Here’s one more article from Mark Beliles, culled from an old publication, and probably expanded upon in his book Liberating the Nations:
Civil government is one of the five main areas of jurisdiction to whom God gives certain responsibilities and very definite limits. This article takes a brief look at these, and highlights how they were incorporated into the U.S. Constitution. Civil government is not the most important of the five spheres, but probably has been the most ignored by modern Christians. As a result, the civil government of the United States has strayed far beyond its biblical and constitutional limitations, thus creating great injustice for many U.S. citizens.
If we [snip] study the example of early America, however, as highlighted in the following article, we can learn a great deal, The American Revolution was a Christian Revolution, not simply because it was led by great Christian men such as Samuel Adams, but because of the biblical worldview that united the Colonies and motivated their actions and means of resistance. Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence based on Christian ideas of resistance and liberty.
The Continental Congress repeatedly sought God in prayer and acknowledged Him in their proclamations and legislation. Patrick Henry urged the use of arms as a biblical third step in resistance. George Washington led the American armies urging prayer among his troops and doing so himself frequently. Washington relinquished his power as commander of the armies and promoted the drafting of a new Constitution and became the first President by godly means rather than by a coup.
The Declaration of Independence is based upon the Christian idea of man and government. In fact, it was the first national covenant in history with such a foundation. The Declaration ends with the Congressional Representatives “appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World” and acknowledging “a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence.”
After the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Samuel Adams, the father of the American Revolution, stated: “We have this day restored the Sovereign, to Whom alone men ought to be obedient. He reigns in heaven and … from the rising to the setting sun, may His Kingdom come.”
America’s founders understood that the birth of their nation marked the birth of the first Christian nation in history – Christian not because all who founded it were Christians, but because its system of government was founded thoroughly upon Christian principles.
J. Wingate Thorton relates how the sixth U.S. president, John Quincy Adams, said, “The highest glory of the American revolution was this: it connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.”1
The U.S. Supreme Court has concurred with this a number of times. For example, in 1892, it declared:
“Our laws and our institutions must necessarily be based upon and embody the teachings of the Redeemer of mankind. It is impossible that it would be otherwise; and in this sense and to this extent our civilization and our institution are emphatically Christian … this is a Christian nation.”
The chief author of the American Constitution, and justly called its “Father,” was a Christian statesman, James Madison. (He would also become the fourth U.S. president.) That the Constitution was the product of Christianity, and of its ideas of man and government, is revealed by the biblical functions of government that Madison listed in its preamble:
1. To establish justice – This is the goal of the passages in Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2:14, which say that government is to punish evildoers and protect those who do right.
2. To insure domestic tranquility – This phrase comes from the focus of prayer for government, which Paul urged in 1 Timothy 2:1-2. The New American Standard Bible says to pray for government “in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.”
3. To provide for the common defense – The protection of innocent human life is at the base of not only capital punishment (Genesis 9:6), but also in the provision of an army for protection from external threats.
4. To promote the general welfare – Romans 13:4 says that civil rulers are servants “to you for good.” The common good of all classes of citizens must be promoted by government passage of laws guaranteeing equal opportunity. It is not proper for government to provide money and aid to special interest groups. It is to promote, not provide, and to do so for all people in general, not for special people.
5. To secure the blessings of liberty - Blessing are a gift of one’s Creator, not a privilege granted by government. These blessings include life, liberty, and property. A biblical view of government sees that it cannot provide these, only secure them. Besides all these goals that are biblical, the United States Constitution established all of the basic structures that a biblical framework of government should have …
Although not perfect, the U.S. Constitution clearly represents the fullest expression of biblical ideas and structures of government. For this reason it has lasted for over 200 years and has been copied by many nations around the globe.
1 John Wingate Thorton, The Pulpit of the American Revolution (Boston, 1860)
As a Christian, I believe in the Lordship of Jesus. But I don’t want a Christian theocracy. There is only so much we can do through making laws – as it is said
No governmental system can rule an immoral people
This leads me to my two main points:
1. Civil Governement Should Be Based Upon A Biblical View Of Man
Man is both sinful and made in the Divine image. This basically means we need a system that allows freedom within contraints – freedom to express the divine beauty and intelligence of man, and constraints in the form of checks and balances, and laws and penalties, in order to prevent society from devolving into chaos. We need a combination of inner restraint (i.e. virtue or personal morality) combined with external support and restraint (laws that support virtue and morality, and punish evil) in order to keep society organized and safe. Kirby Anderson at Leadership U has a nice article on this entitled Christian View of Government and Law.
This viewpoint is very instructive: each realm of government (self, family, church, business, and civil) has its own limited sphere of authority, which interfaces with the others, and each sphere should not try to assume the responsibilities of the other, even if the other abidicates. For example, if I as the head of my family government do not take care of my kids, the solution is not to have my family become permanent wards of the state. Sure, the church or the state can step in, but the goal should be to get me to reassume my responsibility, or get someone else (i.e. a new husband!) to assume it.
Sorry to be a contrarian, but… I found the aforementioned article on the Rule of Law (ROL) to be a little overly simplistic, painting both conservative and liberal positions in an incomplete light. Also, it failed in presenting a nice picture of a Christian view of government – it made it sound like Christians support a theocracy similar to the Islamic state!
