A Muslim, A Pope and A Politician

The article below ran last week in the Washington Post. The author of the column Mr. Reza Aslan (who is Muslim and yes that does matter in terms of his interpretations) is also the author of a best-selling book on Jesus. In contrast, I am not a best-selling author. I am merely a lowly kinda sorta okay selling author. Despite that I have been intending to write a critique of Mr. Aslan’s book. The only thing that has prevented me from doing so is that it would require me to read Mr. Aslan’s book, which I have zero interest in doing. That is because having read Mr. Aslan’s column below, and having now seen Mr. Aslan on multiple television interviews, I am certain that the conclusions he draws in his books are complete and utter poppycock.

Being an author myself, and one who is interested in marketing books and getting my name out there, I can’t blame Mr. Aslan for jumping on the recent controversy regarding the Pope. In case you missed it, the Pope recently made some comments (I went to the source and read the comments myself) that could only be interpreted as a bit socialist in nature. I am a Protestant, so the Pope’s comments don’t hold particular sway with me. But they do for millions of people around the world, so what he puts out there publicly is a big deal. My comments below do not speak to Rush Limbaugh or Sarah Palin. Instead my focus is on the overall arguments of Mr. Aslan which are consequently the same arguments that are being made by many liberal Christian theologians in our modern world.

I have included my remarks in italics. If you want to read Mr.Aslan’s column in full without my commentary, see the Washington Post website which is where I found his article. 

If Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin don’t like the pope, they won’t care much for Jesus

Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin are starting to sour on the new pope.

In response to Pope Francis’ first Apostolic Exhortation, in which the pontiff denounced “trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world,” these two paragons of the far right – both of whom regularly invoke the teachings of Jesus to bolster their own political views – have suddenly turned their backs on the man whose actual job description is to speak for Jesus. This is a gross overstatement. I looked up both of their comments and it was clear that their issues were with what the Pope said so publicly, not on the man or his office.

Sarah Palin complained that Pope Francis sounded “kind of liberal”
in his statements decrying the growing global income equality between the rich and the poor (she has since apologized).

Rush Limbaugh went one step further. “This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope,” he harrumphed into his giant microphone.

Limbaugh, in his trademarked conspiratorial style, speculated that the pope’s tirade against “widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion” must have been forced upon him by somebody else. “Somebody has either written this for [the pope] or gotten to him,” he said.

Limbaugh is right. Somebody did get to Pope Francis. It was Jesus.

Self-styled “defenders of Christianity,” like Palin and Limbaugh, peddle a profoundly unhistorical view of Jesus. Indeed, if you listened to those on the far right you would think that all Jesus ever spoke about was guns and gays. First of all, I don’t believe that either of these two have set themselves up as a “defender of Christianity” but they can fight their own battles. I do consider myself such a defender however, so I can state that Aslan’s statement here is silly.  I have never made such an argument and neither has any apologist I can think of. This line is included in the article strictly to be sensationalist and to appeal to the stereotypes of the average Washington Post reader.

But even many modern Christians who reject the far right’s perception of Jesus Okay timeout. I am so tired of hearing this phrase, “the far right”. There is no viable “far right” in this country and hasn’t been since the reconstruction period following the civil war. Methinks Mr. Aslan is being disingenuous and trying to hurl epithets. However, assuming he is sincere then like most extreme left individuals, he sees what would have been a centrist just thrity years ago, as a person of the so called extreme right.  tend to hold an inaccurate picture of the historical Jesus, viewing him as some kind of celestial spirit with no concern for the cares of this world – a curious assertion about a man who not only lived in one of the most politically charged periods in Israel’s history, but who claimed to be the promised messiah sent to liberate the Jews from foreign occupation. Where to begin here? There is so much in these few sentences that is so easily refuted.   First of all, no Christian that I have encountered in any denomination believes that Jesus is a celestial spirit. What Aslan is describing is deism. One could not be a Christian and be a deist it would be a logical impossibility. Second, at no point, did Christ ever claim to come to liberate the Jew’s from the Romans. In fact he was constantly correcting his followers when they had such notions. Christ came to liberate men from sin and to give them access to the Father and eternal life. He transcended politics then and he transcends politics now. This popular view of Jesus, which I challenge in my book, has dominated Christianity ever since the days of the Holy Roman Empire. No it hasn’t. I cannot imagine what Aslan is talking about. No such view of Jesus is prevalent in either Catholic or Protestant circles. I recently finished reading a volume on ancient church history. I don’t see this view in church history either.

