Friday, September 21, 2018

Kavanaugh and Forgiveness in Politics

I’ve been struggling with this whole Judge Kavanaugh thing.  Here’s what I’m getting at.  What if the allegations against him are one hundred percent true?  And what if he were to admit that and apologize for it?  What if he said something like the following?  “I did in fact make a terrible mistake back in high school.  I am deeply saddened by the pain I have caused this woman over the years.  I was young and dumb but there is still no excuse for what I did and I am truly sorry for it. It was a single moment in my life where I failed to show respect to a member of the opposite sex.  It was the only moment and it was under the influence of a good deal of alcohol.  My life besides that has been marked by nothing but the utmost respect and care for all women as is evidenced by the many who have come to my defense.”

If Judge Kavanaugh came out and said something like that would we forgive him?  Would you forgive him?  And what would that forgiveness look like?  Should he still be allowed to go forward and be confirmed?  If Kavanaugh has shown a pattern of disrespect for women and sexual abuse similar to the Bill Clintons and Donald Trumps of the world that would of course be a totally different story.  If there was a way to do it I think both of those men should have been disqualified from running for public office.  But a onetime offense 36 years ago in an otherwise moral and upright life seems to me to be entirely different.  If you know me and my writings, you know that I lean conservative.  But I think I can sincerely say that if it was Hillary Clinton who got elected and the exact same situation was taking place with a judge she nominated, I would say that judge would deserve to go forward with the confirmation process too.  For many ideological reasons I wouldn’t want to see that judge get confirmed, but would still think he should be able to go forward with the process.

I think if we are honest with ourselves, when it’s someone we disagree with politically we tend to be unforgiving and at times downright condemning, and when it’s someone we agree with politically we are far more forgiving and willing to find excuses for their behavior.  I know that is my inclination but I do my best to fight it.  It was Jesus who said we should forgive our brother 7 x 70.  I realize that doesn’t necessarily mean that the person being forgiven still shouldn’t have some consequences for their actions but in the particular case of Kavanaugh it would seem to me the insistence on punitive consequences is entirely political. 

For the record I am not even close to sold on Ford’s story and I’m disgusted with the timing of this on Feinstein’s part which is a political move for the sole purpose of delaying the confirmation.  But all that aside, my challenge in writing this post is to get us thinking about forgiveness and consequences in the political sphere.  I highly question the allegations against Kavanaugh, but given the scenario I’ve painted I am willing to forgive and forget.  Are you?                 

Friday, July 13, 2018

Still Proud to be an Evangelical

I’m tired…… and sometimes a little angry at all the confusion I see around one word.  That word is evangelical.  When I say there is confusion around this word that’s probably an understatement; more like massive delusions in some cases.  Perhaps it might be helpful to share up front what evangelicals are not.  They are not white.  They are not Republican.  They are not conservatives.  They are not nationalists.  And they certainly are not racist, bigoted, homophobic, and hateful as some like to portray them.

So what is an evangelical then?  I think Ed Stetzer of Christianity Today gives a pretty good summary in listing four distinct beliefs that evangelicals hold. 
·        The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe.
·        It is very important for me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior.
·        Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin.
·        Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God's free gift of eternal salvation.
Evangelical comes from the word evangelion which refers to sharing the good news about Jesus Christ. So to all of my Christian friends out there I would just like to say if you buy in to the four points listed above you are an evangelical regardless of what your political persuasion.  Based on those points I am proud to wear the evangelical badge.  I think the thing that saddens me most is that more and more I am hearing other Christians speak derogatorily about evangelicals even though using the identification above they are likely evangelicals themselves.

So I guess this blog entry is just a friendly reminder to my left leaning Christian friends that those Christians who may be more conservative then you are not the enemy.  They are your brothers and sisters in Christ.  And yes a decent chunk of them even voted for Trump.  Some did so because they actually liked him as a candidate.  I believe most did so because they saw him as the lesser of two evils that they felt forced to choose between.  Either way I think it’s important to point out that this group of people believes our calling to care for the least of these is just as important as you do.  The Christian left does not have sole claim there.  There are just two very different philosophies as to how you go about doing so and the government’s role is in doing so. 

