Archive for October, 2009

Love your neighbor...[This is a repost of an article from a couple of years ago]

Marty is a fairly nice guy.

Certainly, he has his foibles: he drinks a bit, is harsh on the kids, has some problems with racial bigotry and the like. For many years, he was married to an unfaithful spouse. She slept around and was quite disrespectful of the entire institution of marriage. Finally, enough was enough, and Marty divorced her.

Years and years have passed, but every year on the date of the divorce, October 31, he pulls the family together for a rip-roaring divorce anniversary. It’s such a grand occasion where everyone in the family can come together and remember what a whore his ex- was, and how great it is that he traded her in for a new model (who, arguably, is not much better than the previous one, but just not as blatant about it).

Sounds like a grand old time, eh?

I have lots of friends who have gone through a divorce, and not a one of them do I know who consider the anniversary of their divorce to be a time to remember, let alone celebrate. Marty and his family, though, they revel in it, creating entire ceremonies around how great it was to give the old skank the boot.

Obviously, I’m dealing in allegory here, but I find it completely unsurprising that the same folks who celebrate the day of the greatest ‘divorce’ in church history, Reformation Day, are the very same ones who are pretty much tone-deaf when it comes to hearing Christ say ‘love your neighbor as yourself’. It all fits in the same flawed ’system’ they bought into when they traded one flawed spouse for another.

I also find it funny that these same folks will curse the harvest festival celebration which falls on the same day because of its ‘goulishness’, yet they will dress up and give out candy as an historical German figure known for writing such things like:

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Hi all,

To piggy-back on Jerry’s post about ‘burning books for Jesus’, I came across an article today which was given to me by a friend of mine (who is quoted from in the article, and her father is the pastor in question).  I was wondering  what you all might think of the position taken in the article, and why?

I personally take a position based on 1 Cor.8, and that it’s a matter of conscience, not obedience, lest Paul be mistaken for not vehemently condemning the Christians eating food sacrificed to false gods.

What do you think?

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Lately we have been discussing the very important issue of irony, among other things. There’s been no small amount of tension. I regret tension because it inhibits learning.

Well, we all need a break every now and again, something to smile about, something to join hands around, something to protest as it were. So, in the spirit of the good fun and humor, I present you this Halloween Gift:

Amazing Grace Baptist Church (Canton, NC): Book Burning Not Cancelled!

Great Preaching and Singing

We are burning Satan’s bibles like the NIV, RSV, NKJV, TLB, NASB, ESV, NEV, NRSV, ASV, NWT, Good News for Modern Man, The Evidence Bible, The Message Bible, The Green Bible, etc. These are perversions of God’s Word.

We will also be burning Satan’s music such as country, rap, rock, pop, heavy metal, western, soft and easy, southern gospel, contemporary Christian, jazz, soul, oldies but goodies, etc.

We will also be burning Satan’s popular books written by heretics Bruce Metzger, Billy Graham, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, John McArthur, James Dobson, Charles Swindoll, John Piper, Chuck Colson, Tony Evans, Oral Roberts, Jimmy Swagart, Mark Driscol, Franklin Graham, Bill Bright, Tim Lahaye, Paula White, T.D. Jakes, Benny Hinn, Joyce Myers, Brian McLaren, James White, Robert Schuller, Rob Bell, Erwin McManus, Donald Miller, Shane Claiborne, Brennan, Manning, William Young, Will Graham, and many more.

We are not burning Bibles written in other languages that are based on the TR. We are not burning the Tyndale, Geneva or other translations that are based on the TR.

We will be serving fried chicken, and all the sides.

Well, I’m glad to know there will be fried chicken!

HT: Jennifer Taylor

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I just finished reading Jesus For President.

It’s not for me. As I have said, Claiborne has many important things to say, but I seriously doubt his theology of ‘let’s do all we can to get arrested all the time by making a public nuisance of ourselves by trespassing, interrupting the lives of others, and embarrassing themselves.’ I think that sort of contradicts Paul’s statement that we should ‘pray for kings, and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth‘ (not just the poor and disenfranchised; 1 Timothy 2:2).