It is not difficult to see why. After all, if you think of Jesus as an apolitical, pacifistic preacher of good works whose only interest was in the world to come, then you can domesticate Jesus’ radical teachings and more easily accommodate him to your own political or economic agenda. Now we see Mr. Aslan’s Muslim sensibilities coming out. For it is Islam that tends to politicize Jesus and in so doing attempts to diminish his deity. So Aslan is engaging in projection here (accusing his opposition in the debate of that which he himself engages in). Likewise, the Jesus of the Bible and the Jesus that is preached in most evangelical churches, IS concerned with our eternal souls and the world to come as well as our current joy, peace and submission to him. It is precisely his eternal and omniscient nature, that DEFIES domestication!

You can be millionaire megachurch pastor Joel Olsteen, preaching a “prosperity Gospel” that claims Jesus wants to you drive a Bentley. You can be Republican congressman Steven Fincher, citing Jesus to denounce welfare and food stamps. You can be libertarian icon Rand Paul appealing to Jesus’ teachings to advocate ending foreign aid. Or you can be a marketing opportunist like Aslan who is jumping into the fray in order to sell your poorly researched book.

The truth is that Jesus’ teachings were so revolutionary that were he to preach today what he preached 2,000 years ago, many of the same preachers and politicians who claim to promote his values would be the first to call for him to be silenced. This may be true but it is clear that Aslan has a fundamental misunderstanding of what Jesus taught.

Jesus did not preach income equality between the rich and the poor. He preached the complete reversal of the social order, wherein the rich and the poor would switch places. Utter nonsense. Jesus’ concern regarding the rich was that the comfort purchased by their riches would blind them to their need for him as savior. That is why the poor would be rich. It was because the poor tend to be more likely willing to humble themselves before the cross. Riches can create in some an attitude of self-sufficiency that is detrimental to that needed humility.

“Blessed are you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours. Blessed are you who are hungry, for you shall be fed. Blessed are you who mourn, for you shall soon be laughing” (Luke 6:20–21).

These abiding words of the Beatitudes are often remembered as a promise of vindication for the poor and the dispossessed. But that is because few bother reading the verses that follow.

“Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full, for you shall hunger. Woe to you laughing now, for soon you will mourn” (Luke 6:24–25).

Jesus is not simply describing some utopian fantasy in which the meek inherit the earth, the sick are healed, the weak become strong, the hungry are fed, and the poor are made rich. He is advocating a chilling new reality in which the rich will be made poor, the strong will become weak, and the powerful will be displaced by the powerless.

“The first shall be last and the last shall be first” (Matthew 5:3–12).

While modern Christianity has tried to spiritualize this message of Jesus, transforming his revolutionary social teachings into abstract ethical principles, it is impossible to overlook the unflinching condemnation of the wealthy and powerful that permeate Jesus’ teachings. The reversal of the social order that Aslan is so obsessed with, is promised in the Kingdom to come, not necessarily on this earth. If that were the case, then why weren’t the followers he was speaking to at that moment on that Mount, made rich before they died? If the promise is what Aslan claims it is, then Jesus failed to keep his promise to those listeners. But Jesus never fails. He promised they would be rich in the life to come precisely because they had believed on him as Messiah. As for the so called condemnation of the rich, see my comments above. (And by the way, the first sentence of the paragraph above misuses the term “spiritualize”)

“How hard it will be for the wealthy to enter the Kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:23).

As one can imagine, such a radical vision of the world would have been both profoundly appealing for those at the bottom rungs of Jesus’ society, and incredibly threatening for those at the top. The fact is not much has changed in two thousand years, as Palin and Limbaugh have proven.

Yet if these “culture warriors” who so often claim to speak for Jesus actually understood what Jesus stood for, they would not be so eager to claim his ideas for their own. In fact, they’d probably call him a Marxist. This is very nearly open heresy. To say that Jesus would have advocated a political system that resulted in the deaths of tens of millions is beyond offensive. In Marxism the state must be supreme in the life of the individual. In Christ’s teachings, he must be supreme. The two  belief systems are completely contradictory.

Mr. Aslan has an agenda here. It is not to enlighten people of some heretofore unknown secrets about Jesus life. It is he who is attempting to turn the Holy Christ into a political toy to be used to further political aspirations. Aslan’s attempt is based on falsehoods and a perversion of the context of Holy Scripture. I denounce him.

 

 

I Ought To Be In Pictures!

