Something for Nothing

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My apologies to Dire Straits for stealing the name of their catchy tune, Something for Nothing. It was an 80’s song where blue collar appliance delivery men wished they could play the guitar on MTV instead of their own work drudgery. They saw the benefits of being in a rock band as getting something for nothing.

My wife and I recently received the $1200.00 stimulus check issued by the IRS. The reason for the check was the CoVid19 shutdown. The money was issued to stimulate the crumbing economy (spend it!) and in other cases to simply pay bills until unemployment insurance could kick in. We didn’t have to do anything for it except be taxpayers which is a little like something for nothing hence the song that popped into my mind.

I just read the other day that certain Democrat Senators are now proposing a $2000.00 check per month, per American with incomes less than $130,000.00 per year. The stimulus would last months until the crisis passes. That strikes me as more something for nothing and I think it’s a bad idea.

At first glance this looks compassionate since it’s apparent that many people are being denied the right to work and are hurting financially. It should also be pointed out that the Democrat led states are the most radical when it comes to re-opening. Other Democrats are even suggesting it’s the first step in establishing a universal basic income for every American. That appears to be the real agenda as the power of the nanny state and big government increase.

The motivation under the compassion is to pander for votes and make fiscal conservatives look bad and uncaring. It’s politics that motivates and not compassion. It behooves the political left to keep the country shut down as long as possible. The longer people cannot work then the better it is for the left and their socialist agenda. Whether you like Trump or not the end game is get him out of office and get as many people as possible dependent on government.

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The net result of these type of proposals is to pay people not to work. When you pay people not to work it taps into aspects of human nature that are contrary to what the Bible says about work.

Allow me to use myself as an illustration when the incentive to collect unemployment was stronger than a need to find work.

Many years ago I worked in a manufacturing environment. I belonged to a union and the type business was seasonal. The slow part of the season was late spring, early summer and it was typical that many people, including me, would be laid off. The duration of the lay off could be anywhere from one month to about three months depending on various factors including seniority and supply and demand for the product..

During the time of layoff a person would draw unemployment insurance. At the time you did not have to look for a job. The insurance would last for 26 weeks and it was possible to file for an extension. You simply gambled you could wait out the layoff and eventually get your job back. Since the layoffs occurred in late spring many people did not mind at all if the layoff continued well into the summer.

Obviously, it depended on one’s individual circumstances in how one viewed the layoff. In some cases, the unemployment insurance was inadequate so the longer the layoff went the harder it would be to make ends meet. These folks would be anxious for the layoff to end.

In other circumstances, say a single person with few expenses or someone who had access to a second income, the layoff served as a nice paid vacation. Because my wife worked outside of the home we didn’t mind the lay off much at all and took the gamble I’d get my job back. I always did.

Here I wish to make the obvious observation that I made above. If you pay people not to work, many will not. By removing incentive you appeal to the desire to get something for nothing. In a desire to create a reasonable safety net the result is to encourage dependency on the state and make laziness a virtue. It also should be painted out that some people are actually making more money on the enhanced unemployment than they did when working!

I personally do not believe the Democrat initiatives are all that well meaning but even if they are, providing incentive to not work is not something the Bible would endorse. This New Testament passage is a pretty good indication of what God thinks of honorable work. Note that the passage is written as a command that should result from believing the gospel and being “in Christ.”:

10 For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. 11 For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.  The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Th 3:10–12). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

But that’s not all. Old Testament wisdom literature places a high value on work.

In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty. (Proverbs 14:23)

Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty. (Proverbs 28:19)

Too often we see work as a burden because work is often hard and laziness is easy; especially when you get paid to do nothing!

These notions fly in the face of what God has revealed to us in Scripture regarding the value of work. Wayne Grudem in his book, Christian Ethics-An Introduction to Biblical Moral Reasoning, begins his chapter of Work, Rest, Vacations and Retirement like this:

Although many people seek to avoid work or to work as little as possible, the Bible presents, in general, a positive view of work. It views work in itself as a good hing and as pleasing to God.

We see this first because, before there was any sin in the world, God gave Adam and Eve work to do: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion…” (Gen. 1:28). Furthermore, before there was sin in the world, “the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work and keep it” (2:15). Work is not simply a painful part of the fallen human condition, but it part of what God intended for us in his “very good” creation,”

Christian Ethics-An Introduction to Biblical Moral Reasoning, by Wayne Grudem (pg 921)

Many people have been scared half to death by the CoVid19 crisis. Given the initial models that predicted millions would die it makes some sense to help those financially crushed by being forced not to work. But is that any reason to keep millions out of work even as the predictions have turned out to be flat out wrong?

The fact is the issue is so politicized I have little hope that all of a sudden our government as a whole would realize the biblical value of honest work and seek to do the right thing by creating reasonable mechanisms to get people back to work.

Christians should be counter-cultural when it comes to work. Working to please and honor the Lord is a good thing (Col. 3:21, 23). Therefore, we should seek to return to work as soon as we can and at the same time be as safe as we reasonably can. We can do both.

Bearing the Sword in Vain

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At one time the British Constabulary drilled with cutlasses, a type of sword used primarily by navy personnel for the purpose of boarding an enemy ship and fighting the crew hand-to-hand. According to the original caption these British policeman are drilling with the cutlass in 1877.

Because of the way my mind works I saw a few applications for the picture even though I confess my first thoughts were, how quaint and amusing.

