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If we lived forever, maybe nothing would seem important. — Discover

It’s true. We do live forever, and that is why what we choose to believe

“Did you know that nearly 9,000 people fell to the ground together in 2007 to make snow angels in North Dakota? Did you know that I’ve started a collection of door knockers to hang by our staircase? Did you know that some tarantulas are cobalt blue? WE ALL HAVE SO MUCH TO LEARN.”

This month I am post

via If we lived forever, maybe nothing would seem important. — Discover

This month  I am posting guest blogs. There is nothing spiritual in this post. She has 25 million followers but this is all about the natural man. If we live in the emotions or the natural mind, we cannot make the cross over to reality. The message is not wrong – it just does not meet a minimum standard for anything beyond the natural. God is not there, nor will He be found there.

What Jesus Said about White Privilege (guest editorial)

According to our Declaration of Independence, our rights are not from the government but from God. This is a reminder that Civics is no longer taught in American schools.  But the man’s other conclusions are correct, that God gives blessings, not privilege.

http://pulpitandpen.org/2018/06/02/what-jesus-said-about-white-privilege/

There is also another factor – many white people live from paycheck to paycheck just like many minorities. So white privilege is a political position, not theological.

The Book of Mormon (stage show) and Demonic Attack

I was innocently changing channels when I heard this song -the words, curses and demons -met my ear.  Since this is something I know about, I stopped to listen. A man is singing about how demons are attacking his mind – guilt, fear, anger, revenge, homosexuality, regret, confusion, lying, for starts. He is told to turn it off by his Mormon leader.

It doesn’t work, and it is not supposed to work.  Mental disciple is important but getting rid of demons is not only deliberate mind control.  Demons are spirit beings and must be dealt with by the Spirit of man through the Spirit of God. The answer is not in the Book of Mormon or any other man-made book.

Here are the lyrics of this song.

ELDER MCKINLEY
I got a feelin’ that you could be feelin’
A whole lot better than you feel today
You say you got a problem…well, that’s no problem!
It’s super easy not to feel that way
When you start to get confused because of thoughts in your head –
Don’t feel those feelings – hold them in instead!

Turn it off!
Like a light switch
Just go ‘click’!
It’s a cool little Mormon trick
We do it all the time

When you’re feeling certain feelings that just don’t seem right
Treat those pesky feelings like a reading light –

And turn ’em off!
Like a light switch
Just go ‘bap’!
Really, what’s so hard about that?
Turn it off!
Turn it off!

ELDER CHURCH
When I was young, my Dad would treat my Mom real bad
Every time the Utah Jazz would lose
He’d start a-drinkin’, and I’d start a-thinkin’
How’m I gonna keep my Mom from getting abused?
I’d see her all scared and my soul was dyin’!
My Dad would say to me, ‘Now don’t you dare start crying!’

Turn it off!
Like a light switch
Just go ‘flick’!
It’s our nifty little Mormon trick!
Turn it off!
Turn. It. Off!

ELDER THOMAS
My sister was a dancer, but she got cancer
The doctor said she still had two months more
I thought she had time, so I got in line
For the new iPhone at the Apple Store
She laid there dying with my Father and Mother
Her very last words were, “Where is my brother?”

Turn it off! (Yeah!)
Bid those sad feelings adieu!
The fear that I might get cancer too…

[laughter]

ELDER MCKINLEY
When I was in fifth grade, I had a friend Steve Blade (Oooh, Steve Blade…)
He and I were close as two friends could be (We could be close…)
One thing led to another, and soon I would discover (Wow!)
I was having really strange feelings for Steve…
I thought about us on a deserted island (We’re all alone…)
We’d swim naked in the sea, and then he’d try and –

Woah! Turn it off!
Like a light switch
There it’s gone! (Good for you!)
My hetero side just won!
I’m all better now
Boys should be with girls – that’s Heavenly Father’s plan
So, if you ever feel you’d rather be with a man –
Turn it off!

ELDER PRICE
Well, Elder McKinley, I think it’s okay that you’re having gay thoughts. Just so long as you never act upon them.

ELDER MCKINLEY
No, ’cause then you’re just keepin’ it down
Like a dimmer switch on “low”… (On “low”…)
Thinking nobody needs to know (Uh oh…)
But that’s not true!
Being gay is bad, but lying is worse
So just realize you have a curable curse –
And turn it off! (Turn it off!)
Turn it off!

Turn it off!

Now, how do you feel?

ELDER PRICE
The same.

ELDER MCKINLEY
Then you’ve only got yourself to blame
You didn’t pretend hard enough
Imagine that your brain is made of tiny boxes
Then find the box that’s gay and CRUSH IT!
Okay?

ELDER PRICE
No, no…I’m not having gay thoughts!

ELDER CUNNINGHAM
Alright! It worked! (Yay!)

He turned it off…
Turn it off…
Turn it off!
Turn it off! (Turn it off!)
Like a light switch
Just go ‘click’! (Click click!)
What a cool little Mormon trick (Trick trick!)
We do it all the time!

When you’re feelin’ certain feelings that just don’t seem right
Treat those pesky feelings like a reading light
And turn it off!
Like a light switch on a cord
And now he isn’t gay any –

Turn it, turn it, turn it, turn it…
Turn it, turn it, turn it, turn it…
Tuuuuuurn it…
Turn it off!
…Off!!!

First, feelings have nothing to do with it.  Demons create the negative feelings of lust, or envy, rage, the list goes on.  The devil’s purpose is to steal, kill and destroy you with evil thoughts and emotions.

How do you react?  Immediately you eliminate contact with the problem source.  If you are watching porn, then make a covenant with your eyes, a term from the book of Job, and never watch again.  You can set your compute to warn you or eliminate that.

More importantly you must recognize that the devil, the enemy of your soul, is out there looking for ways to destroy you at any point where you let evil take over your mind.  If it is music stop that too.  If you have unsavory friends, get better friends.

