Sunday, February 22, 2015

What about America?

Regardless of what our future holds, we as a nation have inspired people to seek us out, either to become part of us, or to destroy us.  It seems the only people who feel neutral about America are our own citizens.  People across the globe either see us as the final goal for "the good life," filled with limitless opportunity, or they see us as an oppressive evil that needs to be destroyed.  Are we truly all that special? 

Many citizens within our United States mistakenly think we began without a Biblical heritage, and they are as mistaken as the people who think today that our forefathers always respected the Bible they claimed to be in submission to.  The Kingdom of God, the Church, and America are not synonymous terms.  

There's no doubt we had many great leaders who were Biblically literate and were concerned about the freedom of religion.  The so called separation of church and state was simply implemented to avoid having a government-run church.  Think about that for one minute.  Originally, we didn't want a church that was funded through tax dollars, nor a church that citizens were forced to recognize or join.  The wisdom there is the government shouldn't prohibit or enforce religion, it should nurture an environment where "religion" can thrive, unimpeded by any political interference or coercion.  

Most non-historically-savvy people don't realize, the freedom of religion in Colonial America revolved around the consideration of three branches of the Christian faith.  One example: The Roman Catholic church was not exactly welcomed in 12 of the 13 colonies.  Ever hear of a state, Maryland?  It was one of the 13 colonies.  The Mary in mind there isn't Mary Poppins.  The freedom of religion in our inception had no interest in Islam, Buddhism, or Hinduism.  It was about how people wanted to worship as "Christians."  Furthermore, some colonies required that their politicians were active church members in order to be qualified to run for office.   

Between how we practiced slavery (American Slavery didn't resemble the slavery that was culturally acceptable during any ancient Biblical times at all) and how we've continually mistreated the Native Americans, it's easy to see how people could think we are a secular nation, not one founded on a religious core.  But, maybe you could care less about history or religion, maybe you only care about today and your children's future.

If America has not always behaved well when we supposedly were a Christian nation, and now people seem to think we are drifting from our Sacred State of being a Christian Nation, how will our future look?  When there is no Moral Law giver to guide people, the prevailing attitude becomes might over right - from a pragmatic stance, and, we will do whatever we please.  How well will that work out?  Look around the world and what do you see?  

America from within and without faces challenges over safety, morals, and embracing a form of healthy tolerance.  If you think we are losing our freedoms & rights, or you think our government is eavesdropping on every cell phone & reading every email, or you think America is going to Hell in a Handbasket, do something about it.  

We began as a nation with people who sat around in taverns, bookstores, and in town squares discussing the things that mattered to people.  Read a good book, like David McCullough's "John Adams" to see how ideas were formed and spread in America.  But the people who started America didn't leave their ideas in the cerebral realm, they didn't just philosophize about Utopia.  They were people of action.  Action is faith-based.  Faith acts on what it believes is true.  So, what do you believe about America?  

Friday, February 13, 2015

Soaking up the good life with your spouse

(Timesnews Religion column 2/13/15)

Not everyone has to get married.  My point here isn’t to embarrass anyone for being single, not at all.  Some people are very happy and completely fulfilled being single.  However, for many people to have a satisfying life it requires having a soulmate.  Adam was alone working in the Garden of Eden when we read, “Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” (Genesis 2:18 ESV).  If you are the type of person who thrives better by being in a relationship than you do by being alone, then please consider making the most of life and invest more time into your relationship.  

Sadly, too many couples feel like they are drifting away from each other, or worse they feel like they are falling out of love.  More than likely the problem is rooted in giving up what brought them together in the first place.  While these principles aren’t restricted only to people once they are married (drifting apart can happen even when you are in the dating phase), ask yourself: What first drew you to your spouse?  My guess is, at first you spent a lot of time together.  Quality time together is more important than many couples realize.  

Finding time to be together with your loved one can be harder than locating your lost keys, especially with our culture’s hectic pace of life.  Somehow between work, kids, school, travel, and all that life throws at us, it isn’t easy to find a quiet moment to be with the one you love.  If we are only trying to “find” the time, life might be passing us by.  Instead of just trying to “find” the time, we need to “make” the time to be with our loved one.  

How can you carve out the time to be together now?  People don’t have to work too hard to make time for their best friends, it comes naturally to them.  The happiest couples are the ones who see their spouses as their best friend.  Make it a real priority to be together more often, and start with a few simple things.  

