Prayer requests?

February 8, 2017 · Posted in Personal stuff · Comment 

This will be more of a faith exercise than anything political.

As I get deeper and deeper into my faith, I find that a lot of people request prayers for things, which I think is perfectly fine. I believe that God answers all prayers; however, this comes with the caveat that you may not necessarily like the answer. Setbacks will occur in life in order to test our faith.

But something we stress at our church and in our small group study* (which is actually where I’m at as this posts) is that prayers need to be made with authority. I can’t pray for something and believe it will occur on my own, but with God all things are possible. (Not just a reference to Matthew 19:26, but the motto of my home state.) So we end our prayers with an invocation of Jesus’s name. The phrase I would use in writing this out (since I text out the prayer request reminders for small group) goes something like “this I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

You may also know I am writing a book on the TEA Party, which has nothing to do with prayer or faith except that I pray it sells well and have faith it will then spread the message I’m writing on to a wider audience. But one facet of the TEA Party’s rise was the introduction of the Twitter hashtag #TCOT (for Top Conservatives on Twitter), which made it easy to find relevant information for those who were conservatives looking for worthy reading or messages to pass along. Since then, we’ve often heard about hashtags as shorthand for movements, like #MAGA for Donald Trump supporters. (It stands for “Make America Great Again,” Trump’s slogan.)

So it dawned on me: if we want to share our prayers and give them authority, perhaps a hashtag of our own would be good for collecting and sharing. It’s a little clunky, but if you take the first letters in my phrase you have #TIPIJNA. I think it’s a good idea if we can somehow make it viral, so you would write something like this on social media.

I give thanks to You, Lord, that we have a small group for prayer and fellowship each week, and pray that more parents come to our small group to learn for themselves about raising Godly children in a lost and dying world. #TIPIJNA

I think I went over 140 characters there, but you get the idea. Give it a try. It may be our little secret for awhile, but it can’t hurt and may help.

__________

* Instead of doing the usual Bible study as the rest of our church is doing on the Book of Colossians, as parents of teens in our church youth group our small group (led by our youth pastor) is studying and discussing the parenting book Shepherding A Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp. I’m sure we will return to the next small group study, whatever it is, since over the spring and fall we tackled the Books of James and Philippians. (In summer we do “Picnic on the Go,” which features more fellowship and testimony, instead of a formal study.)

If you live in the Salisbury area, let me know and I can give you the information.

God and the Trump inauguration

January 22, 2017 · Posted in Cathy Keim, Culture and Politics, National politics, Politics · 1 Comment 

By Cathy Keim

I watched some portions of the Trump inauguration ceremony when I had a minute. I don’t remember ever watching an inauguration prior to this one, since I have never been much of a television fan.

The following piece covers some thoughts on what I saw. I acknowledge that I caught rather random moments – so I may have missed some important incidents – but here we go.

When I first turned on the coverage, I saw Rabbi Hier mention Jerusalem which was incendiary since the Palestinians refuse to acknowledge that the Jews have any right to Jerusalem.

Next Franklin Graham read from 1 Timothy 2:

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people - for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. (NIV)

His choice of this scripture which clearly states that there is one God and one mediator, Christ Jesus, and his ending his prayer “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” was a definite stand for historic Christianity and not the civil religion that is often present at political functions.  If he had been wanting to promote the civil religion, he would have stopped with just verses 1 and 2.

There were six pastors scheduled to pray which is more than the usual number.  The New York Times reports:

Six religious leaders - including a rabbi, a cardinal, and a diverse group of Protestant preachers — will participate, more than for any previous president, said Jim Bendat, an author and historian of inaugural ceremonies. Each will have 60 to 90 seconds to offer a reading or lead a prayer.

“Some inaugurations have had just one, others have had two or three covering different religions, but this is a record,” Mr. Bendat said.

It turns out that the six religious leaders were comprised of a Jew, a Catholic, a woman, a Hispanic, a Black, and an evangelical.  While this points to an effort being made to be inclusive towards the Judeo-Christian portion of the country, there was no effort made to include a Muslim, a Hindu, a Sikh, a Buddhist or a hat tip to atheists and their proclamation of no faith.

Later I caught a few minutes of the lunch reception and heard the Senate Chaplain, Dr. Barry C. Black, say the blessing.  He ended the prayer with “our sovereign God” which works for a civil religion blessing, since any of several religions could agree that “their” god is sovereign.

There is plenty of trouble whenever religion enters the picture.  For example, this opinion piece that ran prior to the inauguration in which Michael Horton, a theology professor at Westminster Seminary California, laments that Trump’s choice of pastors includes several that adhere to the “prosperity gospel”.  Horton states:

Inaugurations are always curious rituals of American civil religion. It would not be surprising to see a non-Christian religious leader participating. But what’s problematic for me as an evangelical is how Trump’s ceremony is helping to mainstream this heretical movement.

The prosperity gospel — the idea that God dispenses material wealth and health based on what we “decree” – is not just fluff. It’s also not just another branch of Pentecostalism, a tradition that emphasizes the continuation of the gifts of healing, prophecy and tongues. It’s another religion.

Horton continues with an informative stroll through the history and personalities which led to the “prosperity gospel,” so I encourage you to read the whole article.  Horton then concludes:

Thanks to the First Amendment, Christian orthodoxy has never been a test for public office. But it is striking that Trump has surrounded himself with cadre of prosperity evangelists who cheerfully attack basic Christian doctrines. The focus of this unity is a gospel that is about as diametrically opposed to the biblical one as you can imagine.

Of course, the other choice for president, Hillary Clinton, is not known for her devotion to Christ either, so the options were limited for those Americans who were looking to vote for a godly president.

Next I checked out the pre-inauguration church service that the president elect traditionally attends on the morning of Inauguration Day. The Washington Post reports:

The sermon was delivered by Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, who compared Trump to the story of the biblical leader Nehemiah who helped rebuild the city of Jerusalem and its walls after the people of Judah had been exiled from the land of Israel.

Israel had been in bondage for decades, Jeffress explained, and the infrastructure of the country was in shambles, and God did not choose a politician or a priest but chose a builder instead. The first step of rebuilding the nation, Jeffress said, was the building of a wall around Jerusalem to protect its citizens from enemy attack.

“You see, God is not against building walls,” Jeffress said in his sermon at St. John’s Episcopal Church in D.C.

Jeffress concluded his sermon with the observation that President-elect Trump had many natural talents:

But the challenges facing our nation are so great that it will take more than natural ability to meet them. We need God’s supernatural power.

The good news is that the same God who empowered Nehemiah nearly 2500 years ago is available to every one of us today who is willing to humble himself and ask for His help.

God says in Psalm 50:15 “Call upon Me in the day of trouble I shall rescue you and you will honor Me.”

By all accounts, President Trump is an extremely confident person, but the burdens of the presidency may bring him to humble himself and to ask for God’s help.

The key policy moment of the inauguration came in President Trump’s speech which was laced with biblical language and references.  Sarah Pulliam Bailey reports in the Washington Post that:

President Trump’s inaugural address was infused with religious language, reflecting a rhetorical shift from the nation’s new leader. His previous speeches have not usually referred to the Bible or God.

The speech was about as subtle as a blow to the face. He excoriated the political elites who have prospered while regular Americans have suffered. Since he was standing in front of a sea of political elites, including the former president and Trump’s recently vanquished challenger, Hillary Clinton, it was an antagonistic move, rather than a political love fest evoking the greatness of America.

Overall, I felt that there was an outpouring of Christian sentiment in the inaugural events.  As mentioned, it did not meet with Christian orthodoxy on all points, but it was a definite moving away from the delusional inclusiveness of the Obama years. It pointed to an administration that was going to be unafraid to declare that our culture was based on Judeo-Christian beliefs and even more importantly, that we should continue to adhere to our Judeo-Christian foundation rather than saying that all religions are equal. That is a striking reversal from the previous administration which blithely swept in gay marriage and transgenderism, ignoring the concerns of Christians.

The opening day set the stage for further action by the Trump Administration. I am confident that the political elites will not take this lying down. The battle is enjoined.

Can there be reconciliation between “Deplorables” and the pure of heart? More thoughts.