But the best warfare is to say out loud (the bathroom is a good place for this as others might not think this is cool) and say the following as loudly as you can.

“Satan get off my back and out of my life.  I know who you are and what you are doing in Jesus name flee from me and never come back.”  Then announce the troubles he is causing,

People ask me, why the loud voice?  Because demons will pretend to be deaf.  And if you shout, you sound mad  If you whisper a rebuke no one will take you seriously.

My daughter had a terrible stomach ache when she was in elementary school.  She went to the girls room and shouted just as I have instructed you.  You do not need to be 12 to do this; you can be any age.  The authority of Jesus’ name does not depend on your age or status.  Be aggressive.  What about “steal, kill and destroy” sounds passive to you?

Tell the devil off whenever you need and this will clean up your mind and your life.  But turning something off simply won’t work.  If it did work it would be in the Bible.

God is Never Surprised

God said He knew the end before the beginning.

Isaiah 46:10  Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:

Some theologians surmised that meant he controlled every event, every word, every thought even down to individual sins according to this scripture. Well “stuff and nonsense” said Mary Poppins. You do get away with a lot of things, but telling God He is responsible for your sins, at least not until after you are saved, is wrong.

Blaming God my mother told me was a “Bad Attitude.”  But what it does mean is even more important. If we sit on God’s shoulders we have an opportunity to view the world, its systems and its history from the long view. This put us in a place of safety; we cannot be hurt by anything there.

At the same time we have a chance to see the hand of God. He cannot be held responsible for our various sins of commission and omission but we see him moving the affairs of men forward. I saw this in the five hour wedding video of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in the majestic pageantry of the Brits for which they are rightly proud – and profitable.

Of all the surprises we have a California child of a black mother and a white father who makes a name for herself as an actress and philanthropist and meets the 2nd son of the Queen of England. It’s a modern and charming love story and a prototype of improbability.

But I saw something else. I saw that Prince Charles, the eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II, was a over-indulged man, very like his self-absorbed uncle who abdicated the British throne.  That turned out to be a huge blessing to Western civilization as Elizabeth’s father became king and was serious about doing the job as his brother Edward demeaned.

This man born to be king was ill equipped to handle the job but then he marries.  In fact he was forced to marry by his mother and give up his mistress because the throne needed an heir and a spare as the Brits call it. Enter the kindest, most people-loving woman in Britain, Diana Spencer who became the mother of two boys who transferred her personality to the British throne.

Now two people will be able to join the American zeal for individualism and equality before the law with the zeal to reform charitable institutions and make them effective in saving whole groups of people in their problems – wounded warriors, lands without clean water, games and opportunities for small children and others whose names Americans would not know.

If you think this is quaint nonsense, watch some Shakespeare or read English history.  Most of the kings of England have been no great prize.  Because of this, massive numbers of disaffected people hopped on a ship and went to America or Australia.

Or consider the irrational King Richard the Third who no doubt murdered two young men who had claim to the throne, dying himself at age 32 in battle.  Several hundred years of royal infighting ensued.

Then consider today – we have two royal heirs committed to the most generous and loving view of their citizens whose nation recognizes them as “royal.”  Now doesn’t that sound like God moving the pieces on the board?

Unlike us, God takes the long view.  What is 1480 to Him and now? What is 600 years to him?  A wisp in the night. We can learn from this to always ask God what is your opinion is this thing – not mine, not the media, not the politicians, but God’s? He has a plan and hopefully you are in the middle of it too. Ask Him.

Cures for Writer’s Block

Writer’s block is not my problem.  In fact I barely have enough time to write.  So let me offer some ideas to motivate and inspire you.  Not all are new but hearing them again should help us all.

  1. Keep a notebook. The little ones fall apart and the big ones are too bulky. Try a 5”x8” spiral binding for jotting down words, facts, observation and opinions. This week a TV reporter said, “He was too competitive to make friends.”  Ah-ha.! Add envy, jealousy, alcohol, and you have the start of a story, a failed marriage or a mystery plot.  Staple related notes together and store them near your keyboard.  If inspiration is lacking, read them until something pops into place.  {60% of all Americans prefer the color blue.  Write it down.}  Add new words then look them up online.  This week I saw the name Torquemada applied to a politician; when I researched this I was shocked to learn the author had smacked the man with a major insult.
  2. Not all readers are leaders but all leaders are readers.  You’ll not fail to get an idea from everything you read.  Underline or post-it flag pages if you own the book.  Reading forces you to think differently about a subject.
  3. Keep a schedule. I use Microsoft Excel to record Who got What When plus follow-up dates.  No sale? On to the next editor.  The rejection letter can lead to despair so ignore emotions and realize rejection is “the cost of doing business” and move on.  As to your personal schedule, note when you do your best work, 4-6 a.m., 10-1, 3-6 or 9 to midnight, whatever – then stick to it.
  4. Select your market. This isn’t buckshot.  I was once an agent for an artist who draws newsmakers but never celebrities. I wasted no postage on US or People Magazines. Read market information carefully and get to know editors by name.  None of this “Dear You-All” unless the editor’s name is not given which occurs occasionally.
  5. Blogs are free. You can post previously published material or work not for sale.  Include a copyright statement and your picture.  You want them to know you are a real person.  At the end of your submission letter you can state, “Please see my blog for additional writing samples.”  If you are computer-challenged there are online courses in web creation.  Try ed2go.com to find a college in your area.
  6. Submission letter. Include everything – name, snail and email addresses, Twitter, Facebook and day phone, plus your Pay Pal account for a quick payment option.
  7. My contact list includes the following – an artist who works solely with children, a former boss now a Congressperson, and a friend who was a private cop for Neiman-Marcus.  If there is a hole in your work, your contact list may help with details.
  8. Find an editor-friend who will troll for typos. They slip through when we read our own work. Trade off skills here.  What can you do for them?
  9. Do some Freebie work. Many years ago I wrote an Op-Ed for a large daily.  Two weeks later an editor phoned with a part-time job.  This became my best training ground.
  10. Stumble on! This is an internet aid. You list your interests with them so when you are bored and need a break, hit the Stumble button for sites in your fields.
  11. Formal classes at night are available everywhere.  The best class is where you learn from more experienced students.  Writing classes are OK but you will probably learn more from general areas.  My most mind-expanding class was Medical Geography which demonstrated how geography and the diseases in an area affect culture and history. Think how that would influence your work.
  12. The red-wine secret. Unless you are under a deadline, let your writing mature then re-read it when you have forgotten most of it. The sediments will jump out at you, and maybe some new ideas will have percolated into your brain.

