Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Simple, Profound Cry of the Heart

19 Restore us, LORD God Almighty;
make your face shine on us,
that we may be saved.
--Psalm 80:19

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

An "Aggressively Inarticulate" Generation

Here are three uncommon minutes on disturbing common patterns of speech among younger people. The speaker is Taylor Mali. This is about all I know about him, but he speaks much truth with humor. Thanks to Sarah Scott for the reference. (Yes, I watched three minutes of video today.)

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Dying and Death of Julie Brown

Julie Brown sat in the front row of the church with a friend she had brought along. He had not been inside a house of worship for years and was an atheist. Julie, at least in recent weeks, had been attending one regularly: New Day Covenant Church in Boulder, Colorado. She had been camping out in the hills of Boulder, Colorado, for about a year, making do as one could—without any income or official social support. Then she developed a cough that would not go away. She came into town for help and received the dreaded diagnosis: cancer. After this, she attended a barbeque at New Day, and began attending there. During one service, she came forward, knelt before the large, striking, wooden cross at the front of the church and confessed her sins with Pastor Doug White, who knelt beside her. The church became her family.

That Sunday in September of 2007, she listened to every word of my sermon, “Finding Power Over Error,” which was derived from Acts 13:1-12. As I exposited several principles for extending the gospel and dealing with spiritual opposition, her gaze never faltered, her ears were open as wide as her eyes, and as wide as her heart.

After the message, she immediately greeted me and thanked me for making the message so clear. “I have never heard the gospel so clearly,” she told me with gratitude. During the Bible study that followed, Julie listened attentively to Pastor Doug White’s teaching on The Book of James. She asked good questions and made thoughtful comments. But she had no hair. Julie had donned a wig for the church service—in order to look respectable—but now it was gone. The chemotherapy had done its usual work. In a voice hoarse from treatments, and with few teeth left in her mouth, she participated in learning more of the gospel. She was an avid student of the Scriptures that morning.

I will never forget Julie Brown, although I met her for only a few hours one Sunday morning in a small church. I prayed for her often, and received updates from Pastor Doug on her condition. He told me that she brought many of her homeless friends to New Day. Julie fit the sociological category of being homeless, but she found a home in Christ and in his Church that meets at New Day. She indeed had more of a home than many who live in Christ-less mansions of mammon, as so many in Boulder do. She did her level best to evangelize her street friends. She remained cheerful and funny and brave to the end. She died under the loving care of a Christian community. Her cancer treatments and her hospital and hospice car were volunteered by kind souls. And in her dying, she gave life and grace to many—as several testified in my presence today at her funeral.

Julie’s funeral at New Day Church was not attended by any biological family members. Instead, her church family and many of her homeless friends sat and heard a brief and biblical message by Pastor Doug as well as testimonies by Julie’s friends. I spoke briefly on the theme that Julie had “ears to hear” the gospel. Jesus often concluded one of his teaching by saying, “Let everyone hear who has ears to hear.” Teachers need learners or we are not teachers at all. Julie was more alert and responsible to my message than many of my students at the theological graduate school where I have taught for fifteen years.

Yet how could I, a professional egghead, reach Julie, a rough and ready homeless woman, with the Message? It is simple: the World of God is living and active, breaking down barriers and building bridges through truth (Hebrews 4:15). Julie learned some lessons that day—and, more importantly, learned more about God through the messages she heard from Pastor Doug and through the love of his church. These were lessons that she did not forget. As Pastor Doug said in his message, “the eyes of her heart” were opened to see the glorious gospel of Christ (Ephesians 1:18).

Julie Brown, a woman only in her late forties, is dead. Our prayers for her physical healing were not answered. You will not read any other obituary about her. All her belongings are in a small back room at New Day Church. Her beloved dog, Baby, has a new master. But Julie has a new home—in heaven.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Virtuous Ignorance

Being charged with being an ignoramus is no compliment. I think of Michael Savage savaging a ignorant caller with such an epithet. (He is usually right when he does so--at least when I have heard him.) However, some ignorance is virtuous. One should cultivate being an ignoramus in a number of areas.

