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Monday, April 4, 2016

Why I Said Goodbye to Most of my Clothes: A Minimalist Anabaptist Journey

From a favorite movie of mine, "Confessions of a Shop-a-holic".
In the most interesting of mash-ups, the radical Anabaptists of the 16th century and the modern counter-cultural minimalists converged in my mind, resulting in a lot less clothes in my possession and a whole new direction for the future.

Since becoming a pacifist and politically neutral, I naturally gravitated toward the theological community known as the Anabaptists ("re-baptizers", so named for their practice of baptizing those who had been "baptized' as infants) who resurrected these key biblical doctrines long after they were driven underground for twelve centuries.

The Anabaptists, along with their spiritual cousins the Quakers and Brethren, championed a practical Christianity based on Scripture alone, rooted in Jesus, and manifested in a heightened concern for peacemaking, social service, moderate stances toward government, modest living, and the like.

They were weirdos of their day who refused to take oaths, serve in the military, work in government, use egotistical titles, tip their hats or bow before royalty, or adopt modern fashion.

On the other side, minimalism, not an inherently Christian concept, concerns with living within one's means (economically, spatially, consumptionally, etc.) and not owning more than what you need to function.

This less is more (or, better, less is enough) mentality stands in stark contrast to a Western emphasis on materialism and gain.    

Among the many things these two distinct schools of thought have in common is a less than popular approach to clothes.

Unsurprisingly, minimalism focuses on how much clothing we have versus how much we need to have a functional wardrobe (no more and no less).

This "wear to live, not live to wear" ethic flies in the face of fashion magazines, department stores, and our own closets.

Echoing this practical approach to clothes, an Anabaptist would also note how the type or style of clothing we own is just as important as how much of it we have and would advocate for a plain, modest style that leaves ample room for the Spirit to shine and wards against vanity and classism.

Taken together the two are a perfect complement.

Being convicted about the nature and number my clothes for some time now, I finally raided my closet determined to do some paring down.

However, if I was going to radically alter my wardrobe, I needed a framework to work within.

Several examples of modern approaches to plain or simple dress.
For this, I looked to the Quaker Testimony of Simplicity.

Simply put, this is one of several Quaker testimonies or principles for Christian living, this one focusing on living a simple life to prioritize what is most important.

Clothing was one part of this simplicity testimony and I decided I too wanted a simple wardrobe that was plain, functional, and minimal.

The criteria for keeping or tossing clothes were generally as follows:

Did I wear it? Clothes are meant to be worn, not hoarded. If I was not wearing it, I did not need it.

Was it functional? This criteria was to identify a practical purpose for any clothes I wanted to keep, in place of mere want or enjoyment. For example, I knew I needed clothes for cold and warm weather, clothes to bike and run in, clothes to sleep in, and church clothes. (I already had a work uniform).

Did it cover? I had two shirts I was determined to keep that I wore often and which were plain in color. Score! The only problem is they were V-necks. While they were not "deep Vs", they still did not align with the testimony of simplicity I was aiming for. A less complicated, but harder choice was getting rid of my well-loved and only pair of short-shorts. Sigh.

Was it flashy?  Pieces with lots of "flare" or obvious "look at me" appeal had to go. This meant anything with writing on it.

Could it be better used by someone else? This applied mostly to my t-shirts, most of which were not keeping with my Testimony of Simplicity, but which I planned on keeping to make a quilt out of. Did I really want to rip them up so I could sleep next to them or would it be better if someone who needed clothes could wear them?

Using these criteria, the result was 35 articles donated, 10 t-shirts for a quilt, and 9 articles for the garbage, a total of 54 articles gone.

This left me with
5 shirts,
two pairs of pants, and
one pair of shorts, plus
one suit I bought for collegiate debate,
my white t-shirts,
a pair of swim trunks,
a pair of athletic shorts,
a pair of sweat pants, and
a pair of flannel pajama pants.


As I looked at my mostly bare closest, I was able to better process the ways worldly ideas of fashion and ownership had influenced me.

Some clothes I wanted to keep simply because someone had complimented me in them or because I thought I looked good wearing them, even if they were not modest.

With other things, it felt weird to get rid of them because they were not functional, even if they did fit my Testimony of Simplicity.

I also wondered if I had traded the witness of some of my Christian themed t-shirts for a mute witness of drab clothes.

