Categories
Responsible Citizens

Cleansing Hands and Hearts

Print out this prayer and post it above the restroom sink on the mirror with a note saying  that if anyone washes their hands with soap and water for the amount of time it takes to recite this prayer, it will cleans their hands just as if they had used a chemical sanitizer, refresh their hearts, and remind them of the truly important issues in life.

May the Lord Bless you and Keep You!

Pastor Ted

—————————————-

Pastor Ted Haggard, DD, CHBC, is a Bible teacher with an emphasis on New Testament solutions to the human condition. His Bible teaching is informed by biblical scholarship, Choice Theory (Glasser), Attachment Theory (Johnson), and Behavioral Studies using DISC (Rohm).

This and other blogs by Pastor Ted Haggard are available at http://www.tedhaggardblog.com as a ministry of St. James Church. If you would like to strengthen the ministry of St. James Church and Pastor Ted Haggard by giving, please use the “give” tab at http://www.saintjameschurch.com.

 

 

Categories
Responsible Citizens

America Is a Good Country

 

President Trump and Senator Sanders have radically different political philosophies about what constitutes a good country. Let’s examine.

The United States is a country because it has a defined territory, a defined citizenry, a government that writes its own laws and policies as well as enforces them, and a system to defend its territory, its citizens, and its way of life. It is a country.

So, what makes a good country? That is the question typically debated during most national elections. And the lines are drawn according to how much candidates believe people should be responsible for themselves, or how much government should be responsible to care for people. In the United States right now, typically the Republican Party wants to give as much responsibility to individuals as is reasonable, while the Democrat Party wants the government to provide more supervision, direction, and goods and services. This debate is healthy and should continue. But in the midst of these deliberations, consider the four criteria I use to determine the quality of a country:

  1. The direction of immigration. Look which direction people are flowing. Are they trying to get into a country or out of a country? Most people care fundamentally about their own welfare and that of their families. Therefore, an easy means of evaluating the quality of a country is simply the flow of immigrants. During the last century, people were willing to risk their lives to escape communist countries, (which typically called themselves Socialist Republics), and countries dominated by religious fundamentalists (typically Islamic) or malevolent dictators. In general, they were seeking political, religious, and economic freedom, and governments that protect individual civil liberties. Right now many immigrants want to get into the United States, Commonwealth countries, and Europe. The direction of immigration gives us a good measurement. On this scale, the United States certainly passes the test as a good country for all races and economic groups.
  2. Religious Freedom. Most people want the freedom to worship, or not worship, without government involvement (except for the protection of that freedom). Most want to be able to worship according to their own conscience, and in order to protect this freedom for all, they should be willing to respect the way others choose to worship. Most countries influenced by Judeo-Christian values protect the freedoms of those of differing faiths to represent their faith, as long as they never use the power of the state to force others to practice their faith. Violence, threats of violence, or restrictions on other freedoms to manipulate whether or not a citizen adheres to certain religious practices are not characteristics of a good country. The protection of religious freedom is the second measure I use. And on this scale, the United States passes the test.
  3. A government by and for the people. Communist and extreme socialist movements emphasize that they promote the protection and well-being of common people, but instead they often result in people being enslaved by their government. So, a government by and for the people allows for common people to elect those they believe will best represent and lead them. And those who are elected are supposed to be public servants, not lords over others. On this scale, the United States passes this test the vast majority of the time. However, we must continually be on guard against those who want unnecessary government control over our lives, our economy, or our goods and services. On this scale, the United States still passes this test, though I am apprehensive about the future.
  4. An economic system that provides the freedom for people to excel or not, and provides maximum goods and services for the most people. To date, a regulated free-market capitalist system makes available the most goods and services at a reasonable price to the most people compared to any other economic system. More people are better off with this economic system than any other system developed to date. Critics of this system accuse it of being inherently unequal, and it is, just as we are all inherently unequal (see my blog, Is Equality a Myth?). This system rewards service and does not reward an unwillingness to serve others. In other words, those who provide more goods and services to others prosper more than those who don’t. And those who competently carry more responsibility prosper much more than those who don’t. Among other responsibilities, our citizen lawmakers promote equal opportunity,  encourage innovation by protecting profits earned by developing new goods and services (copyrights and patents), and protect the rewards earned by those who carry responsibility. On this scale, right now the United States passes this test.

These four ideas are my criteria for a good country. And when any nation embraces these ideas, the Gross National Product flourishes, unemployment rates decline, educational opportunities increase, health services improve, and the general happiness of citizens increases.

So, does America need to change? Not fundamentally.

Does America need a revolution? No—our fundamental ideology is good.

Does America need to go a different direction? No – based on the lessons we’ve learned in the last one-hundred years, we are headed in the right direction.

I never cast my vote based on whether I personally prefer someone or not. Governments are based on political philosophies, so I vote for the person who embraces the political philosophy that has given the most people a better life over the previous 100 years. I think this leads to an obvious choice in our current political climate. 

Once our votes are cast, then each can make choices that will compliment our vote —  we can improve ourselves. We can make choices that will empower us to help ourselves and others instead of making us dependent on others. Most of us can read good blogs (like this one!) and good books that will inform our thinking. We can become more responsible for ourselves and get training which will allow us to serve others. And we can get more involved with a good, life-giving local church so our personal integrity and our understanding of serving others improves. By doing these things, our personal prosperity will have a better chance of strengthening which will provide security for us, our loved ones, and our friends. We Americans already live in a good country, and by doing these things, we can make our world even better.

Just my two cents.

