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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Rebeldes Sin Causa: The Problem with the Black Lives Matter Movement

The Black Lives Matter Movement (BLMM), borne of the rage of George Zimmermann's acquittal, represents one of American's most toxic sociopolitical phenomena, expertly playing on people's fear and fighting battles that don't exist.

The clearest example of this is the movement's pervasive and egregious use of America's propensity towards police violence to "prove" every black man has something to fear from police whenever he exits his home.

In support of this baseless thesis, The Chicago Tribune ponders a police war on black men, a New York Times article on the BLMM blanketly reads "Stop Killing Us", and too many accept outrageous quotes like, "they kill our daddies, then make fun of us for being fatherless" as deep nuggets of wisdom.

The problem is none of these concerns correspond to reality.

I will be the first to say the deaths of men like Eric Garner, Eric Harris, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, and Walter Scott were grievous miscarriages of justice.

In general, the startling quickness with which the United States police force uses lethal means to resolve conflict, in contrast to de-escalation strategies employed by law enforcement agencies in other developed nations, deeply disturbs me.

Yet and still, black men are not being shot dead in the streets for being black.

In fact, black men are not simply being shot at all, if they are not committing a crime.

Even in the cases just mentioned, Eric Garner resisted arrest, Eric Harris ran from police, Freddie Gray ran from police, Walter Scott ran from police, and Tamir Rice was waving around a dummy pistol.

We see acts of confrontationalism or non-compliance by the victims in nearly all the controversial shootings used by the BLMM as proof of police racism.

They cast young men like Nicholas Robertson, Laquan McDonald, and Mario Woods as innocent victims of an out-of-hand police force because they were moving away from police before being unloaded upon, but neglect to mention Robertson was carrying a gun, and Woods and McDonald were brandishing knives.

The operant factor in all these lethal confrontations is not race, but that the victim had committed a crime and refused to be taken into custody.

Control for that fact and where do all the black deaths at the hands of police officers go? Or the white deaths for that matter!

Does resisting arrest justify death ipso facto? NO. Of course not. I cannot say this forcefully enough.

But what the BLMM refuses to come to grips with is that we have every reason to believe if these men had complied with police orders, allowed arrest, dropped their weapons, and/or not broken the law in the first place, they would still be alive today.

I say this with confidence because what we do not see is exactly what the BLMM says is happening: an "open season" on black men where everyone has something to fear.

Rather the way to avoid being killed is to avoid breaking the law, whether by not resisting arrest or doing something that would warrant arrest.

Instead of teaching respect for the law, an achievable solution, the BLMM would rather re-fight the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950's and put chips on people's shoulders that have the opportunity to turn any routine police stop into a Sandra Bland fiasco.

By avoiding real solutions in place of a fake war with the police, the BLMM relinquishes the  opportunity for progression, because while you cannot just change an officer's reaction, you can control your actions.

If these tragic deaths have taught us anything, if it is your life versus a police officer's life and you are doing something wrong, he is going to air on the side of his life and you may die, so do not do wrong.

While the deaths of black men at the hands of white police officers is the rallying point of the BLMM, it is not their only concern.

However, whether it's housing, unemployment, the war on drugs, mass incarceration, or education, the MO remains the same: shift the blame to a white power structure stacked against black people, wresting power from the hands of the only ones who can actual solve the problems: the people themselves.

For this reason, I submit we do not need a BLMM.

In its nearly four year lifespan, it has achieved little more than disruption, agitation, marginalization of frustrated white people, and de-powerment of black youth, with rare exception and outliers.

Just like Planned Parenthood does not equal women's healthcare, the BLMM does not equal black welfare and likewise does not merit the support of any Christian for its feckless and divisive tactics.

You want to help at-risk young black men? Build healthy Christian communities, encourage abstinence until marriage (single parenthood is crippling the black family), volunteer at or start a 4-H Club, sports team, Boy Scout troop, or youth group.

Be a mentor, a tutor, a Boys and Girls Club volunteer.

Assist a single mother, visit the local jails, help out at your local school, be an encouragement, rally against gang violence.

Be vulnerable, pray with and for young men and invite them into your homes.

Model Christ in all your efforts.

That is how you make a difference while the Black Lives Matter folks are busy fighting for equality by shutting down airports.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Bill Nye and Why Some People Have Nothing to Add to the Abortion Debate

[As is not infrequently the case, what began as a late night Facebook response grew into a a blog length post. I hope this is of use to someone.]

Bill Nye has decided to step out of his area of expertise and opine on the issue of abortion. Those of us who care about the right to life of unborn human beings welcome his participation in this discussion and the opportunity to use his comments on abortion as a springboard for conversation.

Here is my response to selected portions of the short video he did arguing against the pro-life position:

1. "Many...more hundreds of eggs are fertilized than become humans."

At this point in 2015, with all the great technological and scientific advantages of our day to help us better understand human life and development, it is hardly worth noting that life begins at conception/fertilization because anyone who bothers to read anything of relevance on the issue either knows this fact or is lying about not knowing it. See for example the following:

“Fertilization – the fusion of gametes to produce a new organism – is the culmination of a multitude of intricately regulated cellular processes.” [Marcello et al., Fertilization, ADV. EXP. BIOL. 757:321 (2013)]

Declarations like these are common place in academic papers and textbooks on the relevant issues related to human life and development.

