Minor Thoughts from me to you

Archives for Christianity (page 1 / 4)

Morality Over Money

It seems that America’s Christians want to remember the Trump presidency only as one that was financially rewarding. I saw them, as we got closer to Joe Biden’s inauguration, reminding each other how good they had it.

Seen on Facebook:

Remember this day. No wars in 4 years. Job security. Oil independence . Gas is at under $2.10 gallon. Stock Market above 30K.

Also seen on Facebook:

TodaysFacts

Copied to my timeline so it will come back up in my memories next year.

Let’s see what happens. I can’t wait to compare!

Today is 1 days before Bidens inauguration... Gas is currently $2.15per gallon (Ivor, VA). Interest rates are 2.25 percent for a 30 year mortgage. The stock market closed at 30829.40 though we have been fighting COVID for 11 months. Our GDP growth for the 3rd Qtr was 33.1 percent. We had the best economy ever until COVID and it is recovering well. We have not had any new wars or conflicts in the last 4 years. North Korea has been under control and has not been testing any missiles. ISIS has not been heard from for over 3 years. The housing market is the strongest it has been in years. Homes have appreciated at an unbelievable rate and sell well. And let’s not forget that peace deals in the Middle East were signed by 4 countries—unprecedented!

Unemployment sits at 6.7% in spite of COVID.

Biden takes over on 1-20-21.

Lets look back next year...

These remembrances whitewash everything that was evil about the Trump presidency. For instance, here’s just a small portion of how I’ll remember Trump:

Remember this day. A racist, law-breaking sheriff pardoned. Children taken from parents. Refugees terrorized. Alliances shattered. 400,000 dead. White supremacists emboldened. Democracy undermined. The capitol attacked, Congress made to flee.

For Christians who claim to be Bible believing, this emphasis on money is unseemly. When measured against lives lost and people broken, who cares how well the stock market is doing, how cheap gas is, etc.? Morality means much more than money.

Jesus made it quite clear that it is far better to be poor and righteous than it is to be rich and unrighteous.

Matthew 6:19-24

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

Matthew 16:24-27

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.

Luke 12:22-34

Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life ? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

“Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

There’s Video of Christian Terrorists Praying to God Inside the U.S. Capitol

More evidence that something is deeply, deeply wrong inside of American Christianity. These insurrectionists saw no conflict between their faith and their violent attack on the nation’s government.

There’s Video of Christian Terrorists Praying to God Inside the U.S. Capitol

Hemant Mehta, writing at Friendly Atheist.

These aren’t just terrorists. They’re Christian terrorists. The prayer they recited was one that wouldn’t be out of place at evangelical churches across the country.

I know this comparison isn’t new, but if Muslims invaded the Capitol and said a prayer in the name of their God, we know exactly what Christians would say about it, and we know exactly how right-wing media would cover it.

The 80% of white evangelicals voters who supported Trump for two elections have created an environment where terrorism in the name of their faith isn’t seen as hypocritical or out of place by the most fervent believers. It’s not that all evangelicals condone the actions of the men inside the chamber. It’s that their churches haven’t done enough to dissuade believers from supporting right-wing conspiracies and blatant lies and conservative cruelty — to the point where even outright terrorism is seen as perfectly in line with how these believers view God.

When pastors play into culture war rhetoric, act like Christians are constantly persecuted, and lie to their congregations about how the sky is falling when liberals have any kind of power, they can’t pretend like this scene is shocking.

It’s not surprising at all. There’s a reason so many Christian symbols were seen during the riot.

A bunch of Christians were among the terrorists. They believe God was on their side. Unless evangelical pastors address the beliefs they hold and the rhetoric they use — because that creates a foundation for terrorism like this to thrive — it’s not going to stop.

This entry was tagged. Christianity Donald Trump January 6 Insurrection MAGA Cult Jesus and John Wayne

For insurrectionists, a violent faith brewed from nationalism, conspiracies and Jesus

There is something tragically wrong with White American evangelical Christianity. How else do you explain a multitude of Christian symbols during the attack on our nation’s capitol and the democratic process?

For insurrectionists, a violent faith brewed from nationalism, conspiracies and Jesus

Jack Jenkins, writing for Religion News.

As throngs surged toward a barricade manned by a vastly outnumbered handful of police, a white flag appeared above the masses, flapping in the wind: It featured an ichthys — also known as a “Jesus fish” — painted with the colors of the American flag.

Above the symbol, the words: “Proud American Christian.”

It was one of several prominent examples of religious expression that occurred in and around the storming of the Capitol last week, which left five people dead — including a police officer. Before and even during the attack, insurrectionists appealed to faith as both a source of strength as well as justification for their assault on the seat of American democracy.

While not all participants were Christian, their rhetoric often reflected an aggressive, charismatic and hypermasculine form of Christian nationalism — a fusion of God and country that has lashed together disparate pieces of Donald Trump’s religious base.

“A mistake a lot of people have made over the past few years … is to suggest there is some fundamental conflict between evangelicalism and the kind of violence or threat of violence we’re seeing,” said Kristin Kobes Du Mez, a history professor at Calvin University and author of “Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation.”

“For decades now, evangelical devotional life, evangelical preaching and evangelical teaching has found a space to promote this kind of militancy.”

This entry was tagged. Donald Trump January 6 Insurrection MAGA Cult Christianity Jesus and John Wayne

“Dave Ramsey Fired my Daughter-in-Law”

Two weeks ago, we learned that Dave Ramsey doesn’t care about the health of his employees. Last weekend, we learned that he’s thin-skinned and vindictive.

tom_stephenson tweet thread from Sat, December 26, 2020 at 06:12 PM.

My daughter-in-law has worked for @DaveRamsey for 5 years. She loved her job and has been a model employee. It has been difficult this year with the Covid situation but she hung in there and did her job without complaining.

Last week my son made some comments to someone he did not know at a non-Ramsey dinner about the Covid situation at Ramsey and how crazy this year has been. The next day @DaveRamsey fired my DIL because my son expressed his opinions to someone who apparently called Ramsey.

It was apparently reported to Ramsey that my son said Dave was an idiot but my son confirmed with the person he talked to that was not what he said or even suggested. Not sure why the person felt compelled to call anyone about their conversation.

There was no discussion or questions about what her husband said or why- just "see you later". For a company that claims to be a Christian based organization and claims not to tolerate gossip and as a former CEO, I struggle to rationalize this intolerant, cult-like behavior.

As much as she loved her job, I for one am thankful she is out of there. She didn't deserve to be fired and I just needed to vent a little. P.S. The day after she was fired, she test positive for Covid after being exposed to it by at least 2 co-workers at Ramsey.

Dave Ramsey, Christian personal finance guru, defies COVID-19 to keep staff at desks

Dave Ramsey, noted Christian financial guru, is an unkind, abusive employer. How else do you describe the fact that he freely admits that COVID cases are out of control at his company, but that employees are not allowed to work from home? The only choice he gives his employees is coming to an infected workplace or quitting their job. He’s also suing a hotel for trying to institute safety measures at one of his conferences.