—————————————-

Pastor Ted Haggard, DD, CHBC, is a Bible teacher with an emphasis on New Testament solutions to the human condition. His Bible teaching is informed by biblical scholarship, Choice Theory (Glasser), Attachment Theory (Johnson), and Behavioral Studies using DISC (Rohm).

This and other blogs by Pastor Ted Haggard are available at http://www.tedhaggardblog.com as a ministry of St. James Church. If you would like to strengthen the ministry of St. James Church and Pastor Ted Haggard by giving, please use the “give” tab at http://www.saintjameschurch.com.

 

 

Categories
Responsible Citizens

Donald Trump is a D

I missed the first Democrat debate with Michael Bloomberg the other night because I was at the St. James Church Men’s Bible Study. As soon as I got home, I watched the pundits on CNN and FOX comment on the debate. The following morning I awoke to 5-degrees outside and a beautiful blanket of snow on the ground. After reading my Bible and drinking my breakfast shake, I decided to watch the debate on DVR as I exercised on my treadmill. Not surprisingly, I did not think the debate was at all what the pundits described the night before. I thought the candidates all represented themselves better than the pundits described, and, of course, the argument each candidate repeatedly emphasized was their ability to replace President Trump in the upcoming November election.

Later that morning as I was driving to the office listening to the local news, I learned that President Trump was scheduled to speak here in Colorado Springs in our largest public facility later that day, and that people had been lining up outside the facility since the day before. Already that morning the parking lot was filled with people hoping to see President Trump. 

What a great country!

I enjoy the excitement of an election season. I also enjoy people with their various personalities and opinions. I like vibrant discussions and impassioned debates—as long as they don’t resort to violence. I particularly enjoy deciphering people’s personality types through the DISC personality profile system, which helps me understand the behaviors of different individuals and adds some intrigue to public discussion.

Let me explain. Many are familiar with the DISC personality profile system and that all of us are a blend of these personality styles. But since this is a short blog explaining how American personalities, not the Russians, are influencing our current presidential debates, there is not room to explain all the nuances.

Let me summarize. Most of us are either outgoing or reserved, and are either task oriented or people oriented. 

So if someone is predominantly outgoing and task oriented, they are a D, which means they tend to be dominant, direct, demanding, decisive, determined, and a doer. They typically make quick decisions, are results oriented, are direct and straight-forward, confident and competitive. They have a high level of initiative and energy, and don’t like to be bogged down with a lot of details. President Trump is a D. He’s focused on getting the job done. He would be loads of fun on a whitewater rafting trip. He would have us down that river through the most exciting parts with the highest water without hesitation. We would conquer the river with him on board! Ds change things.

If someone is generally outgoing and people oriented, they are an I, which means they are inspiring, influential, interactive, and interested in people. Is tend to be persuasive, gregarious, impulsive and can be the life of the party. Is often think Ds are too serious and uncaring about other people’s feelings. I’s think D’s are harsh. President Clinton is an I. I would enjoy going ATVing with President Clinton. He would be going fast enough to be fun, but not take too many risks. And he would ensure that everyone else was having fun, probably with good stories and lots of snacks at every rest stop. Is keep the world happy.

If someone is more reserved and people oriented, they are an S, which means they are supportive, stable, steady, sweet, prefer the status quo, and sometimes appear to be shy. They are typically dependable, easygoing, and friendly. Their emphasis is cooperation and they tend to be the ones who do repetitive tasks, enjoy established work patterns and routine work. They might say they want change, but are fundamentally uncomfortable with it. They typically think Ds are dangerous and threatening. President Ford was an S. He helped America recover from Watergate. I would enjoy hiking the Colorado Trail with President Ford. He would keep a steady pace and be pleasant as we admire God’s creation together. His consideration of me and the others would keep us from hiking too fast or too slowly, and he would ensure everyone was ok. Ss make the world work.

And finally, if someone is typically more reserved and task oriented, they are a C, which means they are cautious, calculating, competent, conscientious, contemplative, and careful. They are people who like precision and problem solving. They don’t need a lot of people contact for energy. They typically think Ds are reckless, too spontaneous and impulsive. President Obama is a C. I would like to go camping with him because he would make sure we all have all the correct supplies, and that everything is done the way it should be. Cs like it when things are right.

Obviously, since this blog is about President Trump being a D, I briefly described what others often think of Ds. This might help you understand and be able to enjoy our political system a little bit more. Interestingly, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Ds, so it’s perfectly predictable that both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump would stir powerful emotional reactions. But each of them have different secondary personality strengths. Trump is a DI, which means he can be very entertaining and fun loving, where Hillary is a DC, which explains her extensive policy papers she proposed when she was running for president. Because of that, they are very different in public.

I never vote based on the personality of any particular candidate. Instead, I only vote based on political philosophy. That being said, I do trust our system, so when elections are free and fair, I’ve observed that we tend to have the right person in the right position at the right time.

And even though we have a great variety of competing personalities and political philosophies in our great nation, the Scriptures say that we can pray for those who are in authority over us so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity (1 Timothy 2:2). Whether or not the candidate I vote for wins, I know that it’s my responsibility to pray for them. I respect our system and the president who is in office at the time, I think it’s wise for all of us to faithfully pray for their safety and wisdom.

———————————————–

Pastor Ted Haggard, DD, CHBC, is a Bible teacher with an emphasis on New Testament solutions to the human condition. His Bible teaching is informed by biblical scholarship, Choice Theory (Glasser), Attachment Theory (Johnson), and Behavioral Studies using DISC (Rohm).

This and other blogs by Pastor Ted Haggard are available at http://www.tedhaggardblog.com as a ministry of St. James Church. If you would like to strengthen the ministry of St. James Church and Pastor Ted Haggard by giving, please use the “give” tab at http://www.saintjameschurch.com.

