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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the www.comereason.org Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Showing posts with label culture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label culture. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Problem of Living in a Crotch-Driven Culture



One can tell a lot about the value of a society by what occupies its attention and effort. The Greeks were thinkers, who spent a significant amount of time developing philosophy and logic. They saw value in the mind, believing that clear thinking was the key to understanding the wider world.

In the 21st century, it's obvious that our culture emphasizes the crotch over the mind. What are the "hot topics" glut our headlines and dominate our conversations? It's sex. Sex is inescapable today. Our media choices are drenched with it and our politics are obsessed with it. That's why the "pelvic issues" are getting so much attention. Homosexuality, transsexuality, abortion, birth control are the focii of recent political protests, where adults will actually dress up as genitals—dress up as genitals!—in order to demand… what exactly? More availability for consequence-free sexual experiences?

Decivilizing Civilization

What does it mean to be civilized? It isn't our infrastructure or our technology that civilizes us. It isn't creating new ways to manufacture things or making it easier to do the mundane tasks life requires. For when we talk of someone being civil, we are commenting on the character of the individual in question. If someone is insulting or brutish, that person is uncivil. They would rather lash out with their feelings than recognize the humanity of the other individual. The three R's of reason, regard, and reverence are what make us human and distinguish us from animals.

Thus, civilization is predicated on the fact that human beings are not slaves to their natural impulses. Just because one feels an urge to copulate doesn't mean one should immediately attempt to do so any more than just because one passes by some delectable morsel one should immediately attempt to eat it. It may not be yours. It may not be the right time, perhaps a business meeting where the food is laid out for the meeting's conclusion or a wedding where the bride and groom should be served first. To give license to on one's base desires is to show contempt for others and to be uncivil.

Identity from a Crotch-Driven Culture

However, in our crotch-driven culture, we now seek to celebrate the base desires. In fact, people use their base desires as their primary form of identity. A person will say he or she identifies as homosexual heterosexual, bisexual, transsexual, or whatever the most recently vogue sexual predilection may be. My question is why in the world would anyone want to have their bedroom activities be highlighted as their primary attribute? How is that a good thing for elevating the understanding of ourselves as human beings?

All of this doesn't mean I am taking some kind of "don't ask, don't tell" approach. What I'm saying is that previous generations saw sexual drives and desires as things people did, not who people were. The concept of homosexuality as it is used today is actually very new. It shifts the focus from the act to the attraction itself. But doing so tells us nothing of the rightness or wrongness of homosexual acts. There are base desires that people have where it may be sometimes wrong to act upon them (such as above) and other desires where it is always wrong to act upon them. Placing the emphasis upon the fact that one has the desire gives us no information as to whether one should act upon them or not. But we know that to be civilized would mean that one must be able to control oneself in spite of those desires.

To identify as homosexual or heterosexual or whatever strikes me as elevating the base instincts one has to a status they shouldn't occupy. Yet, that seems to be exactly what Pride parades, genital costumes, and such are seeking to promote. Why would you want me to think of the primary driver of your life as satiating an urge that most people accomplish in half an hour once or twice a week? It is decivilizing. (And if your first reaction to that prior sentence is to mock the frequency or duration, then you're proving my point—that's the reaction of pre-pubescent boys, not thoughtful adults.)

I don't identify as heterosexual; I'm simply attracted to people of the opposite sex. I identify as a rational, civilized human being who will reserve the details of my most intimate moments for personal rather than public consumption. I seek to view other people in the same way. Those campaigning for the pelvic issues aren't advancing civilization, they're regressing from it.

Image courtesy Gnhn. Licensed via the Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution Share-Alike CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Our Concept of Superheroes Comes from Christianity



Many scholars have categorized the superhero tale as a type of grand myth,1 and the hero is a common archetype in myth.2 However, the modern superhero is different from Homer's heroes. The hero in ancient myths was more driven by self-interest or in protecting the state of the polis or the societal norms from change. Larry Siedentop explains how "the ancient hero had been Odsessyus-like—an aristocrat. Springing from a leading family and often associated with the foundation of cities, the ancient hero was typically male, strong, wily, and successful."3 So, Jason seeks out the Golden Fleece to return to his family and receive the crown, Heracles seeks to perform labors to pay for his sins, and Theseus seeks to restore his birthright.

Siedentop argues the concept of what a hero is morphed as Christians began to topple the values of the Roman Empire. He states the Christian martyr didn't reinforce the established societal expectations, but rebelled against them by refusing to "bend under the claims of family and civic piety or to worship the Emperor." Instead of strengthening the social order of the polis, they "disregarded gender, class, and status."4 Their very public deaths were the epitome of selflessness to the underclass:
In making martyrs of Christians, the ancient world was consecrating what it sought to destroy and destroying what it sought to preserve. For Christian martyrs gained a hold over the popular imagination. And it was easy to see why that should have been so. The martyrs offered a model of heroism. As Tertullian remarked early in the third century, the martyr's blood provided "the seed of the church."5
Siedentop summarized it was the cult of the martyrs that "began to redefine heroism."6 Self-sacrifice is the most uniquely Christian aspect for all superheroes. Every hero sacrifices his own happiness or comfort in some way. Superman could rule the planet given his powers. Instead, he accepts being humiliated as Clark Kent in order to serve humanity as Superman.

In Iron Man, Tony Stark realizes that his weapons have been misappropriated by terrorists and his experiences change him so he is no longer driven to build more and profit from them. This even shows up in more complex Marvel storylines, such as Captain America: Civil War. There, the Hobbean Iron Man supports a government registration program for all super-powered beings while Capitan America believes freedom is the natural right of the superhuman. But both are driven to their positions in seeking what's right, not their own interests. This is the opposite of Roman and Greek myths. Leo Partiple observed "Whereas the god heroes of old were petty, cruel, or indifferent, the traditional superheroes try to mirror Christ. They stand against injustice and offer us a moral example to follow."7

Siedentop uses the hero as only one small example in his sweeping survey showing how Christian "moral beliefs have given a clear overall ‘direction' to Western history."8 Still, the Christian concept that every human has intrinsic worth stands in stark contrast to pagan societies who would do unconscionable things like discarding infants because they were the wrong sex,9 or selling them for profit or sacrifice.10

The sanctification of human life runs throughout the genre. The 1966 Batman movie has a scene where the caped crusader finds a lit bomb in a dive bar on the wharf and spends several minutes running around Gotham's ship docks seeking a place where he may dispose of the sparking globe without injuring bystanders. The scene is camp and played for laughs. However at the end of the sequence, after Batman is nearly blown to bits, Robin expresses his amazement at taking such a chance:

ROBIN: Holy strait jacket, Batman! You risked your life to save that …riff-raff in the bar!

BATMAN: They may be drinkers, Robin. But they're also human beings, and might still be salvaged. I had to do it.11

The intrinsic worth of all human beings is just one of the uniquely Christian values that are indispensable to creating costumed crusaders. Marco Arnaudo emphasizes this when writing "the traditions that have most profoundly made a mark on the development of the modern superhero genre are undoubtedly Judeo-Christian."12 Christianity changed the idea of what it means to be a hero, and thus opened the door, allowing the modern superhero to emerge.

