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How to Stop the Killing

January 14th, 2013 5 comments

stop_the_killing_protest_loud_and_proud_poster-r9767e6b9bf7e4373bc491e18b1e4ebb8_aiu16_325

This was posted today on the Missouri Synod’s “Witness, Mercy, Life Together Blog” by the Synod’s Chief Mission Officer, Rev. Gregory K. Williamson, a long time US Army chaplain. I thought it was excellent.

The Fifth Commandment

You shall not murder.

What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and support him in every physical need.

The recent murders in Connecticut have spawned debates about the growing violence within American society. Debates include gun control, mental health, school security, and parental responsibility. Most experts recommend action by local, state, or federal governments to better secure our society—legislate new laws to protect our children, more aggressive intervention for the emotionally disturbed, more oversight by social welfare agencies, but few, if any, have addressed the acts of murder as a moral and spiritual problem.

Simply put, the experts do not include sin and the old nature. The Bible records the first murder in Genesis chapter 4, “And Cain talked about Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.” Not long into mankind’s history do we encounter murder, and not much has changed.

The old nature’s inclinations are close at hand every moment of every day. Scriptures exhort the wise to flee temptation; yet, to flirt with sin is titillating and stimulates the worst within us. Even those who do not process evil from a Christian perspective recognize the danger of a society that inoculates itself to violence and stimulates the passions within by vicarious means.

Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, author of “On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society,” writes in 1996,

 In video arcades children stand slack jawed but intent behind machine guns and shoot at electronic targets that pop up on the video screen. When they pull the trigger the weapon rattles in their hand, shots ring out, and if they hit the “enemy” they are firing at, it drops to the ground, often with chunks of flesh flying in the air.[1]

Grossman goes on to say,

This new “pseudo reality” will make it possible to replicate all the gore and violence of popular violent movies, except now you are the one who is the star, the killer, the slayer of thousands.[2]

He concludes by saying,

That force [innate rebellion against killing] has existed in man throughout recorded history, and military history can be interpreted as a record of society’s attempt to force its members to overcome their resistance in order to kill more effectively in battle.[3]

Following the massacre in Connecticut, Lt. Col. Grossman shared his concerns about the desensitizing of our society to violence via movies, television, and video games. I, for one, appreciate his call for less violence within the media; however, what Grossman fails to see is what faith reveals. That is, the innate force within mankind is not rebellion against killing; but, on the contrary, the old nature seeking to satisfy bloodlust.

Without God’s intervention there would be no moments of safety, peace, and tranquility; rather, the constant world state would be violence, murder, and massacre. No human laws, ordinances, or constraints can check this “old Adam.” This is the tragic plight of humanity without the gracious intervention of God through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Another soldier, General Douglas MacArthur, references this innate propensity to violence and war in his speech at the surrender of the Japanese on September 2, 1945 and again in his farewell speech to congress April 19, 1951 where he said,

Men since the beginning of time have sought peace.  . . . The problem basically is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence and improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advances in science, art, literature and all material and cultural developments of the past two thousand years, It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh.[4]

MacArthur points to a solution to war and violence that is spiritual, a spiritual “recrudescence.” More precisely, and from a Lutheran understanding, it is only through the atoning work of Christ and the renewing of the Spirit that any has hope. This hope was given to us through the waters of Baptism where we were clothed with the righteousness of Christ—a true spiritual renewal.

In a society desensitized by violence, it behooves Christians to walk circumspectly, not in accordance with the wisdom of this world, but by faith.  As St. Paul writes to the Colossians,

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.[5]

–Gregory K. Williamson
Chief Mission Officer – LCMS


[1] Lt. Col. David Grossman, On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, 1st ed., (New York: Back Bay Books; Little, Brown and Company, 1996) 314.

[2] Ibid., 316.

[3] Ibid., 332.

[4] General Douglas MacArthur, “Surrender Ceremony Speech,“ U.S.S. Missouri, Tokyo Bay, September 2, 1945, Radio broadcast to the world following the formal surrender of the Japanese.

[5] Colossians 3:15-18.

How to Make Sure You are Not Invited to President Obama’s Inauguration

January 11th, 2013 6 comments

Pastor-Louie-GiglioI’m simply going to post this great set of comments by Joe Carter:

The Story: Louie Giglio, pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta and founder of the Passion Conferences, an organization that brings college students together in prayer and worship, was selected by President Obama to deliver the benediction at his inaugural this month. He was disinvited, though, after it was discovered he had delivered a sermon about homosexuality in the mid-1990s.

The Background: According to Addie Whisenant, the spokeswoman for the Presidential Inaugural Committee, “Pastor Giglio was asked to deliver the benediction in large part for his leadership in combating human trafficking around the world.” But criticism over the selection came after the liberal website Think Progress posted audio of a sermon that Giglio gave in the mid-1990s. In the audio, Giglio calls unrepentant homosexuality a sin and adds:

That’s God’s voice. If you want to hear God’s voice, that is his voice to this issue of homosexuality. It is not ambiguous and unclear. It is very clear. If you look at the counsel of the word of God, Old Testament, New Testament, you come quickly to the conclusion that homosexuality is not an alternate lifestyle. . . . homosexuality is not just a sexual preference, homosexuality is not gay, but homosexuality is sin. It is sin in the eyes of God, and it is sin according to the word of God.

[. . .]