Those initial thoughts soon became more serious.

I immediately thought of the fact that most British police routinely do not carry firearms. For a long time the well known “Bobbie” made his or her rounds without a service gun and that still is the case.

It suggested there wasn’t much of a need and it was assumed that Great Britain was a relatively peaceful country and violent crime somewhat rare. How nice some Americans thought wishing that our police would not have a need for a firearm. By the same token some British think our country looks more like the Wild West because so many people have guns.

News flash, it’s not the gun that commits the crime; it’s the person using the gun, but I digress.

The picture of the Constabulary drilling with swords suggests something different than a country with little violent crime. Why drill with a sword unless you believe you just might need a sword? (As a point aside British police have almost immediate access to firearms and apparently judge a situation on a case by case basis.)

I am a biblical counselor and pastor who counsels and teaches counseling. That means that the application of a biblical text is my speciality. The text that came to mind when I saw the picture was Roman’s 13:1-7 and in particular Romans 13:4

But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 13:4). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

The “he” in the verse is a reference to the governing authorities (v1). Paul clearly states that the governing authorities are servants of God. If we back up a little in the passage we see the purpose that God intends for the governing authorities:

For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good.

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 13:3–4). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

The question that often comes to mind is what is meant by “good.” It’s a logical question since most of us are aware that governing authorities are capable of much evil.

The first thing to remember is that the governing authorities are people and because they are people they are fallen people in the need of Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. That the governing authorities are sinners just like anyone else means we should not be surprised when they use their position “as ministers (or servants) of God in an unrighteous manner.

The “good” then in the passage is a reference to the governing authorities punishing evil and pursuing justice. Verse 3 indicates that rulers (governing authorities) should be a terror for those guilty of bad conduct.

Wayne Grudem in, Christian Ethics-An Introduction to Biblical Moral Reasoning sums up the point nicely:

This means we should think of government officials as serving God when they punish evil and promote what is good, whether they realize it or not. This is a strong passage in support of the idea that we should view the civil government as a gift from God, something that brings us great benefits. Although individual people and individual governments can do evil, the institution in itself is something good, a benefit that flows to us from God’s infinite wisdom and love.

Grudem, Wayne, Christian Ethics, pg 430

I had a conversation the other day with a retired policeman who lives near by. He served in a local police force for 28 years until the department gave him early retirement due to a back injury he received in the line of duty.

I knew the area where he was a policeman and I asked him what was the most frustrating aspect of his job. He said it was not the risk associated with enforcing the law. He said that just goes with the job. He said what is most frustrating is when the “governing authorities” go soft on crime and practice the all to common “catch and release” methodology that seems to dominate many large and medium sized cities.

The policeman sometimes has to use his or her sword to make an arrest. The prosecutor then has to make a case to convict and then the judge has to pass sentence. The sentence then becomes the point of catch and release and the criminal is free to commit more crime with little consequence.

The policeman I spoke to was not sorry to be retired. He added that his replacement was recently struck in the head with a machete (a type of sword). My acquaintance wondered out loud what kind of juvenile and adult record did the perpetrator have and how many times was he caught and then released.

Sometimes the police believe they bear the sword in vain. That’s on the governing authorities and the police.

Biblical Stewardship and Student Loans

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My parents were depression era kids. The experience made them frugal and they worked hard to earn what they had and to provide for me and my sister.

As I came of age I learned a couple of lessons from them regarding some basic principles of borrowing and lending. One principle was derived from my wife’s and I wanting to purchase our first house.

I didn’t ask, but my parents volunteered to help us with a downpayment. They gave us $6000.00. This was back in 1976 and interest rates were much higher (10-12 %) than they are at the time of this writing (Jan., 2020).

The conditions for the help were we had to pay back $5000 of the $6000. The first $1000.00 was a gift; charity from my parents. The $5000.00 to be paid back was a loan without interest. We had to make a monthly payment. I do not remember what the payment was but it was reasonable.

I confess that at the time I resented the fact that the entire sum was not a gift of charity. I was not over-the-top resentful but it bothered me that other parents paid for their kids education or gave far more substantial gifts to their kids. In other words, I was jealous and covetous. If you are a Christian that should remind you of a commandment.

My parents sought to teach me valuable lessons about life and finances.

My wife and I both worked full-time. We were childless for the first six years of our marriage. We saved next to nothing. While we did not make a fortune we did just fine with two incomes spending the surplus on “stuff” rather than saving anything substantial. We were immature and in our early twenties.

The rule of thumb at the time was you needed 20% of the total cost of the house for your down payment. The house we bought cost $35,000 so we needed $7000.00. My wife and I had a little over $1000.00 in savings and my parents provided the rest. I should have been grateful rather than jealous of others who received bigger breaks from their parents.

So the first lesson from my parents was, learn to save your money so you won’t have to borrow or borrow as much when the time comes to purchase something big like a house or car.

Although I’ve said that was the first lesson it really comes after what I’ll call the first principle. Both my wife and I worked from the time we were teens. I had my first job the day I turned 16 and my wife had a job at age 15. The principle is of course, work and then save. Start early.

The other principle that my parents taught was pay back what you owe regardless of to whom it is owed. We already had a car payment so we understood we had to pay that back because it was a legal contract.