However, at the end of it all, I felt great.

Yes, it was hard to part with some of my clothes, but I appreciated that someone else might be able to use them.

And the idea of not worrying about what I would wear in the morning was a surprising weight off my shoulders.

Beyond that, I felt like this was my way of telling the world my priorities are not its priorities.

Who I am will not be defined by what I wear, but by good works (1 Timothy 2:9-10) and the hidden person of the heart (1 Peter 3:4), for God looks at the heart (1 Sam. 16:7).

I was officially bowing out of the rat race of trying to look the best.

My hope is that this change will allow me to focus on what is most important instead of personal vanity (1 Sam 16:7), fight against the world's obsession with appearances and status (James 2:1-4), and free myself up to spend money on furthering God's Kingdom (Matt 6:19-21).

This is not about legalism----no one has the same Testimony--nor earning God's favor.

It is not really even about clothes.

This is the start of discovering and walking in the ethos of New Testament Christianity, particularly in those areas Evangelicals have tended to neglect, so I can better be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Rebeldes Sin Causa: The Problem with the Black Lives Matter Movement

The Black Lives Matter Movement (BLMM), borne of the rage of George Zimmermann's acquittal, represents one of American's most toxic sociopolitical phenomena, expertly playing on people's fear and fighting battles that don't exist.

The clearest example of this is the movement's pervasive and egregious use of America's propensity towards police violence to "prove" every black man has something to fear from police whenever he exits his home.

In support of this baseless thesis, The Chicago Tribune ponders a police war on black men, a New York Times article on the BLMM blanketly reads "Stop Killing Us", and too many accept outrageous quotes like, "they kill our daddies, then make fun of us for being fatherless" as deep nuggets of wisdom.

The problem is none of these concerns correspond to reality.

I will be the first to say the deaths of men like Eric Garner, Eric Harris, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, and Walter Scott were grievous miscarriages of justice.

In general, the startling quickness with which the United States police force uses lethal means to resolve conflict, in contrast to de-escalation strategies employed by law enforcement agencies in other developed nations, deeply disturbs me.

Yet and still, black men are not being shot dead in the streets for being black.

In fact, black men are not simply being shot at all, if they are not committing a crime.

Even in the cases just mentioned, Eric Garner resisted arrest, Eric Harris ran from police, Freddie Gray ran from police, Walter Scott ran from police, and Tamir Rice was waving around a dummy pistol.

We see acts of confrontationalism or non-compliance by the victims in nearly all the controversial shootings used by the BLMM as proof of police racism.

They cast young men like Nicholas Robertson, Laquan McDonald, and Mario Woods as innocent victims of an out-of-hand police force because they were moving away from police before being unloaded upon, but neglect to mention Robertson was carrying a gun, and Woods and McDonald were brandishing knives.

The operant factor in all these lethal confrontations is not race, but that the victim had committed a crime and refused to be taken into custody.

Control for that fact and where do all the black deaths at the hands of police officers go? Or the white deaths for that matter!

Does resisting arrest justify death ipso facto? NO. Of course not. I cannot say this forcefully enough.

But what the BLMM refuses to come to grips with is that we have every reason to believe if these men had complied with police orders, allowed arrest, dropped their weapons, and/or not broken the law in the first place, they would still be alive today.

I say this with confidence because what we do not see is exactly what the BLMM says is happening: an "open season" on black men where everyone has something to fear.

Rather the way to avoid being killed is to avoid breaking the law, whether by not resisting arrest or doing something that would warrant arrest.

Instead of teaching respect for the law, an achievable solution, the BLMM would rather re-fight the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950's and put chips on people's shoulders that have the opportunity to turn any routine police stop into a Sandra Bland fiasco.

By avoiding real solutions in place of a fake war with the police, the BLMM relinquishes the  opportunity for progression, because while you cannot just change an officer's reaction, you can control your actions.

If these tragic deaths have taught us anything, if it is your life versus a police officer's life and you are doing something wrong, he is going to air on the side of his life and you may die, so do not do wrong.

While the deaths of black men at the hands of white police officers is the rallying point of the BLMM, it is not their only concern.

However, whether it's housing, unemployment, the war on drugs, mass incarceration, or education, the MO remains the same: shift the blame to a white power structure stacked against black people, wresting power from the hands of the only ones who can actual solve the problems: the people themselves.

