Wednesday, September 28, 2005

ABC's new "drama"


PARODY (News) – That the premier of ABC’s new drama “Commander in Chief” conveniently corresponds with the upcoming presidential campaign of Senator Hillary Clinton (the first woman candidate to have a legitimate chance at winning the White House), is purely coincidental, according to sources from both ABC and Senator Clinton’s staff (which just happened to be the same person).

“At ABC we are just concerned about producing quality programming that will entertain our audience,” said an ABC spokesman from his office at the “Hillary for President 2008” headquarters. “Just because ‘Commander in Chief’ features a woman as president does not mean …

Oh, the heck with this!

I had planned to write a parody news story illustrating the absurd nature of ABC’s shameless partisan portrayal of Geena Davis as the first woman president of the United States. It was my intention to demonstrate, by going a little over the top, that the new ABC drama, “Commander in Chief,” is nothing more than an hour-long campaign commercial scheduled to run once a week during prime time on a major network. However, in this case, reality has far outstripped my imagination. Just take a look here at what transpired on the pilot.

When commercials started to air promoting the new show I knew what it was intended to accomplish. This show is about nothing more than getting the American public accustomed to, and hopefully excited about, the idea of a woman president. It is no secret that Senator Clinton will be seeking the Democratic nomination for president in 2008 so, in effect, this new “drama” is nothing more than the wholesale endorsement of a political candidate by ABC. I had even intended to include in my parody statements by a person who worked for both ABC and the Hillary campaign, thinking that would be a good way of illustrating absurdity with absurdity. But even on this my imagination failed to keep pace with reality.

Beyond the complimentary political ad, the show is also thick with caricatures of Christians, conservatives, Republicans, people who aren’t women, and pretty much anyone who does not share a radical left-wing worldview.

I’m a staunch advocate of the free market. If ABC wants to underwrite Hillary's presidential campaign that’s their business. I would just make one suggestion. They may want to consider changing their official “Commander in Chief” logo to something a little more appropriate.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Just say "no" to federal reimbursements


According to a Washington Post article FEMA has authorized the taxpayer-funded reimbursement of churches and religious organizations for the charitable work they’ve done in ministering to those affected by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. There will be considerable resistance to this decision on the part of those who think this is some violation of the perceived constitutional provision for the “separation of church and state.” They will say such reimbursements are unconstitutional. They will be right, just not for the reasons they think.

Payments to churches and religious organizations in no way constitutes the establishment of a state religion by the United States government and such an establishment is the ONLY thing prohibited by the constitution with regard to religion. So on this point the opponents of FEMA’s proposed reimbursements will be dead wrong. They will, however, be absolutely correct in their assessment that reimbursements are unconstitutional.

The Constitution of the United States is an extremely specific document. It spells out precisely what the federal government is authorized to do. If an action is not specifically mentioned in the constitution then Congress has no authority to do it.

Thomas Jefferson said, “Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated.”

Which begs the question, are there any specifically enumerated provisions for benevolence?

James Madison, the “Father of the Constitution,” didn’t think so when he said, “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.”

But I recognize that the federal government long ago ceased to respect the authority of the constitution and we now live in a country where churches are going to be deciding whether or not to accept the reimbursements offered by FEMA. I sincerely hope none do.

Just suppose that churches everywhere got into the habit of accepting federal reimbursement for ministries they provide. Eventually churches would become nothing more than a funnel for federal money. They would, in essence, become nothing more than another federal agency, a government subcontractor. This is how churches would come to be regarded by the people they assist. There’s no sacrifice on the part of the church because they get all their money back.

We are called to minister in Jesus’ name, not Uncle Sam’s. The Church exists for the glory of God alone and does not need to act on behalf of another.

Furthermore, it would not be long before some bureaucrat or judge decided to place restrictions on churches that have accepted “government funds,” again in the interest of “separation of church and state.” Churches would be instructed on what they can and cannot say when ministering to those in need. Given enough time it might even be possible for churches to become dependent on federal money for their ministries and thus face a decision at the point of federal intervention to either remain steadfast in their beliefs and take a financial hit or compromise in order to continue feeding at the federal trough.

