Signs you were Reared in the Churches of Christ

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Having grown up in Churches of Christ (although I’m a conservative Anglican now), there are certain phrases that were often used, at least when I was young. I realize that some Churches of Christ have changed quite a bit since then. These are not meant to insult or hurt anyone’s feelings–they do represent an accurate version of my experiences–maybe they do for you, especially if you’re over 40 and was reared in the Churches of Christ. I may add more parts to this thread later.

If you were reared in Churches of Christ, the following phrases may be familiar to you:

1. “Guard-guide-and-direct us”

2. “In the end, if we have been found faithful, give us a home with Thee in Heaven”

3. “Holy Father, we thank Thee for this bread, which to us represents the broken body of thy Son Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cruel cross. May those who partake of it partake in a manner well-pleasing in Thy sight.”

4. “Holy Father, we thank Thee for this cup, the fruit of the vine, which represents Christ’s shed blood on the Cross of Calvary” [Repeat the “May those” phrase from 3]

5. “Please sing the first, second, and fourth verses only”

6. “Here, believe, repent, confess, and be baptized into Christ for the remission of your sins”

7. “Separate and apart from the Lord’s Supper, we now will have the contribution”

8. “the New Testament pattern”

9. “The Church of Christ was founded in A.D. 33 on the Day of Pentecost

10. “There is a God…. He is alive…. In Him we live…. and we survive”

11. “Social drinking is sinful”

12. “Dancing is a form of lasciviousness”

13. “Acts 2:38”

14. “If you are an alien sinner, come forward and be baptized for the remission of your sins. If you a Christian who has fallen away, come forward and confess your sins. Whatever your need is, won’t you come forward as we stand and sing.”

15. “We pray for all the sick and afflicted, especially those of Thy household”

16. “The Lord’s Church”

17. At a funeral: “Was she a member of the Church?”

18. At a funeral: “Was he a Christian?” “No, he was a Baptist” [or Methodist or Catholic or…..] “Oh, that’s a shame”

19. “God commanded Noah to build an ark out of gopher wood, not out of oak or cedar. In the same way God commanded us to sing, not to use an instrument of music in the worship service.”

20. “A man called me once who had put off baptism. He was 60-years-old. On his way to church, he was killed in a car accident. Lost, lost forever for putting off what he knew he had to do to be saved.”

21. “Sad, sad that bitter wail…. almost, but lost”

22. Question: “God commands us to work, but how do we know when we’ve done enough work to be saved”

23. “Command, example, necessary inference”

24. “Don’t pollute the temple of the Holy Ghost by committing fornication”

25. “Denomationalists say…. but the New Testament says….”

26. “People don’t understand the Bible alike because the substitute the commandments of man for the pure and simple teaching of the New Testament.”

27. “Imagine baseball was forgotten and someone two hundred years later discovers a baseball rule book. That rule book contains the pattern for baseball. In the same way, the New Testament is the pattern for doctrine and practice today.”

28. “Matters of faith….” “Matters of opinion….”

29. “John’s a brother in Christ” “Susan’s a sister in Christ”

30. “You can’t be saved in a denomination”

31. From an actual sermon: “Imagine your hand is placed on a red-hot stove eye. Hold it down, listen to it sizzle. Now turn your hand around and place that side on the stove eye. Listen to it sizzle. That’s not a fraction of the pain you would feel if you went to Hell.”

32. From an actual sermon: “Jesus will either reward you forever in Heaven or torture you forever in Hell. I tell it like it is.”

33. From an actual sermon about Noah’s flood: “The water’s up to their waists–no hope! It’s up to their shoulders–no hope! It’s covering their heads–no hope! No hope! No hope! No hope! No hope! No hope!”

Spite: The Essence of Evil

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In the second book of C. S. Lewis‘ science fiction trilogy, Perelandra, Ransom, the hero, is imprisoned by Professor Weston, a demonically possessed man sent to corrupt the “Eve” of the planet Venus. At one point Weston begins saying “Ransom.” Ransom turns around, and the demonic being does not reply.  Weston then repeats “Ransom,” over and over–just for spite.