References

1. See Marco Arnaudo and Jamie Richards. The Myth of the Superhero. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins UP, 2013; Ben Saunders. Do the Gods Wear Capes?: Spirituality, Fantasy, and Superheroes. London: Continuum, 2011; Zanne Domoney-Lyttle. "Comic Books as Religion: How Superheroes Connect Ancient and Contemporary Beliefs." Diss. U of Glasgow, School of Critical Studies, 2013.
2. See Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Novato, CA: New World Library, 2008. Print.
3. Siedentop, Larry. Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism. London: Penguin Random House UK, 2014. 79. Print.
4. Siedentop, 2014. 79-80.
5. Siedentop, 2014. 80.
6. Siedentop, 2014.79
7. Partible, Leo. "Superheroes in Film and Pop-Culture." The Gospel According to Superheroes: Religion and Pop Culture. Ed. B. J. Oropeza. New York: Peter Lang, 2008. 251. Print.
8. Siedentop, 2014.2.
9. Schmidt, 2004. 49.
10. See Paul Chamberlain's summation of ancient infanticide in Why People Don't Believe: Confronting Seven Challenges to Christian Faith. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2011. 130. Print.
11. Batman. Dir. Les Martinson. Perf. Adam West, Burt Ward. 20th Century Fox, 1966. Film.
12. Arnaudo, 2011. 27.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Battling the Culture Wars (Podcast)



Popular media today has an incredible influence on thoughts and attitudes. From blockbuster movies to superstar pop divas, our minds are being shaped by the values that Hollywood deems important. How can Christians protect their families from such a powerful message? This podcast series looks at ways to provide a counterbalance to culture's corrupting influence.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Those Who Complain About Fake News Can't Reject Absolute Truth



Fake news has really been making the news. Both Facebook and Google have announced they will not advertising from websites pedaling fake news, according to the New York Times.1 Facebook has gone one step further and announced new features allowing end users to flag stories as "disputed." Such stories will then be displayed with a warning label if they are shared on users' timelines.

Given the terrible track record social media sites have of allowing end users to "dispute" the posts they dislike, I can see a huge problem with this policy. Just see how often YouTube blocks videos by Dennis Prager and Christina Hoff Summers, not because they're offensive or not factual, but because opponents disagree with their messages. Certainly, there will be many internet trolls who are going to abuse the system, trying to censor those sites they simply don't like. While Facebook has announced that all reports will first be run through "third-party fact checking organizations," there are major problems with the proposal, as Mollie Hemingway has deftly noted.

The Contradiction in Complaining About Fake News

I'm very concerned about how this newfound attempt to squash false information can stifle the free exchange of ideas. One of the more telling reasons to question the earnestness of the effort is the glaring inconsistency the leaders on the left have shown in their own beliefs. After her defeat in the U.S. presidential election, Hillary Clinton recently spoke out against the "epidemic of fake news," which she characterized as "one threat in particular that should concern all Americans." President Obama had also decried misinformation being passed along as fact, stating:
If we are not serious about facts and what's true and what's not — and particularly in an age of social media where so many people are getting their information in soundbites and snippets off their phones — if we can't discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have problems. If everything seems to be the same and no distinctions are made, then we won't know what to protect. We won't know what to fight for.2
I agree with the president in this statement. I think he's right that we must take truth seriously; distinguishing propaganda from fact. But, to do so one must assume there is a truth out there to know. In other words, truth is something different than what people want it to be. Ostensibly, fake news is considered such because it doesn't match the truth that is discoverable by reasonable people. Using the philosopher's definition, truth is what corresponds to what really is the case.

So, in order to campaign against fake news, one must hold to some standard of absolute truth. If truth isn't absolute, then how can anyone identify news as fake or not? Yet, in his book, The Audacity of Hope, President Obama dismisses the concept of absolute truth:
It's not just absolute power that the Founders sought to prevent. Implicit in its structure, in the very idea of ordered liberty, was a rejection of absolute truth, the infallibility of any idea or ideology or theology or "ism," any tyrannical consistency that might lock future generations into a single, unalterable course, or drive both majorities and minorities into the cruelties of the Inquisition, the pogrom, the gulag, or the jihad.3
There is no idea, or ideology, or "ism" that is always true? That means theism isn't absolutely true, nor is atheism. Neither conservatism nor progressivism can claim any absolute truth. So, using Obama's own words, how, if everything seems to be the do we know what to protect? How do we know what to fight for?

If nothing's true, then what qualifies as Fake News?

Denying certain truths can be politically expedient. One can garner the support of progressives by denying that a person who has XY chromosomes is male and XX is female. One can deny that people have good reasons for not wanting to pay for abortifacients as a matter of conscience. One can even deny that the Founding Fathers absolutely believed in absolute truth. But in each case, what you're pedaling is something fake. The denials are not serious arguments; they're propaganda.

Is fake news a problem? I would say all false beliefs are problematic, though some rise to a higher level than others. The more important the issue, the more important it is one holds to true beliefs. That's why more discussion is the cure, not blanket bans or labeling. The only way to rid us of the darkness of ignorance is to flood it with the light of knowledge. But when I see those who reject the concept of absolute truth all of a sudden become deeply concerned about "fake news," I become deeply concerned about their agenda. One cannot believe hold to both and be consistent.

References

1. Wingfield, Nick, Mike Isaac, and Katie Benner. "Google and Facebook Take Aim at Fake News Sites." The New York Times. The New York Times, 14 Nov. 2016. Web. 16 Dec. 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/15/technology/google-will-ban-websites-that-host-fake-news-from-using-its-ad-service.html.
2. Korte, Gregory. "Fake News Threatens Democracy, Obama Says." USA Today. Gannett Satellite Information Network, 17 Nov. 2016. Web. 16 Dec. 2016. http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2016/11/17/fake-news-threatens-democracy-obama-says/94045428/.
3. Obama, Barack. The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream. New York: Crown, 2006. Print. 93
Photo courtesy Jdmrhd and licensed via the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Teaching the Three Rs of Being Human



Every parent wants his or her child to grow into a fully capable, knowledgeable human being. One way we seek to accomplish this is to make sure our children have a proper education, beginning with what has colloquially become known as the three "Rs": reading, 'riting, and 'rithmatic. These three Rs are not simply basic skills. Reading allows children to take in knowledge, writing allows them to communicate and distribute knowledge, and arithmetic provides the basis for not simply mathematics, but logical comparison and a host of other concepts. Together, the three Rs have become a shorthand way to reference a complete foundational knowledge all children need to build upon for a successful education.

However, there is another set of three Rs that are at least as foundational to the development of successful human beings as those with which we're all familiar, and I've noticed that not only are these three Rs not taught to children today, but young adults who are deficient in understanding them are causing major repercussions in our university system. These aren't three Rs of education. These are three Rs that distinguish us from animals. They are the three traits that make us civilized human beings and if the next generation doesn't learn them, society will regress as it has already begun to do.

The three Rs of being human are Reason, Regard, and Reverence. Let me briefly explain each of them below:

Reason

Reason is an incredibly important skill human beings are capable of developing, and it is one that makes us uniquely human. Animals operate off of their appetites, desires, and drives. Bonobos are very sexually active and much more socially open, so much so they are called the "hippie apes."1 But bonobos also cannibalize their young.2 They operate off their drives and instincts. Humans use their reason to overcome their drives. This is what being civilized means. But left-leaning political movements today have been pushing to return to basing our decisions on our desires. We have become men without chests, flabby, and looking more like animals and less like rational beings.

Regard

Another concept that is being lost on the next generation is the Golden Rule. Many people give lip service to the idea of doing unto others as you would have them do to you, but it seems that a whole lot of college kids think the rule comes with an asterisk, acting as if it only applies when that other person agrees with your position. But Jesus put it in context, declaring "Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles" (Matt. 5:39-41, ESV).

The concept of recognizing and extending honor to people because they are also human beings is uniquely Christian.. It recognizes that people are flawed and no one is beyond redemption. It is a practical way to show humility as opposed to arrogance. Given the protest culture we increasingly find ourselves in today, humility has become a rare commodity.