It is a prospect that is all too real. Besides, the Church does not need federal assistance. We have all of the resources we need. And when we use them it should be God who receives the glory for the good work done in His name.

While I appreciate the fact that FEMA doesn’t seem bothered by the erroneous interpretation of the constitution’s establishment clause, I maintain that the acceptance of federal money by churches is ill advised.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

"Gott Mit Uns"


Simon Wiesenthal, the famed Nazi hunter, died Monday, September 19, at the age of 96. After surviving the horrors of a dozen concentration camps he spent the rest of his life tracking down Nazi war criminals responsible for the murder of millions of people. His death will almost certainly cause us to reflect on man’s inhumanity to man as expressed by the Nazis during World War II. May we never forget what happened.

If ever an army deserved to be characterized as an “army of darkness” with evil intent it was the army of Nazi Germany. Yet in an interesting twist of history the soldiers in that army were outfitted with belt buckles (pictured above) stamped with the slogan, “Gott Mit Uns,” which means “God with us.”

How can it be, one has to wonder, that soldiers guilty of atrocities could see themselves as actually acting with the favor of God? Actually, it is not that difficult to understand. The sobering reality is no country is immune from marching down the same path as Germany did in the mid-20th century.

When any people is the recipient of God’s blessings there is a terrible human tendency on the part of that people to begin thinking God found some worth in them which caused Him to bless them. From there it’s not a huge leap to begin equating the goals and aspirations of that people with the will of God Himself. The actions of a country become confused with the will of God and pretty soon it’s quite easy for the people to justify any action taken on behalf of their country because, after all, they are special and God favors them. Why, the Hand of God surely guides the leaders of their nation, and so any edict from the state can be trusted as practically divine. God is viewed as somehow obligated to them.

In Germany’s case, what started out as a seemingly justified crusade for the Fatherland (according to the rhetoric of the Nazi propagandists) ended up as a horrifying mass murder the likes of which the world had never seen. You would think at some point Nazi soldiers would recognize their leaders had lied to them. But by the time it digressed to it’s most terrible point too many people were used to not questioning the extremely questionable nature of their orders quite simply because the line between God’s will and military orders had ceased to exist in their minds. Their country had become their god.

What is even more troubling is that Germany was a “Christian” nation. It was the home of Martin Luther, whose convictions about God’s Word sparked the Protestant Reformation. While it is true that many such principled Christians in Germany during World War II remained firm in their faith and even paid with their lives for it, it is also true that many others were guilty either of not resisting something they recognized as wrong or actively participating in something they’d lost the ability to recognize as wrong.

It can happen anywhere. Any nation, which seeks God’s approval for a predetermined set of actions, is sowing the seeds for the kind of civil religion Germany sought to establish. It is only the nation that seeks God’s will first and acts accordingly that can reasonably expect to continue to benefit from God’s blessings. “God with us,” is both arrogant and presumptuous. A wiser course of action would be to subordinate the national will to God's and adopt the more appropriate slogan, "Us with God."

Friday, September 16, 2005

"Honoring" the Constitution


On Sept. 17, 1787 the Constitutional Convention, after meeting for four months in Philadelphia, agreed on the final draft of the United States Constitution. In so doing they thought they were establishing for themselves and their posterity a permanent, limited, federal (which provides for divided, not consolidated, power) government.

In 2004 Congress passed a law requiring all federally-funded schools and agencies to provide materials and/or programs every year around September 17 to honor the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution. So, Sept. 17 is officially “Constitution Day,” although many schools and agencies will observe it on the 16th since the 17th falls on a Saturday.

