Thursday, August 8, 2019

Historical Tolerance and the New Left

Growing up in the sixties and seventies, I spent half my life in the northeast and half my life in the south.  While there were many differences between the two experiences, one thing was very consistent: a call for tolerance.  Both the northeast and the south lifted up tolerance as an important American value.  Not that anybody was practicing perfect tolerance.  But tolerance was being lifted up as a worthy virtue in the continued development of uniquely American culture.

Because of this experience, I grew up with a desire to be a tolerant person.  I didn't have to approve of everybody's decisions and lifestyle choices.  But I thought it was important to respect each person's right to chase their dreams and live their lives.  Freedom to live and believe as one chooses, without harming or threatening anyone else, seemed like a good ideal to uphold.  It seemed like a Biblical concept.  And it seemed like a good piece to build into a national culture.

Forty years later, I still think tolerance is a good idea.  Tolerance for all ethnic groups.  I might be British and Scottish.  But I think that all nationalities should have the freedom to apply to live in this great nation.  Tolerance for all religions.  I might be a Christian.  And I might wish that everyone was a Christian.  But practitioners of all religions should be free to practice their religion in peace.  I might be Caucasian.  But people of all races should have the freedom to work hard to benefit from  the American Dream.  I will always think that tolerance is a good idea for everyone to practice.  It was how I was raised and I have never found a reason to move away from it.

Lately, however, I have been feeling waves of intolerance, as though certain voices do not belong in the public arena, as though sometimes tolerance is the wrong answer.  Not religious tolerance - it's still a good thing.  Not ethnic or racial tolerance.  What I will never be able to practice, and what I think we need to avoid at all costs, is historical tolerance.

Does studying and appreciating American History before the Civil War make me a racist?  No - there are important truths to be learned there.  He who does not know history is doomed to repeat it.  Does believing that the Holocaust is an important historical event, complete with names, dates, and locations, make me intolerant?  No - facts are facts, and not interpretations.  Does knowing that virtually 100% of Klansmen were Democrats make me a partisan hack?  No - it just means that my interpretation of history is factually based.

The pressure from the left to be historically tolerant is strong and growing, subtle yet very real.  (  Acknowledgement of facts is seen as intolerant.  Clarification of historical events is seen as insensitive.  The PC police are eager to promote historical tolerance, as though each version of American history is equally legitimate and worthy of respecting.

Into this abyss of confusion and dysfunction, I say "No".  Historical tolerance is one tolerance we as a nation must never succumb to.  Historical tolerance is grounded in ignorance of facts, built upon fears and divisions, and stretches out toward a lawless way of interacting with those around us.  If we as a nation are going to survive we must continue to believe in historical truth.   If truth sets free, then untruth promotes bondage.  If we allow historical untruth to be validated, then how are we to decide and govern?

Lord help us to reject historical tolerance, knowing that You are the God of all truth. 

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Sprinting to the Finish Line - For the Glory of God

Like many people, I occasionally watch a movie and find that it has something to say which speaks to my life and to the messages God is working into my soul.  The characters, the plot, the themes, or sometimes even just a random event suddenly give me a reason to pause and reflect.  This should not surprise me because most good writers are skilled at connecting story lines to human experiences in a way that elicits a human response.   But it often does surprise me, especially when it hits really close to home.

I recently watched the end of a movie, and found myself reflecting on it in this way.  Secretariat is a nice story about a horse which does amazing things because the people who take responsibility for him understand how to work with him.  He comes back from long odds, under the care of a large team of people, to win the Kentucky Derby by the longest margin of victory ever achieved.  In watching this movie and reflecting on deeper things, it is easy to focus on the vision of the owner, the patience of the trainer, or the skill of the rider, all worthy of discussion in the bigger picture of ministry and the Kingdom and the potential which God puts deep into the life of every believer.  (Moses prayer in Numbers 11:29 did actually come to pass).  But as I sat and thought about the ending of the movie, my heart went somewhere completely different: the brutal finality of the outcome of the race and the certainty of the victory coming to pass, starting long before the finish line was crossed.  Starting on the back stretch of a long and close race, he starts sprinting and never slows down, pulling further and further ahead, winning by an incredible 31 lengths.

As I walked away from the movie and followed along where God directed my thinking, I pondered my own life.  As a 57 year old empty-nester, I am definitely past the chaos/exhaustion/auto-pilot time in life, where it often felt like a victory just being still in the game.  I am in that delightful time of life when time feels both plentiful and in short supply at the same time.  I do have discretionary time, but I don't know for how long.  I could be approaching the finish line, or just rounding the back corner.  Only God knows, and that is OK.  What I do know is that I like the way Secretariat finished that race.