December 18, 2016 · Posted in Cathy Keim, Culture and Politics · Comments Off 

By Cathy Keim

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to men.  Luke 2:13-14 (KJV)

Editor’s note: Cathy began her series on reconciliation here.

The holiday season that begins with Thanksgiving, continues with Christmas, and concludes with New Year’s Day is always a difficult time for many who have troubled family relationships. The desire to come together for a meal and to remember the good old days is often marred by contentious jabs and barbed comments by cantankerous relatives.

This year seems to be one of the most difficult of recent memory due to the election of Donald Trump. I keep using the designated terms “deplorables” and pure of heart because the names capture the essence of how one side of the country views the situation and it behooves the other side to grapple with what this means for us and for them.

I started referring to progressives as pure of heart many years ago after a relative told me in all sincerity that she was glad that she didn’t go to bed at night happy that children were starving like I did. I was shocked that this relative who knew me would imply that I happily tucked myself in each night while chortling with glee that children were starving. That was the first time that I realized how deep the divide was between us.

The pure of heart are sure that they are good and that their motives and deeds are correct. They are also sure that anyone that doesn’t agree with them is evil and can only act in wicked self-interest. Because they are pure of heart, they don’t have to do any good deeds. A simple retweet or #hashtag affirming sympathy with the right cause or a Facebook post are sufficient to prove their good standing with the crowd. Despite any good deeds that the deplorables may perform, those who are certain of their purity believe the milk of human kindness is totally lacking from their deplorable hearts. Progressives are convinced the other side doesn’t really mean their acts of kindness, but are just putting on a show for public approval.

The enemy is all around them as evidenced by the bitter clingers and deplorables that refuse to go away. They may ask just who these people are, and the answer is that they are normal Americans, many of whom are Christians. Those folks are busy working, raising their families, going to church, helping in their communities, and minding their own business.

Our country has been purposely fragmented into small, easily manipulated groups based on skin color, gender, sexual orientation, and ethnicity. Christianity transcends all those designations and sets people free to be who they are: individuals created in the image of God with inherent worth due to that very fact. Our Founding Fathers understood that. I keep returning to this basic truth because it is the foundation of our country. Without grasping that truth, our country doesn’t have a way out of our present predicament.

The deplorables and bitter clingers are patriots that understand that America is not built upon progressive ideas and that the progressive Utopian schemes will end in disaster as every utopian scheme always has.

Remember that the deplorables did not make a show of wailing and gnashing their teeth when Barack Obama was elected president. I walked around in a daze for a week after the 2012 election because I could not believe that he had been re-elected, but we didn’t riot. We just continued working, raising our families, going to church, and living our lives. There was a lot of concern for the damage that another four years of progressive policies would cause, but there was no cancellation of classes or public mourning.

Now that the shoe is on the other foot, the response is noticeably magnified. For example, the aftermath of the 2016 election included articles to help us survive Thanksgiving with our families, with helpful tips like this one:

Dr. (David) Nicholson, a clinical and consulting psychologist in Texas, gives a lot of good tips on how to deal with family members on Thanksgiving Day.

“We love each other more than we love our own policies and candidate,” Nicholson said. “Or at least we should.”

This is good advice to keep the family peace when the relatives gather for the holidays. But how do we extend the peacemaking to our extended family, our fellow citizens? I feared for our country for the last eight years as I watched policy after policy enacted without Congressional authority, as the debt ballooned, and our family values were attacked.

Now we have a change of administration coming and a promised change of direction. None of us knows how this change will turn out. It may look like something we have hoped for or it may not, but we are all along for the ride. Unlike the last transition, this one is accompanied with a lot of complaining, moaning, and outright assaults on the election process and the Electoral College. It is not clear that the pure of heart love their fellow citizens and their country more than they love their own policies and candidate.

Sadly, I do not think that the pure of heart are going to decide to buck up and give the new administration a chance to implement their policies. The past efforts to cajole and bribe the progressives have not worked. This time I am thinking that it will be best to just ignore them as you would ignore a two-year old child that is having a tantrum. Just make sure they are safe and leave them there until they realize that the tantrum is not having the desired result.

The federal government needs to be reined in and that is going to cause a lot of pain and anguish. It will be a fight. If any course correction is achieved, it will only be because a lot of tough love is administered by the new leadership. Tough love is painful for the child, but it is possibly even harder on the parent who must demand the correct actions from the child. Parents want their children to be happy. Even when you know that you must remain firm, the wailing and tears tear at your heart.

Get ready, America.  The tears and wailing of the pure of heart are only going to increase before the desired result can be achieved. The deplorables must take the role of the parent and make the necessary hard decisions to bring our nation back from the brink.  

Can there be reconciliation between “Deplorables” and the pure of heart?

By Cathy Keim 

Congratulations to Michael for eleven years of monoblogue!  I am truly in awe of his ability to write on a variety of topics while working fulltime, writing for other venues, and squeezing in some time with his family.

I have been missing in action due to other responsibilities, but I hope to jump back in occasionally to comment on events now that my calendar has cleared a bit.

Today’s topic that got me fired up is the two-pronged attack on the “deplorables” of America.

First, Chip and Joanna Gaines of reality TV fame with their popular show Fixer Upper are under siege for attending a church where the pastor preaches the Bible!

My guess is that Chip and Joanna will do just fine, no matter what the totalitarian progressives throw at them.  I think that they will count the cost and then pay the price to continue serving Christ as they see fit even if it means losing their TV show.

On an individual level, we are all called to follow God first.  However, I do not believe that this means that persecuting the Gaines family for their religious beliefs should be ignored by the rest of us.  Indeed, the progressive bullies will only up their assault on Christians if they get away with this power play.

Since we live in a republic and as citizens have the right to help shape our public policies, then it is our duty to speak up for just and equitable treatment of all.  There is no evidence that the Chip and Joanna Gaines have been unjust to anybody.

The second attack on normal Americans is the insult that anybody that didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton must be a racist hater.  The Clinton campaign staff accused the Trump campaign staff of winning by appealing to racists while they participated in a ”Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics discussion that was intended to record history by drawing out the internal deliberations of both campaigns.”

One example of the bitterness, as expressed by Clinton advisers Jennifer Palmieri and Karen Finney to Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway and adviser David Bossie:

“Are you going look me in the face and say I provided a platform for white supremacists?” Kellyanne Conway asked incredulously. Both Palmieri and Finney nodded and said “yes.”

“I would rather lose than win the way you did,” Palmieri said.

“You guys are pathetic,” Trump adviser David Bossie replied, accusing them of a smear campaign against Bannon.

(Editor’s note: Bossie is also the National Committeeman for Maryland’s Republican Party.)

I understand that many of the progressives have so imbibed their own poison that they really do believe that most of America is inhabited by racist white people.  It was completely shocking to hear one of the Bernie Sanders’ campaign staffers, Symone Sanders, share that the Trump voters longed for the days of slavery to return when they say, “Make America Great Again!”

This is the hard part to comprehend.  About half of our nation really and truly believes that the other half is composed of horrible, morally corrupt people that long for white supremacy to rule the country. One can only hope that this continued outrageous shouting of racism will lose it power over the populace when no internment camps pop up.

The Left always wants to divide us.  They do not see individual people, but only cogs in a wheel to be manipulated by the government for the good of all (which actually means for the good of the elite.)  This is the direct opposite to how our Founding Fathers viewed the people of the United States: the people were to be in control of the government.

The rise of the TEA Party was a response to the out of control government.  People were motivated by the sheer volume of government excesses to work to stop them.

The spiraling federal debt, the collapse of the housing market, the takeover of health care, the overregulation of businesses, and a myriad of other governmental excesses led people to stand up and say no more!  While the eight-year reign of executive overreach by President Obama seemed to say that the TEA Party was impotent, it actually led to the collapse of the Democrat party.

President Obama set the tone for persecuting Americans that didn’t agree with his policies.  The IRS abused its power by going after opponents of Obama.  The IRS denied tax exempt status to conservative groups and audited opponents of the Obama administration.  The Justice Department refused to prosecute voter intimidation charges in Philadelphia because the accused were black.  The government picked winners and losers in the corporate world by giving huge loans to Solyndra only to see them go belly up.  The message was clear:  you will be rewarded if you do what the government wants and you will be punished if you don’t.