 

Categories
Responsible Citizens

Is Equality A Myth?

In our modern world most cultures wrestle continually with the idea of equality.

This is a current concern of mine because socialists and communists have used the equality argument as a ruse for the last 100 years to gain power and ultimately destroy countries. Millions are killed, poverty increases, and dictatorships are established under the banner of empowering the common man, uniting workers, and eliminating income disparity.

But I don’t think equality actually exists or can even be a realistic goal except in four areas:

  1. We all have equal access to God because of what Jesus did for us.
  2. We as Americans strive for equality under the law.
  3. We all die and step into eternity.
  4. We all have 24 hours in a day, no more and no less.

Other than these four areas, we are all different and will each live a unique life. Some of our characteristics will never change. Others will be difficult to change. Some factors in our lives will be determined by influences we can’t control. But for most of us, our lives will primarily consist of our choices and the results of our choices.

These realities point to the importance of parents, churches, schools, our choice of friends, our speech and actions, and the Bible.

On the subject of equality before God, Paul writes in Galatians 3:28, There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. The benefits obtained by Jesus’ death on the cross are equally available to all regardless of nationality, race, gender or social status. Those who study the Bible have no doubt that God’s view of social equality was revealed in the way Jesus confronted racial and gender discrimination.

Consequently, all of us who are Christians have a responsibility to model Christ’s attitude toward others. Jesus said, So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples. Although we live in a world where there is inequality, we as Christians must not embrace that inequality, but instead, live our lives in a way that reveals God’s love and confronts unjust inequality.

However, in regard to economics, there are realistic differences. Most of you reading my blog live in free-market, capitalist democracies. The last 100 years have proven that free-market, capitalist democracies provide opportunities for people to improve their lives and the lives of others. They’ve also proven to make the most goods and services available to the highest percentage of people, more so than any other economic or governmental system in the world. In general, in countries like ours, more members of the population are better off than in any other system.

In fact, free market democracies require that we provide either goods or services desired by someone else in order to make a living. It makes sense that those who specialize in making goods or providing services that require greater skill and training will typically earn more than those who provide unskilled labor. And this is where a natural disparity in income justifiably exists.

Brain surgeons make more than people who work in a warehouse, and those who carry responsibility for assets, goods, and services make more than those who simply show up to work for a certain time, perform a task during that time, and go home with no ongoing responsibilities. The greater the service provided to others, and the number of people able to provide that service determines its value to others. And the value others place on our service is how wages are determined.

Everyone’s labor is not of equal value. It’s those we serve who determine the value of the goods we produce, the services we provide, and the responsibilities we carry. In our system, most of us have the freedom to determine what we will do for a living. We should keep in mind, though, that our choice will influence our earning ability, and that others will have the final say regarding our income, based on the value they place on our services or the products we produce. If what we do is valuable to them, they compensate us accordingly.

When we are contemplating education and careers, we need to remember that our training has to have value for others, and if lots of people can do what we choose, the compensation will be less. If fewer people have the skills to do what we do, and there is demand for what we do, our compensation will increase. In a free market system, wages are determined by how much other people want what we produce, how we serve them, and the value of the responsibilities we carry.

The voluntary exchange of goods and services responsibly delivered for money have to benefit both the producer and consumer, which is why coercion and monopolies are illegal. For free markets to work properly at setting wages and prices, producers and consumers, or employees and employers, have to be able to freely assess the value of the goods and services being produced. Values are subjective, and the value of any item is the price the purchaser is willing to pay. If markets are truly free, the greater the value placed upon goods or services, the greater the cost to those who want or need those goods or services, and, as a result, the greater the income to the provider.

Which brings me to prices and profits. If something is very profitable and the market is authentically free, then more people and companies will start to provide those same goods and services so they can earn a portion of those profits. This practice increases the supply, lowers the cost and thus the profits until it reaches an equilibrium of the greatest value at the least cost with adequate supply. This idea is why free market economies generally don’t have shortages or surpluses, and why our free market economies have high quality and value for the price.

That is unless the government gets unnecessarily involved.

Health care is impacted by these forces. Becoming a physician takes a great deal of training and sacrifice. If the rewards are adequate, many young men and women will be incentivized to become doctors because of the potential income and benefits their work will provide for them and their families, as well as for the clients they serve. Free markets will produce the right number and types of doctors, nurses, technicians, and hospitals needed for every community. The market will determine the number of doctors needed to meet the demand and it will compensate and incentivize men and women to make the sacrifices necessary to be highly trained. Over time, an equilibrium will be reached that will ensure the greatest value, at the least cost, with adequate supply.

If, however, the government limits the benefits of such sacrifice, the incentive for young men and women to become doctors is diminished and there will be a shortage. Then the government has two choices: lower the quality of training doctors receive so their sacrifice in training is less, or ration people’s access to medical care.

This formula applies to every occupation, which is why excessive government involvement often does not lead to improvement in society or make people better off – except, that is, government workers, because greater government involvement increases demand for government workers. The solution—limit excessive government involvement other than to provide the necessary regulations for fairness and honesty and let the market work competitively.

This brings me to the last subject: privilege.

As I pointed out in the opening paragraphs of this blog, and most would agree, racial discrimination and gender inequality are sinful and unjust. Every believer should use their influence to try to eliminate these erroneous views in their personal lives and in society at large. It follows then that a skewed perspective on privilege—thinking one person is born better than another—can be sinful and harmful as well. But there is no doubt that well-lived lives lead to benefits that appear to be privilege.