To me spite has more of the essence of pure evil than the so-called primal sin of pride. Spiteful acts are done for “sheer meanness,” as Southerners like to say. Spite is the person who cuts in front of you in line not for any good reason, but just to make your day miserable. Spite is the person at the bookstore who moves into your aisle, and when you move out of the way to a different aisle, moves to that aisle, and so on. Spite is someone trying to agitate people into hatred and strife, not for power, but for the twisted thrill of watching people fight. Spite is the person who orders from the take out menu at a restaurant, then takes a table and refuses to leave, denying other customers that table. The essence of a spiteful person is the agitator. Those readers who are in organizations, whether the organization be a church, a civic group, or a special-interest club, probably knows about agitators. These are the people who, for example, go from church to church, stirring up members and causing a division–then they leave the church they destroyed and go to another church. They don’t desire to run the church; all they want is the enjoyment of creating hatred and division in the church. The same kind of people infect other organizations, and sometimes they are able to destroy an organization.  It is no surprise to me that Agatha Cristie’s detective, Poirot, commits murder in the last novel with him as a character–and the person he kills is not a murderer, but an agitator who stirs others to kill one another. Someone wholly dominated by spite is a psychopath–not necessarily one who will become a serial killer, but one who will destroy relationships and damage people wherever he goes. Avoid being spiteful at all costs–and avoid spiteful people. Those who are dominated by spite, unfortunately, rarely respond to grace, and they are extremely dangerous, both to individuals and to organizations. They are the truly evil–read M. Scott Peck’s fine book, People of the Lie, for more insight on the nature of evil.

Christmas and God Made Man

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In the Peanuts Christmas Special Charlie Brown asked, “What is Christmas all about?” Linus replied by reading the account of Jesus’ birth and the visitation of the shepherds in Luke 2. This was a proper and good response to Charlie Brown’s question. Christmas was set aside by the Church to celebrate God‘s coming into the world as a baby. God did not despise the world, but became incarnate as man, conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, developed just as any human being would in the womb, from zygote to embryo to fetus, and was born just as any human child. But this child was Yahweh, the God of Israel and of the entire universe, Creator of all things–Christ, fully God, fully man, a complete divine nature and complete human nature in one person. This was a unique moment in history, the culmination of all history, the “scandal of particularity” that is offensive to modern man–yet the only means to our salvation. This newborn baby, born in a manger, is the one God, the one source of eternal salvation. This is such an incredible event that sometimes I wonder with Kierkegaard whether it is true because it is absurd–that eternity entered into the realm of space and time, of matter and flesh, and redeemed it–matter is good, not evil, and we should not try to, as Gnostics, both ancient and modern, try to do, escape the body. Because God came into history as a human being with a human body, so God in His mercy will raise us, body and soul, forgiven, flawless flesh totally under the control of our spirits. Thanks be to God for His coming into the world as a tiny baby in a manger!

Conservatives vs. Liberals: Radically Different World Views

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Why is there is such a deep conflict between conservatives and liberals in American society? It is not because people want to argue for argument’s sake; it has to do with radically contrasting views of the world. Below are some differences between traditional conservatives and liberals. Note that I am not saying that all people who label themselves as liberals and conservatives would accept all the positions attributed to them. I do believe that the positions below are characteristic of most conservatives and of most liberals.

Conservatives believe that society is an organic structure that develops from below; liberals believe that society is an artificial construction that can be manipulated at will.

Conservatives believe that traditional religion is an important social activity that encourages virtue; liberals believe that traditional religion is an outdated system that should be abandoned in any enlightened society.

Liberals believe in unlimited human progress; conservatives believe that while scientific and technological progress occurs, this does not change the fundamental nature of human beings as capable of both great good and great evil.

Liberals believe that “evil” is due to problems with heredity and environment; conservatives do not deny the role of heredity and environment in shaping human behavior, but they deny that these factors determine human behavior.