I am about to head out to film a movie! How cool is that. They are going to interview me about my book Going Green (Purchase by clicking the box on the right on my blog). The film is to be about our need for energy independence. I was honored to learn that they filmed Os Guiness a couple of days ago. He recently wrote another book entitled A Free People’s Suicide. I have read some of his other books and he is a brilliant man. Try finding him on YouTube. This documentary will have a Christian viewpoint which is much needed in the energy discussion.

Anyway, I am excited about the opportunity. We are supposed to be shooting all day today. (Shooting is showbiz talk baby). I’ll let you know more when I can.

A Letter to Christian Writers

The following is a letter I wrote to some of my colleagues who will be attending an upcoming Christian Writers Conference. I got a very positive response to it so I thought I would post it here as well. It applies to all Christians in all walks of life.

Since I don’t know you and you don’t know me, I hope that you will forgive my boldness. Please understand, I am not preaching to you. I am talking to myself as much as anyone.
If we are being honest, I’ve been snippy over the past couple of months, maybe a little bitter even. I’ve told the Lord, straight up told Him, “I would just as soon quit!” And why shouldn’t I? Nobody reads anymore. Everyone just ignores my stuff. And why should I waste money that I don’t have going to this STUPID conference? My Sunday school class won’t even follow my blog for Pete’s sake! They’re all too busy. They all have too much stuff in their inbox as it is.
Then my car broke. When my mechanic told me he needed to talk to me, my first thought was, “Oh crud, how much is this one gonna cost me?” But when I looked at him his eyes were welling up with tears. He had long ago read my first novel, The Rain (a story of Noah and the Ark) and then had placed his copy in his waiting area with the magazines. One day his worst customer, the one who always refused to just drop off her car lest she miss an opportunity to chain smoke in the no smoking area, or curse at his mechanics, was in his shop and picked the book up. He told me he suddenly realized that she wasn’t shouting at him about the wait. He looked through the glass and saw that she was thoroughly engrossed in the book.
He finished her car but she asked him to give her a few more minutes. She kept reading. He finally told her she could borrow the book and take it home if she promised to bring it back. Two weeks later she did so. She wasn’t smoking that day. A week later she came and asked for the book back. She said she wanted to share the book with the lady in the trailer next door. She said she had been to church for only the second time in her sixty-eight years. She told my mechanic, “I want that book to show others what it showed me.”
I never met her. She lost a lung to emphysema and had to move out of state to a nursing home near her son. The last I heard, she is a passionate nursing home evangelist.
THAT’S why we write! And THAT’s why we are going to a conference! What’s more, that is why we cannot… we must not… quit.
By the way, mustn’t it surely be the Lord’s sense of humor that these stories always come about from a book that is loaned or borrowed, instead of purchased? 🙂  But that’s another letter for another day.  
Let’s face it guys; there are only a few slots available. Only a comparative few will get signed and perhaps we will not be one of them. But then, it isn’t at all about us is it? No, it’s about Him…and them.
You are, every one of you reading this, called of Almighty God. That’s not melodrama. This thing that we are doing is a calling and nothing less.
I know this email is already too long and you are swamped, but allow that to sink in for a moment. There are seven BILLION people in this world, the vast majority of whom are either in abject poverty, or oppressed, or in utter spiritual darkness, or perhaps all three. But not you and I! Not you, Christian.
Somehow…by some miracle (and it was a miracle) you were placed here. You were allowed safety, and freedom, and most critically, the light of truth. What? Me? Amazing love! How can this be?
And it is for this reason and this reason alone, that we mustn’t leave the conference disappointed if we don’t get an agent or a deal. It is not for me to be bitter or to futilely lay out demands for a sovereign God to meet over that weekend. It is but for me to listen for my orders with a spiritual ear and an open heart.
Hey…Christian…THE WORLD IS ON FIRE!! Our brethren are being tortured in the middle east and around the world, our leaders are mostly morally bankrupt, our youth are cast into a confusing relativistic world where Hannah Montana degrades herself on national television for the simple reason that she has been taught that the worst thing that she could possibly be is a nice girl…or ladylike.
So we mustn’t look to an agent or an editor (though if one should come alongside we will surely rejoice). We mustn’t look to our spouse or our kids. Instead we must look inside our very hearts. YOU were rescued! YOU were called! YOU were indwelled by his Holy Spirit! YOU were chosen for the Work!
And now with the world in an uproar we have been given the privilege to come and fellowship together so that we may be strengthened and refurbished and then return to that work. Were you like me? Did you think that YOU decided to go to this conference? Did you think that YOU got the money together? How soon we forget whom we serve. We have no authority to quit! We were…each of us…given a gift. We have a gift for the written word and the world desperately needs good words. Every story doesn’t have to be life changing but each one does have to allow the reader a chance to breathe, because the culture has left them breathless.
Recognize the magnitude of what you are seeking to do and the power of the One for whom you do it. Let the words sink in. YOU WERE MADE FOR A TIME SUCH AS THIS!! Now, to the work!
Chris Skates

Why Millenials Are Leaving the Church (with commentary)

The following article appeared in the CNN faith section. It was sent to me by a friend of the blog. Take a few minutes and read it in its entirety. See my comments in italics.

