The NFL’s blind eye and divine healing #NFL #domesticviolence

September 21, 2014

Of course they knew all along. How could anybody not ingest and understand the decades of scattered arrest reports and other public misconduct perpetrated against by women by the NFL’s finest. You would have to be a complete out-and-out moron not to realize that there is a serious problem, except that management did not consider the assault of various wives and girlfriends to be much of a problem. For the men at the top, it’s just another day at the office.

They are damn good at making up excuses too. Boys will be boys. If we ask men to play with intensity, they are going to play with intensity. This is what winners do; they win. And the best of all: most of these women like to be knocked around anyway. Oh yeah, there is nothing quite as fun as an evening at the Emergency Room. A broken nose, some missing teeth. Now tell me. Does life get any better. This stuff is so rich, the guys in charge might actually believe it.

Since I have not played in competitive sports, this is surely an opinion to which I am not entitled. How could one not admitted to the special Sunday afternoon priesthood possibly understand the needs and the pressures. The NFL pretense of ignorance just will not do, especially as we observe the deliberate provocation of violence for the sake of winning and building ad revenue.

It is a good thing to see that the players are (with some exceptions) also knocking each other senseless. Those concussions are making you crazier than you already are. Maybe the brain damage is part of the anti-social conduct. Seriously.

Let’s not fool around with this. The fans are every bit as guilty as the management and long past time for Christian fans of the National Football League to stop supporting the oout-of-control cry babies that are determined to have their way no matter who gets hurt. There are probably some Christian high schools that could even learn a lesson here. The lousy misdeeds of some players is part of man’s rebellion against God.

The physical assault against another human being amounts to vandalism against God’s own icon. Man is created in the image of God and such mistreatment as what is done by the athletes is absolutely forbidden. The second great sin recorded in scripture is Cain’s anger with Able, an evil emotion that led to the first murder. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus forbids anger and speaking harshly about another. That kind of conduct keeps the offender from being heard by God.

That NFL players should not hit women ought to be obvious. They should not hit anybody, nor even give a home to hateful thoughts. Their problem is the very human tendency to believe that the individual is in charge of his own life. It denies the possibility of a higher power working in our lives. It is dangerous to be humble, kind, and generous, but that is what Jesus demands. I have a hard time with that and the only solution is a genuine life-changing repentance. That would demand a gentle manner, turning the other cheek, protecting the weak, and giving up the mega paycheck. What a terrible trap.

And it is not only a few NFL players that must undergo the real change. Each of us, including women, must fight the tendency toward egotism and greed.


Chaos is the new normal #RayRice #AdrianPeterson #ISIS

September 15, 2014

That headline is probably not new, so if I swiped your intellectual property, I apologize profusely. I should have known better. This short essay deals with NFL players, their spouses and children, and international terrorists. There is a connection, so stick with me.

Is there anyone else on earth who sympathizes with Ray Rice’s wife? Her life is certainly ruined and none of us is able to look inside the mind of another. It is very possible to love someone who does great harm without being mentally ill. God loves us and he is not crazy. Having been knocked senseless in a public place, it is going to be a big task to drum up much understanding for the offending mate.

Even though the Ravens star has been given an economic death penalty, plenty of women experience a real death sentence at the hands of demonic husbands. Did the NFL go to far with Ray Rice? You might make that argument except for decades of turning a blind eye from the rich and powerful business interest. The NFL is saving itself while it punishes some serious misbehavior.

If the troubled couple is really working on saving their marriage, good for them. There are plenty of interests in this society that hate enduring relationships. Without approving the atrocious misdeed, Christians should support all married couples. This particular couple needs extra help and I wish them well.

Another professional athlete has been charged with a criminal offense after switching his four year-old son. If you have not seen the pictures, it is just as well. They would make you sick. The child has struck with such force as to draw blood several times. The pain of this uncontrolled anger was severe. You can’t imagine how much it hurts to be beaten bloody.

Football players are often not held accountable for misdeeds and many (not all) have a sad and undeserved sense of entitlement. Sometimes the pendulum swings to an extreme in another direction. On ESPN’s College Game Day, video was shown in which a prominent coach described his “zero tolerance” policy toward players who strike women.

