March Madness

Bet you thought this post was about Basketball. Ha!

Anyway.  I’m getting tired of all the media-frenzy-induced back and forth arguing with people about the RFRA.  So I’m done.  Finished.  I’m through discussing it.  Because there are obviously two worldviews at play here:

  1. Reasonable people who believe that religious liberty takes a backseat to people’s right not to be discriminated against.
  2. Facist idiots.

This is what I learned from talking to people on Facebook.  So I’m done.  I contacted the governor and my legislators to voice my support.  I’ve made myself heard, and if anybody asks me what I think about it, I’ll simply point them to my blog posts concerning it.

If anybody wants to have a private conversation about it, that’s fine, and I’ll gladly further explain my reasoning behind my beliefs and my position on this issue.  But publicly?  Nope.

PS: my bracket got busted like everybody else’s when ISU lost in the first round.  This is for those of you who thought there would be basketball in this post.

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My Apostrophe

ApostropheThere is a scene in the movie Hook, that came to me tonight. Smee and Captain Hook are talking in the cabin.

Smee: I’ve just had an apostrophe.
Hook: I think you mean an epiphany.
Smee: Lightning has just struck my brain.
Hook: Well that must hurt.

Like Smee, I just figured out the problem. If you’ve been paying attention at all for the past week in Indiana, you’ve been inundated with news of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. I don’t mean to add to that, but I had an apostrophe tonight. I couldn’t figure out why people are so vehemently against this law, which basically just reaffirms the religious freedom provided in the first amendment to the United States Constitution. But I finally figured it out.

Black people, among, were oppressed and enslaved for a few hundred years. Then slavery was made illegal in America, but the oppression continued. The racism continued. I have seen and heard examples of racism just in the past few years. Racist jokes. Racist statements about how one group of people are better than another because of their skin color (sometimes against black people, sometimes against white people, sometimes others). Racism is WRONG. The Bible teaches that we are all descended from one man: Adam. We are all descended from one woman: Eve. We are all in the same family. So it’s wrong for any person to think that they are of more value than any other person.

Racism is wrong. The civil rights movement and their fight to achieve the same rights as white people for minorities was a good thing. But there is an innate difference between fighting for black people’s right to equal treatment, and fighting for gay people’s right to equal treatment.

Christians like me view gay people just like they do everybody else, but with one exception: they have chosen to define themselves based on their sexual choices. And Christians like me who believe in a dispensational literal interpretation of the Bible view homosexual behavior as a sin. So we see gay people as asking for something that is wrong. And that is why we want nothing to do with affirming their life choices, including “gay marriages.”

Then enters the problem: gay people are not satisfied with being left alone. They want every person in the country to affirm the rightness of their life choices. That is why, when they go into a bakery, they want to be treated just like everybody else. And when they encounter someone who doesn’t agree with their lifestyle, they want to force them into compliance with the idea that gay marriage is perfectly right and good.

And this was my epiphany.

You see, the people that oppose this law oppose it because they view gay people in the same light that they view minorities. In short: they believe that gay rights equals minority rights. They think that refusing gay people the right to marry (or whatever) is the same as telling black people they aren’t allowed to marry/sit in the front of the bus/whatever.

And now I understand why they are so upset about this law. And I get it. I still disagree, because I don’t view gay rights in the same light as minority rights. I hold religious freedom at a greater value. But I understand their perspective now.

I personally believe it’s more important that people not be forced to violate their conscience than it is to provide approval for gay people’s choices.

I think it’s more important to allow people be faithful to God than it is to affirm people’s choice of sexual partner.

And it seems to me that if gay people want acceptance, forcing people out of business doesn’t really seem like a good way to achieve that.

EDIT: Another thing occurred to me:  The businessmen who are standing up for their faith are not concerned with judging the choices of the gay people coming into their businesses.  They are concerned with their OWN choices.  They aren’t judging the gay couples, they are saying, “Don’t make me sin by making me join in your celebration of what I believe to be sinful.”