I think “Constitution Day” is a great idea, but as I look around America in 2005 this latest effort to honor the Constitution just rings a little hollow. Far too many Americans are completely ignorant of the contents of that document for their efforts to honor it to have any legitimacy at all. That includes our national “leaders.” Please consider …

Our federal government currently spends billions and billions of dollars on things like the National Education Association, welfare, Medicare, Medicaid, funding the arts through the National Endowment for the Arts. Congress sets minimum wage requirements, nationalizes millions of acres of land, and basically does whatever it wants whenever it wants. All of this is in direct defiance of the Constitution. Congress has no constitutional authority to do any of this.

Our citizenry is not outraged at these abuses because it is largely ignorant of the fact that they are unconstitutional. According to a story on WorldNetDaily.com, a few years ago a petition was created that had the text of the Bill of Rights on it. Everything that identified it as such was removed so that it appeared to be a current petition. Most Americans refused to sign the petition because they thought it too radical.

In addition, polls continually embarrass us for our lack of knowledge about the Constitution. One such poll, conducted by the University of Columbia’s Center for Survey Research and Analysis, found that 49 percent of Americans think the First Amendment goes too far. Half of Americans think the press is too aggressive and should be censored to some degree by the government. Almost half thought the FBI should be able to monitor religious groups in the name of national security, even if that meant infringing on religious freedoms. These answers were provided by people who didn’t even know the First Amendment guarantees the freedom of speech.

Another study, commissioned by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, discovered that half of American high school students believe the government already has the authority to censor the Internet.

This kind of information does not bode well for America. But it sure is good news to those who would seek to rule over us. One of the primary dangers to liberty is becoming a reality in America. Listen to the words of our forefathers …

“Educate and inform the whole mass of the people. They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” – Thomas Jefferson

“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” – Thomas Jefferson

“Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” – James Madison

Again, I support the celebration of Constitution Day. This document receives precious little attention. But I fear that Constitution Day is to become little more than lip service and a means of assuaging the guilt many may feel for having long ignored it’s boundaries. If our leaders really wanted to honor the Constitution they’d respect it's authority and immediately pull the federal government back to within it’s guidelines, because honoring the Constitution with your words while displaying contempt for it with your actions is completely useless.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Pledging Allegiance


A federal judge in San Francisco declared the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools unconstitutional Wednesday, a decision that could potentially put the divisive issue back before the U.S. Supreme Court. According to a Chicago Tribune report, U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton ruled that the pledge's reference to one nation "under God" violates school children's right to be "free from a coercive requirement to affirm God."

This will undoubtedly drive many Christians to action, arguing that the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution is a prohibition on Congress alone and is not a restriction on what individual school districts may or may not do with regard to religion. They will, of course, be right in that assessment. But there is a much larger issue here that will be largely overlooked, and it is this: should we even have a pledge of allegiance?

The English author G.K. Chesterton once observed, “America is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed, one set forth with dogmatic and even theological lucidity in the Declaration of Independence.” By contrast, other nations were founded based on a shared ethnicity or geographical region. But America was founded on ideals. So much so that Chesterton called us a nation with the soul of a church.

Those ideals were articulated by Thomas Jefferson, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain, inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

American patriotism has always been about a devotion to these ideals not a devotion to a particular geographic region, an ethnic group, or the state. Those types of devotions are better described as nationalism and it is in nationalism that the Pledge of Allegiance has its beginnings.

Francis Bellamy (pictured above) was a Baptist preacher in the late 1800s and early 1900s. He was highly influenced by the socialist movements of his day. So much so that his church asked him to leave as pastor because he preached sermons on the virtues of socialism rather than expositions of Scripture. He authored the Pledge of Allegiance (his original handwritten version appears at right) as a way to foster blind obedience to the state. This was important to him because he viewed the state as superior to the individual, the individual as the servant of the state rather than the other way around. This stands in stark contrast to the American foundation of adherence to principle. The pledge swears allegiance to a government.

Thomas Jefferson once said that it might be necessary for patriots to revolt every 20 years or so in order to insure continued liberty. His allegiance was not to any form of government (not even the constitutional form he was so instrumental in forming), but rather to the foundational principles of life and liberty. To him a government was nothing more than a tool for protecting those precious principles.