I. A MORE EXPANSIVE VIEW OF THE CONSERVATIVE ROL
The author makes the conservative position seem inflexible and bound by traditional understandings. He should have mentioned that while the conservative understanding of ROL bases law in unchanging, objective laws, it is flexible in that, as our understandings of said laws expands, or needs clarification, we have the flexibility to update it. Hence the many amendments to our Constitution. As a good example, the prohibition against slavery was not a more evolved position, it was the natural extension of the original idea of "we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." Same with women’s suffrage.
II. A MORE EXPANSIVE VIEW OF THE LIBERAL ROL
He also makes the liberal position sound based totally in the subjective. While I agree, in general, the liberal position is one of shifting, subjective reality, most liberals would probably chafe at such a simplistic portrayal. However, here is why I think Liberals reject the idea of objective morality as reflected in the idea of ROL:
(a) Many Liberals Do, In Fact, Believe in Subjective Morality
This sad fact was clearly emphasized in the article. I think that liberals are comitted to subjective truth because:
- They limit their search for truth to empirical science, and reject revealed truth, so all sources of revealed truth are spurned. So what claim to objective truth do they have? Perhaps the laws of nature or societies as revealed in history, but again, the interpretation of history is subjective, so perhaps they must rely on the shifting sands of human assumptions
- Instead of divine law as the measure of mankind, they measure man by man. Then, if it’s just a battle of human opinion, who can say they are objectively right?
Unfortunatly, for example, this reasoning would go as far as to say, if your society condones infanticide, than it is ok because your society has agreed upon it as a norm. This extreme position, unfortunately, can allow the base nature of man to destroy himself and society.
(b) Liberals Often Reject Objective Truth Because We So Strongly Associate it With Divine Law
Our founders chose well the words "we hold these truths to be self-evident." Rather than appealing directly to divine law, they appeal to reason and naturalistic law. This is important because Liberals rightly want to avoid a theocracy of any type. If we appeal to the laws of nature (and nature’s God), we do better than appealing directly to the Christian Scriptures. By being careful in this way, we give room to liberals who, by use of reason, recognize that *some* issues of morality and law are objectively consistent across cultures and time. If we clothe it merely in scripture, we are bound to be rejected.
(c) Liberals Often Reject Objective Truth Because We Make No Room For the Gray Areas
The intellectual sin of our times is the presentation of unbalanced, polarized truths. We take one half of a truth paradox, and exclude the other. In this case, we forget to mention that some truths are self evident and timeless, but lesser ones are not so clear, and should be left up to the individual nation, group, or individual. This quote echoes that sentiment:
In the essentials, UNITY (we should push for unanimous agreement) In the non-essentials, LIBERTY (we should allow each to decide for himself) In all things, CHARITY (in any case we ought to be kind)
When discussing objective truth and divine law, we need to remember to remark that not every issue can be codified, and government is limited to the big things.
The following essay on government is from an out of print Christian newspaper, but I believe it has been updated and documented in Liberating the Nations by Mark Beliles, et al. I want to post this short section of the essay, since it is a great primer on a biblical view of government. This essay was originally written as a response to a letter from a young Chinese Christian, so you will notice some references to China and Chairman Mao, etc.
God has broken down human existence into five basic areas or spheres of government, which make it much easier to comprehend. These five spheres of government are: (1) self government, (2) family government, (3) church government, (4) business government, and (5) civil government.
All human activity falls under the jurisdiction or guidelines of one of these five spheres. The Bible outlines very definite instructions and responsibilities for each sphere as well as definite limits of authority. When each sphere of government operates according to biblical principles in harmony with one another, justice results. When any sphere neglects its God-given responsibility or usurps responsibility from another sphere, injustice results. Gaining an understanding of each of these jurisdictions and their interrelatedness is absolutely essential for anyone desiring to see justice prevail in China or anywhere else.
We will be taking an in-depth look at each of these spheres in future letters, but a brief explanation of each at this time will help us to gain an overview of what constitutes a just society.
As a product of the Charismatic movement, a mostly American revival of pentecostal Christianity in the late 60′s which began in California and spread around the world, I am always intrested in the latest trends in the non-traditional (cutting-edge) church. Tim at e-church.com has a nice article on the current debate going on between the Purpose-Driven Life movement and their criticism of the Emerging Church movement. What does the Emerging Church look like? Check these quotes from Tim’s article:
- In Japan, the “new tribe” of Japanese young people, often characterized by dying their hair a rust color, have been the group that have begun many of the emerging churches in their country among the punk and rave scene.
- In Germany, the Jesus Freaks started their first church in 1991 among the punk and metal culture. They now have 80 churches in Germany and their yearly Freakstock Festival numbers 7000. And yet the alternative culture still flavors their ministry.
- In UK, the alternative worship scene started among the rave culture (Nine O’Clock Service) and was also influenced by the punk scene. The early connection with the rave culture partially explains why UK had a head start on worship over USA.
- In USA, the hippie culture of the 60’s birthed many new forms of church and ministry, most of which can be found today in the emerging church. The punk scene of the 70’s gave birth to more churches and eventually the Underground Railroad network of churches among punk, goth and metal cultures. In the mid 90′s, many of the emerging ministries, including my own work among the postmodern subcultures in San Francisco, were connected to UR. FoundKids was a mid-nineties movement of rave kids who came to Jesus and ministered around the country. The Prodigal Project formed in the early nineties out of the hippie culture. Further – Read “Understanding the different Sub-cultures”, and other articles on the Paradox web site
My observations about the "controversies" surrounding the Emergent Church, and revivalism in general:
- True spiritual awakening often looks like the modern culture. Many traditionalists love to attack true revivals because to them, it is taking the form of "the world." What is actually happening is, people unchurched in the often stale, anachronistic church culture are finding faith in God, and are expressing their faith in the manner that they are familiar with. This means that they employ current language and music forms, rather than King James English and hymns. It is important not to confuse the form with the content. Thrash metal music (a form) is not "sinful," even if born out of human angst and anger. However, what is sung about (the content) is very important.