For example, if a child is born into a family in which their biological parents are in a committed, life-long, life-giving relationship, the child has greater odds of developing the skills and commitments necessary to earn a good living. If the parents are involved in a good life-giving church and wisely invest their income, then their child will have greater odds of being healthy spiritually, emotionally, and physically than others. Because this child has more exposure to healthy influences, their opportunities are improved which can strengthen their family for generations. Others who were raised differently might not have the same spiritual, emotional and physical discipline, and life will, in fact, be more difficult for them.

So privilege simply because of race or gender is immoral and needs to be confronted. But privilege that occurs because of wise decisions can be used to strengthen society.

In the United States, we all have great freedom to make wise decisions to grow spiritually and responsibly, but we also have the freedom to fail, bring shame on our families and leave our children with diminished opportunities.

So, is the equality that many politicians talk about a myth? I think so. But it is also a noble ideal. It’s noble to strive for gender and racial equality, and we should never grow weary in the struggle. We’ve made great advancements toward this end, but we must continue in the quest. We as Americans also strive for equality under the law, but in some respects, we’ve not yet achieved it and are still working on it. As human beings, we also have equality in access to God that is provided through his Son, Jesus, but not everyone responds to him.

And before we conclude that privilege is always negative, maybe we could look to the Scriptures and realize that as we grow in obedience to God by his grace, our children are assured that they are blessed, prayed for, and spiritually protected, and this leads to greater opportunities. Certainly, we don’t have to sacrifice toward a marketable skill, read the Scriptures, participate in a good church, or pray for our children. Not doing so, however, might make life a little more difficult for our families.

None of us has the power to change all of society, but all of us do have the power to change ourselves. Having universal equality may be a myth, and it may not even be smart or beneficial, but if we respond wisely to the equality and opportunities we do have, we can all be better off.

————————————

This and other blogs by Pastor Ted Haggard are available at http://www.tedhaggardblog.com as a ministry of St. James Church. If you would like to strengthen the ministry of St. James Church and Pastor Ted Haggard by giving, please use the “give” tab at http://www.saintjameschurch.com.

Categories
Responsible Citizens

The Thirteen Folds

On November 20, 2018, my father-in-law, Col. Troy Alcorn, USAF Retired, was honored at his internment service at the Pikes Peak National Cemetery in Colorado Springs, Colorado. His son-in-law, Command CMSgt Bobby Smith, USAF Retired, explained the meaning of the 13 folds of the flag-folding ceremony. I had never heard the official meaning of the folds, and thought you might be interested. 

If you’ve attended a funeral honoring a veteran who served our country, perhaps you witnessed the folding of the flag that once covered the casket of a loved one. Each of the 13 folds of the flag holds great significance.

And at the ceremony of retreat, a daily observance at bases during which all personnel pay respect to the flag, “the flag is lowered, folded in a triangle fold and kept under watch throughout the night as a tribute to our nation’s honored dead. The next morning, it is brought out and, at the ceremony of reveille, run aloft as a symbol of our belief in the resurrection of the body.”

Please think about these respectfully:

  1. The first fold of our flag is a symbol of life.
  2. The second fold signifies our belief in eternal life.
  3. The third fold is made in honor and tribute of the veteran departing our ranks, and who gave a portion of his or her life for the defense of our country to attain peace.
  4. The fourth fold exemplifies our weaker nature as citizens trusting in God; it is to Him we turn for His divine guidance.
  5. The fifth fold is an acknowledgment to our country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur, “Our country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right, but it is still our country, right or wrong.”
  6. The sixth fold is for where our hearts lie. It is with our heart that we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
  7. The seventh fold is a tribute to our armed forces, for it is through the armed forces that we protect our country and our flag against all enemies.
  8. The eighth fold is a tribute to the one who entered into the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day, and to honor our mother, for whom it flies on Mother’s Day.
  9. The ninth fold is an honor to womanhood, for it has been through their faith, love, loyalty, and devotion that the character of the men and women who have made this country great have been molded.
  10. The 10th fold is a tribute to father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of our country since he or she was first-born.
  11. The 11th fold, in the eyes of Hebrew citizens, represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon and glorifies, in their eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
  12. The 12th fold, in the eyes of a Christian citizen, represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in their eyes, God the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost.
  13. The last fold, when the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost, reminding us of our national motto, “In God We Trust.”

This might be one of the blogs you would like to print out and keep. Or, maybe you would like to distribute this to your friends and family members. The flag folding ceremony has always been meaningful to me as one who has personally witnessed the struggles others face who do not enjoy our heritage, but after hearing this explanation, the ceremony is even more powerful to me.

Categories
Responsible Citizens

Change Is Inevitable; Improvement Optional

Paul instructed Timothy:

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. For,

There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity – the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.

The book of Genesis describes how God created order from chaos, which is exactly what godly people do so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives, marked by godliness and dignity. Others, though, are never satisfied with existing order. They want change. And their goal is simply change for the sake of change, sometimes at any cost. I, too, believe that we should embrace change, but only as a means to create something better. Positive change produces greater peace and order and requires thoughtful people to shape it.

Sometimes human dissatisfaction grows out of injustice, bigotry, lack of opportunity, or repression. In these cases, challenging existing norms is justified, even necessary. Other times dissatisfaction is rooted within ourselves and, because we tend to blame others for our dissatisfaction, we challenge others or the existing norms in a way that creates chaos that actually makes our lives worse.

To illustrate, the American Revolution was rooted in change and led to our constitutional republic which allows for a continual, orderly evolution of government for the good of all. As a result, we’ve experienced over 200 years of orderly transitions of power that have adjusted to changing social norms. The lives of American citizens have steadily improved, and we are better off now than ever before. These changes have provided greater opportunities for improvement for all of us.