Curiosity is often a sin. For example, you don't need to see the person lying on the side of the road being attended to by first responders. It is none of your business. Use the golden rule: Would you want people staring at you if you were in that condition?

You should be ignorant about what is in the realm of others' privacy. There is no need to know, so you should not know. One's medical history should not be public knowledge. "Thou shalt not covet anything of thy neighbor's (that you don't need to know)." But with the cell camera, the internet, UTube, and more, privacy is harder to preserve. Of course, no one can hide from God, but that is a different matter. Only God can know everything virtuously. See Psalm 139.

It is likewise not virtuous to make known or to know unflattering, but irrelevant, things about others. That is the realm of gossip, a serious sin in the New Testament. Think of how much of American popular culture feeds on and starves without gossip? What dysfunctional, idiotic, or criminal things have Brittany, Paris, etc., ad nauseum, done now? You shouldn't want to know. You may know too much. Try to forget. Make more room for virtuous knowledge.

I could go on, but please add to my categories and give specifics.

Too Much

[To be sung to a thumping, bouncy pop tune.]

Too much access:
I have everything I need.

Too much access:
I never need to bleed.

Too much access:
It's all a live feed.

Too much access:
My iPod's on speed.

Too much access:
My cell's a real need.

Too much access:
My car's better than a steed.

Too much access:
I never need a creed.

Too much access:
My soul's a thin reed.

Too much access:
I'm led; I never lead.

Too much access.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Forty-five Million Dead Later...

On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States opened the floodgates for abortion on demand in its decision on Roe vs. Wade. It was very bad law; it was worse for civilization. Ten years later, Ronald Reagan wrote piece for The Human Life Review called "Abortion and the Conscience of the Nature," which was also made into a small book. I read it shortly after its release. I encourage you to read this historic and compelling document, which is on line at National Review. Then I encourage you to do all you can to end the scourge of abortion in America.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Would there have been a King without Jesus?

[This is the text of a splendid speech given by Jeremy Green, a Denver Seminary graduate (MA, Philosophy), concerning the Christian ethics of Martin Luther King. Mr. Green is now completing an MA from Western Michigan University, and is a very promising young philosopher.]

Would there have been a King without Jesus?

Jeremy Green

We are here today to talk about the relationship between religion and activism in the United States. There are those on the contemporary scene who think that, at best, religion ought to be relegated to the private sector, or just done away with entirely. At least, it is hard to come away with any other conclusion when Christopher Hitchens writes his book God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (Routlege, 2007). In addition, Daniel Dennett remarks:

I think that there are no forces on this planet more dangerous to us all than the fanaticisms of fundamentalism, of all the species: Protestantism, Catholicism, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, as well as countless smaller infections. (Darwin's Dangerous Idea, 1995, 515)


The message is clear: those who will not accommodate, who will not temper, who insist on keeping only the purest and wildest strain of their heritage alive, we will be obliged, reluctantly, to cage or disarm, and we will do our best to disable the memes they fight for. (Darwin's Dangerous Idea, 1995, 515)

However, we have gathered here to celebrate the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. It is no secret that he was a Christian; after all, he was the Reverend Dr. King. We all think that he is worth celebrating—he figures as one of the most important persons in all of American History because of his struggle for justice. In light of the ideas of Hitchens and Dennett, perhaps we should think that the good that King worked was independent of his religious worldview, especially when we consider all of the atrocities that have been perpetrated in the name of religion generally and Christianity specifically. Despite the allure of such a position to some, I do not think it fits with the evidence. On the contrary, I will argue that there could never have been a King without there first being a Jesus. I will show that both the motivation for and method of King’s civil rights activism was essentially rooted to Christianity.