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Religious Freedom vs Gay Rights

The freedom of religion clause in the first amendment to the constitution was written for two reasons:

1. to guarantee that the government would not force people to worship in a certain way.
2. To guarantee that the government would not interfere with people’s religious practices (i.e. “free exercise”)

The reason this was necessary had to do with the founding of our country by people who were fleeing religious persecution in Europe. The people who became known as the Pilgrims consisted mostly of people from the town of Scrooby, Yorkshire, England. The short version was that the government of England had an established church (the Church of England) and people were expected to worship in a certain way. The group of worshippers in Scrooby were separatists who did not practice as the Church of England demanded. They were persecuted so badly that they began to flee England for Leiden, Holland between 1607-1608. Due to their status as foreigners, they had to take low-paying jobs. Also, their English children were growing up “Dutch.” They wanted to find a place where they could have religious and economic freedom, and rear their children as English, so as a group they decided to emigrate to the Americas.

The idea of religious freedom carried down from their 1620 arrival to the 1789 writing of the United States Constitution. One early draft of the bill of rights written by future President James Madison read thusly:

“The Civil Rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, nor on any pretext infringed. No state shall violate the equal rights of conscience or the freedom of the press, or the trial by jury in criminal cases.”

I find it interesting (in light of the current debate in Indiana) that the wording Madison suggested included the words “civil rights,” only they referred to the rights of those people as regards their religious belief. Our founding fathers felt that religious freedom in the United States was so important that they made it the very first right to be guaranteed in the bill of rights. Religious freedom comes before freedom of the press, right to bear arms, and all the others.

The term “civil rights” comes from the Latin “ius civis” (“rights of a citizen”) and they refer to the rights that all citizens have to protect them from the government. The main idea behind civil rights is that all citizens have the same rights. The fourteenth amendment to the Constitution guarantees equal protection for all citizens when it says that no State may “…deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

And this is the crux of the matter at hand. The Indiana legislature yesterday passed a bill which is meant to guarantee the religious freedom of the citizens of Indiana. One would think this is unnecessary, given that the first amendment to the US Constitution guarantees religious freedom for all citizens, but many Americans feel that the overwhelming social change in the past decade or so have begun to erode the religious freedom that all are supposed to enjoy.

The social change that I am referring to has to do with the topic of “gay rights.” I find it interesting that in the list of most common grounds people need protection from discrimination (race, gender, national origin, color, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, and disability), only two of them deal with areas people have control over, namely sexual orientation and religion.

Homosexuals used to be widely persecuted. They were beaten, fined, arrested, jailed, murdered, and many other forms of persecution because of their sexual orientation. I do not agree with this. I believe that the moral choices that people make are between them and God. I believe that, insofar as they do not harm other people, American adults should be allowed to make their own moral choices. I guess you could say that I believe in a mostly “laissez-faire” doctrine when it comes to the bedroom.

However, the people who (rightly) fought for the rights of homosexuals to freely live have gone too far. They blew right past equal rights and now want to redefine marriage, an institution that has existed for thousands of years. Not satisfied with the ending of the persecution, they are actually now starting to persecute those who used to persecute them. It is almost like if the black people in the south started making white people ride in the back of the bus. The gay lobby could have simply campaigned to change civil unions so that they are de facto marriages, but they didn’t. They aren’t satisfied with simply having the same rights as other people to live and work and all the other rights under the law. They aren’t happy simply being left alone. They want affirmation. They want approval. They want to be told that what they are doing is right and proper, not just “nobody else’s business.”

And so they go to businesses asking the business owners to approve of their lifestyle. They want bakeries to make baked goods celebrating homosexuality. They want wedding chapels to be forced by the government to allow them to get married. They want bakeries to be forced to make wedding cakes for them. They want to use the government to force businesses to do these things, no matter the personal beliefs of the business owners.

And that’s the problem. There are plenty of businesses that have no problem catering to the desires of gay people. There are plenty of bakeries more than willing to make these cakes. But that’s not enough for them. They want everybody to be forced to approve of their lifestyle. And so they encounter people who disagree with their lifestyle, and sue them so that the Christians are forced to make a choice: close their business or operate contrary to their beliefs.

My friends and family are split on this issue. Some take the side of the gay rights lobby, and some take my side. When I discuss this issue with people on the internet, the most frequent response I get is to be called a “bigot.” The word “bigot” is defined as a person who is intolerant of other peoples’ different opinions. These gay rights advocates don’t understand that, since they are intolerant of my opinion that homosexuality is wrong, THEY are the bigots. At best we are both bigots, but they seem to think they hold the moral high ground for some reason.