Why millennials are leaving the church

Opinion by Rachel Held Evans, Special to CNN

(CNN)

 First of all let me admit up front that there is little in this article that I agree with. I don’t disagree that millennials think this. I merely disagree that their arguments have any validity. Also, I should confess that I am jealous. This article received 350 thousand Facebook likes. I was thrilled when I got 700 on one of my columns. But I sincerely don’t think that has influenced my thought process one bit. Instead, it is a testament to the fact that evangelicals have a lot of work to do because apparently a lot of people feel this way. I will also say that I visited Rachel Held Evans’ blog and it is very well done and I think she is a thoughtful person and a sister. So nothing I say is intended to be an attack on her personally. I have deliberately not looked at any of the other replies that apparently came out as a result of this article. My thoughts below are my own. My comments in italics.

 (CNN) At 32, I barely qualify as a millennial.

I wrote my first essay with a pen and paper, but by the time I graduated from college, I owned a cell phone and used Google as a verb.

I still remember the home phone numbers of my old high school friends, but don’t ask me to recite my husband’s without checking my contacts first.

I own mix tapes that include selections from Nirvana and Pearl Jam, but I’ve never planned a trip without Travelocity.

Despite having one foot in Generation X, I tend to identify most strongly with the attitudes and the ethos of the millennial generation, and because of this, I’m often asked to speak to my fellow evangelical leaders about why millennials are leaving the church.

Armed with the latest surveys, along with personal testimonies from friends and readers, I explain how young adults perceive evangelical Christianity to be too political, too exclusive, old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Throughout the article one thing rings clear. Miss Evans is liberal. Her points against evangelicalism tend to be where her liberalism collides with God’s clear word, not with evangelicalism as she would prefer to state it. So with her opening volley she first accuses the church of being unconcerned with social justice. This is one criticism that does have some merit. Too many of our churches are too rich in that they spend too much of God’s money on better facilities and better decorations. This practice can and does extend to the individual members as well. Often too little of God’s blessings are returned to him to help the poor. Still, her use of the term “social justice” raises a red flag with me.

This is a darling term of the left these days to mask various forms and degrees of socialism or even communism. Not only is there no Biblical mandate to practice this frequent failure of an economic model, there are also many verses that make it clear that individual freedom and autonomy under the leadership and direction of God, produce the greatest social justice for all.

Second, Miss Evans really tips her hand for the entirety of the article when she accuses the church (or millenials do if you prefer I state it that way) of being “hostile” to LGBT individuals. I find this statement ridiculous on its face. For one thing, the church is not at all hostile to gays etc. she is hostile to sin. That’s kind of what Jesus told us to be. We are to be a light in a world of the darkness of sin. We hold no animosity towards individuals, we hold righteous indignation for sin in all its forms. Therefore if individuals want to come to church in open defiance and have the church welcome them…and their sin…then that will be a problem from now till Christ comes. However, if anyone from the LGTB community wants to repent of their sin then they have been and will be welcome with open arms. By identifying individuals by their sexuality, I am assuming she means individuals who want to continue to practice that form of sexuality. The church has no scriptural authority to allow such behavior within her ranks while maintaining fellowship with such persons. It is no different Biblically than if I was a kleptomaniac that advertised my propensity to steal and who insisted that I be a member in good standing while continuing to steal. This leads me to my second point.

The hostility that Miss Evans refers to is completely being fostered by the LGTB community. I have said on this blog many times, we in the Evangelical church would LOVE to stop talking about (or hearing about) peoples sexuality. The Christian ethic does not teach us to identify ourselves or others in that way. But the militant LGTB movement will not allow us to do that. With everything from suing a Christian baker when he doesn’t want to make a Lesbian wedding cake, to forcing church camps to lose tax exempt status for refusing to hold a gay wedding reception in their facilities, it is the LGTB community that regularly and purposely paints the church into a corner. Then the church is accused of hostility for attempting to defend itself.