Conservatives (at least traditional conservatives as opposed to Classical Liberals and Neoconservatives) believe in a sense of place, of a person being located in a particular place and time and finding much of his identity there; liberals believe that in order to progress, a sense of place must go, and that a person can feel “at home” anywhere.

Conservatives believe that there is an intrinsic order to human nature that must be respected; liberals believe that human nature is malleable and can be changed at will by liberal reformers.

Conservatives believe that social change must occur in an orderly fashion, even when such change is good; liberals wish to force change on a society, using police and military power if necessary.

Liberals believe that the value of human life is a matter of achievement or reason or sentience; conservatives believe that there is something intrinsically valuable about human life.

Conservatives believe that the fundamental principles of morality do not change; liberals believe that the rules of morality progress as humans progress.

Liberals believe in abstractions such as “social justice,” or “the proposition that all men are created equal”–abstractions that can never be achieved in concrete society; conservatives believe that terms such as “social justice” and “equality” must be defined in terms of the actual concrete development and life of a particular culture.

Liberals (including Classical Liberals) accept the myth of “economic man“–that humans in society are primarily driven by economic forces; conservatives recognize that human motivation is complex and includes more than mere economic motivations.

Liberals believe that all stereotypes are evil; conservatives recognize that although some stereotypes are destructive, others are peaceful ways of human beings understanding differences.

Liberals interpret “diversity” only in terms of race, class, and gender; conservatives realize that “diversity” is a much richer concept that transcends the above categories.

Liberals believe that human creativity blossoms in a cosmopolitan culture; conservatives, while not denying that cultures intermingle, believe that local cultures are the most creative.

Liberals trust in big government to solve problems; Neoconservative trust in big business; Traditional Conservatives believe that problems are best solved locally.

Conservatives believe that marriage is a natural law union of a man and a woman oriented to the birth of children in stable families; liberals believe that “marriage” can be defined in any way that people wish without harming society.

Liberals despise the wisdom of the masses; conservatives believe that sometimes the masses know better than intellectuals what is best for society.

Liberals want Heaven on earth; conservatives recognize that Heaven on earth is impossible; we can do our best to love our families and improve our small communities, but a perfect society is impossible this side of Heaven.

 

If any conservatives who read this want to add some contrasts of their own, feel free to do so.

The Emptiness of Atheism

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Imagine a world with no objective values. In this world, people who get away with horrific crimes such as child abuse, rape, and murder never find justice. It is a world in which there is no meaning over and above individual or societal whims. In this world, people seek their own pleasure without boundaries. If sex between men and men, between women and women, or between people and animals satisfies someone, there is no law in this world that could condemn it other than someone’s individual moral whims. And if something inconvenient gets in the way of one’s pleasure, such as a pregnancy, in this world a woman can find a “doctor” to murder her baby under the full protection of the law.

All that ultimately exists in this world is matter and energy. Human beings evolved not under God‘s guiding or planning or creating the evolutionary process, but through chance and necessity alone. They are an accident in a meaningless universe. Death is annihilation. Any good someone does for mankind will ultimately dissolve, as Bertrand Russell noted, when this meaningless universe ceases to be. Or as the American horror writer H. P. Lovecraft recognized, this universe is similar to one ruled by a blind god of cosmic chaos, with monsters dancing to dissonant music around a mindless center.

This is the world more and more Americans are living in. It is the world of many academics, the world of many East Coast intellectual elites, and the world of many who work in Hollywood. It is the utterly empty world of atheism.

Although books on atheism abound these days, they mainly mock the excesses and evils of religion without recognizing the greater evils caused by atheistic systems. Nazism and Communism reeked havoc on Europe before both were defeated. But in their place has arisen a consumer society that values “the sweet life” that only ends in nothingness. How, then, is it “sweet.” The atheistic existentialists such as Sartre and Camus were at least honest enough to admit the loss of objective meaning in atheism. They tried to make up for it by saying that a person should find his own meaning in life–but this will ultimately end in coming to naught. So one is left only with Sisyphus and his rock, making his own meaning out of meaninglessness. Even the atheistic existentialists, then, remain in denial–what good will “finding one’s own meaning” do if it all ends in cosmic emptiness?