Reverence

Lastly, we need to teach our children the crucial aspect of reverence toward God. No one should believe he or she is the center of the universe. By recognizing there is a higher moral law to which we all are accountable, it further serves to help us realize both our fragility and dependence.

Thomas Aquinas, in his Summa theologiae, recognized that human beings alone weigh their actions through reason, seeking to attain "the good" or the highest level of happiness. As Shawn Floyd summarizes, Aquinas believes "human actions are those over which one has voluntary control (ST IaIIae 1.1). Unlike non-rational animals, human beings choose their actions according to a reasoned account of what they think is good."3 Aquinas argues that each of us seeking happiness can only find its ultimate fulfillment in the ultimate good, which is God. Without recognizing God, we are doomed to seek only immediate and imperfect pleasures, diminishing our capacity to be truly human by finding the ultimate good.

Losing Our Humanity

It's become popular to bash the medieval as people who were stuck in the Dark Ages and ignorant. However, Aquinas understood what it meant to be human rather than an animal and he strove to live out that difference. Today, our society is regressing, operating more on feeling than facts and comfort over truth. They would rather have us behave more like the bonobos, indulging our sexual passions whatever they may be.

If we don't start teaching the three Rs of humanity, we are in real danger of our culture becoming truly debased, one not fit for real humans to live in.

References

1. Angier, Natalie. "In the Bonobo World, Female Camaraderie Prevails." The New York Times. The New York Times, 13 Sept. 2016. Web. 22 Nov. 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/13/science/bonobos-apes-matriarchy.html.
2. Callaway, Ewen. "Hippy Apes Caught Cannibalising Their Young." New Scientist. Reed Business Information Ltd., 1 Feb. 2010. Web. 22 Nov. 2016. https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn18454-hippy-apes-caught-cannibalising-their-young/.
3. Floyd, Shawn. "Thomas Aquinas: Moral Philosophy." Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2016. http://www.iep.utm.edu/aq-moral/#H2.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Why the Post-Christian Culture Can't Understand Us



Since its beginnings in first century Judea, Christianity has always been a proselyting faith. Jesus's followers, having been charged by their master to be his witnesses "in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (English Standard Version, Acts 1:8), effectively followed his command for centuries. But while the Great Commission has been understood to begin at evangelism, it shouldn't be understood to end there. Christian evangelists spreading across the Roman Empire shared not simply a way of salvation, but an entire worldview that was so strange and foreign to its hearers, it was labeled a "deadly superstition" and "hatred for mankind." 1 Larry Hurtado explains how the Romans saw the Christian belief system as "a dangerous development that challenged what were then accepted notions of religion, piety, identity, and behavior.2"

Of course, Rome wasn't the only culture in which Christianity was deemed anti-social and dangerous. Across the centuries and across the globe, a similar theme would play out: Christian missionaries seeking out unreached peoples to save with a message deemed most peculiar. From Patrick in Ireland to Jim Elliot in Brazil, the struggle to communicate the ideas foundational to the Christian faith met significant resistance. Even so, Christian evangelists were successful in penetrating so many pagan societies that the adoption of their weltanschauung ultimately transformed the world.3

The Need for a New Communication Strategy

Evangelism in the Western world today faces a similar issue. While the West has been built upon the Judeo-Christian worldview, it is increasingly abandoning its heritage. Growing more and more secular, basic Christian tenets now sound foreign and are not well understood, especially among the young adults.4

However, today's culture in which Christians now find themselves as outliers has one significant difference. To turn Chesterton on his head, most secularists believe Christianity is not something new and untried; it has been tried and found wanting. They oppose not just Christian belief, but formal religion as an idea while pagan cultures reviled Christianity because they felt it undermined religious piety. Tacitus, Seutonius, and Pliny all used the word superstitio to describe the burgeoning Christian sect. 5 Robert Wilken notes this is a significant term, communicating groundless and irrational beliefs as opposed to a "pious worship of the gods" that gave justification for Christian persecution.6

Unlike the ancients who sought to protect their religious practices, young people today are more likely to hold religious belief as superstition in the modern sense of the term. The Barna Group's recent study The Bible in America - Six Year Trends found:
  • Millennials (22%) and Gen-Xers (18%) are significantly more likely to say the Bible doesn't qualify as a holy book, even as they reject other books as holy.
  • There is rising skepticism about the Bible as a sufficient guide for living a meaningful life.
  • Trust in the Bible's reliability is dropping. Barna first asked American adults in 1991 if they agreed or disagreed that "the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches." The percentage of those who strongly disagree has nearly doubled in six years.7
One need only look to the best-selling titles of Hitchens and Dawkins to see how the charge that religion poisons everything or how characterizing God as a "sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully" 8 are attractive to millions. Or, as the Barna Group summarized, "the steady rise of skepticism is creating a cultural atmosphere that is becoming unfriendly to claims of faith; the adoption of self-fulfillment as our culture's ultimate measure of good is re-orienting moral authority."9

While those hostile to all religion may be in the minority, another problem exists in communicating Gospel truths to a post-Christian culture. People are less and less likely to understand broader Christian concepts. The explosion of moral relativism offers one example, but it isn't the only one. Even the very idea of personal responsibility can be questioned and justified. In his The Secular Age, Charles Taylor offers an example of how actions are now interpreted not as consequences of personal failure, but as signs of missing fulfillment:
[Religious Sociologist Wade Clark] Roof points to new approaches to dieting, and the control of obesity, in contemporary spiritual culture. On the older "deadly sin" understanding, obesity comes from gluttony, a temptation which must be rigorously controlled. Medicalization resituated this temptation as a kind of abnormality, the kind of thing which arises with deviant kinds of development. The contemporary understanding will often look beyond the craving to the deeper unmet spiritual needs that trigger anxious eating.10
Taylor clarifies that the dieter's missing spirituality referenced above sits in contrast to "religion," where the latter is rejected as institutional and authoritarian instead of self-fulfilling, subjective, and feelings-based. Such concepts are barriers to sharing one's faith, as the very vocabulary one uses is no longer effective. Taylor concludes:
Whatever the level of religious belief and practice, on an uneven but many-sloped playing field, the debate between different forms of belief and unbelief goes on. In this debate, modes of belief are disadvantaged by the memory of their previously dominant forms.… They are even more severely disadvantaged by an unintended byproduct of the climate of the fragmented search: the fact that the falling off of practice has meant that rising generations have lost touch with traditional religious languages.11
In order to reach the next generation effectively with the Gospel message, the church must communicate in a way that can relate the big ideas of Christianity but also won't be disadvantaged by negative bias the listener has toward religion.

References

1. Wilken, Robert Louis. The Christians as the Romans Saw Them. New Haven: Yale UP, 1984. Print. 49, 60.
2. Hurtado, Larry W. Destroyer of the Gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World. Waco, TX: Baylor UP, 2016. Print.
3. See  Alvin J. Schmidt, How Christianity Changed the World. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004. Print.
4. Barna Group. "The Bible in America: 6-Year Trends." Barna.org Barna Group, 15 June 2016. Web. 01 Oct. 2016. .
5. Wilken, 1984. 49-50. Print.
6. Wilken, 1984. 60.
7. Barna Group. 2016.
8. Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006. 51. Print.
9. Barna Group. 2016.
10. Taylor, Charles. A Secular Age. Cambridge, MA: Belknap of Harvard UP, 2007. Print. 507.
11. Taylor, 2009. 533.
Image courtesy Brian Talbot and licensed via the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Battling the Culture Wars (podcast)



Popular media today has an incredible influence on thoughts and attitudes. From blockbuster movies to superstar pop divas, our minds are being shaped by the values that Hollywood deems important. How can Christians protect their families from such a powerful message?