Ramsey has the audacity to say that “fear is not a fruit of the spirit” and “I do not let my behaviors be — dictated by fear unless it involves getting out of the way of a car that is coming toward me.” His statement is profoundly silly. COVID can mess you up just as bad as a car. Or worse. So why are you “getting out of the way of a car that is coming toward [you]”, but not getting out of COVID’s way? After all, most drivers will swerve around you. And if God wants to “call you home”, who are you to interfere with God’s plan by leaping aside? Or by wearing a seatbelt while driving?

After suggesting that staff members quit their job if they were worried about COVID, Ramsey’s HR director said “It is harsh and hard for me to say this”. Surprisingly, he didn’t seem to question whether or not he should be saying harsh things. I would suggest that Christians should be thinking long and hard before criticizing people’s fear and saying “harsh and hard” things about where to work, especially during a global pandemic. I don’t know what kind of a business Ramsey is running, but it’s not one that Jesus would claim.

Here are some of the actual fruits of the spirit: “love, forbearance, kindness, goodness, gentleness”. Too bad no one ever told Dave Ramsey that those fruits of the spirit apply to running a business and interacting with one’s employees.

Dave Ramsey, Christian personal finance guru, defies COVID-19 to keep staff at desks

by Bob Smietana, for Religion News.

Ramsey Solutions does not require masks at its offices — Dave Ramsey himself has been a vocal opponent of mask-wearing and other COVID restrictions. In a clip from his daily radio show, posted on YouTube in November, Ramsey railed against what he called “totalitarian” government restrictions and mask mandates, saying he wanted to “start a crusade” against them.

The Dave Ramsey Show is known for its host’s folksy financial advice balanced with a moralizing disdain for debt. One of the show’s highlights is a listener’s call featuring a “debt-free scream” to mark their liberation from consumer debt using Ramsey’s methods.

Since March, Ramsey Solutions has had about 100 cases of COVID-19 among its employees, according to a recording of a mid-November staff call obtained by Religion News Service.

Among that number were about 50 cases in mid-November, Ramsey Solutions Executive Director of Human Resources Armando Lopez told staff on the Nov. 13 call.

“There are 50 people that are somewhere in the neighborhood who are either positive or returning to work,” Lopez said.

Ramsey Solutions did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Lopez or other leaders.

During the November call, Lopez acknowledged the entire country — including suburban Williamson County, where Ramsey Solutions is located — was seeing spiking COVID-19 numbers. “Williamson County has seen a huge increase in COVID cases. And so have we. Ramsey Solutions has seen a huge spike,” said Lopez.

The human resources director also said he feared the numbers were higher, admitting the company lacked an accurate system for tracking COVID-19 cases.

Despite the number of positive cases, Lopez told staff in November there were no plans to allow remote working. The company allowed staff to work from home during the initial weeks of the pandemic but has required them to return to company headquarters since May.

Lopez said Ramsey Solutions leadership had decided it was not “a work from home employer.”

“Can we be a work from home employer for a short period of time?” he said on the Nov. 13 call. “We have proven for five weeks it works. Can we? Yes. Are we? No.”

That message was repeated in a company newsletter sent on Nov. 20, which reported 32 positive cases among staff and another 17 staff awaiting tests. The newsletter encouraged staff to report any COVID-19 test results to human resources but maintained that the company would continue operating out of headquarters.

“We know that many of you have felt pressure from family and friends, some of whom think you are ‘weird’ for still going in to work,” said the newsletter.

“Fortunately we work in a place that is used to being called weird,” the newsletter continued, then highlighted Ramsey Solutions’ “countercultural approach to business.”

“And now we are weird for following common sense and using logic in providing for our families and our customers,” according to the newsletter.

During the mid-November call with staff, Lopez said company leaders were not able to keep up with requests for exemptions to work from home, and employees were the best people to judge what is the right thing to do for their health. Some might decide they need to choose to quit their jobs, he said.

“We know we are going to lose some people through this,” he said. “It is harsh and hard for me to say this.”

The company has advised workers to social distance if possible and to stay home if they feel sick. In staff newsletters, the company has encouraged testing for COVID-19 but has also shared articles claiming the threat of COVID-19 has been exaggerated by the media.

“We are all adults here,” Luke Lefevre, a creative director at Ramsey, told employees in the Nov. 20 newsletter. “If you want to wear a mask, wear a mask. Give yourself healthy space from others. Use the stairs if you can. Don’t be careless.”

The company has also continued to hold large events during the pandemic, including its “EntreLeadership Summit” in July. That event was scheduled to be held at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Kissimmee, Florida, near Orlando, but Ramsey moved the event to its Franklin offices after the Gaylord informed the company of significant COVID-19 restrictions, including mask checks, according to a lawsuit filed by Ramsey Solutions.

The summit was one of a series of “high-end experiences” put on by Ramsey, attracting thousands of business owners and other attendees, “each of whom spends between $5,000 and $15,000 to attend, inclusive of hotel,” according to the amended complaint in the suit.

The COVID-19 restrictions at the hotel, which included no buffets or other self-service food along with limited use of the pool or other amenities, made having the conference there untenable, Ramsey Solutions stated in the complaint.

In court documents, Ramsey Solutions claimed the change of venue cost the company $10 million in lost revenue.

During a July staff meeting after the summit, Ramsey accused the hotel’s leadership of breaking their word to him and the company. The mask requirement in particular irked Ramsey. He ridiculed the idea that hotel staff would enforce a mask requirement on guests.

“As you guys are well aware we don’t require masks but if someone wants to wear a mask we don’t mind,” according to a recording of the meeting obtained by RNS. “Everybody gets to choose what you want to do. This is America — a voluntary thing, you choose what you want to do. But we’re not going to have someone pay $10,000 for a ticket to have some $8 an hour twerp at Marriott giving them a hard time about wearing a mask.”

At a staff meeting after Thanksgiving, Ramsey continued his criticism of those who are ruled by “fear” of COVID-19 and are “freaking out” due to the pandemic.

“They have got fear, they have trepidation on the COVID, they are scared to death about whether or not they are meeting all the social cues on fear and masks and temperature controls,” he said on a recording of the meeting obtained by RNS.

By contrast, he said, staff at Ramsey Solutions would spread Christmas cheer and joy during the holidays — as well as courage, which he said was contagious.

The company, Ramsey said, would not be ruled by fear.

“Fear is not a fruit of the spirit,” he told his employees in the meeting, while rallying them to step up their performance during the holiday season. “It is not on the list. And so, while sometimes I am afraid, I do not make decisions — and I do not let my behaviors be — dictated by fear unless it involves getting out of the way of a car that is coming toward me.”

This entry was tagged. COVID-19 Christianity Dave Ramsey Jesus and John Wayne White Christian Nationalism

Refugee data on religion disappears as fewer persecuted Christians admitted to US

God loves the refugees who live among us. God wants us to love the refugees who live among us. These aren’t my words, these are God’s commands, from Deuteronomy 14. And, yet, under President Donald Trump the United States turns away almost all refugees and the President attacks the ones who already live here. This is an anti-Christian, anti-Biblical stance. And America’s Christians either silently agree (therefore allowing it to happen), or join in the attacks by treating Trump’s words as applause lines.

If you are a Christian, why would you vote for a man who opposes and oppresses the weak and the vulnerable? There is nothing in these policies that makes God happy or glorifies God.