- True spiritual awakening always has a little heresy in the beginning, and in some of its spinoffs. I had a pastor who liked to say "I’d rather have a little wildfire than no fire at all." This occurs because true revivals usually involve many unchurched people experiencing God, but having little doctrinal framwork by which they can interpet what they are experiencing. This is good in that they are not limited to the modern contemporary misundersandings of God, but bad in that they can go far astray and not have the relative safety that proven orthodoxy provides.
Experience without doctrine leads to heresy Doctrine without experience leads to Pharisee
- True spiritual awakening needs criticism to keep it from sliding into heresy. A little testing by fire goes a long way. Sola scriptura!
- God offends the mind to reveal the heart. Jesus often taught in parables, which surprisingly, were very accessible to the common people, but to the intellectual and religious theologians, it was confusing. He did this so that the proud and fault-finding would not see, but the humble would. Don’t ask why, but the scriptures do say that God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. So be careful. Check it out in Matthew 13:10-17.
- You can tell them by their fruits – if you can wait. Many spiritual movements that are man-made or spurious end up in disaster. Those that are of real consequence, like the Charismatic movement, continue to save and bless people who come in contact with it. Despite whatever early abuses take place in the immature stages of a movement’s growth, the later stages surely show what it is made of.
Nice job Tim. I will be learning a lot more about this over the coming months.
CT has a nice collection of essays on the issues around this case, including:
- While I Was Sleeping – Why my husband finally refused to end my life during my two-month coma.
- Life with Dignity – Let’s not be too eager to pull the plug on our fellow image-bearers.
- Speaking Out: Why I Believe in Divorce – Terri Schiavo’s only hope to stay on life support is to divorce her husband who wants to pull the plug.
- Not a Mercy but a Sin – The modern push for euthanasia is a push against a two-millenniums-old Christian tradition.
- Killing with Kindness – Why is the church against euthanasia in instances where people are in terrible pain?
There are so many issues that the Schiavo case has unearthed, I wanted to summarize them the best I could, and rant a little too. Enjoy
1. Individual Right to Refuse Treatment Does an individual have the right to refuse treatment? We all agree on this. Yes.
2. Guardian’s Right to Refuse Treatment Does a guardian have the right to refuse treatment for a ward? If so, under what circumstances?
- Coma? What kinds of coma? How much brain activity?
- PVS? If so, how much brain activity?
- Refusing vaccination for children?- When is refusal of treatment abuse?
- Like in the Schaivo case, if her husband refused therapy, is that abuse?
3. Conditions that Invalidate a Guardian’s Right to Choose What conditions invalidate a guardian’s right to refuse treatment for a ward? What if a guardian has possible motive for wanting someone dead, like an insurance policy, or they don’t want to care for an invalid? Does that invalidate their rights to make such decisions? How about other purely monetary concerns, like it will bankrupt them to support the ward? What if it’s not bankruptcy, but just financial hardship? What if they refuse to care, but some other family member or organization wants to care for the ward?
4. Individual Right to Suicide There are two arenas here – political and moral (religious). Politically speaking, there is nothing we can do about suicide – I mean, you can’t punish someone for taking their life. Like insurance companies do, however – they can refuse benefits to their survivors. Religiously, there are Christian theologians on both sides of this issue. Some assert that our salvation is based on faith and not our ability to maintain good works, so suicide would not invalidate our salvation. Other’s argue that suicide shows that we lacked saving faith, and so are damned not just by our suicide, but by the fact that our actions reflect our lack of faith. I prefer the former argument. 5. Right to Assisted Suicide Conservatives argue that assisted suicide is one of the early steps on the slippery slope towards euthanizing the weak and sick. However, this is where I think conservatives miss the boat. They argue that medicine should be about curing or palliative care, but not actively killing someone. They have no stomach for any kind of “mercy killing.” But in this case, I think that their slippery-slope alarmism is somewhat of a copout. We do have to heed such a warning by putting stringent conditions around ths practice, but to deny it in all cases is just cruel and unjust. Some people suffer so badly, we should allow them to take their lives in a humane way, assisted by a physician if necessary. I also think that the reason that Terry is starving to death is because of this cruel opposition to mercy killing – I mean, if we are going to let her die, why not make it painless with an injection?
6. Guardian’s Right to Choose Assisted Suicide (euthanasia) I think this is really what the Schaivo case is about. Whether or not she is in a PVS, someone else is deciding on whether she lives or dies. In this case, I think we need to allow spouses to make that decision, *unless*
- the ward is not truly in a PVS – we should be able to monitor if they have emotional suffering due to their treatment or lack of treatment
- there is cause to doubt the guardian’s motives, as there is in this case
- we have not already done all we can do to rehab the ward – which in this case, it seems that we have NOT because of the *husband’s* decision.
I think this is a strong argument for letting Terry live.
7. Slippery Slope of Euthanasia Even if we agree with allowing a person to take their own life with assisted suicide, what about putting to death anyone who meets the conditions of PVS or other terminal condition? This would mean first of all that any guardian would be free to put their wards to sleep, and second, it could lead to doing the same to those who are wards of the state. That is sounding dangerous. Here’s where the slippery-slope argument needs to be heeded. We might start out with PVS, but what about extreme suffering like spina-biffida? What about mental retardation? Just severe retardation? How severe is severe enough?