In this podcast series, Lenny offers ways to provide a counterbalance to culture's corrupting influence.
To see more podcasts, check out our podcast page. You can subscribe to our podcasts via iTunes or using your favorite software.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Morality: Answering "What Makes You Think You Know Better?"



When the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling on Stormans, Inc. v. Wiesman, they tacitly approved the actions of the state of Washington, who is forcing pharmacy owners to sell abortifacient drugs against their religious beliefs. In that case, the Storman family would not stock two drugs that would cause abortion either days after or weeks after conception in their general stores, which included pharmacies because they held life begins at conception.1 However, Washington state passed laws specifically targeting religious pharmacy owners, forcing them to sell the drugs according to a 2012 Federal court ruling.2

The Stormans' case has its critics. Someone recently commented on an article I wrote concerning the case. She felt that the choice of the pharmacy to not stock the drugs was what was limiting freedom:
How is it that you see it as ok for a pharmacist to second guess a prescription ordered by a doctor? The pharmacist is not the one treating the patient, he has not evaluated the patient and likely has no knowledge of other conditions the patient may have. If the pharmacist has a problem with a d[r]ug a doctor prescribes he should discuss it with the doctor, just as he does when he catches a potentially dangerous drug interaction that the doctor may have missed. It seems highly unprofessional to just refuse to fill the prescription.
I simply replied that her description of the situation was euphemistic. I noted the drugs weren't simply a "prescription ordered by a doctor." They were designed for a very specific purpose: to cause an abortion. I also noted that a prescription is not sacrosanct. I would have a problem selling drugs designed for the purpose of euthanasia, which is also wrong. She challenged my objection, stating:
When a person, in consultation with their doctor, decides that ending their own life or terminating a pregnancy is the best course of action for their unique situation, what make you think that you know better?
There are two problems with such a question. First, it seems to assume that ethics are only situational and closed to only those who know the intimate details of the situation. But that isn't true at all. Imagine if I were to say "If a person in consultation with their doctor decides that killing their two year old is the best course of action for their unique situation, what makes you think that you know better?" Such a question would rightly be considered absurd. In such a circumstance it isn't necessary we know all the details; killing an innocent human being is wrong full stop. Unique circumstances don't change that.

Who Gets to Decide What's Moral?

But this isn't even the main problem in the Stormans' case. I get that my interlocutor holds a different points of view on abortion. At issue in the Stormans' case is the right of individuals to freely follow their consciences and their religious beliefs. By forcing them to sell drugs they see as immorally ending a life, the state deems its own interpretation of morality more valid than that of its constituents. This is wrong. It is well within one's rights to not engage in commerce when it violates one's conscience on clear grounds.

I can offer a real world example to make my point. Capital punishment has been authorized in 31 states with lethal injection being the primary way the sentence is carried as the Supreme Court declared a three-drug cocktail as being legally acceptable.3 However, many activists both here and across Europe object to any form of capital punishment. Pressure from several European countries has led drug manufacturer Pfizer to not allow its drugs to be used in lethal injections.4

These are almost parallel situations. According to the logic of the 9th Circuit ruling, Pfizer should be legally compelled to sell its drugs to all states for use in lethal injections. Who is Pfizer to override the will of the people who voted in capital punishment? How can any activist who is believes capital punishment is morally wrong and applied pressure to Pfizer to stop selling the drugs to correctional facilities claim that other companies must be forced to sell abortifacients to whomever walks in off the street?

Should State Fiat Overrule Conscience?

Of course, even in this instance, Stormans' has the more defensible position. While Pfizer's primary motivation for banning the purchase of its drugs for lethal injection is economic (Pfizer doesn't want to lose the significant customers of several European national health systems), the motivation for the Stormans family is based on strongly held personal conviction which could actually cause them to lose money by not making a sale.

If the Washington case is indicative of how matters on conscience are to be treated in the future, all Americans can be forced to participate in actions they deem immoral. If the state gets to decide which moral issues may be worthy for objection and which hold mandatory participation, then it isn't our consciences that matter. We become the pawns of the state; which is the very thing our founders fought against.

References

1. Alliance Defending Freedom. "Stormans v. Wiesman." ADFLegal.org. Alliance Defending Freedom, 2016. Web. 27 July 2016. https://www.adflegal.org/detailspages/case-details/stormans-v.-wiesman.
2. Harkness, Kelsey. "Alito: Value Religious Freedom? You Should Be Worried." The Daily Signal. The Heritage Foundation, 28 June 2016. Web. 27 July 2016. http://dailysignal.com/2016/06/28/justice-alito-those-who-value-religious-freedom-have-cause-for-great-concern/.
3. "States and Capital Punishment." National Conference of State Legislatures. National Conference of State Legislatures, 1 Jan. 2016. Web. 28 July 2016. http://www.ncsl.org/research/civil-and-criminal-justice/death-penalty.aspx.
4. Eckholm, Eric. "Pfizer Blocks the Use of Its Drugs in Executions." New York Times. The New York Times Company HomeSearchAccessibility Concerns? Email Us at Accessibility@nytimes.com. We Would Love to Hear from You., 13 May 2016. Web. 28 July 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/14/us/pfizer-execution-drugs-lethal-injection.html.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Necessity of Humility for Racial Healing


It's no secret that racial tensions in this country are the highest they've been in many years. The different high profile shootings of black men and of police officers have raised tensions to extreme levels and both black and white Christians are trying to understand how they should respond.

It's clear that Christians should have a response. Christianity holds to a very clearly defined moral understanding of the nature of human beings as ones who reflect God's image, and the sanctity of life. Both issues are central to this crisis. Further, Christianity has always taught that differences of race, culture, sex, or socio-economic backgrounds matter little in the inherent worth of an individual (Gal. 3:28, 1 Cor 12:12-13).

I've previously written that the church should be the place where blacks can turn in their pain and fear. How we as Christians can reach out to our community and begin to promote healing is a little tougher question. Recently, I was able to attend an event hosted by Sandals Church and Pastor Matt Brown entitled "A Real Conversation About Race and the Church" that brought together several black pastors as well as law enforcement and local government officials to talk about the role of Christians in bridging the divide that seems to grow wider with each news cycle.

Stop Asserting Your Individuality

One of the more common themes mentioned by the participants throughout the evening was that of humility. Pastor Jonathan Bilima of Relevant Church told of how he would intentionally reach out to others in his community by not exercising his preferences or his freedoms, but by trying to present an atmosphere where others would be more comfortable. He said even in his church services, he would prefer more musical styles associated with traditionally black churches, he chose to "turn down a little bit of my identity in order to bridge the gap of ignorance."

I think Pastor Bilima put his finger on a key factor in reconciliation and healing. As Christians we have an amazing amount of freedom to worship and live. However, if we elevate those freedoms to be primary over the needs of another, we sin. The Corinthian church had the freedom to eat meat sacrificed to idols, as that's pretty much the only meat one could buy. The Apostle Paul understood that those idols were not real gods and told them they could do so. However, he added that if their freedom to eat the meat might stumble another, they should spit it out of their mouths. He wrote "Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved" (1 Cor. 10:31-33).

The Ultimate Model of Humility

Jesus modeled such humility more than anyone else. He didn't regard equality with God something to be grasped, but he humbled himself so much that he submitted to his own torture and death in order to save those who were doing the torturing and killing. He understood that placing the needs of those who were in the wrong above his rights was the only way to reach them and heal them. This is the model we as Christians are called to follow.