And now, after years of pledging allegiance, the line between patriotism and nationalism has become so blurred as to be almost nonexistent. Anyone who questions the actions of the state is labeled “unpatriotic.” Even more egregious, Christians have come to regard this new “patriotism” and their faith in Christ as intertwined. Being a good Christian has become just one aspect of being a “patriot” and pledging allegiance to the flag, at the very least, brings with it an implied acceptance of anything the state does. After all, we’ve sworn allegiance to that state. It is known as civil religion.

What is civil religion? An article entitled “One Cheer for Civil Religion” found in the Sept./Oct. issue of Modern Reformation magazine answers that question quite well.

According to historian (and Christian) Wilfred McClay, civil religion is “that strain of American piety that bestows many of the elements of religious sentiment and faith upon the political and social institutions of the United States.” More problematically, civil religion is the misidentification of the nation of the United States with the covenant people of God. It is the casual assumption that America enjoys a special role in redemptive history. It is the confusion of the office of the political leader with the office of the spiritual leader. It is the frequent presumption of divine blessings without submission to divine judgment. It is the sublimation of Christian distinctives to a generic amalgam that conflates many faiths into a common national identity. It is as old as America itself. And it is not biblical Christianity.


How far down the road of civil religion has the church in America traveled? It’s a question worth asking, because the central motivation for any Christian should be God’s glory alone. If God were glorified with the utter destruction of the United States is that something that we would welcome as divine providence or reject and demand, “God bless America.” How we answer that question will reveal to us where our true allegiance lies, whether we openly pledge it or not.

To read more about the history of the Pledge of Allegiance click here, here, or here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

New Orleans orders confiscation of legally-owned firearms


PARODY (News) – The City of New Orleans, in an effort to curtail the violence rampant in it’s hurricane-ravaged streets, ordered the confiscation of all legally-owned firearms in the city. According to news reports upon the orders of New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, the New Orleans Police, the National Guard, the Oklahoma National Guard, and U.S. Marshals have begun breaking into homes at gunpoint, confiscating their legally-owned firearms, and evicting the residents.

"No one is allowed to be armed,” said P. Edwin Compass III, the superintendent of police. “We're going to take all the guns."

It is a move that city officials hope will accomplish … well … it’s hard to tell what they think this will accomplish. Let’s see if city officials can shed some light for us …

“With bands of thugs and criminals roving our streets in search of property to steal and people to victimize it was necessary to act quickly,” said a city spokesman. “Some people have questioned the wisdom of taking the only means of defense available to the people out there who have had to fend off criminals. But, in light of the fact we’ve been criticized for not acting quickly enough prior to the hurricane and in it’s immediate aftermath, we decided it was politically expedient to do something. And, when you think about the fact that our police force is stretched thin and can’t be everywhere all of the time, this move only makes more sense.”

Um, actually no.

When it was pointed out that the criminals might not comply with the order to turn over firearms the spokesman replied, “Oh. Yeah, well, if that’s the case then they will meet with very little resistance which means it won’t be necessary for them to use their guns. So, at the very least, the shoot-outs in the streets will come to an end, right?”

Big government logic at it’s best.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The price of worshipping idols


It is disappointing, although not surprising, that a full day did not pass after hurricane Katrina hit before the politicians began pointing fingers. The opportunity to cover one's backside or make political hay from the situation was just too much to resist for far too many.

The Democrats, of course, blame the Bush administration for what they perceive as an abject failure on the part of the federal government. The Republicans, in turn, blame the City of New Orleans and Louisiana (both of which have been under Democratic leadership for decades) for inadequate emergency plans. One side claims racism played a part in the slow response of the federal government. The other side points out that decades of welfare have made thousands of people literally incapable of taking care of themselves at any level.

Whichever the case, the fact remains that hundreds of people have died and thousands more have lost homes and businesses. There is a debate firing up as to what, exactly, the government's responsibility is toward it's citizens in situations like this. What can't be debated is that many, many citizens feel they were promised certain services from the government which they did not receive.

