Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas Vacation Tour

This is the last day of my vacation from work; and since I didn't go anywhere - I will instead tour some websites I frequent often to see how they spent the last week:

  • Christian Carnival CLIII (153):
    • Jan at The View from Her is "Not So Literal"
      Ask me if I take the Bible literally, and I'll ask you, "Well, do you take the newspaper literally?" The answer is probably yes, because of course, the newspaper is filled with news, written by professional journalists and is nothing like the Bible … we read the newspaper according to its sections. We take the news pages literally. We know editorials express opinions. We understand sports metaphors. Opinions and metaphors are not literal. Christians read the Bible the same way. . .
    • Bonnie at Intellectuelle examines the "The ubiquitously deceitful heart"

    • Tom at Thinking Christian looks at "Miracles and Science":
      It's just about Christmas, time to celebrate the miracle of the Incarnation--God becoming man, born of a virgin. It's an obvious opportunity to consider whether the Christian claims of miracles are still credible in light of modern science. Christianity without the Virgin Birth is about as meaningful as Christianity without the Resurrection; both miracles were necessary for God to have conquered sin and death as a man. But what about scientific objections to miracles?

      These objections fall into three main versions: (1) Miracles can't happen, (2) Miracles shouldn't happen, (3) Miracles never have happened. The second of these will make more sense as I proceed. We'll start with the first, though.
    • Andre at Every Square Inch is "Deconstructing Racism"
      Few topics evoke as much emotion in our national conversation as the topic of race. In the wake of the Michael Richards episode, renown author Malcolm Gladwell writes about racism in his post "Defining a Racist". He proposes that a racist may be defined on the basis of three criteria: content, intention and conviction. Here are snippets of what he says with regard to each criteria.
  • A Kurd's opinion of the Iraq Study Group's recommendations in the Washington Post: "For Iraqis, A Promise Is in Peril". [HT: All Things Conservative]

  • Maureen Condic gives her perspective on "What We Know About Embryonic Stem Cells" at First Things. [HT: Stand to Reason Blog]

  • WorldMagBlog (and others) looks at the blasphemy challenge in which
    You record a short message damning yourself to Hell, you upload it to YouTube, and then the Rational Response Squad will send you a free The God Who Wasn't There DVD. It's that easy.

    You may damn yourself to Hell however you would like, but somewhere in your video you must say this phrase: "I deny the Holy Spirit."

    Why? Because, according to Mark 3:29 in the Holy Bible, "Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin." Jesus will forgive you for just about anything, but he won't forgive you for denying the existence of the Holy Spirit. Ever. This is a one-way road you're taking here.
    I was hesitant to bring this up even for fear of helping someone to a hell I believe in; but luckily the site shows that scripture is "spiritually discerned" - what they consider to be "blasphemy of the spirit" isn't by my reading of this passage or its parallel in Matthew. Vincent at WorldMagBlog asks this question: Does This Site Matter?

  • In a victory for moderation (as mentioned in a few places), the President of Iran got embarrassed in the Tehran municipal elections:
    According to final results announced by the Interior Ministry, moderate conservatives opposed to Ahmadinejad won a majority of the seats, followed by reformists, who favor closer ties with the West. Analysts said Ahmadinejad supporters won less than 20 percent of local council seats nationwide. "People's vote means they don't support Ahmadinejad's policies and want change," Shariati, a leader of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, Iran's largest reformist party, told the Associated Press. "We consider this government's policy to be against Iran's national interests and security. It is simply acting against Iran's interests."
  • Finally, Bonnie at Intellectuelle looks at Peter Yancey's article on Bonhoeffer in Christianity Today (Bonnie's link didn't work for me):
    "Nothing that we despise in the other man is entirely absent from ourselves," wrote Dietrich Bonhoeffer while awaiting execution in a Nazi prison. "We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer."
    and Bonnie points out
    I think people err by over-correcting error in both directions -- people try to cope with a lack of compassion by insisting that sin is not really sin. (And they also try to cope with sin by insisting that it's not really sin, or by blaming others.) People also try to cope with the first error by insisting, in a judgmental manner, that sin really is sin.