It is terrifying to have your government come after you for not supporting the desired policies. Take the case of Roger Pielke Jr., a professor whose research on climate change crossed the politically correct gospel of climate change.  Pielke has been harassed by an assortment of left wing groups funded by billionaires, by politicians, and finally by the president’s science advisor, John Holdren, after Pielke’s testimony before Congress didn’t support Mr. Holdren’s testimony.

Mr. Holdren followed up by posting a strange essay, of nearly 3,000 words, on the White House website under the heading, “An Analysis of Statements by Roger Pielke Jr.,” where it remains today.

This is stunning that a private citizen who engages in the public forum in his area of expertise should be pilloried by the White House.  Fortunately for Pielke - who notes that he indeed believes in anthropogenic climate change, but doesn’t think the evidence is there to support the theory that it has increased the amount or intensity of catastrophic weather events - he has tenure and the backing of his university.  Not all citizens are so lucky.

We should not be seeing Americans as black or Hispanic or white.  We should not be calling each other climate deniers, deplorables, and white supremacists without any evidence to back the claim.  We should be viewing all Americans as people created in the image of God with unalienable rights given by God, not by the government.

The progressives’ effort to delegitimize everyone who doesn’t believe exactly as they do will not end well for this country.  They are so sure that their hearts are pure, but at the same time they are absolutely convinced that the rest of us are black-hearted scum that do not deserve to live.  It is hard to see a path to reconciliation for the country when the opposition is that entrenched in their own reality.

I think that I feel pity for the people that are trapped in the world of their own making that is now imploding around them.  They didn’t see it coming.  All that they have been taught and have heard in their echo chambers of the media, academia, and popular culture has melted away on election night.  My pity is tempered by the realization that they are still quite dangerous and that they consider me and my Christian faith to be contemptible.

May God have mercy on our country and bring healing to us because I do not see any other way to mend the rifts between our citizens.

Earning my presidential vote: social issues

The next step in my journey to determining my vote is a discussion of those dreaded social issues; you know, the ones that a group in the Republican Party keep trying to sweep under the rug because they fret about losing moderate voters. Well, if voters are moderate they are most likely going to vote for Democrats anyway because to be moderate is to be unprincipled – and Democrats seem to lack principle except in one instance: acquiring political power at the expense of liberty.

(By the way, if you are joining me here, this is the fourth part of the series. You’d be well-served to work through from the first part. I can wait.)

So here are the parameters I’m looking for, in five or fewer bullet points:

  • Abortion should not be the law of the land despite what the Supreme Court says – a proper reading of the Constitution would maintain states retain the right to restrict it as they wish. The next President should work to overturn the incorrectly decided Roe v. Wade decision, which hopefully will be looked at by future generations with the disdain the Dred Scott decision is today. No funding for Planned Parenthood and preservation of the Hyde Amendment. Taxpayers shouldn’t pay for abortions, nor should insurers be compelled to cover them.
  • The same goes for so-called same-sex “marriage.” I’m fine with the legality of civil unions, but once again the SCOTUS whiffed on Obergefell. It’s properly a state-level issue, too.
  • By the same token, religious conscience should be protected. Just because 2 Timothy 3:12 advises Christians that they will face persecution doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have a President who fights on our side.
  • Guys use the guys room, ladies use the ladies. God gave us a particular set of plumbing and that should be the guide. However, I will say that a truly transgender person really isn’t the problem because they have to use a private stall wherever they go – so no one would ever really know. Maybe “don’t ask, don’t tell” should be the guide for that group.
  • I don’t have a problem with a state legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana. It’s their right.

This category is worth eight points – not quite to the deal-breaker stage yet, but it may begin to separate the field. And no apologies.

Castle: “Well, I’m a Christian, so I’m opposed to (same-sex ‘marriage.’) I don’t think it exists, because it violates God’s law. But as president, I don’t think it’s any of government’s business. I want to see the government out of the marriage business altogether.”

As for same sex marriage, I have said that I do not believe in it or that it even exists. If I were President and two members of the same sex came to me and said we’re married and here’s a priest, a minister, and a civil magistrate who will attest to that, I would say you are not married because God defines marriage quite clearly in his holy word and you do not meet that definition. However, as President it is irrelevant to me because your relationship is none of my business. It is an abuse of political power to require people to buy a license from the government for permission to engage in whatever relationship they choose. Since there would be no governmental financial advantage to this relationship it is not a governmental concern. (interview with Peter Gemma)

Gender-neutral bathrooms “violate every sense of privacy and decency.”

“Unlike Hillary Clinton who recently said, ‘unborn persons have no constitutional rights’, I know that all ‘persons’ have the right to life and both the 5th and 14th amendments confirm that position. I also know, as does Mrs. Clinton in the deep recesses of her heart, that those waiting in their mother’s womb to be born are in fact persons.

There are many things that a Constitutional President could do about abortion but I will give you a couple.

1. Veto and refuse to spend every penny of funding for Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.

2. Recommend to Congress, and work to convince Congress, to take away the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction over such matters.”

Would not prosecute mothers who abort child, but would prosecute the abortionists.

Would not tell a baker to bake a cake for a same-sex ceremony if their views conflict. (Iron Sharpens Iron radio show)

Hedges: Those who distribute alcohol/drugs should be responsible for effects on those served (dram shop laws). But don’t prosecute individual drug users. Would allow medical marijuana, although many party members would disagree.

A prohibition on gambling, including state lotteries as they are a regressive tax.

Not all religions should be equally prohibited. ACLU is backward: U.S. is nation of all religions, not no religion.

Family is basis for society.

“I believe all lives matter.” Abortions since 1973 are “absolute travesty.” (VP candidate Bill Bayes)

“We deplore the recent decision of the U.S. Supreme Court on same-sex marriage as an abomination to God. We call for a constitutional amendment, which shall read as follows: ‘Marriage is, historically, an Institution and Sacrament of the Church. Only the Church shall decide what qualifies as a ‘marriage.’ For the purpose of two individuals who need only legal protection, such as for inheritance and for power of attorney one for the other, the state may license Civil Unions.’” (party platform)

Voluntary prayer and other religious activities shall not be prohibited in schools and public spaces. (party platform)

“We consider abortion to be morally repugnant. We will implement policies to minimize the number of abortions without infringing on the doctor/patient relationship and without thrusting government into family decisions about child rearing. Abortion procedures should not be funded by government.” (party platform)

Hoefling: (T)he God-given, unalienable right to life of every innocent person, from biological inception or creation to natural death, be protected everywhere within every state, territory and jurisdiction of the United States of America; that every officer of the judicial, legislative and executive departments, at every level and in every branch, is required to use all lawful means to protect every innocent life within their jurisdictions; and that we will henceforth deem failure to carry out this supreme sworn duty to be cause for removal from public office via impeachment or recall, or by statutory or electoral means, notwithstanding any law passed by any legislative body within the United States, or the decision of any court, or the decree of any executive officer, at any level of governance, to the contrary. (party platform)

We seek the passage of a Federal Marriage Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and oppose all attempts everywhere to redefine marriage as being anything but what it has always been: the union of one man and one woman. Since the natural family is the basic God-given institution of our civilization, and the nursery of our future, it must be protected from all who would destroy it. (party platform)

Johnson: Protect Religious Freedom. Enforce Common Sense Non-discrimiation Laws.

Gov. Gary Johnson will zealously defend the Constitution of the United States and all of its amendments, including religious freedom. The right to practice one’s religion is a fundamental part of being an American and must be preserved. Johnson personally credits his own religious upbringing as a Lutheran in the definition of his own beliefs and character.

Yet there have been times in our history when religion has been invoked to justify serious harm. In years past, opponents of interracial marriage, desegregation and other efforts to protect civil rights have too often cited scripture and religion in making their arguments.

To be blunt, certain politicians have twisted religious liberty and used it as a tool to discriminate. That’s just wrong, and the overwhelming majority of religious leaders agree.

Gary Johnson believes we can, and must, strike a balance between our shared American values of religious liberty and freedom from discrimination. Today, in some states, politically-driven legislation which claims to promote religious liberty but instead rolls back the legal protections held by LGBT Americans is failing that test of balance.