I dislike all “zero tolerance” arrangements. First of all, there is always a special case for a favored person and the “zero” mark is easily moved. Secondly, despite what genius coaches might think, there are sometimes “shades of gray.” What if both parties share some blame? Also, there is in the law something called the doctrine of fighting words. There are some things people say when they are just asking for it. Third, what about the poor bastard who just happens to be innocent? It happens. Sometimes a person can be falsely accused. How can supposedly educated people preside over a system where there is no, zero, nada for due process. Sorry to be a stickler for such odd and worn-out ideas, but maybe this hard problem needs just a little thought.

There is a much larger thing at work here. How dare anybody lay a hand on another human being. It is bad to harm a woman, and much worse to mercilessly whip a child. Why not pick a fight with one of your teammates. Why not put on the gloves and take a swing at somebody who has been working out every day? That brand of cowardice makes me want to throw up. Worse by many degrees is the mistreatment handed out by ISIS. What kind of people behead their enemies and post the film? There are no words.

These are symptoms of our abandonment of the notion of man as created in the image of God. Man wills, thanks, praises, and gives  thanks. At least that is what man in the proper order does. Man is by nature rebellious but there seems to have previously been a counter-balance to the worst instincts. Now that man has given up on God (the real one who creates,, intervenes, rules, commands, forgives, and loves us enough to come among the fallen humanity) man has departed from beauty, respect, compassion and the optimism that foresees a better world ruled by the King of Kings. That is the disease. What we have in the news are the symptoms.


Middle East horrors and consequences #ISIS #Evangelical #theology

September 5, 2014

The point of an execution is mostly to get people’s attention. It is judicial theater intended to remind the buttered popcorn crowd who is really calling the shots. We in the USA prefer our executions to be quiet and private. Like an old liturgy, the priests put up walls and curtains so as not to disturb the mysterious quality attached to such ceremonies. The people of ISIS have shown more than sensible modern people desire to see and such indiscretion must be punished.

Here is the opinion of a non-professional observer and I am certainly glad to be held accountable if this is seriously awry. The main problem with ISIS is that it cannot be bought off. Yes, I suppose they could be rightly classified as “nuts,” but they are a special type of nut. ISIS consists of a hard-nosed faction that exudes hatred of modern culture and anything that does not adhere to its version of Islam. They despise with such fervor that even an untrained eye suspects that we are seeing that is profoundly dangerous. They are a danger to every country in the region, Europe, Russia, and the United States. China? Why not China too.

Only God knows the solution and we are not on the best of terms with the heavenly court. Nonetheless, the prayers of devout believers are heard on high and are effective in seeking peace and safety. It might also be useful to remember that vengeance is the exclusive work of God and forbidden for mere humans. It is probably a bad idea to extend the vengeance prohibition past personal rivalries. Nobody should expect that a short-term solution such as the old-fashioned “eye for an eye” would do any good with ISIS. These folks are completely unimpressed with anything that attempts to match up to their acts of public butchery.

Things are already out of control and there are real limitations on government retaliation. Nobody should think that this is some sort of positive development that will give Jesus the opportunity to land back here and grab the believers at the very moment they are most needed. The church has been in tribulation since the Roman persecution. John’s epistle tells us that the man of lawlessness has been around since the earliest days. These are hard times, but our mission has not changed. Baptize and make disciples. If we are leading others to a new life in Christ and teaching our faith, that is the best most of us can do.

 


The great unhappiness of Fergusson, Mo. #Fergusson

August 25, 2014

Thee seems to be a recurrent cycle in the development of news stories. Version A, trumped by Version B, none-calling and personal attacks. scapegoating,  Version C, Version D, more name calling, best story wins, and the poor people catch hell. So it goes in Fergusson, Mo. For the moment, it is America’s unhappiest. town.

If one is a little bit Reformed, the cause is obvious. Yes, three is racism for sure and you can easily find economic inequality. There is a prideful part of humanity that requires not only victory but the destruction of those holding different positions. The hyper-Calvinists call this disorder of the soul “total depravity.” For us Anglicans, that kind of language is awfully strong. We prefer talking about “the fall.”

So what?

The Reformed (include properly schooled Anglicans) know that the Civil Rights Movement may have passed some laws and changed a few customs, but human nature remains the same. We continue to be the same judgmental, power-hungry, greedy, and diligent guardians of the privileges bestowed on the fortunate. Yes, there is racism, and to admit its existence, like a rotting corpse concealed in the basement, is to expose ourselves to accountability. It is to deny what we say about ourselves when the flags are unfurled. We would rather turn our eyes away from the lingering consequences of slavery than get our nominally Christian hands dirty fixing anything.