For this reason, I submit we do not need a BLMM.

In its nearly four year lifespan, it has achieved little more than disruption, agitation, marginalization of frustrated white people, and de-powerment of black youth, with rare exception and outliers.

Just like Planned Parenthood does not equal women's healthcare, the BLMM does not equal black welfare and likewise does not merit the support of any Christian for its feckless and divisive tactics.

You want to help at-risk young black men? Build healthy Christian communities, encourage abstinence until marriage (single parenthood is crippling the black family), volunteer at or start a 4-H Club, sports team, Boy Scout troop, or youth group.

Be a mentor, a tutor, a Boys and Girls Club volunteer.

Assist a single mother, visit the local jails, help out at your local school, be an encouragement, rally against gang violence.

Be vulnerable, pray with and for young men and invite them into your homes.

Model Christ in all your efforts.

That is how you make a difference while the Black Lives Matter folks are busy fighting for equality by shutting down airports.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Bill Nye and Why Some People Have Nothing to Add to the Abortion Debate

[As is not infrequently the case, what began as a late night Facebook response grew into a a blog length post. I hope this is of use to someone.]

Bill Nye has decided to step out of his area of expertise and opine on the issue of abortion. Those of us who care about the right to life of unborn human beings welcome his participation in this discussion and the opportunity to use his comments on abortion as a springboard for conversation.

Here is my response to selected portions of the short video he did arguing against the pro-life position:

1. "Many...more hundreds of eggs are fertilized than become humans."

At this point in 2015, with all the great technological and scientific advantages of our day to help us better understand human life and development, it is hardly worth noting that life begins at conception/fertilization because anyone who bothers to read anything of relevance on the issue either knows this fact or is lying about not knowing it. See for example the following:

“Fertilization – the fusion of gametes to produce a new organism – is the culmination of a multitude of intricately regulated cellular processes.” [Marcello et al., Fertilization, ADV. EXP. BIOL. 757:321 (2013)]

Declarations like these are common place in academic papers and textbooks on the relevant issues related to human life and development.

The unborn is human because it is the product of human sexual reproduction (which results in new human beings) and it is a life as it exhibits irritability (reaction to stimuli), metabolism (converting food to energy), and cellular reproduction (growth), among other things:

"Living things consist of protoplasm and exhibit the following features: metabolism, growth, reproduction, feeding, excretion, irritability and movement. " (A Textbook of Science for Health Professionals, Hinwood, 1997, 250)

So when Nye talks about fertilized eggs becoming humans he is either (1.) ignorant of this basic fact of biology that eggs at conception/fertilization are complete humans and no longer eggs, not becoming human at a later point, or (2.) is being willfully deceitful. Neither option bodes well for him.

2. "...but that's not all you need, you have to attach to the uterine wall."

Nye is not clear on what he means by "all you need." All you need for what? To become human? Nope. We already saw fertilization has accomplished that process.

The process he is talking about is implantation, which is considered by many scientists and health professionals as the beginning of pregnancy, not human life. (To see more on this discussion: Practical Decision Making in Health Care Ethics,  Devettere, 2009, 232)

3.  "...if you’re going to say when an egg is fertilized, it therefore has the same rights as an individual, then whom are you going to sue? Whom are you going to imprison? Every woman who’s had a fertilized egg pass through her? Every guy who’s sperm has fertilized an egg and then it didn’t become a human?"

What is absolutely stunning about this argument isn't simply its complete lack of intellectual capital, but that it is presented with the air of being some great, knock-down argument against human rights for all humans.

In the law, we make distinctions all the time between the intentional, unlawful killing of human beings and natural deaths outside our control.

For example, before Roe v Wade and in no country today where abortion is illegal is a woman penalized for having a miscarriage.

So, why would any mildly intelligent person ever think that recognizing the human rights of a human being would mean we'd have to criminalize spontaneous abortions that take place at any time in a woman's pregnancy or any other manner of natural, unavoidable death that might overtake a new human being in its earliest stages of development?

We are not given the answer. Instead, we are assured those who think human rights begin with human life are ignorant of science. Well, the facts speak for themselves.