He broke from the adversaries in a way that was definitive and challenging.  He let the rider direct him at an unprecedented pace because he trusted the rider -  they had a relationship, and a history together.  As the race progressed, it became less about the adversaries and more about the finish line, and getting there in a manner which was in keeping with the race they had run in breaking from the pack.  Together, they raced at full speed all the way to the finish line, producing results never approached, before or since.

As I sat and reflected on that movie, I realized that I want to finish my race like Secretariat did.  I want to break from the enemy in a way that keeps me from running as one who runs with an enemy nipping at my heels.  I know that the enemy is prowling around like a lion, waiting at any moment to pounce on me, to devour me.  I know that the enemy lurks around, looking for a chance to shoot an arrow straight into my soul.  I know that I need to remain sober minded and aware.  But I want God to fill my heart and direct my paths in such a way that I can run at full speed, unencumbered by the scheming of the enemy.

I want to run as one who is focused on the finish line, not looking back at the adversaries but pressing ahead, straining with every fiber of my being to finish well.  I want to sprint at full tilt, not because the outcome of my life is in doubt, but because I want to let the rider direct my path in a way that crushes the enemy and brings glory to the rider.

Ultimately, as I walked away from that movie, I realized what I really wanted: I want to finish well.  Whether my days are nearing their end, or I still have decades left to walk with Him, I want to finish well.  I want to break from the enemy.  I want to keep sprinting, knowing that my victory in Jesus is secure.  I want to cross the finish line with those words "well done my good and faithful servant".  And I want to finish, knowing that it was all for His glory and the unfolding of His plans in His time.  I want to sprint to the finish line, with everything I've got, until He says my race is over and I get to enter into His rest which is final and definitive and eternal.

I enjoy many of the things which are associated with the golden years: playing golf with my children, drinking coffee on the couch in my pajamas at noon just because I can, conversations that can linger because I don't have a crush of agenda waiting for me.  I enjoy these things, not because I have earned them, or because they somehow fill an empty place in my soul.  I enjoy them because they are a gift from the Lord, an opportunity to slow down and follow my priorities and enjoy the life which God has crafted for me.

But, when I am honest with myself, I realize that these activities are not all that I want for the last chapter of my life.  I want to enjoy them as the icing of my last years, and not the cake itself.  I want to enjoy them as a gift from the Lord in the context of His calling and purposes still occupying my life and thoughts.  I want to keep sprinting, all the way to the finish line, and not coast because the outcome is certain.  I want to sprint, not because I have to in order to secure some outcome or fill some need.  I want to sprint solely because I enjoy running with the Lord, and staying tuned into His plans for my life.

O Lord, help me to finish well.   Help me to run, guided only by Your presence.  Help me to run focused only on the finish line and arriving there together.  Like Secretariat, whose heart was twice as large as the average horse, enlarge my heart so that I can run with a capacity that reflects your incredibleness.  Help me to sprint, straining forward with every fiber of my being, knowing that You created me to sprint.   And help me to sprint to the finish line without vanity or pride.   Sola Deo Gloria.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

First Generation Americans and Political Leanings

I have often wondered how first generation immigrants who have lived in other countries process politics in the USA, and how their experiences in other countries affect how they view what happens in the USA?

Do recent immigrants come here super conservative?  Do they see America as the land of opportunity, where anybody who works hard and stays within the rails can make a good life for their children and grandchildren. Do first generation  immigrants favor candidates who talk about law and order, fiscal responsibility, and minimal government interference?  Have they been frustrated by lawless governments which perpetuate corruption, waste money, and get involved in every facet of life?  Do they come to this country viewing government as a tool of the people, which people get to direct for the benefit of themselves and all other citizens?

Or do they come to this country leaning more to the liberal side of political idealogy?  Do they view America as a fair and compassionate nation, where everybody is kind to their neighbors and even the poor have a pretty good standard of living.  Do first generation immigrants favor candidates who talk about support, services, and leveling the playing field?  Have they been frustrated by violent systems which perpetuate civil strife and strive to eliminate upward social mobility?  Do they come to this country thinking that government can be the defender of the people, when it is a fair and just government as they expect to find as they enter the USA?

According to Ilya Somin of the Washington Post (Immigrants' political views are a lot closer to those of natives than you might think; February 27, 2015), the answer is a clear one: first generation immigrants arrive in the USA decidedly leaning to the left.  They may not have as much political influence as second and third generation immigrants, but, as a group, they decidedly vote liberal democrat the majority of the time.