Certainly, the pursuit of justice is important. I do not believe we as citizens should dismiss wrongdoing. However, that doesn't mean as Christians when engaging others in conversation, even in conversations online, we should begin our conversation with calls to justice. Perhaps beginning with calls for understanding and empathy would be better. Empathizing is a great way to build real relationships because it tells the other person you value their feelings and experiences. It is one way each of us can make a difference in the lives of those who see things differently from us. It is one way we can draw each other closer to Christ instead of drawing distinctions.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Left is Intent on Making Us Less Human



One of the more famous stories in sports originates in Berkeley, California. The 1929 U.C. Berkeley football team had made its way to the famed Rose Bowl, playing for the championship against Georgia Tech. In the second quarter, while the game was still scoreless, Berkeley center Roy Riegels scooped up a fumble, bounced off a blocker, and ran 66 yards towards his own end zone. He would have crossed the goal line if it hadn't been for his teammate Benny Lom who chased after him and got him to change direction on the one yard line.1 The incident would become one of the most famous in Rose Bowl history.

When Reigels was running with the ball, he obviously thought he was going to be a hero. "Wrong Way" Riegels did become the stuff of legends, but not for the reason he had in mind. Today, I see a similar pattern with the Leftist movement in the United States. Especially in the last decade, the Left have been gaining ground on the cultural gridiron, scoring again and again what they believe are victories for human progress. They even have favored the label Progressives over the earlier Liberals as descriptive of their desires. However, I think th label is completely wrong. What they advocate does not advance the progress and dignity of humanity at all.

Rationality as the Essence of Man

What is the essence of man? Aristotle held that rationality is essential to being human. In his Metaphysics he explains rationality is something different than a skill, such as the ability to be musical. Some people have musical talent and some don't. But rational deliberation—the ability to take some set of facts and draw a proper conclusion from them—is a uniquely human capacity. Animals work off of their biological urges and appetites, not reason. That's why if you are visiting a friend's home and his dog tries to become intimate with your leg, you don't wonder why the dog didn't figure out that the mechanics of procreation wouldn't work that way; they must include the participation of a female dog. Animals cannot reason abstractly. The dog simply is seeking to satisfy his appetites.

It is enough that the animal feels the urge in order for it to act upon that urge. Humans recognize the need to train their pets to act differently, so they can associate a different action in the animal for the urge it feels. However, humans are not supposed to be slaves to our urges. We are not to react to our appetites without regard to consequences. It is our rationality that governs our actions and even if the feeling is new, we expect one to not simply act upon it without reflecting on what the result of those actions would be.

Arguing for Our Appetites

For centuries the concept of strengthening our rationality to govern our appetites has been the hallmark of civil society. Today the progressive agenda turns that idea on its head. For example, the LGBT community advanced by the Left today claims we should identify an entire segment of humanity by their sexual predilections. But certainly this is encouraging human beings to be defined by their appetites and not their rationality. Why should we label people by how they receive sexual pleasure as if that's the primary component of what makes them human? Sexual urges are in the appetites category. It seems to assume that such appetites are uncontrollable and must be satiated.

When one considers transgenderism, the case becomes worse. Not only do the self-identified progressives demand we believe a person who is suffering from gender dysphoria has no recourse but to live as the opposite sex, but they ask us against all reason to believe that biology is so malleable that some outward surgical changes are all that's necessary for that biology to be erased and replaced. Worse, there is sufficient data to show such reassignment surgeries are not medically efficacious as suicide rates for post-transition patients equal those of patients who hadn't had the surgery.

Where's the Reason?

Other examples from the Left can be brought to bear. There is no reason in the pro-abortion movement ever more desperately denying the established fact that a fetus is an unborn human being. Progressive college students now seek to silence any views that oppose their own in the name of tolerance. And universities that long ago threw away any restrictions on sexual promiscuity now are scratching their heads about what they themselves describe as a culture of rape on campuses.

In all these areas and more, any dispassionate observer should see the result of these movements isn't less appetite and more reason, but the reverse. Instead of progress we are getting regress. We are sliding back into a more animalistic approach where anyone's particular feeling must be met, sanctioned, and even cheered without regard to consequence.

How will humanity fare when all of this is said and done? Wrong Way Reigels was stopped before he crossed the goal line. However, he brought the ball close enough that Georgia Tech blocked a punt for a safety on the next play, ultimately allowing them to win the game 8-7. If we don't turn around soon, we may revert to a barbarism not seen since before the Christian era. That would really be a loss for the ages.

References

1. 09, August. "Wrong-Way Run Finally Turns Out." Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 09 Aug. 1991. Web. 11 July 2016. http://articles.latimes.com/1991-08-09/sports/sp-257_1_rose-bowl-history.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Why Isn't the Church a Sanctuary for Black Lives?



I'm aghast at the news. Within a 24 hour period, two police shootings have left two men dead and cell phone videos showing the aftermath. Both victims were black men who seem to be in non-threatening positions and their deaths add evidence to the charge that there is a serious problem in our country with racial engagement.

Were these shooting racially motivated? Uncovering internal motivation is a pretty tricky business. The details are still being investigated in these cases so it would be premature to pronounce guilt or innocence. But what we can judge is there is a natural reaction to such incidents. Is it any surprise that blacks are scared for their lives when they see law enforcement? Is it a shock that these people have cause to be concerned about their welfare being threatened by the very people who have sworn to protect them?

The Church Must Do Better

There is a judgment I can make and it is the evangelical church is failing these people. We are failing. Those who are scared don't see the church as a sanctuary where they will receive support, empathy and protection. They don't see evangelicals as advocates for them like they are for the unborn. Mika Edmondson said it well when he addressed the council members of the Gospel Coalition in May of this year:
Refusal to address racialized sin has undermined our capacity to fulfill our Romans 12:15 calling to "mourn with those who mourn." The unique calling of the church (as opposed to the institutions of the world) is not simply to tolerate one another, or even simply to understand one another, but to mourn with one another and bear one another's burdens. To deliberately devote ourselves to listen to one another for understanding, and then to empathize with one another to the point of shedding tears with one another. That's certainly not what so many of the talking heads on cable TV and talk radio are advocating. They're not talking about mourning with those who mourn.

But in the church, white suburban men are called to cry tears with the black inner-city woman scared to death her husband is going to be the next Eric Garner, or that her teenage son is going to be the next Trayvon Martin or Tamir Rice. And if you are so entrenched in your socio-political camp that you can't shed some tears with Tanisha, something is deeply wrong. Because that's who the church is called to be. That's the kind of thing that makes our unity in Christ really conspicuous and causes people to see that there is a unique power at work in the church unlike anything in this world.1
Realize that Dr. Edmondson is not claiming that all police are hunting down black people. He isn't assigning guilt in any shooting incident. Rather, he's talking about ministering to hurting people in a time of tragedy. That is clearly what Jesus taught his followers to do.

The Model of Ambrose

We need to work harder so blacks feel that evangelical churches are places they can go for sanctuary. We talk about sanctuary, but do we really understand what that term means? It means coming under the cover of an entity that will provide comfort and stand for what is right

We have a model in the early church. Theodosius I was emperor of Rome in 390 AD. He was a Christian and began aggressively banning pagan activities. "The Law" began oppressing pagans, which lead to a riot in Thessalonica where some of the citizens killed Theodosius's representative in protest. The slaying angered the emperor so much he gave his soldiers carte blanche to punish the citizens. They in turn devised a scheme and slaughtered a large number of men, women, and children of the city.