The “fixing” part is difficult because, as was the case in the Civil Rights Movement, there is only so much even an entire generation can accomplishment. Human nature is still a mess and that can only be addressed  by putting on the new man of conversion and Baptism into the Body of Christ. That means being open to the leading of the divine Spirit. Too easy? Not if one is actually led into a new set of behaviors that walk away from the old cycle of suspicion and wishing the destruction of those that look, act and think differently.

If this individual change (some of us call it “regeneration”) is insufficient, then the gospel is a lie and the atheists are right. Even though the good outcomes of following Jesus are not immediately visible, we take up the cross anyway. Friends, it is a cross – an instrument of our own pending executions. It is faith and the power of God’s grace that moves Christians to act like Christians anyway. It is forgiveness, turning the other cheek, and taking up the cross. That is completely opposite from the name-calling and personal destruction that is Fergusson.

The Christlike version of change takes time. It takes so much time that it is typical to think that one has failed. This notion of success is a something that runs deep in the culture. It is the same strain that looks upon the poor as failures. The dominant American idea is that those who have less deserve all the bad things that happen to the powerless. Christians know that we are tested and one’s attitude toward and treatment of the less fortunate is a measure of character and part of the criteria on which we will be judged. That is God’s grace delivered by the hands of men.

 


National Group Goes After Preacher For Canceling Gay Man’s Funeral #gayfuneral

August 14, 2014

This story has been brewing for a few days now and I may, or may not, have a solid grasp of the facts. It would appear that a Florida man, Mr. Julion Evans, died and his family sought to use the facilities of a local church for funeral services. Here is where a little bit of nagging detail work would come in handy. It seems to me that the church granted permission for a non-member’s family to use the building. When the pastor became aware that the deceased was involved in a same-gender marriage, he cancelled the services. Then, as you will see from the link below, there were objections.

Fast-Growing Christian Organization Goes After Preacher For Canceling Gay Man’s Funeral.

It is hard to work up much sympathy for a preacher and a church that has such a shallow understanding of the Doctrine of the Church. I would bet good money that nobody ever asked any number of fundamental questions. That might include the following; was the deceased a baptized Christian? Did the deceased attend some other house of worship? Was he a Trinitarian? (Yes, it matters. I was about to say “sweat the small stuff,” but that is not small stuff.)

The Preacher, Rev. T. W. Jenkins probably thinks of his place of worship, New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Tampa, as nothing more than an auditorium. Under the circumstances, one can readily see how the mourning family might have the same opinion of the facilities. Nonetheless, churches are sacred spaces and set aside for divine worship. It is a well-established principle that all of the dead are worthy of proper burial, but not everybody is entitled to a “church” funeral. Catholics, by the way, include proper burial as one of the “corporal works of mercy.”

The Church is more than a building. It is the mystical body of Christ The Church includes “good” Christians, sinners, and those who are publicly and obstinately sinful. The Church takes a hard position against the latter. It seems here that there is nothing obstinate about the deceased, he was just a regular garden variety sinner. This is a nightmare of shallow theology and incompetence.

Considering that he had already granted permission for use of the church building, the church has caused a lot of inconvenience. Friends of the family are bound to show up at the wrong place at the wrong time. Jenkins should have offered to be present at the funeral and to offer some words of comfort. That is just a little short of a real “church” funeral, but it would provide some comfort. Yes, an apology is apparently due. Mr. Evans was no better or worse than you or me, a fallen sinner in need of God’s grace. If we are recipients of grace, we should also be dispensers of grace.

Let us not be fools. Rev. Jenkins was almost certainly hoodwinked. He was snickered by a group with an agenda and it worked. I think it needs to be clearly understood that a church has the absolute constitutionally protected right to decide who may receive the spiritual services of the house of worship. The group taking a lead position on this, Faithful America, resorts to simplistic arguments. “Love thy neighbor – no exceptions,” is the twisting of an Old Testament text and the words of Jesus recorded in the Gospel. We are commanded, first, to Love the Lord completely and neighbors as ourselves. I prefer grace and truth, two qualities that are perfectly combined in the person of Jesus.