As for ascribing human rights to the unborn (a philosophical, not scientific judgement), philosopher Dr. Gary Gutting notes the following:

"The basic problem is that, once we give up the claim that a fertilized egg is a human person (has full moral standing), there is no plausible basis for claiming that all further stages of development are human persons.  The DNA criterion seems to be the only criterion of being human that applies at every stage from conception to birth."

In other words, if human rights are not the property of living human beings by that fact alone, no consistent basis exists for protecting the child in the womb even seconds before birth or for laws that criminalize fetal death (such as in the case of the physical abuse of a pregnant woman).

 But don't worry about all that stuff! Just keep beating the "you're anti-science" drum!

The rest of the video isn't worth my time or yours.

With the characteristic neuroticism of the militant secularism Nye represents, he takes a random side-swipe attack on the Bible.

What the Bible has to do with recognizing the immorality of abortion, I'm not sure and Nye does not care to explain. For someone who talks a lot about science and facts, Nye seems to be at a loss for both.

Maybe he should check out our friends at Secular Pro-Life and Pro-Life Humanists. Or, heck, listen to the countless secular arguments against abortion put forth by *gasp* religious people!

Beyond that, if Nye means to suggest my belief in Scripture leads me to believe children should be loved and cared for, not wantonly chopped to pieces or starved or poisoned (as happens in abortion procedures), consider me guilty as charged.

Finally, let me note, I have many pro-choice friends, whom I respect.

This post is not an attack on you.  It's not even an attack on Bill Nye.

It is an attempt to illustrate that even someone who calls himself a "the science guy" and gives off the most repugnant aura of intellectual superiority utterly fails at defending the indefensible, which is the killing of unborn children.

He doesn't even get close.

What does that tell us?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

What's a Christian to Do with the Pope?

American Catholics are buzzing with excitement as the leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, makes his way to the United States.

This post is not for them.

This post is for those non-Catholic Christians, particularly those in the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, who may wonder what to make of all the hullabaloo in light of Catholic and Restoration Movement differences.

Maybe more than any Pope in recent memory, Francis has captured the attention and hearts of folks beyond the ecclesial reach of the Roman Catholic fellowship, capitalizing on the growing trend away from factionalism/denominationalism in Evangelicalism.

I am one of those Protestants impressed with the self-effacing demeanor and actions of this Pope and his personable manner of speaking and being.

There's a simplicity about him that is attractive, especially as important a figure as he is.

However, the differences between the Catholic Church and the independent Christian Churches did not change when Francis became pope.

For those of us Christians who stand in the heritage if the Restoration Movement, doctrines like believer's baptism, the supreme authority of the Bible alone, the autonomy of the local church, biblical eldership, the priesthood of all believers, the sinfulness of sectarianism, and more make coƶperation with Catholics on issues of Christian faith and life difficult if not unwise.

Thus, what are some tools that might help us balance our personal positive appraisal of Pope Francis and disagreement with the institution he represents?

Firstly, let's remind ourselves that doctrine still matters.

Doctrine is not abstract. Doctrine is what separates the Westboro Baptist Church from the Amish

Doctrine is simply a word to describe the truths particular to our faith.

For all his genuine humility and kindness, Pope Francis is a man who takes upon himself names like Holy Father and Vicar of Christ, while we understand Christ as the sole head of the Church (Eph. 5:23; Col 1:18), God as the only Holy Father (John 17:11; see also: Matthew 6:9), and the Holy Spirit as the Vicar of Christ (John 15:26, 16:7).

This is an important doctrinal difference.

He also believes and teaches Christ is present body, blood, soul, and divinity in the elements of communion.

This is more than the Communion wine simply being the literal blood of Jesus and the bread being his literal flesh (1 Cor. 10:16); this is a doctrine that sees the divine person of Christ himself in the Eucharist in such a way that the "host" is "adored" and put in a special tabernacle inside of the nave of the church.

The priest (which Francis is), takes upon himself the name of Alter Christus (another christ; see: Matt 24:5 for how Scripture speaks of other Christs), "celebrates" (to use Catholic terminology) a Mass believed to be propitiatory (something that satisfies the demands of God) re-presentation of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross such that it were Jesus himself, not the priest, who was offering himself up.
The Catholic priest is said to act in the person of Christ during the Mass.

For us, this is blasphemy (see Exodus 20:4 Hebrews 7-10), a massive show of idolatry at the heart of the Catholic faith.

