Category Archives: Christianity and politics

Four Common But Misleading Themes in Ferguson-like Times

The United States is likely to be discussing Ferguson-related issues for a long time to come. Television crews have pulled out of the small town and will no doubt chase the next story they think important and ratings worthy. But an awful lot of people will still be processing, talking and acting in ways they think are best. I certainly intend to continue thinking, learning, reflecting, retracting, restating and engaging as much as the Lord allows me and seems useful. Thus, this is my third post this week on these events.

In this post, I want to respond to three themes that tend to recur in Ferguson-like situations: fatherlessness, black-on-black crime, community apathy, and the problem isn’t racism but sin.

I first posted on the first three themes about two years ago. And many others have tried to reply in similar ways. As one writer has put it, these sentiments have become something of a meme traveling the internet with constancy. So, they require constant reply.

Affirming the Importance of These Concerns

But I want to begin with affirming the importance of these issues. The problem, to me at least, isn’t that these things are not problems, or that certain people are disqualified in raising the issue, or that these are embarrassing truths to embrace.

I affirm these as serious issues. I welcome persons of any and every ethnicity to speak into these things. And I firmly believe the truth sets free. There’s no advantage in being ostriches with heads buried in the ground …

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Why I Believe the Grand Jury Got It Wrong and Injustice Triumphed

The United States continues to process the recent grand jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri. As protests gain steam across the country and interested persons pour over grand jury documents, the debate seems to only gain steam and the “sides” seem to further entrench themselves. As I’ve written and tweeted, a number of persons have said they don’t understand my position or they think I’m acting out of a bias. Because I think this is a moment for public discourse and that such discourse actually strengthens the public when it happens well, I want to lay out my view of the grand jury process and why it looks unjust to me.

Truth in advertising: I’m no legal scholar. I’m depending on the comments of some who are. I may have some things wrong and I’m happily corrected where I do. Again, that’s one benefit of a civil public discourse in times of sharp disagreement.

But here’s my perspective as clearly as I can articulate it. It revolves around what I understand of the grand jury process, the role of prosecutor and jury, and the definition of “probable cause” in determining if it’s possible that a criminal action took place. I’m not here arguing the facts of the case. Nor did the grand jury. I will refer to some of the established undisputed facts later, but only as a means of illustrating where I think probable cause existed, not as a means of saying, “This is what definitely happened.” I don’t know that. That’s …

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The Ferguson Grand Jury Has Given Us Our Marching Orders

America has not failed us. We have failed America. “America” represents a set of ideals, a set of values organized into a polity and a promise. The thing about ideals and values is that we either live beneath them or we live up to them. What’s broken in the country is not the values and ideals, but the people who espouse but fail them. Last night Americans failed America.

We saw an American prosecutor fail the principle of “blind justice” by handling court procedure in a way most legal experts found a dereliction of duty. Over and over again we heard that the grand jury bar for an indictment is so low all it takes is a ham sandwich. Prosecutors who want to prosecute don’t “present all the evidence;” apparently, they present only that evidence that gets them the indictment and commences the trial. If that’s true, and I have to trust the majority opinion of legal experts since I’m not one, then Ferguson’s prosecutor failed to even live up to the low-bar ideals of his profession, much less America.

Shortly after President Obama took the podium, speaking from the bastion of American ideals and principles to all American people. Television broadcasts flashed the jarring juxtaposition of a President calling for peaceful demonstrations while tear gas canisters flew and angry protestors began the night’s destruction. President Obama began exactly where he should have: by reminding us that America is a country under the rule of law. It’s good for us to remember …

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Will Ferguson Be Our Transformative Moment?

We’ve felt this feeling before, that sitting on the edge of your seat, stomach in knots, hoping to win but not hoping to offend feeling. We waited this way in 1992 to see what the jury would do when four officers were caught on tape beating Rodney King. The country watched this way as jurors returned a verdict in the O.J. Simpson trial. Again, we found ourselves leaning into our screens, clinching our jaws, straining to hear a favorable word in the George Zimmerman trial.