King said, “Christ furnished the spirit and motivation, while Gandhi furnished the method.” I will deal with each of these in turn, beginning with King’s motivation for his civil rights struggle. For the movement to gain traction there had to be a recognition that the status quo was essentially unjust. The relationship between Whites and Blacks in North America, for most of our history, was based on Blacks being inferior to Whites essentially. What do I mean by essentially? Whites did not consider themselves superior to Blacks merely because of their ability to conquer and enslave Africans. Rather, it seems as though there existed this notion that there was something in the essence of what it meant to be white, something that made the white person inherently better than one from another race. It would then follow that the black person was inherently inferior to the white person. King said, “They came to feel that perhaps they were less than human. The great tragedy of physical slavery was that it led to mental slavery.” The generations of black men and women brought up in this worldview would require a significant change in their conceptual resources if the injustice was to be recognized.

The conceptual change came when Christianity “revealed…that God loves all of His children, and that every man, from a bass black to a treble white, is significant on God’s keyboard.” This significance stems from the Judeo-Christian idea that human beings were created in the image of God, and this entails two further ideas: (1) humans possess an incommensurable dignity granted to them by God that cannot be taken away, and (2) all humans are essentially equal; there is no logical space to argue for the superiority of a race based on inherent properties. Coming to recognize these claims as true would necessarily mean that the status quo was unjust.

Despite recognition of an unjust status quo, there must be the motivation to engage the powers that be in order to bring about a just peace. King was convinced that God desired justice, and invoked the prophet Amos’ words against injustice when he declared, “Let judgment run down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” He said:

This belief that God is on the side of truth and justice comes down to us from the long tradition of our Christian faith. There is something at the very center of our faith which reminds us that Good Friday may reign for a day, but ultimately it must give way to the triumphant beat of the Easter drums. Evil may so shape events that Caesar will occupy a palace and Christ a cross, but one day that same Christ will rise up and split history into A.D. and B.C., so that even the life of Caesar must be dated by his name. So in Montgomery we can walk and never get weary, because we know that there will be a great camp meeting in the promised land of freedom and justice.

Clearly, King saw his work not only as merely grounded in Christianity, but as an extension of the work of Christ.

Third, beyond having the conceptual resources to recognize injustice and the will to engage that injustice, King desired an outcome motivated by Christianity. All too often in the world history, the pattern has been that the oppressed rise up violently to overthrow the powerful elite. The result is just a change of oppressors due to the abiding resentment of one group for the other. The Good News of Christianity is that humans and God can be reconciled to one another. The Christian worldview paints a picture of rebellious humans locked in conflict with God. However, in his letter to the Roman church, St. Paul says, “[W]hile we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son,” and further, “[W]e will boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have received reconciliation” (Rom 5:10-11). Instead of the destruction that God could have brought on humans, He chose to expose our evil through the cross of Christ, overcome it by the resurrection, and bring reconciliation through his grace. King desired that the outcome of his struggle be that whites and blacks were reconciled to each other. The sit-ins, boycotts, incarcerations, etc., were all inspired by the cross: just as the cross exposed the depth of evil in the human heart such that humanity was willing to murder the Son of God, King’s goal was to expose the injustices of the system by voluntarily suffering those injustices. King wanted to awaken a sense of shame in the white person, not for revenge, but that the white person might turn away from evil and pursue a life of peace and justice hand-in-hand with the black person.


Given the desired outcome of his struggle for justice, King saw only one legitimate method of struggle—nonviolent resistance. As I have already pointed out, King attributed his strategy to Gandhi. If Gandhi provided the strategy, then how can I make the claim that King’s method was explicitly Christian? Gandhi learned a great deal about nonviolent resistance from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. In fact, the Sermon on the Mount provides the full complement of resources to engage in nonviolent resistance. Therefore, if Gandhi’s method was essentially Christian, and King’s method was Gandhian, then King’s method was essentially Christian.