When it comes to civil rights and the rights of the LGBT community, states are best served when they take an inclusive approach of “fairness to all.”

Conversely, divisive and thinly-veiled legislation clearly aimed at LGBT individuals serves no one, and is not the American way.

One state who “got it right” is Utah. In a compromise worked out among religious leaders, lawmakers and members of the LGBT community, Utah enacted a law making clear that discrimination in employment, housing, and government services is illegal. At the same time, the law granted common sense protections to insure that the legitimate First Amendment rights of individuals and religious organizations cannot be put at risk.

In short, Utah found a way to protect religious freedom without creating a “right to discriminate”.

America is big enough to accommodate differences of opinion and practice in religious and social beliefs. As a nation and as a society, we must reject discrimination, forcefully and without asterisks while at the same time we must protect our important religious freedoms. (campaign website)

Appreciate Life. Respect Choice. Stay Out of Personal Decisions.

Gary Johnson has the utmost respect for the deeply-held convictions of those on both sides of the abortion issue. It is an intensely personal question, and one that government is ill-equipped to answer.

On a personal level, Gary Johnson believes in the sanctity of the life of the unborn. As Governor, he supported efforts to ban late-term abortions.

However, Gov. Johnson recognizes that the right of a woman to choose is the law of the land, and has been for several decades. That right must be respected and despite his personal aversion to abortion, he believes that such a very personal and individual decision is best left to women and families, not the government. He feels that each woman must be allowed to make decisions about her own health and well-being and that the government should not be in the business of second guessing these difficult decisions.

Gov. Johnson feels strongly that women seeking to exercise their legal right must not be subjected to prosecution or denied access to health services by politicians in Washington, or anywhere else. (campaign website)

Save money. Change lives. Protect families.

The Federal government should not stand in the way of states that choose to legalize marijuana. Governors Johnson and Weld would remove cannabis from Schedule I of the federal Controlled Substances Act, which will allow individual states to make their own decisions about both recreational and medical marijuana — just as they have done for decades with alcohol. Eliminating the Federal government as an obstacle to state legalization decisions is not only constitutionally sound, but would allow much-needed testing of marijuana for medical purposes, as well as regulation that reflects individual states’ values and needs.

The health benefits of cannabis in pain treatment has already proven to be safer and less addictive than current pain medications such as opioids. Pharmaceutical companies need to be allowed to conduct medical testing on cannabis. This is better for all Americans. A President that is not afraid to tackle the tough issues would understand that de-scheduling cannabis and allowing medical research is the right thing to do.

The marijuana black market has created a non-stop crime epidemic. Thousands of lives are lost each year in trafficking along the Mexican boarder alone. The War on Drugs has been an expensive failure. We spend money to police it. We spend money to incarcerate nonviolent offenders. And what do we get in return? A society that kicks our troubled mothers, fathers, and young adults while they’re down, instead of giving them the tools to be healthier and more productive members of society. Crime and wasted lives has produced a circle of failure….and it needs to stop.

We can save thousands of lives and billions of dollars by simply changing our approach to drug abuse. That is why Gary Johnson came out as an early proponent on the national stage in 1999 while Governor of New Mexico, and publicly stated his support of marijuana legalization.

Governors Johnson and Weld do not support the legalization of other recreational drugs that are currently illegal. It is, however, their belief that drug rehabilitation and harm-reduction programs result in a more productive society than incarceration and arrests for drug use. (campaign website)

This is why Gary Johnson embraced marriage equality before many current Democratic leaders joined the parade. He was also the highest ranking official to call for an end to the drug war and start treating drug abuse like a disease instead of a crime.

His vice presidential running mate, Governor Bill Weld, was not only an early proponent of civil rights for gays and lesbians, he actually appointed the judge who wrote the opinion that established marriage equality as a matter of constitutional right. He is also an outspoken defender of a woman’s right to choose, rather than allow the government to make such an important and personal decision for them.

Unlike Governors Johnson and Weld, those in power today are steadily eroding the personal freedoms that our government was established to protect.

Gary Johnson believes that people, not politicians, should make choices in their personal lives. Responsible adults should be free to marry whom they want, arm themselves if they want, and lead their personal lives as they see fit — as long as they aren’t harming anyone else in doing so. (campaign website)

McMullin: Our respect for life is the most important measure of our humanity. From conception to death – and any time in between – life is precious and we have a responsibility to protect it. A culture that subsidizes abortion on demand runs counter to the fundamental American belief in the potential of every person – it undermines the dignity of mother and child alike. Americans can and should work together to increase support and resources to reduce unintended pregnancies and encourage adoption, even if they may have different opinions on abortion rights.

Religious liberty is freedom of conscience, inherently connected to actions and expression; it’s the grace to let others pursue their convictions and the willingness to welcome a marketplace of diverse ideas. This freedom is central to the American experiment, and it should be protected, not disparaged. At a time when global religious persecution is at record highs, America must prioritize the defense of this core human right in our diplomatic efforts. Our moral authority to defend religious freedom abroad relies on the vitality of religious freedom here at home. Our government should not target religious groups for discrimination or marginalization based on the obligations of their faith, but instead recognize that religious diversity and robust pluralism are foundational sources of strength for our nation. (campaign website)

Evan McMullin told Mark Halperin he is personally opposed to redefining marriage but that he would do nothing to reverse the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Bloomberg News webcast, “With All Due Respect.”

“As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I believe in traditional marriage between a man and a woman, but I respect the decision of the Court, and I think it’s time to move on,” McMullin said, echoing moderate Republican presidential hopefuls.

When pressed, McMullin said he would have “ideally” liked to see the issue decided by the states, “but it’s been handled by the Supreme Court, and that’s where it is.”

McMullin said he bases his definition of marriage on his Mormon faith, but “my faith isn’t everybody else’s faith. I make my decisions for me [based] on those kinds of things.”

When Halperin asked if a President McMullin would appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn the case nullifying state marriage protection laws nationwide, Obergefell v. Hodges, he replied, “I wouldn’t.” (LifeSite News)

**********

I like Darrell Castle‘s thought process, as he posits an argument that has merit when it comes to marriage as a whole, because it is a legitimate option states could take if they so chose. He’s also very sound on the abortion issue since indeed Congress could remove that area of jurisdiction – in fact, they could very easily rein in the SCOTUS if they had the desire to do so. Overall he does extremely well in this category. 7 points.

Jim Hedges is a little weak on abortion, but on the other hand he gives the other legitimate counter-argument with regard to marriage: since it would take 38 states to ratify a Federal Marriage Amendment, it would occur in a situation where the vast majority of states were already on board. I’m not sure a federal ban on gambling would be enforceable, but I could see this as being a benefit overall since lotteries are indeed regressive taxes. I also agree with him on voluntary prayer. 6 points.

I appreciate Tom Hoefling‘s passion for life. But I’m curious how all that shakes out with the rule of law as it currently exists. Indeed, as an inalienable right life comes before liberty for a reason - for without life there is no liberty. Yet this nation lives under a Constitution that prohibits “notwithstanding any law passed…to the contrary.” It makes me question where he feels the extent of his executive power would lie, and that is troubling too. I don’t want to trade one Trump (or Obama) for another, no matter how well-intentioned. 3 points.

When a woman’s liberty is deemed to trump the unborn’s right to life, that is a non-starter with me. But Gary Johnson goes there. Johnson also cites Utah’s anti-discrimination law as a model to follow, even though the head of Equality Utah noted the law Johnson cites has, “among the broadest religious exemptions in the country, and you would never want to cut and paste (their law.)” He called the bill “a milestone for Utah, but not a model for the country.” So it wasn’t the grand compromise Johnson makes it out to be.

Johnson and Weld seem to turn their back on Judeo-Christian values in the name of liberty – but I contend America needs the guardrails for its system of government is intended “only for a moral and religious people.” Only because they are relatively permissive on marijuana do they score at all here. 1 point.

Evan McMullin may be a decent and pious man, but in his statement he shows that he does not have the gumption to stand up for what is right. Whether it’s in the name of “pragmatic” political expediency or the belief that people need to be left alone and to “move on,” he forgoes the use of his bully pulpit at a time when it’s more necessary than ever. Shameful. No points.

It is on that sour note that I inform you the next part will deal with pocketbook issues, specifically trade and job creation.