Understanding that we had to pay back a parental loan was an animal of a different color since I was still thinking it should have been a gift of parental charity. Gee, aren’t parents mean when they try to teach you to be responsible.

A little while after the birth of our son my wife and I became Christians. I slowly began to realize that I had learned some basic principles of biblical stewardship from my parents who were not steeped in chapter and verse.

We attended a class at our church on biblical stewardship and were surprised by how much we had learned of personal financial responsibility from our parents. They really did know what they were talking about.

It’s beyond the scope of a short blog article to be comprehensive about all the Bible has to say about stewardship, especially borrowing and lending. For a comprehensive treatment on the subject I recommend Wayne Grudem’s book, ,Christian Ethics and the chapter, Borrowing, Lending and the Question of Debt.

One passage will suffice:

Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. 

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. 

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 13:7–10). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

In verse 7 Paul expects the Roman Christians to pay their debts. It would be stealing not to (verse 9). Paul assumes the repaying of debt is a simple moral responsibility. He does not attach any conditions to the responsibility. if you borrow pay it back.

In verse 8 Paul says owe no one anything, except to love each other because that fulfills the commandment to love your neighbor. Verse 8 does not contradict the command in verse 7 where he commands that payments be made for debt. How so?

Grudem comments:

Paul’s point here is to direct Christians in Rome to pay whatever is rightfully expected of them, including taxes, but also including honor and respect. This teaching does not prohibit all borrowing, so long as the debt is repaid at the time it is promised. The point is that we should pay what we owe when we owe it, and the command, “Owe no one anything” is simply a summary of the preceding verses and means we should pay our debts when they are due.

Christian Ethics, Wayne Grudem, pg 1047

In verses 9 and 10 Paul references the law regarding human relationships. Love your neighbor as yourself does not mean to love yourself more as some seem to believe. Rather, Paul tells us in verse 10 love will do no wrong to a neighbor. In other words, we are to do what is in their best interest.

My parents whether they knew it or not did that for me and my wife. They came from a “Christianized” culture that recognized the idea of taking responsibility for your decisions and actions. Later I came to learn the hard way the dangers of credit card debt-something my parents had cautioned me about the day I received my first credit card. Those cautions were ignored for a long time and because of that we had a hard time saving money since much went to debt service.

As we near the 2020 election there are a number of politicians campaigning on the issue of forgiving all student college loans. In particular, Bernie Sanders the avowed socialist and Elizabeth Warren, a socialist wannabe are promoting the policy. The premise seems to be that the debt is oppressive (and that no doubt is true) so the government that gives the loan should be merciful and just wipe it clean.

It is a popular idea for the student with a ton of debt. I can see where the idea gains traction to people who do not know any better and/or have been indoctrinated to believe that Marxist collectivism is a good thing. I can also see that way back when my wife and I were in our twenties we would have jumped at the opportunity for “free stuff” including someone forgiving all of our debt.

Besides the obvious pandering to young voters with a lot of student debt there is much wrong with the idea. At the outset it raises the question of basic “fairness” since there are plenty of students who have worked to pay off their loans-you know, the principle I just cited, pay what you owe when you owe it. If you think you can’t pay back then don’t take the loan.

One of the other things wrong with the idea is the whole idea that the government should forgive the debt. Allow me to state the obvious. Where does the money come from that goes to the government? In a word, taxpayers. Paul has much to say about that in Romans 13:1-6.

What you have in effect is taking from one person to pay off the debt of another. The emphasis is on the word “taking.” While Christians are to pay their taxes and this means the government can do what they will with those taxes, we must realize that what is being proposed is a form of stealing. It is not government charity since the government does not produce income, it taxes income.

I can imagine that back when Paul wrote the words he did that the Roman government spent the money on all kinds of stuff that a taxpayer might find objectionable. Do we really need a new aqueduct? How about that Coliseum, seems a bit much, don’t you think? You get the idea. The taxpayer had no say-so in these matters while we do.

We have the privilege of electing leaders. We also have the responsibility of examining their policies in the light of what Scripture says.

Those proposing the forgiveness of student college debt have a far more reaching agenda than simply pandering for votes. They seek to change the basic fabric of our country and turning it into a soft Marxist\collectivist state. To get there they need the votes from young people who have been taught to rely on government to solve all their problems. Perhaps they have been raised by parents who believe the same.

I have no objection if a corporation wants to hire a college grad and pay off their student loans. I can see where that might be a rather large incentive to take a job with that corporation.

I can also see some nice soul coming forward and helping a student pay off their debts as an act of charity just like my parents gave us the $1000.00.. gift. Charity, rightfully defined, is a biblical principle, but stealing from “A” to give to “B” is not charity nor is it in my opinion really helping the student to get responsible and prepare them for like.

I am forever grateful that my parents did not give me what I coveted. Their motto was earn, save and pay what you owe when you owe it.

Some will argue that you can’t apply biblical principles to a culture that does not hold the Bible in high regard. Well, I get that but I do get to vote (so far) for the politicians who do seem to be for sound financial principles. Whether they know it or not, they like my parents line up with good biblical counsel.

National Blame Shifting

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In biblical discipleship counseling a blame shift is exactly what the terms imply, a shifting of blame from oneself and on to a person or circumstance. It allows the blame shifter to avoid taking responsibility for his or her actions or words that contributed to or were responsible for the situation.

