Category Archives: Racism

The Power of Ideas

…I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18, ESV)

In 1948, Richard Weaver, professor of English at the University of Chicago, published a book titled “Ideas Have Consequences.” Weaver’s philosophical approach has been debated over the past 70 years, but I have no doubt in the power of ideas. Ideas, whether true or not, real or unreal, determine what we believe and how we choose to act. The ability to communicate one’s ideas can result in the creation of powerful movements that can change everything. You can debate what Weaver means by the phrase and how he works his idea out in the book, but i don’t know how you can debate the statement that ideas have consequences.

I think this claim can be tied to the words of St. Paul, “For 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, ESV) When he speaks about the fight the Church is in, he removes the individual element. In other words, our fight is not with people, our fight is with ideas that are contrary to the reign of God Almighty, ideas that are evil.

The Church may fight this battle well. It might not. That is for God to judge. However, historically, when the Church built by Jesus Christ wages the battle with ideas well, amazing things happen. You can contrast such battle with the differences between the American Revolution and the French Revolution. One resulted in the creation of a powerful nation consisting of the protection of life, liberty, and prosperity. The other ended in chaos and resulted in the rise of a tyrant who made himself Emperor.

Ideas have consequences, and the current strife today is about ideas. Black people (not all, or even most necessarily, but the most vocal) believe that their lives and the lives of their children are at risk because police are out of control. I am not going to debate whether this claim is reasonable, true, or false. It is accepted as true by many and their words and deeds are the result of this belief.

As the Church, our duty to Christ is not to make this situation into a battle between black and white or any individual people. That is an error being made on both sides. “I don’t like your idea so I don’t like you.” “I am threatened by your idea so I am threatened by you.” The moment we stop reasonable attempts at a common solution, we devolve into crimes against humanity, and this has happened on both sides.

My Christian sisters and brothers, Jesus declared that he would build his Church. That is the reason we are brothers and sisters, no matter what our differences may be. He also proclaimed that the greatest power of evil would not be able to destroy the Church, his body. Do we believe it?

If we embrace the idea of Christ, what do we have to fear? They may tear down statues, we can replace them if we desire. But the statue is not the issue. The hatred toward what the statue seemingly represents is an idea that must be challenged. If we can remove our shock at the action and address the idea behind it, we will demonstrate the truth of the Word of Christ and the power of his Church.

There appears to be no end to the recent attempts to “undo” that which makes “Western Culture.” This is a dangerous and evil idea. It is dangerous because it is an emotional response to a perceived wrong. The consequence so far may not have reached the level of the French Revolution; people are not being ushered en masse to the guillotine. Interestingly, many of the recent statues destroyed have been bu cutting off the head. But it is more dangerous because the perceived wrong has not be defined beyond the most general of terms: four police officers killed a man by the use of excessive force so all police officers are out of control and we must remove the police entirely.

Isn’t it sad that the argument being made is so similar to the arguments made by slave owners? This is the evil. You did it to me so it is right for me to do it to you. Almost no one of any ethnicity would deny the wrong done to so many by slavery and later Jim Crow and other unwritten prejudices. Didn’t our mothers tell us that two wrongs don’t make a right? No matter how things appear, you cannot win a war of fire fighting fire. You can only burn everything to the ground. Then what do you have?

Such is the second reason the attempts to destroy “Western Culture” is evil. Get rid of history that cannot be changed. Destroy statues and monuments that have nothing to do with the declared issue. Go back hundreds of years and prevent the racist music written by racist men. Do it all. What do you have left? Nothing. Emptiness. Waste.

So, we must look for other answers and other ways to address the issues. And as the Church, we have such an answer.

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matthew 5:21–22, ESV)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:38–42, ESV)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matthew 5:43–44, ESV)

“…and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:12–15, ESV)

Our battles do not need to become physical. To destroy any property that does not belong to you comes from a wrong idea. To kill another human being comes from an evil idea. But to love one another, if you care for others as you would have them care for you, this is the idea of God who created you, cares for you, and loves you as his creation.

The Church can ill afford to get involved in such destructiveness, whether in actuality or through justifying the sinful deeds of others. There are no excuses for evil thoughts, intentions, or actions. There is only reason to love one another with or without agreement. Stop the destruction of civilization. We are not animals. We do not survive without love, without purpose, without tending to one another and the creation around us.

Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (1 Timothy 6:11–12, ESV)

That’s an idea we all can live with.

