O American Church, Where Art Thou?

Recently, Francis Chan (whose book “Crazy Love” we have been following recently), announced he was resigning as senior pastor of his church. As I viewed the video, there was something that stood out to me, and I probably wouldn’t have noticed it except for the carefulness in which it was expressed.

“There is no immorality, no discipline… no issues with the elders”. It had to come up. When a leader steps away from a ministry we have been trained by experience in past events to look for some sort of moral miss step. We almost brace ourselves as Christians, “another one bites the dust”.

What an indictment of our American Church life.

Once upon a time, understanding that a person was further following his calling was the usual response, as Chan is today. What happened to this? Why have we become so inured to the idea of corruption and moral failure that we jump to that conclusion, first… and must be reassured should it not follow the (now) modern norm of a “fallen leader”?

Why have we become accustomed to that?

Shhh! Don’t Talk About It

Adrian Warnock shared some of the points from Ed Stetzer’s post about research findings on the effects of pornography.

Would it make a difference to you if you knew more about these points?

  • Pornography is addictive, and neuroscientists are beginning to map the biological substrate of this addiction.
  • Married men who are involved in pornography feel less satisfied with their conjugal relations and less emotionally attached to their wives. Wives notice and are upset by the difference.

Or others? Given the stories about Tiger Woods which hit the news, and became the hot topic of the month, do you think there might be some of this influence at the beginning of his present troubles? Makes me wonder.

People don’t just throw away their marriage and reputation for nothing… there is a hook in there somewhere. Here is the research link, Ed’s pdf document

Health Care

While the Health care debate has been coalescing into something along the lines of a question of our patriotism, our compassion as humans, our survival as a nation even…. it bears some thought as to whether our ideals of morality ought always to be our guiding light as to our consensus on what is legal.

For a long time we have devolved into a morality and legality ruled by majority. We intervene in the law process by majority pressure as the rudder of the mainstream media has propelled it. It is not our system, but has become a competition to our system I think.

So this essay in the “Sense of Events” blog raised what I think are some questions worth pondering in our health care debate.

My question is this: Do the limits of the US Constitution actually mean anything here? Where in the text does it grant the Congress the power to take from you and me and give it, as charity, to others?

This is not a question about Congress’s power to tax. It is about its authority to use taxation for purposes not enumerated in the Constitution.

We already know Democrat Sen. Mark Warner’s answer: the Constitution doesn’t grant Congress the authority to pass the healthcare bill before it, but it doesn’t matter because Congress has trampled on the Constitution so long that there’s no reason to stop now.

I am confident that some persons would answer that the Constitution is a “living document.” As best as I can determine, what that means in practice is that its text and enumeration of powers can be ignored in order for the Congress to do what it wants. Occasionally the federal courts, including SCOTUS, hold this tendency in check, but not very well or often. And at least as often, the courts themselves have taken the “living document” approach rather liberally.

My answer is that the Congress has no such authority granted it. If indeed the state of health care is so dire that public monies must be used to pay directly for medical care of some people (and eventually everyone), then let Congress introduce a proposed amendment to the Constitution so the people and states may grant that authority. That Congress has already been paying for such care for decades doesn’t change the question or the principle at stake.

I might even support such an amendment provided there were appropriate checks and balances built into it. Neither the power granted to Congress nor its authority to tax for this or any other purpose can be unlimited.

Like it not, there is no authority in the Constitution giving Congress the power to spend public monies for charitable purpose

Does Morality Trump Legality?

It is ironic that the right now questions the left on this… albeit with different issues.

Going Tribal

As in real life, I am beginning to look for people online, in the blogosphere, that I can really fit in with. Good luck, right? I think there are lots of people like me who have been going tribal for awhile. Some of us are wandering nomads… keep moving on to find the big picture that holds a place just for us.

I have found myself on the fringes of Christian society for awhile so this isn’t a new experience for me, and having lived there I know that there are many like me. In fact, we keep hooking up, and then get disbursed. I used to be sure what we were looking for, but now I’m not.

So you can see why Whittles ideas on “Tribes” resonated with me. Going tribal happens when the bigger establishments break down for large numbers of people. When the promises are found false and the facade can no longer hold the hopes and the trust of the constituents. Then we break down as a nation and form tribes. We want the cohesive identity of a nation, but there is no longer the glue of mutually held ideals.

So we search for the smaller groups … and band together to build community on the smaller scale.

This is a weaker and less consistent way to work as a group, so the move is always for finding consensus that we can live with, in alliances. That is a tentative and precarious set of outcomes. Enough that it makes you wonder how stable nations even come about. The tribe you know, you have common interests and approach to life. The Civitas is easy to understand, not needing verbalization.

And perhaps that is where the glue of the nation becomes compromised…when something interferes with the verbal reiteration within the group and to the new generations and to the newcomers.