Now we wait for something to be said by the grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri. Most have taken their side, either in favor of Wilson or Brown or indifference. None of us are impartial, even if we’re simply partial for a world where such things didn’t exist or didn’t have to be reported and so divisive. Many want the moment to pass. To, as Rodney King put it, “all get along.”

But what if this moment could be different? What if this time something transformative could result?

To be sure, there will be “winners” and “losers” in whatever decision gets handed down. And no matter who “wins,” there will still be dissatisfaction on both sides. An indictment won’t bring Brown back and it won’t repair the breach of trust between those sworn to protect and those sworn to get justice. An acquittal won’t clear Wilson’s name and it won’t restore the integrity of a police department mired in ineptitude and scandal.

The transformative moment won’t be achieved with the …

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Are Christians Prone to Over-Compensate for Cultural “Losses”?

Is the state of the culture a report card for the church?

I think I first heard Kevin DeYoung and John Piper ask and answer that question. They both concluded “no.” I think I agree with them. There is no direct relationship between the effectiveness of the church and the broader unbelieving culture.

Yet, it seems most Christians tend to assume a relationship. If the church was doing _____ then the culture wouldn’t ______. Because the church is weak in _____ the society is experiencing ______.

Many Christians too readily draw these kinds of conclusions. I think it’s well-intended. What Christian doesn’t want to see the church have a lasting positive impact on their society?

But I’m concerned that this thinking, especially among preachers and pastors, might be contributing to some unhealthiness in the church. I don’t know if I’m right about this, so you all chime in with your perspective. But it seems to me that some well-meaning leaders who use the state of “the culture” as a report card for the church sometimes end up hurting the church.

The church hurt comes from an overcompensation. My wife has chronic shoulder pain. It probably got started when our children were young and needed rear-facing car seats. She would very often stretch and contort her shoulder to reach and adjust a pacifier or pick up some toy that fell in the back seat. Pretty soon she had sharp pains in her shoulder. Being an excellent doctor but not a very good patient, she refused to …

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Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abortion

This past week featured two annual remembrances in much of the evangelical world: “Sanctity of Life Sunday” and the Martin Luther King, Jr. public holiday. Some churches, like Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, have long made the two days a period of intense focus on the protection of life and racial reconciliation.

It’s an important juxtaposition orchestrated by divine providence. If Dr. King were known for anything it would be the protection of human life and dignity. We think of him as the great Civil Rights captain marching his troops to justice. But in every step of his march was the firm conviction that all men are made in the image of God and created equal. Had he not held that more foundational belief, along with a deeply biblical conception of love, it would be difficult to imagine so sturdy a fight for equality and inclusion. Those twin commitments have rightly made him an American hero, an icon representing the best of American ideals.

So, it’s worth asking: What would Martin Luther King, Jr. think about abortion?

There are many who will no doubt pronounce with unwavering certainty that, “Dr. King would have….” Some will say so with all the moral authority that comes from having “knew Dr. King” or “marched with Martin.”

To be clear, abortion came later, a few years after Dr. King’s murder. So, Dr. King himself never spoke  publicly to the issue. Any “definite” pronouncements are most assuredly speculations and extrapolations.

But if he were consistent with his principles of love …

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Communicating Authentic Love by Not Resorting to Unhelpful Comparisons

This is a guest post by Joani, devoted wife and mother of five adventuresome boys aged 7-16. A former homeschooling mom, she now serves as Assistant Director/Client Services Director at East Texas Pregnancy Help Center and studies at Liberty University. She is eternally grateful for her Saviour who redeemed her life. She is as kind a woman you will ever meet, and she also plays a mean violin! In this post she continues to evaluate different ways of speaking about abortion. You can read her first post here.