This is true with or without Pope Francis.

Secondly, we need to remember our brothers who have left the Catholic Church.

I have met and talked with many Christian Church/Church of Christ people who were once Roman Catholics.

They each have their own stories. Some sacrificed much to be immersed into Christ as adults. Some are still praying for Catholic friends and relatives that they will undergo the change they have.

When Christians, whether in our our movement or not, glom on to Pope Francis without restraint or pretend the differences between Catholics and Christians (of the RM) don't exist, we disrespect their journeys and devalue the truth behind their change.

The fact is, there are differences. And when someone recognizes this and still chooses to come to Christ in the Church of Christ, this should temper any potential over-enthusiasm with the Pope or his church that may dishonor the work Christ has done in their lives.

Thirdly, we need to listen to our brothers and sisters in countries like Italy and in Latin America, where Catholicism is the religion de jour, who are telling us to be sober-minded.

A joint statement titled “Roman Catholicism in Evangelical Perspective” written by a consortium of Evangelical denominations in Italy says as much. They write: is incompatible with the teaching of Scripture to have a church whose heart is a political state that is a legacy of an “imperial” church from which it has inherited titles and prerogatives. Christian churches must refrain from imitating “the princes of this world” and follow the example of Jesus who came to serve and not to be served (Mark 10:42-45).

...what appear to be similarities with the evangelical faith and spirituality of sectors of Roman Catholicism are not in themselves reasons for hope in a true change.

All the standing theological and ethical differences considered, they cannot initiate nor advocate for ecumenical initiatives with regard to the Roman Catholic Church.

[We] invite all evangelicals at the national and international levels to exercise a healthy biblical discernment (1 John 4:1) without falling into unionist initiatives that are contrary to Scripture and instead renew their commitment to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to the whole world (Matthew 28:18-20).

Whether you agree with the statement or not, we owe it those believers who are fighting it out in the thick of Catholic land to listen to and consider their concerns.

Finally, when I express admiration for Pope Francis, some of my Evangelical friends get antsy, while my Catholic friends become hopeful, but neither reaction is warranted because the reasons I like him and other Catholics like Oscar Romero, Greg Boyle, Gustavo GutiƩrrez, and Miriam Heidland have nothing to do what makes them good Catholics, but because they show Christ in many of the things they say and do.

We can appreciate Francis's Christlikeness and recognize the truth when he speaks it while still respectfully disagreeing with some of the doctrines of his church.

I hope these emphases will help guide you and I as we follow the Pope's American tour.

Friday, September 18, 2015

#IStandForNothing: A Case Study in Manufactured Outrage

The Bible says nothing is new under heaven, but I cannot help but think something is special about the way 21st century Americans have perfected faux outrage.

From Michael Brown to Kim Davis, to college classrooms and the halls of government, non-issues are regularly transformed into front page news.

Take, for example, the latest case of imagined injustice, Ahmed Mohamed and his clock.

Fourteen year old Mohamed (a brown-skinned Muslim—this will be important in a moment) brought a homemade digital clock to school, intending to show it to his engineering teacher.

However, after a school official became concerned the contraption was perhaps not what the student claimed, someone called the police, who subsequently detained, interrogated, and released Mohamed with no charges filed, his story having checked out.

Maybe at one time this could have been a simple case of “oops” or a sad example of how violence has changed the atmosphere of the American classroom, but this is where Mohamed's race and faith come in, because quickly the story became about police heavy-handedness, Islamophobia, and racism

Activists, politicians, and ordinary citizens took to Twitter with the hashtag #IStandWithAhmed to denounce the obvious racial/ethnic profiling of this young man whose only crime was being brown and having an Arab last name.

Except none of this was true.

Yes, Ahmed is Muslim and, yes, he has dark skin, but that his detainment was race-based is without any basis in fact.

First of all, according to the New York Times, Mohamed was discovered with the device in his English class after the teacher heard it make a beeping noise

The teacher, apparently interested in what the out-of-place beeping in her classroom was, questioned Mohamed who produced his homemade clock.

Now when I think of a digital clock, this is what I think of:

This is Mohamed's clock:

Now you tell me: if you're an English teacher who must decide if a “metal briefcase-style box, [with] a digital display, wires and a circuit board...bigger and bulkier than a typical bedside clock, with cords, screws and electrical components” (according to the NYT description) is actually what the child who brought it says it is and not some kind of explosive, what would you do?