8. Does a guardian’s right to make decisions also apply to abortion and the mother’s right to choose? This whole case has some bearing on the abortion debate. I mean, if a husband can put an ailing spouse down because “she would have wanted it that way”, can we also abort if we think, for example, a Down’s Syndrome child would not want to suffer? That’s the type of question that links these together.
9. Does the ward’s right to life also apply to the pre-born child’s right to life? If Terry Schiavo can be put to death because she is inconvenient, it would seem that the same logic would apply to the unborn. Pro-lifers argue that the Terry Schiavo death-logic is consistent with pro-abortion logic, and should not be tolerated. I tend to agree in principle, except that in Terry’s case there is the added detail that she is possibly always going to be in a PVS, while a child will grow up to have a future.
10. Do the feds have the right to interfere with state’s decisions? As Aaron points out, most conservatives are, in principle, not in favor of the feds interfering with states’ rights, and so are not big fans of the recent Bush-led federal efforts to save Terry’s life, even though they want Terry to live. They say this is improper, just like Roe v. Wade. NPR had an interesting interview about this, it seems there is some precedent for this (President Lincoln), but it still may not be constitutional. This is one of the conservative arguments, BTW, against Roe v. Wade – it interferes with states’ rights. However, in the case for life, while federal legislation may not be the answer, we may need a constitutional amendment to preserve life – and I totally agree with that. CONCLUSION As Bugs Bunny once said “that gives me a conclusion of the brain.” There are a LOT of issues brought up in this case, and I am disgusted with the illogic and duplicity, as seen in:
- the conservatives’ dogmatism against the right to die, which has contributed to Terry’s painful death instead of a peaceful, morphine induced death
- the liberals’ dogmatism for a person’s rights (Terry’s or her husband’s?) to the point of letting someone suffer a cruel death
- the liberals’ dogmatism that is not giving time for due diligence in making sure that Terry has had all of the tests and chances for rehab before putting her to death (I don’t think the last 15 years of data is enough
- both liberal and conservative polarization and slippery-slope fear-mongering in issues that we should discuss and make reasonable rules around.
Meaning, like truth, has both objective and subjective components. Over the centuries, wise men, spiritualists, and philosophers have observed the human condition and concluded that certain principles and practices lead to relative ruin and unhappiness, while others lead to meaning and satisfaction. This is why we have the concept of a “wasted life.” Those who like to say there is no such thing as a wasted life should consider starving children or oppressed peoples. So, we might ask, what principles and practices for human living lead to satisfaction and meaning? To start, here’s a nice list that describes our primary task, that of LOVE:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
- 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
And here’s a nice set of principles to go by as well:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.
- Philippians 4:8
Principles are like lighthouses. They are natural laws that cannot be broken. As Cecil B. deMille observed…in the Ten Commandments, “It is impossible for us to break the law. We can only break ourselves against the law.”… “Objective reality” [is composed of] principles that govern human growth and happiness – natural laws that are woven into the fabric of every civilized society throughout history and comprise the roots of every family and institution that has endured and prospered. The reality of such principles or natural laws becomes obvious to anyone who thinks deeply and examines the cycles of social history. These principles surface time and time again, and the degree to which people in a society recognize and live in harmony with them moves them toward either survival and stability or disintegration and destruction. The principles are not esoteric, mysterious, or “religious” ideas….These principles are part of most every major enduring religion, as well as enduring social philosophies and ethical systems. They are self-evident and can easily be validated by any individual….One way to quickly grasp the self-evident nature of principles is to simply consider the absurdity of attempting to live an effective life based on their opposites.
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, pp. 33-35.
In Covey’s even more excellent book, First Things First, he identifies many principles and arenas that we should be observing and endeavoring in, in order to succeed in a meaningful, satisfying life – note that these principles are applicable to all humans as a rule, not just “good for some people.” Without going into detail, he gives an overview of four areas in which we must develop proper perspectives and habits in order to find meaning and satisfaction. They are:
- To Love – to develop into healthy individuals, and to share ourselves and receive others
- To Live – to not waste our precious commodities of time and personal potential and resources, but to channel them into worthwhile pursuits.
- To Learn – to continue growing in mind and spirit
- To Leave a Legacy – to invest ourselves into people and institutions that have ongoing value.
In summary, the meaning of life is well defined through objective, self-evident principles and practices that lead to meaning. Life’s activities are not just meaningful because I decide to assign meaning to them. However, there is a subjective component to meaning. Some things may not have “objective meaning,” but for me, they may have meaning. For instance, watching baseball might not have objective meaning to all mankind, but to me, because I used to play baseball, watching it does have meaning (positive or negative). So in this context, you can say that things only have meaning if I give them meaning for myself. There is a danger, however, in the subjective assignment of meaning – if I fail to assign meaning to things that have objective meaning, or assign meaning to things that do not have objective meaning, I may miss out on meaning, or be controlled by things that are meaningless, respectively. The more our subjective mental map of meaning aligns with the objective map, the more successful, meaningful, and free we really are. It’s not that assigning meaning to watching baseball is harmful, but if it assumes supreme meaning for me, I may be hurting myself and other by missing what is actually meaningful.