For example, a husband with an anger problem will blame his wife for his angry outbursts. A wife will blame the husband for the silent treatment (grudge bearing) she gives him because she disagrees with a decision that was made.

We are good at blame shifts because we are prideful people whose first line of defense for the wrong we do is to blame others or circumstances to justify our bad behavior.

As a biblical counselor I see blame shifts frequently and am perfectly capable of launching one myself even though I’ve learned it’s a bad plan. It’s also sin and nothing good comes from it.

When Jesus said get the log out of your own eye before you get the twig out of someone else’s eye what he meant was “get responsible” for your own sin and faults; then you just might be able to help someone else see their own.

Sadly, blame shifting is so common and so seemingly normal we rarely recognize how detrimental it is in solving problems, both personal and national.

On a national scale we see blame blameshifting on a massive scale. Examples are not hard to find especially in politics. Perhaps the best example is what happens every time there is a mass shooting.

The blame culprit always seems to be the gun. The victim’s families barely have to time to grieve or think before the parade of politicians emerge to blame the gun and the NRA for the problem. Their solution is what they call “common sense” gun control as if some new law would somehow reduce mass shootings or eliminate them all together. The call to “do something” presumably anything, resonates with people because every decent person recognizes that a mass shooting is a horrific event and who would not want to prevent them if we somehow could..

Sadly, even when it is suggested that the shooter himself is at least partially responsible it’s assumed he is deranged or somehow mentally ill thus putting the blame more on what’s assumed to be a type of illness rather than the real culprit-human nature and an act of pure evil.

This is why more astute observers of mass shootings correctly identify the problem as a moral\spiritual issue. Whether a person shoots one person or one hundred persons it’s still murder. The desire to murder someone comes from the inside out; not the outside in. This has been true from Cain and Able to the last mass shooting.

Here are the words of Jesus:

43 “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. 

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Lk 6:43–45). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

The treasure in the heart is the key phrase. The word “heart” in our culture is often misused as some kind of emotional response such as “my heart told me” this or that. The biblical meaning of the term is much deeper. It refers to the inner person or soul. It includes the mind, the will, the emotions and what biblical counselors call the desires\passions of the heart.

Jesus clearly says what’s on the inside is what a person truly treasures and if evil is treasured it will squirt out often in horrific ways. This means that mass shootings are a moral\spiritual\societal problem that is not going to be solved by doing something, anything that does not deal with the depravity of man and what evil some are willing to perpetrate on others.

We live in a culture adrift from most moral moorings. What was once assumed to be wrong is now considered right. In fact if you hold to the old moral moorings you are accused of being a bigot. The venom is more often than not directed against bible believing Christians who understand Jesus’ words.

The cultural rot is plain to see for anyone with eyes to see and obviously most do not have the eyes to see or we would not have as much blame shifting as we do.

A portent is a sign or warning that something, especially something momentous or calamitous, is likely to happen. Mass shootings are portents in my opinion. They point to the depravity of man and what evil man is capable of. The evil is on the inside and a gun is the tool, a tool that can be used for good or bad but when wielded by a person bent on evil it has horrific consequences.

The murderer of all types; whether they kill one person, four persons or twenty five take the lives of image bearers-people created in the image of God (although we are flawed image bearers). Mass murder is the warning that tells us just how far down the moral\spiritual slippery slip we’ve traveled.

The solution to mass shootings is not “do something, anything” that means more laws. The solution is we stop blame shifting and that starts with ourselves. When we apply that at a national level it means looking at root problems and recognizing that we are in a spiritual crisis rather than a gun crisis.

Their god is Molech

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In August, 2008 Barack Obama was running for President against John McCain. Obama was asked a pointed question by Pastor Rick Warren. This is how it went down.

Asked at what point a baby gets “human rights,” Obama, who strongly supports abortion rights, said: “… whether you’re looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question  with specificity … is above my pay grade.”

http://blogs.reuters.com/talesfromthetrail/2008/08/16/obama-says-pointed-abortion-query-above-his-pay-grade/

John McCain was asked the same question. His response:

He said a baby’s human rights began “at the moment of conception … I have a 25-year pro-life record.”

http://blogs.reuters.com/talesfromthetrail/2008/08/16/obama-says-pointed-abortion-query-above-his-pay-grade/

Obama, ever the clever pragmatic politician clearly evaded the question. From the article cited Warren did not challenge him and instead let Obama obliquely agree with R v Wade and the 1973 SCOTUS.

McCain, on the other hand stuck to principle and did not equivocate.

The exchange boiled down for all time how the Democrats and their media allies evade the central issue of life and instead talk about ” rights.” Today, some 11 years after the exchange the Democrats and their media allies (but I repeat myself) have moved well beyond Obama’s pragmatism. If they were to be asked the question Warren asked today the answer would have to be “when the mother and her doctor say the baby has human rights.”

The answer would reflect the reality of where certain states and Democrat governors are on the issue. The answer to the question is never about life; but always about perceived rights, granted by the Constitution or found in the Constitution by a liberal SCOTUS (R v Wade, 1973).

Whether they care to admit it or not by not dealing with the life question the left moves ever closer to outright infanticide (and I would argue they are there already.)

A person does not have “human rights” until a government agency or a mother and a doctor say they do. That’s their higher standard and their “moral high ground.” Their god is Molech and he must be pleased.