In the world of atheism there is no ultimate justice. Mass murderers and torturers die in peace, then only face the same nothingness that a saint such as Mother Theresa will face. Is this world fair, or is it one, as Nietzsche said, that is “beyond good and evil”?

I am amazed at atheists saying that they do not fear the annihilation of death. It is not just the annihilation of the self, not being conscious at all that is the issue–it is the annihilation of all beloved family members and friends. But if there is an all-powerful and all-good God who loves us enough to grant us an undeserved eternal life, all will be redeemed and made good. Without such a God, without an afterlife, what is left? “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die,” as St. Paul put it. If I were an atheist, I would be a moderate hedonist, gaining as much pleasure as I could while not doing things destructive to my health. I remember a liberal Protestant once becoming furious at me for saying that–but his fury means nothing–if there is no God, no afterlife, no accounting for one’s deeds other than for illegal actions for which we are caught, why not seek all the pleasure we can? “Live for today,” “Eat, drink, and be merry,” “You only go around once in life, so grab for all the gusto you can.” The only problem is that “gusto” will end, perhaps peacefully, perhaps (sadly) in pain and agony, but if atheism is true, humans are ultimately nothing but bits of second-hand stardust who will recycled in the meaningless processes of nature.

For an intellectually honest person, atheism is a road to madness and horror. I choose to believe in God, in a universe that is ultimately good, a universe in which there is cosmic justice, in which good will triumph over evil, in which there is real, objective meaning in life, and in which God will grant us–out of sheer grace–the gift of eternal life.

 

Ignoring Human Nature: The Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

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The United States Senate has followed the vote of the House and repealed the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for homosexuals joining the military services. This policy had allowed homosexuals to serve in the military if they did not publicly state their orientation. Those who did “tell” were often expelled from the military services. Changing this policy is a bad idea. To allow homosexuals to openly state their orientation is a bad idea in a military culture.

Defenders of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” argue that it was discriminatory against homosexuals. But that assumes that homosexuality is equivalent to race or sex, something an individual cannot help and is therefore not a moral issue. This is not the case, however. There may be some role that heredity plays in a homosexual orientation, just as it plays a role in people with a stronger than normal sex drive towards those of the opposite sex. Just as the latter does not make committing adultery morally right, so the former does not make homosexual activity morally right. There is at least an element of choice involved in the decision to have sexual relations with an individual of the same sex.

Now someone might argue that even if the decision to have homosexual intercourse is a moral issue, if someone has a homosexual orientation, he or she should be allowed to openly state that orientation without penalty while joining the military. But just as homosexuality itself goes against human nature, as I have argued in an earlier blog post, so open homosexuality will meet reality face to face in the close quarters of the military. Take two soldiers in a bathroom, with one being an open homosexual. If that homosexual is obviously aroused and the other soldier sees that, he may think that the other solider is turned on by him–and there is then the risk of an argument or worse. In the close quarters of a ship or submarine, the tensions that develop between homosexual and heterosexual soldiers would almost certainly lead to arguments, fist fights, and perhaps worse. The fact that it is the more aggressive homosexuals who parade their sexuality who supported the appeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” the most bodes badly for their good relations with fellow soldiers if they join the military. The U. S. Congress, by ignoring facts of human nature and in the name of “nondiscrimination,” will decrease the effectiveness of the military.

The fact that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and some others in the General Officer Corps support the repeal means nothing. General Officers are, to a great extent, political appointees who will support the zeitgeist of the ruling party. There are exceptions, such as the Commandant of the Marine Corps, but the majority of high-ranking General Officers tend to “go with the flow.”  The real test will be how the repeal will affect the daily activities of soldiers, especially soldiers in combat. My sense is that it will harm morale and efficiency in the military, but this is an empirical claim that can theoretically be tested, although causal relationships are difficult to establish in studies involving real life. But if I am right that any action that violates human nature will fail, then this new policy will fail. We shall see.