The opposite takes place when extremists’ revolutions lead to mass genocide, extreme poverty, starvation, abuse, the denial of civil liberties, and the establishment of dictatorships under the guise of promoting the common good. These types of revolutions use the language of empowering powerless people, but instead create chaos that allows the deceptive and power hungry to gain dictatorial power.

Since change is inevitable, we are all better off if necessary changes are directed by thoughtful people.

Gayle and I have recently watched the first two seasons of the Amazon Prime TV series The Man in the High Tower. So far, it has depicted the situation that might have developed if America hadn’t used the bomb to end World War II, thus allowing Germany time to develop the bomb, destroy Washington, and win the war. In the series, Nazi Germany and Japan divide the United States with the east ruled by a Nazi dictator and the west ruled by a Japanese Emperor.

While watching this series, we read the acclaimed Robert K. Massie biography of Nicholas and Alexandra, the history of the last Czar of Russia and his family who were ultimately assassinated. At that time, many Russians were promoting the idea of changing the government to a republic, while others were demanding more extreme changes. The chaos that ensued during these shifting times created an opportunity for Lenin to form a communist dictatorship that led to more poverty, genocide, and abuse than any single governmental system in the history of the world.

We engaged in reading this historical biography and watching the TV series while we also were experiencing the 2018 mid-term election season. Because of what we were watching and reading, I was keenly aware of how quickly nations can come and go. So I became somewhat concerned for the state of our nation as violent discord and an unusual lack of civility gripped our public discourse.

Unknown-22-1.jpeg

I asked some of my friends where they thought the chaos was coming from. Most simply blamed one or the other of the political parties. But several of them pointed me to Saul Alinsky’s book, Rules for Radicals,which I have now read.

Alinsky argues that people must take risks to force change, assuming that change will produce improvement the majority of the time. He claims that he is not a promoter of any particular ideology, but that he wants to encourage radicals to force change for the sake of change. He also encourages radical intervention for any powerless group that wants to take power. But since he wrote his book in 1971, he did not have the benefit of the lessons we’ve learned during the last fifty years from disastrous revolutionary movements that took place in the last century—the failure of Stalinist ideals, the mass genocides, poverty, and abuses that have been attributed to totalitarian regimes.  Yet strikingly, even though his book lacks the wisdom we’ve gained in recent history, the ideas it promotes are being embraced by some in our current political discourse and they are negatively impacting the civility we have earned and enjoyed. As I read it, I was starkly reminded that change happens, but when those who lack wisdom and thoughtfulness direct it, the outcome is disasterous.

In contrast, we can benefit from the wisdom we’ve gained over time. For example, we’re all aging, but we’ve learned we will enjoy higher quality aging if we eat good food, exercise, learn, and engage in social interactions. Children will become adults, but we’ve learned their odds of becoming healthy adults is increased if their parents stay married, they enjoy learning, they are socially involved, and they regularly attend a good life-giving church.

Change is inevitable, so we all must wisely direct change to improve our families, our communities, our workplaces, and our churches. And THIS is exactly why the Bible is so important.

No other book in the history of the world has led to so much opportunity, prosperity, freedom, mutual respect, wholesome family life, and healthy community as the Bible. The Book That Made Your World, How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization, by Vishal Mangalwadi,  and the book How Christianity Changed the World,by Alvin J. Schmidt are excellent reads that explain why Western Civilization, built on Judeo-Christian principles looks so different than other civilizations.

The opening Scripture in this blog exhorts us to pray for those in authority. When we pray, read our Bibles, and fellowship with other believers, we have to contemplate time-proven ideas. The purpose of reading books, thinking about trends in history that help or hurt, or discussing ideas in a way that helps everyone gain understanding, is so that we can all improve. Sometimes that might lead to a revolution. Other times it simply inspires us to live wisely.

Many “progressive” ideas do not create progress at all. They are instead a return to failed 20th century theories that proved to be counterproductive. So, since change is inevitable, let’s thoughtfully direct it based on the wisdom we’ve gained, rather than repeat the failed leftist ideas of the past. Instead, let’s learn from the past and thoughtfully direct change so that it will create opportunities for improvement for everyone.

Unknown-21-1.jpeg

Categories
Responsible Citizens

Elections and Wisdom in Our Great Country

I like being a middle-aged man. I don’t get as excited about current events as I used to. For example, though some elections go my way and others don’t, I have learned that as long as they are free and fair, the right person ends up in the right place most of the time. And when we elect the wrong person, our constitutional system of checks and balances works just fine. So I’ve participated in every election since I was 18 years old. I vote, but I don’t scream at others in the street.

The same is true with my faith. I know the Bible is the Word of God, Jesus is the Son of God, and that Earth is not Heaven, so events on Earth don’t get me all bothered. Here on the Earth, there are lots of influences that do not reflect God’s best plan for people. But in Heaven, God’s perfect goodness dominates all. Here on Earth, I’ve seen nations come and go. Some have lost their freedom; others have gained it. Some spiral into chaos; others find order and good government. I have a strong political philosophy that protects people’s freedoms and allows them to acquire the goods and services that they need. But I’m not the only one possessing conviction, so sometimes others prevail.

Personally, I’ve had very good days, and very bad days, but in the midst of both, I stay pretty steady. I’m not saying I don’t get mildly emotional sometimes, but I have never been mad at God. I’m secure in God’s forgiveness and love, so I can rest.

Job said to his counselors (whose advice sounded good and would be popular today, but in God’s estimation missed the mark),

Wisdom belongs to the aged, and understanding to the old. But true wisdom and power are found in God; counsel and understanding are his.

