Saturday, August 20, 2011

Theft, Murder, and Sexual Perversion and the Churches of Christ

I receive email updates from the “Official News Blog of The Christian Chronicle.”  The Christian Chronicle reports on news of the members and congregations of the non-instrumental Churches of Christ.  I affectionately call them my “non-fiddlin’ brethren”.  The typical stories are often about the details of life among the non-fiddlin’ brethren, and it is nice to see what is going on there.

I think of the non-fiddlin’ brethren as being very “conservative.”  I suppose I assumed that they would tend to be politically conservative to some extent, at least.  So I was a bit shocked to see a story today about a Church of Christ member named Janice Hahn, who recently won a special election in a California U. S. House of Representatives district.

When I saw a “D” behind Janice’s name, I became curious.  Maybe this was a conservative Democrat.  There used to be some of those creatures around here and there, and I thought I might have stumbled upon one here.  I was a bit shocked to visit Janice’s website and find that she is a dyed-in-the-wool big welfare state leftist of the Obama persuasion.  (Check it out here.)

Being a big welfare state leftist necessarily means you have no respect for the Eighth Commandment.  If I were the non-fiddlin’ folks, I wouldn’t want to brag about a church member who studiously avoids the Eighth Commandment.  But so be it.  Unfortunately, it didn’t end there.

As I poked around some more, hidden among here “other” issues section I found these statements:

“Janice supports a woman’s right to choose” (i.e., wants to legalize and most likely use tax dollars to pay for murder) and “Janice will be a fighter for the LGBTQ community” (i.e., wants push the political agenda of sexual perversion).

How do we so easily pretend that Christian ethical matters can just be ignored once a Christian enters the realm of politics?

I was very surprised that a Church of Christ would want to advertise a prominent member who pushes for theft, murder, and sexual perversion.  And that made me think about this matter in general.  Church discipline is, it seems, almost non-existent in all kinds of churches today.

Perhaps churches should reconsider this.  When a prominent church member behaves like Janice, perhaps the elders of the church should talk to that person and say, “Of course, you can behave any way you like.  But you can’t behave anyway you like AND be a member-in-good-standing of this congregation.”  Imagine that!

Are churches that ignore this sort of thing really doing their duty?

Friday, August 19, 2011

God and Cheap Sunglasses

I ran across this article today:

94 Servant Evangelism Ideas for Your Church

I realize this is hot new technique that many churches are using.  But I had never read an article about it until now.  The basic idea is this:  “A small act of kindness nudges a person closer to God, often in a profound way, as it bypasses one's mental defenses.”

Does that mean people are more likely to move “closer to God” if they don’t think about it?

In any case, the first four giveaways that might “nudge a person closer to God” suggested by the article are coffee, newspapers, donuts, and soft drinks.  So far, I can see some trouble with the health police.

I decided to apply a version of the “do unto others” principle to this.  Suppose a pantheist gave me a cold soft drink on a hot day along with an invitation to consider being more at one with the universe as I sip my soda.  I must say that, while I would think the free drink very nice, I would not be a bit more likely to turn pantheist than I am right now.  No doubt, I am very atypical in this.

The list of giveaways-to-bring-people-closer-to-God went on to include lifesavers, lollipops, popcorn, and sunglasses.  What was odd was the parenthetical comment after sunglasses that read “cheap ones.”

The author used the term “Christ-followers” rather than “Christians.”  But whether you use trendy, hip new terminology or not, wouldn’t expensive sunglasses be a better reflection on God that “cheap” ones?

The more I thought about all this, the more convinced I became that if cheap little trinkets will “nudge” people toward God, why not see what serious cash giveaways would do.  Why not just pick the neighborhood where you want to bribe people . . . ugh, I mean . . . “nudge” people closer to God.  Then, based on the income level of the neighborhood, decide what amount of cash would impress people there.

If that turns out to be, say, twenty dollars, then get a bunch of $20s, attach a little note to each one that says, “God loves you, and has more of these for you down at First Christian.”  That might be more “effective” than cheap sunglasses.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Is Profit Without Honor?


Christian Colleges Part of White House Interfaith Service Push
Schools say listening is a key part of the project—but theological pluralism isn’t.

Chris Norton | posted 8/08/2011 10:34AM

Christian colleges and universities were among the 195 higher education institutions represented Wednesday in Washington at the launch of President Obama's Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge.

The White House initiative, first announced in March, aims to mobilize college students of various religious backgrounds for community service around the nation.

Kent comments:

Apart from the fact that it is no proper business of the government to be involved with what Christian colleges do in regard to their projects, this article suggests another problem that is widespread today.  Our society, and Christians in particular, have a skewed view of what constitutes “community service.”

The other day a large van was patrolling my neighborhood.  It was carrying people from a lockup somewhere who were being forced to pick up trash along the road.  The name on the van included the words “community service.”  Courts often sentence people to “community service.”  So we sometimes use the phrase as a synonym for “punishment.”

Then we have the phrase as it is used in the article above, where it is equated with voluntary, but unpaid, participation in various projects.  What bothers me a bit is the neglect of another kind of “community service” – perhaps one that best serves the most people.

Last night I went with some friends to an ice cream shop.  This little place was staffed entirely with very friendly, very ready-to-serve, college students.  Theirs was a busy shop – they were busy serving people from all over the community in which they were located.  Their colleges were not involved in this community service, and neither was the White House – except, perhaps, for the efforts of the White House to make this kind of community service more difficult.