David Silverman, communications director of American Atheists recently mentioned in a Hannity & Colmes interview that he objects to the Easter bunny, since Easter is a religious holiday. Now, as we all know, Easter comes from the pagan celebration of Ishtar, which I suppose has fertility rites, hence the bunnies and eggs. But the real questions that we should discuss are:
- Should Christians celebrate Christian holidays with “pagan” roots, like Easter and Christmas?
- Should Christians celebrate the Jewish holidays in a Christian way?
- Should Christians celebrate alternative holidays whenever they want to?
Now the way I see it, there have traditionally been a few responses:
1. TOTAL ABSTENTION: No Holidays
Well, mostly cults do this, but some groups think that celebrating anything not explicitly mentioned in the New Testament is out, including birthdays and most holidays. Holidays are worldly. I guess for them, even the Jewish holy days are out too, cause they’re Old Testament.
2. PARTIAL ABSTENTION: Only Observe Holidays that Don’t Offend Religious Sensibilities
So no Christmas or Easter (pagan), but birthdays and Thanksgiving seem ok. Certainly not Halloween.
3. MODIFIED CELEBRATIONS: Creating Alternatives
Many Christian churches now offer alternative Halloween Celeberations, usually called Harvest Festivals or something like that. Fun for the kids, no demons or witches. Sounds good to me. Interestingly, many more regular Christians are looking for alternatives to the commercialism of Christmas, not to mention it’s pagan, secular, and Christian roots and bad timing (too close to Thanksgiving ;). Many choose merely to volunteer in soup kitchens and not exchange gifts, or celebrate Christmas in a more subdued manner. Many Protestants have even begun to celebrate the more Catholic Feast of the Magi and Twelfth Night, which are the end of the Epiphany Observances. In part, these are attractive because they don’t involve
Satan Santa, because the latter part of the celebration is farther away from Thanksgiving, and because they are actually more closely aligned with the true biblical events.
4. MODIFIED CELEBRATIONS: Judaizing the Holidays
Instead of Easter, why not Celebrate Christian Passover with Jesus as the Lamb? Some groups advocate replacing the religious holiday celebrations with Christian versions of the holidays, and some actually advocate that Christians should celebrate ALL of the Jewish holidays that reflected the coming messiah.
5. ACCOMODATION: Celebrate Like the Culture, But Emphasize the True Meanings
Most Christians, I would imagine, have
Ishtar Easter Egg hunts, even at their churches, and many have Santa as well at Christmas. But in their masses, church services, and homes, they remind us that “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Is that good enough? Or is that a copout? It is hard to be an outcast in your culture by not participating, and many parents are concerned about making their kids social outcasts as well.
For those unfamiliar with Jonny Lang, he is a phenomenal young blues guiatarist and vocalist. We went to see him this past week, and surprisingly, he sang some very Christian songs. First, he sang Stevie Wonder’s "Have a Talk With God." Someone from the crowd yelled afterwards "I just talked with God, and He says your number one!" Jonny laughed and replied "He doesn’t have any favorites."
Then, he sang a beautiful song I’ve never heard, something about "I can’t wait for our wedding day." It sounded like a groom longing for a bride, but the lyrics were "I can’t wait to see behind the veil, to see your face, to see your glory…" I looked at my wife, whose similar look asked "Did he just say that?"
Later, he sang what sounded like an old spiritual, which ended each verse in "I believe just what He said." The last verse he sang with much passion (like he does all of his music), singing, "Halelujah, halelujah, halelujah, I believe just what he said." It was really awesome. On the way out, I said to the person in front of me, "he sure sang a lot of spiritual songs," to which the person, probably a Christian, said "I liked it. Maybe he’s coming out of the closet."
Obviously, I wasn’t the only one surprised. Interestingly, those songs got the most applause from the crowd (besides his classics like Lie to Me). I know that blues has its roots in gospel, and so a lot of musicians play those songs with sentimentality and not true faith, but it was fun to hear such a great musician sing those songs.
For about a year now, I have been troubled by the argument that embryonic stem cell research has been deemed morally unacceptable by my fellow conservatives. It stems (pun intended) from their logic in the abortion debate. Their logic goes like this (I hope I am not building a straw man here):
- A young child has human rights
- The child’s right to life begins before birth. A day before birth is not different from the day after
- Therefore, their personhood must be defined by some factor before birth
- We believe that as soon as the zygote is formed, a distinct genetic invidual exists, and must be protected from that point on
- Therefore, embryonic stem cell research is human experimentation, which is, a priori, wrong
When I did leukemia research, I took human cancer cells (skin cells), and cultured them week after week. They had a complete, unique set of DNA. Why weren’t they considered inviduals with rights? Conservatives counter that they were not trying to develop into embryos. I counter that they certainly could if we knew how to turn on and off the various genes needed – all of the genes necessary are there. Anyway, that argument could go on ad nasuem, but I’m actually not here to make arguments. My problems with the above logic led me to explore other methods of defining when a fetus’ rights begin.
Also, I am very tired of the very polarized, entrenched viewpoints on both sides, where no one is really listening to one another. They both refuse to budge, both relying on “slippery slope” logic, saying that one step towards the other camp could lead to an inexorable slide all the way to that side. The fact is, despite both sides’ work with pregnant women, the conservatives come across as not caring about a woman’s plight, sticking to their religious guns, and the liberals come across not caring at all for the unborn baby, sticking to their hyperbolic stands on womens’ rights.