King’s method had to be sold to the black community. Several key distinctions had to be made, and several issues needed clarification. Primarily, King had to get across the notion that there is a crucial distinction between passivity and nonviolent resistance. Passivity allows the injustice to go on unchecked while nonviolent resistance actually resists. We must turn to the Sermon on the Mount for details. Many of us are familiar with the expressions “Turn the other cheek” and “Go the extra mile,” but we may not all be aware that those expressions are from the Sermon on the Mount. Further, I am sure that many us are unaware of the meanings of these expressions in their historical context. Take “Turn the other cheek.” The actual passage reads, “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Mt 5:39). If you are right handed, the only way to strike someone facing you on the right cheek is to backhand that person. In context, backhanding was the way one would strike a slave. Punching someone on the left cheek meant that, while you did not like the person, you at least thought enough of him to count him as an equal. So what Jesus is saying in the passage is that if someone slaps you like a slave, give them your left cheek and make them hit you like an equal—allow yourself to be struck, but do not allow yourself to be demeaned.

As for “Go the extra mile,” Jesus was preaching to Jewish nationals living under Roman oppression. The Jews hated the Romans, and they were waiting for a militant messiah to come and throw off Roman rule. One particularly annoying practice the Romans had was coercing Jews to carry their gear for them during marches. There was a restriction though: A Roman soldier could only coerce a Jew to go one mile. Some claim that every Jew knew exactly how many footsteps were in a mile. You can imagine the Jew throwing off the gear at the end of the mile, glaring at the soldier, the soldier sneering back, both reinforcing the animosity and injustice. Jesus encouraged the Jews to keep going. Coercing a Jew to go more than a mile was a punishable offense. Can you imagine the foot soldiers embarrassment when being forced to explain his actions to the commanding officer—“I tried to get him to stop, but he just kept walking!” “You mean to tell me that he wanted to carry your stuff? Yeah, right.” Jesus gave the community a practical strategy to undermine the injustices that were being perpetrated against them in a way that did not use or result in violence.

We have seen two examples of nonviolent resistance given in the Sermon on the Mount. The important thing to recognize is not necessarily the lack of violence, but rather the resister willfully suffering in order to reconcile. Embracing this view, King said:

Whenever you take a stand for truth and justice, you are liable to scorn. Often you will be called an impractical idealist or a dangerous radical. Sometimes it might mean going to jail. If such is the case you must honorably grace the jail with your presence. It might even mean physical death. But if physical death is the price that some must pay to free their children from a permanent life of psychological death, then nothing could be more Christian.


The upshot is that the strategy of nonviolent resistance was not some uncritical idealist method, but rather a calculated way of winning over the enemy through redemptive suffering. As King said, nothing could be more Christian. I have also argued that the motivation for King’s struggle was a result of the conceptual resources provided by the Christian worldview. His religion was not incidental to his ethics, rather, his ethics were completely determined by his religion—a religion ultimately concerned with love, justice, and peace. Given this conclusion, Hitchens’s point that religion poisons everything hardly follows. Neither does Dennett’s claim that religion is an infection, and those that practice one religion or another ought to be disarmed and caged. On the contrary, without religion generally and Christianity specifically, the world would be without some of its greatest moral accomplishments. We would at least be without Martin Luther King, and that would be a shame.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Friday, January 18, 2008

Abortion Numbers Head in the Right Direction

The number of abortions in the US in 2005 was the lowest in 30 years, but still scandalously high. How do we treat "the least of these"--the unborn, the elderly, the sick, the poor, the homeless, etc.--in America? See Matthew 25:31-46.

If any of the Democrats win the Presidency, the numbers will very likely move back up again. Numbers here means "unborn human beings killed." Obama voted against a law to protect infants born alive after a "failed" abortion. Obama would not "bring America together" over this; he would take the wrong side and prosecute his case relentlessly, as did Bill Clinton during his catastrophic regime.

Yes, we are back into politics, Curmudgeonites.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Robert Spencer on Recent Honor Killings in Texas

Honor Killing in Texas
by Robert Spencer
Posted: 01/08/2008
From Human Events

Amina Said, 18, and her sister Sarah, 17, smile happily in one widely circulating photo, and Amina is wearing what looks like a sweatshirt bearing the name “AMERICAN.” But their fate may have been the herald of a new, disquieting feature of the American landscape: honor killing. Amina and Sarah were shot dead in Irving, Texas, on New Year’s Day. Police are searching for their father, Yaser Abdel Said, on a warrant for capital murder.