The bottom line is we are all called to the two greatest commandments Jesus gave us; to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.  And if you ask me those four points I listed should be at the core of what all Christians believe; not just those who identify as evangelical.  Personally I always found the term “evangelical Christian” to be redundant.  Because whenever I would read a definition of evangelical I would come away thinking “how is that different than simply being Christian?”  Biblically speaking it’s not.  So maybe we should be done with the term evangelical all together and we’ll just call ourselves Christians.  One big massive world-wide group of people with all kinds of political persuasions with one thing in common; we’ve all repented of our sins to God and have accepted His love and grace in making Jesus our Lord and Savior.  It’s either that or we all work at redeeming the word evangelical together and bring it back to its true Christian meaning.  I could get behind that too but unfortunately at this point I think the former would be a lot easier. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Pondering College and Student Loan Debt - Time to Stop the Madness

I have one kid finishing up his sophomore year in college and one kid finishing up her senior year in high school with her post-high school decision still looming, so needless to say I am right in the middle of dealing with how to pay for college.  One thing is for certain; as a country we are out of control with college debt.  It seems the more I read about it and the more casual conversations I have with other parents about it the more shocked I become.

There seems to be a prevailing mentality out there that you do whatever you have to do to get your kid through a 4 year college.  If that means taking on massive debt then so be it.  The conventional wisdom is that it will pay off in the long run.  But for more and more young people it’s not paying off the way they thought it would.  It doesn’t necessarily guarantee them a good paying job in their choice of careers.  I was reading just the other day that only one third of college graduates get jobs upon graduation in their chosen career. ( And in 2014 51% of college grads were in jobs that did not require a degree. ( There are more and more baristas and bartenders out there with four year degrees.  Many of whom have large monthly student loan payments. 

I believe young people and their parents need to start asking the tough questions about whether or not college is the right choice.  Many college grads would have been far better off going to a tech school and learning a trade.  The average college debt in 2016 was $37,172 and the average monthly payment was $351.00. (  On a personal level I have talked to many who are saddled with student loan debt far worse than that.  For some it was a worthwhile investment; for many others it has not been.  I actually spoke to a parent the other day who was figuring her child would have to come out of college with around $100.000.00 in debt, as if she had no other choice.

It’s time to stop the madness.  We have lots of other choices.  Community College, Junior College, tech schools, on line learning, enlisting in the Military and letting them pay, and working full time your first year out of high school to save up first are a few options that come to mind.  We need to get away from this idea that our kids are somehow missing out if they don’t immediately go into a 4 year school upon high school graduation.  They will survive and might even learn some valuable life lessons along the way.  And don’t even get me started on the cost of fraternities and sororities.

Since this is a blog with a Christian emphasis let me close with a couple of thoughts based on what the bible has to say about debt.  Romans 13:8b states Don’t’ run up debts, except for the huge debt of love you owe to each other. (The Message) The book of Proverbs has a good deal to say about going into debt.  I think my favorite one would be Proverbs 22:7 - The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender. (N.I.V.)  I think that depicts perfectly what debt can do to us.  It makes us slaves.  We have to get through life with a massive ball in chain we call debt.  It’s just not worth it and as parents we certainly don’t want to saddle our kids with it.  I am thankful to be able to say that our son will graduate with no debt and depending on the choice our daughter makes she will graduate with either a small monthly payment or no debt as well.  As parents we all should do what we can to help our kids make wise decisions in this area.  They may not thank us initially, but they definitely will down the road.      

Thursday, February 15, 2018

My Personal and Hopefully Christian Response to the Latest Mass Shooting

Another mass shooting took place last night.  So tragic!  My heart and prayers go out to the families of the victims in Parkland Florida.  Understandably with every mass shooting the gun control debate comes up again.  For whatever its worth I would like to see a ban on assault style weapons.  They're just not necessary.  But as anyone who has researched the matter will tell you it would do little to nothing to stop gun deaths in our country.  If you are seriously angry about gun deaths this morning then you should really be directing your anger at the sale of hand guns.  The vast majority of the gun deaths in our country are committed one at a time with hand guns.  Deaths involving assault rifles are around 1%.  Just google "gun deaths with assault rifles verses hand guns” and do some reading. Understandably we are outraged after these mass shootings.  But should we not be just as outraged about the other 99% of deaths taking place with hand guns each and every day?