Refugee data on religion disappears as fewer persecuted Christians admitted to US

by Emily McFarlan Miller, Jack Jenkins, for Religion News Service

The data showed a precipitous drop in recent years in the number of Christian refugees admitted to the U.S. from the 50 countries at the top of Open Doors USA’s World Watch List. The annual list tracks the places where Christians face the worst persecution.

President Donald Trump promised in his first days in office to make helping persecuted Christians a priority for his administration.

But the last numbers made available by the State Department — which Soerens downloaded Friday before they disappeared from the department’s website — show the number of Christians admitted from those countries dropped 83.2% from fiscal years 2016 to 2020.

Just 2,811 Christian refugees were admitted to the U.S. from the countries on the World Watch List in fiscal 2020, which ended last month. By contrast, 16,714 Christians from those countries were admitted to the United States in fiscal 2016, former President Barack Obama’s last full year in office.

This entry was tagged. Bible Christian Living Christianity Donald Trump Immigration Policy President2020

A new group of evangelical leaders forms in support of Biden

A new group of evangelical leaders forms in support of Biden

Sarah Pulliam Bailey, for The Washington Post

When he was pastor of a prominent megachurch in Orlando, Joel Hunter never told anyone how he voted, but like many White evangelical leaders, he picked Donald Trump in 2016. Trump was friendly with the conservative Christian community, and Hunter thought, “Well, let’s give it a shot.”

“Hillary Clinton never did reach out to the evangelical community,” Hunter said. “So I thought, we’re not going to have much of an influence or impact on policy with her, but we might with Trump.”

On Friday, Hunter will join other evangelicals who represent major Christian institutions to launch a group, Pro-life Evangelicals for Biden, describing the Democrat’s overall agenda as closer to what they call a “biblically balanced agenda,” even though they disagree with Biden on abortion rights.

… The group favoring Biden, set up by longtime evangelical leaders Ron Sider and Rich Mouw, includes several leaders who have since retired from major evangelical institutions. Among them is John Huffman, who was board chair of Christianity Today magazine, a lifelong Republican and former pastor to President Richard Nixon. He is planning to vote for a Democrat for the first time.

Huffman, who did not vote for either Trump or Clinton in 2016, decided to support Biden this time around because he said he has seen how few conservatives are willing to stand up to [Trump].

“I’m coming as an evangelical who is pro-life and prepared to say the Republicans don’t own ‘pro-life’ and they don’t own evangelical,” Huffman said.

Huffman said he knows several leaders of major evangelical institutions who would like to oppose Trump, but they will not because their supporters would pull funding.

“We feel like we are speaking for a lot of evangelical leaders who are as intimidated as senators who have to support the president for reelection,” Huffman said. “This man has demanded a kind of loyalty that is very much cult-like.”

The group for Biden also includes Jerushah Duford, the South Carolina-based granddaughter of late evangelist the Rev. Billy Graham, who said that she feels passionately about showing voters who describe themselves as “pro-life” that they can support a Democratic president.

Duford, who took in children through foster care for 10 years and adopted one of the kids she fostered, said she believes that economic policies that support mothers who want to carry a pregnancy to term help to lower the abortion rate.

“There are so many evangelicals who are one-issue voters and abortion is their issue. It is an issue that singlehandedly prevents them from voting for Biden,” she said. “I want to validate that struggle that people are having who care about pro-life issues.”

… Cizik, who advised President Ronald Reagan on his 1983 “Evil Empire” speech in front of evangelicals, said he supported Republican presidents for 32 years until 2016. He said the turning point for his advocacy was reading a quote from director of national intelligence Daniel Coats, who is an evangelical.

“To [Trump], a lie is not a lie,” Coats is quoted as saying in journalist Bob Woodward’s new book, “Rage.” “It’s just what he thinks. He doesn’t know the difference between the truth and a lie.”

Cizik cast his vote for Clinton in 2016, but he has never openly advocated for a presidential candidate until now.

“I blame my fellow evangelicals for not publicly challenging this man’s arrogance, lies and unconstitutional acts to subvert the election,” Cizik said.

… The group launching Friday said Biden’s policies are more consistent with “a biblically shaped ethic of life” than Trump’s.

“Poverty, lack of accessible health care services, smoking, racism and climate change are all pro-life issues,” the leaders said in a statement. “Therefore, we oppose ‘one issue’ political thinking because it lacks biblical balance.”

This entry was tagged. Christianity Donald Trump Joe Biden President2020

Trump’s attack on Hunter Biden only hurts recovering addicts like me - The Washington Post

Once again, someone has to point out that Donald Trump's cruel and callous attacks hurt vulnerable among us. Once again, Donald Trump's words are the opposite of what any Christian should support or want to be associated with.

We are the people who reach out to those who need God the most, welcoming them in spite of their failings and how abhorrent we might find their behavior. We worship the God who forgives, restores, and makes new. Donald Trump is the man who just uses hurting people as a punchline for an attack or a joke.

Trump’s attack on Hunter Biden only hurts recovering addicts like me

Eric Garcia, writing at The Washington Post.

As saccharine as it sounds, the president of the United States is also the president of screw-ups, addicts and hopefuls like me and Hunter Biden. But Trump’s comments made clear that he believes that an addict’s actions can be used against our families to attack their character.

That will make us less willing to talk about our problems and get the help we need. The National Institute on Drug Abuse says explicitly that stigma can make people with substance abuse disorders less willing to seek treatment. And that makes sense. If your addiction is going to be used against you, why try to get better?

Hunter Biden’s problems with alcohol, drugs and women have been well-documented. (News reports show that, contrary to what Trump said Tuesday, Hunter was not dishonorably discharged from the Navy Reserve when he tested positive for cocaine in 2014.) Those demons were enough of an issue that when the former vice president began running last year, the New Yorker published a piece asking whether they would “jeopardize his father’s campaign.” That story ran a few days before I finally hit bottom myself.

The Biden family doesn’t need to be investigated. The Trump family does.

I don’t know Hunter Biden, but I do know that worrying that your own actions could hurt the people you love is one of the things that tears an addict up inside. I knew I was miserable, but I also knew my actions contradicted all the good things my family had taught me, which is why I never told them the truth. The lies didn’t fix anything, though; I just felt even guiltier, which of course made me drink more and go back to strip clubs. I felt like I didn’t deserve my family, and I feared any bad thing that happened to them would be God’s retribution for me running so astray.

When my mom finally confronted me, she thought I was deceiving her because I thought lying was fun. It was the opposite; I knew my actions were wrong. I couldn’t bear to make her think that she had failed as a parent, and I didn’t want the people at her church to associate her with my filth (when, in fact, they were the ones who told her not to give up on me).

Trump’s attempts to dismiss the late Beau Biden’s good work Tuesday by returning to Hunter Biden’s failings (“I don’t know Beau. I know Hunter”) also hit home for me because I always worried that my sister — who along with being my best friend is the best daughter, wife and teacher I know — would have her reputation dragged down because of me.

I don’t know the inner dynamics of the Biden family. But I am sure the things Hunter did must have broken his father’s heart. I am sure they had conversations like the ones my mom had with me. So Joe Biden could have, rightly, brushed off Trump with another “will you shut up” or refocused the conversation on Beau, whose death he’s still so publicly grieving.