Finally there is one more thing to deal with – procrastination.  Set up a disciplinary system.  If you don’t start on time, if you dawdle, snooze or watch TV, or any number of other diversions, punish yourself.

NO Dove bar for you at 3 p.m.  And be consistent about that.  Writing is like watching your weight; you have to do it anyway.

Who is Not Going to Church

Pew and Barna Research groups keep up a continuous study of religious actions and beliefs in the USA.  Their data shows that 40% of those under 30 identify as having no religious affiliation; Roman Catholic attendance is down to 21% and Protestant to 15%.  This puts church attending believers as a minority in America.

There are two main groups now, “nones” and “somes.” The Nones do not affiliate with any religious tradition, simply calling themselves Christian or atheist etc. “Somes” on the other hand will take part in an occasional religious service or event. Both of these groups do subscribe to a moral tradition.

But so does most everyone else. The Buddhist Chinese mother teaches her tots the same things as an American Christian mother; share your toys, don’t beat up your playmates, be on time, say please and thank you, learn to respect authority, be honest with yourself and others, hard work pays off, etc. These are behavior-based ethical principles. That’s not all that hard! And because they aren’t hard they are easily ignored. It might be called Christian socialism.

Pew also identified “feral” Christians, those who subscribe to moral Christian values but no doctrines which reflects many other go-along, get-along people who behave without asking too many questions about why they do what they do.

If Facebook is to be believed many semi-believers look at people and think that is what church is and that their moral strictures are personally directed against individuals.But the Church stands against evil not people. The church has nothing against Islamic people, but those who strap bombs on small children deserve all the condemnation one can heap.

No church should have a problem with black or brown individuals, but when  they riot and vandalize stores, they deserve to be called criminals and sinners as well.

When groups of people make evil the core of their lives and doctrines, then the church has both the right and the responsibility to call them out. God saves individuals, not groups. No one goes to hell because he was born with any color skin; no one goes to heaven because he is a member of a particular religion.

These are natural and cultural realities. God is spirit and must be worshiped in spirit and in truth. Racism comes from the fallen inner nature of mankind not related to the spirit of either man or God.

But, now here is the rub; true Christianity is not about behavior or externals, but an internal transformation of the person, inside out. And that is hard. To recognize one’s failure to meet one’s own standards, or those of society, much less religion eventually weighs heavily.

According to the Bible no one gets to heaven being good, or “meaning well.” But then again many do not think life after death is a big deal. Indifference is just as big a killer as unbelief.

It is true that if churches taught what the Bible actually says, many people would no longer go.  The US Congress has toyed with the idea of making church donations no longer tax deductible which would certainly separate sheep from goats quickly enough. It would cleanse the church of those who think they are getting their ticket punched for the afterlife.

The Bible said that before the second coming of the Lord, the angels would gather the wheat into a storehouse and the tares, intended to be burned, in another barn.  Maybe that is what is happening here.  We are being separated for the judgment.

 

 

 

Are there Animals in Heaven?

And our cats and horses too.

Simple answer: Of course.  Longer answer.   Heaven is a perfect environment for God’s people.  It is some kind of treacherous lie that we are stuck playing harps.  Even at best, David played a guitar and that might be the instrument of choice.  Flying round on clouds makes a good cartoon but it hardly does justice to the nature of human beings.  When we are saved, our sin nature is over ridden by the holiness of God which is our life’s goal, but after death, all those conflicts are eliminated and people can flourish as individuals.  Do you want to take trumpet lessons? Violin?  Maybe you want to walk on the bottom of the sea?  Try to think outside the confining box of the earth.  Your imagination can run wild.

A woman on the 700 Club “died” and went to heaven; the doctors pulled her back.  While there she saw Johnny Cash and June Cash singing away….just as you would expect them to do esp. since this woman lived in Nashville, Tennessee.

In fact, a surprising number of people have been to heaven (and also hell) and back.  Their testimonies are very much alike.  You can find good (and foolish) testimonies on YouTube and on the internet.  But you know how to judge false from true – look at what the Bible says.  God’s truth does not conflict with His Word.

One popular book, Heaven is for Real, will be made into a movie.  One little 5 year old boy after being pulled back from death was asked what he saw, and he said, “PUPPIES.”  If I were God and a little boy suddenly showed up in my heaven, I would provide him with a pile of puppies.  Wouldn’t you?  A pile of cute puppies would keep a tot laughing and rolling around for hours.

Kat Kerr author of Revealing Heaven is a conference speaker, who has available tapes for sale, and you can find her books on Amazon cheaply priced.  Her eye-witness accounts are superior to my suppositions and can quickly be checked.  Sid Roth is a Jew with a parade of speakers and videos which often touches on heaven-hell testimony.  There are amazing testimonies of Muslims who have had visions of heaven, hell and Jesus.  Try a BING search to locate these, or YouTube.  (I don’t use Google because they feature their preferences which are non-Christian and pro-left wing at the top of the findings.)

In seminary I told my pastor’s wife, when I get to heaven I want to be in charge of the zoo.  She looked at me as though I was crazy.  Here is the secret about heaven.  God put us on earth to get used to some of the elements of heaven which are so much better, so much nicer, and so much more glorious.  We do not give up the great things of this our Father’s World; we simply see them untouched by sin and without limitations for them or for us.