The unborn is human because it is the product of human sexual reproduction (which results in new human beings) and it is a life as it exhibits irritability (reaction to stimuli), metabolism (converting food to energy), and cellular reproduction (growth), among other things:

"Living things consist of protoplasm and exhibit the following features: metabolism, growth, reproduction, feeding, excretion, irritability and movement. " (A Textbook of Science for Health Professionals, Hinwood, 1997, 250)

So when Nye talks about fertilized eggs becoming humans he is either (1.) ignorant of this basic fact of biology that eggs at conception/fertilization are complete humans and no longer eggs, not becoming human at a later point, or (2.) is being willfully deceitful. Neither option bodes well for him.

2. "...but that's not all you need, you have to attach to the uterine wall."

Nye is not clear on what he means by "all you need." All you need for what? To become human? Nope. We already saw fertilization has accomplished that process.

The process he is talking about is implantation, which is considered by many scientists and health professionals as the beginning of pregnancy, not human life. (To see more on this discussion: Practical Decision Making in Health Care Ethics,  Devettere, 2009, 232)

3.  "...if you’re going to say when an egg is fertilized, it therefore has the same rights as an individual, then whom are you going to sue? Whom are you going to imprison? Every woman who’s had a fertilized egg pass through her? Every guy who’s sperm has fertilized an egg and then it didn’t become a human?"

What is absolutely stunning about this argument isn't simply its complete lack of intellectual capital, but that it is presented with the air of being some great, knock-down argument against human rights for all humans.

In the law, we make distinctions all the time between the intentional, unlawful killing of human beings and natural deaths outside our control.

For example, before Roe v Wade and in no country today where abortion is illegal is a woman penalized for having a miscarriage.

So, why would any mildly intelligent person ever think that recognizing the human rights of a human being would mean we'd have to criminalize spontaneous abortions that take place at any time in a woman's pregnancy or any other manner of natural, unavoidable death that might overtake a new human being in its earliest stages of development?

We are not given the answer. Instead, we are assured those who think human rights begin with human life are ignorant of science. Well, the facts speak for themselves.

As for ascribing human rights to the unborn (a philosophical, not scientific judgement), philosopher Dr. Gary Gutting notes the following:

"The basic problem is that, once we give up the claim that a fertilized egg is a human person (has full moral standing), there is no plausible basis for claiming that all further stages of development are human persons.  The DNA criterion seems to be the only criterion of being human that applies at every stage from conception to birth."

In other words, if human rights are not the property of living human beings by that fact alone, no consistent basis exists for protecting the child in the womb even seconds before birth or for laws that criminalize fetal death (such as in the case of the physical abuse of a pregnant woman).

 But don't worry about all that stuff! Just keep beating the "you're anti-science" drum!

The rest of the video isn't worth my time or yours.

With the characteristic neuroticism of the militant secularism Nye represents, he takes a random side-swipe attack on the Bible.

What the Bible has to do with recognizing the immorality of abortion, I'm not sure and Nye does not care to explain. For someone who talks a lot about science and facts, Nye seems to be at a loss for both.

Maybe he should check out our friends at Secular Pro-Life and Pro-Life Humanists. Or, heck, listen to the countless secular arguments against abortion put forth by *gasp* religious people!

Beyond that, if Nye means to suggest my belief in Scripture leads me to believe children should be loved and cared for, not wantonly chopped to pieces or starved or poisoned (as happens in abortion procedures), consider me guilty as charged.

Finally, let me note, I have many pro-choice friends, whom I respect.

This post is not an attack on you.  It's not even an attack on Bill Nye.

It is an attempt to illustrate that even someone who calls himself a "the science guy" and gives off the most repugnant aura of intellectual superiority utterly fails at defending the indefensible, which is the killing of unborn children.

He doesn't even get close.

What does that tell us?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

What's a Christian to Do with the Pope?

American Catholics are buzzing with excitement as the leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, makes his way to the United States.

This post is not for them.

This post is for those non-Catholic Christians, particularly those in the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, who may wonder what to make of all the hullabaloo in light of Catholic and Restoration Movement differences.

Maybe more than any Pope in recent memory, Francis has captured the attention and hearts of folks beyond the ecclesial reach of the Roman Catholic fellowship, capitalizing on the growing trend away from factionalism/denominationalism in Evangelicalism.

I am one of those Protestants impressed with the self-effacing demeanor and actions of this Pope and his personable manner of speaking and being.

There's a simplicity about him that is attractive, especially as important a figure as he is.

However, the differences between the Catholic Church and the independent Christian Churches did not change when Francis became pope.

For those of us Christians who stand in the heritage if the Restoration Movement, doctrines like believer's baptism, the supreme authority of the Bible alone, the autonomy of the local church, biblical eldership, the priesthood of all believers, the sinfulness of sectarianism, and more make coƶperation with Catholics on issues of Christian faith and life difficult if not unwise.

Thus, what are some tools that might help us balance our personal positive appraisal of Pope Francis and disagreement with the institution he represents?

Firstly, let's remind ourselves that doctrine still matters.

Doctrine is not abstract. Doctrine is what separates the Westboro Baptist Church from the Amish

Doctrine is simply a word to describe the truths particular to our faith.