We witnessed contrasting opinions and motivations play out in the highly politicized Kavanaugh hearings. For those of you who don’t remember, Judge Brett Kavanaugh was nominated by President Trump to the Supreme Court during the passionate 2018 mid-term election season. From the outset Democrat senators opposed his nomination and Republicans favored it. After the private and public hearings, FBI investigations, validation by the American Bar Association, and the predictable bantering of special interest groups, the judiciary committee was ready to vote pretty much along party lines.

Then, everything exploded when Dr. Christine Blasey Ford came forward accusing Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her at a high school drinking party. At the time our nation was already sensitized to sexual abuse by the powerful against vulnerable victims and, no doubt, Americans did not want a sexual abuser on our highest court. I’ll spare you the drama that went on as a result of this accusation, and the bandwagon effect that created other similar accusations. Rather let’s fast forward to today.

Kavanaugh is now on the Supreme Court, and the cameras, hype, and spin associated with Judge Kavanaugh have moved on to newer stories. Those accusers who jumped on the bandwagon have all been discredited, and Dr. Ford has become a millionaire. And it’s been reported that she will write a book, which will probably lead to a book tour.

Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee released a massive 414-page report revealing their findings. Among them, the report summarizes a statement from a man who believes he may have been involved in an encounter with Dr. Ford around the time of the sexual misconduct incident she attributes to Kavanaugh.

Interestingly, Dr. Ford testified that the assault was hampered because she was wearing a bathing suit under her clothes, and that Kavanaugh’s friend, Mark Judge, playfully jumped on top of them and they fell off the bed, stopping the assault.

The man mentioned in the 414-page report, whose name was redacted in the publicly released document, claimed exactly that scenario. The man told the investigators that when he was a 19-year old college student, he had visited Washington over spring break and kissed a girl he believes was Dr. Ford. “He said that the kiss happened in the bedroom of a house which was about a 15-to 20-minute walk from the Van Ness Metro, that Dr. Ford was wearing a swimsuit under her clothing, and that the kissing ended when a friend jumped on them as a joke,” the report said.

Senate Investigators interviewed this man before Dr. Ford testified before the committee, which was before these details were publicly known.

According to the report, this man and Judge Kavanaugh looked very much alike at that time.

The man also reported to investigators that the encounter was consensual.

The point of this blog is not to validate Judge Kavanaugh or the Senate Report. These reports might be mitigated in the future. But the point of this blog is to simply say that we Christians need not be emotionally moved by every trending story. Instead we need to be powerful in prayer, active in responsible participation in our democratic system of government, and, regardless of what happens, trust the Lord.

With that in mind, it might be wise to:

  • Read your Bible every day for perspective,
  • Pray every day, which will give you peace,
  • And attend church at least once a week, which will center your life.

Proverbs 3:7 says,

Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil.

Let’s do that.

Categories
Responsible Citizens

Finding Truth

Everyone lies.

I’ve watched many seemingly honorable couples slip into deception, false accusations, and exaggerations while going through divorce.

In addition, my wife and I watch the news every evening when we are home. Often, after hearing or seeing firsthand the items being reported on, we observe news reporters distorting, exaggerating, and sometimes totally misrepresenting what actually happened.

We just experienced the confirmation hearing for Judge Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court. At the end of the process, three women came forward accusing him of sexual misconduct when he was in high school and college. Though the hearings were already partisan, it was interesting that the belief or disbelief of the accusers or the accused were partisan as well, sometimes based on political persuasion of gender rather than facts. I used to think that was partisanism and sexism. I also thought these persuasions were unacceptable in a progressive society, especially when it comes to establishing truth.

I guess not.

Though every civilized society has struggled to construct systems for determining truth or lies, guilt or innocence, America has heralded her ability to utilize due process under the law to protect the innocent and the guilty from mobs. However, our nation seems to be spiraling into an abyss of giving equal credibility to people’s construed “truths” that fit their belief systems regardless of the verifiable facts. Actually, we’re so confused, some would rather support opinions that fit their persuasions, rather than provable, factual evidence.

That’s one reason why we all need to know that everyone lies.

Romans 3: 10-18 points out why all human beings need Christ. It says,

“No one is righteous—
not even one.
11 No one is truly wise;
no one is seeking God.
12 All have turned away;
all have become useless.
No one does good,
not a single one.”
13 “Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave.
Their tongues are filled with lies.”
“Snake venom drips from their lips.”
14     “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
15 “They rush to commit murder.
16     Destruction and misery always follow them.
17 They don’t know where to find peace.”
18     “They have no fear of God at all.”

This accurately reflects the human condition and it matches what I have observed in life. When I went through a scandal in 2006, I publicly lied. Interestingly, everyone else involved did too. Throughout that process, those disciplining me also publicly lied, the press lied, and my accuser lied. We all lied. We were all guilty of that seemingly innocuous offense that created devastation.

Thus, the complex system we’ve designed in our legal system to determine truth and dispense justice ought to be promoted and preserved for the good of all of us. It’s probably one the best we human beings have come up with thus far—though it still must be improved.

As a society, we rejected the practice that mob rule and lynching was fair, reasonable, or right, and demanded that rational and reasonable due process be used to determine truth and dispense justice. But that advance has recently been rejected by our advocacy press corps, shared ignorance on social media, and the politicization of truth.

Now we can easily incite mobs, motivate the angry to bully and threaten, and celebrate the extermination of others. If a popular narrative weighs heavier than the facts and allows us to destroy the individual civil liberties of others for our own gain, we have negated the presuppositions in western civilization that used to protect us all.