Read more!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

It is "0-Dark-Thirty" and we are preparing for my daughter to arrive for Christmas.

She is in the Navy and very quickly she will be going to sea for a 7 month tour. She is one of those folks who forwards all sorts of emails to everyone she knows; and asks folks to pass them on.

Mostly, I ignore them; and never pass them on - except now . . .

A Different Christmas Poem

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.
Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.
The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.
My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.

The sound wasn't loud, and it wasn't too near,
But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn't quite know, Then the
sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.
My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.

A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.
"What are you doing?" I asked without fear,
"Come in this moment, it's freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!"

For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts..
To the window that danced with a warm fire's light
Then he sighed and he said "Its really all right,
I'm out here by choice. I'm here every night."
"It's my duty to stand at the front of the line,
That separates you from the darkest of times.
No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I'm proud to stand here like my fathers before me.
My Gramps died at 'Pearl on a day in December,"
Then he sighed, "That's a Christmas 'Gram always remembers."
My dad stood his watch in the jungles of 'Nam',
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.
I've not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he's sure got her smile.

Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red, white, and blue... an American flag.
"I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home.
I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother..
Who stand at the front against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall."

"So go back inside," he said, "harbor no fright,
Your family is waiting and I'll be all right."
"But isn't there something I can do, at the least,
"Give you money," I asked, "or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you've done,
For being away from your wife and your son."
Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
"Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.
For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us."

This Christmas morning please remember "who they are" that stand on the front lines even if you disagree with "what they do".

And, if you pray, lift one up for them this morning.

Read more!

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Other Shameful Shoe

[Crossposted to Street Prophets ]

Frankly, I have been a little surprised at the reaction to my shame post (Street Prophets, Brain Cramps for God). A few things lurked in the back of my mind as I wrote it:

  • The shame/pain which drives the addiction of my brothers in FMO

  • By extension, the shame/pain that drives the addictions of alcoholics, gamblers, drug users, shoppers, etc.

  • The shame/pain that has driven folks away from the Body of Christ because they have felt they were told that "who they were" was wrong.
Holiday seasons bring this out like no other time of year. Happy families meeting and having fun together just increases the pain for those whose shame is based on family horrors. For many the emotional pain of our shame shows itself as loneliness, inadequacy, panic, hopelessness and particularly anger. These all get highlighted this time of year.

At Street Prophets, I expected more of a discussion of the universal worth of human beings; and whether "what we do" is, or is not, equal to "who we are". I also expected less of a pass on the (at least perceived) judgmentalism of conservative evangelicals that I self-describe myself as. I even hoped that some folks might talk about the impact of shame in their lives; and how they have (or haven't) overcome it. Instead, I ended up with a discussion fringing on "cultural diversity vs. natural law" (yuck), and perhaps relativism (yuckier yet). Oh well - one of the interesting things about blogging is that discussions do not go how we expect. At least I had the opportunity to check a piece of information I have been carrying for 45 years and confirm it was true; and perhaps get folks thinking and talking about shame.

I haven't really heard from the theologically conservative side of my circle of friends - but the link at WorldMagBlog was titled: "A Valuable Emotion Considered". (Valuable? Hmm) How do I expect conservative Christians to respond?
  • I expect criticism of my contention that no one is bad considering Christ said no one was good (even Him) except God. I did not mean any of us are good in comparison to God - only that God values us all and desires a relationship with each one of us. God does not do that because we are worthless; or because he made any junk.

  • I expect to hear about total depravity. Again, I agree with this concept, and even Calvin recognized we all have, at our core, good overflowing from God in the form of our conscience - that can lead us to be try to do right, resist evil, and seek God. Lewis called this a residual of our pre-Fall perfection that whispers to us that we can be more.

