Friday, April 28, 2006

Thideological Headlines


The Battle for Acceptance

A man in Alexandria, Virginia who operates a video duplicating business is being ordered by a government commission to make copies of a video that promotes homosexuality. The man, Tim Bono, initially refused to make copies for a lesbian activist because he did not want to participate in circulating a message that contradicted his Christian principles. There is even a stated store policy which informs potential customers that Bono reserves the right to NOT reproduce material he considers obscene or that runs contrary to his Christian and ethical principles.

Now, if the lesbian activist had only wanted to get duplicates of the tape she would have taken her business elsewhere, right? I’m going to go out on a limb here, but I’d be willing to bet there is another place in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area that copies video tapes. In fact, there’s probably one sympathetic to this cause that might have been willing to offer a discount.

But, instead, the activist caused a ruckus and complained to someone because the Arlington Human Rights Commission got involved. Homosexual activists claim their goal is “tolerance.” But that’s not true. What they want is full acceptance. And if Christians resist, well, as this case illustrates, they will be forced to comply with political correctness.


Helping Churches "do their job"

Tom Hanks, the star of the upcoming movie The Da Vinci Code, thinks the movie (despite it’s incredible attack on biblical Christianity) could “help churches do their job.”

“If they put up a sign saying, ‘This Wednesday we’re going to discuss the gospel,’ 12 people show up," said Hanks. "But if the sign says, ‘We’re discussing The Da Vinci Code,’ 800 people show up.”

That may be true, Mr. Hanks, but God has not charged His Church with entertaining the masses. Our job is to “make disciples.” That means teaching Scripture. And if churches use the occasion to hold up the false doctrine and fake history in The Da Vinci Code against the truth then I agree. There's value in that. But seeking to entertain for the purpose of drawing a big crowd, well, that's another matter.

Besides, there is something to be said for effectively teaching 12 people rather than entertaining 800. I think there is a precedent for that somewhere.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Bumper Sticker Theology

As I’ve pointed out before, bumper sticker theology is incredibly shallow. Oh, I understand that bumper stickers are supposed to utilize short, cute, overly simplistic messages to convey a deeper meaning.

I get that.

But a problem with short, cute, overly simplistic messages is that they often are ineffective at leading the reader to the accurate deeper meaning. In fact, I think an argument can be made that they actually perpetuate more shallow thinking.

Since thideology is the study of the relationship between theology and ideology my interest is naturally drawn to areas where politics and religion intersect. Please consider a series of bumper stickers I recently ran across.

“Christian Liberal”
“Christian Democrat… and proud of it!!”
“Another Proud Member of The CHRISTIAN LEFT”
“Jesus Would Have Been a Democrat”
“Jesus is a Liberal”

These sort of slogans reduce the identity of Christ. He is a mere plank in their party platform. It seems to me that the person sporting stickers like these is first concerned with politics, public policy, and the “direction of the country.” To them God and His Word are tools to utilize in an effort to achieve their desired end.

And, lest you think I’m picking on liberals exclusively, let me just say I’ve seen any number of conservative versions of bumper stickers that make similar appeals to God as a means to their desired political end. This is not a party problem it’s a national one.

No, I take that back. It’s a Church problem.

And the bumper sticker that best illustrates my point is the one that reads, “Christian by Choice, Democrat by the Grace of God.”

How offensive that must be to our Lord. It is by the Grace of God alone that we are included in His Kingdom. It is only by an act of God’s sovereign Grace that any of us can come to faith in Jesus Christ and thereby claim the name “Christian.” That wretched bumper sticker has it exactly backwards.

As subjects of the King our first allegiance is to Him. It would seem, when considering the incredible price God paid for our redemption, that maintaining proper priorities with regard to our place in the Kingdom and our place in the world would be easy. But, as the bumper sticker so adequately demonstrates, our priorities are easily skewed.

Perhaps it would help if we reflected on Scripture. When Jesus stood before Pilate He made it clear that His Kingdom was not an earthly one.

“Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews? Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me? Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.” -- John 18:33-36

As the body of Christ our primary objective is to bring glory to our Lord not persuade Him to bring glory to us…or our country.

I’m reminded of all the things God’s people had to endure that ultimately brought God glory. They were slaves in Egypt. They wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. Their land was conquered by one invader after another. The temple was destroyed.

When I think about how much effort we invest in trying to get God to bring glory to our country I wonder…

How receptive to God’s will would we be if the utter destruction of our country would bring Him glory? If it is a thought that makes us cringe, then maybe we need to consider our priorities. Are we members of His kingdom first? Or is our “Christianity” just another aspect of our political identity?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Death and Taxes


Benjamin Franklin is credited with the famous proverb, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

How appropriate for us to ponder his wisdom on these two matters at this time of the year. For it is this time of the year, in particular, where we are forced to deal with one of these issues and have an opportunity to deal with the other.