Which raises the question of where one should place one's faith. According to the Bible our faith should be in God alone. But far too many Americans don't do that.

It reminds me of the prophets of Baal. They had their faith in a god born of their own imaginations. A god they created to serve their own purposes. Ultimately, as the contest with Elijah revealed, their god was completely insufficient to help them.

Americans don't worship Baal. But we've come to worship a god of our own making. Our idol, in America, is America. And it becomes evident, when real tragedy strikes, that our idol is insufficient. Like Baal, America falls short. We'd be much better off placing our faith back in God alone. We should live by the guidelines laid out in Scripture. We should realize that we need to be self-sufficient when we can (2 Thessalonians 3:10) and share one another's burdens when we can't hack it ourselves (Galatians 6:2).

The best examples of these two principles have been seen along the Gulf coast in the people who didn't wait around for the idle (idol) government to come rescue them. Apparently there were enough people there who were not so foolish as to invest their faith in the government, and those who have had their needs met by such people can thank God for them.

As for the Christian relief efforts, meeting the needs of these people is a priority. But, as always, the glory goes to God.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Asking the harder question


When natural disasters like hurricane Katrina strike, the tendency is to ask, “How could God let this happen?” Trying to reconcile the existence of an all-loving, all-powerful God with a destructive and deadly event of this magnitude is an understandable response. After the tsunami struck in December 2004 those with an atheistic bent took the opportunity to try to disprove the existence of God, claiming no reconciliation possible. The question was even bandied about on this website.

But, while the question “How could God let this happen” may be the first question that pops to mind, it is, perhaps, not the most appropriate question. Nor is it the hardest.

The more appropriate question is this: Does God have some obligation to us for our protection against such things? If so what is it?

The simple answer is no. God has no obligation to spare a race of people who are His enemies and hate Him. The Bible is clear on this point, we are all guilty before God and deserve justice. Every moment that God allows us to walk and breathe and live is nothing more than His unbelievable grace toward us. God is justified in destroying any city anytime, anywhere. He was justified with Sodom. He is justified now.

That’s not to say New Orleans did anything especially egregious to deserve this more than any other city that has not suffered a similar fate, but, according to Scripture, He would be completely justified in destroying earth entirely if He decided to. But this line of reasoning assumes God caused the hurricane in the first place and that may be an erroneous notion.

Romans tells us all of creation groans under the weight of sin. Ours is a world cursed. Sin has corrupted our entire world and that includes nature. Natural disasters are a direct result of man introducing sin into the world. So, when things like last year's tsunami or this year's hurricane happen it is nothing more than a sinful race of people reaping the whirlwind.

Rather than trying to fix God with the blame our response should be what our response before a Holy God should always be: “Father we know we deserve justice but we humbly ask for your grace.”

God is at liberty to exercise either option and is completely justified whichever option He chooses.

Of course, the people of the Gulf coast could not care less about these kinds of questions right now. They need help. There will be plenty of time later to answer critics who want to blame God. Right now, in Jesus' name, we need to help those who are hurting. If you would like to make contributions to the relief effort you can click here or here for details.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Built on Sand?


The ferocity with which evolutionists have been attacking the Intelligent Design theory betrays an agenda far beyond the love of “pure science.” A lot of people have invested their entire worldview in Darwin’s theory and it has become the foundation for every other belief system they hold dear.

It is the basis for secular humanism, which, in turn, is the basis for a whole host of beliefs ranging from the political (like socialism) to the moral (like relativism). Evolution is the thing that makes immoral lifestyles acceptable because, after all, morality is only what the individual says it is.

But the cornerstone is Darwin. And for Darwin’s theory of evolution to be true it is absolutely necessary for God to not exist. This is why the attacks on Intelligent Design have been so fierce and irrational. Intelligent Design has the potential to knock away that cornerstone of evolution. If that happens everything that has been built upon it comes crashing down.