The only way out of a homosexual lifestyle, the only way out of a relationship that has been ingrained over years of time, is through the healing power of Jesus. . . . We’ve got to say the homosexuals, the same thing that I say to you and that you would say to me . . . it’s not easy to change, but it is possible to change.

Think Progress described the sermon as “vehemently anti-gay”, a sentiment that seems to be shared by the White House. As Whisenant added, the inauguration committee was “not aware of Pastor Giglio’s past comments at the time of his selection and they don’t reflect our desire to celebrate the strength and diversity of our country at this Inaugural.”

On his church’s website Giglio says that “after conversations between our team and the White House I am no longer serving in that role.”

Why It Matters: For the past several decades voices inside and outside the church have said that Christians have hurt our witness by focusing on issues that challenge individualistic sexual permissiveness. They say that if we would only focus on actions that show how much we love our neighbor, actions like ending human trafficking, we would be welcomed in the public square. But as the Giglio incident reveals, no amount of good works can atone for committing the secular sin of subscribing to the biblical view of sexuality.

It’s not even enough to stop talking about the issue. As Giglio says in his statement,
“Clearly, speaking on [homosexuality] has not been in the range of my priorities in the past fifteen years.” But for the sexual liberationists, both secular and religious, it is not enough to have stopped talking about an issue decades ago. Anyone who has ever spoken about the issue—or at least has not recanted from believing what God says about homosexuality—is to be treated as a bigot.

In her statement Whisenant add that, “Choosing an affirming and fair-minded voice as his replacement would be in keeping with the tone the president wants to set for his inaugural.”

The message of religious intolerance being delivered by President Obama, his staff, and many of his supporters is unmistakable: If you do not affirm homosexuality then you cannot be fair-minded. Affirmation of homosexual behavior is now a litmus test for President Obama and his political party. As Russell Moore notes, “by the standards of this controversy, no Muslim imam or Orthodox Jewish rabbi alive can pray at a presidential inauguration.”

What is most disturbing is that this new standard is not just applied to political appointees but to religious leaders whose sole function is to deliver a prayer. The effect, as Moore says, is that we now have a “de facto established state church”:

As citizens, we ought to insist that the President stand up to his “base” and articulate a vision of a healthy pluralism in the public square. Notice that the problem is not that this evangelical wants to “impose his religion” on the rest of society. The problem is not that he wants to exclude homosexuals or others from the public square or of their civil rights. The problem is that he won’t say that they can go to heaven without repentance. That’s not a civil issue, but a religious test of orthodoxy.

We can and should oppose affirmation of homosexuality as a religious test of orthodoxy. We should do so forcefully but charitably, remembering that our purpose is not to defend our rights but to ensure that we can effectively love our neighbor. We should impose any efforts that hinder the spread of the Gospel and our ability to tell the truth about human sin and God’s grace.

However, we should also remember that our Lord says that because he has chosen us out of this world that the world will hate us. (John 15:19) This hate is not a mere effect of our focusing on divisive cultural issues. This is the default attitude of the world toward Christians. Jesus healed the sick, cured the blind, and even raised the dead—and for these good works they crucified him.

We shouldn’t be so naive as to believe that if we focus exclusively on serving the homeless and fighting to end human trafficking that they world will stop hating us. We must both serve our neighbor and tell them the truth about the human condition, that the wages of unrepentant sin is death. No one can truly love their neighbor and affirm their sin. For us to remain silent about homosexuality would show that we hate the world as much as the world hates us.

Update: Several commenters raised questions about whether the use of the term “disinvited” in the title was accurate. I’ll let the reader decide, but here is a quote from the New York Times that sheds some light on the issue:

People familiar with internal discussions between administration and committee officials said the White House viewed the selection as a problem for Mr. Obama, and told the panel on Wednesday night to quickly fix it. By Thursday morning, Mr. Giglio said he had withdrawn.

Joe Carter is an editor for The Gospel Coalition and the co-author of How to Argue Like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History’s Greatest Communicator.

Categories: Current Affairs

Support Chick-fil-A on August 1

July 26th, 2012 7 comments

Have you been keeping up with the controversy surrounding Chik-Fil-A? I haven’t really. I heard it has something to do with gay marriage and I kind of shrugged my shoulders and thought, “Oh, great, more of this nonsense.” Well, I dug into the story a little bit more and…what story? The facts are simply that Mr. Dan Cathy, their president and CEO stated that he supports the traditional Christian understanding of marriage and is opposed to gay marriage and that his company, the family-owned Chick-Fil-A, does not give money to organizations that support gay marriage. That’s it! That’s the “controversial” news. You can support Mr. Cathy by paying a visit to a Chick-fil-A on August 1, and make a point of letting them know why you are there. Now read the following very carefully. Here is the story:

A couple weeks ago, Cathy explained this in an interview with the Baptist Press. “We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit,” he said. “We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.” For this reason, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino has urged Chick-fil-A to “back out” of its “plans to locate in Boston.” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says Chick-fil-A has no place in the city of Chicago. “Chick-fil-A’s values are not Chicago values. They’re not respectful of our residents, our neighbors and our family members. And if you’re gonna be part of the Chicago community, you should reflect Chicago values,” Emanuel said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Alderman Joe Moreno says he will seek to block a permit for Chick-fil-A in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood. “Same sex marriage, same-sex couples — that’s the civil rights fight of our time. To have those discriminatory policies from the top down is just not something that we’re open to,” Moreno said. No evidence has been presented to suggest that Chick-fil-A discriminates against gay or lesbian customers or employees. There is nothing to suggest that the company has broken the law in any other way. In his comments to the Baptist Press, Cathy did not even mention same-sex marriage. He simply said he and his company supported traditional marriage. The only issue at play is the personal view of the owner of the restaurant chain, and the philanthropic efforts of the private company