For all his genuine humility and kindness, Pope Francis is a man who takes upon himself names like Holy Father and Vicar of Christ, while we understand Christ as the sole head of the Church (Eph. 5:23; Col 1:18), God as the only Holy Father (John 17:11; see also: Matthew 6:9), and the Holy Spirit as the Vicar of Christ (John 15:26, 16:7).

This is an important doctrinal difference.

He also believes and teaches Christ is present body, blood, soul, and divinity in the elements of communion.

This is more than the Communion wine simply being the literal blood of Jesus and the bread being his literal flesh (1 Cor. 10:16); this is a doctrine that sees the divine person of Christ himself in the Eucharist in such a way that the "host" is "adored" and put in a special tabernacle inside of the nave of the church.

The priest (which Francis is), takes upon himself the name of Alter Christus (another christ; see: Matt 24:5 for how Scripture speaks of other Christs), "celebrates" (to use Catholic terminology) a Mass believed to be propitiatory (something that satisfies the demands of God) re-presentation of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross such that it were Jesus himself, not the priest, who was offering himself up.
The Catholic priest is said to act in the person of Christ during the Mass.

For us, this is blasphemy (see Exodus 20:4 Hebrews 7-10), a massive show of idolatry at the heart of the Catholic faith.

This is true with or without Pope Francis.

Secondly, we need to remember our brothers who have left the Catholic Church.

I have met and talked with many Christian Church/Church of Christ people who were once Roman Catholics.

They each have their own stories. Some sacrificed much to be immersed into Christ as adults. Some are still praying for Catholic friends and relatives that they will undergo the change they have.

When Christians, whether in our our movement or not, glom on to Pope Francis without restraint or pretend the differences between Catholics and Christians (of the RM) don't exist, we disrespect their journeys and devalue the truth behind their change.

The fact is, there are differences. And when someone recognizes this and still chooses to come to Christ in the Church of Christ, this should temper any potential over-enthusiasm with the Pope or his church that may dishonor the work Christ has done in their lives.

Thirdly, we need to listen to our brothers and sisters in countries like Italy and in Latin America, where Catholicism is the religion de jour, who are telling us to be sober-minded.

A joint statement titled “Roman Catholicism in Evangelical Perspective” written by a consortium of Evangelical denominations in Italy says as much. They write: is incompatible with the teaching of Scripture to have a church whose heart is a political state that is a legacy of an “imperial” church from which it has inherited titles and prerogatives. Christian churches must refrain from imitating “the princes of this world” and follow the example of Jesus who came to serve and not to be served (Mark 10:42-45).

...what appear to be similarities with the evangelical faith and spirituality of sectors of Roman Catholicism are not in themselves reasons for hope in a true change.

All the standing theological and ethical differences considered, they cannot initiate nor advocate for ecumenical initiatives with regard to the Roman Catholic Church.

[We] invite all evangelicals at the national and international levels to exercise a healthy biblical discernment (1 John 4:1) without falling into unionist initiatives that are contrary to Scripture and instead renew their commitment to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to the whole world (Matthew 28:18-20).

Whether you agree with the statement or not, we owe it those believers who are fighting it out in the thick of Catholic land to listen to and consider their concerns.

Finally, when I express admiration for Pope Francis, some of my Evangelical friends get antsy, while my Catholic friends become hopeful, but neither reaction is warranted because the reasons I like him and other Catholics like Oscar Romero, Greg Boyle, Gustavo GutiƩrrez, and Miriam Heidland have nothing to do what makes them good Catholics, but because they show Christ in many of the things they say and do.

We can appreciate Francis's Christlikeness and recognize the truth when he speaks it while still respectfully disagreeing with some of the doctrines of his church.

I hope these emphases will help guide you and I as we follow the Pope's American tour.

Friday, September 18, 2015

#IStandForNothing: A Case Study in Manufactured Outrage

The Bible says nothing is new under heaven, but I cannot help but think something is special about the way 21st century Americans have perfected faux outrage.

From Michael Brown to Kim Davis, to college classrooms and the halls of government, non-issues are regularly transformed into front page news.

Take, for example, the latest case of imagined injustice, Ahmed Mohamed and his clock.

Fourteen year old Mohamed (a brown-skinned Muslim—this will be important in a moment) brought a homemade digital clock to school, intending to show it to his engineering teacher.

However, after a school official became concerned the contraption was perhaps not what the student claimed, someone called the police, who subsequently detained, interrogated, and released Mohamed with no charges filed, his story having checked out.

Maybe at one time this could have been a simple case of “oops” or a sad example of how violence has changed the atmosphere of the American classroom, but this is where Mohamed's race and faith come in, because quickly the story became about police heavy-handedness, Islamophobia, and racism

Activists, politicians, and ordinary citizens took to Twitter with the hashtag #IStandWithAhmed to denounce the obvious racial/ethnic profiling of this young man whose only crime was being brown and having an Arab last name.

Except none of this was true.

Yes, Ahmed is Muslim and, yes, he has dark skin, but that his detainment was race-based is without any basis in fact.

First of all, according to the New York Times, Mohamed was discovered with the device in his English class after the teacher heard it make a beeping noise

The teacher, apparently interested in what the out-of-place beeping in her classroom was, questioned Mohamed who produced his homemade clock.