I point to research that shows young evangelicals often feel they have to choose between their intellectual integrity and their faith, between science and Christianity, Poppycock! I am growing weary of shooting holes in this argument. If the millennials would read less Darwin and more scripture they wouldn’t feel this way. If they would learn how science is actually done instead of reading political screeds by the likes of Richard Dawkins then they would see that their faith is in a reasonable and scientific God who created a reasonable and scientific universe and then graced men with a reasonable mind so that they could thrive in that universe.   between compassion and holiness. Speaking as one who does science for a living, there are far more holes in many modern day scientific theories (which are in and of themselves far more faith based than Christianity and that reflect more of the atheist philosophy of the researcher than they reflect the proper application of the scientific method) than there are in the so called anti-biblical arguments of the scientific community.

and between compassion and holiness. Ahhh, now we get to the crux of the matter. This is really what this article is all about. Apparently it is Miss Evans contention that that which is Holy is not compassionate. In her view, these two are mutually exclusive? Surely that was not her point. Instead I think she once again is favoring her political ideology over the clear teaching of scripture. She is reluctant to have the church call sin, sin. It makes her uncomfortable and what’s more it makes her LGBT friends feel self conscious.

I talk about how the evangelical obsession with sex  See above. can make Christian living seem like little more than sticking to a list of rules, and how millennials long for faith communities in which they are safe asking tough questions and wrestling with doubt. This may be an issue in churches that Miss Evans attends. This is one area where I agree with her. The church must allow for tough questions. Millennials must then allow for tough answers.

Invariably, after I’ve finished my presentation and opened the floor to questions, a pastor raises his hand and says, “So what you’re saying is we need hipper worship bands. …” Hope this hasn’t happened much. As you can see, this was not my reaction. But since we are seeing this around the nation it probably is often the response she gets.

And I proceed to bang my head against the podium. Funny, I did that when I read this article.

Time and again, the assumption among Christian leaders, and evangelical leaders in particular, is that the key to drawing twenty-somethings back to church is simply to make a few style updates edgier music, more casual services, a coffee shop in the fellowship hall, a pastor who wears skinny jeans, an updated Web site that includes online giving. Again, we agree here.

But here’s the thing: Having been advertised to our whole lives, we millennials have highly sensitive BS meters, and we’re not easily impressed with consumerism or performances.

In fact, I would argue that church-as-performance is just one more thing driving us away from the church, and evangelicalism in particular. This is absolutely correct.

Many of us, myself included, are finding ourselves increasingly drawn to high church traditions Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, the Episcopal Church, etc. precisely because the ancient forms of liturgy seem so unpretentious, so unconcerned with being “cool,” and we find that refreshingly authentic. This seems to be contradictory to her first several paragraphs. If she thinks the modern church is too intolerant of sin, try Calvin or Luther.

What millennials really want from the church is not a change in style but a change in substance. My comments on this below.

We want an end to the culture wars. So does the church. So stop attacking us. Let us pray in Jesus name in the military. Let military chaplains have a Bible on their own desk without punishing them. Don’t force us to pay for abortions which are an abomination to our faith. I could go on and on.  We want a truce between science and faith. Us too. So maybe science should stop fallaciously telling us that their science disproves or trumps our holy book. We want to be known for what we stand for, not what we are against. See all of the above.

We want to ask questions that don’t have predetermined answers.

We want churches that emphasize an allegiance to the kingdom of God over an allegiance to a single political party or a single nation. Here methinks Miss Evans could take her own advice. However, once again, if a certain political party wasn’t pro-abortion, pro-the perversion of marriage, anti-nativity scene, anti-prayer, and anti-freedom of religion, then I for one might be more inclined to consider that party. Until then, there is only one party that I can come close to fitting into and they don’t really like my beliefs much either.

We want our LGBT friends to feel truly welcome in our faith communities. Not true. You want your LGBT friends PRACTICES to feel welcome. Your friends are more that welcome, no openly unrepentant lifestyle, no matter what the sinful practice, can be welcomed. The moment it is, then there is no church. Instead there is something else. A garden club perhaps.

We want to be challenged to live lives of holiness, not only when it comes to sex,It appears that they don’t want to be holy in this area at all. Instead they want to do what they want. But as long as holiness means stuff they like…like- when it comes to living simply, caring for the poor and oppressed, pursuing reconciliation, engaging in creation care and becoming peacemakers. This is starting to sound an awful lot like the “Jesus” movement of the ‘60’s where Jesus became just a word and not a proper name for an actual being who has revealed himself to us and told us clearly how he would have us to live.

