually to regain possession of assets that had been seized or frozen by the Episcopal Church (such as when the Episcopal Church threatens a bank with legal action if it disburses funds to which the Episcopal Church has laid claim).

Since some of the 83 lawsuits filed by the Episcopal Church involve whole dioceses or other groups of parishes, the actual number of parishioners affected by the litigation is considerably higher than one would normally think might be involved in 83 such suits, numbering in the tens of thousands. 

It cannot be repeated too often how shameful a legacy this is for a Church body--an entity that frequently talks about sharing of resources and preaches generosity--to spend millions of dollars suing to claim church buildings it does not need and cannot use, merely to deprive Christians with whom they disagree of their places of worship.

Haley does not give a tally of the costs of this litigation in this current article.  However, in a survey of litigation in January 2014, he estimated the cost of this litigation to be $21,650,000.00.  To be sure, that cost has increased since then, as the Episcopal Church has continued to press lawsuits and filed appeals in the cases where it has lost, sometimes refusing to take "no" for an answer, even in cases where it has exhausted the appeal process. 

Surely some accountability should be demanded for this enormous expense, especially as it is being incurred by a shrinking and financially strapped denomination where Georgia Bishop Scott Benhase recently opined: "The one elephant in the room we do not seem to be addressing clearly is our financial resources," leading commentator David Virtue to observe "that the Episcopal Church is mired in ecclesiastical muck and the money won't be there in the future to dig the Church out... or even to continue 'God's mission' in any meaningful sense."

As Katharine Jefferts Schori ends her tumultuous tenure as Presiding Bishop, it is time for the Episcopal Church to reassess its priorities and consider carefully whether it wants to maintain Jefferts Schori's "scorched earth" litigation strategy or pursue the course of reconciliation and return to using its funds for the Church's true mission.
 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Obama: Islam ‘Woven into the Fabric of Our Country Since Founding’

Then Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, dressed in traditional Muslim garments during a visit to Kenya in 2006.

The President hits bottom and keeps digging.  I haven't seen this news reported anywhere except Breitbart yet, but after speaking critically of Christianity at the National Prayer Breakfast, refusing to identify the source of terrorism and violence in the Middle East as Islamic extremism, and refusing to identify the victims of the ISIS beheadings in Libya as Christians, Obama latest comments about Islam don't come as any surprise.

From Breitbart:

In his bloviating speech on Thursday at his summit on countering violent extremism, President Obama bent over backwards to make nice with Islam.  Not only were terrorists not Muslim, President Obama stated, but Islam played a crucial role in America’s founding.

“Here in America,” Obama stated, “Islam has been woven into the fabric of our country since its founding.”
Nice try, Mr. President.  But, as Ben Shapiro, writing for Breitbart, notes, the first Muslims did not immigrate to the United States until well after the Civil War; and the first mosque in the United States was not built until 1915, by most reports.  Shapiro goes on to say:
Islam had zero impact on the founders or their philosophy – less than zero, given that the founders despised the religion, or what they knew of it.  President Obama fictionalized this history at an Iftar dinner in 2012:
As I’ve noted before, Thomas Jefferson once held a sunset dinner here with an envoy from Tunisia — perhaps the first Iftar at the White House, more than 200 years ago.  And some of you, as you arrived tonight, may have seen our special display, courtesy of our friends at the Library of Congress — the Koran that belonged to Thomas Jefferson.   And that’s a reminder, along with the generations of patriotic Muslims in America, that Islam — like so many faiths — is part of our national story.
Well, not so much.  That magical “first Iftar” was a meeting between Sidi Solima Mellimelli, an emissary of the brutal Barbary pirates, and the president.  Jefferson had over Mellimelli in an attempt to bribe him into submission after the USS Constitution captured ships from the bey of Tunis. Mellimelli requested food, lodgings, and concubines.
Jefferson already knew of Islam, having been educated in 1786 after Barbary pirates attempted to blackmail America into monetary tribute. At that time, the Barbary emissary justified piracy with reference to the Koran, according to a report from Jefferson:
The Ambassador answered us that it was founded on the Laws of the Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners.
John Quincy Adams, writing of these negotiations, stated:
The precept of the Koran is perpetual war against all who deny that Mahomet is the prophet of God. The vanquished may purchase their lives, by the payment of tribute; the victorious may be appeased by a false and delusive promise of peace; and the faithful follower of the prophet may submit to the imperious necessities of defeat: but the command to propagate the Moslem creed by the sword is always obligatory, when it can be made effective. The commands of the prophet may be performed alike, by fraud, or by force. 
Quincy Adams would later lament, “Such is the spirit, which governs the hearts of men, to whom treachery and violence are taught as principles of religion.”  [Read the rest.]
So, as Shapiro notes: "The historical record demonstrates that Islam had virtually no role in the foundation of the early Republic outside of being used as a negative comparison point for freedom and self-government."