The interesting fact is that the second, third, and subsequent generations vote in a way that reflects the voting trends of the general population at large, of those whose families have grown up here for generations.  Why is this?  Why do recent immigrant families drift to the right within one generation?  What happens in their first 15-20 years of actually living in this country which causes them to shift to the right so quickly and decidedly?

Only one possibility sounds feasible: that the expereince of actually living here, observing and participating in American life, as opposed to anticipating what they think America will be like, causes recent immigrant families to drift to the right politically.

What exactly do they expereince when they arrive here?  Confusion mostly I suspect.  Immigrants come to this country expecting that great ideals such as compassion, freedom, and support are always well implemented, and that leaders who focus on them actually try to build them into social systems within a broader context of working hard and staying focused.  It would never occur to a recent immigrant that they could come to this country and be given whatever they want.  And yet that is exactly what they experience from the left.

Those who claim to want to be compassionate and supportive and inclusive actually just want to give stuff to everyone: health care, cell phones, college tuition.  And those who focus on lawful behavior, economic opportunity, and the American dream actually want to help these recent immigrants achieve a better life for their children and grand children.  So how do these recent immigrants respond to this observation?  They drift to the right.  They come to realize, like the rest of Americans who view citizenship as a privilege, that giving people stuff does not make life better for their families for generations to come.  That only comes from giving them an opportunity to work hard to achieve the dreams that drove them to come here in the first place.  So first generation immigrants do what you would expect them to do: they work hard for the benefit of future generations.  They are grateful for the freedom and opportunities they find here, and they pray that the land which provides these opportunities is preserved for the following generations to enjoy.   May we all realize what a blessing it is to live in the home of the American dream, the land of opportunity, the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Trees and Chaff

Psalm 1.1-4   "How blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.  In all that he does, he prospers."

These are classic verses.  Most Christians have read them many times.  Many have studied them and been inspired to spend time meditating on the word.  Some have even memorized part or all of Psalm1 so as to have them always available for edification and encouragement.  I have read them more times than I can count.  When I was younger, I was motivated to do things which would serve to "plant me by streams of water".  I asked God to lead me into a lifestyle that would avail me to regular access to the river, so that when I got older, I would be like that tree planted by the stream.

Within these verses are many ideas, and many layers of ideas, to help believers develop God's perspective on faith and His word, and the fruit of consuming His word.  This chapter brings up images of nourishment and feeding on God's word.  Images of abundance and strength.  Later in the chapter, it goes on to speak of outcomes and consequences.  The righteous will be like a tree planted by a stream, and will prosper in all that they do.  The wicked will be driven away by the wind, like chaff.  They will not stand, but will perish.  Amidst the great and inspiring imagery, one notion often gets overlooked: specifically how chaff is not like trees.  How exactly is chaff different than trees?

Trees stay put, usually no matter what is happening around them.  Chaff blows around easily, never staying anywhere very long but always going wherever the wind blows it.

Trees have as much hidden below the ground as they have visible above the ground.  No one can see the roots. But they are still a crucial part of any tree.  Chaff has no roots below ground.  Everything is visible.  What you see is what you get.

Trees are weighty and powerful and growing.  Chaff is light and impotent and always being dispersed.

Trees have a lot of inherant value as they are able to provide for a lot of needs and address a lot of functions.  Chaff is useless.  It soils anything it touches, and risks disabling it.

Trees are enduring.  They can last for decades, or even centuries.  Chaff is fleeting.  It gathers together, and, just like that, it is gone.

I don't know about you.  But I think that if I had a choice between being powerful and enduring and useful, or being pointless and fleeting and harmful, I would choose the former.   No question.  We cannot always choose how we respond in the heat of the moment.  But we can always choose how we invest ourselves, our time, our energy and our resources.

Psalm 1 does not say to avoid the wicked.  But it does say to avoid the counsel of the wicked, along with the way of sinners and the seat of scoffers.  If we develop a lifestyle of avoiding these things, and delighting in the law of the Lord, we can become like that tree, being constantly nourished.  We can become planted and enduring rather than fleeting and like a vapor.

I pray that each of us will continue to develop a lifestyle of delighting in and meditating on God's word.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Lawlessness Does Not Produce Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

There are many reasons to be alarmed by the events occurring in the United States these days.  People kill law enforcement officers as if it is a good thing.  People defend brutal gang members as if they are heroes to be celebrated.  People advocate for transgenderism as if it is a cause for celebrity status rather than a grave mental illness to be dealt with properly through mental health channels.  People fight for the right to murder unborn children as if life is primarily about convenience, my convenience.  People even resist border security as if, somehow, protecting residency and citizenship is an evil process.