“Stop all that Negativity”

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I have read a number of online posts on controversial topics such as abortion or the nature of marriage. Almost invariably, when a traditionalist posts against abortion or in favor of marriage being only between a man and a woman, a liberal will protest, “Stop all that negativity!” This is another tactic that social liberals use to cut off rational debate. Instead of taking the time to think through the issue of when human personhood begins or the nature of marriage, these “liberals” attempt to stop debate with a rhetorical ploy. “Negativity” is an emotive word; it has the connotation of opposing everything, even good things. Americans like positive people, and thus the screed, “Stop all that negativity” appeals to emotions and poisons the well against the person allegedly presenting the “negative” message.

Of course any rational person realizes that issues such as abortion and the nature of marriage should be discussed based on the best scientific, philosophical (and in the case of people sharing a religious tradition), theological reasons both sides can present. Such issues are far too important for one side to try to intimidate the other with the “negativity” label. If the social liberal is confident in his position, he would argue based on empirical and rational arguments, and he would avoid using such an emotive and below-the-belt rhetorical tactic to halt debate before it can begin.

This is not to say that conservatives cannot be guilty of the same crime. They also have a duty to rationally and empirically debate issues rather than using only appeals to emotion or attempting to cut off debate. But lately it has been the social liberals who have been most guilty of this particular appeal to emotion by labeling social conservatives “negative” people. And in that respect, they should change their tactics or admit that their positions are irrational, based only on their emotional wants.

 

The Insanity of “Zero Tolerance”

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I sometimes wonder if public school administrators have any of what Aristotle called “practical wisdom.” The proliferation of “zero-tolerance” policies that punish children for doing the kinds of things children normally do is insane.  Legitimate concerns about school violence have degenerated to suspending a student for weeks for bringing a squirt gun to school. A child who left her unloaded hunting rifle in the trunk of her car and was responsible enough to tell school officials about it was suspended. In North Carolina, a seven year old boy who kissed a girl in class was suspended for “sexual harassment.” A student had better be careful not to write a short story involving violence; he may be removed from class and suspended or expelled from school. Schools have become the haven of a “New Puritanism.” In the past, children enjoyed playing with toy guns or play weapons, and they still do. If a child leaves a toy gun in his pocket by accident and goes to school, he had better hope a teacher does not find it–some fool of a principle or superintendent may suspend him for the remainder of the school year. If a child has a headache and brings baby aspirin to take, he could be suspended in some school districts. Yep, aspirin use leads to marijuana use which leads to the use of LSD and cocaine. Riiigggghhhtttt….  I wonder how long it will be before students who espouse unpopular political opinions, especially from a conservative point of view, will be suspended or expelled.

Now if a student brings a loaded pistol to school, that student should be suspended or expelled. If a student brings a knife to school, depending on the type of knife and the circumstances, that student may be suspended. Considering individual circumstances is a major part of the virtue of phronesis, practical wisdom or what many people call “common sense.” It seems that an education degree, which in most colleges and universities is nearly worthless anyway (there are a few exceptions) is a ticket to losing one’s practical wisdom. The farther one goes up in administration in the public school system, the less practical wisdom there is. The Peter Principle is alive and well in public school districts across the country.

Common sense would take individual circumstances into account in each case. If a child brings a squirt gun to school by accident, simply talking to the child about being more responsible about bringing such items to school would be sufficient. As far as medications for real illnesses or conditions, if they are prescribed to the child or are legitimate non-prescription medicines for that child’s condition, then it makes no sense to deny the child the right to take those medications to school. And anyone with any common sense realizes that a seven year old’s puppy love for a girl is not “sexual harassment.” Most people in the real world realize this. They do not have M.Ed.s and Ed.Ds that suck the brain power clean out of a person’s skull. Actually these degrees should be called “M.Pc.s and Ep.Cs–“Master of Political Correctness” and “Doctor of Political Correctness.”