Now when I think of a digital clock, this is what I think of:

This is Mohamed's clock:

Now you tell me: if you're an English teacher who must decide if a “metal briefcase-style box, [with] a digital display, wires and a circuit board...bigger and bulkier than a typical bedside clock, with cords, screws and electrical components” (according to the NYT description) is actually what the child who brought it says it is and not some kind of explosive, what would you do?

Well, this teacher, faced with uncertainty, aired on the side of caution and the authorities were contacted.

Now some folks claiming racism argue proper protocol was not followed and that if the boy was really a threat, why not evacuate the school?

In other words, because the teacher or police did not go far enough, this is somehow proof they racially profiled of Mohamed.

Besides it's manifest incoherence as proof positive of racism, the town's mayor in her statement posted on Facebook repudiated this claim, as did the school and the police department, saying proper protocol for a hoax bomb scare was followed.

And if you think you can't take their word for it, you now have a better idea of how the English teacher at Mohamed's school felt.

Finally, after the police investigation, Mohamed was released.

As I look at the stream of articles and posts trying to make Mohamed's situation, unfortunate as it is, something it's not, I cannot help but be disgusted.

Some folks are genuinely concerned about possible prejudice, but others are part of the growing class of professional Twitter activists, online lynch mobs, and racialists who decide before-hand what is true without compulsion to calmly consider the facts and weigh the alternatives.

Listen clearly: “this wouldn't have happened if he was white” is a claim, not evidence in support of a claim.

What happened here was the American system of law and justice at work. Mohamed is alive, free, and will be meeting with the President.

If this is racism, that word means nothing any more.

Understand, no one is safer or better off when we cannot even cut our teachers enough slack to appreciate that they refuse to take chances with the lives of their students, especially against the backdrop of mass school killings.

This teacher saw something, so she said something. And if she had kept her mouth shut and it had been a bomb, who would write articles praising her decision to take a teen with a suspicious device at his word? Who would tweet out her name or call her a hero?

I am weary of these self-serving ‪#‎hashtag‬ justice campaigns that cast good judgement to the wind and solve problems that aren't there.

Every day each of us is faced with real tangible ways to make a difference and, if you're a follower of Jesus, an eternal difference for good.

So, for your sake and mine, can we start working on issues that exist, instead of expending energy on ones that don't?

Monday, June 29, 2015

An Open Letter to the Christian with the Rainbow-colored Profile Picture.

While my heart ached to see my non-believing friends rejoice at the SCOTUS same-sex marriage ruling, I did not and do not judge them because we have different standards by which we live and form our opinions.

My prayer has always been that each of my friends who does not know Christ will someday have a revelation of him as Lord and Savior.

On the contrary, when one after another of my professing Christian friends made their support for same-sex marriage known, most using the ubiquitous transparent rainbows on Facebook, my heart burned with questions from the Scriptures as to the wisdom their decision.

This post is a result of that burning:

Dear Christian With The Rainbow-Colored Profile Picture,

A. Did you know Jesus (yep, THE Jesus Christ) taught marriage was a special union of male and female?

When asked about marriage, he said, "Haven’t you read that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?" (Matt 19:4)

Christ's teaching is clear and definitive: marriage is the result of God's desire to bring together again the two halves of the sexual spectrum, male and female, in union.

One biblical scholar who supports same-sex unions, Dr. William Loader, has some bold things to say about this passage:

1. "Jesus’ "statements clearly exclude sexual relations beyond that union. Nothing indicates that Jesus would have approached the prohibitions of Lev 18:22 and 20:13 any differently than his Jewish contemporaries."(Sexuality and the Jesus Tradition, 337).

2. For Jesus "one flesh" referred to "a singleness of being" and "reflects the idea that the male and female originally belonged togetherand that sexual intercourse in some way rejoins the male and female to one" (Sexuality and the Jesus Tradition, 243).

This means by choosing to affirm same-sex marriage, you must walk in contradiction to the Lord whose name you bear.

B. Did you know other Scriptures back up Jesus' teaching, like Romans 1:25-27:

"Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error."

Words as strong as these require little commentary.

However, some argue Paul would not have prohibited loving, committed same-sex relationships if he had known of them. Again, let's see what Loader has to say:

1. "Paul’s indictment in Rom 1:26-27 "included, but [was] by no means limited to exploitative pederasty," "sexual abuse of male slaves," or "same-sex acts… performed within idolatrous ritual contexts" (The New Testament on Sexuality, 325).

2. Homosexual relationships in the Greco-Roman world "could include lifelong consensual adult partnerships" (324).

3. "It is inconceivable that [Paul] would approve of any same-sex acts if, as we must assume, he affirmed the prohibitions of Lev 18:22; 20:13 as fellow Jews of his time understood them" (322).

Another scholar, this time historian and openly gay man Louis Crompton, said this:

1. "According to [one] interpretation, Paul’s words were not directed at "bona fide" homosexuals in committed relationships. But such a reading, however well-intentioned, seems strained and unhistorical.

2. Nowhere does Paul or any other Jewish writer of this period imply the least acceptance of same-sex relations under any circumstance.

3. The idea that homosexuals might be redeemed by mutual devotion would have been wholly foreign to Paul or any other Jew or early Christian" (Homosexuality and Civilization, 114).

In other words, Paul meant what Christ's Church always said he meant, and if you walk away from this teaching, you walk away from teaching authority of Scripture.