You can’t hand us a latte and then go about business as usual and expect us to stick around. We’re not leaving the church because we don’t find the cool factor there; we’re leaving the church because we don’t find Jesus there. If this article is an accurate portrayal of millennial’s thoughts, then the problem might be that they don’t find their version of Jesus there.

Like every generation before ours and every generation after, deep down, we long for Jesus. Amen and Amen.

Now these trends are obviously true not only for millennials but also for many folks from other generations. Whenever I write about this topic, I hear from forty-somethings and grandmothers, Generation Xers and retirees, who send me messages in all caps that read “ME TOO!” So I don’t want to portray the divide as wider than it is.

But I would encourage church leaders eager to win millennials back to sit down and really talk with them about what they’re looking for and what they would like to contribute to a faith community. None of what I have said has been intended as hostile to any millennial. And yes, the church (myself included) has in many way’s let Millennials down by not adequately preparing them for a world hostile to their faith. We have tried to win them with a watered down gospel that cannot stand the scrutiny of a skeptical society. But the solution is not to water it down more, but to speak it boldly and to live it out accurately.

Their answers might surprise you.

Rachel Held Evans is the author of “Evolving in Monkey Town” and “A Year of Biblical Womanhood.” She blogs at rachelheldevans.com. The views expressed in this column belong to Rachel Held Evans.

Inspiring Weekend

I attended the first annual Lifeway Men’s Conference this weekend with some men from my church. It was a great conference and we had some good fellowship. I could write an entire post about the speakers (and probably should) but I am going to save that for a later date. I want to post more later about Sgt. Jeff Struecker of the Army Airborne Rangers who is now a Pastor. Sgt. Struecker saw lots of combat and was a prominent player in the actual battle of Mogadishu featured in the movie BlackHawk Down. There were so many excellent speakers at this conference. More on those later.

For now, I want to briefly share the story of Brian Banks. He was a top five football recruit coming out of high school. He had a Scholorship offer from none other than USC. Then his life was torn apart when he was accused of rape. He plead guilty as he had been advised that he would get probation. Instead he got hard time. But Banks didn’t do it. After ten years the lady that accused him, confessed that she had made it up. Subsequent DNA testing proved Banks to be innocent.

For ten years he sat in a penitentiary. He missed out on playing college football. His dream, the way he would feel whole again, he decided was to play football again. He has trained very hard for three years and earned a chance to compete for a position in the Atlanta Falcons (my pro team) training camp this year. Yesterday he took the field as an NFL player after a thirteen year journey to get there. As his first practice ended, with TV camera’s filming because it was the opening of training camp. Banks became overwhelmed with emotion. He did the only thing he could think of to do. That was this:Banks Photo

Let’s all pray for this guy. Let’s pray that he makes the team.

My Letter to Bill O’Reilly

If you are unfamiliar with why I wrote O’Reilly Google his video confrontation from last night with Laura Ingraham. Or Googel his use of the term “thumping the Bible”. OReilly fancies himself above the fray because he doesn’t use Christianity as a basis for his arguments. Or at least he thinks he doesn’t. Read my letter to him below.

Mr. O’Reilly,

You consistently ask your guests to “tell me where I am wrong”. Well, you are wrong on the homosexual marriage issue in a number of areas.

1.      The derisive “Bible thump” comment (for which you would have scolded a conservative as being a “bomb thrower”), your condescension to Dennis Miller which made him visibly and righteously angry a couple of weeks ago when you accused him of making arguments against Obama that were ideological and not fact based, and the arrogant and condescending treatment of Dr. Robert Jeffress during his recent appearance (do you actually believe you know the Bible better than this pHD Theologian?), indicate a bias on your part against Christians. You assume that a faith based argument is an intellectually inferior argument.

2.      You continually draw a moral equivalency between the extreme left and what you categorize as the “extreme right”. First of all the people that you try to pigeon hole into the “extreme right” category do not fit the description. Second, there is no equivalency between say Chris Matthewsand Rush Limbaugh.

3.      You do not accurately demonstrate the facts when you say that you have “no feud” with Limbaugh and other radio talk hosts. You may not mention them by name but you consistently write off all their arguments as frivolous by lumping them all together and using the derisive term “right wing bomb throwers”.  Everyone knows who you are referring to when you do that. I have been a loyal viewer for years and I have heard you make dozens of thinly veiled comments of this type regarding conservatives.