Truth includes the unpleasant reality of my sinful condition and my need for repentance. Because I am such a terrible sinner, it is easy for me to go a little easy on any homosexual. After all, the tendencies of the flesh are so powerful and we are so inclined to give in to wrong actions. The Good News is that Jesus put on human flesh and died so that we could be forgiven. Because he is fully human and fully divine, Jesus understands our temptations and is a merciful judge.


Robin Williams, suicide and Hell #robinwilliams #suicide

August 12, 2014

Two close friends have committed suicide, so this is no theoretical conversation to be conducted over cigars and Brandy. The wounds are still very raw. Knowing that I can never “recover” from another’s final act of desperation has taught me the depth of suffering that must be experienced by those who end their own lives.

Our society takes questions concerning life too lightly and suicide is generally seen as one more private decision for which each private and sovereign individual has exclusive responsibility. If that is the way you see it, no amount of argument is likely to prevail against so mighty a fortress. Before I give this to you straight, let me urge you to read every last word. This is no easy thing and I do not approach it lightly, nor in the spirit of judgment.

Suicide is a grave public sin. It is an offense against God’s generosity and an insult to those whom we should hold dear. According to the authoritative 1662 edition of the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer, those who have laid violent hands upon themselves are not to receive the public funeral service of the church which is due believers. Such persons are denied burial in a church graveyard. When I was in first grade (1956?), the parent of a fellow student died. There was never another word said, but I learned later that the secrecy surrounding this death was because it involved suicide. There was once a very strong public attitude opposing this awful act, but we have changed.

You are probably saying right now that you are mighty pleased that our attitudes are much more enlightened and that we are not bound by the cruelty of a previous time. You are, to some extent, correct in your understanding. Let’s walk through this and sort things out.

The Prayer Book editors were correct to put a high sanction against the taking of one’s own life. They did not know it all, however. There are real facts concerning mental illness that are known and understood. To sanction a formerly depressed member makes as much sense as punishing somebody for having diabetes. There is a pastoral issue at work here and things will get a little dicey. Somebody who is known by his clergyman to be under a doctor’s care, getting therapy or taking drugs is plainly ill and entitled to the public rites accorded to those who are joined to the Body of Christ. While that probably does not apply to Mr. Williams public profession (I am deliberately being excessively generous), It could. His medical situation certainly tells us that the decision-making process was not working correctly.

Murder-suicide is another area and you can probably imagine how one might want to escape responsibility for taking life. No person who has done such a thing should receive a funeral or burial by the church. How can one say that the departed is laid to rest “in sure and certain hope” of the resurrection, except that they do not believe the words in the first place. Let us be clear that a minister may conduct services designed to comfort family and friends of non-believers and those who have committed serious public sins, but they should not pretend that the deceased is a believer or commended “in sure and certain hope.” As the church enters a difficult phase, it is most necessary to publicly profess the apostolic faith and to maintain integrity.

No matter Robin Williams’ attitude toward God, the Lord above is full of grace and mercy. None of us are fit to judge another person.


Passing on the Faith: Anglicanism’s advantages

August 1, 2014

One of my projects involves providing parents the theological and cultural background to help young people fit into the increasingly unfriendly American scene. I have been involved in planning a number of very exciting Sunday school classes on the topic. Such gatherings seem to be deliberately designed to be anything but exciting and rarely useful, but this was the big exception. One thing that made the programs “work” was the inclusion of college students and those who have graduated within the past decade. They were great! There were also a number of “expert” speakers on psychology and culture. All the  presentations were relatively brief. You might try it at your church. I can help.

One thing did get left out, and this might not apply to your congregation. It is my belief that Anglicanism has a tradition and set of practices that makes it especially relevent to these darker times. Anglicanism as we know it from the middle 1500s has passed through a good deal of persecution and civil war. Sometimes, to our great shame, Anglicans have represented the heavy hand of oppression. Who do you think the Pilgrims were running from anyway? In the United States around 1790 what group would be more excluded than the Church of England?

Anglicans have kept a catholic liturgy alongside a Reformed theology. Anglicans have a sense of the essentials and can also recognize the “extras.” At least, thoughtful Anglicans have this capability. Our capacity for disagreement and “tension” is almost scandalous. Clear thinking Anglicans are in possession of the skills to nurture and spread the gospel in the good times as much as the bad. This is what I am trying to teach. One does not have to be grumpy or nostalgic to be a traditional Anglican. It only takes a little knowledge and the Holy Spirit’s leadership.