But instead, he met the moment head-on. “My son, like a lot of people you know at home, had a drug problem,” he said — before saying that Hunter has fixed them, and then uttering the words every recovering addict wants to hear: “I am proud of my son.”

Addictions require shame the same way fires require matches. We tell ourselves that nobody would want anything to do with us if they knew the truth. By trying to hit Biden with his son’s problems, Trump took a blowtorch to countless addicts’ shame, igniting our worst fears that we could harm those we love.

This entry was tagged. Christianity Donald Trump Drugs President2020

Why This Pro-Life Conservative Is Voting for Biden

The most consistent reason that I’ve heard for supporting Donald Trump is abortion. The claim is that we must overlook every fault, allow Mr. Trump to be guilty of any crime, as long as he’s pro-life. We Christians can never allow a Democratic “baby killer” to be elected. I’ve grown increasingly uncomfortable with this argument. It permits a multitude of sins—lying, cheating, bullying, objectifying, defrauding; hate, racism, vindictiveness—as long as one, very specific line isn’t crossed.

But it is possible to be both pro-life and to vote for a Democrat.

Why This Pro-Life Conservative Is Voting for Biden

Mona Charen for The Bulwark.

Since I announced publicly that I will be voting for Joe Biden in November, I’ve received a few communications from puzzled readers. “How can you, a supposedly pro-life woman, support someone who believes in killing babies?” Others say, “What do you not like about Trump’s record? The tax cuts? The record jobs numbers? The conservative judges?” One reader summed things up with “I used to like you.”

I understand. I feel the same way about many people myself.

I will try to respond for the sake of those who, like me, find themselves alienated from the Republican Party despite some policy agreements with the Trump administration.

Let’s start with abortion. I have been pro-life my entire adult life. I haven’t changed. I continue to find the practice abhorrent, and will persist in trying to persuade others. But I’ve noticed a tendency among pro-life conservatives to forgive absolutely everything else if a politician expresses the right views on abortion. This is a mirror image of the left, as we saw when Bill Clinton was accused of sexual misconduct. Many liberals were willing to overlook his gross behavior toward women in the name of preserving abortion rights. Call it “abortion washing.” Both sides do it.

Abortion washing shuts down moral reflection. Rather than do the work of analyzing how one good thing weighs in the balance against other considerations, abortion washing permits the brain to snap shut, the conscience to put its feet up.

[…] I’ve never believed that electing presidents who agree with me will lead to dramatic changes in abortion law, nor is the law itself the only way to discourage abortion. The number of abortions has been declining steadily since 1981. It dropped during Republican presidencies and during Democratic presidencies, and now stands below the rate in 1973, when Roe _v. Wade_ was decided and when abortion was illegal in 44 states.

The Supreme Court, despite Republican appointments, has side-stepped many opportunities to reverse Roe. As David French noted, Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Anthony Kennedy, and David Souter were harsh critics of the decision, but chose, on the bench, to vote for continuity. So if the logic is to support presidents based on the kind of Supreme Court nominees they will choose, the chances that any particular appointment will have the effect of changing the law seem remote.

It has always been my hope to change people’s hearts, so that this cruel practice—like slavery, torture, and mutilation—can be put (mostly) behind us.

Being pro-life is part of an overall approach to ethical questions. It’s wrong to take innocent life. But other things are immoral too. It’s also wrong to swindle people, to degrade and demonize, to incite violence, to bully, and while we’re at it, to steal, to bear false witness, to commit adultery, and to covet. I don’t think Trump has committed murder, and he seems to have honored his parents (though perhaps in the wrong way). But as for the other eight of the 10 commandments, Donald Trump has flagrantly, even proudly violated them all, and encouraged his followers to regard his absence of conscience as strength.

Donald Trump is a daily, even hourly, assault on the very idea of morality, even as he obliterates truth. His influence is like sulphuric acid on our civic bonds. His cruelty is contagious. Remember how he mocked a handicapped reporter in 2016? His defenders either denied the obvious facts, or insisted that, while Trump himself might be “politically incorrect,” his supporters wouldn’t be influenced by that aspect of his character.

Alas, they are. Consider the incredibly moving moment during the Democratic National Convention when young Braydon Harrington, who struggles with stuttering, introduced Joe Biden. That night, an Atlantic editor with the same affliction tweeted “This is what stutterers face every day. I’m in awe of Braydon’s courage and resolve.” But Austin Ruse, author of The Catholic Case for Trump, tweeted his doubts that Biden ever stuttered, and replied to another comment with, “W-w-w-w-w-w-what?”

This entry was tagged. Abortion Christianity Donald Trump Joe Biden President2020

I'm Billy Graham's granddaughter. Evangelical support for Donald Trump insults his legacy.

This member of the Graham family says exactly what I’ve been feeling for the past 2 or 3 years. Donald Trump is hurting the church in ways that will last far longer than his Presidency. Millions of people will forever turn away from God, because of the marriage between this man and American evangelicalism.

I'm Billy Graham's granddaughter. Evangelical support for Donald Trump insults his legacy.

Jerushah Duford, writing for the Associated Press

As a proud granddaughter of the man largely credited for beginning the evangelical movement, the late Billy Graham, the past few years have led me to reflect on how much has changed within that movement in America.

I have spent my entire life in the church, with every big decision guided by my faith. But now I feel homeless. Like so many others, I feel disoriented as I watch the church I have always served turn its eyes away from everything it teaches. I hear from Christian women on a daily basis who all describe the same thing: a tug at their spirit.

Most of these women walked into a voting booth in 2016 believing they were choosing between two difficult options. They held their breath, closed their eyes and cast a vote for Donald Trump, whom many of us then believed to be “the lesser of two evils,” all the while feeling that tug.

I feel it every time our president talks about government housing having no place in America’s suburbs. Jesus said repeatedly to defend the poor and show kindness and compassion to those in need. Our president continues to perpetuate an us-versus-them narrative, yet almost all of our church leaders say nothing.

I feel this tug every time our president or his followers speak about the wall, designed to keep out the very people Scripture tells us to welcome. In Trump’s America, refugees are not treated as “native born,” as Scripture encourages. Instead, families are separated, held in inconceivable conditions and cast aside as less than.

Trump has gone so far as to brag about his plans, accomplishments and unholy actions toward the marginalized communities I saw my grandfather love and serve. I now see, through the silence of church leaders, that these communities are no longer valued by individuals claiming to uphold the values my grandfather taught.

The gentle tug became an aggressive yank, for me, earlier this year, when our country experienced division in the form of riots, incited in great part by this president’s divisive rhetoric. I watched our president walk through Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., after the tear gassing of peaceful protesters for a photo op.

He held a Bible, something so sacred to all of us, yet he treated that Bible with a callousness that would offend anyone intimately familiar with the words inside it. He believed that action would honor him and only him. However, the church, designed to honor God, said nothing.

It seems that the only evangelical leaders to speak up praised the president, with no mention of his behavior that is antithetical to the Jesus we serve. The entire world has watched the term “evangelical” become synonymous with hypocrisy and disingenuousness.

My faith and my church have become a laughing stock, and any attempt by its members to defend the actions of Trump at this time sound hollow and insincere.