Read more: http://swampland.time.com/2012/07/26/chick-fil-a-meets-a-first-amendment-buzzsaw-in-chicago/#ixzz21kzsWZeM

Categories: Current Affairs

Depraved Indifference: Thoughts on the Aurora Murders

July 23rd, 2012 30 comments

Lessons from Aurora

In the American legal system, there is a phrase used to identify a certain mindset that leads to horrendous crimes.  That phrase is “depraved indifference to human life.”

Here is the way the criminal justice system understands “depraved indifference”:

To constitute depraved indifference, the defendant’s conduct must be so wanton, so deficient in a moral sense of concern, so lacking in regard for the life or lives of others, and so blameworthy as to warrant the same criminal liability as that which the law imposes upon a person who intentionally causes a crime.  Depraved indifference focuses on the risk created by the defendant’s conduct, not the injuries actually resulting.  The other term used for depraved indifference is “depraved heart.”

Think about this for a moment with me.  Even if a person does not actually commit a physical crime, he can be guilty of it owing to “depraved indifference” as a person who has a “depraved heart.”

As I reflect on the Aurora, Colo., massacre, that phrase keeps repeating itself in my mind.  What led an otherwise apparently smart and successful young man to stockpile thousands of rounds of ammunition for a variety of weapons, rig his apartment to explode in a fireball, and then enter a theater and kill and wound so many?  Depraved indifference to human life, that’s what.  We will hear raging debates about gun control and “if only” there had been the right rule, or regulation, or control in place, this would not have happened.  And to that I simply say, “Maybe, maybe not, but I highly doubt it.”*  Why?  Because the issue here is the young man’s depraved indifference to human life.  The acting out on that impulse was where the crime originated.

As people reel in horror and shock from this incident, everyone wants to try to put his finger precisely on what caused this young man to “go crazy.”  Surely, he must be crazy.  He has to be out of his mind.  He is suffering from mental illness.  He is not normal.  He is not like you and me.  No, he is something other than we are.  That explains it, doesn’t it?  Or does it?  Viewed from God’s point of view, which is, in the end, the only view that truly matters, it is not quite that easy.  After all, the Bible tells us that we are all born dead, not alive. We are dead in our trespasses and sin (Col. 2:13).  We come into this world as enemies of God and hostile toward God and everything He stands for (Romans 8:7).  We come into this world not merely with depraved indifference toward God, and with a depraved heart, but with active hostility to God’s perfect will for us and for His creation.  There is not a “spark” of goodness in us as we are born.  We are evil, continually, from our youth, as we learn from Genesis 6:5.  People are not “naturally good” … no, we are all natural born killers.  Shocking?  Yes, it is.  We all suffer, in various degrees, from “depraved indifference to human life.”

That indifference took on a spectacularly horrifying form in the movie theater shooting, but there is in each one of us a little “killer” just waiting to get out.  And he gets out in thoughts, words and deeds.  He gets out and does harm to our loved ones, friends and neighbors when we think the cruel thought; speak the hurtful word; fail to speak well of and defend our neighbor; and fall short of supporting and defending our neighbor, helping him to protect and improve his property, business, good reputation, or life.  Keep in mind we live in a nation where tens of thousands of people are murdered, legally and with impunity, before they even have a chance to see the light of day as newborns.  Yes, that Old Adam, as we call our fallen nature, is a natural born killer.  Depraved indifference?  You bet.  It takes different forms and shapes and is expressed in a variety of ways in our life, but depraved indifference it is, in one way or the other.

Which then makes it all the more remarkable that God actually sent His Son into the very same human flesh which suffers from this horrible condition (John 1:14).  The One who never had, and never will, commit any sin, was sent among sinful men and women to live the lives they cannot live, to provide the sacrifice for sin they could never provide, and He did it all for the sake of Love.  God is love.  God is light.  God is the holy One.  God is merciful.  God is the life-creator and the life-giver and the life-restorer.  Christ Jesus came among us and was born under the Law, to redeem us from the condemnation of the Law (Gal 4:4).

God is passionately concerned for the salvation of each one of us.  He is the complete opposite of “depraved indifference” when it comes to His Creation.  While we cannot ultimately, to our own satisfaction, explain precisely why the world is a place where horrible things happen, we can at least recognize that within each of us we see signs of depraved indifference to our neighbor’s needs and suffering.

We are led to repent of our sin, of our depraved indifference, and turn in great sorrow to the God of all comfort and seek the mercy He so freely gives.  As our society struggles to come to terms with yet another gross outburst of sin, let’s not be caught up in the thinking that would have us isolate this young man and simply regard him as a freak, an oddity, somebody less than human.  In fact, he is fully human and simply gave expression to the sinful nature each of us struggles with every day of our lives.  Do you remember the answer Jesus gave when people were trying to get an explanation for a manmade tragedy, a tower falling on people and killing them, and why innocent people were killed by soldiers? (Luke 13:3).  Jesus said simply, “Unless you repent, you likewise will perish.”  Not exactly the kind of explanation we would want, but…the only one we receive, the only one we need to hear, and the only one we must act on, today. Repent.