The girls’ great aunt, Gail Gartrell, told reporters, “This was an honor killing.” She explained that Yaser Said had long abused the girls, and after discovering that they had boyfriends, had threatened to kill them -- whereupon their mother fled with them. “She ran with them,” said Gartrell, “because she knew he would carry out the threat.” But Said found them, and apparently did carry it out.

Honor killing, the practice of murdering a female family member who is believed to have sullied the family honor, enjoys widespread acceptance in some areas of the Islamic world. However, Islam Said, the brother of Amina and Sarah, has denied that the murders had anything to do with Islam at all. “It’s not religion,” he insisted. “It’s something else. Religion has nothing to do with it.”

And to be sure, the Qur’an or Islamic tradition does not sanction honor killing. Muslim spokesmen have hastened, after the recent killing in Canada of another teenage Muslim girl, Aqsa Parvez, by her father to tell the public that honor killing has nothing to do with Islam, but is merely a feature of Islamic culture in some areas. Aqsa Parvez was sixteen years old; her father, Muhammad Parvez, has been charged with strangling her to death because she refused to wear the hijab. Shahina Siddiqui, president of the Islamic Social Services Association, declared: “The strangulation death of Ms. Parvez was the result of domestic violence, a problem that cuts across Canadian society and is blind to colour or creed.” Sheikh Alaa El-Sayyed, imam of the Islamic Society of North America in Mississauga, Ontario, agreed: “The bottom line is, it’s a domestic violence issue.”

But these dismissals are too easy, principally because they fail to take into account important evidence. In some areas, honor killing is assumed to be an Islamic practice. There is evidence that Islamic culture inculcates attitudes that could lead directly to the murders of these two girls in Texas. In 2003, the Jordanian Parliament voted down on Islamic grounds a provision designed to stiffen penalties for honor killings. In a sadly typical consequence of this early last year, a Jordanian man who murdered his sister because he thought she had a lover was given a three-month sentence, which was suspended for time served, allowing him to walk free. The Yemen Times just last week published an article insisting that violence against women is necessary for the stability of the family and the society, and invoking Islam to support this view.

Since Islam is used as the justification for such barbarities, it becomes incumbent upon Muslim spokesmen to confront this directly, and to work for positive change, rather than simply to consign it all to culture, as if that absolves Islam from all responsibility. For this is the culture that apparently gave Yaser Said and Muhammad Parvez the idea that they had to kill their daughters. It is a culture suffused with its religion, thoroughly dominated by it -- such that a clear distinction between the two is not so easy to find.

The killings of Amina and Sarah Said raises uncomfortable questions for the Islamic community in the United States, questions about the culture and mindset that people like Yaser Said bring to this country. Now that honor killing has come to Texas, Muslim spokesmen in the U.S. have an all the more urgent responsibility to end their denial and confront these cultural attitudes. If they don’t, and instead continue to glibly insist that religion has nothing to do with what happened to these poor girls, the murders of the Said sisters will only be the beginning of a new American phenomenon.

Mr. Spencer is director of Jihad Watch and author of "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades)" , "The Truth About Muhammad" and "Religion of Peace?" (all from Regnery -- a HUMAN EVENTS sister company).

Monday, January 14, 2008

Groothuis review of "The God Delusion"

My review of Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion (from The Christian Research Journal) is posted here. It looks like the person scanned it in from the hard copy without checking for errors, of which there are many. So, please read it in the original source for the better version.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Confession, Realization

For all my condemnations of multitasking, I realized this morning--sitting amidst stack and rows of endless books surrounding my reading (prayer) chair--that I am a multitasker. No, I don't yak on the cell phone while checking out at the grocery store. I don't send text messages while listening to a sermon (because I don't "text" at all). I don't do anything else while watching television (because I don't watch television at all). But I do multitask (if I can make that into a verb).

