Month: August 2014

“A Nine-Year-Old Girl With An Uzi, Really?”

2004 vacation 095How does a nine-year-old girl get an Uzi 9mm submachine gun in her hands?  I am not a gun enthusiast but I am a supporter of the second amendment.  However, when the second amendment was adopted in December of 1791 the personal weapons of the day included muskets, flintlocks, blunder busses and the like.  They were basically single load, single shot weapons; there was no such thing as an automatic or semi-automatic firearm.  Furthermore, I am confident in my assumption based on the culture of that era; that nine-year-old girls were not encouraged to fire weapons of any kind.

The accidental shooting death of gun instructor, Charles Vacca at an Arizona gun range once again brings to the forefront some very serious questions in the ongoing dispute between gun-control advocates and gun enthusiasts.

Again, I have to ask, how does a nine-year-old girl get an Uzi 9mm submachine gun in her hands?  Is it a product of stupidity, poor judgment or perhaps a diligent proselytizer bent on demonstrating before all mankind the safety of gun enthusiasm for all people?  Naturally the finger pointing is rampant.  The parents should never have taken her to the gun range.  The instructor should never have allowed her to use such a powerful weapon.  The government, both local and federal should impose stricter gun laws.  Law enforcement should be more diligent in current gun control enforcement.

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This is yet another shining example of common sense being divorced from commonality.  I have never claimed to corner the market on wisdom but the idea that we would put such a powerful weapon in the hands of such an innocent is beyond even my sometimes-flawed logic.  What’s next?  Will we equip orangutans with rocket-propelled grenade launchers in the interest of creating viral You Tube videos?  “Well, uh, I don’t know, it seemed like a good idea at the time”.  God help us!

My heart grieves for the people of the community where this tragedy occurred as well as for Charles Vacca and his family.  The question now is what does the future hold for the unidentified girl who is as much a victim in this case as anyone?

For some reason we view ourselves; and when I say “ourselves” I mean mankind, as the guardians of the world.  We believe we are the wise ones, that we are the ones with the capabilities to solve all of the world’s ills whether man-made or natural.  Unfortunately, we give ourselves far too much credit.  While many stand in judgment of those who made unspeakably stupid decisions in this case we are all of the same species and are capable of the same lapses in judgment. If we’re honest we would all acknowledge that we have made ill-conceived decisions whether contrived or in a split second that, but for the grace of God, could have resulted in a similar tragedy.

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My point being once again – People of the world, we need a Savior!!!  And it can’t be a statesman!

 

 

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“Sympathy for the Devil – Part #3”

2004 vacation 095Continuing from “Sympathy for the Devil -Part #2” regarding animosity towards God and the church on the part of the artistic community I present the following example.

To be fair, in this case the narrative isn’t so much intended as disparagement toward the church but rather toward the selfish and greedy excesses of man.  However, the last verse jabs at our hope for a heavenly paradise essentially stating that once man gets to heaven, we’ll ruin that just as we have done to the earth.

“The Last Resort” written by Eagles band members Glenn Frey and Don Henley is an observation of man’s propensity to ruin everything over which he takes dominion concluding that, if there is a heaven or some celestial paradise that as soon as man gets there it will cease to be paradise.  I always liked the song finding it musically appealing and amusingly irreverent.  When I became a Christian I initially found it moderately offensive but it wasn’t long before I realized that this song, like so many artistic expressions are rooted in perceptions, whether valid or not of events, actions or statements made by agents of the church.

In a 1978 interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Henley said: “‘The Last Resort’, is still one of my favorite songs.  That’s because I care more about the environment than about writing songs about drugs or love affairs or excesses of any kind.  The gist of the song was that when we find something good, we destroy it by our presence — by the very fact that man is the only animal on earth that is capable of destroying his environment.  The environment is the reason I got into politics: to try to do something about what I saw as the complete destruction of most of the resources that we have left.  We have mortgaged our future for gain and greed.”

While the animosity towards Christianity and the church is painful for followers of Christ, it is not difficult to understand its roots.  We need to pray for those who have been hurt by injustices by the church, whether real or perceived and respectfully engage them and like-minded people in order to communicate the full power and beauty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

*I was going to include a music video of the song but I couldn’t find any that were any good.

“The Challenge of the Challenge”

2004 vacation 095I was recently challenged to participate in the “Ice Water Challenge” to raise awareness and funding for research of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)  better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.  After joyfully accepting this challenge it was brought to my attention that the ALS research foundation utilizes embryonic stem-cell research (ESR) in their efforts to find a cure.  As a staunch pro-life advocate (Unlike many pro-life supporters – I am opposed to capital punishment) I find myself conflicted.