Why does Islam (the Muslims) think they are entitled to the land of Israel?

Partial world map showing Muslim nations
Israel vs. Islam

Quick answer: They think it belongs to them as their inheritance through Ishmael.

Long answer: It belongs to the real heir, Isaac.  The Bible records important dreams, including God’s promises. Abram, later named Abraham by God, got into a royal mess because he took a promise in a dream and tried to make it come true on his own. God promised Abram, then childless, that he would be the father of thousands.  The temporary and consequently disastrous solution was to have a child through his house maid.  That first son was Ishmael known today as those nations constituting the political religion of Islam.  A few years later the 2nd and promised son Isaac, is born – the real heir.

In virtually every society except the USA blessings and rewards go to the eldest son, not the younger.  You see the problem.  Modern day Islam thinks it is entitled to the entire inheritance from Abraham and willing to strap bombs on their children to force the issue.  Islam is avenging itself because of something that happened 3,500 years ago, and the likelihood these people will change their minds is Zero.

The land of Canaan (now Israel, formerly Palestine) goes to Isaac and his descendants, hence the battle over a tiny piece of land no bigger than New Jersey.  And Europe who tried to pretend for decades that it was so magnanimous and egalitarian is now on High Alert. Iran, even though it is originally Persian, is also controlled by Islamic leaders and part of the enemies of Israel and the West.

See this map online.  Tiny little Israel caught in the middle.  Only God can help.

Click here for commentary regarding President Trump moving the US  Embassy controversy.

Click here for information linking Fascism, Islamism and Anti-semitism.

Link between Democratic Socialism and Antisemitism.

Why Americans Must Support Israel

Boycotting Israel – the Ultimate in Antisemitism

You will more information about Islam in an e-book for sale online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and others.

Things You Should Never Say – and Why

We are so accustomed to hearing words like these we can forget easily that they are foolish. This is my favorite:

To be honest with you, honestly.

Now really? Are you telling people that much of the time you do not tell the truth? If you must remind people that this one sentence is truth, does that imply many other sentences are false? Well maybe so.

The Bible says your speech should be “yea” and “no” and leave it at that.  Most issues do not lend themselves to easy answers.  If you need to explain, find out if they want to listen.

I hear this on TV all the time:

It never gets any better than this.

Really? If it never gets better than this perhaps we should all kill ourselves.  Life is hopeless.  You see the nonsense in this.  If you want to praise something, praise it, but do not confine your opinion or anyone else’s either.  Let the vacation television ads say this, but not you.  Life will get better; optimists believe this and optimism keeps us going when things are bad.

This saying is common in the south:

If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

The First Amendment to our Constitution alone, of all the nations, guarantees Americans the right to say whatever they wish.  Does that mean rude, crude people open their mouths, with vile things to say? Yes, but you can turn them off, or omit them from your company.

A guy sitting at WalMart saw me in the parking space waiting for someone to come out and advised me with f-bombs etc. to move my car.  I said simply, “Clean up your language.”  He had no authority to ask me to move. He proceeded to swear some more and sat down. We do not need to tolerate that, and in fact should speak up.

But when people say we should not speak anything but good, they forget that we have a public responsibility to tell the truth. That means not repeating rumors or information we cannot verify.  That is called gossip. Keep in mind that people who do evil do not want it mentioned, in public or private. Your silence about good versus evil only empowers evil to increase.

The culture will continue to deteriorate if we fail to push back against bad language and false ideas.  It is our homeland too.

 

The Gospel according to the “Nones”

 Elizabeth Drescher May 28, 2015
The data just keeps piling up. Since the 2008 U.S. Religious Landscape Survey from the Pew Forum on Religion in Public Life first noted a substantial increase in the number of Americans reporting no religious affiliation, report after report has confirmed what religious leaders outside the evangelical resurgence of the 1980s had known for some time: checking “no religion” is increasingly normal in the United States.

Following the report in 2008 of a doubling in the percentage of so-called nones, from a mere 7 percent in 1990 to more than 15 percent in 2008, Pew’s 2012 “‘Nones’ on the Rise” survey tracked further and more rapid growth in the number of unaffiliated. One in five Americans told researchers they had no religious affiliation, an increase of 30 percent in only four years. In April of this year, a new Pew report projected that nones would make up more than a quarter of the U.S. population by 2050. Count those as the good old days of growing unaffiliation. The latest Pew research, published in May, shows that nones are closing in faster than anticipated. The new numbers show that between 2007 and 2014, nones grew to nearly 23 percent of the U.S. population. Among Americans under age 30, the percentage of nones has jumped to nearly 40 percent. At the same time, Roman Catholic affiliation has dropped from 24 percent in 2007 to 21 percent in 2014, and mainline Protestant affiliation has ticked downward from 18 percent to below 15 percent of the U.S. population.

What is the bottom line? It would seem to be that the United States will remain at least nominally a “Christian nation” for some time into the future. But the role and influence of Christianity in U.S. culture will certainly change as more people set aside spiritual and religious pursuits entirely or undertake them primarily outside of institutional religious settings.

Some of the effects of the decentering of religion in general and Christianity in particular are easily recognizable. In the political arena, for instance, religious background is less and less important. Indeed, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City has highlighted his spiritual-but-not-religious self-identification as a credential for working effectively with diverse religious groups as well as those not affiliated with institutional religions. Where being unreligious was once a political liability, in some political races being too religious can now be problematic. Similar shifts in the role of religion in culture have been playing out for decades in education, health care and popular media. But more subtle transitions are also under way, those associated with how religious idioms—symbols, rituals, artifacts, doctrines, holy figures, turns of phrase and, by no means least, sacred stories—circulate in the wider culture. It is here that what might be called the none-ing of the United States will likely have its most pervasive and enduring effects on ways of perceiving, interpreting and expressing our experiences of reality, which have for centuries been shaped extensively by Christian ideas and practices. The wellspring of Christian idioms is, of course, Scripture; and we can fairly wonder if and how the growing population of nones might continue to engage Scripture and how this might change Scripture itself.