Parents need to pressure school districts to have common-sense policies instead of “zero-tolerance” policies. If school board members refuse to discipline overly zealous administrators, the public should vote such school board members out. The taxpayers who support the school system should have some say about who works in the district; if an administrator shows he has no practical wisdom when it comes to discipline, he should be fired without any penalty to those firing him. Only if public school administrators are held accountable will they be forced, even if they lack practical wisdom themselves, to at least practice it in their policies.

 

Let Jerusalem be an International City

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refuses to share Jerusalem with the Palestinians (http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101212/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_israel_palestinians). What else is new? There are holy places in east Jerusalem belonging to all three great monotheistic faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. I was not aware than one of these faiths, through a nation-state, has the right to control a city claimed by all. As a city which is so special to the great monotheistic religions, why not make Jerusalem an international city under permanent U. N. control. One does not have to an advocate of socialism or of world government to support such a plan. Wasn’t that the original idea in the 1947 partition agreement anyway? If an international force could work to ensure fair access to all holy sites, this would be the fairest solution for adherents of all three religions. Israelis and Palestinians would not have particular claims on the city, and there would be no need, other than from motives of religious fanaticism, for any group to make the city exclusively theirs. Jewish, Christian, and Muslim pilgrims could visit their holy sites in peace.

Between Israel and the Palestinians, the latter have the stronger legal right to East Jerusalem. But either party controlling East Jerusalem would only continue the cycle of violence. For once, why can’t two groups of people both agree to give up their claims on the city, and have it as the shared property of all mankind, something as is the case with the continent of Anartica today? For once, can’t people swallow their pride and their claims to dominate others and allow the world to share the treasure which is the city of Jerusalem.

Compassionate Totalitarianism

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The Left believes it knows what is best for others–and those who do not agree are simply ignorant of what the “experts” know. Usually the “experts” are in the highly sheltered world of academia where ideas that otherwise would only be accepted by someone in an insane asylum are routinely supported–ideas ranging from offering only palliative care to the elderly to bestiality. I confess that I am a part of that academic world, but I can also say from first hand experience that it is sheltered from the real world. It is easy, from the confines of an academic position, to pontificate on the best form of government or economics. When liberal Democrats or neoconservative (i.e., pseudoconservative) Republicans try to apply these ideas to real public policy, disaster results. In the name of compassion those in Arizona who pass a law in line with federal immigration law are persecuted by the federal government for trying to control their borders. In the name of compassion the United States has forced millions of people into a situation in which they are permanently dependent on the government. In the name of compassion children were bussed at 4 a.m. from their homes to schools many miles from their neighborhoods in order to achieve the abstract idea of “racial balance.” In the name of compassion (to protect Americans from terrorists) the government can spy on its own people, view them naked in an x-ray, and touch them in places that in other contexts would be considered to be sexual assault. In the name of compassion for groups the Left has sanctified, good people, both men and women, people of various races, have been fired from jobs in academia for questioning the zeitgeist of the Left, especially on issues such as homosexuality. In the name of compassion a pharmacist who disagrees with abortion is forced either to give a woman an abortificant drug or lose his job. In Canada, in the name of compassion and tolerance for homosexuals, a pastor who preaches against the moral acceptability of homosexuality can be (and one was) arrested. In the name of compassion organs are routinely taken from the “brain dead” by doctors who know that the donors have been declared dead due to a law that was proposed for the chief purpose of increasing the number of available donors. Now in the name of compassion people who are not dead are declared dead after two minutes of heart stoppage to take their organs.

I predict in the future someone will propose that churches, in the name of compassion and tolerance, lose their tax-exempt status if they do not ordain women to the ministry. Eventually the loss of tax exempt status may spread to churches who refuse to ordain practicing homosexuals. Sadly, one day, in the name of compassion and tolerance traditional Christians, as they were in the days of the pre-Constantinian Roman Empire, will be jailed for expressing traditional standards of morality. Liberalism deals with abstractions–its drive for the abstraction of “equality” knows no limits–and the lust of its adherents for power to impose their vision of the good onto the “ignorant masses” knows no limits. In the end, leftism becomes a lust for power and domination–in the name of compassion.

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