Theodosius was the most powerful man in the world, yet his actions were rebuked by Bishop Ambrose of Milan, who excommunicated him for eight months until he repented of his actions. In one famous retelling, Ambrose stood outside his church and forbade Theodosius' entrance. William Stearns Davis recounts the story:
When Ambrose heard of this deplorable catastrophe, he went out to meet the Emperor, who—on his return to Milan—desired as usual to enter the holy church, but Ambrose prohibited his entrance, saying "You do not reflect, it seems, O Emperor, on the guilt you have incurred by that great massacre; but now that your fury is appeased, do you not perceive the enormity of your crime? You must not be dazzled by the splendor of the purple you wear, and be led to forget the weakness of the body which it clothes. Your subjects, O Emperor, are of the same nature as yourself, and not only so, but are likewise your fellow servants; for there is one Lord and Ruler of all, and He is the maker of all creatures, whether princes or people. How would you look upon the temple of the one Lord of all? How could you lift up in prayer hands steeped in the blood of so unjust a massacre? Depart then, and do not by a second crime add to the guilt of the first.2
Alvin J. Schmidt notes the event is pivotal in history since it is "the first instance of applying the principle that no one, not even an emperor or king, is above the law."3 Ambrose's bravery tuned the culture, establishing the rule of Law above the rule of power in the West.

Calling out sin, promoting justice for the oppressed, and standing strong for the Gospel have always been a part of the Christian legacy. We need to comfort those who mourn and stand beside the fearful. Non-Christians who wish to uphold natural marriage or protection for the unborn feel confident the church stands with them in their fight for justice. We need to work harder so those in the black community hold similar feelings.

References

1. Edmondson, Mika. "Is Black Lives Matter the New Civil Rights Movement?" The Gospel Coalition. The Gospel Coalition, Inc., 24 June 2016. Web. 07 July 2016. .
2. From: Davis, William Stearns, ed. Readings in Ancient History: Illustrative Extracts from the Sources, 2 Vols. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1912-13), Vol. II: Rome and the West, 298-300. Reproduced online at https://legacy.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/theodoret-ambrose1.asp
3. Schmidt, Alvin J. How Christianity Changed the World. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004. Print. 250.



Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A Christian Response to the Tragedy in Orlando (video)



The recent slaughter at the gay nightclub in Orlando Florida has sparked a variety of reactions. The gunman was Muslim, even claiming to act in solidarity with ISIS and the victims were gay. But, some blame the motivation for the murderous rampage on the anti-homosexual stance taken by Christians.

It is true that Christians have been at odds with those who lobby for things like same sex marriage. Activists have sued Christian bakers, florists, photographers, innkeepers, and others forcing them to lose their livelihoods. So, how should Christians respond in this instance? The answer is that Christians should love the LGBT so much they are willing to lay down their lives.

In this short video, Lenny looks to the instructions Paul lays out in Romans 12:9-21 and says Christians should show love. We should be self-sacrificial, even when those who would persecute you are being threatened. See why Christians should be willing to step in front of a bullet meant for another, no matter what their political stance is.


Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Let's Change our Message on Sex (video series)



We live in a sex-saturated culture, one which warps our and our children's understanding. Yet, the church hasn't done a very good job in expressing exactly what the Christian position on sex really is. We hear that sex is bad... unless it is confined to marriage. But that sends a confusing message to our kids. Instead, Christians should understand sex as a reflection of worship.

In this three part series, Lenny explains some of the subtle and not so subtle ways we've come to think about sex and why the standard Christian message of sex as "good when married, but bad any other time" is flawed. He then shows how the most consistent parallel the Bible draw to sex is not something that's dirty, but something that's holy. Finally, Lenny explores how changing our focus of sex from fun to holy changes the dynamic in relationships for husbands, for wives and elevates the calling for those who remain single.

Check out this provocative idea in the videos below:

Part 1 - Sending the Wrong Message



Part 2 - Sex as a Reflection of Worship



Part 3 - How Re-Messaging Sex Changes Relationships


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

When Does Cultural Insanity Hit the Breaking Point?


The Internet is ablaze with all kinds of opinions on about the shooting of Harambe, a seventeen-year-old gorilla zookeepers shot at the Cincinnati Zoo after the beast grabbed a three year old child who had fallen into his enclosure. Twitter showed the hashtag #JusticeForHarambe was trending over the weekend and a change.org petition entitle "Justice for Harambe" has garnered over 350,000 signatures urging that the parents of the toddler "be held accountable for the lack of supervision and negligence that caused Harambe to lose his life."1

Obviously, this only proves there are 350,000 people in the world who have never had to watch a toddler for an extended period of time.

Others are decrying the response of the zoo in shooting the ape. NBC News reported "Animal rights activists continued to protest Monday" over Harambe's death. But just what is there to protest? A child's life was in danger and the only way to guarantee his safety was to shoot the animal. This is a no-brainer, yet it has seen a significant amount of coverage and discussion across the various media outlets.

Detaching Desire from Reality

The gorilla protesters aren't a big thing by themselves. However, the event is indicative of a very scary trend that has been developing rather quickly in society. People have basically decoupled themselves from reality. We have seen it in the transgender issue where people not only wish to believe their desire is enough to change the reality of their biology; they demand that everyone else reinforce their desire. We've seen it in spoiled college kids who think if they only hear opinions and ideas about how they want the world to be, they won't be "triggered" and therefore bad things won't happen to them. We've seen it in every televised police pursuit where each felon seems to really believe that he or she can unilaterally escape an entire police squad wit radios, spike strips, and helicopters to track their every move. How do those always end?

While it's easy to point at each scenario and shake our heads, I'm wondering when will enough be enough? I understand and accept in any free society one will face competing belief systems. I think that's actually healthy. Everyone should be challenged to understand and produce reasons for the beliefs he or she holds. But that isn't what this is. We've moved from reasoning to reactionary, and from truth to tale. Just as those who use edited photos and posts to craft a non-real version of their lives on social media, there are those who now believe they can similarly shape their entire world experience.

The problem is that the real world doesn't play this game. People end up getting hurt. Zookeepers explained that tranquilizers don't work like you see in the movies. They can take up to 30 minutes to take effect. In the interim, you've just angered a 450 lb. gorilla who can crush that toddler like an empty soda can. Is that really a good plan? If it were your child, would you still advocate for it?

Reality can be hard. Ignore it and sooner or later it comes back at you like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, coldly asserting "I'm not going to be ignored!" If protesters were there to stand in front of the zoo marksmen, stopping them from shooting and the child died, then what? Who would be to blame then?

I applaud the zoo officials for making the right call in this instance. Human beings are more valuable than animals, full stop. If you must choose between one or the other, choose the human. That's what being civilized is.

References

1. Hurt, Sheila. "Cincinnati Zoo: Justice for Harambe." Change.org. Change.org., 29 May 2016. Web. 31 May 2016.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Case Against Same-Sex Marriage (podcast)



Homosexual marriage has become more than simply a hot-button issue; Christians are losing their businesses and going to jail when they stand against it. Yet, we're the ones labeled as bigots. How can Christians properly present their views to nonbelievers without being viewed as "bigoted"? Learn how to argue that natural marriage is not only biblical, but essential for culture.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Bloodletting and the Modern Trans Movement



As I engage with atheists and skeptics, I hear so many of them state that religious beliefs are nothing more than outdated beliefs of a bygone era. They claim that as people of science in the 21st century we are so much more enlightened and rational than those of other eras. Level-headed people of the modern world who place their trust in science are not nearly as gullible as people in the past, they claim. Then they turn around and argue that gender has nothing to do with biology and a person's perceived identity is all that's required to change a male into a female.