It Takes God

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You might have noticed that often times the photographs of politicians the media uses are less than flattering. It seems the media goes out of its way to portray those it hates, dislikes or disagrees with in the worst possible light.

Even media outlets I agree with use this tactic. That’s been the case with Governor Cuomo of New York. Some of the pictures floating about of him give him an almost demonic look. The look seems fitting giving his ghoulish and barbaric endorsement of the killing babies right up to the moment of delivery. Infanticide is by definition demonic.

We, who are prolife are often frustrated by what can we do about state legislatures that are moving toward full blown infanticide. We think that if we elect more conservatives the madness will stop or at least be slowed down. Certainly, those are possibilities but the overall cultural trend is toward an increased “death culture” , not less.

I read this in World Magazine in the new analysis article by Marvin Olasky

What’s the solution? Trillia Newel, director of community outreach for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, tweeted, “Many moons ago, before the Lord captured my heart by his grace, I interned at the New York State Assembly and I imagine I would have been among those cheering on the new abortion bill. But God, God changed my heart, transformed my mind. gave me a love for the unborn. It took God.”

World Magazine, Feb. 16th, 2019

It took God. I recall from Scripture the story of man who once held the coats for a mob who stoned to death a man by the name of Stephen. The man hated Stephen because Stephen was a Christ follower. Later that same man, a respected leader in his religious community, a Pharisee as a matter of fact led a small group to Damascus to persecute more of these hated Christians,

His journey was interrupted by the risen Christ. The risen Lord questioned the man Saul as to why was he persecuting him. Saul was converted to Jesus and as we know went on to write most of the New Testament. It took God.

Governor Cuomo is merely a puppet controlled by the demonic in the unseen realm. Paul, who clearly understood these things wrote:

We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Ephesians 6:12

It took God to change the hearts of my wife and I. We were once ambivalent about abortion but a miscarriage changed our hearts. It took God.

It took God to change the heart of a Pharisee, a self-confessed murderer who hated Christians. He would die a martyr’s death for the faith he once persecuted. It took God.

It took God to change the heart on a woman who once interned with the same legislature that now endorses infanticide. She now loves what she once hated. It took God.

It takes God to change the human heart. May He be pleased to do so in the hearts of people who have the power to stop the atrocities.

The Moral Theory of Utilitarianism and New York

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Preface: There is much to be said about Governor Cuomo and the legislature of New York for passing the horrific law that allows abortion right up to the very moment of live birth. I think something of particular interest is Governor Cuomo’s professed Catholicism. Cuomo is not alone as a Democrat politician who is a professing Catholic. Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden and John Kerry are others who are as radically pro-abortion as Cuomo.

It’s fair to ask what does the professed faith of these Catholics have to do with with their with their stance on abortion? How do they rationalize what their professed faith deems immoral into something they believe to be moral?

When the news of Cuomo’s actions broke I pondered the answer to the above question and remembered something about a prevailing philosophy that I had come across years ago. Understanding something about this philosophy explains how a person\politician can deem something moral while their professed faith deems the same thing immoral. It’s rather insidious really. I turned to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy for an explanation.

Did you know there was an Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy?

No? Well neither did I until I ran a search for a philosophy known as Utilitarianism.

Like other philosophies Utilitarianism is nuanced but according to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy Utilitariaism is a moral theory related to Consequentialism.

How you may ask?

Utilitarianism is one of the best known and most influential moral theories. Like other forms of consequentialism, its core idea is that whether actions are morally right or wrong depends on their effects. More specifically, the only effects of actions that are relevant are the good and bad results that they produce. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Furthermore..

Utilitarians believe that the purpose of morality is to make life better by increasing the amount of good things (such as pleasure and happiness) in the world and decreasing the amount of bad things (such as pain and unhappiness). They reject moral codes or systems that consist of commands or taboos that are based on customs, traditions, or orders given by leaders or supernatural beings. Instead, utilitarians think that what makes a morality be true or justifiable is its positive contribution to human (and perhaps non-human) beings. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

If you are still with me allow me to note two things regarding Utilitarianism.

  1. Note that utilitarians reject moral codes given by supernatural beings. This explains why Cuomo and his Democrat Catholic friends can so readily reject the moral authority of God. (This obviously applies to Protestants and Jews who also reject the moral authority of God.)
  2. Utilitarianism believe what makes morality true or justifiable is its positive contribution to human beings. This further explains why Cuomo and how Catholic Democrat allies can claim abortion is a positive contribution worthy of celebrating as a moral good.

What does Utilitarianism mean in practice and decision making?

Utilitarianism is a philosophical view or theory about how we should evaluate a wide range of things that involve choices that people face. Among the things that can be evaluated are actions, laws, policies, character traits, and moral codes. Utilitarianism is a form of consequentialism because it rests on the idea that it is the consequences or results of actions, laws, policies, etc. that determine whether they are good or bad, right or wrong. In general, whatever is being evaluated, we ought to choose the one that will produce the best overall results. In the language of utilitarians, we should choose the option that “maximizes utility,” i.e. that action or policy that produces the largest amount of good. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Observations: Utilitarianism is used to evaluate actions, laws, policies, character traits and moral codes. Utilitarians evaluate actions, laws, policies on the basis of overall results, that which would maximize utility, that action the produces the largest about of good. Therefore. a moral code that declares abortion as a moral wrong is not valid because in Cuomo’s mind the largest amount of good is produced by a women’s perceived right to choose, thus over turning any moral code by a supernatural being. In other words Cuomo’s professed faith has nothing to do with his politics unless it’s convenient for him which is why he is against the death penalty for murderers.