Over the past three years, as I have interviewed different kinds of nones across the United States—atheists, agnostics, secular humanists, spiritual-but-not-religious, spiritual and sundry other sorts who identify religiously as “nothing-in-particular” or “all of the above”—about their spiritual lives, I have been surprised again and again by the degree to which many of the unaffiliated continue to find Scripture—especially the parables of Jesus—spiritually meaningful and morally relevant. My conversations with nones have likewise revealed a somewhat different emphasis in their engagement with Scripture than is often seen among the churchgoing set. I will turn to that shortly. But first, it is worth considering how nones find their way to Scripture in the first place. After all, aren’t nones unrepentant unbelievers with Bill Maher-like hostility toward the church and all its practices? Not so fast.

Liminal Christianity

For all the (digital) ink spilled in the coverage of nones over the past couple of years, there are some complexities in the data on nones that are often missed in both public reporting and religious handwringing about the “decline of religion in America.” First, we should bear in mind that the majority of nones—nearly 70 percent in the 2012 Pew data—report that they believe in God, a higher power or a transcendent life force of one sort or another. A scant 3 percent of the population identify as atheists, the proportion of the unaffiliated that has grown the least since 2007.

Furthermore, given the longstanding Christianized culture of the United States, it should be no surprise that the majority of nones come from an at least nominally Christian background. Christianity is very much the framework for American “civil religion,” and its more or less subtle influences are found everywhere from sporting events to the “Real Housewives of New Jersey” to Lady Gaga videos. One would have to be more resolutely unplugged than unreligious to escape the circulation of Christian idioms in the culture. Given the Christian background (however slight) of many nones and Christianity’s continuing influence (however much it might be waning) in the wider culture, we find what might be described as “feral” Christians of a sort—undomesticated religiously by regular church experience but more than happy to lap from time to time from a saucer of spiritual sustenance set out in the churchyard. The “‘Nones’ on the Rise” survey stirred the anxieties of religious leaders when it reported that among the religiously unaffiliated only one in 10 is “looking for a religion that would be right for you.” But here the humble “a” in Pew’s survey question hits far above its typographic weight. No, most of the unaffiliated are not looking for a single religious group to call their spiritual home till kingdom come. But some, earlier research from Pew revealed, are engaging multiple religious traditions, often quite actively and with sustained congregational participation, without necessarily becoming members or identifying with that tradition.

I think of these nones as the “free-range faithful,” ambling all about the religious landscape to partake of its diverse offerings without seeking a single set of answers (or questions) or intending to settle in one spiritual place. The journey, as the saying goes, is the destination. Or, as a 33-year-old none from Waimea, Hawaii, told me, “There’s something about selecting one religion, one path, in the narrow way that I was brought up that seems so wrong, so unhelpful. The world is filled with wisdom. Human history is filled with wisdom. Why would I close myself off to that?”

Finally, religiously unaffiliated nones continue to interact with “somes,” as I have come to call the religiously affiliated, in everyday life as family members, friends, colleagues, customers, neighbors and so on. They gather over holiday dinners and at weddings, baptisms and funerals regardless of their differences in beliefs and practice. However muted by social norms that restrict the discussion of religious perspectives, nones and somes share many religious and spiritual experiences, many of them shaped by expressly Christian traditions.

The religious engagement of nones and somes unfolds, then, in the rich in-between of everyday life, in their shared spiritual experiences—however differently they might interpret them. This mutually influencing interaction creates a liminal religiosity that I consider the defining character of religion in the United States today. It is widely distributed rather than congregationally confined. It is relational and experiential, oriented toward being present to the spiritual based in the self, the other and the world instead of in structures of belief, belonging and behaving associated with traditional religions.

All this makes clear that the unaffiliated should hardly be considered wholly unreligious, even if their religiosity plays out largely beyond the doors of the neighborhood church. Further, we cannot assume that nones are any less steeped in Christian traditions than are Catholic or Protestant somes. Indeed, many of the more than 100 nones across the country I have interviewed over the past three years were deeply conversant with Christian traditions, especially Scripture. What is more, regardless of where they fell on an atheist-to-spiritual continuum, the nones who talked with me often retained considerable regard for the Christian Scriptures, especially the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament.

Good Samaritan or Golden Rule?

Nones’ regard for the Jesus of the Gospels has nothing to do with doctrinal beliefs about the divinity of Jesus, his status as the Son of God or the promised Messiah or his resurrection from the dead. For the nones for whom Jesus remains a meaningful spiritual figure, stories of his healings, his embrace of social outcasts and his critiques of religious hypocrisy and government-sponsored violence and injustice mark Jesus as a moral and spiritual exemplar.

A 30-year-old none who was raised in a conservative Presbyterian family in San Antonio, Tex., insisted: “Being an atheist doesn’t mean I hate Jesus. You have to love the whole good Samaritan story, or the way he stood up for the adultery woman. You don’t want to throw that away, because we need those stories.”

“When you let go of the idea that all of the so-called facts of the Bible have to be quote-unquote true with a capital T—when you just treat them like important ancient teachings like, I don’t know, The Odyssey,” a 55-year-old secular humanist from Boston told me, “then you can really get to understand why Jesus has been such an enduring spiritual figure. I mean, there is real truth in a lot of these stories—as there is in other ancient myths. I don’t have to either dismiss all of that because I’m a humanist or believe in Catholic doctrine on the virgin birth to have it make sense.”

A 28-year-old agnostic from Oakland, Calif., also shared with me her appreciation for the parable of the good Samaritan:

I just was always inspired by that story ever since I was little. You know, that we could be that way toward each other. It’s really the ideal for me of how people should behave. Not “do unto others,” but more like “do what they need when you find them on the road.” That still really matters to me even though I don’t think of myself as a “Christian” in a religious sense anymore. Spiritually, though, I guess I still have that in my personal beliefs—that this was what Jesus stood for and expected us to emulate.