This event should drive each of us to our knees in repentant prayer and pleading to God for His mercy.  We pray for all those suffering from this seemingly “senseless” act of depraved indifference.  We pray for God’s peace and comfort for all concerned, and that He would use this occasion as an opportunity to turn hearts to Him.  We pray that God would use this incident to humble us all once more and help us to see how we are indeed poor, miserable sinners, and then once more turn to the Cross where the Lord of Glory died, apparently a senseless, tragic, violent death, in a manner that was an expression of depraved indifference to His holy, innocent life.

For it is there, on the Cross, that the blood that cleanses you from all your sin was shed, and three days later, the Lord rose in victory, shattering the shackles of sin, death and hell which grip you tightly.  Christ is your Savior.  Christ is your Redeemer.  Cling alone to Him, for He has taken firm hold of you.  You were buried with Christ, by baptism, into death in order that, just as Jesus was raised from the death, through the glory of His Father, so you have a new life, now, and for eternity to come (Romans 6:1-2).  You now live in the confident hope that Christ alone gives, and you reach out in love and service to all whom the Lord puts in your lives. May God grant it, for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

 

Rev. Paul T. McCain

Publisher

Concordia Publishing House

 

*Please see remarks on gun control in the comment following the article. I did not want to allow that issue to overshadow the point of my editorial.

Survey Says 1 in 5 Americans Admit to No Religious Affiliation

July 20th, 2012 1 comment

A recent survey indicates that those who are willing to admit they have no religious affiliation is at the highest level ever recorded: 19%. You’ll notice how carefully I worded that. If we were to add to that number people who are unwilling to admit it, and then add to the number people who say they have some sort of religious affiliation but never attend church, or only rarely attend, that percentage would go much, much higher. I suspect it would be around 65-70%.

Here is a link to the whole story, and to the survey.

Categories: Culture, Current Affairs

The Glock – America’s Gun

January 16th, 2012 1 comment

I’ve been reading a really interesting book on the history and development of the Glock pistol and popular it has become across the United States, particular as the weapon of choice of police departments around the country. The Glock pistol is used by over 65% of all police and law enforcement agencies in the country. Even if you have absolutely no interest in firearms or shooting, this book is interesting because it examines America’s gun culture and the various issues that continue to swirl around the use of firearms and the Second Amendment. I highly recommend the book. Here is a link to where you can buy it.

Here’s a little video I put together about the Glock for those who have no knowledge of them.

The Church of File-Sharing – Brought to You by Those Wacky Swedes

January 7th, 2012 3 comments

Isak Gerson, Church Leader

This is true. I’m not making it up. Story posted here.

The Church of Kopimism, a religion whose central tenet is the free sharing of information, has been formally recognized by the Swedish government.

Kopimists believe all information sharing is “holy” and that the value of information multiplies when it’s shared. They hold CTRL+C and CTRL+V, keyboard shortcuts for copying and pasting, to be sacred symbols of their religion. (We’re not making this stuff up.)

According to a press release on the Church’s website, Kopimism has been striving to achieve legal recognition in Sweden for more than a year. The church’s board chairman, Gustav Nipe, says the Kopimists has tried three times to register with Kammarkollegiet, the Swedish Administrative Services Agency. They were ultimately successful and recognized as a religion just before Christmas of last year.

Formal acknowledgment provides the Church of Kopimism, named for the Swedish word for “copy,” with legal protections under that country’s law and potential access to government-assisted funding.

The recognition of the Church of Kopimism is the latest success for Europeans fighting for a free and open Internet. The Pirate Party, formed in Sweden in 2006, aims to reform copyright and patent laws and to protect online access to information. The Pirate Party won over 7% of Swedish votes in 2009′s European parliamentary elections, and it has spawned an international movement under the banner “Pirate Parties International.

Not everything has gone smoothly for the Church of Kopimism. Its website buckled under the pressure of sudden international interest. A temporary page is urging people interested in becoming a Kopimist to check back “when the storm is settled.”

Read more here.

Categories: Cults, Culture, Current Affairs

What The Church and Its Leaders Should Learn from Joe Paterno

November 10th, 2011 13 comments

I have watched and listened and read, with increasing disgust, the story about Joe Paterno and his negligent handling of the sexual assault on young boys by one of his football team’s coaches. The story is sick enough in itself, the details of which will make you literally feel like vomiting, but nearly as revolting is the reaction of many people to Paterno’s firing. It points how utterly stupid the entire college sport scene has become and particularly, college football. But how can the Church learn from this situation? Kudos to Al Mohler for some excellent thoughts and reflection on the entire sick and sordid incident. Here are Mohler’s comments from his web site.

No one thought it would end this way. Joe Paterno, the legendary head football coach at Penn State University heard of his firing by the school’s board of trustees by phone last night. Just two weeks after achieving the most wins of any NCAA Division One football coach in history, Paterno was fired. His firing — a necessary action by the Penn State board of trustees — holds lessons for us all.

Almost a decade ago, a graduate assistant told Coach Paterno that an assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, had been observed forcing a young boy into a sexual act in the school’s football locker room showers. Sandusky was himself a big name in Penn State football, and he was considered a likely successor to Paterno if the head coach had retired. Sandusky also ran a non-profit organization for boys, and he brought the boys onto the Penn State campus. He continued to do so even after his own retirement from Penn State’s coaching staff.