“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22)

We all can recount in our own individual lives memories of past suffering.  Deep hurts.  The type of hurt that makes you desperate to see a light somewhere, the pain that makes you wonder if you will ever recover, and the anguish that gives you sleepless nights…. and the taunting belief that you’ll never feel “ok” again.  My friend sat before me, tears streaming down her cheeks.  A choice stared her in the face bleakly, as she struggled to cope with what seemed impossible.  Alone.  Scarred.  Betrayed.  Now here she sat, left with an unplanned pregnancy, heartbreak, and a life deteriorating disease.  The choice was actually, dare I breathe again?    Memories flooded my mind as a reminder of emotions that I had experienced with my own crisis pregnancy that actually brought me to the doors of an …

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They Said It Far Better Than I Could

Recently I’ve attempted to argue that in our discourse about homosexuality we need to return the discussion to the basic description of the acts themselves. I’ve suggested  that on two grounds, one fairly implicit, the other stated explicitly. Implicit in my previous posts was the assumption that the entire premise of homosexuality as social identity needs to be questioned. I didn’t develop this thought, but it was working in my description of how the public conversation about homosexuality turned so quickly and decisively. The more explicit statement was that we need to turn the conversation to the sex acts themselves because the success of the pro-homosexuality campaign depends on our not considering those things actively.

This week a couple of pieces make those points far more eloquently and  helpfully than I could  ever do.

Understanding the Perception and Rhetoric

The first comes from a New Yorker profile of Edith Windsor, the plaintiff in the DOMA case. At one point in the interview, the discussion turns toward rhetorical strategy and public perception. Here’s the relevant bit:

When selecting the ideal plaintiff, one experienced movement attorney told me, “Women are better than men, post-sexual is better than young.” From the Bible onward, two men having intercourse has been viewed as more disturbing to the social order than two women doing whatever it is that lesbians do. For people to embrace same-sex marriage, they needed to focus on the universal desire for romantic love and committed intimacy. Contemplating the difference between gay people and straight people made it acceptable to treat their relationships unequally, …

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What Zambia and Russia Teach Us About Homosexuality and Gay Rights Debates

You know you’re suffering from jet lag when the entire family is wide awake at 2am watching Pokiemon and playing video games. We all have that “wish I could sleep but I’ve given up” look on our faces. And school and office hours are fast approaching.

For my part, I’ve decided to tidy up a few loose ends from the trip to New Zealand, Australia and Zambia. I’ve downloaded some photos, unpacked a couple of bags, and now I’m trying to sort a few remaining thoughts from the trip. First up, I want to finish reflections on homosexuality and the terms of our public discourse about it. Now, part of me doesn’t want to return to this at all. But another part continued to reflect on things and, interestingly enough, each point along our trip featured some major news story on the subject. So, unable to escape the issue, I’m choosing in this post to pull a couple further reflections together.

What Zambia Teaches Us about Moral Approaches to Homosexuality and Law

First stop: Zambia. It’s actually the third stop in our trip and surprisingly a third stop with some major news item related to homosexuality and gay rights. I was surprised to note during my stay in Zambia an article in one of Lusaka’s newspapers describing an ongoing criminal case regarding homosexual acts. The article appeared on the front page beneath the fold. Two men faced criminal sanction for allegedly offering and engaging in homosexual acts. Zambian law forbids such acts under …

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On Homosexuality and the Conscience: Responding to Criticisms

Introduction

I’ve managed to provoke a wide range of responses and emotions in my recent post on homosexual behavior and the human conscience. The response isn’t altogether surprising. It’s representative of the climate and world we live in. As many evangelical leaders have pointed out, we’re at the point now where there’s no longer any dispassionate position on homosexuality. You can mention it once in 20 years like Louie Gigglio, or you can be a former homosexual who only sings and preaches the grace of Christ like Donnie McClurkin, and you will find yourself vilified for opposing this behavior. It’s a time for God’s people to be full of grace and truth, sacrificing neither and proclaiming both.

I’m now in southern Africa, where internet connections and data speed are at great premium. So I’m trying to respond to some of the issues raised in the comments thread before disappearing from social media for about two weeks. I don’t want anyone to think I’ve shouted “fire!” in a crowded theater only to run away without giving an account. But this will have to briefly suffice before beginning ministry here in Africa.

The Original Argument in Brief

Since a number of people misrepresented or misinterpreted me and my post, I thought it would be helpful to state the argument in brief. No one commented on the lengthy discussion of how the rhetorical campaign for “gay rights” developed. Rather, most everyone focused on my call to speak in ways that address the human conscience. Here’s an …

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