I can hear my pro-life friends saying, “There is no need to be conflicted, it is just wrong.”  I don’t deny their position but at the same time I find myself in need of Solomon’s wisdom to decide whether or not to cut a baby in half.  The ALS foundation’s involvement in ESR is limited to one program funded by one individual and, as I understand it when that program is completed the foundation will cease to employ ESR continuing with the less certain, less efficient, more complex and less deadly adult skin cell research.  Donors are afforded the accommodation of requiring their donations to NOT be contributed toward ESR.  However, knowing this does not necessarily exempt me from being complicit in ESR should I choose to participate in the Challenge.

The entire ordeal has caused me to feel as though I must chose between two lives; in order for one to live another must die.  Having seen the ravages of ALS I cannot disconnect my compassion for its victims any more than I can abdicate my compassion for unborn children.

I know many of my friends would accuse me of compromising or caving in to the pressure of public opinion, believe me I’m past that. When one comes to grips with the reality that any decision will displease somebody it is easier to just grapple with one’s own prayerful decision making.

If I go through with participating in this challenge many will accuse me of compromise or of rejecting Biblical truth.  At the same time I find it difficult to say to those suffering from ALS and their families that, “In the name of Jesus and in the name of truth, I don’t care about your circumstances”.

I’m not wrestling with whether or not I’m compromising or if I’m placating any particular group or individual.  I’m simply speaking honestly about my struggle.

“My Heinous Insensitivity”

2004 vacation 095In light of the ongoing events in Ferguson, MO I am compelled to share what I consider to be arguably the most shameful act that I ever committed.  Although I performed this act over 35 years ago, my insensitivity still haunts me.  Because my actions were so reprehensible until now I have shared this with only a few people.

My dad went to great lengths to insure that I understood that racial prejudice was unacceptable under any circumstance.  I accepted his teaching and his spirit.   Growing up in lily-white Orange County, CA during the 60’s and 70’s I was not adequately prepared for the realities of multi-cultural life.  Of the 2,000 students who attended my high school less than 100 would have been identified as ethnic minorities.  As was common in those days, racial jokes and stereotypes abounded.person-ran-through-smoke-after-police-launched-tear-gas

None of this excuses my actions of October 31, 1978. In an ill-conceived attempt at humor I dressed myself for a Halloween party as a stereotypical “black man.”  I covered my skin with “creole” makeup and tucked my straight auburn hair into a ski cap.  I donned clothing in keeping with the stereotype.  But it was my choice of accessories that best illustrated by ignorant insensitivity.  In one hand I carried a basketball and in the other an empty box from a fried chicken food chain.

The Lesson

Before the party I entered a Huntington Beach liquor store.  While I searched the store for snacks to take to the party I noticed that the proprietor was watching me intently.  I smiled to myself confident that he was duly impressed by my costume.  When I arrived at the check-out counter the proprietor recognized my farce and in stunned awareness exclaimed, “You’re white!”

I was proud of the quality of my masquerade.  As I left the store however, I was kicked in the teeth by a revelation. The storeowner hadn’t been watching me out of admiration for my costume; his diligent scrutiny was based on an assumption that I was black.  This wasn’t about a Halloween costume; this is the sort of treatment common toward African Americans every day in our nation.

I was cut to the quick with shame.  This was not, or so I thought, the kind of person that I was and it was definitely not the kind of person I wanted to be.  That lesson has both haunted me and been a constant reminder that with all of the effort directed at bringing an end to racism the problem continues.

News footage from Ferguson produces chilling reminders of the urban race riots of the 1960’s that, as a child I watched on television from the safety of my suburban Orange County home; trying to understand the reason for the violence.

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There have been significant improvements in race relations over the years, a rather hollow assessment from a white man but we still have a long way to go; on all sides of the ethnic discussion.

Church, Here’s Why People Are Leaving You. Part 1

This needs to be said. John Pavlovitz reflects my heart…

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Being on the other side of the Exodus sucks, don’t it?

I see the panic on your face, Church.
I know the internal terror as you see the statistics and hear the stories and scan the exit polls.
I see you desperately scrambling to do damage control for the fence-sitters, and manufacture passion from the shrinking faithful, and I want to help you.

You may think you know why people are leaving you, but I’m not sure you do.

You think it’s because “the culture” is so lost, so perverse, so beyond help that they are all walking away.
You believe that they’ve turned a deaf ear to the voice of God; chasing money, and sex, and material things.
You think that the gays and the Muslims and the Atheists and the pop stars have so screwed-up the morality of the world, that everyone is abandoning faith in droves.