The problem is, most colleges and governments would not think of this as “community service” because these college students were being paid for what they were doing, and those who owned the ice cream shop were (presumably) making a profit on the whole community service project.

In the eyes of the government, academia, and (sorry to say) many Christians, this puts what these nice college students were doing outside the realm of “community service.”  Perhaps we cannot expect better from governments and academia, but Christians should know better.

There is nothing wrong, of course, with working for nothing.  But there is also nothing wrong, or even less commendable, with working for a profit.  As a matter of fact, it would be impossible for anyone to work for nothing if someone else were not working for a profit.

Christians need to recognize and defend the value to communities of those who work, save, and invest in productive enterprises.  They are not somehow morally tainted.  They are, rather, people doing part of the work of God.  Some of the best community service around is done for profit – and the prophets of God should say, “Amen.”

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Don’t Preach About This!

As reported in an article in Your Churchmagazine, 55 percent of pastors can identify one or more topics on which they would not preach at all or only sparingly, because the sermon could negatively affect their hearers' willingness to attend church in the future.

Among them are:

Politics - 38 percent
Homosexuality - 23 percent
Abortion - 18 percent
Same-sex marriage - 17 percent
War - 17 percent
Women's role in church and home - 13 percent
The doctrine of election - 13 percent
Hell - 7 percent
Money - 3 percent

Kent comments:

My first reaction to this was:  What a bunch of weenies!  Just how much like John the Baptist, Jesus, or the Apostle Paul are you if you are afraid to preach on some topic because someone listening might not like it?

But then I had a second thought:  Even in the “Politics” category, this would indicate that 62% are willing to preach on the topic.  So perhaps most of the “pastors” aren’t such weenies after all!

And then I had a third thought.  For much of the preaching I have heard and read on these topics, I would rather that “pastors” didn’t preach on them at all, because most of the preaching in these areas is either so shallow as to be pointless, or just plain wrong.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

What Are You Thinking, Chuck?

It appears that Charles Colson has lost his mind, or at least some important parts of it.  In his latest Breakpoint commentary, while lamenting the temporary and unsustainable nature of the recent “budget deal”, he nevertheless can remark:

Folks, I see no biblical warrant for the two positions being embraced in Washington today — a total refusal to raise taxes on one hand; a total refusal to cut government spending on the other. They are both based on man-made ideology.

Is it too much to hope for — as a very well written letter signed by Christians for a Sustainable Economy argues — that our leaders correctly identify the problem (the debt, which the Bible certainly speaks about), put aside narrow political interests aside, and lead for the long term?

I think Chuck has a case of the “stupids” from his old boss Richard Nixon who liked to position himself “in the middle of the road” – a place, by the way, where it is easy to be run over.

But Chuck made me question myself.  So I zipped over to the web site of Christians for a Sustainable Economy, wondering what they had to say about all this.  When I arrived I saw the names like Mark Tooley and Marvin Olasky, so I was a bit shocked to think that they would condemn as un-Biblical the idea that we are “taxed enough already.”

When I read their letter to the President to which Colson referred, I found this very clear statement:

To give more money to Washington is to give the sickness the remedy it requests. The last thing the government needs is more money. It needs to cease its unwise and profligate spending.

But that sounds exactly like an endorsement of one of the “un-Biblical” positions that Colson condemns, “a total refusal to raise taxes.”  What is wrong with Colson lately?  And why is he citing for support a letter from a group that clearly does NOT agree with his “middle of the road” position?

I can’t answer that.  I can only say that I will pray for Chuck Colson’s mental recovery.

And one final note to Chuck:  sometimes raising tax rates brings in LESS total money to the government.  But that is not the main point here.  The main point here is that Christians for a Sustainable Economy is right – the last thing our government needs is more money.

(By the way, the letter looks very good.  If you scroll to the bottom of that page, you will find a place where you can add your signature of endorsement.)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Un-true Lies

Today I received an email announcement which I reproduce, in part, here:

Congress Must Pass this Debt Ceiling Deal
Dear Harold,

We are on the cusp of averting a default — but we need your help to urge Congress to quickly pass the debt ceiling deal that was struck this weekend.

The deal isn’t perfect — but it prevents default, reduces spending, and avoids higher taxes. . .

Not passing this bill would be catastrophic.  If Congress cannot reach an agreement by tomorrow, the federal government would be forced to default on its debts.  That could lead to higher interest rates and higher costs for employers and consumers alike. . .


Bill Miller
Senior Vice President and National Political Director
U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Kent comments:

What Bill Miller is hoping for appears to be a done deal at this point.  But in spite of that, I am a bit surprised that the U. S. Chamber of Commerce would be willing to propagate the lies found here.  (I say “lies” because it is difficult to think that an intelligent person would be ignorant of the facts in these matters.)

If Congress had done nothing, there is no reason to think the U.S. would default on its current debt obligations.  It certainly would NOT “be forced to default on its debts.”  That is a lie, and I am sure Bill Miller knows it.

This being the case, why would not passing the bill have been catastrophic?  It would be nothing more than forcing the government to balance the budget.  And why shouldn’t we want that? – unless, of course, you are some kind of statist who, on statist principles, wants an ever-expanding state.

The bill passed by the House today does NOT reduce spending.  It reduces the rate at which government spending will increase.

Shame on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for promoting lies – dirty lies at that.  Perhaps these people should re-name their organization “U.S. Chamber of Government Expansion.”  At least that wouldn’t be a lie!