  • I expect to hear about the necessity of our pride being broken in order for us to take ourselves out of the center of our universe and seek God. This is indeed the most valuable good that comes from shame and the action of the furies: breaking our ego. Until we "hate ourselves" we may not seek God so that God can show us who we really are. Budziszewski is correct that the furies will drive us to destruction in order to give God a chance to save us. That is a value of shame. However, this does not overrule that God loved us enough to sacrifice His Son. Again, can any of us be without worth? Are any of us "good for nothing"?

  • I expect the question of our universal capacity to sin (not the sins themselves but our sin nature) to come up as something we all carry that we indeed need to hate about "who we are" and indeed is "flawed".
  • If the internal forces represented by the last two points cause us shame I have to trust that we will find people we will help us realize we are valued and loved by God - even while our interior life is demanding a remodel. I also have to trust that God, if He initiates that process, will protect us from the destructive elements of shame.

    As Bonnie at Intellectuelle said:
    of course, no one wants to talk about shame, not only because of their own sense of humiliation but because of the devastatingly hurtful way that others often receive those who fail, or are vulnerable in the area of shame. This dynamic can become a self-perpetuating downward spiral.
    What is my job, as an evangelical Christian, for those I am in personal contact with who are going through that interior process (or even the external one I will talk about next)? Helping shame along? Pointing out the "rotted core" of the humans around me? Helping "crank up" people's shame level until they break? No, that comes from their conscience, and the furies, driving them to righteousness. My job is not to "convict someone of sin" but to show how the love of God, through His Grace and Mercy, frees me from the pain and destruction of shame. John Roberts says that the place of the church is also not to make us "feel more guilty" -- it is to provide a place of healing and hope.

    However, it is not those interior forces I am really hitting at in these two posts - it is the external forces that cause shame and pain. Pure Desire lists three major areas that shame us and start the shame/pain/wrong pleasure cycle -- what the author called the "addictive root":
    • Family dysfunction -- abandonment and abuse (mental, physical, sexual), divorce, etc. "Don't feel; don't talk"

    • Personal trauma - severe stress that leaves deep emotional scars requiring special coping techniques. John Roberts talked specifically about the "father wounds" that nearly every sexual addict carries.

    • An addictive society -- encouragement by society to see yourself as less; and to pursue wrong ways to be more
    John Roberts in Pure Desire:

    Our nation is getting trounced in this area . . . the torn tapistry of people's lives is blowing in the winds of abuse, abandonment, and personal trauma.

    God created us to be in families, which either become the place of our connectedness or our bondage.

    . . . they didn't understand we are as sick as the secrets we hold

    A vast number of folks carry shame issues in these areas; and, if they haven't come to grips with them, are "keeping secrets" that affect their self-image and all of their relationships. What haven't you told your significant other about your thoughts, history, etc? What pain and weakness are you hiding rather than dealing with?

    I suppose "everyone knows this". However, in case you haven't done so: examine yourself for those areas where you think there is something wrong with "who you are" rather than "what you do" - and work to break the shame/pain cycle in your life if you find one.

    For those who have faced the shame, and its pain, in their life, and are working on breaking its grip on you, the comments would be a good place to offer ways you have found to deal with this process.

    Merry Christmas!

    Read more!

    Thursday, December 21, 2006

    A Few Things

    I will just run together a few things:

    A Tool and a Jewel

    e-Sword is a great downloadable tool with a large number of:

    • Bible translations
    • Commentaries
    • Dictionaries
    • Graphics
    • Extras, where the jewel of my title - The Pursuit of God, by A.W. Tozier - is located. In addition:
      • Antiquities of the Jews and Wars of the Jews, by Josephus
      • Ante-Nicene Fathers (9 volumes)
      • Concerning Christian Liberty, by Martin Luther
      • Doctrinal Works in the Reformed Tradition
      • Institutes of the Christian Religion, by John Calvin
      • The Practice of the Presence of God, by Brother Lawrence
      • and much, much more
    • Devotions

    The Current "On Faith" Question

    Do you believe that Jesus Christ was the son of God? If so, what exactly does that mean? If not, who was he?

    With answers by:

    At least, as of now.