What are we to make of a President who disses Christianity at every turn while protecting and praising Islam, even inventing a role for Islam in our nation's history that is a pure fabrication?   We are obviously looking at a man who thinks nothing of giving the finger to everything most Americans hold dear.  Shame on the American public who voted for him!  And shame on the Democratic Party for ever foisting this man on us as a candidate!
    

Monday, February 16, 2015

How believing in the Bible can get you canned in today's America

If you want to get fired, sued or lose your business in today's America, try standing on your biblical convictions.

In Oregon, Aaron and Melissa Klein were found guilty of discrimination by a state court last week.  They could face up to $150,000 in fines for not baking a cake for a same-sex wedding.

In Wisconsin, a 15-year-old boy was reprimanded and reportedly punished by his school for writing a school paper in which he backed traditional families in adoption cases.
In New Jersey, a high school teacher was suspended for stating her Biblical beliefs about homosexuality on her personal Facebook page (while at home, off the clock).

In Illinois, a university professor was fired for saying that homosexual acts are “morally wrong.”  Kenneth Howell, who teaches religious studies, was explaining to his "Introduction to Catholicism" class where the Roman Catholic Church stands on homosexuality and sent out a follow-up email to students after class—which reportedly circulated around the campus and prompted some students to complain, resulting in Howell's dismissal.

Twin brothers David and Jason Benham, nationally acclaimed real estate entrepreneurs, were fired from their television show on HGTV after after the site Right Wing Watch published a post about the pair, labeling David Benham as an "anti-gay, anti-choice extremist" for reportedly leading a prayer rally in 2012 outside of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The list goes on, yet we can’t forget the grandmotherly florist in Washington State being sued by the Attorney General of Washington for refusing to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding (to a man, who by the way, she had faithfully served and befriended for over a decade).

One Grandma (70-year-old Baronelle Stutzman) summed it all up when she said, "Little by little, they are stripping us of any thought we might have, or any difference of opinion. This is our religious freedom at stake."

You know what—Grandma is right.  Our religious freedoms are at stake here. The “tyranny of tolerance” claims that the sexual rights of some are more important than the religious rights of others.

Notice that each of these examples has to do with homosexuality.  Who could have foreseen, even ten years ago, that the defining issue of our culture would be acceptance of homosexuality? —and that Christians, at least as far as the media are concerned, would be on the wrong side?

After all, this is America, where we have always had healthy conversations, even though we disagree.  Our country was founded on the notion that we don’t take away the rights of dissenters.  We are (or were) smart enough to know that when you censor ideas, no matter how politically incorrect, that’s when all intellectual, spiritual, and civil progress stops.

Yet our society, our culture, and our very way of life has fallen pray to militant activists who refuse to tolerate dissenters to their lifestyles.  And unfortunately, they have the United States Government in their back pockets (not to mention the media and Hollywood).

At first, homosexual activists wanted acceptance.  Then they wanted appreciation.  Now they demand celebration.  It's not enough to live and let live, these activists are now forcing their lifestyles on everyone, even if it means bullying a 70-year-old florist.  We’ve shifted from religious freedom to forced acceptance in America.

The idea of forced acceptance infringes on our constitutional rights as Americans.  As the organization known as the Alliance Defending Freedom states, "the First Amendment guarantees that the government cannot tell its citizens what they can and can’t say or force them to express a positive message about something they believe is morally wrong."

Increasingly, it is Christians who are singled out for this discrimination and the harassment of militant activists.  No one sues or harasses a Jewish baker for refusing to cater an event on the Sabbath.  Muslims get a pass on their refusal to accept homosexuality, even though their views are far more extreme than most Christians.  These individuals are granted their Constitutional rights as Americans.  Thank God!

But activists are increasingly demanding that Christian companies and individuals do things that are against their convictions, like support same-sex marriage or abortion.  In fact, they insist that Christians comply with whole-hearted enthusiasm.