Most reading this understand that I am a follower of Jesus.  I try to live my life by that old saying that was so trendy a few years back, “what would Jesus do?” Knowing He is the one who told us to turn the other cheek and who told Peter to put away his sword, I’m thinking He might have some issues with the gun culture in our country.  So I guess I part company with my usual more conservative takes on this particular issue.  Don’t get me wrong, I am a believer in the 2nd amendment.  I’m just a believer in the second amendment with some controls around it.  So I say ban the assault weapons and establish an extreme vetting process for hand guns.  I don’t think hand guns should be banned all together because I realize many law abiding citizens own them for purposes of self-defense.  As a pastor I never imagined I would have to think about the “what ifs” of a shooter coming through our door.  To be honest, taking my congregation through active shooter drills seems a little pointless to me.  What would give me a lot more peace of mind is knowing I have someone in my congregation with a license to carry.

I think these solutions I’m suggesting might make a small dent in our country's gun violence, but to see a significant change we need a lot more than stricter gun control.  More than anything this is a moral issue.  It’s about valuing and respecting life.  It’s about more dads being present in the home and being a good example for their sons to follow because most of those gun deaths are committed by teenage boys and young men.  A significant change in our moral compass would do far more than any type of gun control.  The church can and should play a significant role in this.  And this might sound a little simplistic but perhaps the best way to get that started is to keep posing that question I referred to earlier; “what would Jesus do?”  I can think of no greater respecter of life than He.          

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Sojourner and our Immigration Issues

I’ve been reading through a lot of the Old Testament law lately in my bible reading and I have to admit I’ve been struck by how often the “sojourner” is referred to.  It’s almost always in reference to laws calling on the Israelites to care for and look out for the sojourner’s needs, and often included with the fatherless and the widow.  Since these verses about the sojourner are often referred to in our current immigration debate I thought I would share my two cents on the issue.  Here they are in no particular order.

1.     The sojourner references in the books of the law do not necessarily relate directly to our immigration issues.  Our immigration issues are more about the laws of our land and how people lawfully or unlawfully come to our country, and what we do with them once they are here.  So as Christians we can care for them and help them while at the same time believe that our laws should limit how many can come to our country and which ones should come to our country.  All developed countries have laws for the same purposes.  It’s not uncompassionate at all.  It’s just part of being a country. 
2.     Regardless of what the current law is we will always have sojourners to care for.  Similar to when Jesus said “the poor will always be among us”, so is the case with immigrants.  Hopefully it will be more legal ones and fewer illegal ones, but either way they will always be among us and we will always be able to exercise our Christian obligation to show them care.  No one anywhere is saying we should have no more immigration.  Not in the House, not in the Senate, and not in the White House.  The issue is about how many and from where as it pertains to what is in the best interest of our nation.    
3.     Disparaging other Countries is not helpful to the ongoing conversation.  And that’s all I’ll say about our president on that.
4.     Calling people whose opinions are different than yours racist is not helpful to the ongoing conversation either.  It’s weak, tired, and intellectually lazy.  If you are such a person who has done so, I encourage you to sit down with someone who disagrees with you.  Get to know them.  Get to know their passions and their heart, and why they believe the way they do.  I guarantee if you do you will come away with a much better opinion of that person and you’ll be the better for it. 
5.     I think DACA makes sense.  Our country is all these dreamers know.  They were born here and live here just like the rest of us.  I personally don’t want to hold their parents wrong doings against them.  Give them a path to citizenship even if it costs us more as a country to do so.  It seems to me the Christian thing to do.  It’s an act of grace and our God is a God of grace.

As someone who travels in a lot of Christian circles I have spoken with well-meaning folks on both sides of this issue.  If you find yourself on one extreme or the other, just remember that the Christians who see it differently than you do are your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.  They are not the enemy.  Remember Colossians 3:13-14 - Bear with each other and forgive any complaint you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which is the bond of perfect unity.  May we all maintain that bond of love; even in our differences…… no especially in our differences.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

What are we Learning from the Sexual Misconduct Epidemic?

Here we go again.  Driving to work this morning I put on the radio and heard about the latest celebrity/politician/person in power to have lost his job due to sexual misconduct.  Perhaps this time it’s the biggest name of all; Matt Lauer.  He has been a part of many American’s morning routine for 20 years. The list of sexual deviants is getting hard to keep track of.  It seems like there’s been someone new every week for a few months now.  Frankly, some are easier to process than others.  Harvey Weinstein was easy.  He was just a name.  Then we all started seeing his face, and he kind of has a dirty old man look about him anyway.  But not Matt Lauer; he represents America as much as baseball and apple pie. 