Utilitarianism appears to be a simple theory because it consists of only one evaluative principle: Do what produces the best consequences. In fact, however, the theory is complex because we cannot understand that single principle unless we know (at least) three things: a) what things are good and bad;  b) whose good (i.e. which individuals or groups) we should aim to maximize; and c) whether actions, policies, etc. are made right or wrong by their actual consequences (the results that our actions actually produce) or by their foreseeable consequences (the results that we predict will occur based on the evidence that we have). Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Here the encyclopedia notes that Utilitarianism is complex because we need to know 1) what things are good and bad, (2) whose good, (individuals or groups) we should seek to maximize; and (3) whether actions, policies etc. are made right or wrong by their actual consequences or foreseeable consequences.

Once God, as found in Scripture is rejected as the moral authority something else has to emerge as the supreme moral authority. That authority is always the State, either the nation state or in this case the State of New York governed by Cuomo. The state then decides whose good should be maximized and if that means sacrificing children in the womb then so be it. The state declares it is the supreme moral authority and that abortion on demand is the resulting consequence that will maximize good for the group of women who exercise the right. The unborn do have that right and as we’ll see the unborn regardless of how long in the womb are not even persons to begin with.

Although R v W in 1973 made the same a right few states took it as far as New York and now, apparently Vermont. The moves by New York and Vermont are a reaction to a more conservative SOTUS and the states limiting abortion to under 20 weeks and the ones seeking to ban it all together. The battle revolves around who has the moral authority to declare right from wrong and both sides seek to fight it our via legislation although the conservative side recognizes the moral authority of God.

I’ll try to explain this a bit more.

Pregnant women are the group the legislation focuses on. The utilitarian believes it will promote their well being and personal happiness if they are allowed to abort their children up to the moment of delivery. There is no higher moral good than one’s well being and personal happiness utilitarianism. The consequences of an abortion will the person(s) of a problem and the legislature of New York absolves the woman of all responsibility since her action is moral in their eyes. This is precisely why you see women proudly proclaiming their abortions without apology and in some cases bragging about their abortions. This is also why some conservatives equate abortion with a sacrament and a legislature as the forgiver. Utilitarianism is a philosophy but also a practiced religion without God.

Since Utilitarianism rejects moral codes given by a supreme being the state becomes the moral authority and this is why Cuomo (a Roman Catholic) must believe it’s fine to flaunt his own church’s teaching on abortion.

I first came across the Philosophy of Utilitarianism as a formal philosophy many years ago after my wife and I had become Christians and were learning what a Christian worldview is and is not.

In my reading I discovered that Planned Parenthood’s patron saint is Margaret Sanger, a known eugenist, racist and one could argue an early utilitarian.

Sanger is not the only one and in my reading I came across an Australian utilitarian academic by the name of Peter Singer. Singer is among the most prominent utilitarians and has written many books. It would be a mistake to underestimate his influence and those like him in our culture.

Utilitarianism is popular whether a person can articulate it or not because at it’s core it caters to our natural tendencies to self-centeredness and doing “what’s best for me” and “what makes me happy.”

This is why I remember Singer in particular and have connected him to the recent actions of Governor Cuomo and the New York legislature:

In Practical Ethics, Singer argues in favour of abortion rights on the grounds that fetuses are neither rational nor self-aware, and can therefore hold no preferences. As a result, he argues that the preference of a mother to have an abortion automatically takes precedence. In sum, Singer argues that a fetus lacks personhood.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Singer

Similar to his argument for abortion rights, Singer argues that newborns lack the essential characteristics of personhood—”rationality, autonomy, and self-consciousness”[52]—and therefore “killing a newborn baby is never equivalent to killing a person, that is, a being who wants to go on living”.[5

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Singer

Note that Singer declared that a fetus lacks personhood; therefore killing the fetus is morally sound because a fetus is not a person. If that sounds familiar it should because it defines the pro-abortion position.

Note how Singer equates the aborting of a fetus with the killing of a new born something very close to what New York has done. Singer argues that a newborn lacks the essential characteristics of personhood (the argument for abortion on demand of a fetus) and therefore it’s not equivalent to killing a person who wants to live. In other words it’s not a big deal. In fact, as I recall in reading about Singer back in the 90s he stated in an interview that he’d apply this philosophy to include toddlers (children starting to walk and talk, ages 18mo-3yrs) since they also lack the essential characteristics of personhood according to Singer.

Christians, it’s important that we are not blind-sided by the rhetoric of women’s rights and that we come to understand there is a moral theory at work. This moral theory dominates the political left (I am not saying no one on the right is a utilitarian). What I am saying the so called progressive political left is galvanized by utilitarianism where the state is the highest authority. When you take God out the picture you no longer have moral absolutes and the consequences are people like Singer and Cuomo deciding who has the essential characteristics of personhood and who has not

I am slow to play the Nazi card but in this instance it is appropriate. The Nazi state declared that disabled people lacked utility value and the proceeded to kill them off. The Nazi state further declared that Jews, Gypsies, Slavs and may others to be “subhuman” and thus lacking in personhood. The result was millions killed in the concentration camps. When the state is the highest authority all that is not only possible, but probable.