We are afraid to say what our moral ideals are, what our views of good and bad and what constitutes duty. We are easily intimidated by those who wish to take over the forums and dictate the direction. We misunderstand that when we leave a void through accommodation of those dictates, the vacuum gets filled with the more aggressive and often less civilized. Naturally, because that is the constituency of those who do not abide by concern for others, a learned trait. The space must be filled with something. And that is what is being forgotten in the eagerness to appear tolerant and accommodating. There is a loss of real civility when appearances only are what count. The original hypocrisy.

We are a people of hesitancy and fear, of unsure beliefs and vacillating actions… and that is why we break down into tribes… to preserve what little we can from antagonistic forces, and from natural entropy.

And this is the nature of the same culture war which has been going on for quite sometime, under different semantical venues, and widely varying issues.

But catastrophe does not suddenly make us become what we are, or herd us into tribal groups… it only unmasks the veneers of civilized image and exposes the substantial character beneath. Do we value life, of others as well as ourselves? Do we have circumstances in which we sacrifice for the good of the group… or do we only value our own self-interest? Do we act in ways commensurate with the trust given us? Do we have sense of duty? Do we have charity and compassion, or are we only about the kleig lights and the prestige in the pride of place….? What makes our moral consensus and why are large parts of our populace outside the fence? Why are the tribal initiations so hard to accomplish… some on basis that no man can accommodate except by fate of birth?

I find that there is too much subjective rejection. If I find that fellow Christian women are rejecting me … how can I find something larger, when I ought to have a place in that group rather easily? Why are we making acceptance so hard?

Why will someone deny food and water to another on the basis of a car’s bumper sticker? Why will we deny dialog based on political view, escalating the hostilities to ever higher decibels until we drown, literally drown, out those not within our tribe? Or useful to our tribe?

We need to be both harsher and more accepting. We need to be more accepting in the real welcome within the group. We need to be harsher in making the outlines of the group quite clear and the entrance quite well marked and established.

And Christians need to start setting examples of exactly how that looks.

Moral Thresholds

slacktivist: Threshholds

Defenders of this practice point out that A) these prisoners are suspected of being very, very bad people; and B) America’s torture regime is nowhere near as widespread, systematic or brutal as the worst examples of such regimes. Point A is factually suspect, but even if 100 percent true, irrelevant. I’ll get back to that point in a future post. I want here to deal mainly with point B.

In an earlier post, I described this as the “NABA defense” — Not As Bad As. The NABA defense is, for what it’s worth, arithmetically accurate. The American prison camps in Guantanamo, Bagram, Afghanistan and elsewhere are, in fact, not as vast or as brutal as Stalin’s gulags. The American camps are also Not As Bad As the contemporary torture facilities that the U.S. occasionally subcontracts in places like Uzbekistan.

But such comparisons are beside the point. The threshhold has been crossed and conventional arithmetic no longer applies. The only relevant and meaningful comparison is between those regimes that countenance torture and those that do not. Once a nation crosses that line any difference between it and other torture regimes is inconsequential in comparison to the difference between it and those nations which have refused to cross that threshhold.

The NABA defense correctly insists that Guantanamo is different in degree from Stalin’s gulag. It is different in degree, but not in kind. And that difference of kind is the only difference that matters. America has entered the wrong category. We have crossed a threshhold.

This quote is a good example of the view of the Left, or at least the view on this matter of people in protest, who agree in principle with Durbin.

It contains both the logic and the illustration of something that I was discussing in earlier posts. There is a fundamental difference in the concept of what Americas Civitas code consists of. This is a purely moral argument, which makes its point well- which is why I want to look at it.

What I am wondering at this juncture is not whether the Left ever felt that America had never engaged in such conduct, but whether they had expected that this would be the code which they embraced and could institute. And are extremely angry that it is broached.

I am not trying to rationalize American policy here. Please understand that. I want to look at why there is true rage on the Left. I don’t think this is simply politics, as some have surmised. I think there is a conflict between the sense of ethical conduct on the Right and on the Left. It is a clash of separate ideals of Civitas, perhaps aided by the fact that we have not fought an outright declared war since WW2. And during that time there has been much change in our moral foundations.

From reading this post, I sense that there is an accepted premise that Americans do not use torture under any circumstance. Does this jive with our history in war? Where does this ideal come from?

“It is different in degree, but not in kind. ”

I must look at this, and there is a point there. My question would be whether we can wage any act of war and not have something “in kind”? Is this why the outrage at the fact that there are some civilian casualties? Were there to be none?

I am not sure of what the expectations are in dealing with continued aggression by terrorist organizations or by Muslims in the Sudan, or any tyrant or oppressor. Are we viewing some impossible perfection standard?

I do not like the descriptions of the report from Guantanamo. I admit it. But I hate the descriptions of lawless terrorism and I hate the results of the suicide bombers as well.