C. Did you know choosing to affirm same-sex marriage may lead your friends with same-sex attraction away from God?

I believe you when you say coming to know loving and amazing gay people sparked your change of mind.

This is why I appeal to you saying Christian love demands we stay strong in the truth (Ephesians 4:15) with the patient expectation our faithfulness will incite a hunger for God in the hearts of all who see us.

To love our neighbor is to refuse to do anything that might prevent them from being everything God wishes for them to be in His Son Jesus, whether they are gay, straight, or anything in between. 

And in my life, I have been able to foster precious relationships with LGBT people on this basis.

However, we cannot accomplish this goal if we reject the teachings of Scripture in favor of feelings, cultural shifts, or personal opinions.

Is temporary acceptance really worth causing those you care about to stumble before they reach the loving arms of God?

D. Did you know defending homosexual behavior as acceptable before God harms not only those who act on same-sex inclinations, but also those supporting such action?

In Romans 1, Paul ends his blistering critique of sinful mankind with these words: "they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them." (v 32.)

God's love and justice is such that even leading someone to sin is wicked and carries with it the penalty for wickedness.

Are we not to respect and fear God and His Judgment?

E. Finally, did you know 
supporting those we care about by opposing homosexual behavior is all about counting the cost of following Christ?

A few years back, I lost a good friend because of my beliefs on homosexual behavior.

The ordeal hurt me greatly and I repented before God of anything I said or did wrong that made my friend think I did not love or respect him because of his same-sex attraction.

I write this post knowing I may lose a friend or more and the thought grieves me. 

However, even more than I desire friendship, I desire to know Christ and make him known as he is, not as I want him to be.

And I can only do that by following him and his teachings, even when it may cost me something or someone I love dearly.

Yet, I know whatever I have lost is all for the sake of the name of Christ and his glory alone.

Can you say the same thing?

Friday, June 12, 2015

Black Teen and White Officer--You Know the Rest: The McKinney Pool Party.

How did we ever do justice before YouTube?

The latest case of caught on camera crime being tried in the court of public opinion is the McKinney pool part fiasco in which a white officer was involved in a fight with a black teen.

Hmmm, sounds vaguely familiar...

If you want a detailed report of what happened, Vice has one here.

The skinny is the officer in question tells a group of girls at the scene of the action to leave. The girls drag their feet, but eventually acquiesce, at least most of them.

One girl moves away, but continues to loiter around and makes her presence known to the officer after he yells profanity at the girls who are walking away.

The officer goes to detain her, she resists, and a nasty struggle ensues in which the officer at one point draws his weapon on two teens running up on him, ending with the teen girl flat on her stomach with the officer's knees in her back.


What are we to make of all this?

On the one hand, growing up in the ghetto, I can remember the police showing up to our town's "cheap" pool more than once to cart away some unruly kids.

Maybe that's why I watched most of the video with something less than amazement.

Welp, summer in the hood.

However, the physical arrest of the young girl was truly disturbing.

Some reflection is in order.

Firstly, is any of this about race?

From the video alone, the two principal arguments for racial bias are (1.) the targeting of black teens (and converse ignoring of white teens) by the officer and (2.) the use of excessive force against the teenage girl.

On the first point, the officer explains, in view of the camera, why he sat the black kids down: they fled upon the arrival of the police, after being told to stay put.

That seems like a reasonable justification.

If the cops arrive at the scene of a problem and people run away, the runners make themselves look guilty and open themselves up to questioning by the police.

Because, as far as the video shows, no white kids ran, no white kids attracted police discipline in that manner.

Therefore, it seems the motivation of the officer in disciplining the teens was not a difference of race, but of reaction to police presence at the gathering.

What about the second proof for racism?

This is harder.

What I hope my white friends will understand is it is exceedingly difficult for some, not all, but some black people, including myself, to conceptualize or visualize what the officer did to the black girl being done to a white girl of the same age, physical stature, etc.

We don't have to imagine the reverse; we can simply watch the video.

Therefore, the leap to racially motivated injustice emerges against the backdrop of a compound, collective memory of police brutality not been experienced systemically by white people in our country.

On the other hand, perception is not necessarily reality, and I also disagree the physical altercation was racially motivated, but see it as the result of too much adrenaline and too little self-control.

The important question not being asked by those who think the tussling in the grass was about race is, not would this have happened if the kids were white, but would this have happened if the officer had stayed calm or if the girl had walked away.

The answer to the race question is totally debatable; the answer to the second and third are almost certain.

So were the officer's actions justified?

Here I defer to the McKinney police chief:

"The actions of the officer that you saw on the video, at the disturbance at the community pool are indefensible. Our policies, our training, our practice do not support his actions. He came into the call out of control and as the video shows, was out of control during the incident. I had 12 officers on the scene and 11 of them performed according to their training."

As I categorically disagree with those who have made this about race; I also disagree with those who have defended the "out of control" actions of the officer, whether it be the harried running around, the cussing, the gun pointing, or the measures used to restrain the teen girl.

Finally, what larger lessons can we draw from this?

First, these things always look worse than they are.

 And by "these things", I mean the never-ending us versus them, white versus black fear mongering and hate-slinging we, the American public, have been subjected to, particularly since the Trayvon Martin killing.

Every day most us go to work, pick up our kids, do our grocery shopping, attend church, go to school, play sports, and interact with friends and family without severe incident, and any race based issues that pop up are the exception.