Having thought about this some, I thought to create an organization sure to drive both poles of this debate mad. I call it Citizens for Reasonable Abortion Limits. Here are what I think would be the starting Statement of Beliefs. There are some huge holes here, but I want to open it up to discussion – what is missing? What is poorly said? What seems illogical? I purposely am NOT going to play out every argument, which could take pages, but rather, want to make statements of belief without indepth apologies at this time.
We believe that:
1. In Any Pregnancy, Both Of The Parents And The Developing Child Have Limited Rights.
No one has unlimited rights. An individual’s rights are limited at the point where he is infringing on another’s rights. For example, the right to free speech is limited at slander – one can not knowingly lie about someone else in the media.
Similarly, a woman’s right to her body is limited when her developing child has rights that could be taken away.
a. Woman’s Pregnancy Rights – A woman has the right to practice birth control in any legal manner she chooses, including abortive methods up to the Point of Personhood of the child. However, abortive actions are limited by the father’s rights.
b. Father’s Pregnancy Rights – The father of a child has the right to contribute to the decision-making about the welfare of a child. A father can not force a woman to terminate a pregnancy, and a mother should not be able to terminate a pregnancy without permission from the father, unless the father has abdicated his rights [these conditions to be developed]. This permission or abdication does not have to be legally documented, but may be documented through the notarized signature of a Release of Pregnancy Rights form, or if a court has determined that a father has otherwise abdicated through criminal activity or abandonment.
c. Unborn Child’s Rights – After the point of personhood, the child has the right to life and protection of that life under the law.
2. The Developing Fetus Has Human Rights After a Defined Point in a Pregnancy – The Point of Personhood
There are many possible ways to determine when a fetus becomes a person with rights. Many have argued forcefully for defining the starting point based upon genetic uniqueness (fertilization), by discovery time (giving the woman ample to time to discover her pregnancy), by viability (can the fetus survive out of the womb), by actual birth, and by other ethical and moral teachings and standards. We believe those arguments to be insufficient, and believe that the beginning of human life ought to be defined by the same measure we use for the end of life. However, even this is controversial. Science has given us at least five early developmental milestones that could be considered as the starting point for life and personhood. They are (reference):
- Heartbeat Today’s technology can detect a baby’s heartbeat eighteen days after conception. That is only four days after most women miss a period and begin to suspect they are pregnant.
- Brain waves Six weeks after conception signals from the fetal brain can be detected. Dream patterns have been discovered around the eighth or ninth week
- Independent movement At about the sixth week, the baby in the womb can move spontaneously: Kicking, swimming, jumping and stretching.
- Sensory Response A baby in the womb is capable of responding to touch and sound by about the eighth or tenth week. A child at that age will move away from painful stimuli.
- Breathing By about the fourteenth week, a baby’s lungs are functioning and he or she will practice breathing. Vocal cords are formed by the thirteenth week.
We believe that good persons can disagree on which or how many of these five need to be present before we believe the unborn child has rights. We propose that the ability to respond to pain at 8 weeks sets the latest limit of the abortion timeline, and we should discuss moving it back to 6 weeks, which is when independent movement begins. This 8 week upper limit is a compromise, and not an absolute.
3. Terminating a Pregnancy Based On Physical Attributes such as Gender, Race, Sexual Orientation, or Treatable Medical Conditions is Not Acceptable
Pregnancy termination based on basic physical characteristics amounts to killing for convenience (at best), and at worst, genocidal murder. Regarding treatable medical conditions, the threat of a child’s potential suffering, physical or emotional, does not justify terminating its life via abortion. We also understand that science is still debating the physical origin of sexual orientation. However, if a proposed physical or statistical measurement of the possibility of same sex orientation is used for fetal testing, the results of such a test could not be used as justification for terminating a pregnancy.
4. Terminating a Pregnancy for Severe, Untreatable Fetal Conditions Must Be Preserved as a Parental Right, but Not Required by Law
Some conditions are not treatable by today’s standards. Untreatable medical conditions that cause intense suffering AND death within the first two years of life (arbitrary?) may be candidates for abortions throughout the term of a pregnancy. However, terminations should not be mandated by law in such cases.
5. Terminating a Pregnancy Based on the Means of Pregnancy (Rape, Incest, Artificial Insemination, Natural Insemination) is Not Acceptable
Beyond the point of personhood, an unborn child has the right to life, and the method of its creation does not diminish these rights. It is understood that a woman who has an unwanted pregnancy due to rape or incest is under extreme duress, but we propose that abortion will not in any large measure cure her anguish, and may actually create new emotional suffering of its own. We believe that the best way out of a woman’s emotional duress is for her to make ethical and moral decisions in her pregnancy-related decisions. These include:
- allowing the child to live
- working through her anger and hurt to a point of healing and forgiveness of the perpetrators (if any)
- the pursuit of justice against the perpetrators in a court of law
- providing or helping the child find a good home where it is wanted and loved.
We also expect that other means of support, both private and public, will be brought to bear to help such women with pre- and post-natal care, adoption services, counseling and other services.
6. Terminating a Pregnancy to Protect the Life of a Mother Must be Preserved
There are some medical conditions where the abortive methods must be used to preserve the life of the mother. However, mental anguish over a pregnancy, and any resulting physical problems from the mental anguish, are not justification for abortion.
7. Abortion as A Medical Procedure Should be Protected and Taught In Medical Schools, but Should Not Be Mandatory
Due to the remaining cases of early term abortions and rare but necessary late term pregnancy problems, many of the current abortive techniques should be taught in medical schools, at the discretion of the faculty. However, practice of these methods should not be a requirement for graduation or certification in any medical specialty.