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Black Lives Matter

The fool folds his hands and eats his own flesh.” (Ecclesiastes 4:5, ESV)

Sometimes the Bible uses colorful ways to get a point across.

Through the wrath of the Lord of hosts the land is scorched, and the people are like fuel for the fire; no one spares another. They slice meat on the right, but are still hungry, and they devour on the left, but are not satisfied; each devours the flesh of his own arm…” (Isaiah 9:19–20, ESV)

This is the foolishness of man which the preacher of Ecclesiastes mourns as vanity, “all is vanity.” One of the first problems with governments is that they forget they are ordained by God for his purpose and that they are not the practical social reality of man. This is just as true for any organization that denies God to serve man. The goal is to remake God and creation in the image of man.

Now I recognize that as a preacher, I’m not supposed to talk about political things. There are two sources for this ban on my freedom of speech. Sadly, the first is the church. I have been told more than once that my sermon is too political. Its too bad that we have forgotten the most basic principles that drove the men and women of this country to make serious sacrifices because “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Moreover, this rule of God providing for all to seek after Christ without interference is amplified in the very next sentence, “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it…”

As best as I can see, the founders of this nation, though many had differing ideas about the nature of God, agreed that the foundation of all social order is the unalienable rights provided by him. That means, there is nothing that is not within the realm of religion. In order to fulfill my duties as a minister of the Word and Sacraments, I must preach the truth of the whole gospel.

The second source is the Internal Revenue Service. There is no established law made by congress declaring that politics cannot be preached from the pulpit. In has not been infrequent for political candidates to arrange to address a congregation in a Sunday morning worship service. However, we are afraid of the IRS for their power to declare whether churches are tax free or not. Another way of putting it is that the IRS believes that it may bless the churches with tax free status allowing all contributions to be made with and get some form of benefit from it.

The hardest thing for one who has been scammed is to acknowledge that they have been scammed. And this is one of the biggest and best. The church has come to believe that if people don’t get a tax benefit from their contributions, the financial gifts will disappear. This is wrong on so many levels for first, we are not giving something to God if we expect something in return. Second, the one who controls the purse controls everything else. Churches are afraid to proclaim political truths from the pulpit because they are afraid of losing a government benefit.

One of the things that should be proclaimed loudly and clearly from every church is that the Government does not own us, our contributions, or our property ( I suggest this is true about all property privately owned). On top of that, the church should sound the trumpet that the role of the government is to protect the church from interference. This does not mean that the church gets a pass on obeying the laws that uphold godly morality. Frankly, with the emphasis on evolution, there is no justification for any morality beyond the advancement of the individual gene pool. Thank goodness we have not fallen that deeply yet.

Now, why did I spend all this time writing about government before addressing Black Lives Matter? Well, what is true for government is also true for the individual and for other groups of individuals. We all have to make the choice to either obey God or to remake God in the image we most like. The latter is the purpose of modern revolutions. The most obvious problem with Black Lives Matter is that if you disagree with any of their stated and unstated purposes, you are somehow saying that black lives don’t matter. Either you are a part of Black Lives Matter or you are a racist.

These are false claims and the assumptions are deceptive. The About page on the Black Lives Matter sight says the following,

“In the years since, we’ve committed to struggling together and to imagining and creating a world free of anti-Blackness, where every Black person has the social, economic, and political power to thrive.”

What exactly is “anti-blackness”? In these days, we are told that if you are born white you are already a racist. To confuse the matter even more, there is systemic racism, fundamental racism, programmatic racism and many more. Unfortunately, it is easy to throw out a term if you don’t define it. It’s easy to slur a whole group of people if all you have to do is shout louder than they do. And it’s easy to make people feel guilty for things that they are not guilty for.

Here’s where Ecclesiastes states that “The fool folds his hands and eats his own flesh.” We see it happening every day. The mayor of New York City is so focused on writing “Black Lives Matter” in front of Trump tower that when someone throws red paint on it, he is out there repainting it as fast as he can. At the same time, the murder rate in the city has risen dramatically, and it is black people who are dying. The message is that black lives do not matter to the mayor of New York City, though I am sure he felt good about himself when he went to sleep in his comfortably protected home that night.