It may be for some of you, and I’m glad for you. But I seriously, seriously doubt that Jesus’ main motivation was every merely political. I had a professor at Emmanuel School of Religion try to make the argument that Jesus was saying something political. To be sure, he did. But I also think it was more. And Jesus does not need to run for president, nor do we need to vote for him; He’s already King. (I’d appreciate the book far more, I’d still disagree with much of the theology, if they didn’t lean so far to the Left as if the Left has anything better to say than the Right.)

So, Irony:

A couple of years ago, two things happened. First, we won a lawsuit over police misconduct in New York City. The police had been arresting homeless people for sleeping in public, and charging them with disorderly conduct. Hundreds of folks rallied to bring attention to this situation, and many of us slept outside to express our feeling that it shouldn’t be a crime to sleep in public. I (Shane) was arrested one night as I slept. Through a long legal process, I was found not guilty, and then I filed a civil suit of wrongful arrest, wrongful prosecution, and police misconduct. And we won, in addition to a legal precedent, around ten thousand dollars. But we figured the money didn’t belong to me or to the Simple Way but to the homeless for all they endure. It was their victory.

The second thing that happened was that after our study of Biblical economics, we were given an anonymous gift of ten thousand dollars, money which had been invested in the stock market and now was being returned to the poor.

I don’t know. Something about all this strikes me as profoundly ironic. It’s like: We hate the system, but by God we are going to use (abuse?) it when we can. I don’t get it. I don’t think it is courageous. Nor do I think there is such a thing as ‘prophetic resistance to corporate interests’ pillaging of the rain forests’ in Brazil; nor does that make one a Biblical martyr.

Perhaps it will make some of you say, “You just don’t know Shane,” or “You read him wrongly,” or “Did you fall out of a stupid tree and hit every branch on the way down?” or worse. That’s fine. His is a way of reading Scripture that is nice, but leaves a lot to be desired. Maybe I need another of his books (more irony) to flesh out where he’s coming from. Maybe I need to visit him and have a tofu burger and some green tea. But for the time being, I need to mull it over and listen to you a little more.

Or…

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I’m pressing my luck using this series, but I want you to understand that even though at this point much of Claiborne’s argument is lost on me, I am trying hard to understand his point of view. I think he has many, many important things to say and that we should listen when we can and even when we cannot.  So if I am arguing with you loudly during these posts it’s not because I necessarily disagree with you it is because I’m am speaking out loud my objections to what I read in order that others among us can help clarify what I may have missed.

So I press on in the hope that I might have a deeper understanding of the faith that I profess and cling to. Since the Lord has seen fit to silence my voice for now and prohibit me from entering the pulpit for a season, I think it best to learn to listen to those around me. This means reading books by authors I might not otherwise read (like Claiborne, or Lamott, or MLK). It’s all a part of the reshaping of my faith all over again for the first time ever. It happens about every ten years or so for me. So here’s today’s ‘whaddya think?’

Hell is not just something that comes after death but is something many are living in this very moment: 1.2 billion people groan for a drop of water each day; more than thirty thousand kids starve to death each day; and thirty-eight million folks are dying of AIDS. It seems ludicrous to think of preaching to them about hell when we would do better sitting at the well and asking them for a little water. We see Jesus spending far more energy loving people out of hell, and lifting people out of the hells in which they are trapped, than trying to scare them into heaven. And one of the most beautiful things we get to see in community here in Kensington is people who have been loved out of the hells they find themselves in–domestic violence, addiction, sex trafficking, loneliness.

[...]

…Jesus reassured Peter that the ‘gates of hell will not prevail against you.’ As adolescents, we understood that to mean that the demons and fiery darts of the Devil will not hit us. But lately we’ve done a little more thinking and praying, and we have a bit more insight on gates. Gates are not offensive weapons. Gates are defensive–walls and fences we built to keep people out. God is not saying the gates of hell will not prevail as they come at us. God is saying that we are in the business of storming the gates of hell, and the gates will not prevail as we crash through them with grace.

[...]

People sometimes ask if we are scare of the inner city. We say that we are more scared of the suburbs…As Shane’s mother says, “Perhaps there is no more dangerous place for a Christian to be than in safety and comfort, detached from the suffering of others.” We’re scared of apathy and complacency, of detaching ourselves from the suffering.  (Jesus For President, 291, 292)

Whaddya think? There is much in these statements that I agree with entirely. But I want to know what you think. Later, if I argue with you, don’t get angry. Let’s learn together.