One of my liberal coworkers and I had a heated discussion about this – amazingly, he thinks that universties are NOT overly liberal, that it’s just a bunch of conservatives complaining about not always getting their way. I guess he missed the recent Univ. of Colorado affair and the previous firings of conservatives. So I provided the following links for him.
This article talks about how each university has it’s token conservative, but they are seen not as representative, but as “dissenters.”
He’ll run into even more intense discrimination because the establishment gets more concerned the closer you get to the golden ring….The most common advice conservative students get is to keep their views in the closet…. Will Inboden was working on a master’s degree in U.S. history at Yale when a liberal professor pulled him aside after class and said: "You’re one of the best students I’ve got, and you could have an outstanding career. But I have to caution you: hiring committees are loath to hire political conservatives. You’ve got to be really quiet."
Our Cornell sample showed 171 Democrats, 7 Republicans, and 21 professors registered as independents or in other (mostly left-wing) parties. The Stanford professors broke out this way: 163 Democrats, 17 Republicans, and 6 independent/other.
- At Brown University, for instance, we uncovered a total of 54 professors registered in a party of the Left, to just 3 registered in a party of the Right.
- University of Colorado, 116 on the Left, 5 on the Right.
- UCLA totalled 141 professors on the Left, 9 on the Right.
- University of Maryland: 59 Left, 10 Right.
- Syracuse University: 50 Left, 2 Right. And so on.
3. Science and Politics
This blog has a nice summary of similar statistics. So, Q.E.D.
For Christians to be intelligent contributors to our society, we should be looking in the following places:
1. Mainstream News, Domestic and Foreign
If we are to be involved in our mainstream culture in order to influence it and cogently discuss it, we need to be aware of what is going on. Despite any liberal bias, the big news organizations do have extensive resources to be able to bring us some very good reporting. And some noteworthy conservatives work at these “liberal” institutions, and write some very good stuff. Credible sources I am aware of include:
- BBC News (British, liberal?)
- CNN News (American, liberal?)
- The Economist Magazine (British, moderate)
- National Public Radio (American, moderate)
- National Review (American, conservative)
- New York Times (American, liberal)
- The Week Magazine (American, moderate)
- Wired Magazine (American Geek News, moderate to liberal)
- US News and World Report (American, conservative)
2. Alternative, Non-Christian News
To avoid the omissions of the mainstream media, we should look at the publications of advocacy and watchdog groups that bring to our attention worthy items that the mainstream media does not cover. This includes ethnic-oriented groups (e.g. the Anti-Defamation League), human rights groups such as Amnesty Intl, and environmental and animal rights groups.
3. Christian News Sources Last but not least, we should seek news with a Christian world view. There are plenty of these, including
- World Magazine (a Christian “Time”)
- First Things (scholarly, Christian/Catholic world view)
- Foreign Affairs (scholarly, conservative)
- Agape Press (nice Xian news blog)
- SmartChristianBlog (nice news aggregator blog)
- Christianity Today (mainstay of evangelical monthlies)
I happen to get my news through the following avenues:
While some people think NPR liberal, I find the commercial-free and in-depth analysis really refreshing. And they’re not as liberal as they used to be. Third Party RSS Feed
2. The 700 Club
Some people will scoff at this, but the first 15 minutes of this show is a daily wrap-up of the news from a Christian perspective. No RSS.
This British news weekly is packed! And it’s not about economics! It makes magazine like Time and Newsweek look like lightweights. It is balanced and has in-depth analysis of American and world news. Sometimes, I don’t get time to read it because it is so dense. Third-party RSS Feed
This compact news weekly is inexpensive and covers world news with a balanced perspective. Minimal online content, though.
Not only does this magazine of technology and culture have great news articles, each month it has at least one good article on some social issue – the environment, genetically modified foods, stem cell research, etc. RSS Feed
When I need a half hour to catch up on what’s hot, I hit CNN on the TV. RSS Feed
Nice Christian view of what is important, and how evangelicals view world events. Too bad their online blog doesn’t have an RSS feed! BLINO – BLog In Name Only.
8. Agape Press
This blog really has a nice stream of news from a Christian perspective. RSS Feed What are your favorite news sources?
Well Daddypundit, as a worship leader myself, I thought I’d answer the same questions. Can’t resist ;)
1. How did you get into worship ministry? How long have you been a part of the worship ministry?
a. Getting Started
I never knew I had any kind of musical ability until *after* I became a Christian at age 21 (1986). I had always wanted to play guitar and sing, but had no experience, so I bought a guitar. I started worshipping in my own personal time with God as a young Christian. I then joined the worship team at my first church, where I had wonderful mentoring in singing and playing guitar.
b. Overcoming Beginner’s Weaknesses One of my main problems with singing was I always wanted to improvise, but as a backup singer, you really need to be consistently on your note. Only the leader or soloist really gets to improvise. This was a tough discipline for me, but it forced me to be a better singer. I had the lazy tendency of sliding between notes rather than hitting them dead on. Think of it like this – ever have one of those silly little slide pipes when you were a kid? Try doing a scale with one of those – rather than having 8 individual notes, you have one silly noise going from low to high! Sliding between notes is the equivalent of the slide pipe. It’s sloppy.