12For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Eph 6:12). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

 When Christians argue that abortion is satanic child sacrifice they are correct and dupes like Cuomo (representing the state) and Singer (representing the underlying moral theory) are the human agents of the rulers, authorities and cosmic powers who preside over this darkness.

The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend

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Winston Churchill, Great Britain’s wartime leader said this: “If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favourable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.”

Yalta_Conference_(Churchill,_Roosevelt,_Stalin)_(B&W)

The “Big Three” at Yalta, 1945. The War in Europe was nearly over. A sickly Roosevelt  would die in April of 45 had given Stalin pretty much what he wanted-a big slice of eastern Europe. Churchill was not so generous but by 1945 Britain was the junior partner in the Anglo-American Alliance. It kind of reminds me of an old saying, “if you dine with the devil you better have a long spoon.”

The context of Churchill’s statement was in regards to the Anglo (and later American) alliance with Stalin’s Soviet Union. Great Britain was desperate in the war against Hitler in 1941 and needed an ally. Germany foolishly invaded Russia and an instant ally was born.

Britain and Churchill were not fans of Stalin or his communism.  Stalin killed and starved hundreds of thousands of his own people and was especially hated in the Ukraine. He had recently picked a fight with tiny Finland and most western countries including Britain favored the plucky Finns. Stalin and Hitler had recently been pals and had divided up Poland, a British ally.

So, no one actually likes Stalin but…

Churchill, always colorful and usually memorable as he could turn a phrase like few others commented on Britain’s unlikely alliance with Stalin. Churchill’s comment about making a favorable reference to the devil (Stalin) was connected with the truism “that an enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Such is war, such is politics, such are personal relationships if we are honest and such is the world stage that a government will make alliances with some rather unsavory characters including a “devil” like Joseph Stalin.

This is the kind of  dilemma the United States faces with Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Iran, as most everyone knows are the bad guys. Iran hates Israel, our only democratic friend in the entire Middle East. The Iranian mullahs support terrorism (in Palestine and elsewhere) and is rather brutal to its own people when they get out of line. Just try being trans-gendered in Iran and see what happens. Iran is also anxious to get nukes-a nightmare scenario that the US tries hard to prevent.

On the other hand try being trans-gendered in Saudi Arabia and see what happens. You get my drift.

Both countries are Moslem and both are radical by degree. Iran is Shite and Saudi Arabia is Sunni. They do not get along. Iran is mostly Persian and Saudi Arabia is Arab-antagonisms go back centuries both ethnically and religiously. Given half a chance they would gladly destroy one another a Moslem on Moslem jihad.

Problem: Saudi Arabia like Israel is an American Ally but they are an ally of a different sort.  Israel shares with us a democratic process and other values. Saudi Arabia does not.

Iran is supported by Putin’s Russia and the Chi-Coms. This makes Saudi Arabia and Iran big players in international politics and while some argue that Saudi Arabia is “not as bad” as Iran is can be a bit of hair splitting.

Case in Point: Many in the West were horrified when “moderate” Saudi-Arabia obviously assassinated journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. Khashoggi’s “sin” was being a critic of the rulers of Saudi-Arabia even though he was Saudi as well.

1b72bfdb-f3b6-4b7f-b76e-70bee27a2169

If the shoe fits.

What few people know or knew is that Saudi Arabia like Iran is brutal. Mindy Belz of World Magazine details incident after incident, murder after murder (many of them Christians) in her excellent article titled Dealing in Realism.

Here is a revealing quote from the Belz article:

“The textbook language varies year-to-year, but adheres to core tenets [in state sponsored school curriculum]. It calls for violent punishment of non-Muslims and for putting homosexuals to death. All of Israel is ‘occupied Islamic territory’ the textbooks teach. And, ‘The Apes are the people of the Sabbath. the Jews; and the Swine are the infidels of the communion of Jesus, the Christians.'”

And lets not forget how many of the young men (11 out of 19) were Saudi nationals when the Twin Towers came down taking thousands of lives.

With an ally like that who needs enemies?

Governments are usually pragmatic like Churchill’s WW2 Britiain and will do what works (at the time). Principle is sacrificed on the altar of expediency and what works. Since Saudi Arabia hates Iran almost as much it secretly hates the West we should not be surprised that the US response was relatively mild to the Khashoggi killing although the US did pressure it’s ally to finally own up. (Some minor official in Saudi Arabia will have to bite the bullet perhaps literally.)

So, what about the other Saudi crimes detailed in Belz’s article? Should they not trouble us? And what about the textbook issue? What are little Saudi children learning about Jews and Christians? Can not the same type of thing be found in Iranian textbooks? I’ll bet it can.

I don’t think the US is naive regarding Saudi Arabia. I think the official position is we are stuck with them and at least they have not gone nuclear (but could, and probably would like to). I’m so cynical these days that I can see one of our representatives saying something like, “can’t you be a bit more discreet when you murder a political opponent?”

What should the serious Christian think about such things? Should we go along with the notion that the enemy of our enemy is our friend or should the US sanction the Saudi’s in a similar fashion to Iran? That would be Mindy Belz’s view.

The question is should the US “punish” its ally Saudi Arabia for exhibiting the same kind of behavior that its enemy Iran is guilty of?