Among the nones who talked with me, the person of Jesus and the Bible came up regularly when I asked about spiritual influences. These nones tended to highlight the humanity of Jesus and his social action over his divinity or his miracles. A 19-year-old none from Marietta, Ga., who was actively involved in efforts to develop clean water sources in drought-affected regions of Africa, put it this way: “I don’t need ‘magic trick Jesus.’ I’m not interested in that, and I’m not interested in ‘saving my soul.’ I’m not about saving myself. I want to save the world.”

In this regard, the nones I spoke with differed from the “Golden Rule Christians”—practicing believers across Christian denominations and ideological spectrums who take as the core Christian value the scriptural teaching that one should “do unto others as you would have them do to you” (Mt 7:12). The sociologist Nancy Ammerman, in Lived Religion in America, describes these mostly suburban, middle-class Christians in her research this way: Most important to Golden Rule Christians is care for relationships, doing good deeds, and looking for opportunities to provide care and comfort for people in need. Their goal is neither changing another’s beliefs nor changing the whole political system. They would like the world to be a bit better for their having inhabited it, but they harbor no dreams of grand revolutions…. The emphasis on relationships among Golden Rule Christians begins with care for friends, family, neighborhood, and congregation.

Professor Ammerman points out that Golden Rule Christians, not unlike good Samaritan nones, are largely uninterested in theological doctrines and debates, focusing instead on the practices of congregational communities. She suggests, however, that Golden Rule ethics practiced by congregationally affiliated Christians invite “a certain narrowing of the circle of care” that can prevent serious or sustained engagement with larger, more distant or distributed problems in the world. At the same time, this parochialism can also ensure a deeper level of care for the most vulnerable in a local community, like the elderly, the sick or children. Such practices, on the one hand, help to sustain existing congregational communities. On the other hand, Golden Rule Christians may hesitate to reach out much beyond their narrow circles of care.

The difference here is subtle but significant: Nones who engage Scripture tend to do so by way of inspiring cosmopolitan rather than communitarian action. The starting point for engagement is a recognition of otherness rather than a reinforcement of commonalities. It is about receptivity to difference rather than reinforcing community on the basis of similarity.

Now, this Good Samaritan ethic hardly requires a radical re-reading of Scripture in light of some new assessment of Christian values. But it does insist, as Pope Francis seems to be doing to great spiritual if not affiliational effect, that the realm of religion, faith, spirituality, moral action—all those things that used to be seen as the exclusive purview of institutional religions—begins outside the doors of the church rather than inside. Open the doors, nones seem to be saying in their reading of Scripture, and see all the people.

Ben Ghazi? Who is He?

It’s been a long slide down to this standoff between the two political parties. Time was when they actually worked together, but no more. It is not because people actively wish conflict; they really need to have common ground but the extremes of position are intractable.

On the Left is humanism, a widely held Worldview which starts and ends with the natural or materialistic world. Man is primarily an animal; he is born, lives and dies within the confines of this world, dominated by his physical needs and desires. God, if there is one at all, is far, far away and disinterested or un-involved.

Mankind is perceived to start out as a blank sheet on which culture writes and creates the citizen. Mankind is not good or bad, just perfectible by a healthy culture. Laws and the government must be constructed to manage the culture so that no one is hurt or corrupted. There is no real moral law which defines right and wrong but there is the concept of ethics, which requires individuals to live together in as much harmony as possible so that others are not damaged by the choices others make.

Since there is no afterlife (or possibly the idea that everyone goes to an undefined heaven, whatever that is) there is no God to whom we are accountable. We are under this system accountable only to each other. In order to manage and maintain such as society almost everything is done by a strong government and a group of bureaucrats or elites who control people, projects, the media and finances.

This rigidity results in determinism, because it is a closed system. There are many nations today who practice this; some are quite successful at it, but it does not allow for much movement forward; it promotes a status quo.  One such nation is Norway which is socialist, requiring one language (which is a good idea), and high taxes.  Norway is able to adhere to this political philosophy because it is largely a homogeneous society. Nations with diverse populations, the United States being the most diverse of all, cannot maintain a one size for all administration.

On the opposite side are the conservatives who believe, as did the authors of the US Constitution, that man is flawed, that He has passions and issues that must be controlled by accountability to not just God but also to one’s fellow man. Conservatives do not accept either the perfectibility of man or his complete depravity; mankind can move forward, both as individuals and as nations if it adheres to an agreed-upon moral law and a governing document, in our case the US Constitution.

Religious life is free largely because Man is perceived as a spiritual being; when the body dies there is another world; we are permanent members of eternity. Out of control passions cannot be allowed to flourish because that will eventually lead to the deterioration of the individual and the society or family around him.  Individuals must assume responsibility for their own actions, and groups assume responsibility for the actions of their government as well.

You cannot find more opposite positions and they can’t come together.  For example, a Liberal believes that he or she can, because it is legal, kill a child in the womb and have someone else pay for it through taxes; the Conservative believes that an individual’s actions are handled by that individual and no person should be required to pay for the murder of another person’s child.

We use to call these two groups Democrats and Republicans, terms we can’t use anymore because definitions are fluid and people can change sides so quickly. In addition, large groups of voters are uninformed about a host of issues relying instead on simple sentences to define their position while forgetting that all  important issues are complex.

In all this we find the voter does not have a clue what he/she is ding.  Like the girl who was asked her opinion on Benghazi? Who is he, she wanted to know? When a great body of voters are ignorant the entire process is damaged.

Today we have stalemate at the federal level. The conservatives have not conserved anything they value for 50 years other than their on sinecure while progressives have changed large swathes of social law and practice without zero progress in any area.