    Last, and certainly not least:

    Christian Carnival CLIII (153)

    The introduction from Leslie at Lux Venit:
    I must be crazy! I don't know what I was thinking when I agreed to host the Christian Carnival the week before Christmas . . . Merry Christmas and enjoy reading this week's carnival. I have no idea which number carnival this is...can you say "worn slap out?" . . .

    Read more!

    Wednesday, December 20, 2006

    The Shame of Shame

    [Crossposted from Street Prophets]

    For some reason as this Christmas season rolls along I keep being brought back to the issue of shame. Whether it is the "New Member's Packet" I have been working on for my FMO group; trying to figure out where I have been shamed in my life (and still carry shame from my life); or trying to discuss the difference between shame and guilt (and how to react to each) - I keep coming back to the horror of shame: the shame of shame.

    As a theologically conservative follower of Christ who believes that there are actions that separate us from God, it becomes important to understand the difference between guilt/conviction and shame and the response to each. This is especially true since calls to righteousness are frequently called, and can be, attempts to shame someone; and while calling someone to righteousness may be a good thing - shaming them never is.

    That is because while no human being has a good reason to feel shame (we all feel shame for many bad reasons). We all have reason to know we are guilty, need to repent, and be healed (this is good) but must avoid shame/pain (this is bad). So, lets start with a diagram:

    Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

    The are three components to that diagram; and we will look at each below (quotes, unless noted, are from the "The New Man's Survival Guide", by Pure Life Alliance):

    All men and women experience shame, but many confuse guilt and shame. Guilt is about what we do. Shame is about who we are. It is an internal assessment that as a person we are bad or flawed. This shame leads to an emotional pain that cannot be effectively ignored for long
    You can tell a child "that was a bad thing to do"; but you can never say "you are a bad child" -- my wife
    This distinction between guilt and shame is essential. It is why I can say I love the sinner (the "who" who did it) and hate the sin (the "what" they did). In fact, the Bible is all about bad acts and not about bad people. It is not about "bad people" because God loves us; and did not make any junk.

    This society drives shame. We are all "bad people" in some way:
    • Too fat or too thin
    • Too smart or too dumb
    • Too tall or too short
    • [Fill yours in here]
    On a superficial level, this is because the feeling of being bad or flawed creates the cycle we are examining; and the pain that it creates drives our seeking medication to "relieve" the pain; and this seeking of "medications" to "cure" our "flaws" is good for the economy: the seeking of medication for the pain helps fuel consumerism. It also drives addictions and lifetimes spent on various and sundry bad "medicines" to cure the pain. The only cure for the pain is to remove the shame itself - to understand who you really are. The deeper level of this is that "the evil one" (hey, I believe in Satan) desires us to feel shame because it drives us away from God.

    No one is bad. To say someone is a "bad person" is to lapse into judgment:
    Romans 2:1-4 Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?
    The boldface comment is critical: even if we do these "things" - it is God that redeems us (leads us to repentance); and God, even while we were all sinners, loved us so much that He gave up His own Son for us - each one of us. Again, God created no junk, and loves us all.

    As an "exclusivist", I will of course be asked whether or not non-Christians are "bad" and therefore worthy to feel shame. No, the verses above leave no out for this - our choices may end up being "bad", and we may suffer for them; but we are imago dei - we are made in the image of God. We all carry the seed of our pre-fall perfection in our deep conscience; and each of us has within them that overflow of God's goodness. Again, God created no junk.

    Certainly, after we become part of the Body of Christ we have no excuse for not recognizing the significance, acceptance, and security our position in Christ brings us; and there is no room, if we recognize that, to view ourselves as "bad people". That we have no excuse does not mean we will not view ourselves as "bad": then our choices are to feel shame (with the start of a separation from God out of disobedience); or guilt/conviction for which we repent and turn back to God and see ourselves as He sees us. We are certainly not reborn as junk either.

