Conflation and the Pope

Conflation is the act of merging two sets of ideas into one. One website explains it as “negative or careless blending of two otherwise disconnected ideas.” In recent usage it means to confuse two ideas or events as being the same thing. An example would be Kellyanne Conway and her recent statement that “two Iraqis came here to this country, were radicalized and they were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre.”  She most likely conflated the two Iraqi refugees in Bowling Green who pled guilty to terrorism in 2011 and the terrorist responsible for killing four marine recruiters in Chattanooga (which is NOT Bowling Green) in 2015.  She mixed them up in her mind into one event, even though they were two separate events separated by 200 miles of geography and four years of time. That’s conflation.

I mention this because the Pope, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, was guilty yesterday of conflating the morals and guidelines of the Bible given to individual people with the morals and guidelines of the Bible given to governments and nations.

The pope stated, “In the social and civil context as well, I appeal not to create walls, but to build bridges. To not respond to evil with evil. To defeat evil with good, the offense with forgiveness. A Christian would never say ‘you will pay for that.’ Never. That is not a Christian gesture. An offense you overcome with forgiveness. To live in peace with everyone.”

Is the pope wrong? Yes and no. While it is theologically correct that Christians are called to forgive, to live in peace with others, to defeat evil with good, and to build bridges, it is NOT theologically correct to conflate Christian ideals with civic policy and procedure.

Does this mean we should not promote Judeo-Christian values in our government? Not at all. I believe we should have a government that punishes certain sins (such as murder, rape, etc), not a government that forgives offenders continually. We should make laws that encourage people to live moral lives. But we should not expect the government to operate as an individual person should. For instance, Peter asked Christ how many times he should forgive his brother, and Christ’s response indicates that forgiveness should be limitless. Should this principle then be applied by the government when someone breaks the law repeatedly? No.

And that’s why we need a wall. We need secure borders so that we can enforce the rule of law among our own people. We need to keep people out who aren’t supposed to be here. I keep hearing about “the Christian thing to do” as it relates to foreign relations, immigration, etc. People who use those words to refer to the policies of the United States government are conflating guidelines given in the Bible to individuals with guidelines given to the government in general.

The United States is not a “Christian Nation.” It is a nation that has Christian citizens. Even if every single citizen was Christian, it would still not be a “Christian Nation”, it would be a nation made up of Christians. It seems like I’m splitting hairs, but it’s an important distinction. You see, being American does not have anything to do with your status with God as a Christian or non-Christian.

The United States is being invaded right now by people who don’t belong here. I know that on the surface that sounds racist, but it’s not. As an example, let’s just look at ethnic Mexicans. I’m saying that the American citizens of Mexican descent belong here, whereas those of Mexican descent who are NOT American citizens (or have permission from the government to be here) do NOT belong here. Now, is that racist? Obviously not. Ethnicity has nothing to do with my determination regarding who belongs here and who doesn’t. I am simply interested in protecting the rights of United States citizens from those who are here illegally.

I don’t agree with Trump on everything, but I do agree that we need to secure our borders. What to do about the people who are already here illegally is a different question, but the first step is to prevent any further influx. And in that the pope is wrong: as a country we should NOT be building bridges, we SHOULD be building walls.

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Carrie Fisher, 1956-2016

We are sad that Carrie Fisher died.  It IS sad whenever someone dies, especially for those of us who will miss her.  We fans will miss her, but not as much as her family and friends.   My thoughts are with her family and I have been praying for them for the past week and will continue to do so.

That being said, there’s a whole lot of nonsense flowing around Facebook, Twitter, and the internet in general about how she is now “one with the Force” and people saying “May the Force be with her.”  I’ve even seen Christian friends posting stuff like that, which bothers me, because they know better.  “The Force” is a fictional concept which has no basis in reality and should not be used when speaking seriously about the real death of a human being.  If I were one of her family and friends I would be insulted if someone came up to me and said, “She’s with the Force.”

Let’s get one thing straight:  it doesn’t matter that she was part of one of the most successful film franchises ever.  It doesn’t matter that she was famous.  It doesn’t matter that she was loved and adored by millions of fans.

At the moment of her death, only one thing mattered:  did she trust in Christ as Savior while she was alive?  If she did, then she is rejoicing in heaven with the Lord, the angels, and all the other saved people who have died.    If she did not, then she is suffering in hell for eternity.   Those are the only two options.