I think this reminds me a lot of a sketch I saw in the early days of Saturday Night Live entitled "Theodoric of York; Medieval Barber." Host Steve Martin takes on the role of Theodoric and makes great fun of the idea that certain illnesses were treated by bloodletting. Part of the humor stems from Theodoric's modern-day rhetoric, whereby he ascribes knowledge and insight into his treatment:
You know, medicine is not an exact science but we're learning all the time. Why, just fifty years ago, we would've thought your daughter's illness was brought on by demonic possession or witchcraft. But nowadays we know that Isabel is suffering from an imbalance of bodily humors perhaps caused by a toad or small dwarf living in her stomach.1
Certainly, Martin is using great exaggeration to make a joke. Yet it is true that bloodletting was practiced widely for many centuries, ever since prominent Roman physician Galen of Pergamum described the theory that there were four primary liquids or "humours " affecting the body: phlegm, blood, black bile, and yellow bile.2 Galen had through both observation and inference come to the conclusion that when a person is sick, their humours are "out of balance" as Michael Boylan explains:
When imbalance occurred, then the physician might intervene by making a correction to bring the body back into balance. For example, if the individual were too full of phlegm (making her phlegmatic or lethargic), then the phlegm must be countered. Citrus fruit was thought to be a counter-acting agent. Thus, if one feels lethargic, increasing one's citrus intake will re-create balance. The treatment is, in fact, generally effective.3

Biased Assertions Lead to Bad Diagnoses

Of course today we see such an inference as silly and worthy of ridicule in an SNL sketch. Galen had an incorrect assumption of what blood was and how the body used it.4 It was his errant assumptions that are at the root of those crazy treatment methods. To be certain, bloodletting sometimes worked, but they probably caused far more harm than good overall.

Today's rush by the left –including the intelligentsia—to validate anyone who even hints at gender dysphoria should be disconcerting to any rational populous. I've pointed out before how we have fifty years of data under our collective medical belts on gender reassignment surgery and we know that the suicide rate for those suffering from gender dysphoria is as high after sexual reassignment surgery (SRS) as it is prior to transitioning. Dr. Paul McHugh, who helped pioneer the procedure at Johns Hopkins University has written extensively on the failure of SRS as an effective treatment and explained that Johns Hopkins stopped doing the procedure as a result.5

Now, the powerful agencies like the Obama Administration have gone even farther off the deep end and demanded that anyone who simply claims to be a different gender should be allowed to use the restrooms and locker rooms of their stated sex. The demand comes with no accountability and no requirement of proof that the claimant actually does wish to consistently live and be seen as whatever their stated gender preference is.6


Fluid Gendered Identity is the Bloodletting of Today

Just claiming it makes it so? Surely, this cannot be! Certainly, we are in a more rational time than that of the medieval barber. Certainly we don't approach a treatment based only on whatever our initial biases are, do we? It seems we do.

The biases that those who are pushing these laws in direct disregard for the safety and wellbeing of millions of women and young girls in our nation are sheer willed to have their version of life playout, regardless of the facts. We are not any more rational than people of other eras. Every culture can fall victim to what we want to be true and ignore those inconvenient facts when they get in the way of those desires.

I wonder if in a century or two we will look back on the insanity of the gender identity movement today and shake our heads with the same incredulousness that we do concerning the practice of bloodletting. If not, there will be untold thousands who are seriously harmed by such medical quackery guised as treatment.


References

1. Martin, Steve. "Theodoric of York: Medieval Barber." Saturday Night Live. Prod. Loren Michaels. NBC. New Yrok, NY, 22 Apr. 1978. NBC. Web. 16 May 2016. http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/theodoric-of-york/n8661.
2. Boylan, Michael. "Galen (130—200 C.E.)." Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, n.d. Web. 16 May 2016. http://www.iep.utm.edu/galen/.
3. Boylan, Michael. "Hippocrates (c. 450—c. 380 B.C.E.)." Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, n.d. Web. 16 May 2016. http://www.iep.utm.edu/hippocra/#SH1a.
4. "Galen." Medical Discoveries. Advameg, Inc., n.d. Web. 16 May 2016. http://www.discoveriesinmedicine.com/General-Information-and-Biographies/Galen.html.
5. McHugh, Paul. "Transgender Surgery Isn't the Solution." Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, Inc., 12 June 2014. Web. 02 June 2015. http://www.wsj.com/articles/paul-mchugh-transgender-surgery-isnt-the-solution-1402615120.
6. Davis, Julie Hirschfield, and Matt Apuzzo. "U.S. Directs Public Schools to Allow Transgender Access to Restrooms." The New York Times. The New York Times, 12 May 2016. Web. 16 May 2016. http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/05/13/us/politics/obama-administration-to-issue-decree-on-transgender-access-to-school-restrooms.html.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Another Sign It's the End of the World as We Know It, Christian



You've just heard the news. That announcement about the thing that you would never imagine would have happened but did. That decision from the judge or the store or the selection of that candidate. The nation is seemingly crumbling before your eyes. How should the church respond?

It is now cliché to note the world is changing. That's a testament to just how quickly and how radically the world is changing. No matter with which group you may identify, the shifts that have taken place in the last decade are staggering, and for the most part they haven't been for the better.

Yesterday, we dismissed procreation as the nucleus for the institution of marriage. Today, we claim anyone can simply speak his/her/zer sexual identity (or non-identity) into existence. With religious liberty in the sights of activists, who knows how long it will be before people are not simply fined for holding to their religious convictions, but jailed for them. That very well may be our tomorrow.

Christians that I speak with are confused and bewildered. The culture has mutated around them so quickly that they really don't know what to make of things or how to react anymore. I don't pretend to have all the answers. However, I do want to take a moment and point out two observations I see that may serve as guidelines for Christians to take new steps forward.

1. Christian beliefs fall increasingly outside the mainstream

I tread carefully on this first point, but it is one that is important. It is very easy to claim victimhood today in the West. We live in the freest, most prosperous time of human existence where lifespans are longer, waistbands are wider, and gadgets are smarter than ever before. It may even be because things have become so easy for people, they interpret any resistance to their wants as victimization or persecution. That simply isn't true.

That being said, Christian beliefs are not being accepted as they once were. The Barna Group recently reported the number of people who are skeptical about the Bible is equal to the number of those who engage with it regularly.1 As the huge resistance to RFRA laws demonstrate, matters of conscience and faithfulness to one's God have been dismissed as of secondary importance. The grounding on the equality of all men no longer rests in our bearing the image of God, but rather in human beings being able to make choices.2 Further, Barna reports that “nearly half of non-religious adults perceive Christianity to be extremist,”3 and that category is growing.

All this means Christians should not expect any of their moral values or understanding of the human condition to be shared by the larger public. Nor should anyone think that just because people attend the same church as you they therefore share all your values. Most folks don't think about the messaging they receive from pop culture. They don't take the time to think through key issues. People base truth on their feelings today4, which explains the moral vacuum that exists in the most popular 2016 presidential candidates.

2. Churches need to engage minds as well as feelings

In its first few centuries, one of the things that set Christianity apart from the pagan world was its ideas. Christians thought very differently about quite a lot of things. They held women in much higher esteem, they saw the Roman practice of infanticide as deplorable,5 and they shunned loose sexual mores of their day6. That means pagan converts were converted in their moral understanding as much as their belief in God and salvation. Once they held to new convictions, they would then live by them.