    The particular shame (I think) that drives my addiction is the shame of not being able to be an adequate provider, husband, and father in my family. There is a proper guilt aspect to this: I am not an adequate provider, husband, or father. Rather than see this as something I am doing badly, I tend toward thinking I am "just wrong" or flawed - and that is "just the way I am". If I do that, then I experience the next step - pain; and not the step of repentance or change - and I certainly I find it harder to turn to God (since I am not worthy).

    It is difficult for men people to identify pain in their lives. Often it looks like loneliness, inadequacy, panic, hopelessness and particularly anger. For many of us, wrong sexual pleasure "whatever" becomes our emotional pain medication.

    Wrong Sexual Pleasure
    The alluring part of this medication is that it works...but only for a short time. Our body releases naturally occurring drugs called endorphins, similar in makeup to morphine, though even more powerful. Our pain relief is short lived, as deep toxic shame comes crashing down, with destructive thoughts like: "I'm defective, I'll never change, and I'm worthless!" and the cycle begins once more.
    This was written about sexual addiction - the one that gives us the greatest endorphin rush known; and it is applicable to all the ways we seek pleasure to medicate the pain our shame causes.

    If we attempt to medicate the pain we feel from shame, we tend to make bad choices for our "medicine". This is because we haven't dealt with and removed the shame (the true cause of our suffering); still feel we are "bad"; and can only attempt to satisfy the five furies in ways that fail to satisfy them:

  • The normal outlet:
    1. of remorse is to flee from wrong;
    2. of confession is to admit what one has done;
    3. of atonement is to pay the debt;
    4. of reconciliation is to restore the bonds that have been broken; and
    5. of justification is to get back in the right
  • If we do not do "feed" the furies the right way; then they will be fed in some other way - driving our lives further out of kilter. For example:
    1. we do not flee from wrong, but just from thinking about it;
    2. we compulsively confess every detail of the story but the moral;
    3. we punish ourselves again and again offering every sacrifice but the one demanded;
    4. we simulate the broken bonds of intimacy by seeking companions as guilty as ourselves; and
    5. we seek not to become just but to justify ourselves.
  • The greater purpose of conscience is not to inform us of moral truth, but to motivate us to live by it - driving our lives out of kilter is the exhortation of last resort. Therefore,
    pursued by the five furies, a man becomes both wickeder and stupider in a progressively downward spiral: more wicked because his behavior becomes worse, more stupid because he tells himself more lies. -- J. Budziszewski
    This is, of course, the classic description of people on their way to "bottoming out". In my opinion, our conscience drives us to the bottom in this way so we will "break", and in breaking, be open to truly repent and change - and become who God sees us as. This process does not just occur in the classicly addicted.

    This brings us to the latter stages of attempting to "medicate" the pain from our shame:
    This cycle causes a need for greater doses of "pain medication" because we build up a tolerance to these endorphins. As a man person takes stronger "doses" of wrong sexual pleasure, [their] shame and pain grow. This means [they] needs even stronger medication the next time
    So, remember, you have absolutely nothing to be shamed over. Be guilty if you are and repent; but shame almost guarantees you will not feed your furies wisely.

    ["The Other Shameful Shoe" drops here]

    Read more!

    Thursday, December 14, 2006

    Christian Carnivals 151 and 152

    CLI (151)

    The introduction from Nerdmom at The Nerd Family:
    I have been blessed to once again host the Christian Carnival. We have received many great entries. Please read them all and let the authors know how you feel!

    CLII (152)

    The introduction from Buzz at The Buzz Blog:
    Welcome to this week’s edition of the Christian Carnival . . .

    To kick off this week’s Carnival, here’s some scripture:
    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. - John 1:1-5

    About Christian Carnival:
    Contributing a Post to the Christian Carnival

    The Christian Carnival is open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this Carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought.

    Posts need not be of a theological topic. Posts about home life, politics, or current events, for example, written from a Christian worldview are welcome.