Decision America Tour 2016 with Franklin Graham

By Cathy Keim

Editor’s note: We are fortunate indeed that Cathy attended Tuesday’s event in Annapolis and filed a first-hand report with her observations. Maryland was the third-to-last stop on this 50-state tour, which began way back in January and stopped in Dover back on their primary election day, September 13. The final stop is Wednesday in North Carolina.

Pray. Vote. Engage.

Tuesday I joined about 50 other folks from Salisbury on a bus sponsored by the Salisbury Prayer Breakfast Committee to attend the Franklin Graham rally in Annapolis. Jack Savage was our intrepid leader. We pulled out of the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center parking lot at 8:30 in the morning and headed north.

We assembled on Lawyer’s Mall with a crowd that swelled to over three thousand and began to spill into the street. Volunteers were handing out American and Christian flags. It was a well-organized event. There were several Christian schools in attendance. It was good to see the smiling, young people.

Dennis Agajanian warmed up the crowd with his exceptional guitar picking and then led the crowd in some traditional hymns including How Great Thou Art, which has a long history in the Billy Graham crusades. The crowd was enthusiastic and sang robustly.

Franklin Graham came to the podium and immediately led off with, “Our country is in trouble.” No political party, nor any individual can turn it around – only God can do it. As a nation we are spiritually, racially, economically, and politically divided. We need to pray.

The he turned to Nehemiah 1 and explained how the Jews had been carried off to exile in Babylon as slaves. God had brought judgement upon their nation because they didn’t repent from their sins. Nehemiah was a slave in the king’s palace in Babylon. He heard about how the remnant of Jews left in Jerusalem were suffering because the walls were broken down.

Nehemiah petitioned the evil pagan king for permission to return to Jerusalem and the king granted it. There were enemies at every hand determined to thwart the rebuilding of the walls, but Nehemiah persisted and in 52 days, the walls were rebuilt.

Walls are meant for protection. Gates can be opened or shut depending on the need. Our moral walls and gates are down and any type of wicked thought and activity and teaching can come and go. Our educators, big business, politicians and – sadly to say – many of our churches are more concerned about profits and political correctness than they are about God’s truth and His righteousness. Nehemiah fasted and prayed and confessed the sins of himself, his people, and his fathers.

He confessed the sins of his nation. When we consider the sins of our nation, where do we even begin?

Graham encouraged us to hold hands and pray for the sins of our nation as each of us felt moved, then asked those in the crowd to confess their personal sins. He added that he didn’t fully understand the father’s sins, but he encouraged us to pray and confess for the sins of our fathers. Next Graham prayed for Governor Hogan, Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford, for the workers in the capital, and for our law enforcement officers.

Then he gave an explanation of the gospel message that Jesus Christ came to save sinners. It is only through Jesus Christ that we can find salvation. Not only does our nation need healing, but our individual hearts need healing. Graham stressed that God loves us, but we have a problem called sin: a disease of the human soul that separates us from God. God is a holy and just God. As a human race, we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God.

“But God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16.

Then, being a technological age, Graham invited anyone who had just prayed for new life to text 21777 and type in the word “Decision” so that literature would be sent to you.

After his religious message, Graham pivoted to more of a historical reminder. He recalled that when he was growing up everybody was worried that “the Commies were coming.” During his grade school years his school had drills where you got under your desk in case of nuclear bombs. He pointed out that hiding under your desk was not very helpful, but we practiced anyway. We had bomb shelters with food that was to last for 40 years. It as inedible, but it would last. Then the Berlin Wall came down and secularism came in and there was no difference between secularism and communism because both are godless.

We removed the Ten Commandments and prayer from our schools. Patriotism and the pledge of allegiance are out. Our kids have no idea what is right or wrong.

We have been lied to about the separation of church and state. That whole discussion was about protecting the citizens from State sponsored religions. He said that the Grahams came from Scotland, where the Anglican Church was the state-sponsored religion of the English kings. They tried to force the Scots to be Anglicans, but the Scots said they had no Lord but the Lord Jesus Christ. So the English kings cut off their heads even before ISIS. The ancestors of Billy Graham came to America for religious freedom.

Today the secularists are trying to change our understanding of freedom of religion. For generations we knew the meaning of the term was that you can live your faith freely, and share it as desired. This has devolved into a concept of freedom of worship, meaning that you can worship in the confines of a church only. You cannot live out your Christian faith in the world.

We need Christian men and women to run for office. Look at your candidates in the presidential race. Graham succinctly assessed that, “it has been interesting this year.”

But it isn’t only about the presidential election. We need to vote thoughtfully on the local level and we need to encourage Christians to run for office. Christians should run for the school board, but they should come ready to fight because the enemy is poisoning our children’s minds. Progressives - which is just another word for atheist - get pornographic books onto 7th grade reading lists. Note that if you fight back, the progressives will call you intolerant. Smile and say no.

We must take our schools back as we are losing our nation.

The church must wake up. Pray and get involved: in the last election 20 to 30 million evangelicals stayed home. People complain about the rigged voting, added Graham, but if 30 million more voters showed up, they couldn’t rig that election. He mentioned the 2008 Coleman/Franken Senate race in Minnesota that was decided by 220 votes sending the vile, anti-God Franken to the Senate. (Editor’s note: it should be pointed out that Norm Coleman led on election night – a large number of questionable absentee ballots “found” during the recounts put Franken on top. Note that Minnesota had a radical Democrat Secretary of State in charge of that election, too.)

Graham then asked the people to take his Pledge to God and Country:

Honor God at home.
Honor God in public.
Honor God with my vote.
Pledge to pray faithfully for my country.
Register to vote.
Pledge to engage in my community and run for office if God leads.

Graham asked that those who take the pledge text “America” to 21777 to receive access to a digital copy of Decision magazine’s election special.

Graham closed with this exhortation: Our job as Christians is to make the impact of Christ known to our fellow citizens. Be an advocate for God’s truth. Turn our country back to “In God We Trust.”

Dennis Agajanian led the crowd in God Bless America and America to close the event.

Well, that was an overview of what was said at the rally yesterday, at least as best I could take notes. I had no complaints with anything that Franklin Graham said. It is certainly true that no matter who is elected president next month, that person will not be able to fix America. They may help or hurt our country, but they will not be able to “fix” it. Our walls are down and we are sinking under the flood of ills that besiege us.

Our current presidential race is the prime example of where our low morals have led us. All the people that are moaning that this is despicable should ask themselves what else can we expect when we have turned our backs on all that is good and noble and true and have encouraged the basest type of behavior in our citizens.

It is time for us to begin our long march to retake our culture. We have allowed the progressives free rein in our schools, our culture, our churches. We must stand for the truth. It will not be easy as the truth is not respected nor sought by many. But stand we must.

I’m going to close with several photos I took at the event.

Postscript:

As editor, I concur with Cathy’s assessment.

And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none.

Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord GOD. (Ezekiel 22:30-31, KJV)

Christians, it may be uncomfortable and you may lose some worldly things, but it’s time to make up the hedge.

Immigration: the downstream problems

August 21, 2016 · Posted in Cathy Keim, Culture and Politics · 1 Comment 

By Cathy Keim

The whole immigration debate is being presented by the elites and the media as a simple choice: The big hearted Americans should open their cities and homes to welcome the underprivileged, needy people from around the world, but especially from areas like Syria that are wracked by war. Liberal churches jump on the bandwagon preaching the need to love the stranger and welcome him.

If anyone tries to mention any concerns or ask for caution, they are shouted down and denounced as racists, bigots, haters, un-Christian, and selfish. The debate is especially problematic for Christians, as Christians in America are under attack on every front. The conservative Christian’s stance on abortion, marriage, and gender ensure that he is already classified as a hypocritical, bigoted hater. The politically correct war on religious speech is in full attack mode to silence anybody who dares to resist the prescribed agenda.

Due to this tenuous position, Christians are leery of pointing out that Islam is not compatible with American principles. Although America was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, the elites in control now prefer to reject that information. The new attitudes on gay marriage, gender identity, and the sanctity of life are being used to portray Christians as dangerous right-wing kooks capable of blowing up buildings and people. At the same time those same elites are pushing Islam on America in the form of immigrants and refugees. This doesn’t make a lot of sense, since the Sharia adhering Muslims are against gay marriage and transgender individuals. It does begin to fit together when you realize that the elites are not concerned with the welfare of the gays, transgenders, or the Muslims. They are merely using them to gain positions of power by destroying the existing social order.