After hearing the report, Paterno informed university officials of the accusation. At that point, little or nothing seems to have happened. The scandal broke into public view last Saturday, when Sandusky was arrested and charged with 40 felony counts of sexual abuse involving young boys. Penn State had been harboring a serial child sex abuser. Also arrested were the university’s athletic director and its senior vice president of business and finance. Both were charged with failure to report the abuse and with perjury.

What about Paterno and the university’s president, Graham B. Spanier? The Pennsylvania grand jury said that both men had knowledge of the 2002 first-hand report of abuse, and neither contacted the police. Furthermore, Sandusky was allowed some use of university facilities even long after this report. Paterno went back to coaching football. Spanier went back to raising money and building the school’s reputation. Jerry Sandusky had every opportunity to keep on sexually abusing young boys.

When the facts became known, the firings of both Paterno and Spanier were inevitable and necessary. Both men had credible knowledge that young boys were being sexually abused, and neither did anything effective to stop it. Most crucially, neither man did what they should have done within minutes of hearing the first report — contact law enforcement immediately.

Every single coach, athletic director, and college or university president awoke this morning to a changed world. Nothing will ever be the same again. The firing of Joe Paterno will send shock waves through the entire world of higher education. A man who a day before had announced under pressure that he would retire at the end of the season was told by phone that he would never coach another game. Penn State University will forever be associated with a scandal the likes of which college athletics has, thankfully, never seen before.

But the world has not only changed for college athletics. The detonation of the Penn State scandal must shake the entire nation into a new moral awareness. Any failure to report and to stop the sexual abuse of children must be made inconceivable. The moral irresponsibility that Penn State officials demonstrated in this tragedy may well be criminal. There can be no doubt that all of these officials bear responsibility for allowing a sexual predator to continue his attacks.

What about churches, Christian institutions, and Christian schools? The Penn State disaster must serve as a warning to us as well, for we bear an even higher moral responsibility.

The moral and legal responsibility of every Christian — and especially every Christian leader and minister — must be to report any suspicion of the abuse of a child to law enforcement authorities. Christians are sometimes reluctant to do this, but this reluctance is both deadly and wrong.

Sometimes Christians are reluctant to report suspected sexual abuse because they do not feel that they know enough about the situation. They are afraid of making a false accusation. This is the wrong instinct. We do not have the ability to conduct the kind of investigation that is needed, nor is this assigned to the church. This is the function of government as instituted by God (Romans 13). Waiting for further information allows a predator to continue and puts children at risk. This is itself an immoral act that needs to be seen for what it is.

A Christian hearing a report of sexual abuse within a church, Christian organization, or Christian school, needs to act in exactly the same manner called for if the abuse is reported in any other context. The church and Christian organizations must not become safe places for abusers. These must be safe places for children, and for all. Any report of sexual abuse must lead immediately to action. That action cannot fall short of contacting law enforcement authorities. A clear lesson of the Penn State scandal is this: Internal reporting is simply not enough.

After law enforcement authorities have been notified, the church must conduct its own work of pastoral ministry, care, and church discipline. This is the church’s responsibility and charge. But these essential Christian ministries and responsibilities are not substitutes for the proper function of law enforcement authorities and the legal system. As Christians, we respect those authorities because we are commanded to do so.

There may well be further arrests in connection with the Penn State scandal. One can only imagine the lawsuits that will consume the university’s time and treasury in years ahead. Christian institutions and churches looking at this scandal had better act immediately to ensure that all operate under adequate policies and guidelines. What would prevent this scandal at your school or church?

Church leaders and pastors must decide now — not later — that we will respond to any report of sexual abuse with immediate action and an immediate call to law enforcement officials. We must decide in advance what we will do, and not allow ourselves to think that we can handle such a challenge on our own. Every church and Christian institution needs a full set of policies, procedures, and accountability structures. As leaders, we must develop the right instincts for right action.

The leaders of Penn State University must have acted, or failed to have acted, out of many motivations. One may well have been to protect the image and reputation of the university. Well, we now see where that leads. A scandal reported and ended in 2002 would be horrible enough. A scandal that began there, was known by officials, and explodes almost a decade later is too horrible to contemplate.

We all need an immediate reality check. I discovered yesterday that the policy handbook of the institution I am proud to lead calls for any employee receiving a report of child abuse, including child sexual abuse, to contact his or her supervisor with that report. That changes today. The new policy statement will direct employees receiving such a report to contact law enforcement authorities without delay. Then, after acting in the interests of the child, they should contact their supervisor.

In a real sense, the whole world changed today. We all know more than we knew before, and we are all responsible for that knowledge. The costs of acting wrongly in such a situation, or acting inadequately, are written across today’s headlines and the moral conscience of the nation. The tragedy at Penn State is teaching the entire nation a lesson it dare not fail to learn.

Categories: Culture, Current Affairs

What Happens When Unmarried People Get a Divorce?

October 10th, 2011 5 comments

I know, they aren’t “divorced” but…well…what do you call it when people who are living together, sharing common property and so forth, just like a married couple, decide to call it quits and, effectively, get a “divorce”? Picked up up from G.E. Veith’s blog site and thought you would find it interesting.