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And the amazing thing is that when we have nothing else to say, He is still willing to listen. Happy Monday.

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Suggested to me by my son…

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For a bit better vocal performance passed my way this week, here’s John Ondrasik (Five for Fighting) at this year’s Jerry Lewis Telethon (which I didn’t even realize was still going on) performing Augie Nieto:

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Have a great weekend!

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“Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is evil. That sentence is the leper’s bell of an approaching looter.” – Ayn Rand

“Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.”Deut 25:4

Part I: Laying the Groundwork
Part II: Principles and Strategic Choices
Part III: A Laffer Matter

[NOTE: This will likely be the most contentious article in this series, as there are no "good"/"painless" answers. Whether we suffer a gradual descent into madness via incremental socialism or whether we're able to accelerate the its catastrophic failure, people will be hurt - regardless. My contention is that fewer will be hurt by a catastrophic failure - if the recovery is to learn from the failure and to ditch socialist and semi-socialist policies - than by the steady decline inevitable in the existing and proposed Ponzi schemes of government-provided health-care. Most, if not all of my 'Galt-ish' suggestions are simply pushing trends faster in the direction they will already be going, for optimum "failure-potential".]

ObamaCareAssumptions

While no health-care “reform” bill has yet passed out of the House or Senate this year, it is probably a safe assumption that one will – in some form, popular opinion be damned – ultimately pass. I’ve already written on the topic at least three times this year.

Within that plan, for the sake of this article, I will assume that there will be provisions that:

  • Prevent health insurance companies from policy denial for pre-existing conditions (”Guaranteed Issue”) and from charging different rates to different customers, based on their risk potential (”Community Rating”). What this means, if this were auto insurance, is that ACME Insurance would have to insure Lindsay Lohan, and they would have to insure her at the same rates as my father-in-law, who I’m not sure has received a ticket or been in an accident that was his fault in 50+ years of driving.
  • Require individuals to carry health insurance or pay a fine (for which the fine would be significantly less money than the cost of insurance). What this means, using the above example, is that Ms. Lohan is better off paying the fine for not having insurance until after she’s been in an accident.
  • Pay doctors on a scale tied to the same scale as Medicare (which most often pays doctors less than their actual costs of providing care).

By the time the government system fails, the goal of “going Galt” should be making it obvious that the road to hell is truly paved with good intentions.

The Looming Tsunami

Currently, there are 267 doctors (without regard to specialty) per 100,000 residents in the USA – a downward trend since the high-water mark of 279/100K in 2000. Even that mark was below the optimal mark – thought to be in the range of 325-350/100K – to support the medical system as it is used in America. Even worse is the huge shortfall in Primary Care Physicians (PCP’s) – where the majority of PCP’s are within 10 years of retirement (right when the wave of Baby Boom retirements hit) and the supply of graduates is less than 50% the number of retirements.

To make matters worse, the trend-line in graduates is headed downward – dropping 50% between 1997 and 2006, and is only kept afloat by the increasing number of immigrant students, willing to help fill the ranks. And it’s not just “about the money” (PCP’s earn 50+% less than most specialists), but also the work, itself – which has longer hours, a more demanding customer base, and lower reimbursement rates from payers. With med-school bills of $300K+ and an ever-increasing risk/reward ratio, along with an explosion in defensive medicine, malpractice insurance and burdensome paperwork that consumes 10 minutes of work for every 1 minute with a patient, it’s no wonder medicine is not an attractive field to enter.

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I’m not sure yet why I’m still reading Jesus for President, but I am. There are parts of it that intrigue me, and other parts that anger me. There are parts that are naive, and other parts that are profound. There are parts that are accurate, and there are parts that are (despite what some have said here) revisionist. There are parts where I’m jumping up and shouting, ‘Amen,’ and there are parts where I’m asking, ‘how could anyone write this stuff.’ I’m still reading, waiting on the other shoe to drop.