Enter Indiana. The House and Senate have passed a bill (SB 101) that is meant to protect business owners who don’t want to provide services to same-sex couples based on their religious views. This bill was passed yesterday and will likely be signed by Governor Pence very soon. This would allow those who hold religious views contrary to homosexuality (among other things) to discriminate on that basis. “Aha!” you say. “Discrimination is bad!”

In our country, discrimination has become a dirty word. If you look up the meaning however, you will find that people discriminate legally and rightly all the time. Many businesses discriminate against drug users in their employment practices. People discriminate against movies, restaurants, and newspapers all the time. I discriminate against MSNBC on the basis that their programming raises my blood pressure. You see, discrimination simply means “to make a difference in treatment or favor on a basis other than individual merit.” (Merriam Webster).   The question here is this: should people be allowed to discriminate based on their own religious beliefs?

At the heart of the issue is the question of which is more important: religious freedom or gay rights? What say you all?

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Here We Go Again

A few years ago we attempted to sell our house.  It was a bad time for the housing market, and it was a long process that didn’t end well.  We had forty showings over the course of a year and gradually lowered the price $15K until we finally got a buyer.  The buyer paid for an inspection, and then walked away from the deal with no explanation whatsoever.  When they tracked her down (finally) and asked her why, she said, “I changed my mind.”  So we took it off the market.

The biggest complaint from prospective buyers was that we needed new carpet.  Yes, we knew that.  When we moved in, the carpet was base level, cream colored, and cheap.  After a dog, two cats, and a toddler (the other four humans helped too) and eight years, the carpet looked pretty bad.  So we waited until we could afford to replace the carpet before trying to sell again.  Fast forward to now.

We used most of our tax return to have new carpet put in, and then we installed new faucets, as well as bought new paint, new baseboards, new vinyl tile for the entryway and all three bathrooms, and miscellaneous other fixes.   Let’s just say that yesterday the realtor came by, and she said it looks like a brand new house.  Yesterday we signed the papers, and today we are going to have the new photos taken for the listing.  The house will be for sale on Friday.  Here’s to hoping that this time the process takes  a lot less time.
And the other thing:  the housing market has improved to the point that we’re probably going to get around 30K more for our house than we would have two years ago.  If there’s ever a time to say that God knows what He’s doing, it’s now.

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Left Behind: Leave it Behind.

My family just finished watching the Nicolas Cage version of “Left Behind.” If you want the short review, here it is:  Don’t watch it.

The book is 467 pages long.  In the book, the rapture happens on page 15 and the plane lands around page 43.   In the movie, the rapture happens about 50 minutes into the movie (1 hr and 45 min long), and the plane lands at the very end of the movie.

What I am saying, is that this is the equivalent of someone doing a remake of the Wizard of Oz, and the movie ends when the house lands on the Wicked Witch of the East.

Other than that, the movie was plodding and dull.  The director, Vic Armstrong, managed to take a topic that is at the same time exciting and terrifying, and make it boring.  Also, the movie is told entirely from the perspective of the unsaved people.  There are four people who try to give the Bible’s version of events:  before the Rapture, a snotty woman in the airport tries to witness to Buck Williams by using an end times passage (I believe it was Matthew 24).  Does anybody actually use that as an evangelistic tool?  But she gets shut down rather effectively by one of the main characters.  Then the same character (Chloe) goes home and tells off her mother, who tries to talk to her about spiritual things as well.  After the Rapture, Chloe goes to a church and finds a pastor who was “faking it” (he did not truly believe in Christ). When he tries to explain what happened, she shuts him down as well.   The fourth person is Rayford (played by Nicolas Cage) who attempts to tell a flight attendant that his wife was correct, that it was the Rapture.  She doesn’t believe him.

So the message seems to be that the Rapture is simply something that the world is going to have to get over.  At the end of the movie, one character says, “It looks like the end of the world.”  And another character says something like, “I think it’s just the beginning.”

That pretty much sums up this movie.  It’s just the beginning, because they left out the middle and the end.

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End Times and Death

Warning: This is a doctrinally heavy post.

My pastor is preaching through the book of Revelation, which means he’s talking about the end times a lot. His sermon today concerned the doctrine of the Rapture, which is the point at some point in the future where all those who trust in Christ during the church age (from around 27 AD until the rapture) will be resurrected (if dead) or bodily taken out of the world to meet Christ in the clouds and return to heaven where we will spend the 7 year “Tribulation period” before Christ returns to earth at the end of the Tribulation to defeat the nations led by the Antichrist and start His 1000 year millennial reign on earth.