One of my grandfather’s favorite verses was Micah 6:8, in which we are told that the Lord requires of his people to do justly, to love kindness and mercy, and to walk humbly. These are the attributes of our faith we should present to the world. We can no longer allow our church leaders to represent our faith so erroneously.

I have given myself permission to lean into that tug at my spirit and speak out. I may be against the tide, but I am firm in my faith that this step is most consistent with my church and its teachings.

At a recent large family event, I was pulled aside by many female family members thanking me for speaking out against an administration with which they, too, had been uncomfortable. With tears in their eyes, they used a hushed tone, out of fear that they were alone or at risk of undeserved retribution.

How did we get here? How did we, as God-fearing women, find ourselves ignoring the disrespect and misogyny being shown from our president? Why do we feel we must express our discomfort in hushed whispers in quiet corners? Are we not allowed to stand up when it feels everyone else around us is sitting down?

The God we serve empowers us as women to represent Him before our churches. We represent God before we represented any political party or leader. When we fail to remember this, we are minimizing the role He created for us to fill. Jesus loved women; He served women; He valued women. We need to give ourselves permission to stand up to do the same.

This entry was tagged. Christianity Donald Trump President2020 Women

Trump Secretly Mocks His Christian Supporters

Think Mr. Trump is a friend of Christians? Think again. He’s just using you for your votes.

Trump Secretly Mocks His Christian Supporters

by McKay Coppins, for The Atlantic

One day in 2015, Donald Trump beckoned Michael Cohen, his longtime confidant and personal attorney, into his office. Trump was brandishing a printout of an article about an Atlanta-based megachurch pastor trying to raise $60 million from his flock to buy a private jet. Trump knew the preacher personally—Creflo Dollar had been among a group of evangelical figures who visited him in 2011 while he was first exploring a presidential bid. During the meeting, Trump had reverently bowed his head in prayer while the pastors laid hands on him. Now he was gleefully reciting the impious details of Dollar’s quest for a Gulfstream G650.

Trump seemed delighted by the “scam,” Cohen recalled to me, and eager to highlight that the pastor was “full of shit.”

“They’re all hustlers,” Trump said.

The president’s alliance with religious conservatives has long been premised on the contention that he takes them seriously, while Democrats hold them in disdain. In speeches and interviews, Trump routinely lavishes praise on conservative Christians, casting himself as their champion. “My administration will never stop fighting for Americans of faith,” he declared at a rally for evangelicals earlier this year. It’s a message his campaign will seek to amplify in the coming weeks as Republicans work to confirm Amy Coney Barrett—a devout, conservative Catholic—to the Supreme Court.

But in private, many of Trump’s comments about religion are marked by cynicism and contempt, according to people who have worked for him. Former aides told me they’ve heard Trump ridicule conservative religious leaders, dismiss various faith groups with cartoonish stereotypes, and deride certain rites and doctrines held sacred by many of the Americans who constitute his base.

This entry was tagged. Christianity Donald Trump President2020

How a Sean Feucht worship service convinced me I am no longer an evangelical

D.L. Mayfield wrote about her recent experiences as both an evangelical Christian and a Black Lives Matter supporter. How she feels is how I feel. I felt like I knew what I believed and that the subcommunity that I grew up in believed the same things. Then George Floyd was murdered and civil rights supporters started organizing Black Lives Matter protests. And I found out that many of “my people” cared more for White nationalism than they did for Biblical faithfulness and love.

How a Sean Feucht worship service convinced me I am no longer an evangelical

One can’t simply wish or pretend away what they are, I thought. Even though I felt confused, heartbroken and betrayed by the marriage of nationalism and Christianity I saw on full display in my community, that didn’t make me a sudden outsider. I simply was an evangelical; I had been born one — a home-schooled pastor’s kid who went to a Bible college to be a missionary — and I would remain one (until I got kicked out, I joked with my friends).

As a freelance writer who wrote primarily for evangelical audiences, I thought maybe I had a unique opportunity to evangelize my own people. They were, after all, the ones who raised me to love God and read the Bible, to become a disciple of Jesus. Surely they might be open to seeing how their views on immigration, police brutality, war, unchecked capitalism, the prison industrial complex and more might be at odds with the message of Jesus?

I should have believed my community when they told me over and over again exactly who they are.

Her experience attending a Christian counter-protest disguised as a concert just emphasized the gulf between her Biblical beliefs and their nationalist, White-supremacist beliefs.

Just standing on the edge of the worshipping crowd was enough to draw the ire and attention of many folks. For almost two hours I was constantly confronted, yelled at, livestreamed, prayed over and told I was not a real Christian (for the record, I was simply holding a sign that had a Bible verse on it).

I was not prepared for how much worse this would be than tear gas. I was not prepared for the pit in my stomach as I saw the thousands of Christians gathered, without masks, triumphantly singing songs to God, hands in the air and all eyes turned toward the worship leader on stage.

The person leading the event, Sean Feucht, has a mass of curly blond hair and is known for being opportunistic when it comes to marrying politics with worship leading. Feucht, a vocal Trump supporter and former congressional candidate, has been raising money to travel to spots in the United States where horrific deaths at the hands of police have taken place or where long-term protests in support of Black Lives Matter are going on. He sings happy songs about God being on his side, the speakers turned up to full volume in order to literally drown out the protesters’ cries for justice.

I knew almost every word to the songs the group was singing — but I could not bring myself to sing along.

Surrounded on all sides by people with arms raised high, eyes closed, joy and certainty shining on the faces of the true believers, it hit me: We read the same Bible, and we all call ourselves Christians. But we are not singing to the same God. I could no longer pretend otherwise.

This entry was tagged. Christianity Racism Black Lives Matter

The Biblical Problem With "Black Lives Matter"

What's the Biblical problem with "Black Lives Matter"? There isn't one.

Many, many people become very angry when they hear anyone say, "Black Lives Matter". They loudly respond with "ALL lives matter!", as though saying "black lives matter" means that only black lives matter.

Here's my take: All lives matter. But black lives getting ended has been widely ignored—as though black lives don’t matter. So I’ll happily emphasize that, yes, black lives matter.

Let me put it to you a couple of different ways.

Prodigal Sons Matter

Lisa Koons shared this on Facebook, and it was sent to me by a friend.

The father was waiting there with a big sign: #ProdigalSonsMatter

When the older brother saw it, he was angry, wouldn't attend the party, and moped around with his own sign #AllSonsMatter

Father: "Dude. It's not about you right now."

Lost Coins Matter

A woman owned 10 silver coins and lost one of them. She wrote #LostCoinsMatter on her planning board and cleared her schedule. Her friends, greatly desiring a brunch date, said, "But #AllCoinsMatter! You still have nine. Come with us!"

She, being wiser, said, "#AllCoinsMatter when you have all of the coins in hand. But when one is missing, #LostCoinsMatter and that coin temporarily becomes more important than all the rest."

She swept the floor. She turned on her brightest flashlight. She looked under every couch cushion, dumped out every bag, looked under every area rug, and searched on her hands and knees until she finally saw the bright gleam of her missing coin.

She'd missed the brunch date, but she'd ensured that now, truly #AllCoinsMattered.

Lost Sheep Matter

A man had one-hundred sheep and lost one of them. He threw up #LostSheepMatter on Twitter and asked for help finding it. His city-slicker cousin mocked him, saying #AllSheepMatter.