As the number of co-habiting couples skyrockets, a new legal problem has come to the fore:   What to do when the couples split up?  From an article in the Washington Post:

A study by the Pew Research Center found that 39 percent of Americans think marriage is becoming obsolete. But it still takes a marriage (or some other legally binding agreement) to get a divorce. And as the number of couples choosing to live together rather than marry has increased drastically, so have the spats over their splits. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that almost half of its 1,600 members are seeing an increase in court battles between cohabiting couples. Nearly 40 percent of those lawyers said they’ve seen an increase in demand for cohabitation agreements — the equivalent of a prenup, sans wedding ring.

“It’s pretty heartbreaking,” Luxenberg says. “People don’t have rights unless they have the title — their name is on a piece of property or a bank account or something like that.”

Luxenberg recalls one client who lived with her partner for 20 years. They’d had a child and built a home together. The woman’s income was about $50,000, Luxenberg says, and her boyfriend’s was “six or seven times that.” When the couple split, the woman hired Luxenberg to see what recourse she had. The answer: not much.

There would be child support, “but she didn’t get any of his pension benefits or any of his profit sharing. And she wasn’t going to get alimony,” Luxenberg says. “I don’t think people think about those kinds of issues.” . . .

A recent census report found that 7.5 million heterosexual couples lived together in 2010, up 13 percent from 2009. The report suggests that some of the shift may be attributed to the economy — more couples than in the previous year reported at least one party being unemployed. (An Onion TV headline put it this way: “Nation’s Girlfriends Unveil New Economic Plan: ‘Let’s Move In Together.’ ”)

The numbers have been climbing over the past decade as cohabitation has become more socially acceptable.

Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project, an organization that promotes marriage, worries about the effect this has on children.

The good news, he says, is that divorces among parents with children have returned to levels not seen since the 1960s. Of couples who married in the early 1960s, 23 percent divorced before their first child turned 10. The rate peaked at slightly more than 27 percent in the late 1970s. By the mid-1990s, the rate dropped to just above 23 percent.

But a recent report Wilcox wrote, titled “Why Marriage Matters,” concludes that American families are less stable overall, in large part because couples are choosing cohabitation over marriage. Today, 24 percent of U.S. children are born to cohabiting couples, according to the report, and an additional 20 percent will live in a cohabiting household at some point in their childhood.

And 65 percent of children born to cohabiting parents will experience a parental breakup by the time they turn 12, compared with 24 percent of kids born to married parents.

“The more commitment people have to a relationship, typically the better they’ll do, the happier they are,” Wilson says.

This generation’s preference for cohabitation, he adds, may be a backlash against their parents’ propensity for divorce. But not getting married doesn’t protect couples who live together from heartache when the relationship falls apart.

The article goes on to give a number of sad stories.  But isn’t the point of just living together instead of getting married so that no one gets “tied down”?  Don’t a lot of people avoid getting married precisely so as to free themselves from the cost of divorce, alimony, sharing of assets, and the like?   If a couple isn’t married, what claim can they possibly have on each other’s property?   I don’t see how cohabiting couples have any grounds for complaining.  Of course the relationship isn’t permanent.  Of course you don’t have any kind of legal ties.  I thought that was the point!

Maybe we could restore the time-honored option of common law marriage.  If you live together for longer than a specified time, then you are married, whether you have a ceremony or whether you want to be or not, with all of the rights and responsibilities thereof!

Categories: Culture, Current Affairs

Down With Evil Corporations!!

October 6th, 2011 9 comments

Categories: Culture, Current Affairs

“Willpower” and the Suckiest Generation

September 27th, 2011 4 comments

One of you kind readers passed this article along to me and thought I’d find it interesting. As a member of the baby-boom generation, though I’m always quick to point out, I’m on the very trailing edge of said generation, I can’t be accused of bashing boomers simply because I’m not one, so…well, read this article and let me know what you think. I think this is pretty much spot-on accurate. Here’s the whole article. I’ll post a snippet below.

Behaving well, behaving responsibly, learning the norms of politeness and refusing to abandon them without good reason tend to make you a more self-controlled, successful, and finally better person. This is precisely the wisdom my generation threw away. Their promiscuity, adolescent foul-mouthedness, bad manners, and disregard for tradition — all of which they claimed were a new kind of freedom — were in fact the precursors to the very oldest kind of slavery:  slavery to one’s own impulses and desires. This slavery, packaged in the Sixties, as “identity” or “culture” or “the right to be yourself,” ultimately leads to enslavement by others as it makes you indolent and irresponsible and in need of protection and restraint by the powers that be. A poor black man’s journey from hip hop culture to prison is a perfect example. So is a middle class white man’s journey from moral license and unwarranted praise to his sniveling need for an all-providing — oh, and by the way, all-powerful — state.

 

Categories: Culture, Current Affairs

A Salute To Our Troops

May 6th, 2011 6 comments

It is unfortunate that some people in this country do not understand that there are many people around the world, particularly Islamic fundamentalists, who will stop at nothing to kill you, and me. Make no mistake about it: these people can not be reasoned with, we can not appeal to them on the basis of our Western limp-wristed multiculturalistic values. They want to kill us.  They want to destroy us. They want to impose Sharia law everywhere. This is a struggle to the death, period. Dear reader, if you do not understand this, or agree with it, I invite you to crawl out from under the rock you have been living under, smell the coffee and wake up!