    Update: As the goal of this Carnival is to highlight Christian thought in the blogosphere, entries will be limited to blogs that share that goal. Blogs with content that is focused on a business, that has potentially offensive material Christians may not want to link to on their sites, or has no reference to distinctively Christian thought may not be included in this Carnival. There are other Carnivals that would be a more appropriate venue for that material. I realize that this will be a judgment call on the part of the Carnival administrator, and being human she may make mistakes. However, as the Christian Carnival is getting quite large, and it is sometimes questionable whether the entrants are seeking to promote Christian thought, I find this necessary.

    Update: We also expect a level of discourse that is suitable for a Christian showcase. Thus entries may be refused if they engage in name-calling, ad hominem attacks, offensive language, or for any similar reason as judged by the administrator.

    So, if you have a post in this framework - go here to find out more: Christian Carnival Participation Instructions.

    Read more!

    Monday, December 11, 2006

    An Answer to . . .

    It is truly impossible for followers of Christ to remove their faith from their politics. The Great Commandment is that we first love God with our all; and then we love our neighbor as ourselves. To say we love God with our all means that we look at everything - everything - through the lens of our love for God: everything.

    In the latest variation on the "followers of Christ must set their religion aside to be good citizens" meme - "The Power of Sacrifice" - it is presented that if we are unwilling to sacrifice our Christian doctrines in order to be part of a pluralistic society (if we put our religion first) than we cannot truly live out the sacrifice represented by President Kennedy's call to "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country" because we are not willing to sacrifice our faith for the "common good" established by the overall society. It seems strange to quote this speech considering the context of this remark; and for that I will quote a bit more of the speech:

    . . . we observe today not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom - symbolizing an end, as well as a beginning - signifying renewal, as well as change. For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forebears prescribed nearly a century and three quarters ago.

    The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe - the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God
    . . .
    Let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth the command of Isaiah - to "undo the heavy burdens -. and to let the oppressed go free."
    . . .
    Now the trumpet summons us again - not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are - but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, "rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation" - a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.

    Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join in that historic effort?

    In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shank from this responsibility - I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it -- and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

    And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country.

    My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

    Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.
    Considering this speech then, how would President Kennedy respond to this assertion:
    Are there any Christians who aren't focused on Christian first, America second? That frame to me- Christian first, America second- isn't a frame about common sacrifice because you aren't giving up anything.
    How would the man above who said:
    And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe - the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.

    The natural law theme of that quote, and most of his speech, is evident - that our rights as human beings do not flow from whatever protections a particular government may, or may not, give us; but from our rights as imago dei - as images of God. I share that view of the rights of all "images of God"; and of the responsibility of government, to God, to protect those rights. President Kennedy also contended that everyone on the planet - regardless of the form of government they live under - has those same rights flowing from God; and that the United States was going to be a defender of those rights, for everyone - everywhere in the world. This was not a man who put country first and his faith second.

    I have problems with the speech because it appears to fall into one of those mistakes that followers of Christ (particularly conservative ones) in the United States get sucked into - civil religionism:
    The first moral error of political conservatism is civil religionism. According to this notion America is a chosen nation, and its projects are a proper focus of religious aspiration; according to Christianity America is but one nation among many, no less loved by God, but no more.
    . . .
    The mistake in all these stages is confusing America with Zion. She is not the inheritor of the covenant, not the receiver of the promises, not the witness to the nations. It may well be that all nations have callings of sorts-specific purposes which God in His providence assigns them. But no nation can presume to take God under its wing. However we may love her, dote upon her, and regret her, the Lord our God can do without the United States.
    However, certainly President Kennedy in asking for the sacrifice he was asking for was not placing this request outside his faith; and in fact couched it in our responsibility to God to protect the rights bestowed on us by God and not by the social contracts of mankind.

    This was how Thomas Jefferson expressed our rights in the Declaration of Independence ("endowed by our Creator"); and, of course, his "Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (1786)" made it clear that all ideas, religious and otherwise, must be free to contend in the public square because
    . . . truth is great and will prevail if left to herself, that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them . . .
    I believe those people in this country who talk about Christians needing to couch our views in secular terms, place our faith second to our country, and/or not advocate for the views of our religion are violating Jefferson's warning about removing Truth's "natural weapons" - free argument and debate.