The problem is that I have an insatiable appetite for knowledge, various kinds of knowledge pertaining mostly to the humanities. Thus, I read too many books at the same time. It took me a full ten minutes this morning to remember where I had recently read something about orality and ancient Greek culture. (It was from J. Pelikan's, Who Owns the Bible?) The thought was stirred by reading Eugene Peterson's masterful Eat This Book, another book I am part way through. Please don't ask me to count how many... If you go back enough years, it gets really depressing. (Of course, some books do not deserve to be finished.)

One's strength is often, paradoxically, also one's flaw, as the ancient Greeks pointed out. A quest for knowledge for the glory of God (if one has certain gifts) is laudable. There are too many Christian ignoramuses around, and they are making far too much noise and selling too many books and making too many videos. However, distributing one's attention too broadly is unwise. Disciplined study requires limits, boundaries--saying No to much, saying Yes to less.

Clearing the Air

For the time being, The Constructive Curmudgeon will be a politically-free zone.
That means no discussion of candidates.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Debate on Abortion in Boulder, Colorado

A debate will be held on "Is Abortion Morally Justifiable?" This will feature Dr. David Boonin (a University of Colorado philosophy professor, author of In Defense of Abortion) and Dr. Peter Kreeft (prolific author and professor at Boston College). The debate will be at The University of Colorado at Boulder on January 18 at Humanities Room 1B50 at 7:00 PM.

For more information, contact The event is sponsored by St Thomas Aquinas Catholic Center.

My Logo

I'm branded.
I am my own brand.
Brand new, brand now!

My logo, myself.
It could all change tomorrow.

Image is everything.
My image is everything.
Your image is "whatever."

Everything is nothing to "me."

I have a body double.
I have a personality double.
I'll take a double espresso.

Every body fakes it.
Why not "me"?

I can reinvent myself endlessly
Without anchor, without rudder...
I float--and gloat.

My logo, myself.
It could all change tomorrow...
I'll take a triple espresso.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Be Countercultural: Listen to Christ

Jesus said:

16 "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. --Matthew 6:16-18.

23 Then he said to them all: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for you to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit your very self? 26 If any of you are ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of you when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. --Luke 9:23-26.

13 "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." 14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. 15 He said to them, "You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God's sight. --Luke 16:13-14; emphasis added.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

The Prayer Chair

An old, out-of-style
Given long ago.
Not antique, just worn out.

There for sitting, reading, thinking.
There for praying--
sitting or
kneeling--head buried in thinning fabric.

Mouthed or unmouthed,
one sad, but hoping
part of earth brought to heaven.

Again and again.
Heaven hears--it must!
Often silent, wordless.

How Long?

The chair is worn.
The prayers are worn
and worn out.

Wailing and Waiting...
Waiting and Wailing...

Kneeling is harder now.
The knees, older,
the back, more brittle, more aching.

Arising is harder, slower.
Prayer is heftier.
More desperate. More frequent.
More of earth cries before
all of heaven.

When will heaven move
this part of earth

Psalm 27!
Psalm 35!
Psalm 86!

The prayer chair.
Unmoved for years, old .
Where I am moved.
Where heaven is remote,
and comes close.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Fred Thompson for President

Since all the Republican candidates for president have been pestering me for months for an endorsement (somehow the Democrats have ignored me), I hereby make my endorsement--on the eve of the first state caucus:

Fred Thompson for president.


He is strong on national defense, traditional moral values (a 100% voting pro-life voting record as awarded by National Right to Life), and consistently conservative on civil government and taxes. He supports educational vouchers, which de-monopolizes public education. He understands that securing borders and dealing seriously with illegal immigration is a top priority. See for yourself.

Moreover, he seems more humble and less driven than others. He set his own rules by declaring late and by not having a gigantic money machine (as does Romney, Rudy, etc).

Why not the others?

1. Rudy: good on national defense, but not a social conservative and has a very bad personal moral life.
2. Romney: has not been consistently conservative for years. Moreover, a Mormon in the White House would legitimize Mormonism (an unbiblical and irrational group with a terrible history) as never before.
3. Huckabay: he is probably not a principled conservative on economic issues and is not electable (because of being a preacher).
4. McCain: good on national defense, but weak on immigration and campaign reform.