So when the media tries to convince us we're in an all out race war, we need to remember we are seeing a few incidents being blown up into something larger than they are.

Second, fake racist outrage brings out real racist sentiments. For example, reacting to the McKinney case and the officer's resignation, a 4th grade Texas teacher took to Facebook, suggesting we might revert to segregation. "Maybe the 50s and 60s were really on to something", she wrote.


She was, of course, fired.

Every time we kick the hornet's nest and cast an unfortunate event like the McKinney one as racial when it's not, racists still come buzzing out ready to sting, turning what was never about race into something unavoidably about race.

Third, if you as a modern black person living in America are not content with how society looks at you as a black person in America, you will always be discontented. This is because we are living in unparalleled and unprecedented liberty.

 You will also be easy pickings for those profiting off black feelings of despondency and marginalization, who turn urban woes into the problem of an unassailable colossal white power structure as opposed to...well...about anything else.

No, everything is not rosy, but the idea of systemic injustice against black people needs to be seriously re-thought. I believe what we see most often is personal racism, not structural racism, and thus need to hold individuals accountable, not try to overhaul complete systems.

Third, cameras are only as good as the story they tell.

Even with seven minutes of raw, unedited video, exactly what happened in McKinney that day isn't easy to ascertain.

We also can't see that the officer who caused a good share of the hoopla reportedly responded to two suicide calls before arriving to pool incident, possibly impacting his behavior.

 I am thankful for cameras, but we cannot assume because we saw it on video, we know everything that happened.

Finally, if as Christians we are more interested in taking sides than rising above the situation to minister Christ, shame on us.

Shame. On Us.

The last thing the world needs to see is a Christian reaction that looks nothing like Christ. We shouldn't want to take anyone's side unless it's his.

And that goes for me to.

As a black man, I am indignant when I hear how black people are the problem. And as the son of white parents, I am indignant when I hear how white people are the problem.

However, as a Christian, I know the problem is we live among people whose hearts have not been touched by the grace and love of Jesus Christ. Young and old, white and black--all people regardless of demographics are in desperate need of a heart transplant only God can perform and an outlook on life only He can give.

God calls us to respect all people and administer justice.

Those practices alone could fundamentally transform our communities, our relationships, and our hearts, if we let them.

Friday, May 22, 2015

19 Kids and Bullcrap: Why the Moral Outrage Against the Duggars Misses the Mark

Unless you don't imbibe social media (an ever appealing option every day), you've probably heard about the awful scandal involving the Duggar family of TLC's "19 Kids and Counting."

I'm not going to waste time trying to sort through the "details" of the case, as I know as little as everyone else about what truly happened, including those who claim to know everything.

In fact, this post is not about the specific incidences of abuse at all, but the flurry of commentary surrounding them and the level of deceit and faux moral outrage we, the watching public, are being fed.

Firstly, can we stop pretending the swath of gutter trash written on this "bombshell" is borne out of some Mother Teresa concern for the victims?

Seriously, if anyone gave a care about the victims this extremely personal and painful ordeal would not have been flung back in their faces after more than a decade's worth of time. And it certainly would not be paraded before a gawking and scornful public for uninvited and unwelcomed feedback.


This has only ever been about one thing: using this tragedy as opportunity to cut the Duggar family down to size and prove the liberal secularist meta-narrative about the inherent failure of the Duggar way of life (modesty, courtship, conservative Christianity, homeschooling, etc.).

While even as a Christian I do not share some of the Duggar's views on what fidelity to God demands, I also am not controlled by a neurosis preventing me from respecting them as people despite our differences.

Why is this so hard for some people?

Perhaps it's the same reason ravenous hordes descended on Rick and Kay Warren after their son committed suicide to make sure everyone knew how the Warren's faith had failed to save their son.

Perhaps it's the same reason the media laps up the "traditional values" politician caught soliciting gay sex in a rest-stop bathroom, but seem totally unaware of the plethora of same-sex attracted Christians living faithful, godly lives and encouraging others to do likewise.

Perhaps it's the same reason barbaric crowds heckled the Lord Jesus is his agonizing, dying moments, sarcastically inviting him down off the cross if he was truly who he claimed.

People love to see Christians fall if it somehow validates their own wicked lifestyle.

You could almost hear the collective sigh of relief as the moral guilt heaped on the consciences of a sinful public by the Duggar's bold Christian witness melted away with the news of Joshua Duggar's grievous past sins.

All this Duggar turmoil serves as a convenient excuse to ignore the truth claims of Christianity and questions regarding the secular worldview because, hey, look how awful Josh Duggar is!

I am well aware many people will call me biased, either because I'm a Duggar fan or a Christian, but being biased in favor of a view doesn't make that view untrue.

I don't deny I am predisposed to the view I am espousing, but only due to years of seeing it played out before my eyes.

And there's little reason to suggest anyone else writing on this story is less biased than I am.

Others will argue I'm more concerned about the treatment of Joshua Duggar than that he committed molestation.

This is also incorrect.

I am disgusted and shocked by this news, also recognizing this was something done and dealt with (or at least was being dealt with) before I was in 4th grade and was at no point any of my business. If there was current wrong being done, that would be a different story entirely.

I could go on, but since folks are using this hoopla as an opportunity to "reflect" on the possible larger issues at play, forgive me if I too indulge.