That’s a whole bundle of doctrine, but that’s the summary of what I believe about this particular section of the end times. I know there are many people that disagree with the pretribulational rapture, but that’s what I believe.

Listening to my pastor’s sermon today got me thinking about death, and how it is a part of our life right now. It also made me wonder something, which I will get to later. First, to explain. Assuming Adam (the first man) was trusting in the future redeemer (Jesus Christ) for forgiveness, then he lived his 960 years, and then he died. The moment he died, his life on earth ceased. His body began to decay, and is almost certainly dust at this point, about 5000 years later. The moment he died, his spirit went to paradise. Now he is in heaven with Christ, awaiting the end of the tribulation when he will be reunited with his body like all the other pre-Church age believers.

Believers who die during the church age (like the Apostle Paul, and any other true Christian who has died in the past 2000 years) have pretty much the same thing except they are reunited with their earthly bodies at the beginning of the tribulation, spend 7 years in heaven totally absent from earth, and then return.

There will be people who die on earth during the tribulation. These would be people who were not believers when the rapture happened, but they trusted in Christ during the 7 year Tribulation period. When they die, their spirits go to heaven and their bodies stay on earth. At the end of the tribulation, their bodies are resurrected and reunited with their spirits just like the Old Testament believers. That’s pretty much like now.

But….this is where I started wondering.

You see, ever since the death of Abel (assuming he was the first person ever to die), people’s bodies have been separated from their spirits until a specific point of resurrection. Their spirits went to heaven or hell, and their bodies stayed here. But in the Millennial kingdom, I think it’s going to be different. Let me explain.

At the end of the tribulation all the non-believers will be dead, and every person living on earth will be either a believer from the Church age that has just come back from heaven after the rapture or a believer from the old testament period or the tribulation. All of the Old Testament believers get resurrected bodies. All of the believers who died during the tribulation get resurrected bodies. But all of the Tribulation believers who were not killed during the tribulation will not have resurrected bodies.

So here’s what I’m wondering: what happens to one of these believers when they die during the millennium? They wouldn’t go to “heaven” because Christ will be on earth. So will death at that point be absolutely without meaning for believers?

Let’s say Jim lived during the tribulation period. He trusted in Christ, and somehow made it to the Second Coming of Christ without dying. He enters the Millennial kingdom, gets married, and has children. His son Bill trusts in Christ at the age of 12. At the age of 17, Bill is climbing a mountain when he falls to his death. “Oh no!” we think. “He died!” But if my thinking is correct, his body would instantly be resurrected and transformed. So death would not be the sad occasion it is today.

But those who die during the Millennium without trusting in Christ will not be resurrected until the end of the 1000 years when ALL of the unsaved through the ages are resurrected at the Great White Throne judgment.

Or I could be wrong. In any case, I am trusting in Christ for forgiveness, and therefore I know I will be there during the Millennium. I can’t wait.

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Tom Brady: GOAT?

Tom Brady TrophySo the Patriots won the Super Bowl last night.  Congratulations to their players and fans. But something is bothering me today about the media coverage.  I keep hearing the term GOAT in reference to Brady. GOAT is a term that sports people use to mean “Greatest Of All Time.” Two examples of people that some would consider the GOAT for their respective sports would be Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky.

But today, a day after his fourth Super Bowl victory, I keep hearing the question, “Does this win mean that Tom Brady is the best QB ever?” I’ve heard people on social media saying it, the news media, and pundits within the NFL.

The answer to that question depends on how you define the word “best” (or “greatest”). If you define best as quarterback with the most Super Bowl rings, Tom Brady is tied with Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw at 4 each. So, not the best if you measure by that criterion alone.

Most MVP awards? Peyton Manning.
Most touchdown passes? Peyton Manning again (Brady comes in fifth).
Most completed passes? Brett Favre.
Most 4th quarter comebacks? Peyton Manning.
Highest passer rating? Aaron Rodgers.

I looked at the statistics available at Pro-Football Reference and couldn’t find Tom Brady listed at the top in any measurable category.

Is Tom Brady a great quarterback? Certainly. Is he among the top ten quarterbacks ever to play the game? Absolutely. But is he the greatest quarterback ever? Not even close.

There's only one goat in this picture.

There’s only one goat in this picture.

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