Mess of Pottage Blog

Luke's "Pro" Blog

Ross Douthat offers some welcome relief from all the post-election GOP bashing. This part caught my eye:

The liberal image of a non-churchgoing American is probably the “spiritual but not religious” seeker, or the bright young atheist reading Richard Dawkins. But the typical unchurched American is just as often an underemployed working-class man, whose secularism is less an intellectual choice than a symptom of his disconnection from community in general.

What unites all of these stories is the growing failure of America’s local associations — civic, familial, religious — to foster stability, encourage solidarity and make mobility possible.

… But if conservatives don’t acknowledge the crisis’s economic component, liberalism often seems indifferent to its deeper social roots. The progressive bias toward the capital-F Future, the old left-wing suspicion of faith and domesticity, the fact that Democrats have benefited politically from these trends — all of this makes it easy for liberals to just celebrate the emerging America, to minimize the costs of disrupted families and hollowed-out communities, and to treat the places where Americans have traditionally found solidarity outside the state (like the churches threatened by the Obama White House’s contraceptive mandate) as irritants or threats.

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A Woman’s Right to Choose

Apparently, women in China are going to have a right to choose whether to have an abortion. This is a great pro-life victory:

Following international outcry, China’s Population and Family Planning Commission issued an order to ban the use of forced abortion when enforcing its one-child policy. The directive is being hailed as a significant step forward in human rights.

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Children dying of exposure

I read two terrible news stories today, and I can’t help but play connect-the-dots with them.

A 3-year-old girl from America’s northernmost community died and her younger sister suffered hypothermia after their mother and the mother’s boyfriend left them in a locked bedroom with a window open to a temperature of minus 30 degrees to air out the room because the girls wet their beds, authorities said. More here.

The mom and her boyfriend were just horribly neglectful, and they are facing 2nd-degree murder charges. (Locking kids in a bedroom?)

But are those parents just bad parents? Probably. I don’t think they meant to hurt anyone.

I do wonder, however, how much of their neglectful attitude is absorbed from their culture, which has become if not hostile then at least indifferent to the idea that the custody of children is a sacred trust. Death, increasingly, is seen as only one of several equally valid options.

Consider this article, from England. Experts are telling us that this sort of thing—the death of one’s children—should be a parent’s prerogative:

Parents should be allowed to have their newborn babies killed because they are “morally irrelevant” and ending their lives is no different to abortion, a group of medical ethicists linked to Oxford University has argued.

I find it grimly amusing that these “experts” are now willing to affirm what the right-to-life movement has been arguing for 40 years: that abortion is no different than killing babies.

Now, I know that slippery-slope arguments are weak. People can always say you’re taking something too far. But this is why the slippery-slope argument can’t be ruled out. If abortion becomes a legitimate form of family planning, then it can and eventually will be used to justify infanticide. In four decades, it has become safe, at least for these experts, to demand expanded abortion opportunities: not only in the 2nd and 3rd trimester, but, hey, why not the 4th and 5th as well!

“Politics is downstream of culture.” The culture is what allows people to argue in favor of infanticide. But if they are not resisted at this point, then, ultimately it will become a political issue. If history is any guide, then in about 40 years, the government will pass a law stating that people who work in hospitals will have to kill babies, regardless of their private ethical or religious convictions, in order to “safeguard the mother’s reproductive freedoms.”

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Just War: the ACID test

A few weeks ago, U.S. special forces carried out a raid into Abottabad, Pakistan, in the course of which, the terrorist leader Osama bin Laden was killed. Earlier this spring, the U.S., as part of NATO, began military operations in support of Libyan rebels. These two events, along with our ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, raise the question: can a war be justified, and, if so, under what circumstances?

Thoughtful and decent Christians have argued both sides of this question for centuries. Whole denominations, such as Quakers and Mennonites, have historically said “no,” on the basis of Jesus’ statement of blessing on peacemakers in Matthew 5:9 and other scriptures.

Other Christians have said that war can sometimes be justified, if it meets certain criteria. This doctrine of Just War provides a number of tests which I remember as the “ACID” test: Read the rest of this entry »

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Pat Robertson for Ending Marijuana Prohibition

After his very public, and I believe very mistaken, remarks about the Haiti earthquake, I’m startled but pleased to find common ground with Pat Robertson on the subject of marijuana prohibition.