Firstly, if you are employing Josh Duggar as an argument against homeschooling, purity and modesty, the Bible, or conservatism (political or theological), not only are you almost absolutely wrong in your assumptions, but you're probably an opportunist profiting off the molestation of young children.

We have zero evidence any one of those things caused or precipitated Josh Duggar's actions. (For all we know, they kept them from getting worse or continuing).

We *do* know with every confidence, however, people who fall outside such demographics are not sexual abuse free.

Secondly, nothing the Duggars have said about modesty, purity, Christianity, same-sex marriage, or abortion is suddenly invalidated because of anyone's actions.

The truth of their worldview presuppositions are such completely independent of whether they live them out perfectly or not.

Thirdly, sexual abuse can happen to anyone and in any family, Christian or not, which means it is something everyone should take seriously. And when it occurs, the best thing to do is (1.) provide the necessary spiritual support/counseling and (2.) contact the police immediately. If one of those things is missing, true healing will remain elusive.

Disagree? Don't worry: I'm sure we'll get the chance to debate this again.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Listening and Learning: Christians and Our Transgender Neighbors.

When Paul Stone Williams made a public statement saying, contrary to all appearances, he was truly a woman, people took notice.

Until the announcement last year, Paul, who now goes as Paula, had been an editor of the Christian Standard magazine, a flagship publication for the Independent Christian Churches for over 100 years.
More recently, a son of two faithful members of an Ohio Church of Christ, Joshua Alcorn, threw himself in front of a semi-truck in reactio against his parent's treatment of his transgenderism.

And today, former Olympic athlete Bruce Jenner, a professing Christian Republican, conducted a historic interview with Diane Sawyer about his transgender journey.

If one thing is clear, it is this: the Church cannot avoid the issue of transgender identity.

And that is not a bad thing.

My greatest fear is the "Christian" conversation on transgenderism will be dominated by those who advocate against trans-friendly bathrooms or job discrimination bills benefiting trans people.

However, as more people open up about their gender dysphoria, opportunities have also opened for Christians to inform and be informed through mutually respectful dialogue.

With all my heart, I believe the Lord teaches us God's intent and purpose in creation was to bring together the two halves of the sexual spectrum, male and female, into life-long, life-giving, and loving union unto the glory of God.

He also taught us to love and to share our faith with gentleness and patience.

These two doctrine complement (not contradict) each other.

And with widespread bullying of LGBTQ youth and a skyrocketing suicide rate among transgender individuals, Christians, more than ever, must be obedient to these admonishments of Scripture.

In fact, in some cases we should do a little less talking and more listening!

If we expect our trans friends and neighbors to listen to us about our faith in the God who made male and female and in whom ultimate healing and hope is found, the least we can do is listen to them, learn from their experiences, and let their lives edify our dialogue on a subject that touches them personally.

And in all things may God be honored.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Is Christianity Homophobic (Part 2)? Addressing Some Concerns.

In the preceding post, I surveyed the positive evidence showing the Christian religion is not homophobic and that its core teachings contradict homophobic ideas and tendencies.

We defined homophobia as fear, hatred, aversion, or violence directed against a person because they identify as LGBT.

In this post, I am playing defense, answering some common objections I've encountered against the idea Christianity is not homophobic.

This was not an easy post to write, as I am keenly aware many will not find these answers satisfying.

However, I hope the reader will render judgment with an open mind and heart, focusing on the logic and coherency on the statements made, and not personal feelings or political leanings.

Here are the four objections:
In Leviticus 20:13, does not the Bible say homosexuals should be put to death, and is that not a clear example of homophobia?

Firstly, even if this passage could be understood as homophobic, the Levitical laws were never intended wholesale for all times and all people (e.g., 4:2-3, 7:28-29, 12:1-3, etc.) and have no intrinsic application to Christians today. For this reason alone, this passage is irrelevant until proven otherwise.

Secondly, the text attacks a behavior, not a class of people, condemning same-sex sexual relations, not those with same-sex attraction. So it is not "being gay" that merits death, but contravening God's laws.

Thirdly, pursuing or actuating capital punishment is not a Christian practice. As one Christian brother has noted...

Paul says:"If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink; for, in so doing, thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil; but overcome evil with good." [Romans 12:20-21]

Would it not sound strangely, for the Apostle to say, in the next words:"You christians, hang all murderers! for you are God's ministers waiting continually upon this very thing." Such is the position of the abettors of capital punishment amongst christians. (Tolbert Fanning, "Capital Punishment No.2.")

Leviticus 20:13 is not an easy verse to wrangle with, but when taken at face value, it does not promotes homophobia (i.e., negative feelings or actions toward people because of their same-sex attraction).
You say Christianity refutes homophobia by teaching love, respect, and peace for all people, but the Bible in Romans 1:27 and 1 Corinthians 6:9 condemn homosexuality explicitly. Is this not homophobia?

The passages in the New Testament about homosexuality are not homophobic because (1.) they do not promote fear, hatred, aversion, or violence toward LGBT individuals (2.) affirm the basic humanity of all people (3.) and are given with a view towards reconciling all people, gay straight, etc., to God through Christ Jesus.

For example, following Romans 1, chapter 3 says, "There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." (23-24) (Emphasis mine)

Furthermore, while 1 Corinthians 1:9 prohibits homosexual behavior, verse 10 says, "And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." (Emphasis mine)

Therefore, we see the Bible does not condemn for the sake of condemning, and that all people are equal of sin before God.