Unfortunately, a lot of Christians today don't hold to Christian convictions. The Barna group reported in 2002 that only 32% of born again adults and 9% of born again teens believed in moral absolutes, a number that has surely dwindled in the last decade and a half.7 This is a failure of discipleship. The Church isn't transforming minds as Romans 12 commands. We've been so steeped in the vernacular of asking Jesus into one's heart that we've forgotten to ask him into our minds as well.8 That's why so many professed Christians can support a candidate who stated he would kill even the family members of those who commit terrorist acts.9  The church needs to return to making fully-formed disciples and that means teaching Christians how to think properly.

Ideas have consequences. The consequences of an overly-individualistic, morally relative, and senate and materialistic culture are showing in the complete collapse of Christian values in our culture. The church doesn't look that different from the secular culture in this regard. But the early church changed their world because they changed people's minds as much as they offered compassion and the love of Jesus. In fact, it was their renewed minds that allowed them to put their beliefs into practice. If the Church doesn't do a better job in discipling minds, I cannot see how it will be able to withstand the resistance it will soon face. 

References

1. "Year-in-Review: Barna's Top 10 Findings from 2014." Barna Group. Barna Group, Inc., 29 Dec. 2014. Web. 04 May 2016. https://www.barna.org/barna-update/faith-spirituality/701-year-in-review-barna-s-top-10-findings-from-2014
2. Esposito, Lenny. "Losing Human Dignity Through the Culture Wars." Come Reason's Apologetics Notes. Come Reason Ministries, 18 Nov. 2015. Web. 04 May 2016. http://apologetics-notes.comereason.org/2015/11/losing-human-dignity-through-culture.html
3. "Five Ways Christianity Is Increasingly Viewed as Extremist." Barna Group. Barna Group Inc., 22 Feb. 2016. Web. 04 May 2016. https://barna.org/research/faith-christianity/research-release/five-ways-christianity-increasingly-viewed-extremist
4. "Americans Are Most Likely to Base Truth on Feelings." Barna Group. Barna Group, Inc., 11 Feb. 2002. Web. 04 May 2016. https://barna.org/component/content/article/5-barna-update/45-barna-update-sp-657/67-americans-are-most-likely-to-base-truth-on-feelings.
5. Esposito, Lenny. "How Will Children Be Valued If Christianity Is Lost?" Come Reason's Apologetics Notes. Come Reason Ministries, 12 June 2014. Web. 04 May 2016. http://apologetics-notes.comereason.org/2014/06/how-will-children-be-valued-if.html.
6. Esposito, Lenny. "Http://apologetics-notes.comereason.org/2015/07/how-did-early-christians-influence.html." Come Reason's Apologetics Notes. Come Reason Ministries, 2 July 2015. Web. 4 May 2016. http://apologetics-notes.comereason.org/2015/07/how-did-early-christians-influence.html.
7. "Americans Are Most Likely to Base Truth on Feelings." 2002.
8. Esposito, Lenny. "Why Our Culture's Value of Feelings Will Be Its Downfall." Come Reason's Apologetics Notes. Come Reason Ministries, 26 Sept. 2014. Web. 04 May 2016. http://apologetics-notes.comereason.org/2014/09/why-our-cultures-value-of-feelings-will.html.
9. LoBianco, Tom. "Donald Trump on Terrorists: 'Take out Their Families'" CNN. Cable News Network, 3 Dec. 2015. Web. 04 May 2016. http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/02/politics/donald-trump-terrorists-families/.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Stop Dismissing Feminine Values



By any account, Mia Hamm is considered one of the all-time great soccer players. Twice an Olympic gold medalist and twice a World Cup winner, Hamm held the record for most goals scored in international play by a woman until fellow American Amy Wambach broke it in 2013.1 She was even named Female Athlete of the Year at the ESPY Awards.2 When Hamm stepped onto a FIFA football field, she was considered a force to be reckoned with.

However, what if the field that Hamm stepped on wasn't playing by FIFA's rules but those proscribed by the NFL? How would all of Hamm's skills and abilities be judged as she faced off against 250 lb. linebackers? Certainly some of her talents, such as her speed and playmaking vision would be valued, but her standout skills like scoring and dribbling ability would be seen as worthless. No one could see the real value in Hamm's abilities here.

The NFL and FIFA are both called football. Both have great athletes and offer fa participants wonderful opportunities to express their skills. They are, however, two completely different games and to be great in one but not the other doesn't mean you aren't a great athlete. One may be a different kind of player, but equally great at one's chosen sport.

Equality Isn't Everyone Playing the Same Game

I offer this illustration to underscore a point often missed in the gender wars. Lately there has been a lot of noise made about how women are treated unequally. Articles continue to appear complaining about the supposed wage gap between women and men, the lower percentage of women in the sciences, and even how U.S. women's professional soccer players earn only a fraction of their male counterparts. There's also much talk about how media needs to do a better job in portraying women as not simply domestics but warriors who are equally capable of taking out the bad guys in the story.

It strikes me as glaringly obvious that these efforts are using a masculine-tainted yardstick in measuring the worth of women. Alistair Roberts recently made the same point in his article "Why We Should Jettison the 'Strong Female Character'." Roberts focuses his complaint on today's media fascination with portraying women protagonists as action heroes that basically out-man men. He writes:
What is perhaps most noteworthy about most of them how much their supposed 'strength' and independence and their narrative importance often depends upon their capacity to match up to men in combat, requires the foil of male incompetence, villainy, and weakness, or involves the exhibition of traits and behaviors that are far more pronounced in men.

...Herein lies a tragic failure of imagination that weakens both men and women. Women are measured according to an unfair standard that encourages frustration and resentment, as they are pressed to play to their relative weaknesses; men, on the other hand, are ill-served as their strengths must be either pathologized, stifled, or dissembled in order to make women appear equal or stronger. Kickass princesses are an invitation to young girls to pursue their strength in a zero-sum gender game.

...The problem lies with the lack of corresponding films for women, especially films that explore what it means to be a woman who achieves full agency playing to female strengths and according to women's rules. The problem also lies with the lack of female characters that teach men to respect women as women, not only to the extent that they can play to male strengths. Without denying that some women can and do effectively play to male strengths, they should not have to do so in order to be valued as full agents. 3
Roberts goes on to offer a couple of examples to show that women can be valued for those traits where they themselves excel. He leverages Proverbs 31 to underscore his point.

What if Value Is Measured Differently?

When discussing issues of equality, I have often questioned why economic benchmarks are usually the only ones offered in the discussion. Is professional success the only valuable activity? I could just as easily say we need to measure importance by the amount of trust we place on those who are responsible for shaping and molding the most valuable assets we have: our children. Anyone can be indentured to someone else for eight hours a day, schlepping off to do another's bidding just to earn a few dollars for a scrap of bread. The true value lies in the relational bond and power that comes in teaching those who will one day shape our world.

Of course, the example above commits the same error in the other direction. Both men and women are valuable and neither should be considered replaceable. They each have strengths that by and large the other lacks, which is why we decry anyone stifling the voice of either. But let's stop claiming women are equal by telling them they must stop emphasizing those things that differentiate them from men. That isn't equality, is demanding conformity and elevating a man's playing field to judge by.

References

1. "Mia Hamm." Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2016. http://www.biography.com/people/mia-hamm-16472547
2. Bio.com, 2016.
3. Roberts, Alistair. "Why We Should Jettison the 'Strong Female Character'" Mere Orthodoxy. Mere Orthodoxy, 18 Apr. 2016. Web. 27 Apr. 2016. https://mereorthodoxy.com/why-we-should-jettison-the-strong-female-character/
Image courtesy Mark Ramelb Flickr source, CC BY-SA 3.0
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