Isn’t there a double standard here? 

We shouldn't be surprised.  Jesus said, "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matthew 5:11-13). 

Jesus also warned us, "In fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering service to God" (John 16:2). 

So the question is: are you willing to stand with courage at any cost if and when the battle comes knocking on your door?

Before it comes to you, here are a few simple things you can do to prepare:

1. Make up your mind.  Decide that whatever the cost you will stand for religious freedom and for your Christian convictions.
2. Prepare yourself.  Know the biblical basis for your beliefs.  And be informed—don’t be ignorant of the issues and your rights.
3. Join the conversation.  Speak up.  Don’t be silent.  Witness for what you know to be the truth!
4. Separate ideas from individuals.  You can disagree with someone’s idea and not dislike him as a person.  We are called to love the sinner, even as we identify his sin for what it is.
5. Be kind.  Love triumphs over evil; don’t demonize others.  Making the love of Jesus evident in our words and actions will often win others over, even where logical discussion fails.
6. Stand strong.  Don’t back down.  Under God's grace, the future of our nation and our children depends on our standing firm!

Thomas Jefferson once said, “Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God?”

Our liberties are God-given.  And, as such, we must be willing to defend these freedoms no matter the cost.  Now is the time for all Americans – regardless of our differences – to join hands in the greatest battle for liberty in our history!  It’s time to take a stand.

---------------- 
This post is adapted from an article by that appeared on FoxNews.com.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Chesterton’s Islamic England

William Kilpatrick, writing in Crisis magazine, points out how G.K. Chesterton, writing in a 1914 novel, The Flying Inn, foresaw the Islamization of England, with an insight that now seems positively prophetic:
G.K. Chesterton had a knack for anticipating future trends but when, in his 1914 novel The Flying Inn, he anticipated the Islamization of England, it seemed so far out of the realm of possibility that it was difficult to take it as anything but a flight of fancy.
 [...]
Roughly one hundred years later, Chesterton’s scenario no longer seems improbable.  Many observers believe the Islamization of England is just a matter of time.  For example, in her 2006 book Londonistan, Melanie Phillips presents a detailed description of the Islamic “colonization” of England now underway and shows how it is made possible by the governing class’ abandonment of cultural and spiritual values.  Chesterton was remarkably prescient not only in imagining that Islamization might happen, but also in envisioning how it would happen—through the instrumentality of a deracinated governing class.
Read it all.
 

Thursday, February 05, 2015

"Obama At National Prayer Breakfast: ’People Committed Terrible Deeds In The Name of Christ’"

From here, where there is video.
At the National Prayer Breakfast, this morning, President Obama reminded attendees that violence rooted in religion isn’t exclusive to Islam, but has been carried out by Christians as well.

“Unless we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ,” Obama said. “In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”
The Crusades and the Inquisition ...  Notice how every time someone wants to draw a moral equivalence between Christianity and Islam they have to go back CENTURIES!  As for people justifying Jim Crow in the name of Christ, that's the first time I have heard that one; and, frankly, I would dispute it.  And as for people justifying slavery in the name of Christ, two things:

1.  Yes, there were those who tried to justify slavery based on part of the Bible.  Their actions in doing so reveals their nominal belief in Christianity.  But when real Christians brought their moral influence to bear on the slavery issue, it was in support of abolition.  John Newton, William Wilberforce, Harriet Beecher Stowe are among many shining examples.

2.  When westerners went over to Africa to buy slaves--yes, buy them; very few westerners actually kidnapped Africans to bring them to the West as slaves, the people they bought them from were Muslim slave traders who thought it was good business to go into Africa and captures slaves to sell.

Once again we see a contrast:  While genuine Christians worked to abolish the slave trade, slavery has been a part of Islam from the beginning and continues even into the 21st century.

For further reading:

History of slavery under Muslim rule
Slavery in 21st-century Islamism
Slavery in contemporary Africa

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Episcopal Apostasy and the Decline of Christianity in the West

The generation that is alive right now is witnessing the apostasy of mainline Christianity in the West.  Every Christian tradition has an element--and in many instances a controlling element--that denies "the faith once delivered to the saints"--Lutherans, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists--every Protestant tradition has been affected.