But the man left the ninety-nine in the pasture and searched for the lost one until he found it. He placed it on his shoulders and carried it home. When he got there, he texted his cousin saying, "#AllSheepMatter now that all of the sheep are home safe."

The Sermon On The Mount

Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor…"

A heckler from the crowd interrupted to say, "Well actually, all people are blessed, Jesus."

Hurt Cities Matter

Seen on Facebook:

For my all lives matter folks: when the Boston marathon was bombed everybody's profile picture went "Boston strong" nobody said "all cities are strong!"

When the Las Vegas shooting happened, people changed their profiles "stand with Vegas", nobody sais "well what about the people that got shot in my city?"

Have you ever seen someone counter a "breast cancer" post with "what about colon cancer?"

But for some reason if someone says "Black lives matter", it turns into all inclusive "all lives matter"

It's not an either/or proclamation. When there is a crisis we have always ralled around that particular group. It doesn't discredit or diminish any other group, it just bings awareness and support to the group that needs attention.

  • Unknown (if you figure out who the original author is please let me know so I can properly give credit)

Your Crime Matters

When your home has been robbed, do you want to hear your neighbor say, "#AllCrimesMatter"?

Veterans Day Is Not a Christian Holiday

I've been growing and evolving my religious beliefs and political positions over the past 15 years. I may have changed the most in my attitude towards the American military and the hero worship that American evangelicals have for our military. I grew up in a conservative household, in a Navy town. I was surrounded by active duty and retired members of the military, both in my extended family and among my friends' parents and my parents' friends.

Our church was typical of many. Every July 4th, we'd celebrate America and its armed forces. Representatives from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines would carry their service's flag down to the front of the church, as the service's march was played. The American flag would be prominently honored as well. Every Veterans Day Sunday, we would ask all members of the military to stand, to be honored for their service. I thought this was only just and right, as America was a Christian nation and these men and women protected us and helped to enact America's will and — by extension — God's will.

That's all changed. I can't abide churches mixing the worship of God and the worship of American military might. Christians are citizens of the Kingdom of God. Our first allegiance should be to God. If He is a jealous God, as we say He is, we shouldn't be bringing other powers into His church, to praise, honor, and venerate. God's house should be holy — set apart to God and God alone.

I've also become a peacenik. I no longer see American military might as a good thing and I no longer see the demonstration of American power as something to desire. Violence is violence and we should always mourn it and do everything we can to prevent it. In Foundation, Isaac Asimov's character Salvor Hardin says that "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent". I'm idealistic enough to believe that's true. I haven't become a full-fledged pacifist, but I do believe that we should avoid military force unless we've truly exhausted every other solution and we have no choice.

In that light, I read Brian Doherty's recent article for Reason.com, "No More Vietnam Syndrome". Here, he's talking about the results of America's military efforts since 9/11.

After September 11, 2001, the U.S. military fully re-entered the world stage. The last 17 years have seen a variety of wars, quasiwars, and ongoing interventions with a mix of shifting rationales, from revenge for the attacks to spreading peaceful democracy in the Middle East to targeting specific bad actors to simply helping our Saudi allies as they work to reduce Yemen to a charnel house. None of these more recent efforts have worked out well on a geopolitical level. Meant to end Islamic terrorism worldwide, our post-9/11 warmaking multiplied it. A 2007 study by NYU researchers found that the average yearly number and fatality rate of terror attacks rose by 607 percent and 237 percent respectively after we entered Iraq in 2003. If you exclude violence in that country, the increases were still 265 and 58 percent; most jihadis in subsequent years were radicalized by the invasion itself.

Meant to crush Al Qaeda, our interventions have expanded its breadth and numbers; meant to create stable democracies in the Middle East, they've helped reduce Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen to the same sort of chaos that bred the terror in Afghanistan that began this whole bloody, pointless process.

These various post-9/11 foreign policy failures have cost our debt-riddled nation at least $1.5 trillion in direct costs, according to a recent Defense Department report, and more than $5 trillion in ancillary costs—such as interest and future veterans expenses—according to a 2017 analysis by the Watson Center at Brown University. In constant 2018 dollars, the Defense Department will spend this year in excess of 50 percent more than it did in 1968.

But the more hideous cost—especially poignant for those who remember the cries of "Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?"—is in lives. That same Watson Center study estimates that there have been 370,000 deaths from direct war violence since 2001; 200,000 civilian deaths; and over 10 million people displaced by the harm to property and municipal functionality. Alas, this human and social misery is obscured by consistent, deliberate use of bloodless rhetoric. American foreign policy professionals and pundits somehow manage to look at our costly failings and the world's suffering—all that money, all that death—and think the answer is that the U.S. military should have done more, and smarter, and harder.

If only the lessons of Vietnam, or even of Iraq, would actually stick. We can't expect the aftereffects of this century's foreign policy sins to be short-lived. Laos still suffers dozens of deaths a year because of 80 million unexploded bombs left behind by the Vietnam War. The casualties of our drone wars may be their own variety of unexploded ordnance, as generations grow up in the literal and figurative shadows of insufficiently discriminating robot death machines in the sky, courtesy of the United States.

As a Christian — not as an American, but as a Christian — are you proud of these results? Can you truly look at them and say that America was "doing the Lord's work"? I can't. I supported the Iraq War in 2003, but I don't support it now. There is nothing to cheer in the ongoing military operations in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Syria, and in Yemen. And there's certainly nothing Christian in what the U.S. military is doing around the world today. Let's stop pretending that there is, let's stop treating Veterans Day as a church holiday, and let's stop confusing patriotism with religious devotion.

Reading Idea: Broken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics

Broken Words

Broken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics
by Jonathan Dudley
$4.99 on Kindle

I had no idea that many (most?) evangelicals didn't believe that human life begins at conception. It'll take a lot to convince me that it doesn't, but I'm willing to read the history of how beliefs shifted in the evangelical community.

The 'biblical view' that's younger than the Happy Meal

In 1979, McDonald’s introduced the Happy Meal.

Sometime after that, it was decided that the Bible teaches that human life begins at conception.

Ask any American evangelical, today, what the Bible says about abortion and they will insist that this is what it says. (Many don’t actually believe this, but they know it is the only answer that won’t get them in trouble.) They’ll be a little fuzzy on where, exactly, the Bible says this, but they’ll insist that it does.

That’s new. If you had asked American evangelicals that same question the year I was born you would not have gotten the same answer.

That year, Christianity Today — edited by Harold Lindsell, champion of “inerrancy” and author of The Battle for the Bible — published a special issue devoted to the topics of contraception and abortion. That issue included many articles that today would get their authors, editors — probably even their readers — fired from almost any evangelical institution. For example, one article by a professor from Dallas Theological Seminary criticized the Roman Catholic position on abortion as unbiblical. Jonathan Dudley quotes from the article in his book Broken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics. Keep in mind that this is from a conservative evangelical seminary professor, writing in Billy Graham’s magazine for editor Harold Lindsell:

God does not regard the fetus as a soul, no matter how far gestation has progressed. The Law plainly exacts: “If a man kills any human life he will be put to death” (Lev. 24:17). But according to Exodus 21:22-24, the destruction of the fetus is not a capital offense. … Clearly, then, in contrast to the mother, the fetus is not reckoned as a soul.