But those aren’t the reasons…

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“Sympathy for the Devil – Part #2”

2004-vacation-0951.jpgArtists who perceive a lack of social conscience on the part of Christianity frequently reflect animosity toward God. I am confident that there are many more modern examples but the following is from my generation and the sentiment behind it, I believe, is genuine.

The following missive can be found on the back cover of Jethro Tull’s “Aqualung” album…

1 In the beginning Man created God; and in the image of Man created he  him.

2 And Man gave unto God a multitude of names, that he might be Lord of all the earth when it was suited to Man.

3 And on the seven millionth day, Man rested and did lean heavily on his God and saw that it was good.

4 And Man formed Aqualung of the dust of the ground, and a host of others likened unto his kind.

5 And these lesser men were cast into the void; and some were burned, and some were put apart from their kind.

6 And Man became the God that he had created and with his miracles did rule over all the earth.

7 But as all these things came to pass, the Spirit that did cause man to create his God lived on within all men: even within Aqualung.

8 And man saw it not.

9 But for Christ’s sake he’d better start looking.

Based on photographs he had taken of several homeless people Jethro Tull front man, Ian Anderson, created a representative character of a single homeless man with poor hygiene and named him Aqualung. Anderson called the song “a guilt-ridden song of confusion about how you deal with beggars, the homeless. It’s about our reaction, of guilt, distaste, awkwardness and confusion, all these things that we feel when we’re confronted with the reality of the homeless. You see someone who’s clearly in desperate need of some help, whether it’s a few coins or the contents of your wallet, and you blank them out. The more you live in that business-driven, commercially-driven lifestyle, you can just cease to see them.aqualung-1

Jethro Tull performed a number of songs expressing cynicism towards Christianity and religion but not randomly. The only way such attitudes will change is for followers of Christ to appear to be like Christ. While the animosity towards Christianity and the church is painful for followers of Christ, it is not always difficult to understand its roots. We need to pray for those who have been hurt by these perceived injustices and respectfully engage them and like-minded people in order to communicate the full power and beauty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

“When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord,
 He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.”   – Proverbs 16:7 –

“Sympathy for the Devil – Part #1”

2004 vacation 095The French philosopher, François-Marie Arouet, better known as  Voltaire, has long been vilified as one among many who publically declared, “God is dead!” Christians derive pleasure highlighting the ironic legend that the very presses used by Voltaire to print his atheistic declaration were later employed to print countless Bibles.

But who is grieving the lost soul who, having become disenchanted by the factions and divisive doctrines of his contemporary church essentially turned away from God following a sincere yet fruitless search for divine understanding. Voltaire suffered a broken heart when the God he wanted to know could not be found in the teachings and examples of His followers of that day.

6a00d83451c27169e20115703989df970bLike Voltaire, there are countless legends of noted individuals from every corner of culture that have been mistreated or at least perceived to have been mistreated by the church causing them to later exercise their influence against God.

The issue is less about whether or not people believe or want to believe in God, as it is about the negative impact of harmful religious experiences.  Insensitive council, incorrect theology or lack of ministry altogether during a life tragedy could lead to such disillusionment. When a well-intentioned individual tells a parent that his or her child has been raped and murdered because “it was God’s will” unspeakable damage is done to the Gospel. Such erroneous comments are grave distortions often causing people to doubt or abandon any hope in God.

Throughout history individuals have embarked on strategic attacks to malign Christianity.  As followers of Christ many of us have responded in kind to these attacks failing to understand the motivation behind them.

This topic provides enough examples to fill a multi-volume series of books but I will highlight just a few to illustrate my point.

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The rapid decline of the Western European church over the past six decades resulted from the perceived support on the part of state churches toward the Nazi Party and its atrocities. At the very least unwillingness for the church to provide any defense of the victims was evident.

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Similarly, a primary justification for atheism in the Soviet Union stemmed from the support of the Russian Orthodox Church toward the Romanov monarchy and the oligarchy. These two privileged groups displayed no apparent concern for the countless masses that were starving and freezing to death while millions of rubles were wasted on wars that promised no practical benefit for the working class and peasants.

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Is it any wonder that people doubt the existence of God when His people provide so little evidence of His powerful love within us?

We serve a just and merciful God. The widespread evil in our world is our own doing. God is not the cause He is the solution. Our responsibility is to reveal His justice and mercy through lives of love, mercy and truth. He will be the judge.

When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord,
 He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.”   – Proverbs 16:7 –