However, learning worship in a charismatic church is awesome because they really seek for the presence of God in worship, and allow and encourage people to raise their hands, dance, and yes, even sing in the Spirit, a.k.a. in tongues. This phenomenon is very powerful if done without hyper-emotionalism. However, this makes some non-tongues folk a little uneasy, I must admit.
c. Gospel Training
Later, I got some training in a gospel choir, and boy, was I weak! I went to a Shirley Caesar crusade, and sat in on one day of a gospel workshop with Mattie Moss Clark, mother of the Clark Sisters. She made us sing so loudly! She stopped us many times, reprimanding us for our lack of projection. Once, she said, “You sound like a bunch of little girls, no wonder the devil’s taking over your town!” A second time, she said, “You need to sing like you’re shouting for help, and the nearest person is three blocks away.” Needless to say, I realized that singing tenor in a gospel choir requires practice and stamina.
d. First Time Leading
During my first career transition at age 27, I quit my medical research position and did a six month stint with Youth With A Mission. During this time, I was able to lead worship for the first time, and in order to confirm to me that I should be in worship, God sent a consistent anointing on my worship, way beyond my skill level. The presence of God was palpable, and I never forgot it. I learned there that your heart must be in the right place in order to lead worship. Skill is fine, but you can add that as you go!
e. Leading Contemporary in a Traditional Church
I returned, and took up leading worship in a small CMA church in New Jersey. As it turned out, they only had traditional hymn singing with an organ or piano, but the pastor wanted to start a contemporary worship service in addition, and I was the leader. It was hard but fun work, and the pastor took all the complaints and shielded me from the naysayers – we had people leave the church because I dressed too casually when leading!
f. Till Today
I left Christianity for the next ten years, and have recently returned, and am now involved in worship in my current church, along with my wife, but not as leaders. The church is not charismatic, but it does have contemporary worship and a good worship leader.
2. What artists/music types/styles appeal to you? Are these the same types/styles that you play at church?
I met wife in a blues/classic rock cover band (you know, CCR, Eagles, BTO, Doobies), and I must admit, I love singing those gravelly vocals on blues and blues rock. My favorite stuff to sing is Jonny Lang stuff (I’m going to see him for the, um, 4th time tomorrow). This past year, I also discovered the band Pillar, and man do they ROCK! I love their music, but don’t think I could sing that, and it’s way too hard for my kinda worship. As far as worship goes, I actually got to spend a little time with Bob Fitts when in YWAM, and I like his style. I also really liked Kevin Prosch for his brokenness in worship. Of course, Prosch fell into some kind of sin and has been recently restored to ministry, but I haven’t followed it too closely. I really love Morris Chapman for his “gospel light” style too. And can anyone leading worship not be influenced by the likes of Darlene Zschech and Chris Tomlin? They both write and lead some of the best worship today.
3. What helps you to enter into worship?
a. Having a Good Setup Team
Funny as that sounds, to have a bunch of guys who’ve got the stage and sound all set up is a great relief – I’ve had to set up and test everything myself, and it really takes a lot of energy and concentration. I thank God for a good sound team
b. Practice Practice Practice
I like to practice enough so that, even in our practices, we are worshipping. I don’t want people to have to read the lyrics while trying to lead worship. We want to focus on God.
c. Personal Holiness and Devotion
Nothing makes me confident and relaxed, ready to be intimate with God as when I am feeling close to God. When I haven’t spent time w/ God during the week, the worship can be weak – not all of the time, but often enough. It’s the difference between good enough and awesome.
d. Be a Worship Leader, Not a Song Leader
I’m not there to get people excited, or to put on a good show. Good leaders worship (see my discussion of this in Why Most Churches Suck)
4. How do you pick your songs for a worship service?
I pick songs I like – songs that I can worship with. I ask the team for song suggestions. I pick songs that flow from praise (upbeat declarations about God) to worship (talking directly to God, bowing down before him, more mellow). Sometimes we use a faster song at the end to kind of perk everyone up again, but not too much or it just seems too jarring. I try to pick songs in similar keys or even with similar melodies to do together – the latter reduces the learning curve for the congregation. If we do change keys, I try to make a smooth transition.
5. What are you trying to accomplish when you lead worship? How do you tell if you’re successful?
First, I expect myself and the worship team to enter into heartfelt worship where we feel God’s presence. That in itself is success. Second, I like to encourage the congregation to be free to raise their hands, sing, even dance if they want to. Many people want to be more expressive, but need “permission” from the front so they don’t seem disruptive. If the congregation is able to enter into free worship, then we have really succeeded. Third, many worship leaders try hard to tie in the worship to the message. I personally think that is too hard, too cerebral, and only a nice to have, not essential. If one song, maybe the last worship song, or the offertory (I hate offerings, but I digress) can tie in to the main message, that’s fine, but I hardly think that’s something to work hard at.
"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance
have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in
nothing." (James 1:2-4)
The book of James is one of my favorite books of the Bible because it is so immensely practical. The passage I cited above is one that God seems to be bringing me back to over and over again either (a) because I need to hear it or (b) I haven’t learned how to properly apply it yet.
As I was studying this passage for my sermon this past Sunday at my church, God brought out three observations from this passage.
With all the bruhaha regarding the ten commandments on public property, I set up www.display-the-ten.com with ten commandments merchandise. At the very least, us private citizens can keep God’s law in front of us. My favorite items include:
- "Thou shalt not kill" on a baby’s onesie
- "Honor thy father and mother" on a baby’s onesie
- "Thou shalt not commit adultery" on men’s boxers and women’s thong
- "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife" on a camisole
So enjoy, and as you can see at the bottom of the home page, there is some simple code if you want to link to it with a simple image – see our link in the sidebar here on tot.net.