Christianity Today would not publish that article in 2012. They might not even let you write that in comments on their website. If you applied for a job in 2012 with Christianity Today or Dallas Theological Seminary and they found out that you had written something like that, ever, you would not be hired.

At some point between 1968 and 2012, the Bible began to say something different. That’s interesting.

Even more interesting is how thoroughly the record has been rewritten. We have always been at war with Eastasia.

I heartily recommend Dudley’s book for his discussion of this switch and the main figures who brought it about — Francis Schaeffer, Jerry Falwell, Richard Viguerie, etc.

Best predictor of divorce? Age when couples cohabit, study says

Best predictor of divorce? Age when couples cohabit, study says →

For years, social scientists have tried to explain why living together before marriage seemed to increase the likelihood of a couple divorcing. Now, new research released by the nonpartisan Council on Contemporary Families gives an answer:

It doesn't. And it probably never has.

"Up until now, we've had this mysterious finding that co-habitation causes divorce," she says. "Nobody's been able to explain it. And now we have—it was that people were measuring it the wrong way."

Couples who begin living together without being married tend to be younger than those who move in after the wedding ceremony – that's why cohabitation seemed to predict divorce, Professor Kuperburg explains. But once researchers control for that age variable, it turns out that premarital cohabitation by itself has little impact on a relationship's longevity. Those who began living together, unmarried or married, before the age of 23 were the most likely to later split.

Interesting. This should change the way that Christians talk about the importance of chastity before marriage. It probably won't but it should.

Christ, the Church, and Pat Robertson

Christ, the Church, and Pat Robertson →

It is past time for Christians around the U.S. to make it abundantly clear that Pat Robertson is not one of us and does not speak for us.

When my wife and I married, we were very consciously thinking of these types of scenarios when we promised fidelity "in sickness and in health".

This week on his television show Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson said a man would be morally justified to divorce his wife with Alzheimer’s disease in order to marry another woman. The dementia-riddled wife is, Robertson said, “not there” anymore. This is more than an embarrassment. This is more than cruelty. This is a repudiation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

...

Sadly, many of our neighbors assume that when they hear the parade of cartoon characters we allow to speak for us, that they are hearing the gospel. They assume that when they see the giggling evangelist on the television screen, that they see Jesus. They assume that when they see the stadium political rallies to “take back America for Christ,” that they see Jesus. But Jesus isn’t there.

Jesus tells us he is present in the weak, the vulnerable, the useless. He is there in the least of these (Matt. 25:31-46). Somewhere out there right now, a man is wiping the drool from an 85 year-old woman who flinches because she think he’s a stranger. No television cameras are around. No politicians are seeking a meeting with them.

Does the Doctrine of Election Trouble You?

Does the Doctrine of Election Trouble You? →

Z posts an illustration, about the Christian doctrine of Divine Election.

“After giving a brief survey of these doctrines of sovereign grace, I asked for questions from the class. One lady, in particular, was quite troubled. She said, ‘This is the most awful thing I ever heard! You make it sound as if God is intentionally turning away men and women who would be saved, receiving only the elect’ I answered her in this vein: ‘You misunderstand the situation. You’re visualizing that God is standing at the door of heaven, and men are thronging to get in the door, and God is saying to various ones, ‘Yes, you may come, but not you, and you, but you, etc.’ The situation is hardly this. Rather, God stands at the door of heaven with His arms outstretched, inviting all to come. Yet all men without exception are running in the opposite direction toward hell as hard as they can go. So God, in election, graciously reaches out and stops this one, and that one, and this one over here, and that one over there, and effectually draws them to Himself by changing their hearts, making them willing to come. Election keeps no one out of heaven who would otherwise have been there, but it keeps a whole multitude of sinners out of hell who otherwise would have been there. Were it not for election, heaven would be an empty place, and hell would be bursting at the seams. That kind of response, grounded as I believe that it is in Scriptural truth, does put a different complexion on things, doesn’t it? If you perish in hell, blame yourself, as it is entirely your fault. But if you should make it to heaven, credit God, for that is entirely His work! To Him alone belong all praise and glory, for salvation is all of grace, from start to finish.” —Mark Webb

This entry was tagged. Christianity

My Haul from Amazon’s “Big Deal” eBook Sale

Amazon is running a Big Deal sale on Kindle books. It includes about 970 books and ends today.

Like most sales, there is quite a lot of dreck in there. But I waded through it all and I did manage to find a few good bargains.

Not a bad haul for $21.00.

Critiquing "I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist" (Ch4)

Image

Welcome back. We're way off-schedule here, but still moving along. Here's what we've covered so far in Geisler and Turek's 12-point argument for Christianity:

1. Truth about reality is knowable. (Actually, we've shown it's impossible to know if this is true, but also that it doesn't matter, so Geisler and Turek are OK here.)

2. The opposite of true is false. (No argument from us.)

3. It is true the Theistic God exists, as evidenced by:

3a. the Cosmological Argument (I agree, but ironically the Bible doesn't)

Meaning today we're tackling the authors' second line of evidence for God's existence:

THE TELEOLOGICAL ARGUMENT

As Geisler and Turek tell it, the classic argument goes like this:

  1. Every design has a designer.
  2. The universe has a highly complex design.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a Designer.

Some might quibble with the authors' phrasing - Kyle Williams charges, "The words ‘design’ and ‘designer’ are so closely related that the first premise is a tautology, the second premise begs the question, and the conclusion, therefore, is meaningless." - but I personally think the authors' meaning is clear enough to where we can get on with it. After all, Geisler and Turek can afford to beg questions since they will be devoting the next three chapters to answering them.

Yes, you read that right: the next three chapters. Settle in, it's going to be a long one.

Though to be fair, if any subject of Christian apologetics deserves such in-depth treatment, it's undoubtedly the old T & A.

For at least two at least two big reasons:

First, if you Fundamentally believe and take literally the Bible's Creation Account (previously discussed), you can't let stand all the scientists' talk of natural forces gradually building us into the species we are today. That would invalidate part of God's Word, which would put the entirety of the Good Book in doubt. So I hear, anyway.

Second and perhaps more importantly, the Teleological Argument is vital theologically to every church save the Universalists'. Since the fact is that even if God did reveal himself through miracles to a bunch of Jews two or three years ago, He certainly hasn't revealed Himself to everybody else, it's necessary for God's existence to be evident simply from the natural order of things. Otherwise, there's no good reason for God (read: Christians) to blame them for not believing in Him. That's not a big problem for "Calvinist" Christians, who at the end of the day don't think a good reason is necessary to torture someone eternally, but it's a serious issue for the rest of us.

So there's an awful lot riding on whether Geisler and Turek can make a good case for the T.A.

Pity them for it, because there isn't one to make. The Teleological Argument, as we shall see, is flawed to its very core.