The NFL plans to allow players to put stickers with the initials of those who have suffered “racism” at the hands of the police this year. An act that will make no difference to whatever problem they think they want to correct. However, the plan to play the “Black National Anthem” before the Star Spangled Banner at every NFL game has potential. The composer of the song is James Weldon Johnson who is the first black individual to pass the Florida Bar. Mr. Johnson was a strong Christian man with a good Christian ethic. He was a civil rights activist and began the NAACP. “Lift Every Voice and Sing” was a poem he wrote in 1900. His brother added music to it in 1905 and in 1919 the NAACP dubbed it the “Black National Anthem.”

I assure you that the song will be played and hopefully sung. I’ll let the words resonate to close this blog.

Lift ev’ry voice and sing,
‘Til earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list’ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on ’til victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
‘Til now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand,
True to our God,
True to our native land.

† accessed through https://www.naacp.org/naacp-history-lift-evry-voice-and-sing/

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From Below

He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.” (John 8:23, ESV)

The eight chapter of John applies to us very nicely, in my opinion. It begins with the religious leaders of the day (the self-proclaimed righteous) bringing a woman to Jesus for judgment. He is told that this woman has been caught in adultery. Now they pose a question to Jesus which none of them could possibly answer. This is not because they wanted to know the truth, but because they knew there were only two ways he could answer, and in their thinking, either answer would be wrong.

So, they present the following dilemma to the Lord of heaven and earth: The Law of Moses required that a woman caught in adultery must be stoned (their phasing of the Law, not God’s). So if Jesus refuses to stone her he is supposedly in violation of God’s Law. However, if he does stone her, he is in violation of Roman law. Aha! They’ve got him!

The first flaw with their trap is a legal one. The Law in Deuteronomy and Leviticus demands that the man and the woman who commit adultery together must die (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:20-24). In this accusation, where is the man? Jesus need not do anything without both defendants. Furthermore, we only have the Pharisees word that she was an adulterous woman but there are no legally required two witnesses. Without knowing it (though they should have) the testers have trapped themselves as not really knowing or applying the Law correctly.

Yet Jesus is not one to let a learning moment go by unanswered. Neither does he fall into a debate with those who have already convinced themselves that they are right. So, Jesus drives home his point silently. He bends down and writes on the ground with his finger. No speculation here is warranted. If God wanted us to know what Jesus wrote, it would have been recorded. Whatever it was, the Pharisees demand an answer and continue to badger him with repeating the question over and over.

Thus, Jesus stands back up and gives an answer that no one, not even the woman expected, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” Ouch! Not at all what the expected or wanted to hear. Another human foolish testing of God fails. After they all leave, Jesus graciously addresses the woman and gives her forgiveness. Though I am sure the Pharisees didn’t learn their lesson, I believe she learned hers. It’s what Jesus did repeatedly, cast down the proud and lift up the humble.

But that is only the beginning of the chapter, and though I will not spend time on everything worthy of reflection and study, later Jesus addressed the Jews who had heard him teach and believed in him. “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”” (John 8:31–32, ESV)

I have heard the last phrase repeated often in religious and non-religious circles. “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” I first want to note that I lose patience with those who deny God and Christ and who repeatedly quote him as if all of a sudden they believe. Please stop it.

However, those who confess they believe do something I consider far worse. In the first case, unbelievers only reveal their duplicity and hypocrisy. But believers steal a phrase out of context to justify something they want to be true, even if it is not. The freedom of truth is not unconditional. Jesus gives two conditions to knowing the truth: 1) “If you abide in my word,” and 2) you are my disciples.

None of us can or do know truth apart from the Word of God. While Jesus walked this earth, the Word of God included the Scriptures (Old Testament) and himself! (John 1:1) Now, the Word which is Christ is recorded and kept for us today in the New Testament. The easiest way of stating this is, if you want to know truth, you have to know all of God’s word.

The objection I hear to this is that there are many brilliant people who know much about the world through science, math, medicine, and more, who do not believe in the Bible, God, or Christ. You have no argument with me. God has revealed himself in his word from the very beginning: “And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.” (Genesis 1:3, ESV) The sciences in their purest form are the study of this world that God created. But the recognition of God through the sciences is another matter altogether. Not only can it be done, but it should be done if one is seeking truth.

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:19–20, ESV) Paul doesn’t hedge about the truth, “Professing to be wise, they became fools.” Sounds a lot like the Pharisees in John 8.

Any discipline that does not reveal God and Christ is not the fault of the truth but of the one practicing the discipline with a presupposed believe that there is no God or Christ. This is the problem with all public education and in most universities. They start with a denial of God and then claim to be interested in truth. This is in itself a lie.