As always Christians should try to think through thorny questions biblically. Applying biblical principles to international politics is not an easy matter especially because neither party in the US is particularly motivated to do so. It appears to me that one party actually hates the Bible and the other is mildly disinterested but needs Christian votes. I know, aren’t I the cynical one?

I think there are a number of biblical passages that can say something about how a Christian can respond to a sticky situation like Iran and Saudi Arabia.  It’s found in Romans 13:1-7 where Paul talks about the role of civil government.

13 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. 

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 13:1–7). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

There is a lot going on in the passage and I don’t want to write a novel so I’ll just focus on verse 4.

for he [government] is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.

What might we observe here?

First we see that government (the he) is God’s servant for good and if you do wrong be afraid, because that’s why the government gets a sword.

So government is God’s servant for good. Therefore, killing a political opponent is wrong and the Saudi Arabian government is not acting like God’s servant for good. The institution of government is good but people in the government or in positions of power are often evil and unjust and God is not for an unjust government.

There are a lot of places one can take all this but the basic principle seems obvious-government is God’s servant for good, not bad. Belz’s conclusion that the US should sanction Saudi Arabia certainly lines up with the Saudi pattern of injustice.

To sanction Saudi Arabia in some kind of serious way would require taking a principled stand and I’d be surprised if either political party has the fortitude to stand on principle. It might cost us something and at the end of the day the ends justify the means.

Khashoggi’s death ordered by Saudi Crown Prince

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Gosnell, the Movie

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I have something on my mind that I’d like to share my take on.

It’s the Gosnell movie.Gosnell_movie(1)_810_500_75_s_c1

I was curious how much money the movie earned so I asked Google the question and it sent me to an article on the Washington Times. Here’s the two opening paragraphs from the Times article.

It was a movie destined for failure — relying on crowfunding for its shoestring budget, garnering little to no attention among liberal media outlets and opening in only 673 theaters around the country.

Still, “Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer” succeeded in its opening weekend at the box office, becoming the No. 12 film release last week. Its $1.16 million in ticket sales placed the film just behind “A Simple Favor” ($1.3 million) and just ahead of “Crazy Rich Asians” ($1 million), according to the Box Office Mojo website. The Washington Times

The first paragraph says it all. The producers could not find funding in Hollywood and had to crow fund the project. The liberal media gave the movie little attention and it only opened in 673 theaters. Star Wars: The Force Awakens by comparison opened in over 4000 theaters. Star Wars grossed over $250,000,000 million its first weekend while Gosnell movie made just over $1,200,000. Talk about David and Goliath; yet David was considered a success given the odds against it.

The question is why or better, why didn’t?

Why didn’t the movie receive hardly any attention and why was it so hard to fund despite having some pretty good actors lined up to play the parts?

The October 27th issue of World Magazine did an excellent job of detailing the “why’s” in its article titled, Shop Of Horrors by Megan Basham. I encourage the reader to follow the link to this excellent article and publication.

The first thing I’d like to point out is that the movie is about the trial of a serial killer.

Why is Gosnell a serial killer? The fact is Gosnell snipped the spines of living infants who were delivered live during an abortion. A mother also died along with scores of live babies. The primary issue was murder as opposed to the gross malpractice which was much in evidence. .

Actor/Director Nick Searcy (from the TV series Justified) went out of his way as the director and as the actor defending Gosnell to argue that race and religion played a role in Gosnell’s arrest. In other words, the producers went out their way to make the movie about the trial rather than be overtly pro-life and having to work through laws that sometimes allow abortion and sometimes prevent it-like when a baby somehow survives the process.

Perhaps the most revealing aspect of the movie came when it was admitted that Gosnell was sloppy in his procedures but no more inhumane of what took place in other clinics. Obviously, there are many other shops of horror. Perhaps the biggest horror story of all is the fact we are a nation that does not consider life in the womb to be life despite the rather obvious fact that it is.

That of course is what the liberals and their sympathetic media allies feared and continue to fear-truth.  Abortion takes a life; it’s simply of question of when during the pregnancy.

The story was told fairly according to the Washington Times and World Magazine something the liberal media will never do because abortion is their sacred sacrament and never may the actual truth be told.

Just consider how fast the Planned Parenthood scandal disappeared when it became known they were selling baby body parts.

fetus

Here’s my take…Conservatives who are pro-life will never get a fair shake by the left-wing media or their cheerleaders in Hollywood. We’ve come to the point where we are surprised when we can find a fair shake in publications like the Washington Times and World Magazine and in my opinion on Fox News.

So what can we do? For starters, we can support outlets that are fair and ignore the ones that are not. You know who they are.

Second, we can pay attention when someone like the producers of Gosnell make a movie that is fair and speaks truth.

Sadly, I missed the movie. It didn’t even show in my area and where it did show it was at a time that we could not make the trip.

My plan is to rectify that as soon as possible. The movie will be out on DVD so that’s one way to support truth. It will also be available through outlets like Netflix or Amazon Prime where it can be purchased for streaming or just to rent. Ether way you support those trying hard to get the message out despite the odds stacked against them.

This article appeared shortly after my initial post and is helpful since it comes from one of the producers of the movie. The Media Censorship of Our Gosnell Movie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lying, a Good Thing?

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“Lying is nothing unusual in small children. In fact, it’s a sign of healthy mental growth.”
So states an article titled Children’s Lies Are a Sign of Cognitive Progress in the Wall Street Journal.

To read more go to Missio Dei Fellowship

 

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