THE ANTI-THEORY

The problem with the Teleological Argument is exemplified by the modus operandi of its main defenders in the United States, American Christians who comprise the "Intelligent Design Theory" (IDT) movement. The movement's purpose - and I will try to give a neutral definition here that is nevertheless true - is to very pointedly use only scientific facts to back up its members' belief in a higher being's design of our cosmos, in hopes they can get God mentioned again in American school systems. A lot of IDT advocates believe in the Bible's account of our world's creation in seven days. Others believe God simply guided the natural processes which produced life here on Earth. Geisler and Turek's I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist is actually a fair example of the approach, even though it doesn't exclusively deal with scientific questions.

However, since Geisler, Turek, and their fellow Christians understandably have no idea where to begin explaining the mechanics of speech-triggered omnipotent power, the practical function of their work is to be what in politics you'd call a "party of obstructionism", arguing against others' solutions while having jack-all to contribute themselves. Less than a minute of subjecting any Christian to the Socratic Method should be enough to make clear their arguments all spring from the informal logical fallacy of arguing from ignorance. In short, they represent not theory but anti-theory.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but a great illustration was brought before the Kansas Board of Education during its semi-recent trial of the IDT. Advocates of the IDT were compared to those people who once theorized that, since we didn't know how Egyptians could build the Pyramids with their primitive technology, aliens must have helped them.

As you might expect, believers in the IDT take issue with this characterization. The preeminent William Dembski claims to have "an explanatory filter" for pinpointing the fingerprints of our designer on this world - specified complexity - and IDT hero Michael J. Behe thinks he's proven, a la Sherlock Holmes, that the Theory of Intelligent Design simply must be true because nothing else can account for what he's named irreducible complexity. Geisler and Turek also raise the "Anthropic Principle" in Chapter 4. We'll give all of it a fair hearing starting with this post.

And with all this introduction out of the way, let's get to dissecting

CHAPTER 4: THE ANTHROPIC PRINCIPLE

Geisler and Turek's argument in Chapter 4 is that the Anthropic Principle proves the validity of the Teleological Argument. According to them, the Anthropic Principle is:

just a fancy title for the mounting evidence that has many scientists believing that the universe is extremely fine-tuned (designed) to support human life her on earth.

But it's actually:

the philosophical argument that observations of the physical Universe must be compatible with the conscious life that observes it.

If this doesn't strike you as a brilliant insight, I don't blame you; I'm not overly impressed either. Geisler and Turek find it revelatory, though, for just how precise conditions have to be to support the conscious life in question (namely, us). And they spend most of the chapter trying to drill into us an appreciation of same, using the famous story of the Apollo 13 crew's survival to illustrate the "anthropic constants" (conditions required for our existence - for instance, Earth's oxygen levels remaining at a steady 23%) necessary for us to live. They then climatically assert that the chance of 100+ of these conditions all simultaneously converging is virtually zero, so Someone must have planned it.

The short answer to all of the above is that it's an argument from incredulity, which is only a variation of the argument from ignorance. Christians rightly object on this same ground when atheists calculate how many religions and permutations of those religions exist or have ever existed and then jeer at the improbability of a Christian's beliefs being correct. But let's address Geisler and Turek's claim more thoroughly anyway.

There are multiple ways to do so. I might note that trying to mathematically divine the chances of highly complex events has always been bupkis, since the various factors' relations to each other not only complicate matters, but often simplify them as well. For instance, I have no idea what the likelihood is of gravity existing (nor does anyone - so we've just put paid to the whole issue right there, haven't we?), but I do know that the power of gravity makes it much more likely - even almost certain - that various materials will be pulled into orbit around larger bodies. The ramifications of other universal laws similarly preclude any conditions other than those we observe. And never mind the probability of these various principles existing in the same universe, Since we have no idea how they might relate to each other (scientists have long searched for a great "Theory of Everything" to explain it), we can't say whether or not it's improbable they're all here. Maybe they're a package deal.

I might also point out that just because it's improbable conditions have developed in a manner suitable for our kind, that does not mean other conditions would have been unsuitable for any kind. Different rules might have just resulted in different lifeforms.

Putting aside the statistical stuff, though, I think it's most important to call Geisler and Turek on how baldly they're overselling this universe's suitability for our people. The unique "anthropic constants" of Earth can be seen, in fact, as the exception that proves the rule of the cosmos's lack of consideration for us. Our home represents almost nothing of the universe's total, ever-expanding space, yet it's the only hunk of rock of which we're currently aware on which our species is capable of surviving - and even here, people seem to forget, it's been a tough road to hoe. A lot of our planet isn't inhabitable or is just barely so. When we arrived, it was also full of predators trying to eat us, and we could barely farm enough food to survive. Natural phenomena still knock down our homes and kill us by the thousand.

Earth is not the ideal homeland Geisler and Turek make it out to be. Things have only been as good as they are on this planet for a very limited time, too - a blink of an eye in geologic terms. For most of its existence, Earth has been completely uninhabitable, and forecasts are that it will be again "soon". Unless we become a space-borne people before it does, the story of our species will parallel that of the short-lived sperm whale in Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Of course, it shouldn't be necessary for us to flee a planet designed expressly for us, so one should question why the Designer, if He exists, has done such a shoddy job. As Geisler and Turek are Christians, I feel comfortable their answer is that our world was designed to be perfect, but we ruined the design by sinning.

That "theory" is interesting to consider, since it reminds us of Christian theology I don't think is really heard anymore. Man clearly lacks the power to modify his world through his own choices. What agent, then, changed the earth and its inhabitants after Adam and Eve sinned? The common summation of the process is that "Sin entered the world" (from Romans 5:12), implying that "Sin" in fact a malevolent, immaterial force. Just as God warned Cain, Sin was crouching at the door, waiting for us to crack it open so it gain access to Creation and ruin everything! But no: this is just fanciful anthropomorphizing of a concept. Sin is not simply one more member of Christianity's rogues gallery.

A little more Bible reading leads us instead to the real culprit: God. His alterations to His own design are right there in Genesis 3:16-19:

To the woman he said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.

It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

Not only does God clearly make it hard to earn a living on this planet in the above passage, but it can also be read as Him imposing the punishment of death on us all. This fits in with the prevalent idea of God meting out death as the going wage for sin.

If you don't agree with that interpretation, you must at least agree God indirectly kills us in the next few verses:

3:22 And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.

But I am rabbit-trailing.

To review: materialist atheists believe this world is the result of impersonal cosmic phenomena, evolutionary processes, and natural selection. This is why the universe has made so little room for us and been so scandalously and unfairly brutal: it wasn't made with us in mind. What we do enjoy of it, we enjoy because we have successfully adapted to it as a species.

Au contraire, say Geisler and Turek. Quite the opposite! This planet must have been made with us in mind, since we are so improbably suited to it - and the extent to which we are clearly not suited for it simply suggests the degree to which that Designer means to make things hard for us.

I don't think there can be debate as to which of these two theories is more egocentric, but I'll leave it to you which requires more faith.

I don't really want to do that, of course, but I have no choice. I can't reach through this screen and throttle you until you pick the obvious answer.

NEXT: We can actually move right along to Chapter 5, as the remainder of Geisler and Turek's fourth chapter demands no rebuttal. The authors spend the remaining pages of it sermonizing on how contemplation of the vastness of space can help us understand, if only slightly, the majesty of God. They base this Sunday School lesson on Bible verses, even though they're still quite a few steps from proving that source's validity. If that sounds intriguing to you, you'll have to buy the book.