I thank God that He provides courageous soldiers who stand up against those who would destroy us and protect us, day and night. As Winston Churchill once said: ““We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.” In light of recent events, here is a great video from an organization I’m proud to be a life-long member of the National Rifle Association.

Categories: Current Affairs

The Death of Osama Bin Laden: A Teaching Moment on the Doctrine of Vocation and the Two Kingdoms

May 3rd, 2011 27 comments

 

I’ve been struck by the reactions to the killing of Osama Bin Laden. On the one extreme, we hear triumphalistic theocratic rhetoric, falling into the error of assuming, or thinking, that somehow America is “God’s chosen nation.” On the other extreme are the pacifistic, hand-wringing comments made, sadly, yes, even by some Lutherans who should know better. Why should they know better? Because we know and understand the doctrine of vocation and the doctrine of the two kingdoms.

The doctrine of vocation teaches us that all callings and stations in life are honorable and noble, from the person who changes the bed pan in a hospital, to the person who drives a taxi cab, to the soldier who does his duty in service to country and neighbor. This is why Martin Luther wrote in his treatise, “Can Soldiers Too Be Saved?

…In the same way, when I think of a soldier fulfilling his office by punishing the wicked, killing the wicked, and creating so much misery, it seems an un-Christian work completely contrary to Christian love. But when I think of how it protects the good and keeps and preserves wife and child, house and farm, property, and honor and peace, then I see how precious and godly this work is; and I observe that it amputates a leg or a hand, so that the whole body may not perish…

…The office of the sword is in itself right and is a divine and useful ordinance, which God does not want us to despise, but to fear, honor, and obey, under penalty of punishment, as St. Paul says in Romans 13 [:1-5]…

…Self-defense is a proper ground for fighting and therefore all laws agree that self-defense shall go unpunished; and he who kills another in self-defense is innocent in the eyes of all men…

…When the battle begins…they [soldiers] should simply commend themselves to God’s grace and adopt a Christian attitude…everyone should also say this exhortation in his heart or with his lips, “Heavenly Father, here I am, according to your divine will, in the external work and service of my lord, which I owe you first and then to my lord for your sake. I thank your grace and mercy that you have put me into a work which I am sure is not sin, but right and pleasing obedience to your will. But because I know and have learned from your gracious word that none of our good works can help us and that no one is saved as a soldier but only as a Christian, therefore, I will not in any way rely on my obedience and work, but place myself freely at the service of your will. I believe with all my heart that only the innocent blood of your dear Son, my Lord Jesus Christ, redeems and saves me, which he shed for me in obedience to your holy will. In this faith I will live and die, fight, and do everything else. Dear Lord God the Father, preserve and strengthen this faith in me by your Spirit. Amen.” (American Edition, Vol. 46)

The other doctrine to keep in mind is the doctrine of the two kingdoms. We know that God works to save souls from hell through the “right hand kingdom” that is, within and through the Church via the means of grace, given to her to proclaim the Gospel for the salvation of sinners. This is the calling of the Church, not the state. On the other hand, it is to earthly government, the “left hand kingdom” that God gives the authority to protect and defend life, by giving to it the power of the sword, as Paul explains in Romans 13. It is this duty that our government discharged in hunting down and killing Osama Bin Laden, for the sake of defending us and our families and our nation. Bin Laden has demonstrated, for many years, a clear desire and intention to do our nation harm and proved it many times over, most dramatically on Sept. 11, 2001. We do well to remember that pacifism is not a Christian teaching. The Bible does not support it, and it is therefore indefensible.

Do we rejoice in the death of a wicked man, who from every human perspective, is facing now nothing but eternal torment and punishment in hell? No, of course not. Do we however rejoice that justice was carried out and a man who wished to kill us all is now dead? Yes, of course we do. This “no” and “yes” response is incapable of being understood without the doctrine of vocation and the two kingdoms clearly in view.

Categories: Current Affairs

Thoughts on the Killing of Osama Bin Laden: What Are Your Thoughts?

May 2nd, 2011 25 comments

Do we rejoice in the death of the wicked? No, because the Lord does not.

Can we however be grateful and rejoice that justice has been done? That the Lord has, through the instrumentality of the kingdom of the left, exercised this justice? Yes.

Here are a couple thoughts on the killing of Osama Bin Laden that well summarize what I’m feeling and thinking this morning. How about you?

FIRST, from a Lutheran pastor:

Please remember that the special forces had their God-given vocation to do last night, bearing that sword not held in vain. One may not like the use of lethal force on principle, but there are honorable men who exercise that force and bear the price, with that just sword, of taking human lives. While especially-squeamish people wring their hands back here, please also remember all that runs through the special forces’ minds even after a ‘righteous kill.’ It’s just hard for me to be an earnest, handwringing parson right now. Justice frequently needs frail human souls to carry it out.

 

SECOND, from Winston Churchill:

“We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.” – Winston Churchill

 

Categories: Current Affairs

The Tsunami and the Apocalypse – Article by Dr. Uwe Siemon-Netto

March 22nd, 2011 3 comments

Dr. Netto sent me this column and I’m passing it along to you….

FAITH MATTERS: The tsunami last week and the Apocalypse . . . eventually

The Bible cautions believers against speculating about the date and time of the Apocalypse, although current world events and calamities seem to invite such conjecture. There are the uprisings in the Middle East. In Japan, the tsunami and earthquake disasters are fueling raising nuclear fears. And then the nuttiness of clergymen fitting Luther’s definition of “false clerics and schismatic spirits” reminds us that Christ listed some signs of the looming end of times, for example the appearance of many bogus prophets. The Rev. Steve Lawler, part-time rector of St. Stephen’s Episcopal church in Ferguson, Missouri, might just fit this rubric.