Well, this teacher, faced with uncertainty, aired on the side of caution and the authorities were contacted.

Now some folks claiming racism argue proper protocol was not followed and that if the boy was really a threat, why not evacuate the school?

In other words, because the teacher or police did not go far enough, this is somehow proof they racially profiled of Mohamed.

Besides it's manifest incoherence as proof positive of racism, the town's mayor in her statement posted on Facebook repudiated this claim, as did the school and the police department, saying proper protocol for a hoax bomb scare was followed.

And if you think you can't take their word for it, you now have a better idea of how the English teacher at Mohamed's school felt.

Finally, after the police investigation, Mohamed was released.

As I look at the stream of articles and posts trying to make Mohamed's situation, unfortunate as it is, something it's not, I cannot help but be disgusted.

Some folks are genuinely concerned about possible prejudice, but others are part of the growing class of professional Twitter activists, online lynch mobs, and racialists who decide before-hand what is true without compulsion to calmly consider the facts and weigh the alternatives.

Listen clearly: “this wouldn't have happened if he was white” is a claim, not evidence in support of a claim.

What happened here was the American system of law and justice at work. Mohamed is alive, free, and will be meeting with the President.

If this is racism, that word means nothing any more.

Understand, no one is safer or better off when we cannot even cut our teachers enough slack to appreciate that they refuse to take chances with the lives of their students, especially against the backdrop of mass school killings.

This teacher saw something, so she said something. And if she had kept her mouth shut and it had been a bomb, who would write articles praising her decision to take a teen with a suspicious device at his word? Who would tweet out her name or call her a hero?

I am weary of these self-serving ‪#‎hashtag‬ justice campaigns that cast good judgement to the wind and solve problems that aren't there.

Every day each of us is faced with real tangible ways to make a difference and, if you're a follower of Jesus, an eternal difference for good.

So, for your sake and mine, can we start working on issues that exist, instead of expending energy on ones that don't?

Monday, June 29, 2015

An Open Letter to the Christian with the Rainbow-colored Profile Picture.

While my heart ached to see my non-believing friends rejoice at the SCOTUS same-sex marriage ruling, I did not and do not judge them because we have different standards by which we live and form our opinions.

My prayer has always been that each of my friends who does not know Christ will someday have a revelation of him as Lord and Savior.

On the contrary, when one after another of my professing Christian friends made their support for same-sex marriage known, most using the ubiquitous transparent rainbows on Facebook, my heart burned with questions from the Scriptures as to the wisdom their decision.

This post is a result of that burning:

Dear Christian With The Rainbow-Colored Profile Picture,

A. Did you know Jesus (yep, THE Jesus Christ) taught marriage was a special union of male and female?

When asked about marriage, he said, "Haven’t you read that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?" (Matt 19:4)

Christ's teaching is clear and definitive: marriage is the result of God's desire to bring together again the two halves of the sexual spectrum, male and female, in union.

One biblical scholar who supports same-sex unions, Dr. William Loader, has some bold things to say about this passage:

1. "Jesus’ "statements clearly exclude sexual relations beyond that union. Nothing indicates that Jesus would have approached the prohibitions of Lev 18:22 and 20:13 any differently than his Jewish contemporaries."(Sexuality and the Jesus Tradition, 337).

2. For Jesus "one flesh" referred to "a singleness of being" and "reflects the idea that the male and female originally belonged togetherand that sexual intercourse in some way rejoins the male and female to one" (Sexuality and the Jesus Tradition, 243).

This means by choosing to affirm same-sex marriage, you must walk in contradiction to the Lord whose name you bear.

B. Did you know other Scriptures back up Jesus' teaching, like Romans 1:25-27:

"Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error."

Words as strong as these require little commentary.

However, some argue Paul would not have prohibited loving, committed same-sex relationships if he had known of them. Again, let's see what Loader has to say:

1. "Paul’s indictment in Rom 1:26-27 "included, but [was] by no means limited to exploitative pederasty," "sexual abuse of male slaves," or "same-sex acts… performed within idolatrous ritual contexts" (The New Testament on Sexuality, 325).