Am I being cruel or unkind by pointing this out?  I don’t think so.  If your dad died of lung cancer from heavy smoking would I be cruel to encourage you to avoid smoking?  No.  Even though the time has passed for Carrie Fisher to make her decision (whatever she decided: her destination is set in stone), it is not too late for you.  When you die, will you want to spend eternity with God or an eternity of suffering?  Your choice.  And every day just over 151,000 peoples’ choice is solidified for all eternity.

CS Lewis said “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.”

So while we mourn the passing of Carrie Fisher, Alan Rickman, and so many others this year, remember that every single one of us will die, and nothing we do on earth will matter more than our relationship (or lack thereof) with Jesus Christ.

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Love and Facebook

The Bible mentions one specific way that unsaved (i.e. “non-Christians”) people will be able to tell that we are followers of Christ.

John 13:35 “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

The sacrificial love of Christians for each other is supposed to be of such obvious quality that unbelievers will see it and say, “Whoa! There’s something different about them.”

And yet sometimes we as believers do not treat each other with kindness, let alone love. This is unfortunate and it is not Christlike. I am sometimes guilty of this, and sometimes I am a victim of this. I say things to people sometimes without thinking, and then I realize it was unkind later on. And I can think of three specific people in the past five years that I know are born-again believers, and they have treated me with anything but love.

I don’t know why, but for some reason God has given me the kind of personality that most people either enjoy being around me, or dislike me intensely. I guess there’s probably a group that are ambivalent towards me also, but I don’t hear from them.

Let me be clear: I’m not saying we as Christians MUST like one another. That’s not what Jesus said. He said we must LOVE one another. I John 2:9-11 goes so far as to say that if someone says he’s a Christ-follower and yet hates another believer, then he is not saved. There are Christians I don’t get along with, but I do my best to love them. There are Christians I don’t enjoy being around, but I serve them just like the Christians who are my best friends. And that’s the difference.

These believers who have treated me with bitterness, anger, and outright hatred at times are not following Christ in doing so. It is not my place to question their salvation, especially since I believe them to be saved (from all the other evidence I have). It is my place to point out their error in being insulting, unloving, and assuming the worst about a brother in Christ. And after doing so, they continue to insult me.  Part of the problem is that it is sometimes difficult to convey tone, intent, and attitude through simple text.  The words “I love you”, when said verbally, can be said in such a way as to be romantic, matter of fact, sarcastic, questioning, boredom, begging, and a hundred other messages that aren’t present in the eight letters.   The problem lies in someone reading my words and assuming I intend to be arrogant or a “know-it-all.”  No matter how humble I tried to be with one of the people I’m thinking of, he assumed I was either being arrogant, condescending, or snotty.  I literally could not win with him, or with the other people that catalyzed this post.

And so in the spirit of Romans 14:13 (“Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.”), I have blocked them on Facebook so that they will no longer be carried away in their bitterness towards me, because they will no longer be able to see my words on Facebook. I pray that they recognize their error and repent, because I don’t believe God wants any of us to continue in anger, self-righteousness, or a root of bitterness, but instead wants us to love one another.

I have done all I can for them. The only thing that remains to me is to continue praying for them. Aside from that, the best thing I can think of is to remove myself from their sight.

Sometimes the loving thing to do is to walk away.

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Thanks, Colin Kaepernick!

For the past few months Colin Kaepernick and others have been holding a protest. I’m sure this is not news to most of you. For those of you who don’t turn on a television or read the news, the short version is this: Colin and others (especially those who affiliate with the Black Lives Matter organization) feel that the police are trying to systematically kill black people. In protest of this, they are sitting or kneeling during the playing of the national anthem at sporting events to try to bring attention to the “problem.” The media has been covering these protests almost non-stop (or so it seems). The attitude of the National Football League can be summed up in the words, “What protests?”

First of all, I disagree with the premise. An extended family member (first cousin once removed) of mine is very anti-police, and pro-BLM. He agrees with Colin that there is a problem. I disagree. He listed six, high profile, black people who have been killed in the past few years (including Trayvon Martin, who was killed by a non-white, part black private citizen who was NOT a cop and was defending himself from Trayvon Martin…anyway my point was Martin died four years ago). I listed about 16 police officers who have been shot and killed THIS YEAR ALONE by black people. My point was, maybe it isn’t the police who have declared war on black people. Maybe it’s the other way around.