I suppose if we’ve learned anything it’s that we shouldn’t be surprised by anyone.  But I hope we’ve learned more than just that.  I hope our country has learned some other lessons.  The one I’ve heard most is that we have a new found respect for women in the work place and all areas of life.  I for one, certainly hope that will be the case.  With all these accusations coming out I’d like to think men will think twice about their behaviors, and that’s a good thing.  But in the end I’m afraid that doesn’t address why men behave that way in the first place.  If only there were some teaching somewhere about our sexuality and relationships, and how to honor and respect the opposite sex.  Oh wait.  That’s right.  There is.  It’s called the bible; the very book that many in Hollywood who are so upset about all this sexual misconduct make a mockery of.  Only prudish Christians would follow that book right.  Well I’m sorry but I think it might give us a little better direction than what we are learning from our movies, TV, and music.  Our culture on the whole is a porn addicted, swipe right, hook-up culture, and it is greatly influenced by the entertainment industry.  My only point is if a whole industry does nothing but promote immoral living, than we shouldn’t be all that surprised when we see immoral sexual misconduct surface among those in that industry. 

I get that it’s not just Hollywood and the entertainment industry dealing with all this.  We can point to all types and all persuasions when it comes to this problem.  It’s just that when I look at Hollywood and the entertainment industry in general that old saying “you reap what you sow” comes to mind.  Actually that would be Galatians 6:7 - “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”  

Being respectful of women is a good place to start, but pulling that off is still going to be difficult for many men if they don’t first have a change of heart.  And that change of heart comes from committing your life to the God of the bible.  God has shown us how to honor, respect, and love others through His son Jesus Christ.  God has shown us the proper context for sexual relations within the confines of marriage.  That might sound fuddy-duddy to some, but if we were all following God’s direction in this area there would be no sexual misconduct.  I can’t help but wonder what all those people who were making fun of Mike Pence and his rules for being alone with women think now.  Those rules have helped him honor God, honor his wife, and honor other women.  There’s nothing wrong with that. And as long as he keeps following those rules you will see no sexual misconduct coming from our Vice President.  It’s my sincere hope and prayer that some folks will make the connection from their behavior to a God who loves them and created them and who want’s what’s best for them in their relationships. Then and only then will we start to see true change.      

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Boycotting Boycotts

That’s it!  I’m fed up.  I am outraged by all the outrage.  I’m done.  I am boycotting boycotts.  What brought me to this decision you ask?  The other day I was sharing on Facebook my frustration with the quality of Starbucks breakfast sandwiches and after some lighthearted banter one of my friends chimed in with “I don’t go to Starbucks at all because of the C.E.O.’s view on Christians.”  So much for our lighthearted banter.  Don’t get me wrong.  As most reading this know, I am a Christian myself, and I’m sure I wouldn’t be very thrilled about whatever the Starbucks C.E.O. has to say about Christians.  But can I be honest for a moment?  Deep down, I really don’t care what he has to say.  I just want a good cup of coffee and a decent breakfast sandwich (turns out I have to go down the road to Dunkin Donuts to get the latter).  Maybe that makes me shallow.  Maybe that means I don’t care enough.  I don’t know.  But the more I think about it, if I’m going to boycott every company that might go against my Christian faith in some way shape or form, I may not have a lot of options left.  Just for fun I decided to google “Companies Christians should boycott” and I came across an article listing 132 companies to stay away from, and for good measure it gave me 42 celebrities not to support.  Who has the time?!?  And if I’m going to make a list of companies to boycott, Starbucks might fall pretty far down that list.  What about Nike, and all those other companies that have been known for using child labor?  I should probably start there.  From what I hear, shopping for clothes in an ethical manner can become a very difficult task.  So for me to boycott Starbucks and the occasional other company that disagrees with my Christian perspective on the latest social issue just feels a little inconsistent.  I feel like I should either be all in or not bother with boycotting at all.  Since I don’t have the time or energy to be all in, I think for now I will just go with not boycotting at all…… but if it's alright with you I'm still going to frequent my favorite Christian restaurant, Chick-Fil-A.