The tension between Right and Left is supposed to work, but only on the condition that the country is more important than party. It reminds me of the first World War when opposing armies hid behind trenches to spare themselves and lobbed armaments at the opposing trenches. They called it the Great War but in the end it was not great at all. And neither is this one.

2018 In the Valley of Decision

There are not two valleys of decision, but one and we are in it now in 2018. Everywhere there is conflict and people taking positions for and against. The decision is about standards, moral, political, social, and cultural. So we have standards of behavior or not, and what will happen if we continue to see decline in public and private morals and behavior?

A TV pundit says the Vice President is nuts for thinking he hears from God. Moses heard from God, Mary, Jesus’ mother, heard from God and Paul and many others we read about.  Why can’t our Vice President?

Millions watch this program (millions refuse to watch as well) but God does not step in; millions are also being asked to take sides. Will you go with your faith and claim to be a Christian who speaks to God or will you lose your nerve and agree with the TV personality who says that it’s nuts?  That is one valley of decision.  Where you go from here depends on your response. Your future is in your mouth.

Billy Graham dies and some of the vituperative remarks about him rocked me back on my heels.  No one talks about the dead like that no matter how much they dislike him.  It is not good manners, but they called him evil names.  I was slightly amused – as several said he was a money grubber but of all the evangelists on  TV his personal finances were more wisely managed by others.  He lived well, but he also spent corporate money on the ministry itself in great detail. Newspapers tried to string him up – and lost.

The same fate has dogged critics of President Donald Trump. Of all men he is most despised by news organizations. But we notice that his critics also seem to disappear like a mist into some backwater never to be heard from again. They talk about the “Trump curse” whereby friends and supporters of Trump are ostracized by their friends, including one outspoken Jewish lawyer, Alan Dershowitz.  In the midst of all this suddenly some of the very loudest voices find themselves fired from major posts as sexual harassers.  Clearly there was no connection between Trump and the harassment charges but you could virtually line up the critics like ten pins and watch them go down.

Fake news, fake accounts, fake advertising from Russians forever after our election to produce fake polls asking for rebellion against the new president.  It goes on and on.  We learn that young people have no clue about true American history; they cannot name parts of the US Constitution which is the governing document by which we agree to live together.

The valley of decision requires us to be cautious about every single word we hear. The moment we start to mature as adults is the very moment we realize we have been lied to. For the rest of us this is a valley of decision.  The common man is being asked to take sides.  For God it is always, will you be on God’s side. That is on the side of personal morals and accountability.

The arrogant and contemptuous way they often speak about celebrities who out shine them in every way are also the people who themselves who have few credentials.  I should keep a list and see how long they last.

Cable subscribers are leaving by the thousands; I believe the figure today is 1.5 million.  So the companies raise their prices? Does this make sense? And another thousand or two decide why be harangued at so they cut the cord.  Perhaps if news organization would start reporting the news instead of trying to make the news they’d have more viewers.  Meanwhile subscribers to private TV, such as CRTV and numerous evangelists, are on the rise. If you are not paying for cable you do have some money for someone else’s broadcast.

Some Christians believe that war is optional.  It is not.  Wars are started by people who think they can win them, and of course, they can if the opposition does not fight back. Americans have a fight on their hands to get their country back to the point where a 25 year old man at the grocery store does not f-bomb everyone in line for being slow. The war is at our very door.

Religion is Already Taught in Schools – by Default

It is increasingly foolish to believe that politics and religion do not mix.

Politics involves morals and the decision on what is right or wrong is involved with many if not all governmental business. The ability to tax is the ability to destroy. The ability to fund is the ability to increase, which explains why welfare programs always need more money – the process of giving out money has a way of increasing the need for more.  The same effect can be found in drug programs where programs themselves seem to increase the number of addicts. So how money is spent is a spiritual problem too.

Muslims think it is morally acceptable to kill a woman for wearing lipstick or dating a white American Christian. Muslims also supported incest for the past 1500 years. The fact that this is hidden from the public does not change reality.

ShariaLaw is antithetical to American individualism and basic justice. If they allow the teaching of Islam and not Christianity, they are by default teaching that murdering women and children for frivolous causes is acceptable.  No wonder kids don’t know what to believe! They are also teaching that it is acceptable to have one religion taught and not another. Kids pick up inconsistency very quickly.

Abortion is morally wrong; making it legal does not change the morals of any behavior. It is difficult to teach that murder is a sin or a crime if it is being done regularly by the state. That is a moral issue being taught by default. So moral issues are already in the curriculum as a result of political behavior.

Many states covet large profits gained from legalizing marijuana, but forget that there are many more criminal problems caused by the sale as well as social ills which require infusions of even more money. Colorado is now disgusted with its legalization program and in a quandary of how to get rid of it.  Once you start down these roads things get dicey. How can you preach or teach about addictions when  they are being publicly funded.  Another moral issue by default

Churches and ministers have been taught to leave politics alone but Jesus said go into all the world – not just our little church world.  They fear loss of members and income. But why not fear instead the loss of the Father’s approval? Doing God’s will has a price – and not doing God’s will has yet another price.

Part of the gospel is accountability for the culture.  If schools are bad – and most parents are not all that happy with their children’s education – then the church has a responsibility ti pray for a change in the schools, both of textbooks, which are often wrong, and the teachers who bring their own morals into the classroom.  Paying the teachers more does not affect the quality of the education.  If there are no restraints on what teachers actually teach, higher salaries simply mean you have more people applying for these jobs.

Children know that adults are frauds – how can you say choosing to have an abortion without a parent’s approval is acceptable, but choosing a public school is not allowed?

Parents say “Don’t join a gang” but when a group of marchers loots and vandalizes some businesses, no one charges them with crimes. Does that mean children believe committing crime is voluntary – you just need to be sure you are not going to get caught. Another moral message.

Society can’t survive without a base of morals on which to rest.  Anything else is lawlessness and evertually anarchy. The Church must step in.