    Neither Jefferson nor Kennedy sacrificed
    because of faith in the common good which isn't about God, but about Caesar's power over us.
    They sacrificed because they believed that only in looking at God's view of us could we moderate and control Caesar's power over us - only by seeing other humans as imago dei. Throughout history the primary issue has been one man removing another from this classification - whether black slaves in Jefferson's day or whoever today. The progress in the human race has been in slowing including more and more people in the category of "image of God".

    Because we look to God to understand those inalienable rights it is incorrect to think that followers of Christ (or members of any other ethical and/or moral system) will not try to derive from their ethical structures an understanding of what rights God endowed us with. Certainly pornography is one of those kinds of issues: one person's free expression fuels, and funds, an industry that is responsible for a good portion of the remaining slavery in the world today - trafficking. It is not true, in that case, that allowing freedom to practice what folks want is a "common good" necessarily.

    However, the major issues the author of "The Power of Sacrifice" concentrated on were abortion, gay rights, and gay marriage. In the case of abortion and gay rights, there is an assumption in the diary that followers of Christ, and only followers of Christ, oppose abortion and gay rights and/or marriage. This isn't true - particularly about gay rights.

    My primary argument against abortion is secular - exactly aimed at the "common good" and human rights; but for many followers of Christ this is just one more example of human beings being excluded, for the convenience of others, from imago dei. Frankly, there is no direct discussion of abortion in the Bible - it is generally derived from all humans being created in His image.

    Certainly, there is a Biblical argument about homosexuality being sin; no New Testament basis for any hatred or lack of justice towards gays as just another class of sinner; a strong case for Christian marriage being between a man and a woman, and no Biblical case for followers of Christ imposing that on non-Christians. In fact, one of the major points of Christianity was that Hebrew law was unable to create righteousness; and that we were free from the law in Christ. To try to impose righteousness by secular law is certainly un-Biblical.

    The author of "Sacrifice" and I may agree on another error of conservatism that followers of Christ fall into:
    moralism. According to this notion God's grace needs the help of the state; Christianity merely asks the state to get out of the way . . .

    Now I am not going to complain that moralism "imposes" a faith on people who do not share it. In the sense at issue, even secularists impose a faith on others-they merely impose a different faith. Every law reflects some moral idea, every moral idea reflects some fundamental commitment, and every fundamental commitment is religious-it proposes a god. Everything in the universe comes to a point. For moralism, therefore, the important distinction is not between religion and secularism, but between faiths that do and faiths that do not demand the civil enforcement of all their moral precepts.

    To the question "Should the civil law enforce the precepts of the faith?" the biblical answer is, "Some yes, but some no; which ones do you mean?" The New Testament contains literally hundreds of precepts. However, Christianity is not a legislative religion. While the Bible recognizes the Torah as a divinely revealed code for the ruling of Israel before the coming of Messiah, it does not include a divinely revealed code for the ruling of the gentiles afterward. To be sure, the Bible limits the kinds of laws that Christians can accept from their governments, for "we must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). However, it does not prescribe specific laws that they must demand from them. . . .

    Christians, then, may certainly commend a law as good or condemn it as evil. They may declare it consistent or inconsistent with the faith. But not even a good law may be simply identified with the faith; Christians must not speak of a tax code, marriage ordinance, or welfare policy as Christian no matter how much, or even how rightly, they desire its enactment or preservation. That predicate has been preempted by the law of God. The civil law will be Christian-if it still exists at all- only when Christ himself has returned to rule: not when a coalition of religious conservatives has got itself elected.
    A follower of Christ is going to look at everything through their love of God. They are going to put God in the center of every part of their life. While it may not be the most effective thing politically, they may refer to God in their political views and analysis'

    And, as they have for 2000 years, they are going to struggle with their role in the secular political sphere. However, Biblically, there is no admonition that their service to "Caesar" impinges on, or competes with, their service to God. They are different spheres with different requirements.

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