Secondly, if the Black lives matter crowd wanted to protect the lives of black people, there are organizations and groups of people who have killed way more black people than the police. Here’s two:

1. Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. Twenty eight percent of abortions are committed on black babies. Since there are about a million abortions per year, that means that so far this year (ten months in), Planned Parenthood and other abortionists have killed about 230,000 black people. Just slightly more than the amount of black people killed by the police, which, according to the Huffington Post (a liberal news site that is sympathetic to BLM), hit 173 people from January to July of this year.
2. Other Black People.  Ninety percent of murdered black people are killed by other black people. According to the FBI, in 2011 (the most recent year I could find with stats compiled) 2447 black people were murdered by other black people. Makes 173 people killed by cops seem insignificant, doesn’t it? But it’s kind of hard for a group to protest against itself.  Much easier to point out a group that is different than them (but not always…many of these black people killed by cops were killed by black cops).

And I would hazard a guess that most of the people killed by cops actually deserved to be shot and killed (as in, they were shooting at the police, they were going for their gun to shoot the police, they were about to hurt an innocent victim, etc). Sure, there are cases where black people have been unjustly killed by the police, and in those cases, the police officer(/s) who shot and killed the black person should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. But those are probably the exception, not the rule.

Which brings me back to Colin. He’s protesting against injustice, he says. Well guess what, Colin: injustice has been around for thousands of years and isn’t going to be eliminated by you taking a knee while we play the national anthem recognizing that we live in the greatest country on earth and expressing our national pride in those who have sacrificed and died for our freedoms.

And this is why I’ve stopped watching the NFL by and large. For the past several years I’ve watched the NFL whenever I could, because I enjoy it. I watched Sunday afternoons in between church services, Sunday night football, Monday night football, and Thursday night football (when I wasn’t working or doing something else). But this year, I have only watched the Colts games, and I’ve ignored the others. Because I love my country more than I love football. Realistically, my loyalty goes first to God, then my family, then my country, then waaaaay down the list, football. Come to think of it, as I write this, the Colts are about to play, and the Cubs are about to play. I’m going to watch the Cubs. So football is even below baseball on my list.

The NFL is in denial over why their ratings are tanking. Every week this season the ratings come out showing how many people watched NFL games. The numbers started lower than in previous years, and have gone down each week. They say it’s because of the election. Nope. They say it’s because people are cutting cords. Nope. They say it’s because Tom Brady and Peyton Manning haven’t been playing. Nope. Every person I’ve talked to about it has said the same thing: it’s these protests. They make people sick, and quite frankly, angry. I admit to being upset. I’m upset with the protesters for disrespecting the flag and by extension, the United States, but I’m more upset with the NFL, who by ignoring the protests, are doing nothing about it. Even when it is becoming clear that people are abandoning the NFL in droves, they refuse to acknowledge the damage these protesters are doing to their brand. Personally I feel that the NFL should release a statement something like, “While we appreciate the enthusiasm our players have for social issues and the need for equity in our society, from this point on we will be fining each player who does not stand for the playing of the national anthem, due to the damage that player is doing to their own team’s financial well being, with the fine equaling the amount of that player’s game check. We encourage our players to protest on their own time, and not when they are wearing an NFL uniform during an NFL broadcast.”

Until they do that, I will continue severely restricting the amount of NFL football I watch. And so I guess I have to thank Colin Kaepernick and the other protesters, because I have lots of spare time now. Thanks, Colin.

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Church Pew Bar Stool Response

Clayton Jennings has created an emotionally stirring video that condemns the church in several ways.  I invite you to watch the video, and then read my response.

Here is the video. Go watch and then come back.  I’ll wait.

First of all, he misunderstands the purpose of “church.”  Church is not a Dairy Queen that hopes people come in so they can make them feel good.  The New Testament church is the “Ekklesia” or “called out assembly.”  This means it is a group of people who have been called OUT of the world to assemble together as believers for the purpose of worshiping God together, encouraging each other, educating each other, and helping one another become more like Christ.  Church is not a place for unsaved people to go to feel like they are a better person. And the unbelievers that DO come to church should totally feel like there is something missing in their lives, because there is. They should feel WORSE about themselves because they should have just been confronted with the knowledge that they are a sinner who will one day answer to God for their sin, and unless they accept the sacrifice Christ made for them, they will pay the full penalty for that sin. Without Christ, they should leave church terrified.  If unbelievers are going to church and leaving with a “feel-good” attitude, they’re going to the wrong church.  They’re going to a church that is being nice to them all the way to Hell.

