Thursday, August 28, 2014

The New Abnormal II

"That's all I can stands, cuz I can't stands no more!" ~ Popeye

"I'm into freedom of speech and freedom of choice. I'm the kind of guy who likes to sit in a greasy spoon and wonder - "Gee, should I have the T-bone steak or the jumbo rack of barbecued ribs with the side order of gravy fries?" I want high cholesterol. I wanna eat bacon and butter and BUCKETS of cheese, okay? I want to smoke a Cuban cigar the size of Cincinnati in the non-smoking section. I want to run through the streets naked with green Jell-O all over my body reading Playboy magazine. Why? Because I suddenly might feel the need to, okay, pal?" ~ Edgar Friendly, Demolition Man

I feel for ya Popeye.  For too long I've just been slightly irritated by what I hoped was a fad, but now sadly see as a growing trend in our culture.  And with you Mr. Sailorman, I can't stands no more either!

That trend is the ever-increasing glorification of personal rights at the expense of any sense of wisdom, responsibility, or propriety.

Pick a topic: Ferguson, gun-control, date rape, domestic abuse: all have at least an element or an example of someone exerting a self-perceived right while not exhibiting any wisdom, personal responsibility, or propriety.  Some, some could argue, lack all three.

Ferguson.  You know the story by now.  A unarmed black teenager is shot dead by a white cop after being asked to move to the sidewalk from the street.  And I'll stop with those facts, because they are the only facts universally known for sure.  Was the cop racist?  Did he execute an innocent man simply because of his color?  Some think so, but no one (at least no one publicly) knows for sure.  But almost never mentioned is the fact that had the teenager simply obeyed the officer as a public authority figure, there likely would have been no incident.  Rather than move to the sidewalk as requested, Mr. Brown chose instead to assert his right to walk wherever he wanted, and whatever happened next came as either a direct or indirect result of this assertion.

Gun-control.  This past Monday morning, a nine year old girl accidentally shot a firearms instructor with an Uzi.  Yes, an Uzi.  I fully support our right to "keep and bear arms" according to the U.S. Constitution, but the girl's father decided that his child's right to bear this type of arm overrode any sense of responsibility or wisdom that might say that a gun like that, that apparently recoils so that a nine year old might not be able to control it, should not be fired by a child.  On a side note, I find it interesting that someone has to be certain size or age to ride a roller-coaster but can handle a weapon that can fire 600 rounds per minute!

Date rape/Domestic abuse.  I put these two together, because the argument is pretty much the same for both.  Any warning or advice given to the woman to protect herself is seen as some sort of violation of her rights.  The right to dress or act in a way that might invite danger is paramount, while any suggestion to exercise restraint and wisdom is ignored.  To be clear, in no way will I EVER blame the victim in one of these cases.  But what responsible husband or father would ever endorse his loved one's choice to put themselves in unnecessary danger.

And just like last week, the list could go on and on.

Josh Gordon, a wide receiver for the Cleveland Brown was suspended this week for the entire 2014 football season for testing positive (a second time) for marijuana. After apologizing to his teammates, coaches, and fans, he immediately blamed the NFL, saying,  "I am very disappointed that the NFL and its hearing office didn't exercise better discretion and judgment in my case."

This wasn't even an example of rights, as you can't argue that Mr. Gordon had a right to be high.  This is a great example instead of a lack of responsibility: it's someone else's fault when I make a mistake, thus I should not be required to suffer any consequences.

When did this change in our culture happen?  Once, when I was in high school, I popped off to a teacher.  When my dad found out, he made me go apologize.  We did not blame the teacher, nor did we defend my right to my opinion or my right to express myself.  I was wrong, I took responsibility, and it became a small step in making me a responsible citizen.  Oops, there's that word again: responsible.

Responsibility is a fourteen letter word. It is not a four letter word.

Without it, we are all Edgar Friendlys.  We want the ability to do whatever we want, wherever we want, with no thought to the effects on ourselves or others. 

And this is exactly how a civilized society crumbles.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The New Abnormal

"For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths." ~ 2 Timothy 4:3-4 ESV

I don't know what happened in Ferguson.  I wasn't there.

I didn't see the gunshots that killed Michael Brown, nor did I see any of the events that led up to his death.  I don't know anyone involved.  I have never even driven through the town.

Still, I think I know a few things.

Lots of people, not only around the nation but around the world, are shouting for justice.  Few, I fear, really want justice.  Most, I'm convinced, want their felt needs met.

Justice would methodically examine all of the available evidence and apply the law in a "blind" fashion.  

If the police officer shot Michael Brown in cold blood, as many allege, the evidence, once fully examined, would lead to his indictment, prosecution, and conviction in a court of law.  Those on the right who want justice would be just as satisfied as those on the left.

If the officer defended himself against a larger, violent man, as some are now claiming they witnessed, the officer would be exonerated.  Michael Brown's death would be seen as a tragic ending to a tragic life; a death that could have been avoided.  And those on the left who say they want justice would be satisfied that the policeman rightfully defended himself against attack, and acted lawfully and morally.

Sadly, no matter the outcome, some will remain angry, for no amount of facts, logic, and investigation will quell the desire for vengeance.

I'm afraid that we now live in the new abnormal- a time when facts mean nothing in favor of perception, or even desire.

No matter what the facts turn out to be in the Michael Brown case, some will cling to their preconceived perceptions.  Those who believe a racist cop killed an innocent kid will cry "injustice!" if the evidence shows something different.  Those who believe a good cop killed an aggressive man will cry "injustice!" if the evidence does indeed show the police in the wrong.

But this is not an isolated case.  We rate our politicians based on our feelings about them and about our situation rather than any facts.  Some blindly follow the President (regardless of who's in office), simply ignoring any data that might prove him a failure.