In the last century, many of our best political leaders strove to reject racism, sexism, and bigotry. But now the tide is turning and an increasing number of our leaders are embracing these ideas. We regularly hear what white men can or cannot do, and what women ought to do, believe, and promote. An increasing number of our political leaders defend violence, intimidation, and bullying. And many of our institutions of higher learning create ideologues who are incapable of working with and serving those with whom they disagree, but are instead fashioning them into experts who conquer, intimidate, and silence those they don’t like. Are we going to allow this? I hope not.

We human beings are sinful, no doubt. And just about every human being is on a personal search for significance, which often involves conquering or destroying our enemies. But Christ can help all of us rise above that darkness and see a vision of life and light that is unnatural to our dark human condition, and can make all of our lives better. I am the living proof of that.

I’m not a racist, so I’m not going to vote or treat people better or worse according to the color of their skin. Nor am I a sexist, so I’m not going to vote or respond to others based on their gender or sexual preferences. And I’ve rejected bigotry, so I think there is a role for mutual respect, manners, and civility toward others, even those with whom I disagree. I used to find comfort knowing that the majority of our national leaders thought this way too, but I no longer have that assurance.

It now falls to me to be much more responsible in thinking past the spin, sexism, racism, and bigotry that is being promoted by many, and maintain a determination to believe that facts matter, people are human—and therefore fallible, and that we as a society should continue to struggle to help others be better off than they were in the past.We all need to protect due process, the rule of law, and the protection of the weak and vulnerable. I still believe that truth exists, and that since everyone lies, our systems to differentiate between fact and fiction need to be defended and protected so that our rapid-fire communications systems don’t lynch too many. Whether guilty or innocent, everyone deserves due process. We have a constitutional republic instead of a democracy for a reason. It’s to protect all of us from the mob.

Categories
Responsible Citizens

Walls Work

My wife and I raised five children. In our home we appreciated the walls that surrounded us as well as those that created a degree of separation within. They made heat in the winters and cool in the summers possible, provided privacy and security, and communicated in an indirect way that our house was actually a home where a family resided. Within the walls of our home we all shared the same last name.

Last summer my wife and I, along with our youngest son, Elliott, toured Europe. We stayed in hotels with walls, crossed borders protected by security guards, and transported on public transportation that had systems ensuring that people were in the correct place. The systems worked beautifully.

We visited London where we saw Buckingham Palace surrounded by walls, gates, and guards. We saw the world-renowned Louvre museum in Paris, also surrounded by walls which were heavily guarded. And then we toured the most guarded of all the locations we visited, the Vatican in Rome.

As you might know, the Vatican is a city-state that typically has only one citizen, the Pope.

I’ve been to the Vatican many times, and each time, my experience regarding Vatican security and order was extensive.

Surrounding the Vatican are tall, thick walls to keep intruders out and provide security for the wealth that the global Catholic Church has accumulated throughout the centuries. Its well-ordered system includes an abundance of armed guards, security police, and electronic monitoring equipment to ensure that all Vatican visitors are in the right place at the right time.

Once in the Vatican, everyone is carefully instructed as to where they can be, how long they can stay there, and where the exits are located if they need to leave. Violations are dealt with immediately and effectively. Though I have never been an official guest of the Vatican, I am told that official guests are also strictly instructed as to where they are to be, when they are to be there, how they are to respond to the church officials present, and when they will be escorted off the premises. A certain protocol is expected and enforced within these walls.

St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square, overlooked by the Pope’s apartment and balcony, are always a highlight. When I was there many years ago, the courtyard was open to all. On more recent visits, I’ve discovered the addition of metal barriers, designating areas for tourists, parishioners, priests, bishops, and cardinals. Heads of state and guests of the Vatican are escorted with great precision through these barriers. Security is everywhere.

And this is on an average day.

Walls are morally neutral, neither good nor bad in themselves. It’s their purpose that can be hurtful or protective. When the Pope, who lives in a walled city, made the comment that we should “not raise walls, but instead build bridges,” he was emphasizing the importance of positive relations. However, a quick glance at his home and the security that surrounds him as he travels reveals the importance of systems that ensure safety.

The Bible says a lot about walls. Even in eternity there is a wall. Revelation 21:12 says, “The city wall was broad and high, with twelve gates guarded by twelve angels.” Then the Bible describes the walls and gates in details. The Bible speaks extensively about the walls around Jerusalem and Jericho, and the separation points between Abraham and Lot provide a few examples. Bottom line, walls work, whether we like them or not. So the debate need not be whether or not they work, but whether or not we want or need a wall.

I remember years ago, as a guest of the State of Israel, I stayed in the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. I was there to participate in a meeting with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and some of his advisors. Sharon was interested in discussing whether or not giving Gaza to the Palestinians would bring peace, as the Palestinians promised it would, and whether or not he should continue building the wall that had been declared illegal by the world court in the Hague the day before.

The morning of  our meeting, a suicide bomber blew up a bus full of passengers near our hotel. I went out to see the aftermath. It was horrific. It deeply impacted me because I couldn’t help but notice that the dismembered body parts of Palestinian students looked the same as body parts of Jewish kids. The blood of old women looked the same as the blood of college students. The terrorists announced their intent was to stop our meeting. In response, the Prime Minister just moved the meeting time up. We were in his office within two hours.

We worked all afternoon and settled on several decisions that day. Immediately Israel started moving portions of the wall off of occupied territory onto Israeli land, which satisfied the Hague. Later the Prime Minister decided to give the Palestinians The Gaza Strip. The wall worked, Gaza didn’t.