Since this nation was founded on Christian principles, then it follows that to destroy our nation the Christian foundation must be destroyed. While the number of gay and transgender people is relatively small, I think that the elites may be making a strategic error in their importation of Muslims to change America by changing her people. Muslims show no sign of assimilating and becoming decadent progressive westerners.

Christians know that religious liberty is under assault. They realize that if they make any moves to restrict the growth of Islam, the elites will be all too ready to try and restrict the liberties of the Christians. The key difference that needs to be repeated and repeated is that Islam is a totalitarian political ideology not a religion, a subject I will address in my next blogpost.

Until the elites notice their error, the rest of the country must live with an increasingly belligerent Muslim population. There are two factors which the elites may be missing or ignoring:

  1. Muslims are commanded to migrate to spread Islam. This is called the hijrah.
  2. Second generation Muslims, even though assimilated more so in America than in Europe, are still more likely to become radicalized than the first generation Muslims.

All of the talk about vetting the Syrian refugees to screen out ISIS plants is not going to solve the bigger issue of the hijrah. The FBI has already acknowledged that they cannot screen the refugees well since they are refugees. They have fled cities that were razed, bombed, and burned and they didn’t bring their birth certificates with them as they fled for their lives. However, they do bring their belief in sharia law and their centuries old prejudices against Christians, infidels, women, and homosexuals.

The first generation of refugees or immigrants may be happy to have escaped from the terror and deprivation that was their homeland, but many in the American-born second generation show a distinct desire to embrace radical jihadism. The FBI has over 900 active cases of people they are watching, and we don’t know how many more need to be watched. The Orlando nightclub killer was a second generation Muslim. The San Bernardino killer was a second generation Muslim. One of the Garland, Texas attackers was a second generation Muslim. The Ft. Hood massacre was perpetrated by a second generation Muslim.

Clearly, just vetting the people that we let into the country does not prevent the second generation from becoming jihadists. Since we can show that in America we have not forced the Muslims into ghettos and not allowed them to partake fully in our society as is the excuse given for the Muslim attacks in France, then what are we to do to protect ourselves?

First, our elites need to educate themselves on what is really happening and quit believing that since their hearts are pure and they want to feel good about themselves and how generous and unselfish they are that it will all turn out well. The progressives that think that their generous thoughts are all that matter and the catastrophic consequences that follow their foolish policies are not their problem, need to wake up. Equally guilty are the other elites who believe that crony capitalism is their ticket to power. They facilitate the influx of Muslims as cheap labor for industry. This group really irritates me because they are selling us out for money and power while lying to us that they are pro-Constitution and will fight for American values.

These two groups of elites have flooded our country with illegal immigrants, legal immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers since 1965. We are a big country, but we cannot absorb all the illiterate, unhealthy masses that have been flooding the USA for decades when the elites are tearing down all American patriotic beliefs. The invaders are not asked to adhere to the principles that define America. We are a diverse people, but we are united by our belief in the American Dream, the laws of the land, and our founding documents. This is being replaced by the centuries-old ethnic, racial hatreds that separate us into warring tribes.

We need to halt immigration until we can assimilate those that are here. We need to enforce our immigration laws that are on the books. We need to revise the refugee system. Currently, the UN is picking our refugees for us from their camps. The Christians that are fleeing from ISIS do not go to the UN camps because they are persecuted there by the fleeing Muslims. Since the Christians do not go to the UN camps, the UN doesn’t pick them to come to America.

Now you know why hardly any Christians have been amongst the refugees that have arrived already and why there will not be any in the future unless our politicians wake up. Politicians never wake up until they are forced to do so. Our political system has succumbed to crony capitalism and progressive utopian schemes. There are very few leaders in DC speaking for the common man.

Worthy of blessing?

July 3, 2016 · Posted in Culture and Politics, National politics, Personal stuff · Comments Off 

Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people. – Proverbs 14:34 (KJV)

As today is Sunday and I have left the site dark on Independence Day in the last few years – so this post will be atop my site for a somewhat extended period - I decided it would be fitting to use the subject of our message today as the subject of mine.

Rather than go through what my pastor said, though, I want to focus on the idea of righteousness. For Christians, the idea of what’s right mainly comes from Scripture, as the passage above clearly illustrates. But in our nation today, too often what is “right” comes from a number of different sources: a majority of nine unelected judges on the Supreme Court, a plethora of faceless bureaucrats toiling in Washington, D.C. or a state capital, or even popular culture itself. It’s said politics is downstream from culture, and I believe this is most true on the perception of what is right.

Obviously I can give a number of examples where these “rights” don’t coincide with the concept of righteousness: the Supreme Court decisions in Roe v. Wade or the Obergefell case, the muddied divide between genders enforced by the standards of the federal Department of Education, or the #lovewins movement for same-sex “marriage” come foremost to mind. With the exception of Roe v. Wade, all of these examples have come during my adult life and there is usually a generational divide between supporters and opponents of these “rights.”

It’s not my intention to be bogged down in the minutia of these issues because I’m shooting for a fairly short post suitable for a holiday weekend when people are truly thinking more about the beach, fireworks, and barbecues, but I think the generational point is worth considering, too. Despite the fact Kim’s daughter goes to a Christian school and belongs to the church youth group, she and her peers aren’t truly insulated from the cultural wasteland we live amongst.

I think it’s worth reminding the Millennials that those of us who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s had only a limited number of options for cultural awareness and entertainment, such as AM or FM radio, the few cable channels that were around (living in a rural area nowhere near a cable service area, we didn’t even have that), magazines and newspapers, or the local movie theater. I had my roster of favorite TV shows like anyone else and my particular radio stations to listen to, but my listening and viewing was limited to what broadcasters wanted to provide at a time of their choosing. (If I wasn’t home and didn’t remember to tape WKRP in Cincinnati I was out of luck until the rerun came on, or if my radio station ignored Iron Maiden until the program director decided to put it on, I wouldn’t go buy the cassette because I didn’t know about them.) Now we have the technology where anyone can be a video or music producer and have content available anywhere the internet is.

So it’s no surprise that the seductive messages of what is “cool” rarely coincide with what is righteous because “cool” is a construct built to sell products and ideas. As it stands, believing in the tenets of the Bible and living a God-fearing life definitely doesn’t meet the prevailing standard of “cool.”

But it’s my belief that America should make itself worthy of being blessed by God. By no means does this imply being a theocracy, it’s more along the lines of just having a Judeo-Christian based moral compass that most of its citizens willingly follow. The more righteous we are, it follows, the more we should be blessed. It’s worth a shot.

Freedom from sanity

In the wake of a senseless tragedy perpetrated by a radical Islamist in Orlando, the natural reaction to a group of radical Christians in Iowa is disappointing but not surprising. The crime of the Iowans? In the case of Governor Terry Branstad, it’s signing a proclamation for the Iowa 99 County Bible Reading Marathon, slated for June 30 to July 3 in front of every Iowa county courthouse. In response, he may be sued by the ACLU and the Freedom From Religion Foundation. From the Daily Signal:

Freedom From Religion Foundation Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor told The Daily Signal that her organization, an atheist and agnostic nonprofit based in Madison, Wisconsin, is asking Branstad to rescind the proclamation.

“It’s totally beyond the purview of a governor or any public official to request that people read the Bible, much less that they engage in a Bible marathon or that they read any ‘holy book,’” Gaylor told The Daily Signal. She added: “Government is supposed to be neutral towards religion. It’s not supposed to play favorites.”

Gaylor says the proclamation is “unconstitutional” and “egregious” and that her organization is “hoping to sue.”

“We have a godless, secular Constitution,” Gaylor said. “There’s no Bible in it.”

I would argue that we have what’s pretty much become a Godless, secular nation thanks to people like Gaylor, but that’s not really the point.

Insofar as I know, no one is going to be rounded up and herded off to these county courthouses to be forced to listen to Bible verses and prayer. Obviously this is a volunteer, freewill effort that will be conducted on the public square and Governor Branstad is expressing his support, presumably as a fellow Christian. I wouldn’t mind seeing the same occur in Maryland and Delaware.