My wife and I enjoy eating lunch together.  Even though it’s not always easy to match up our schedules, one of our favorite lunch rituals is to bring a book along on our lunch date (you might be thinking I’m not the Casanova my wife deserves, but trust me -- reading together while you are waiting for your meal is wonderful).  Occasionally we like to hit up the food truck, Foodie Fiction, who sets up shop at the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce most Wednesdays.  The experience is always really good and the the folks running the truck love what they do.  Before you accuse me of being a cheap date, the food probably isn’t what you think of when you think of a food truck. The owner is actually a professionally trained chef who studied culinary arts in New York -- some of the food he serves, you would expect to find in a gourmet restaurant.

If you are married, remember, you didn’t marry your job, your bank account, your house, or your hobbies -- you married a person.  You exchanged vows and committed to spend the rest of your lives together, through thick & thin.  Make your marriage the best it can be and enjoy life fully, don’t just coast along through life.  Time together isn’t just some additional way to strengthen your relationship, time together is essential to having a relationship.  Pull out the time factor and your relationship will unravel like an ugly old sweater.

They say the best things in life are free, let me add, the best way to enjoy life is to soak up the simple pleasures of life.  Prioritize your life around spending time with your lover and best friend, your God given spouse.  Fight the tide of the world that pulls us all in seperate directions.  Eating meals with your loved one, spending time together reading or just going on a walk, complimenting each other daily, and simply being nice to each other goes a long way towards nurturing healthy relationships.  Doing what you love with those you love, makes life better than good, that is the meaning of the truly good life.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Moral Arc's Archenemy.

Michael Shermer is in a long line of writers who think that by dredging up worn out embarrassments to the faith like Witch hunts, racism, or the crusades, they will decimate faith in the Supernatural.  It's funny, because the very problems with supposed believers that Shermer has, Jesus held too.  Using poor representations of religion to disprove the Supernatural are no more than a slight of hand.  Shermer's approach to decry religion is an example of the logical fallacy, "Confusion of correlation and causation."

Truth, justice, and freedom (his new book's subtitle) are religious values.  Science might tell "what" the world consists of, but it can't give us a the "why" or provide an ultimate purpose.  Can science lead us to being better humans?  The 20th century was the most secular of all, it happens to be the bloodiest one too.   World war One & Two were not religious battles.  How many millions did Hitler kill?  Not as many as Stalin.  And Stalin killed his own people.

There's a bigger point too.  Science and faith are not enemies.  The sad downside of people like Shermer, with chips on their shoulders, is they perpetuate a false dichotomy.  Science owes a lot to religion, as any freshman history student can affirm.  Isaac Newton wrote more books on theology than he did on science.  And, believers gain a lot from the study of science too.  Both groups need to collaborate, not set up battle lines.

It's even more ironic that Shermer learned to think for himself at Pepperdine, a great university that was started by Christians and still is considered a Christian university.  For whatever reason, Shermer lost his faith.  The bigger question is, how did he forget his foundation?  He wants to say he thinks for himself, but the thinking-tools he employs were formed from within a Christian Worldview.

Christian beliefs influenced Shermer's mind his entire life, all through his formative years.  So, any ideas he holds today are either suspect because of his epistemological origins or he needs to acknowledge that faith has some value in nurturing our ability to think.

Shermer can't have it both ways.  He is who he is, for better or worse, coming from a theologically rich environment.  He's not the first kid to become disenchanted with the church and walk away.  His issues do not prove or disprove God, but he should have the integrity to recognize he owes a great debt to those who shaped him.

One point Shermer has grossly overlooked.  He says science has eradicated slavery.  Studies show globally, we have more people enslaved than ever before in history.  Shermer credits science with overcoming slavery, but it wasn't science or secular thinkers who fought for emancipation in the United Kingdom or the United States, those battles were fought by Christians.  And, as for racism having been dealt with, who did more to conquer our divides than King?  Wasn't Martin Luther King Jr. a preacher?

Shermer points to "causation," and he's got a good point to raise.  If there is a cause, we know someone is behind the cause, as in the First Mover principle that says Someone has to get the ball rolling, i.e., the initiation of the Universe requires a Prime Mover.  More to the point, if humans are improving, there is a good reason to believe this is so.  We are all created in the image of God.  Even atheists are.  Therefore, we all have the desire for goodness to prevail, instinctually if you will, because of the nature of our makeup, being created by God with a godlike mind.

And, morals, which is what Shermer claims he knows are improving because of science, are not based in a vacuum or a lab.  Universal morals point to a Moral Law giver.