The second qualification to truth must therefore be emphasized, “you are truly my disciples.” Abiding in the the word means a constant relationship of word to life, and this is what defines being a disciple. A disciple is a follower, one committed to someone or something.

The issue I have with many social justice issues in general and Black Lives Matters in particular is that they are dishonest attempts to find and apply truth. They are dishonest in that they begin with a position that is prejudicial against all other positions. They are dishonest because they are not open to discussion or debate about the idea or the facts used to make their version of the truth win out. They are dishonest because, knowing they do not have truth on their side, they abandon the truth and fall into the fallacy of name calling destroying their opponents and the destruction of their property and lives.

In America today, it is nearly impossible to have intelligent discussions about abortion, traditional marriage, real discrimination, racism, politics and a whole lot more. It is impossible because one side tends to abandon reason, debate, and logic and defer to outbursts, shouting, overbearing accusations, and more. A most obvious example is the failure of our universities which are supposed to be safe havens for seeking and testing truth but have become impenetrable fortresses of one position and one position only. If you disagree with the agenda, there is no room for debate. Worse, if you are on the wrong side, you are not even free to speak.

Many are upset by the destruction of statues, monuments, etc. honoring people who were instrumental in founding and running America. Such destruction is only a symptom of the real problem: they have already destroyed the principles of government established by the greatest of our fore-fathers.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…” (The Declaration of Independence)

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” (The Constitution of the United States of America)

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

“But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Abraham Lincoln~November 19, 1863

We who are of this world will never be able to resolve the issues that face us until we become disciples of he who is from above. Peace only comes from the Prince of Peace.

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Blinded by Hate

Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” (1 John 2:7–11, ESV)

What happened to George Floyd was a crime, legally and morally. It is not the first time such a crime has ever been committed in the name of law and order. The murder of Mr. Floyd, whether intentional or thoughtlessness is repulsive any way I look at it. Rightly, it has sparked protest and the review of policies in police departments around the country.

There have been many programs on television analyzing and debating the reaction to what is going on. Most of the ones I have watched sympathize with the desire to rid America of the racism that is and has been so prevalent. Few of them really offer any kind of answer or strategy to change our culture. Some call for revolution, others for better communication. Who is talking about the heart?

I believe that the beginning is the presuppositions we all bring to the issue. We all have to start somewhere and our default starting place is always our world view. Foundational world views are not taught in schools as much as they are taught at home and on the streets and playgrounds. Unless we are conscious of our world view, we can never hope to change it. More importantly is that we are impotent when it comes to changing another’s world view.

Jesus told us to take the log out of our own eye before we try to get the speck out of another’s. That commands me to look to myself first, not to build up walls against others but to become vulnerable enough to honestly discover my “log.” We are all by nature in the dark. We all want to point the finger somewhere else. We all want to fix the problem but we don’t want the discomfort of realizing that we are each the problem.

One of the world view changes I think we all need is the recognition that the concept of race erroneous. Race can only exist if the mythical theory of evolution is true. Why are we afraid of accepting that we are all descendants of Eve and Adam? We are all the race of humankind. I think it is because being the children of Adam and Eve we must bear the responsibility of sin. Herein lies the root of the problem.

John said it well: “Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” Our society is stumbling around in the dark because hatred has blinded us. The only way out is to love one another.

However, love is not the kind of love we have created. Most of our romantic ideas of love are merely a desire to find true love. Unable to do that, we make love a biological reaction. We hate our humanity and become as animals. We hate life an promote death wherever we can. John tells us that God is love. He does not say that God loves everyone and everything indiscriminately. He says that love is the very nature of God. In other words, When we live bearing the image of God, we live lovingly. And to love God is to love one another.

It seems so simple. Love instead of hate. Yet it feels so impossible because we have not loved God, we have loved to be god. There is only one way to become true lovers of God and neighbor which is to restore the image of God with which we were created. Unable to save ourselves, Jesus who is God sacrificed himself to save us. In Christ Jesus we learn again to love as God is love.

For me, racism does not exist, but ethnic hatred does. When it gets down to it, ethnic hatred sounds really silly. It makes not sense other than it is a growth of our hatred of our selves. We are created to bring forth the glory of God. Hating to do that is the self-hatred that grows into other-person-hatred. Years ago Rodney King said, “Can’t we just all get along?” We cannot. That is, we cannot get along or find any kind of peace until we remove the log from our own eye and allow Christ to make us again into who we are to be.

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