It is all of the utmost ugliness and tragedy.

What is the expectation in all this? Because more often than not it sounds like the children in the market place”We’re piping the tune, why don’t you dance? We’re playing a dirge now, why don’t you mourn?”

Plugging In…To the Euthanasia Issue

Because there is so much discussion surrounding the Schiavo case, I felt that some further clarification of thought would be useful.

I’ve read comments from people I respect, and some from those I am indifferent to, which speak of the “passive euthanasia” or “right to die”, and similar phrases. There are often personal anecdotes of life experiences which explain their reasoning for a conviction or quandary that the discussion of Terri Schiavo is engendering.

The fear of unduly prolonging life is vibrating through many of them. This is a real concern that was last in the public eye in the Karen Quinlan case. There are so many complicating factors since that case. Ethical and economic. We should move cautiously and deliberately forward in forging out our social policies.

I, too, have personal experience with this type of situation, and with my own ambivilance. I feel strongly that what we want to address is medical procedure rights, not a right to die. If people are dying and medical procedures are prolonging that, then the DNR, ‘do not resusitate’, or the waiving of those procedures ought to be in the hands of the patient or their designated proxy.

I don’t think that we should be writing laws that grant the taking of life, for whatever medical reason, to the end that we are institutionalizing euthanasia. That is exactly the type of thing that has led to the Schiavo travesty.

The only thing comparable is criminal execution, which is why it is so horrific to see it used on innocent people. What did Terri do to deserve the deliberate termination of her life in an inhumane way? She survived, but not to the levels of that many in our society have set as acceptable. Many of us are questioning the desiribility of that criteria.

My personal experience was recently, last year, in the exercise of the medical power of attorney for my father. His wish, officially was for DNR, but before my role was activated he had made more than one choice for life prolonging procedures, including help with respiration. My father was one of those individuals who give completely opposing messages. You had to know him well to guess at what his true wishes were- and then it still was a guess.

I personally felt the importance of his life choices at the end included the chance to say goodbyes to those who meant most to him: his brothers and sisters, and his children and grandchildren. All had their opportunity, and it appeared to make a great deal of difference in his facing his end.

The weight of making choices for your loved one when they can no longer make it for themselves is immense. The opinions of doctors are often conflicting. It is hard to know who to listen to. There are factors that institutional medicine deals with that have little to do with comfort or with what is best for the patient. It is difficult to impossible to know when those things are activated in a case. So the best thing, in my personal opinion, is that we stick with patients rights to make choices in procedures, not put power to make the call for life and death into institutional or the courts hands. It is a matter of placing your proxy where you most trust it will abide by your wishes.

In spite of this, we see that Terri’s husband is primary in obstructing her care.

It appears difficult to see how Terri’s ordeal could have been circumvented by reasonably constructed law. The laws we have can only be constructed for reasonable situations, and tests in place for the unreasonable aberrations. As one blogger pointed out, what sane judge allows a husband, who has already moved on with making another family and seems to have no other interest in his wife’s welfare than to inherit her estate, make the life and death request and decision? There should be valid tests in place, to flag and divert that sort of injustice.

Not everyone will get Congress to intervene in their situation. Now is the time to place safeguards for personal rights and delinate some of the boundaries for the medical and judicial profession.

Homosexual Marriage

The topic is not something I would normally choose. I don’t like to go bulldozing in where the emotional payload is so high that little of worth gets said.

but…here I am… thanks to Parablemania, the blog.

I just can’t let it go, not when “Homosexuality has the same standing as abomination as worshipping other gods. The freedom to do the latter is a first amendment right. Immoral but legal.” is something that is being argued.

First. The abomination things are both argued from what the Bible teaches, and then put into the secular legislating platform. And this is the gist of the argument being made: that morality should not be legislated.

Now regardless of my own fully verbalized opinion on this ( I tend to be against highly legislating behaviors), the fact is that we do legislate morality. That is part of what the law does…. otherwise many laws would simply go away, if it were only a matter of taxes and of infrastructures. A large part of law is in the moral category.

I think the mistake we make is when we mix the base for that law in both the religious and secular.

We may be personally informed by our religion, but we can’t make the case to society on that basis. And we shouldn’t make the case to each other as Christians this way. It confuses things on a subject that is already very confused.

For example, how do we really define marriage in our society? I don’t think that has been established. How do we make laws on this if we keep going on the unspoken traditional definition? The way it is going now, I suppose, with lots of emotional posturing, and passionately driven vested interest.

So what if shrimp was proscribed by the Torah? Jews don’t demand that the food supply be changed, they simply set up their Kosher viaduct for eating the way they believe they should eat. Sensible.

But, excuse the pun, Marriage is whole different kettle of fish.
Continue reading Homosexual Marriage