Roman Catholics are not immune either.  The radical theologies and skeptical approaches to Scripture that are taught in RC universities and seminaries (and embraced enthusiastically in some religious orders and clergy circles) are identical to those taught in their Protestant counterparts.  I have had Roman Catholic friends answer this assertion by saying, "Yes, but we have the Magisterium to protect us."  Frankly, that contention is laughable.  No authority of the Papacy or the Magisterium can long withstand the undermining of orthodoxy that is occurring in their institutions of higher learning.

But none of these traditions has gone as far in excluding and persecuting its faithful remnant as has occurred (and is still occurring) in the Anglican Communion--in particular in the Episcopal Church.

In light of developments in the Episcopal Church, I have had to ask myself, "Did my wife and I err in becoming Anglicans 29 years ago?  Was I wrong to serve as an Episcopal priest for 24 years?"  No, the Anglican expression of Christianity is still the finest expression of Christianity I know.   Recently, in teaching a Confirmation class in the parish, I made the point that Anglicanism does not have a faith of its own.  Rather it seeks to be a container for conveying biblical, apostolic, and catholic Christianity to all generations.  Anglicanism retains catholic faith and order; but, in purifying itself of the erroneous accretions of the middle ages, it is a Reformed Catholicism.

The Episcopal Church, in common with the other churches of the West, first began to go astray when it became a worldly church.  Others who have chronicled the departure of the Episcopal Church from orthodoxy have looked at the strange case of Bishop James Pike (and the Episcopal Church's failure to discipline the heretical bishop) as a turning point.

About the time my wife and I were looking at the Episcopal Church, Bishop John Shelby Spong was just finding his voice as a skeptic.  Spong went on to have an influential, though unfaithful, career.  Someone who wears a purple shirt while denying everything Christianity has always believed will always find a receptive audience, especially in the media.  It is a theological "man bites dog" story--or was before it became so commonplace.

Someone might say that before becoming an Anglican, I should have looked at the examples of Pike and Spong and the Episcopal Church's failure to deal with them the way a pilot looks for stress cracks in the airframe of an airplane.  But the attraction of a Church that still officially held an orthodox faith, together with the preciousness of the sacraments and the beauty of an ancient liturgy, was too strong.

Then, too, there were spiritual and theological giants in Anglicanism, some of whom became my very faithful mentors: John Stott, J.I. Packer, Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, and John Rodgers, along with bishops like Fitz Allison, John Howe, and Alex Dickson who convinced me there was still a place for a biblically faithful Christian in the Episcopal Church.  Later I met other US bishops:  Edward MacBurney (who ordained me deacon and priest), Donald Parsons, Keith Ackerman, John David Schofield, and Jack Iker--bishops of great faithfulness who provided sound leadership.

While on the faculty of Trinity School for Ministry I had the privilege of meeting a number of overseas bishops and primates (Maurice Sinclair, Peter Jensen, Greg Venables, Peter Akinola, Henry Luke Orombi--and of teaching some who are now bishops in the Global South--John Ruchyhana, Tito Zavala, Ben Kwashi.  In becoming an Anglican, I had been adopted into a good family.

But not all was well in the family.  John Shelby Spong continued to popularize the kind of skepticism one finds in liberal religious studies courses for college undergraduates, or (as Rowan Williams once said of Spong) to "ask the sort of questions that might be posed by a bright sixth former" (a senior in high school).  It is instructive to be reminded of Spong's Twelve Theses and Rowan Williams' response.

Even more troubling than Spong's militant skepticism was the Episcopal Church's complete failure to do anything about it.  During his episcopate, Spong also engaged in an aggressive campaign of ordaining gays, lesbians, and skeptics who shared his theological agenda, who went on to occupy positions of influence around the Church.  I said long ago that if one could undo all the ordinations by John Shelby Spong and about three-fourths of the ordinations by Paul Moore of New York, the liberalizing trend in the Episcopal Church could have been neutralized.

But Spong did his worst, and no one lifted a finger to stop him.  It would have been too radical, too tacky, too shocking to actually try a bishop for heresy!  Genteel Episcopalians just didn't do such things!  Walter Righter was brought up on charges for ordaining a gay man on Spong's behalf, and the court for the trial of a bishop determined that "no core doctrine" had been violated.  Soon there was a cadre of "me too" bishops, following the new agenda of ordaining skeptics, gays, and lesbians.

All of this was compounded by the radical theologies and liberal social agenda that were being taught in the seminaries.  Fast forward twenty years, and these inmates are now running the Episcopal asylum.