Secondly, this man went to ONE church in his life and left unsatisfied from that one encounter based on his perception of people’s reaction to him going to church smelling like booze. He didn’t even get verbal condemnation, he based his entire perspective on his own perception of other people’s looks.  I challenge you to go to a gathering anywhere (except a bar obviously) reeking of booze and get a better reaction than that.  Walk into a family style restaurant smelling like pig barn and see if you get looks of disgust.  I bet you do, and I bet the people there aren’t actually judging you, they just don’t like the smell.

But back to my main point here: he went to ONE church ONCE in his whole life, and has decided he’s never going back. That’s dumb. That’s like saying, “Well, I went to Taco Bell and didn’t like it, so I’m never eating Mexican food again.” No, actually that’s more like saying, “Well, I went to Taco Bell and didn’t like it, so I’m never eating at a restaurant again. They have bad food at restaurants.” Try a different church, dude. Try going when you don’t reek of booze.

Then Mr. Jennings says, “He felt more love and acceptance on a bar stool than he did in a church pew.” Of course he did. That’s because sinners love being around other people who are doing the same sins. They don’t like being around people who don’t have the same sins.  If you are a Colts fan are you going to be more comfortable in a room of Colts fans or a room of people who dislike Colts fans (say…Patriots fans)? If you’re a drunk are you going to be more comfortable with other drunks or with people who traditionally believe that being drunk is wrong?  Of COURSE he felt more acceptance in the bar.  But we don’t go to church to have our sins endorsed, but pointed out. And that brings me to my next point.

Yes, Jesus hung out with drunkards, but by doing so He wasn’t ENDORSING their drunkenness. When asked why He hung out with drunks and not with “good” people, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” He called the drunks “sick” because they needed to stop getting drunk and follow Him. I’m tired of this idea (Jesus hung out with sinners) being used as a blanket statement that Jesus somehow endorsed the sins they were committing. That somehow He was OK with their sin.  The adulterous woman is a frequent example.  People say, “Jesus didn’t condemn that woman!” To which I say, “You’re right, He didn’t.  But what did He say?  Go and sin no more.”  He said (in effect), “I’m not going to condemn you for your sin, but knock it off. Stop doing it.” He didn’t condemn her because He loves her, but He pointed out the fact that she WAS INDEED sinning because He loved her. See? Pointing out sin does not mean we aren’t being loving.
“Showing love to the rest of the world” does not mean “being nice to people.” Love is sometimes hard. Love hurts sometimes, because love means doing what is best for someone else, and when I see someone behaving in a self-destructive way, the loving thing to do is point it out to them.  If my sister became a heroin addict, I would do everything in my power to convince her to stop, even if that meant doing things that were not “nice” like holding an intervention, putting her in rehab, etc.  Love is doing what is best, not what is nicest.

Jesus said, “They will know you are my disciples by your love FOR ONE ANOTHER.” He was talking to His disciples there.  In other words, our love for our fellow believers. To leave off those three words is to change the words of Christ into a statement that seems to mean “they will know you are Christians because you are nice to everybody” which is NOT what Christ was saying.

Mr Jennings twice used the phrase “beating people over the head with a Bible.” What exactly does this mean? Not once in my life have I ever beat someone with a Bible. I have quoted verses appropriate to the situation (as he did in this video), as Christ has given me the example that I should do, and maybe to someone who is not right with God that feels like “beating over the head” but I give them the Word out of love, not to “beat them over the head.”
Now, what I thing Mr. Jennings was trying to say is that people in church need to stop looking at newcomers with scorn, disgust, etc.  I understand that point.  But I can tell  you that the first church I ever joined (at the age of 16) welcomed me in when I was NOT like them.  I had long hair.  I wore inappropriate clothes to church (usually jeans, a jean jacket, tennis shoes, t-shirt).  My parents smoked, so I usually reeked of cigarette smoke. And yet the people in that little fundamentalist Baptist church loved me and accepted me.  They pointed out the areas where I was wrong, and with God’s help, eventually my inside became more like Christ.  And when my inside cleaned up, eventually I cleaned up on the outside too.