I realize that I have not defended my political views, but simply stated them. By the way, nobody has asked me for a recommendation!

Here are a few books on Christianity and politics I recommend:

1. Francis Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto
2. Richard John Neuhaus, The Naked Public Square
3. Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction
4. Stephen Carter, God's Name in Vain.

And one not specifically about Christianity that helped change my mind nearly thirty years ago:

William F. Buckley, Up From Liberalism.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Fifteen Refusals (and Affirmations) for 2008

[In late 2006, I posted these refusals and affirmations. I re-post them here (with a few additions), still believing in them and trying to live by them.]

Fifteen Refusals for 2008

In good curmudgeonly fashion, I will forgo the tradition of resolutions for 2007. Instead, I offer refusals, negations, denials. I soon turn 51 after the beginning of the year, so these refusals are born out of the gravity of aging and the thirst to make the most of the time God gives us in this vaporous life. But with every refusal comes an "instead," or an affirmation. Every true curmudgeon (in the sense defined and, I hope, illustrated on this blog) denies only because he is utterly enthralled by the transcendent Ideal, the divine Yes.

1. I refuse to waste time on trivia: that means 95% of popular culture. Instead, I will center on study, teaching, preaching, praying, writing, and mentoring.

2. I refuse to accept the anti-intellectualism (and even misology) of American evangelicalism. Instead I will teach, preach, and write in ways that demand concentration; I will write what ignites the intellect; I will preach as deeply as I can and dare you to come with me.

3. I refuse to dumb down anything, anywhere, any time. Instead I will inspire people to rise to the occasion intellectually.

4. I refuse to join those Christians who seldom read or reflect on the Bible. Instead I will read it, reread it, study it, memorize it, recite it, and meditate on it. I will try to incorporate it increasingly into my thoughts and words.

5. I refuse to seek no more than "personal peace and affluence" (as Francis Schaeffer put it thirty years ago) for my life. Instead, I will contribute to Kingdom endeavors here and abroad.

6. I refuse to tolerate bad preaching, superficial books, or kitschy Christian culture (Precious Moments, Thomas Kinkaide, etc., ad nauseum). Instead I will seek out the best, praise it, and challenge underachievers to climb higher.

7. I refuse to ever play a video game. Instead, I will look for Kingdom opportunities in the land of the living.

8. I refuse to waste time on small talk. Instead, I will endeavor to make all my words count for eternity.

9. I refuse to speak in cliches or outworn adjectives ("awesome," "cool," "incredible," etc.). Instead I will try to find the right word for the right thought--or say nothing. "A wise person holds one's peace."

10. I refuse to pose. Instead, I will live.

11. I refuse to accept the de facto deism of so many evangelicals who do not seek God for supernatural manifestations of Christ's Kingdom (healing, signs and wonders). Instead, I will seek (but never presume upon) God's miraculous, supernatural presence in this dark world. See Matthew 6:33.

12. I refuse to confine the Kingdom of God to America. Instead, I will keep an eagle eye for ways I can bless, encourage, and edify Christ-followers around the world.

13. I refuse to consign Christian women to second-class status in the church, the home, or the world. Instead, I will support and encourage gifted women to serve God in accord with their gifts and opportunities.

14. I refuse to preach only to the choir, to limit my ministry to the church, Christian school, parachurch, Christian publications, and so on. Instead, I will in every way possible seek to inject Christian truth creatively and ethically into culture through my writing and teaching, in order to rationally present truths not normally found there. But in so doing, I will not impose inappropriately nor will I hector anyone.

15. I refuse to follow any trend simply because it is a trend. Instead, I will seek to discern the hand of God in the world. The world does not set the agenda for the church.

None of these ideals can be achieved in my own power: "Yet not I but Christ who lives in me." Join me in refusing the world, the flesh, and the devil and instead affirming Christ and his eternal kingdom, here, now, and forever.