4.      You presume a position of intellectual and moral superiority for your own arguments that doesn’t exist in reality. Your assumptions stem from your firm, unyielding, and often stubborn insistence on occupying the mushy middle. In so doing you render yourself intellectually dishonest because you borrow from the capital of conservatism and Christianity where and when it suits you. I will give you a specific example.

Where is your non-biblical argument for heterosexual marriage? If you say that it is for the good of society, then why is it good for society? (Answer: because God’s Biblical model for marriage is best.) If you say that no civilization in 6000 years has accepted homosexual marriage then why haven’t they? (See the answer above).

I often use the argument that words have meaning. The word marriage has a definition. If we start randomly changing the definition of words, then society suffers. Still, marriage was given meaning precisely because of the standard of reference of God’s moral absolutes. Relativism is relativism precisely because it denies the existence of God and his moral law.

If you throw these Bible based arguments out of the discourse under the pretense that they are ideological then all you are left with is Bill O’Reilly’s opinion. Which opinion has no more and no less value than the opinion of any pro-homosexual marriage proponent. Ideological arguments only err if they are based on an inaccurate or harmful ideology.

Chris Skates

Paducah, Kentucky

 

Christ Is Risen!

http://patriotupdate.com/articles/that-greatest-of-days/

You are not crazy. Your values are not antiquated, they have not been improved upon by atheistic scientists or relativistic politicians, and they do not need to be modernized by arrogant professors. Your belief that marriage should be between one man and one woman is not an outworking of hate. Instead that belief epitomizes true love. Your view of marriage does not stem from your opinion or the emotions of one individual who, in relation to the grand scheme of history, is little more than a vapor. Your view was given to you by the One who is eternal, unchanging, and who always provides a model which is good and right and best.

Your understanding of morals did not come from your own mind. You have an inherent understanding of right and wrong because you know the One who is always right, and therefore you have a reference point from which to determine what is wrong. Even as I write these words, I recognize that many don’t agree with this. I recognize that many don’t believe.

These non-believers may acknowledge the existence of some guy named Jesus who was a pretty good guy (except that they reject many of his teachings) but he was just another guy. They may say that he swooned or fainted or… something, and then his followers perpetuated an incredibly complex and sophisticated ruse, so that people would follow them and believe what they told them. Or…something like that. Their theories and counter-theories are legion because they cannot allow themselves to accept the one central truth that we celebrate today. It is the one and only truth that changed everything for all time. That Truth is this…Christ is risen!

You see, you are not crazy, or antiquated and you certainly are not ignorant. That which you celebrate today is not your opinion, and it is not a crutch or an opiate that makes you feel better. It really did happen. Christ arose! Christ conquered death. These are not meaningless theological statements of the abstract. When Jesus Christ arose after being dead (really, really dead, not unconscious) and rolled away the stone that had sealed his tomb (the disciples didn’t help him, they were busy huddling in fear for their own lives) everything changed. All the events that we study in history pale in comparison to God coming to earth as a man, taking our sin upon himself, dying in our place, and rising from the dead! I am reminded of the words of that wonderful writer and BBC veteran, Malcolm Muggeridge, when he said:

“We look back on history and what do we see? Empires rising and falling, revolutions and counter-revolutions, wealth accumulating and wealth dispersed, one nation dominant and then another. Shakespeare speaks of ‘the rise and fall of great ones that ebb and flow with the moon.’

In one lifetime I have seen my own fellow countrymen ruling over a quarter of the world, the great majority of them convinced, in the words of what is still a favorite song, that, ‘God who’s made the mighty would make them mightier yet.’ I’ve heard a crazed, cracked Austrian proclaim to the world the establishment of a German Reich that would last a thousand years; an Italian clown announce that he would restart the calendar to begin his own assumption of power. I’ve heard a murderous Georgian brigand in the Kremlin acclaimed by the intellectual elite of the world as wiser than Solomon, more enlightened than Ashoka, more humane than Marcus Aurelius. I’ve seen America wealthier and in terms of weaponry, more powerful than the rest of the world put together, so that Americans, had they so wished, could have outdone an Alexander or a Julius Caesar in the range and scale of their conquests. All in one little lifetime…all in one little lifetime…All gone…gone with the wind.

England now part of a tiny island off the coast of Europe, threatened with dismemberment and even bankruptcy. Hitler and Mussolini dead, remembered only in infamy. Stalin a forbidden name in the regime he helped found and dominate for some three decades. America haunted by fears of running out of those precious fluids that keep her motorways roaring, and the smog settling, with troubled memories of a disastrous campaign in Vietnam, and the victories of the Don Quixotes of the media as they charged the windmills of Watergate.