Granted, there’s a supposed separation of church and state, but to me it doesn’t mean the state can’t sponsor religious activities. A proper interpretation of that doctrine is to know there is no Church of America, such as there’s a Church of England. I attend a Baptist church, but that makes me no more or less an American than someone who goes to the Catholic cathedral, Jewish synagogue, Hindu temple, Islamic mosque, or any of the other sects who believe in a Creator. (Or those who don’t believe in one.)

I don’t know about you, but I can’t equate the perceived inconvenience of having to avoid a corner of the courthouse lawn to not hear a prayer service with someone of any denomination expressing his religious beliefs via a mass shooting, simply for the offense of being gay. (That assumes there were no straight people in the club, which there surely were.) Is it really that terrible that people want to pray?

Recently I had a medical scare that turned out to be minor, but one thing that surely kept it minor was being lifted up in prayer by members of my church, friends, and people who hardly knew me but were concerned. I was not concerned about the denomination of those who prayed for me, but appreciated the thoughts and prayers. There was no “right” prayer, just a good volume. Maybe in this time of strife we need a larger volume of prayer for our nation, you think?

I think the Iowa Prayer Caucus state director, Ginny Caligiuri, summed this up just right:

We are reading the Word of God on the grounds of our courthouses because we as a nation have turned from our biblical foundations and our nation is in big trouble.

Amen. No harm, no foul, so read away!

Musings on yesterday’s National Day of Prayer

May 6, 2016 · Posted in Cathy Keim, Delmarva items · 1 Comment 

By Cathy Keim

Yesterday morning I attended the 6th Annual National Day of Prayer Breakfast at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center. The Midway Room was packed with about 500 guests, and the event was the usual mix of local dignitaries, pastors, and citizens. There was the Presentation of Colors by the Color Guard of the Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office and the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance led by Sheriff Mike Lewis. The Salisbury Christian School Concert Band provided breakfast music and an assortment of local leaders led the invocation, prayers, Bible readings, and singing.

All in all, it was a pretty standard ecumenical religious event. However, I know that I felt a difference. Instead of taking it for granted that we were meeting with the general approval of the majority of the citizens in our county, I wondered how many of our fellow citizens would view the event with derision or suspicion? In fact, a fellow guest shared that he had heard some folks poking fun at the gathering.

It is not just my imagination that the public’s attitude towards Christians has shifted from acceptance to suspicion. Where politicians would once attend church (at least for public view), now there is no need for that.

I was speaking to a young man about a character reference for a job just last week. In the past, his pastor would have been petitioned for a letter, but now that might not be who you want to write your reference.

The guest speaker at the prayer breakfast was Randy Singer, a lawyer and pastor, from Virginia Beach. He addressed the change in our nation by comparing us to Rome in the time of Nero and the Apostle Paul’s imprisonment. Even those of us with public school educations know that Nero was one of the very worst Roman emperors. From that unflattering comparison, Mr. Singer assured us that while our country is in distress, we are not without hope.

People can endure much, but when hope is lost, people languish. Mr. Singer pointed to the lengthy difficulties under which Paul had suffered for years and yet this is what Paul wrote from prison in Philippians 1:3-8 (NIV):

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

Christians in America, we are to have hope that whether we are in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, we all share in God’s grace with the Apostle Paul. I do not know how many more public meetings of Christians will be endorsed by our elected leaders. The need for Christians to stand firm on multiple principles such as marriage, gender, pro-life, assisted suicide, and freedom of speech, just to name a few, will be put to the test if you have escaped thus far.

Just stating the Biblical truth that marriage is between a man and a woman can jeopardize your employment. Countless companies and organizations are coercing employees to submit to seminars to prevent “discrimination.” If somebody objects, then they are forced to take more courses or be fired. We can lament the change in our country and feel discouraged, or we can emulate the Apostle Paul and look to our Lord Jesus Christ with hope that we are living exactly in the time that God intended and that He will see us through the murky path ahead.

Yes, America has changed and many of us would say not for the better, but we are to share the hope that is within us, not to obsess on the decline of the nation that we love.

Where once the civil religion and Christianity were viewed as the almost the same thing, now Christianity is portrayed as repressive, old-fashioned, boring, or worse. The materialists, atheists, and progressives do not need to wrap themselves in a civil religion to gain acceptance. We are in a new time and place in our country or so the materialists, atheists, and progressives would say.

However, God gave this promise to King Solomon in ancient Israel because He knows that proud men will overreach and when they do this is what must be done:

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

II Chronicles 7:14

Christians, continue to pray, work, and engage in your community, not with fear or a sense of loss for what was, but with the hope of our Lord Jesus Christ that we are living right where we are meant to be.

The audacity of faith

May 1, 2016 · Posted in Delmarva items, Personal stuff · Comments Off 

Originally I began this post as an odds and ends piece, but when I selected an article on “Obama’s killer economy” as my first topic of discussion I made the executive decision that this subject needed more than a few words.

As it turns out, lately I have seen a few articles crop up about the hopelessness of a certain class of Americans, and whether it leads to a conscious suicide or the slow death of a thousand drinks, cigarettes, and pills doesn’t matter so much as the fact this is an issue. There are thousands of Americans who are right about my age (I’m 51) who somehow have decided to check out mentally, which often leads to their physical demise. To be perfectly blunt, if the Good Lord hadn’t brought Kim and I together there’s the chance I could be one of those statistics given the fact I needed to subsist for several years on a range of part-time work thanks to the utter destruction of the local building industry. If you look as possessions as “stuff,” I lost a lot of stuff over those years. Rather than focus on that, though, I thank God I was one of those who approached the edge of the abyss yet came back. (In the terms of our pastor at church, I am “the blessed man.”)

But somehow I have always had the optimism that there was something better on the horizon; indeed it panned out with Kim. I will grant it’s harder and harder to be optimistic about the world, but believers still persist.

Yet not everyone has that luxury of good fortune, or the faith that God is in control. And perhaps that’s part of the issue, as organized religion is slowly losing its influence on society – at least according to national surveys. (Of course, this is not to say that the devout have any fewer struggles than the unbeliever, nor is it fair to say that many of those who succumbed to the world didn’t believe in God and go to church. Church attendance or even leadership is, by itself, not a guarantee of doing good works either – there is no one who stands above temptation.)

However, there is the economic argument Kevin Williamson at National Review made (subscription required, so no link) that simply said “downscale communities deserve to die.” If you live in upstate New York, rural Oklahoma, or a place like the Eastern Shore (parts of which are slowly losing population) you need to go where the opportunities are. But NR‘s David French adds a key component I believe is missing from the argument:

For generations, conservatives have rightly railed against deterministic progressive notions that put human choices at the mercy of race, class, history, or economics. Those factors can create additional challenges, but they do not relieve any human being of the moral obligation to do their best. Yet millions of Americans aren’t doing their best. Indeed, they’re barely trying. As I’ve related before, my church in Kentucky made a determined attempt to reach kids and families that were falling between the cracks, and it was consistently astounding how little effort most parents and their teen children made to improve their lives. If they couldn’t find a job in a few days - or perhaps even as little as a few hours - they’d stop looking. If they got angry at teachers or coaches, they’d drop out of school. If they fought with their wife, they had sex with a neighbor. And always - always - there was a sense of entitlement.

If you look at it through the lens of those people “falling between the cracks” this may be what they define as “doing their best”:

And that’s where disability or other government programs kicked in. They were there, beckoning, giving men and women alternatives to gainful employment. You don’t have to do any work (your disability lawyer does all the heavy lifting), you make money, and you get drugs.

So let’s recap: we have an entire class of people in this country, counted in the tens of millions, whose very existence is defined as getting up in the morning, spending their day watching television or perusing the internet, eating courtesy of the taxpayers through their EBT card, lather, rinse, repeat, day after day. To break up the monotony they go out and buy their case of Bud Light, shop for the provider of their pills, and sleep with different people. It’s a community of strangers, of users.