2. Homosexual relationships in the Greco-Roman world "could include lifelong consensual adult partnerships" (324).

3. "It is inconceivable that [Paul] would approve of any same-sex acts if, as we must assume, he affirmed the prohibitions of Lev 18:22; 20:13 as fellow Jews of his time understood them" (322).

Another scholar, this time historian and openly gay man Louis Crompton, said this:

1. "According to [one] interpretation, Paul’s words were not directed at "bona fide" homosexuals in committed relationships. But such a reading, however well-intentioned, seems strained and unhistorical.

2. Nowhere does Paul or any other Jewish writer of this period imply the least acceptance of same-sex relations under any circumstance.

3. The idea that homosexuals might be redeemed by mutual devotion would have been wholly foreign to Paul or any other Jew or early Christian" (Homosexuality and Civilization, 114).

In other words, Paul meant what Christ's Church always said he meant, and if you walk away from this teaching, you walk away from teaching authority of Scripture.

C. Did you know choosing to affirm same-sex marriage may lead your friends with same-sex attraction away from God?

I believe you when you say coming to know loving and amazing gay people sparked your change of mind.

This is why I appeal to you saying Christian love demands we stay strong in the truth (Ephesians 4:15) with the patient expectation our faithfulness will incite a hunger for God in the hearts of all who see us.

To love our neighbor is to refuse to do anything that might prevent them from being everything God wishes for them to be in His Son Jesus, whether they are gay, straight, or anything in between. 

And in my life, I have been able to foster precious relationships with LGBT people on this basis.

However, we cannot accomplish this goal if we reject the teachings of Scripture in favor of feelings, cultural shifts, or personal opinions.

Is temporary acceptance really worth causing those you care about to stumble before they reach the loving arms of God?

D. Did you know defending homosexual behavior as acceptable before God harms not only those who act on same-sex inclinations, but also those supporting such action?

In Romans 1, Paul ends his blistering critique of sinful mankind with these words: "they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them." (v 32.)

God's love and justice is such that even leading someone to sin is wicked and carries with it the penalty for wickedness.

Are we not to respect and fear God and His Judgment?

E. Finally, did you know 
supporting those we care about by opposing homosexual behavior is all about counting the cost of following Christ?

A few years back, I lost a good friend because of my beliefs on homosexual behavior.

The ordeal hurt me greatly and I repented before God of anything I said or did wrong that made my friend think I did not love or respect him because of his same-sex attraction.

I write this post knowing I may lose a friend or more and the thought grieves me. 

However, even more than I desire friendship, I desire to know Christ and make him known as he is, not as I want him to be.

And I can only do that by following him and his teachings, even when it may cost me something or someone I love dearly.

Yet, I know whatever I have lost is all for the sake of the name of Christ and his glory alone.

Can you say the same thing?

Friday, June 12, 2015

Black Teen and White Officer--You Know the Rest: The McKinney Pool Party.

How did we ever do justice before YouTube?

The latest case of caught on camera crime being tried in the court of public opinion is the McKinney pool part fiasco in which a white officer was involved in a fight with a black teen.

Hmmm, sounds vaguely familiar...

If you want a detailed report of what happened, Vice has one here.

The skinny is the officer in question tells a group of girls at the scene of the action to leave. The girls drag their feet, but eventually acquiesce, at least most of them.

One girl moves away, but continues to loiter around and makes her presence known to the officer after he yells profanity at the girls who are walking away.

The officer goes to detain her, she resists, and a nasty struggle ensues in which the officer at one point draws his weapon on two teens running up on him, ending with the teen girl flat on her stomach with the officer's knees in her back.


What are we to make of all this?

On the one hand, growing up in the ghetto, I can remember the police showing up to our town's "cheap" pool more than once to cart away some unruly kids.

Maybe that's why I watched most of the video with something less than amazement.

Welp, summer in the hood.

However, the physical arrest of the young girl was truly disturbing.

Some reflection is in order.

Firstly, is any of this about race?

From the video alone, the two principal arguments for racial bias are (1.) the targeting of black teens (and converse ignoring of white teens) by the officer and (2.) the use of excessive force against the teenage girl.

On the first point, the officer explains, in view of the camera, why he sat the black kids down: they fled upon the arrival of the police, after being told to stay put.

That seems like a reasonable justification.