Despite clinical research on the harm of using marijuana, some continue to proclaim it's safety and pressure legislatures to legalize it. Read the findings of the National Institute of Drug Abuse and tell me if this is the harmless little "weed" many FEEL should be allowed.

Despite 6000 years of human civilization, we now FEEL that homosexuality is natural and OK, and therefore must be endorsed by all, even those who disagree on religious grounds.

Despite the richest 10% of people paying more than 70% of federal income taxes, some FEEL that they do not pay their "fair share."

Despite funding 16 other forms of birth-control, some FEEL that Hobby Lobby, with the support of the U.S. Supreme Court, will not allow its employees to purchase birth control, and is therefore anti-woman.

Despite clear biblical mandates on a whole host of issues, too many churches FEEL that the importance of giving people what they want supersedes God's clear instructions.

And the list could go on and on.

How do we reverse this trend?  Is it too late for America to embrace any set of facts and choose leaders who will choose wise paths for this nation?  Or are we doomed to FEEL our way into oblivion?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Confessions of a Clay Jar

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us."  ~ 2 Corinthians 4:7

I hurt.

Better today, but a LOT yesterday.

Many of my readers (all both of them) know that I am a runner.  And I have very steadily been building up my mileage- not for any planned race but just for the sake of doing so.  Last week I was able to run 9 miles on Monday, with three separate 5 mile runs scattered throughout the week.  And I felt pretty good doing so, at least until the end of the week.

But all of my ailments have decided to flare up at once.  My arthritic toe, which is fairly new (the arthritis, not the toe) has hurt fairly steadily for probably a month.  My piriformus syndrome, which is literally a pain in the butt, has been a long-standing issue that had played nice...until last week.

In short, I hurt.

Now several things may be going on.  Most experts will tell you that a good pair of running shoes should last between 300-500 miles, and mine are at 343 (yes, I track that).  So I've changed to a new pair, hoping that with some rest and new shoes the pains will subside.

It may also be that my age is catching up with me.  I sure hope not.  It's much easier to change to a new pair of shoes than to a new me!

Paul was not immune to the nature of the temporariness of life.  In this letter to the Corinthian church he wrote of such, calling our bodies "jars of clay", which even in our day symbolize a certain fragility.  Obviously our lives are very short- even for the oldest among us- and from the moment of our birth our bodies begin to decay until that moment when we breathe our last and enter either an eternal time of blessing and praising our Savior in heaven or an eternity of conscious torment in hell.

But look at WHY Paul says this happens to us.  While yes, death and decay are a result of the fall, Paul also includes an even bigger reason for our aging:

"to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us."  

Imagine if we lived forever enjoying the strength and vigor of our youth. I don't imagine it would take very long to believe we were invincible (since we truly would be), and thus would have no need for God.  We would in fact be our own Gods, self-sufficient in almost every way.

So I guess if I have to choose between my need for God and my desire for youth, I'll choose the former.  Trust me, it's a much better deal.

Now as my butt goes numb from the icepack I'm sitting on, I think I'll bid you a very chilly adieu.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Ann Coulter, Stop Speaking for Jesus

"If Dr. Brantly had practiced at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles and turned one single Hollywood power-broker to Christ, he would have done more good for the entire world than anything he could accomplish in a century spent in Liberia." ~ Ann Coulter

"Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'" ~ Jesus Christ, Matthew 7:22-23

I guess when you read as many blogs and articles as I do, the odds will be that something at some point will make you gag.  Enter Ms. Coulter's entry from yesterday.

At one level I get it.  She, and many others on both sides of the political spectrum, owe their livelihood to their ability to shock people by their comments, further divide an already divided nation, and marginalize those who disagree, regardless of whether or not that person can present facts.  And I confess, I often agree with her assessments.

But her latest observation is beyond even her pale (pun intended).

Perhaps I should stop for a moment and let some of you catch up; afterall  you may not recognize the name of the aforementioned doctor or be familiar with the topic at hand.

Samaritan's Purse is an aid organization related to the Billy Graham Evangelical Association.  They routinely send volunteer doctors and nurses to remote parts around the world, offering free medical and dental care to people who may have never before seen a doctor.  Not surprisingly, many of these people have illnesses that we in the United States can hardly imagine.

Dr. Kent Brantly is one of those doctors.  Serving recently in Liberia, Africa, he contracted the Ebola virus, which if left untreated is deadly.  Samaritan's Purse immediately arranged transport for both Dr. Brantly and Nancy Writebol, a fellow missionary who also caught the disease, back to the U.S. where they could get treatment.

Again, enter Ms. Coulter.

I don't know if her facts are correct, but her blog begins with the statement that his return cost the organization $2 million, and she questions whether this was worth it; not whether it was worth saving the two, but whether serving in Africa is worth the risk.

If she had stopped there, I would disagree with her, but I would at least be able to respect the differing viewpoint.  If she had stopped there.

She didn't.

Instead, she dresses up her vitriol in an feeble attempt to appear a caring Christian, lamenting the lost in this nation who are not cared for while this doctor apparently flitters about in Africa, as if to say Jesus cares more for Americans than He does for the lost in other nations.

This would be sad if not so sickening and jingoistic.

She does make some interesting points in noting that too many lost, hurting people in this country are ignored by some in favor of reaching out to other nations.  In that she is correct.  But minus the venom in her sentiment, why does it have to be either/or?  Why would we ever think that we need to ignore one group while focusing on the other?  Can't it be that the Church is far big enough to reach lost Americans AND lost Africans (and lost Europeans and lost South Americans and lost Asians and....)?

In Jesus' last earthly words, as recorded in Acts 1:8, he encourages His disciples that "you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

The last time I checked a map, the U.S. is not the sum-total of the end of the earth.  I believe that Africa can be included in that description.