The bombings stopped for years. Now when they happen, they are highly unusual. Rockets still fly from Gaza regularly, but they either miss their targets or are shot down. Partially because of that ugly, awful wall, peaceful Muslims, Jews, and Christians work together in Jerusalem every day, and some peaceful Palestinians are allowed to cross into Israel and work. Many people, both Palestinian and Jewish, are alive today because of the wall.

When my kids were younger, sometimes they would poke, tease, and fight with one another in the back seat of the car. My wife and I would try negotiating a peaceful settlement with them, but usually the best way to stop the fighting and any ensuing tears was to create barriers—invisible walls—between our children so we could drive down the road peacefully, arrive at our destination safely, and give all of us a future.

Now our kids are grown. We don’t have to create walls in our car any more. They are no longer necessary. Now, our grown children live in their own homes with . . . walls that keep them warm and safe.

Walls work.

Categories
Responsible Citizens

An Honest Obituary for a Wicked American

Hugh Hefner, gone to his reward at the age of 91 in September, 2017, was a pornographer and chauvinist who got rich on masturbation, consumerism and the exploitation of women, aged into a leering grotesque in a captain’s hat, and died a pack rat in a decaying manse where porn blared during his pathetic orgies.

Hefner was the grinning pimp of the sexual revolution, with Quaaludes for the ladies and Viagra for himself — a father of smut addictions and eating disorders, abortions and divorce and syphilis, a pretentious huckster who published Updike stories no one read while doing flesh procurement for celebrities, a revolutionary whose revolution chiefly benefited men much like himself.

The arc of his life vindicated his moral critics, conservative and feminist: What began with talk of jazz and Picasso and other signifiers of good taste ended in a sleazy decrepitude that would have been pitiable if it wasn’t still so exploitative.

Early Hefner had a pipe and suit and a highbrow reference for every occasion; he even claimed to have a philosophy, that final refuge of the scoundrel. But late Hefner was a lecherous, low-brow Peter Pan, playing at perpetual boyhood — ice cream for breakfast, pajamas all day — while bodyguards shooed male celebrities away from his paid harem and the skull grinned beneath his papery skin.

This late phase was prettied up by reality television’s “The Girls Next Door,” which kept the orgies offstage and relied on the girlfriends’ mix of desperation, boredom and charisma for it’s stage appeal. The behind-the-scenes account were rather grimmer; depression and drugs, “dirty hallway carpets and the curtains that smell like dog piss,” the chance to wait while Hefner “picked the dog poo off the carpet — and then ask for our allowance.”

Needless to say the obituaries for Hefner, even if they acknowledge the seaminess, have been full of encomia for his great deeds: Hefner the vanquisher of puritanism, Hefner, the political progressive, Hefner, the great businessman and all the rest. There are even conservative appreciations, arguing that for all his faults Hefner was an entrepreneur who appreciated the finer things in life and celebrated la différence.

What a lot of garbage. Sure, Hefner supported some good causes and published some good writers. But his good deeds and aesthetic aspirations were ultimately incidental to his legacy — a gloss over his flesh-peddling, smeared like Vaseline on a pornographer’s lens. The things that were distinctively Hefnerian, that made him influential and important, were all rotten, and to the extent they were part of stories that people tend to celebrate, they showed the rot in larger things as well.

His success as a businessman showed the rotten side of capitalism — the side that exploits appetites for money, that feeds leech-like on our vices, that dissolves family and religion while promising that consumption will fill the void they leave behind.

The social liberalism he championed was the rotten and self-interested sort, a liberalism of male and upper-class privilege, in which the strong and beautiful and rich take their pleasure at the expense of the vulnerable and poor and not-yet-born.

The online future his career anticipated was the rotten side of the internet — the realms of onanism and custom-tailored erotica, where the male vanity and entitlement he indulged has curdled into resentment and misogyny.

And his appreciation of male-female difference was rotten, too — the leering predatory sort of appreciation, the Cosby-Clinton-Trump sort, the sort that nicknames quaaludes “thigh openers” and expects the girls to laugh, the sort that prefers breast implants to female intellect and rents the charms of youth to escape the realities of age.

No doubt what Hefner offered America somebody else would have offered in his place, and the changes he helped hasten would have come rushing in without him.

But in every way that mattered he made those changes worse, our culture coarser and crueler and more sterile than liberalism or feminism or freedom of speech required. And in every way that mattered his life story proved that we were wrong to listen to him, because at the end of the long slide lay only a degraded, priapic senility, or the desperate gaiety of Prince Prospero’s court with the Red Death at the door.

Now that death has taken him, we should examine our own sins. Liberals should ask why their crusade for freedom and equality found itself with such a captain, and what his legacy says about their cause. Conservatives should ask how their crusade for faith and family and community ended up so Hefnerian itself — with a conservative news network that seems to have been run on Playboy Mansion principles and a conservative party that just elected a playboy as our president.

You can find these questions being asked, but they are counterpoints and minor themes. That this should be the case, that only prudish Christians and spoilsport feminists willing to say that the man was obviously wicked and destructive, is itself a reminder that the rot Hugh Hefner spread goes very, very deep.

(This is an op-ed column written by Ross Douthat, published in The New York Times on September 30, 2017. I posted the original link on my two most popular Facebook pages, and as far as I could tell, no one clicked on the link or commented on the post, which is highly irregular. But I thought the importance and honesty of this column deserved attention, so I decided to cut and paste the column, with a few minor changes and my own bold highlights on my blog page hoping it might encourage some who have enjoyed my blogs to read Ross’ column.

This column should not be casually read and contemplated. It must be thoughtfully read and seriously considered. It’s message goes much deeper than the surface. Ted)