Trinity School for Ministry was founded in 1975 as a counterweight--and the orthodox stream of clergy being trained at Trinity did a commendable and sometimes courageous job of promoting biblical orthodoxy and spiritual renewal in American Anglicanism.

When I moved from the faculty of Trinity to become Dean and President of Nashotah House in 2001, my aim was not to make Nashotah into "Trinity West" (as I was sometimes accused of doing); but I did want Nashotah House to be similarly countercultural with regard to the prevailing liberal culture of the Episcopal Church and to be vigorously orthodox in promoting a biblical and spiritual renewal of the Anglo-Catholic wing of the Episcopal Church.  Thanks be to God for the transformation that occurred and for several classes of orthodox clergy who graduated during my ten years as Dean and President!

However, all the while, the rot continued to spread throughout the Episcopal Church.  I was a deputy to five General Conventions from 1994 to 2006 and watched the Church change before my eyes.  Another religion was taking over the Episcopal Church.

This religion denies that God has existed eternally as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  That the eternal Son became incarnate through being conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary.  That Jesus' existence as the eternal Son shows that God's plan of redemption for humankind was inherent in the Triune nature of God from before the world was created.  That Jesus suffered and died in our place for our sins on the Cross.  That he rose bodily from the tomb on the third day, thus securing our own bodily resurrection at the last day to live with him forever.

This subversive religion that took over the Episcopal Church cannot abide those who hold the biblical, apostolic, and catholic faith of the Church and must inevitably drive out and persecute those who hold it faithfully.  It is in the nature of things and has happened everywhere true Christianity has existed alongside another religion or competing ideology.

My last General Convention as a deputy was in July 2006, the convention where Katharine Jefferts Schori was elected Presiding Bishop.  As has been reported in numerous places, even before she was invested as Presiding Bishop, she ordered Bishop Peter Lee to renege on agreements with the cluster of northern Virginia parishes to leave TEc with their property.   Then came the Connecticut Six parishes.  Then came a hundred other parishes and five whole dioceses:  Pittsburgh, Fort Worth, Quincy, San Joaquin, and now South Carolina.

The Episcopal Church, though it is faced with an imminent demographic implosion, has spent tens of millions of dollars that should have been spent on mission suing departing faithful Anglicans.  TEc has spent countless more dollars in an effort to co-opt Global South provinces and dioceses into following its apostate agenda.

So, while those who know me well know that I am not an "angry person," as the term is sometimes used, I am angry.  I am angry that another religion has been allowed to take over a church that was once a wonderful spiritual home.  I am angry that almost every faithful bishop and dozens of clergy that I know have been marginalized, excluded, and finally driven out, sued, and deposed.  I am angry that a church that talks about giving to the poor will spend millions of dollars to deprive faithful Christians of their places of worship--places that TEc does not need and cannot use.

I am angry that naive bishops and clergy who are Episcopal Church careerists stubbornly refuse to recognize or do not care that there is a spiritual war going on.  I am angry that these same bishops and careerists play nicely with the Episcopal Church's leadership as if nothing is wrong.

Do we wonder why Christianity is in decline in the West and why so much of society now holds biblical Christianity in contempt?  A large part of the answer is the skepticism engendered by liberal religious leaders.

When the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church gives an interview to Time magazine and denies that Jesus is the only way to the Father, how can we expect the world to believe those Christians who say that he is?  If the Dean of an Episcopal seminary says, "Abortion is a blessing!" and Episcopal parishes support abortion providers, how can we expect the world to believe those Christians who say that all life is sacred from conception until natural death?  When the recently deceased Marcus Borg can be made a canon theologian, what confidence does it inspire in biblical authority?  One could go down a whole list of theological and social issues where there is a divergence between biblically faithful Christians and liberal elites whose denial of biblical truth undermines the Christian witness.

If denominational leaders and "reputable scholars" (reputable according to whom?) undermine confidence in the authority of Scripture and deny cardinal beliefs of historic Christianity, how can we expect the world to believe?  The reason why the Church is supposed to have faithful leaders is not only to lead the Church in being faithful but to be articulate in presenting the truth of the Christian faith to the world.  This is why orthodox seminaries that do not compromise or equivocate are so important.  If Christianity spoke with a united voice, it could influence the culture and answer its challenges.  Instead the uncertain trumpet of the Church's own leadership has brought the faith into disrepute.

God desires something better for his people--"that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love" (Ephesians 4:14-16).