April 15 is “tax day” in the United States. We are reminded, in no uncertain terms, of the certainty of taxes. Our federal government confiscates huge portions of our income, quite literally at the point of a gun, at rates that far exceed the rates that prompted our forefathers to revolt. What’s worse, the vast majority of the programs for which our money is taken Congress has no constitutional authority to enact.

It is encouraging, if only slightly, that at least one congressman recognizes this. Ron Paul, congressman from Texas, may very well be the lone voice for pulling the federal government back within its constitutional boundaries. Unfortunately the majority of his colleagues in Congress want to implement more and more unconstitutional programs which will, in turn, lift our tax burden higher and higher.

“Oh but please understand,” they tell us, “We are only doing this for your own good. We want to take care of you from cradle to grave.”

Once again (and I can’t emphasize this enough), Congress has no constitutional authority to do most of what it does. Our country was founded on liberty, not on “being taken care of.”

But this hasn’t stopped our federal government from setting itself up as our savior for years. They want us to become more and more dependant on them because when our dependency on them increases so, too, does their power over us.

And yet, isn’t it interesting that in the phrase, “from cradle to grave,” the government admits it cannot save us from the other certainty Franklin mentioned? Death.

Franklin was right, death is certain. The Bible is clear on this:

“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” – Hebrews 9:27

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” – Romans 6:23

And of course, centuries of human history testify to the certainty of death. And yet, an actual Savior has exhibited power over this most certain of events.

“Now upon the first [day] of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulcher, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain [others] with them. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulcher. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: And as they were afraid, and bowed down [their] faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” – Luke 24:1-7

Our hope should rest not in a bloated government of bureaucrats who seek only to increase the amount of power they wield over us, but in the Lord Jesus Christ, who demonstrated, not only His love for us by dying in our stead, but also His ability to deliver on his promise by displaying His power over death.

This week will remind us we have to pay our taxes but, praise God, it also will remind us that the victory over death has been won because…

He Is Risen!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Thideological News of the Day


-- A California legislator has launched an attack on the biblical concept of the family.

-- Since the United States Supreme Court has made a practice of considering foreign law precedents when deciding what should be United States Constitutional matters, it is now important to be aware of the dangerous legal trends abroad...

You can read about a bold socialistic attempt to limit freedom in the Netherlands here, and about a disturbing court decision in London that drastically limits the rights of biological parents here.

-- But not all the news is bad. The Washington Times has a wonderful article entitled, "Faith of the Founding Father: Belief in a God of Liberty."

Thursday, April 06, 2006

More on the Education Monopoly


My wife taught in the Memphis City Schools for more than five years. In that time she developed a reputation as the "tough" and "mean" teacher.

She was considered the "mean" teacher because she did not allow her students to get away with misbehaving in her classroom (imagine that). She was considered the "tough" teacher because she expected them to be responsible for keeping up with their assignments, to study their material, to turn in their homework, and do their best on tests. Interestingly enough the vast majority of her students were able to live up to her expectations of them.

It is also interesting that her reputation was strongest among those students who never had her as their teacher. The students who were promoted to the grade she taught were horrified to learn they would be in her class but changed their opinion of her once they were there.

It seems that a child's self esteem (and isn't that what school is all about these days?) is actually boosted more when you present them with a difficult task, show them how they CAN achieve it, and then give them the opportunity to do so. This approach, of course, flies in the face of the current model of making school work so incredibly easy so as to make sure no one could possibly fail.

Didn't someone once say "We learn from our mistakes?" Oh well...

I bring this up for a reason: While it is true that there are teachers of my wife's caliber out there, it is also true they are in the minority. And they are in the minority by design.

John Stossel has lately been taking to task the government monopoly on education, most notably in his piece on ABC's 20/20 entitled "Stupid in America." He points out that public "education" is dominated by unions whose primary purpose for existing is protecting teachers' jobs rather than educating children. He has a wonderful article on this entitled "Unions fight to protect the nightmare."

After reading these I was reminded of my wife's experience in the Memphis City Schools. You see, she pushed her students to their potential. They, in turn, began to push themselves. A lot was expected of them and by the end of a year in her class they had learned how to deliver.

But, as the old saying goes, "No good deed goes unpunished." My wife was reprimanded for not giving away higher grades to those who had not earned them. So the kids who had not worked as hard were to be rewarded equally with those who had, thereby removing the incentive to work hard.

Then again, as Stossel points out, public schools aren't really about education.