Those who have known me for a time (and for the vast majority who do, it’s been a period of no more than 12 years since that’s when I moved here) know the sort of person I am, and alas I can be defined by my faults. Over the last couple years as I’ve become a regular church goer, though, I’ve found an extended family – granted, I couldn’t tell you the names of everyone who attends with me on Sundays, but they know me and if something were amiss they would ask about me and place me in their prayers. Sometimes that’s just the lift I need.

In the Book of Luke there is the tale of the prodigal son, who squandered the half of his father’s fortune he was entitled to on worldly things, yet grew despondent when the money ran out – so he returned feeling unworthy of being more than a lowly servant. Yet the father provided for him the best robe and the fatted calf, for as the father told the other brother, the one who was upset because had done as he was expected but received no reward:

“My son,” the father said, “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” (Luke 15:31-32)

America has become a nation full of prodigal sons and daughters, but ones who are still in need of return. We have all the riches to which anyone could aspire, yet millions are squandering their share on lives of loneliness, misery, and envy for those who have more than they do. As I note above, Americans have also turned from God – perhaps there is a parallel there?

I can’t sit here and tell someone in the predicament of dire poverty that simply returning to God and getting back to church will solve their problems. But what I can say is that having the church family may give those who are trapped in this vicious cycle something to live for - if they want to put the work in. It’s not something that takes a Sunday and you’re done, nor is it an easy path. But if one can feel better without taking the drugs, drinking the alcohol, or abusing relationships, why not take the opportunity?

Book review: You Will Be Made to Care: The War on Faith, Family, and Your Freedom to Believe by Erick Erickson and Bill Blankschaen

February 15, 2016 · Posted in Book Reviews, Personal stuff · 1 Comment 

As I described a few weeks ago, I was one of a select group that was picked to read an advance manuscript of this book for reviewing purposes. Having read Erick Erickson’s work on a regular basis through RedState and his new website called The Resurgent, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect in this book. Yet I was still intrigued by the direction that it went and by the emotions this book took me through as I read through it.

In its opening chapters, the book honestly made me quite angry. Knowing that Erickson is legally trained, it should not have been a surprise that he lays out the initial argument regarding the ongoing war on faith, family, and (particularly) freedom to believe by laying out case after case after trumped-up case where aggrieved members of the protected classes of today’s society work to rob those who proclaim their adherence of traditional, Biblical values of their livelihoods and reputations. While Erickson initially brings his main focus to the case of former Atlanta fire chief (and onetime Obama appointee) Kelvin Cochran, who was dismissed in early 2015 by the city of Atlanta based on a book he had written over a year earlier, he works briefly through dozens of other cases where believers have encountered unexpected consequences for running afoul of secular society.

Needless to say, my leftwing friends would read through this laundry list of incidents – which include the more famous examples of businesses like Sweet Cakes by Melissa, Ralph’s Thriftway, or Memories Pizza - and conclude that these entities were trampling on the “right” to, using these particular examples, seek to solicit a wedding cake created for their same-sex ceremony, purchase the “morning after” pill, or cater their same-sex wedding reception. To the activist plaintiffs in the former two cases it didn’t matter that each of these entitles were happy to suggest alternative arrangements or, in the case of Memories Pizza, was dealing with an entirely theoretical request: the plaintiffs believed these businesses were using the fig leaf of religious belief to deny “rights,” and sadly in most of these instances the heavy hand of government was putting a thumb on the scale against the business owners. These abuses of power, which appear throughout the first two-thirds of the book, should make anyone who reads this book angry.

Yet as Erickson explains, after going through several of these examples:

There is one key reason that those on the Left must force their beliefs on the rest of us. It’s really very simple. If they didn’t force their craziness on us, we would never embrace it. Deep down, they know that to be true. Progressive thinking doesn’t work in the real world.

They go on to try and figure out the progressive worldview, and at that point my anger turned more into a sense of pity. It’s really not all that hard to come to the realization that we are but sinners who fall short of the grace of God, but to do so means you actually have to admit to yourself that many of your acts are sinful and eventual repentance is necessary.

But Erickson makes the case in his book that pastors and churches are falling short in their calling as well, substituting symbolism for substance. For example:

There seems to a pattern here in Protestant circles: the more liberal a church becomes, the more it invests in all the trappings of the appearance of religion. The more it compromises the truth, the more it seems to try and compensate with impressive liturgies, pompous ceremony, and clerical garb. The compromisers seem to want you to get a feeling of spirituality from the way they conduct the service – not the words they use. It’s as if they want to be judged by the color of their robes and not the content of their sermons.

To Erickson, too many men of the cloth have come to avoid the discussion of sin as it relates to everyday life. Pastors, he argues, have become overly timid in their discussions so as not to scare away parishioners by appearing too judgmental or jeopardize the church’s tax-exempt status. While the modern church can be entertaining, he writes, it falls short on the enlightenment aspect. Through most of Christian history, he continues, we have been persecuted so why should we expect different today? In fact, Erick boldly states that our faith in America as a nation may be misplaced if it supersedes our faith in God. Ours may not be the Christian nation we grew up believing that it was.

Yet my anger at the outset turned to hope as I continued on. While it has the appearance of being a little bit self-serving – as Erickson’s recently-created website is dubbed The Resurgent – within the final chapters of You Will Be Made to Care he lays out ideas for a resurgence of the people: The Resurgent Community, The Resurgent Believer, The Resurgent Family, The Resurgent Church, and finally The Resurgent Citizen. I see these five chapters as the “how-to guide” of the book – like the erstwhile lawyer, local politician and campaigner he was, Erickson laid out the case for change, added the necessary backstory and history, then explained his platform and agenda for positive, worthwhile improvements to our state of being.

In introducing this segment of the book, Erickson writes that the nation is not about red vs. blue states or regions anymore. Instead:

I see us – the resistance to the suddenly dominant Spirit of the Age – as a group of conservatives and faith-filled people united against the forces of the Left. Sensing what is at stake in the conflict, many of us have found our voices and are willing to be bold, to become a resurgent people of free ideas, faith, and family.

The evolution of this book hit home for me because it reminded me of my own journey through faith and what it can lead us to believe. I’ve been pro-life for many years, but never really became as activist about it until I began regularly attending church. It’s also led me in the direction of bringing my cohort Cathy Keim on board as a relatively like-minded writer with many of the same goals in mind but a different and unique audience.

(This also affords me the opportunity to remind readers that Erickson has a co-author for this book – Bill Blankschaen seemed to be an excellent choice as a co-author given his history as a collaborator and pastor. While I write about Erick in the singular for the purposes of the review, I’m sure Erick would be the first to tell you the book is a joint effort.)

Yet the chapter on The Resurgent Community reminds me of something I wrote (to considerably less fanfare) a few years ago. After the introduction, I wrote about community in the respect that we should stop looking inward and do more to help our fellow man. While my perspective wasn’t overtly religious, the point Erickson made in this chapter made me think about that which I wrote a few years back but had contemplated long before that.

I also enjoyed the humanizing moment he shared in the book. Wrote Erickson:

If we know we need the fellowship of other believers, why do we seem to be so cloistered in our own homes? I don’t know about you, but one of the greatest barriers our family has to connecting with other believers is (a) very practical concern – a clean house. It sounds crazy when we think about it in the context of facing persecution for our faith, but the first thing people have to be willing to do to cultivate community is to stop worrying about how their home looks.

This light-hearted example aside, perhaps the thing I most took away from You Will Be Made to Care is Erickson’s conclusion that we are not alone. Despite these interesting times we live in, the advice to be a light in the darkness and be a happy warrior is timeless.

What I would encourage those who read my review to do is to (naturally) pre-order the book for yourself. (Like most new books, it already has a website and pre-ordering entitles you to some added perks.) Since it comes out next Monday (the 22nd) it will likely be in your hands next week. Read through it and then share it: loan it out to your friends, your pastors, your fellow worshipers and remind them they are not alone.

Even if they only read it and return it, I’m sure Erick and Bill won’t miss the dollar or two in their pockets if they know the information is being disseminated. There are a couple people on my personal list to share it with, so once I get my hard copy I’m doing the same.

It’s time for Christians to stop feeling sorry for ourselves or playing the victim. At my church we are reminded that the outside world is a missionary field, so if Erickson’s book helps you serve in that capacity there’s nothing wrong with enlisting his aid.

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