“I’m … I’m not exactly for the use of drugs, don’t get me wrong, but I just believe that criminalizing marijuana, criminalizing the possession of a few ounces of pot, that kinda thing it’s just, it’s costing us a fortune and it’s ruining young people. Young people go into prisons, they go in as youths and come out as hardened criminals. That’s not a good thing.”

That’s pretty much the same conclusion I came to when I was doing prison ministry during my seminary years. Any problems caused by marijuana use pale in comparison to the damage that its prohibition has done.

(Note: I see that Robertson has subsequently walked this back a bit, but not, I think, too much. The fact is that prohibition has been doing enormous damage for two or even three generations. Fixing the problem will be nearly impossible, but the first step, of course, is admitting you have a problem.)

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The World Turned Upside Down

The book of Acts records the conflict between the first Christians and the pagan communities they were evangelizing. Those communities said they were advocating customs unlawful for Romans to adopt (Acts 16:20), that they were “turning the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).

Have you ever wondered what they meant by that?

An article in the BBC News today describes the excavation of a mass burial of 97 infants in the Thames Valley of England. Archaeologists believe might have been a brothel. Key quote:

And infanticide may not have been as shocking in Roman times as it is today.

Archaeological records suggest infants were not considered to be “full” human beings until about the age of two, said Dr Eyers.

Let’s hear it for turning the world upside down.

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Atheist Recommends Christians Convert Muslims?

MacLeans has an interview with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali woman who was raised as a Muslim but who has become an atheist. In the article, she said Christians should proselytize Muslims, at least in the West: Read the rest of this entry »

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Barzillai’s Legacy

Barzillai was one of the people who helped King David during the period when David’s son Absalom was trying to usurp the throne. (See 2 Samuel 17:27-29.)

Later, when David had regained the throne and was rewarding people who’d been loyal during the rebellion, Barzillai shows up. He’s there to help David get back across the Jordan…and, conveniently, to collect his reward. David asks Barzillai to come back with him to Jerusalem and become a retainer at court. (2 Samuel 19:32-33.) But Barzillai refuses.
Read the rest of this entry »

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National Day of Prayer – One Opinion

Earlier this month, Federal Judge Barbara Crabb ruled that a national day of prayer is an unconstitutional call to religious action. Since the ruling, atheist and religious groups have been arguing for and against both the ruling and the national day of prayer itself.

Many people of faith, especially Christians, have seen the ruling as a further whittling away of the status of faith in society. “First,” the logic goes, “they came for prayer in schools, then high school baccalaureates, then public nativity scenes at Christmas, and so forth, leading to this latest ruling against the national day of prayer.”

I, too, was disappointed by the ruling, but not because it whittled away Christianity. Christianity doesn’t need help from judges. Christianity doesn’t need an act of congress or a presidential proclamation.

Historically, the Church has flourished most when it had the least help from the state. Remember how the Church grew in its first couple of centuries. It began as a tiny handful of followers of a crucified rabbi in a backwater province, and became the most numerous religion in the world’s greatest empire — and did so despite official neglect, and frequent persecution, at the hands of the state. Or, more recently, consider how the underground Church grew so dramatically in China under Mao.

By contrast, the Church’s lowest moments have occurred when it was most tightly connected with the state. The crusades, the inquisition, the Thirty Years’ War between Protestants and Catholics, even Hitler’s domesticated “German Christian” church in Nazi Germany — all these occurred when the Church sought the power of the state and so became entangled with it.

No, if this ruling will harm anything, it will be our nation. Certainly the Church will not suffer, for there is no power in all creation – Jesus said not even the gates of Hades — that will prevail against the Church (Matthew 16:18).

It isn’t my place to argue the constitutionality of a national day of prayer. I leave that to lawyers. But as a believer, I am called to pray for my country. “Fear God,” Peter writes, and “honor the Emperor.” In Jeremiah 29, the prophet calls Jewish exiles to pray even for Babylon. Regardless how the legal issue plays out, please join me and other people of faith next week in praying to the Lord for our nation.

(Originally published in the Hi-Desert Star, April 28, 2010.)

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Encountering the Culture

Then he went about among the villages teaching.
He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two.
Mark 6:6-7

In AD 100, the worldwide total number of Christians might have been about 25,000. For the next two centuries, Christianity was an an illegal religion, and endured several waves of violent persecution. It had no trained clergy, nor any church buildings as we know them. But in the early 300’s, when Christianity was finally legalized, the number of Christians was about 20 million.

Read the rest of this entry »

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