I almost put it down after I read his two pages on Hitler (202-203; which I think are incomprehensible and utterly naive). It’s hard to buy into a lot of what he says about the military (but I may be too close to the situation to see clearly since I come from a military family and my brother is currently in the military.) It was hard to read their justification of Tim McVeigh on page 214 (if it was not a justification, it was at least sympathy) and quote from him as if he were a saint to be adored.

I think sometimes Claiborne confuses the ‘body of Christ’ with the ‘united states.’ That is, I think he expect the united states government to act like the church and that the government is wrong when the government acts like, well, the government. I don’t think it can be both ways.

But I’m not sure sometimes. It’s hard to read their words that the government is bad, that the united states is (nearly) criminal in most of its actions, that the church shouldn’t hold hands with the state and then read that ‘We can provide universal health care and keep folks breathing longer (another nice move)…’ (228). I wonder how ‘we’ are supposed to fund this universal health care without rendering more unto the very Caesar that he is advocating we despise?

It’s probably easy to do so when one doesn’t have to worry about all those things like family, going to work every day, and doing things other than protesting the things you think are wrong with the world. I know. That is a broad, terrific, generalization. I repent. As Claiborne points out in the book, it’s easy to pontificate.

It’s hard to read about how criminal technology is and then read of the ’struggle’ they had to even publish this book (193, footnote 37). In order to assuage their conscience’s, they gave back ‘to the earth’ 10% of their book’s earnings. How generous.

OK. So on to the part about ‘whaddya think.’ (I didn’t ask permission to contribute to this series, so I hope it is alright to do so.)

I would like to know what you think about the following paragraph from Jesus for President:

Besides, the contradictions in evangelicalism are clear. Take divorce, for example, a sin Jesus spoke clearly about [as if Jesus didn't speak 'clearly' about any other sins]. The divorce rate of evangelical Christians now surpasses that of the rest of the population of the United States. Evangelicals are getting divorced, and gay folks are wanting to get married, and religionists keep accusing homosexuals of destroying the family. Yikes. If we truly had a church in which people could love and be loved, we would transcend so many divisive issues and be free to become the people God has created us to be. (233)

Try not to get too caught up in my complaints about the book. I’m not finished with it yet and I read every book the same way–like it is a deep mine and every now and again I might find a gem. But seriously, what do you think about this quote?

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I’m a little more than half-way through Jesus For President. It’s rough, for a variety of reasons, but I’m pressing onward. Here’s something that struck me as rather poignant today:

These religiously inspired settlers, instead of embodying Jesus’ peculiar society, which is both revolutionary and subordinate, aimed to be solely revolutionary by creating a competing state that would exist on the world’s terms of power and violence. They eschewed the upside down politics of the mustard seed kingdom of God, while retaining the language of piety. They refused Jesus’ call to be a humble people (to the surrounding natives, to say the least!) and instead seized land to colonize. If we look hard, we might find some sincere Puritans with admirable qualities (as with any person or group), but essentially their identity was less in being the church and more in becoming a state with church words and practices sprinkled in.

Some congregations have identified this historical mistake and attempted to correct it. But in many cases, the treatment doesn’t get to the root of power. Take the great project to ‘take back America for God’ as an example. This project, of course, is rooted in the thought that the United States was initially founded ‘on God,’ a seriously contested claim. But even more, this grand goal, while it sounds pious, attempts to grasp power the same way the world does. The American project may have been a result not so much of malicious people as of bad theology–or wanting the right thing but pursuing it by the wrong means.–Shane Claiborne & Chris Haw, Jesus For President, 173*

Indeed. The church must not become a ’state’ with a few church words and practices sprinkled in. The church must be the church, the body of Christ. Nothing more. Nothing less.

_____________________________

*Unless everything all of us have ever been taught about the founding of America and the Puritan ‘conquest’ and the rather ‘gentle’ nature of the indigenous inhabitants of this place, then there is not a little revisionism in Claiborne and Haw’s words.  Or, to put it another way, while I happen to agree in principle with their thoughts on power, bad theology, and the upside down nature of the kingdom of God, I think that for the most part their interpretation of American history is weak at best. And for all their eschewing of the distinctively American politic that is the democratic process, they seem to fall with a resounding thud on the side of the ‘left’ and are far, far too critical of those, and the positions of those, on the ‘right’. This seriously, seriously impedes the flow of the book and the validity of their argument.

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