Fawler decided to “give up church for Lent,” and to adopt Muslim rituals and dietary rules for the 40 days until Easter. Thankfully, his bishop threatened to defrock him if he continued this practice, which manifestly confirms a Roman verity that preceded Christianity: Whom the gods want to destroy they first make mad. As Bishop George Wayne Smith told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “He can’t be both a Christian and a Muslim. If he chooses to practice as Muslim, then he would, by default, give up his Christian identity and priesthood in the church.”

If the times weren’t so dire it would be fun to spin Fawler’s rationale further: How about giving up love for marriage in Lent? How about giving up death for funerals, or birth for adolescence, or motherhood for fatherhood? One must cheer the bishop for trying to maintain theological sanity, which isn’t easy in today’s religious environment where major denominations are degenerating into post-Christian neo-Gnostic sects, to wit the joint celebration of the Eucharist by Episcopalians and Hindus three years ago in Los Angeles, or a same-sex wedding in a sanctuary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), also in southern California. The most titillating moment during this betrothal came when the woman pastor placed a consecrated host on the tongue of a seeing-eye dog; it is worth remembering in this context that according to Lutheran sacramental theology communicants receive Christ’s true body and blood “in with and under” the bread and the wine.

Taken by itself, the emergence of Gnostic sects is of course insufficient evidence for the imminence of Judgment Day. Gnosticism, a set of diverse syncretistic religious movements, has been around since antiquity and a huge threat to the early Church; yet the Church prevailed. St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) was a Gnostic before his conversion to Christianity in 386 A.D.; be became one of the most important Fathers of the Church.

Spurious end-time prophecies also have a long track record. As Anglican theologian and philosophy professor Gerald R. McDermott points out, Christians in the days of Pope Gregory the Great at the end of the sixth century thought that Judgment Day was nigh when the Lombards, a northern Germanic tribe, invaded present-day Italy. In the 16th century, Martin Luther was certain that the Apocalypse would occur in his lifetime or shortly thereafter. Later less formidable characters obtained their 15 minutes of glory, to paraphrase Andy Warhol, by prophesying precise dates for Christ’s return (parousia), never mind that Jesus said in Matthew 24:25 that nobody could know the time and day.

In 1856, the prophetess of the Seventh-Day Adventists, Ellen G. White, reported that an angel had announced to her the nearness of Christ’s return. The angel, she said, told her what would happen to most people: “Some (will become) food for worms, some subjects for the seven last plagues.” Also in the mid-19th century, Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, predicted that Jesus would be back within 56 years.

Then in the 1970s and 1980s, Hal Lindsay achieved notoriety by informing his millions of readers that 1988 would be the year of the parousia; well, it turned out it wasn’t. This list can be continued ad infinitum and include the fear-mongering forecasters of the impending Rapture.

The craze to hypothesize about the end of time or even advance this event by human means, which according to Martin Luther is the ultimate form of utopianism, spills over to other religions as well. In Japan in the 1980s, a semi-blind charlatan by the name of Shoko Asahara founded a “neo-Buddhist” sect called Aum Shinri-Kyo. It recruited primarily graduates of leading universities and gained worldwide infamy by producing huge amounts of Kalashnikov rifles and developing chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction. In 1995, they set off a sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system killing 12, injuring 54 and affecting thousands of others, a misdeed for which Asahara was sentenced to the gallows; he is now awaiting his execution.

What was that all about? In an interview one of his top lieutenants told me that it was the purpose of this crime to trigger World War III between Japan and the United States, which would result in the destruction of the universe. Why would a bunch of young scientists wish to do that? “Well,” he said, “the Lord Shiva has commanded us to give him a helping hand;” Shiva is the destroyer in the Hindu trinity. When he’s done, Brahma, the Creator, would be able to begin a new cycle of creation.

So here we had a “Buddhist” sectarians killing in behalf of a Hindu god, and to top the syncretistic madness, they explained this in Christian terminology. With his hands on a Bible, Asahara’s white-robed henchman informed me that he and his co-religionists were Christ’s soldiers in the Battle of Armageddon. But who was Christ to them? “An incarnation of Shiva, the god of destruction,” he said.

All this would be hilarious if it weren’t so deadly and in total contradiction of what Scripture is saying. It is possible, suggests Gerald McDermott, that calamities such as the current disaster in Japan, are a warning or even temporal punishment from God. In fact, a prominent devotee of the Shinto religion suggested the same thing. “The character of the Japanese people is selfish. The Japanese people must take advantage of this tsunami to wash away their selfish greed. I really do think this is divine punishment,” Shintaro Ishihara, governor of Tokyo, told a press conference.

As for the ultimate Day of Judgment, the Christ’s message is clear: repent and be watchful! “If you are not watchful, I will come like a thief, and you will never know at what hour I will come upon you” (Revelation 3:3).

Uwe Siemon-Netto, the former religious affairs editor of United Press International, has been an international journalist for 54 years, covering North America, Vietnam, the Middle East and Europe for German publications. Dr. Siemon-Netto currently directs the League of Faithful Masks and Center for Lutheran Theology and Public Life in Irvine, California.