If the cops arrive at the scene of a problem and people run away, the runners make themselves look guilty and open themselves up to questioning by the police.

Because, as far as the video shows, no white kids ran, no white kids attracted police discipline in that manner.

Therefore, it seems the motivation of the officer in disciplining the teens was not a difference of race, but of reaction to police presence at the gathering.

What about the second proof for racism?

This is harder.

What I hope my white friends will understand is it is exceedingly difficult for some, not all, but some black people, including myself, to conceptualize or visualize what the officer did to the black girl being done to a white girl of the same age, physical stature, etc.

We don't have to imagine the reverse; we can simply watch the video.

Therefore, the leap to racially motivated injustice emerges against the backdrop of a compound, collective memory of police brutality not been experienced systemically by white people in our country.

On the other hand, perception is not necessarily reality, and I also disagree the physical altercation was racially motivated, but see it as the result of too much adrenaline and too little self-control.

The important question not being asked by those who think the tussling in the grass was about race is, not would this have happened if the kids were white, but would this have happened if the officer had stayed calm or if the girl had walked away.

The answer to the race question is totally debatable; the answer to the second and third are almost certain.

So were the officer's actions justified?

Here I defer to the McKinney police chief:

"The actions of the officer that you saw on the video, at the disturbance at the community pool are indefensible. Our policies, our training, our practice do not support his actions. He came into the call out of control and as the video shows, was out of control during the incident. I had 12 officers on the scene and 11 of them performed according to their training."

As I categorically disagree with those who have made this about race; I also disagree with those who have defended the "out of control" actions of the officer, whether it be the harried running around, the cussing, the gun pointing, or the measures used to restrain the teen girl.

Finally, what larger lessons can we draw from this?

First, these things always look worse than they are.

 And by "these things", I mean the never-ending us versus them, white versus black fear mongering and hate-slinging we, the American public, have been subjected to, particularly since the Trayvon Martin killing.

Every day most us go to work, pick up our kids, do our grocery shopping, attend church, go to school, play sports, and interact with friends and family without severe incident, and any race based issues that pop up are the exception.

So when the media tries to convince us we're in an all out race war, we need to remember we are seeing a few incidents being blown up into something larger than they are.

Second, fake racist outrage brings out real racist sentiments. For example, reacting to the McKinney case and the officer's resignation, a 4th grade Texas teacher took to Facebook, suggesting we might revert to segregation. "Maybe the 50s and 60s were really on to something", she wrote.


She was, of course, fired.

Every time we kick the hornet's nest and cast an unfortunate event like the McKinney one as racial when it's not, racists still come buzzing out ready to sting, turning what was never about race into something unavoidably about race.

Third, if you as a modern black person living in America are not content with how society looks at you as a black person in America, you will always be discontented. This is because we are living in unparalleled and unprecedented liberty.

 You will also be easy pickings for those profiting off black feelings of despondency and marginalization, who turn urban woes into the problem of an unassailable colossal white power structure as opposed to...well...about anything else.

No, everything is not rosy, but the idea of systemic injustice against black people needs to be seriously re-thought. I believe what we see most often is personal racism, not structural racism, and thus need to hold individuals accountable, not try to overhaul complete systems.

Third, cameras are only as good as the story they tell.

Even with seven minutes of raw, unedited video, exactly what happened in McKinney that day isn't easy to ascertain.

We also can't see that the officer who caused a good share of the hoopla reportedly responded to two suicide calls before arriving to pool incident, possibly impacting his behavior.

 I am thankful for cameras, but we cannot assume because we saw it on video, we know everything that happened.

Finally, if as Christians we are more interested in taking sides than rising above the situation to minister Christ, shame on us.

Shame. On Us.

The last thing the world needs to see is a Christian reaction that looks nothing like Christ. We shouldn't want to take anyone's side unless it's his.

And that goes for me to.

As a black man, I am indignant when I hear how black people are the problem. And as the son of white parents, I am indignant when I hear how white people are the problem.

However, as a Christian, I know the problem is we live among people whose hearts have not been touched by the grace and love of Jesus Christ. Young and old, white and black--all people regardless of demographics are in desperate need of a heart transplant only God can perform and an outlook on life only He can give.

God calls us to respect all people and administer justice.

Those practices alone could fundamentally transform our communities, our relationships, and our hearts, if we let them.