But twisting the Word of God and throwing a blanket condemnation over the church of Jesus Christ is not the way to do that.  The video leaves you with the feeling that the problem is NOT that the man is rejecting God, that he is basing his entire view of God on ONE HOUR with a room full of people who claim to know God, that he didn’t even give God’s people a fair chance by even cleaning up before showing up (like you would if you were going anywhere in public that wasn’t Wal Mart).

Church people, we should be kind to visitors, no matter what they look like.  We should welcome them in and help them.  But our goal should NOT be to make them feel good about themselves and their personal choices, as Mr. Jennings seems to indicate.  Our goal is to help them see the fact that they are lost and headed for an eternity of punishment unless they ask God to forgive their sins.  Only THEN will they feel acceptance from God and peace with God.
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Stranger Fathers

A friend recommended this show on Netflix, “Stranger Things.” I was a little hesitant because one website listed the show as “horror” and I don’t do horror. But then I read an article which referred to it as “sci/fi suspense thriller” so I decided to watch it.

Well I can say this, the show reminds me of several old movies from the 1980’s: ET, Stand By Me, The Goonies, etc. I enjoyed watching most of it (there were a few parts I fast-forwarded through…for instance, I don’t need to watch teenagers making out).
However, there was one thing I noticed, and I don’t know if it was done on purpose, or if it was accidental, but it bothered me.

There isn’t one good father in the entire series.

Here’s the list of characters whose fathers are mentioned or shown:

Will and Jonathan Byers: this guy is a real piece of work. He is selfish, neglectful, he attempted to use his own son’s abduction for financial gain, he
Eleven: Yes, I know Dr. Brenner isn’t her “real” father, but she treats him as such. He’s an evil man who asks her to do evil things.
Nancy and Mike’s dad: this guy isn’t bad per se, but he is standoffish, milquetoast, and acts like he’d rather be doing anything else the entire show.
Steve’s dad leaves his troubled son home alone for days, and is described by Steve in such a way that we understand he is not a nice person.

Just about the only father that could be seen as a “good father” is Chief Hopper, whose daughter died of cancer before the show started, and he has now divorced his wife and sleeps with random women and has a substance abuse problem.

Contrast this with the mothers:
Will’s mom believes in him and stops at nothing to show her love for him and his brother Jonathan.
Eleven’s (presumed) mother has been in a comatose state as she mourns the loss of her baby daughter over ten years ago.
Nancy and Mike’s mom: she’s there for her kids, taking them places, showing an interest in their lives, having the hard conversations, and helping them.

The only mom that could be called “not good” was Barb’s mom, who didn’t seem to care that Barb was missing.

Fathers are needed. Fathers are necessary. And we need good examples of fathers in the shows and movies we watch. Here’s to hoping that season two of Stranger Things has a few good dads.

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God is Good All the Time

There were two accidents on Interstate 80 this weekend.  On Sunday a missionary couple and their three children were driving through Nebraska headed to Colorado for training before going to Japan, when a distracted semi truck driver slammed into their minivan killing them almost instantly. Another driver also died.

Meanwhile, in Ottawa, Illinois on Monday there was another accident involving three semis and a car.  Two people in the car died as did someone from one of the semi trucks.

A friend of mine was driving on the same road in Illinois, and stated that the accident happened just behind him and his wife in their car.  Someone commented and seemed to indicate that their safety was proof that God was watching over them.   I too am very glad that God protected them, but it made me think.

Do we only think God is “watching over us” when good things happen to us?  Was God not watching over the missionary couple in Nebraska?   I submit that He was.  God loves that family, and He loves my friend as well. The outcomes of their respective travels this weekend are in no way an indication of the level of God’s care for or attention to their well-being.

I’m going to say something, and you may want to write it down.  Get a pencil.  I’ll wait.

Here it is:   The amount of God’s love for you cannot be determined by the good or bad things that happen in your life.

For us Christians, God loves us and has a perfect plan for us.  This plan does not always go the way WE think it should.  Sometimes that plan includes fire, flood, storm, death, sickness, tragedy, and sorrow.  No matter if we are rich or poor, sick or healthy, happy or sad, God is still in charge, and His will is still the best possible place for us to be, even if it doesn’t seem best to us.

Paul says in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!”   He doesn’t say “Rejoice in the Lord when things are going your way” or “Rejoice in the Lord when you agree with God’s choices.”  It says “always.”   Remember that today.

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