A Nation of Murderers& the Felony Murder Rule for Abortion Funders

The Felony Murder Rule

Most citizens know nothing about the felony Murder Rule so here it is:

The rule of felony murder is a legal doctrine in some common law jurisdictions that broadens the crime of murder: when an offender kills (regardless of intent to kill) in the commission of a dangerous or enumerated crime (called a felony in some jurisdictions), he/she is guilty of murder.

Here is an example: If you go with a friend to steal cookies from the 7/11 and a murder occurs as you commit the crime, there you are, a co-respondent to the charge of murder.

To pay for an abortion makes you a co-respondent to murder

This describes our position before God is regards to abortion. Yes, abortion was made legal by our highest court, a court which is now disgusted with the rampant abuse of the option. But the Congress likes to fund abortions with tax money, so you, if you pay taxes, become guilty under the Laws of God for a murder. God’s public anger over the killing of babies goes back 4,000 years.

There is nothing that says abortion is any worse than any other sin; Jesus paid it all, but he only paid it for the people who recognize his sacrifice and accept its conditions. All sin is to be publicly is personally acknowledged. You do not get to blame anyone else for your sin.

Americans do not recognize their guilt

America needs to examine what our citizens have done from the viewpoint of God’s concerns.  We need a call for national repentance by allowing wholesale murder like this, and then thinking, wrongly, that we are not also guilty of financing this behavior. The laws of man and the laws of God continue whether we know them or not.

Abortion Funding is the Key

Pro-choice activists fear the the Supreme Court will eliminate abortion entirely.  That is a distant idea The real issue is the removal of all public funding for abortion which absolves the public from being “murders.”  To remove abortion funding from the national budget is a first step.  If individuals want an abortion, now determined to be legal, they should be required to pay for it themselves and not saddle other people with the results of their own behavior.

This is not a complete answer to the abortion problem, but it is a start.

Ad Hominum Ad Nauseum

Hatred is exhausting.  I don’t have any hatred heaped upon me personally, but if I read the mainstream media that is about all I get. Hatred, failure, revenge, hopelessness.  I thought my life was great, until I saw the news.  If it drains the life out of me and I avoid the news, what is happening to the people who bathe in these putrid waters every day, 24/7 online, on the TV, wherever you go?
God doesn’t have a one sided view of humankind, or our problems, or even our solutions. Jesus makes it clear that we are sinners needing help, but then he also gives us a solution and says, “Atta boy, you can do it.” There is no continuing heaping of guilt and shame on us for our failings, as though we would never get our heads up, fearing we’ll be shot down once again.
Negative emotions take a terrible toll on one’s health.  Jealousy, says the Bible is the rage of a man.  Can you imagine spending all your days being jealous, and enraged? Who would want to live in your house? The children would scatter if they saw you coming; your wife would join a canasta club and stay away. Your boss would dread your showing up at work to have you spread gloom and doom.
“The heart if man is evil above all things and desperately wicked,” said God in Jeremiah.  But it also says in Ezekiel, “A new heart and a new spirit will I put in you.” God wants us to recognize our frailties but also the cure through His provision.
The Media has placed itself under a curse by encouraging violence which keeps their 24/7 news cycle greased with pictures of evil doers, angry mobs, protests, vandalism, looting and well-financed marches. Rational leaders and citizens have little chance of being heard. Being good is not news to the news people who are competing for bloody video and advertising dollars.

 

God has a long list of the things He hates which modern Media feast upon, Such as  “Hate stirs up fights. But love erases all sins by forgiving them.”
Proverbs 10:12. Here is a short list of the things God calls an abomination: verse 17  haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18  a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, 19  a false witness who breathes out lies.
You always have the option to not watch.
Recently Bill O’Reilly, a famous political observer, said simply – Journalism is dead.  But good writing is not, and if the negativity of the press puts you off, there are many online sources which calmly seek to inform.

 

To Move Forward, Leave the Past Behind

Sometimes we forget that the Bible is a book for all aspects of life, not just those associated with spiritual living. 90 percent of our life is lived outside church. But the rules of success in God are identical to those for success in life, all 70 to 80 years of it.

Philippians 3:14 says this in the Phillips edition. The J. B. Phillips’ version is always very practical about daily living.

Quoting Paul. “…I do concentrate on this: I leave the past behind and with hands outstretched to whatever lies ahead I go straight for the goal…”

Note first there is a goal.  We all have them, but before we can realize a future goal we must release the past.  In fact the Past isn’t the Past until it is dealt with; and not someone else’s past, but ours. Constant focus on the past causes a person to atrophy, to become bitter and isolated.  Misery finds comfort with other miserable people.

There is no sadder example of this than the 18 month barrage against President Donald Trump by the media and people who are not happy with him as president. If they want real change there is always the next election but instead millions of tax dollars are spent dredging up his past; nothing seems to make any difference to the public, so the public vitriol goes no where.  One group wants me to pay “reparations” for some evils of previous generations.  I can’t pay them; I have to pay my light bill.  I am living in today not yesterday.

Living in the past of hatred, blame, accusation,  ascribing guilt, all laced with 4 letter cursing (cover the children’s ears) has an exhausted American TV viewer cutting the cable and turning on the radio.

One of the first rules of life is that you can’t make anyone do anything.  We have laws which require lawbreakers to be charged in court with crimes based on past behavior, but we have no way to make other people do right in the future –  no drug, no food, no law can force another person to act in any particular better way. All the charges, allegations, denunciations and invective have not changed the President one bit.  And it won’t affect change on your spouse, your children, or the co-workers on the job.

Expecting others to change simply won’t work.  If you want change, you start by changing yourself. And if we do not change, our lives become increasingly ineffective. How we spend our money, how we spend our time will determine whether we are living in the past or “pressing on to that high calling in Christ” that Paul refers to, a goal that is beyond ourselves and beyond the touch of others’ and their malaise.

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