It is easy these days to dismiss these trends as a by-product of Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS):  All on the left are opposed to Trump, and will be opposed to anything he suggests.  He could speak on behalf of providing safe homes for all children in America, and people would stand against the idea, simply because he spoke it.  While it is true that TDS has forced the left into a lot of awkward and short-sighted positions which they will come to regret, many of their strongest positions are not new.  Many of  these positions have been articulated and defended long before Trump took office.  The harassment and killing of officers started years before Trump took office.  The debate over border security has been cycling since the 90's.  The abortion debate has been echoing through our civic and academic halls for decades.  These debates are not new.

What has changed is the organization and intensity of those who oppose enforcing lawful behavior.  We as a nation have prospered because we have governed ourselves according to faith and tradition and social convention.  We have looked for it in the Bible, the Constitution, and many other written documents. Collectively, these documents promote orderliness and lawfulness standing as a deterrent against the treachery of men, and man's tendency to act in brutal self interest.  Our nation has been successful and prosperous and powerful, more than any other nation in history, because we have valued the rule of law above the whims of man and the temptations of the heart.  We need to interpret recent events, not primarily as an attack on the conservative right, Donald Trump, or even the United States of America, but as an attack on the practice of running our great nation according to the supremacy of faith, justice, and the rule of law.

In some ways, it is the great debate of all time.  Will I be happier in the long run if I always do what I want and what feels good in the moment?  Or will I be happier in the long run if I act according to beliefs and principles which supersede the pleasures of the moment?   Those who advocate for unchecked self expression are intoxicated by the lie that all self expression leads to happiness, and that orderliness and long-term thinking only lead to frustration.  The tensions surrounding appropriate police community relations or defining healthy border security are like the tension within a middle school boy discovering porn for the first time: torn between the rush of immediate pleasure and the destruction of violating what was intended by the creator.  Those who advocate for lawless behavior have perpetuated the falsehood that tension can be eliminated by declaring porn to be a good thing, thus eliminating all guilt.

The problem is that this solution does not account for the realities of man, how we were created, and how our nation was created.  We as a nation will not be better off by declaring open borders and minimal police presence to be the new norm.   Like porn, this would provide an immediate rush, in this case coming from the self-congratulation over helping others.  Eventually, however, reality sets in.  The real guilt of violating what is intended cannot be dismissed.  Borderless nations and safe communities without police protection are no more real than the relational maturity of a porn addict.  They just look appealing to those who don't want to be constrained by the annoying inflexibility of the created order.

The last 50 years has been a clear move toward lawlessness: throwing off conventions which have served us well for hundreds of years.  We have rushed into condoning lawlessness, and being guided by its impulses, as if our greatness as a nation grew out of our lawless behavior and rebellious self-expression.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The existence of our nation as a world superpower is a clear and unambiguous statement: we will all be better off if we act creatively and intentionally within the bounds of truth and order and rightness.

As a nation, we are not locked in a battle for the Republican Party, the conservative right, or the TEA Party.  We are fighting for the right to be governed by the rule of law, by defining our national protocol according to truths and principles which have stood true for millenia.  The evangelicals did not come out to vote for Trump because they thought he was a beacon of moral virtue.  They knew the truth.  They voted for Trump because he stands for important elements of returning our nation to its roots.

Secure borders and a strong military.  Equal opportunity for all and consistent punishment for violation of the law.  Strict interpretation of the constitution and freedom to manage one's own life.  We as a nation are fighting for movement back toward tradition and virtue, and away from license and self-gratification.  Toward values which have stood the test of time, and away from modern concepts which condone the perversion of "all behavior is equally valid".  Toward the rule of law, and away from lawlessness.  Toward an America that is strong, safe, and prosperous, and away from an America that is dangerous, fearful, and economically divided.  We want to get back to the way that America has operated to the envy of the world.  And we want to get away from the whims of the few who resent order and restraint and the power that comes from subjecting ourselves to consistent enforcement of what is good and right and just.

I hope and pray that America is paying attention.  Those who promote lawlessness are selfish and short sighted.  They do not care if they destroy America and all its greatness.  Like the middle school boy with porn,. they only care about immediate gratification.  They do not care about truth, reality, and the constraints of the created order.  They are willing to destroy America for the pleasure of feeling good for a brief moment.  If we as a nation stand up to the bullying of lawlessness, we can continue to thrive as a nation and be the envy of the world.  If we let ourselves be bullied by lawlessness and the rush of rebellion, we will slide into oblivion and decay, unable to manage ourselves or be a force for good around the world.  May it never be.

Historical Tolerance and the New Left

Growing up in the sixties and seventies, I spent half my life in the northeast and half my life in the south.  While there were many differe...