All in one lifetime, all gone. Gone with the wind.

Behind the debris of these self-styled, sullen supermen and imperial diplomatists, there stands the gigantic figure of one person, because of whom, by whom, in whom, and through whom alone, mankind might still have hope. The person of Jesus Christ.”

Christ is risen, so it really doesn’t matter what the Supreme Court rules. This self-same Christ has spoken to us in His word and clearly defined marriage, and it is His definition which is actually supreme.

Christ is risen, so that which is taught throughout His Word (the word He quoted from and referenced in His teachings) is validated in a way more powerful than all the rulings of all the kings and congresses over all of time have ever been or ever will be.

Christ is risen and therein lies our hope and our promise. Our hope does not lie in the machinations of the state or in all the ivory tower delusions of the academic elitists.

Christ is risen! What you believe is real! Death truly has been conquered! It has been swallowed up by the power of His unspeakable grace and love. We have no use for fear of the future or despair about the economy. We need not even fear the fall of nations. Those of us who believe upon him have no use for  despair or worry. Instead we can REJOICE! What He told us is real. What He promised us will transpire. His return is imminent! His words are truth! We can know this because CHRIST IS RISEN!!

The Bible Miniseries Update

In an earlier post I defended the producers of the Bible mini-series when they took some liberties with Biblical accuracy. I stated at that time that, having written extra-Biblical fiction myself, I could understand the challenge of creating something that is very entertaining and engaging but at the same time doesn’t contradict Scripture. But in the last couple of episodes I have to say, I think they have gone too far too often.

Case in point, the raising of Lazarus from the dead. This is one of the most dramatic and awe inspiring moments in all of the Bible. So why on earth would ANY script writer feel the need to alter the Biblical account one iota?

Christ never entered the tomb of Lazarus and he certainly didn’t blow in Lazarus’ ear…or hair…or whatever it was the surfer boy like actor that plays Christ was doing. I found this to be significant because one of the more powerful aspects of this powerful miracle was how vividly Christ demonstrates his authority over death. Christ doesn’t blow on Lazarus as he did when he gave the Disciples their first annointing of the Holy Spirit. Instead he ordered, “LAZARUS, COME FORTH!”

Then, Christ didn’t go to Lazarus, Lazarus came to him.

God didn’t pass these important details down to us over two-thousand years for no reason. As a writer, one might undestandably take liberties with or excercise poetic license over what conversations Christ and the disciples may have had on the way to Mary and Martha’s house. One might justifiably fictionalize conversations between Mary and Martha while they awaited Jesus’ arrival. But to change details that are clearly spelled out in scripture is simply a bridge too far.

It’s Easter, So What’s the Big Deal?

This morning the World asks us, “What’s the big deal with Easter for you Christians?” We might answer, “The big deal is, He is Risen.” Their response would likely be, “He is Risen….so what?” How would you answer?

You see, out of all the other religions all over this big world, not one other leader of those religions even dares CLAIM to have conquered death. Christ, the Prophet, Priest and King, not only did it. He told everyone that he would do it. The Pharisee’s knew he had claimed it that is why they posted a guard. They expected some type of ruse so that Jesus’ disciples could not move the body and “claim” he had risen. I am not going to play Perry Mason with you. I am not going to talk about the seal around the stone, or how heavy the stone was, or how diligent the guards were. If you are reading this, you know all that. You know in your heart that it is true. Christ is Risen!!

I believe that Christ didn’t just rise in the Spring because nature was such a fitting metaphor, with all its new blooms, brilliant greens, baby birds, and new births this time of year. I believe that Spring itself was CREATED as a methaphor for Christ’s resurrection which was foretold in the garden. I believe that Spring is Spring precisely because He is Risen.

If He be Risen then he really did conquer death.

Because he conquered death we can too.

If He be Risen then He was and is EXACTLY who he said he was. ALL that he said he was.

If He be Risen then there is a reason for the Old Covenant and the Law.

For if he had not been risen then there would have been no need for God to give the law because there would have been no need to show us the futility of the law. All would have been hopeless.

But because He is Risen then thereason for the law is validated and because He is Risen the law is fulfilled!

Because He is Risen every word he spoke, every lesson he taught…IS….TRUTH!

He is Risen, therefore we can be reconciled to the Father.

He is Risen, so in the final analysis elections, economies, crime, wars, famines, pestilence,and yes even death,  all have one thing in common, They are beside the point for the Christian. They hold no power over us. Not because we are so great or better than anyone but because He is so great.

He is Risen!! So What…..

SO EVERYTHING!!!