Virginia church may look Anglican, but it’s fully Baptist

August 1, 2014

Here is the story of a Baptist church plant that is both liturgical and sacramental. What do you think. Give it a read and make a comment. We’ll rap.

Virginia church may look Anglican, but it’s fully Baptist | Virtueonline – The Voice for Global Orthodox Anglicanism.


Why is passing on the faith a big deal?

July 29, 2014

Christian Foundations for Ministry just wrapped up a series of classes at St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in Little Rock. The concept is born from the apparent departure of many young people from Christian belief. In many ways, they are like their parents being over-worked, suspicious of authority, and unwilling to get mixed up in demanding social activities. There are plenty of reasons, and the truth is that most of us walked away from organized religion in the younger days.

Today is different because Christianity is being forced to accept its place as a cultural minority. For the modern believer, this new situation may not result in martyrdom, but a life of enforced irrelevance is certainly no fun. This reordering may or may not be permanent. The elements are present for all  sorts of misbehavior. The point is that young people will be in a very much worse environment than their parents.

The supposed “grown ups” are often disconnected from the realities that personally demean and discount the individual follower of Christ. For one thing, if one is entirely clueless about postmodernism, he is missing the foundation of much contemporary thought. The traditional apologetics does not fit into a world that is, first, relational, and otherwise suspicious of absolutes. Yes, this is very similar to a lot that was happening in the 70s, but the “other side” has all the presumption of place that was formerly the sole possession of Christians.

This is not very pleasant, but here we are at the beginning of the decline. Yes, we have the biblical hope for final victory, but Jesus has placed the gospel in human hands and evangelization is our responsibility. It is a direct order from the Head of the Church, the Great Commission. That’s the big deal.


A question for Arkansas Senatorial candidate Tom Cotton concerning “once-a-week-Christians”

July 15, 2014

Let me tell you that things down in Arkansas are a mess and I find the pending November elections to be an awful puzzle. The candidates are terrible, which is such a departure from the time that this small southern state produced national figures like Joe T. Robinson, J. William Fulbright, and Dale Bumpers.

Republican candidate for the United States Senate Tom Cotton recently accused incumbent Mark Pryor of being a “one-day-a-week-Christian.” Such accusations have no place in political campaigns in the first place, and the Constitution clearly says that government may not require religious tests of office holders. Yes, I do get the distinction, but I also understand the background and what should be a rule in all elections.  Furthermore, I am willing to stipulate that Pryor’s response was tepid, shallow and absolutely dreadful.

Since Mr. Cotton has taken it upon himself to publicly question the religious faith or another candidate, and presumably somebody he would count as a brother-in-Christ, I am wondering what steps Cotton went through before using the nuclear option. Did he follow the procedure laid out by our Lord, Savior, and Living Head of the Church, Jesus Christ, in Matt 18?

Did Cotton go in private and outline his concerns? (18:15)

I’m not making this up. If Cotton had done so, He might have won his brother. That is what Jesus says. If Prayer would not listen to Cotton, did the GOP candidate go again with others and address the issue in front of Witness? Again, Jesus says this is what Christians with disagreements are bound to do. (18:16) Some churches actually follow these steps. No foolin’.

The final step is to bring it to the Church. My reading on the subject, which is not exhaustive, SUGGESTS to me that Cotton should bring the issue before Senator Pryor’s church. (18:17) Some might hold that Pryor be questioned in Cotton’s Church. I doubt it, but this is an area in which I am open to instruction.  I should add that my readings about the following aspect of proper order, point to the purpose of church discipline as eventual restoration. I might mention here the writings of John Calvin and the Anglican Articles of Religion in support of my opinion. Looking at the words of Jesus in v. 17, it seems that even tax collectors and Gentiles are capable of repentance.

Since Mr. Cotton apparently holds himself out as something more than a Sunday-only kind of guy, it would be good to hear about his theological and biblical reflection on Mark Pryor’s alleged shortcomings. There are one or two further questions that need Mr. Cotton’s attention.

Why did he take church business, stuff that Jesus himself instructs to be kept inside the church, into the political arena?

Does Tom Cotton believe that the name of Jesus is glorified by the public airing of accusations among Christ’s followers?


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