God's judgments are based on truth for the sake of revealing to man his sinful condition, that he might understand his need for his Creator and come to know Him.

That is love, not homophobia.
The next objection goes as follows: "The hard reality that...all Christians need to face up to is that the Catholic Church along with every other church whether Orthodox, Protestant or Catholic has been horrifically, persistently and vehemently anti-gay for almost all of its history." (No Cardinal Dolan, the Catholic Church Wasn't 'Outmarketed' on Gay Marriage, Huffington Post)

It is true that throughout Christian history, homosexuals have not always been treated by the Church as Christ would have us treat our neighbors.

This is to our deep shame.

However, to whatever extent this is true, it represents a deep incongruity, not congruity with the teachings of Christ (for the reasons given in the other post).

When any Christian fails to show love, respect, and peace towards all men, they fail to represent Christ.

The final objection is as follows: "Those who oppose gay marriage drive the laws that inflict this daily humiliation unto gay couples and their children. That, put simply, is homophobia." (Yes, Opposing Gay Marriage Makes You a Homophobe, Slate)

The general objection here is that opposing gay rights legislation, which many Christians do, means one is homophobic.

This may be true, but the Bible itself never calls Christians to enact or repeal any laws, lobby government, or try to make the State "Christian".

As such, if a given position toward a law is deemed homophobic, it is or is not so entirely independent of the Christian faith.

I am not arguing here the Bible condemns Christians being in government (even thought that is my personal view), but if a Christian wants to enact or repeal any law, they cannot use the Bible as their support, as it does not advocate for such activity.

There are undoubtedly many more objections that could be raised, but I believe when we look at the positive evidence and negative defenses, it becomes clear Jesus Christ calls his disciples to be ministers of peace, love, justice, and reconciliation in the world, not homophobes.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Is Christianity Homophobic (Part 1)? Looking at the Positive Evidence.

Is the Christian faith homophobic?

To answer this question, we have to define homophobia, which is no easy task given there is no "official" definition.

Homophobia is...

"aversion to gay or homosexual people or their lifestyle or culture" (American Heritage Dictionary, 1992 ed.)

"the fear and hatred of homosexuals...sometimes leading to acts of violence and expressions of hostility." (Anti-Defamation League)

"a fear of homosexuality...come to be used for the entire spectrum of anti-gay attitudes and beliefs." (Levay, Simone and Valente, Sharon, Human Sexuality, 2nd Ed. [2006])

As we can see, any answer to this question must take into account the fluid meaning of the term homophobic.

Obviously, if one has already defined homophobia in such a way to include the belief that gay sex is sinful, this particular debate is over and Christianity is homophobic.

However, if we are willing to accept the more modest and straightforward definitions, like the ones above, I believe we can be confident that Christianity is not homophobic.

We may base this assessment on the teachings of the Christian Scriptures, the plumb-line for Christian faith and practice. This is not to say all Christians obey the Bible (God knows that's a lie!), but that to whatever extent any individual or groups of Christians deviate from the Bible, they are acting out of line with Christian practice.

That being said, here are 3 reasons why Christianity is not homophobic:

1. The Christian faith is predicated on Love:
Hate and irrational fear, integral to any understanding of homophobia, cannot exist alongside love. That would be like me loving spiders!

This is important because the Bible tells us that second to loving God, Christians should love those around us, just as much as we love ourselves (Lev. 19:18; Matt. 22:39). In fact, the Bible admonishes disciples of Christ to love even their enemies (Matt. 5:44-45). In addition, Jesus gives it to us straight: if you don't love, you don't know God (John 4:7-8).

Hate and worldly fear (of any kind) are not a part of the Christian worldview. As the Scripture says:

For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. - 2 Timothy 1:7

Those who choose to act in an unloving way toward their LGBT neighbors are contradicting their faith. In this way, homophobia is not compatible with Christianity.

2. The Christian faith is predicated on Respect:
The Scriptures tell believers to show respect or honor to "all people" (1 Pet. 2:17) and to answer questions or objections to our faith in a respectful manner (1 Peter 3:15).

Furthermore, Jesus in Luke 6:31 says frankly, "Treat others the same way you want them to treat you."

Those who choose to act disrespectful toward their LGBT neighbors are contradicting their faith.

Again, we see for this reason homophobia, which disrespects those toward whom it is directed, is not compatible with Christianity.

3. The Christian faith is predicated on Peace:
Violence, agitation, and bullying are out of the question in the eyes of New Testament writers who favor instead "shalom" or peace.

For example, we are told in Romans 12:18, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." And in Hebrews 12:14, "Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord." Lastly, Peter (one of Jesus's disciples), quoting the Old Testament says the following:

"Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it."(Psalm 34:12-14; 1 Peter 3:10-11)

Those who choose to act in a way not peaceful toward their LGBT neighbors are contradicting their faith.  In this final example, we see that violence, bullying or agitation based on homophobia (or at all) is incompatible with Christianity.

Homophobia, whether it takes the form of fear, hatred, aversion, or violence cannot exist where love, respect, and peace reign supreme. This means homophobia has no place in Christianity and that Christianity is not homophobic.
In part two, we will look at some possible objections to this thesis.  

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Beyond Proverbs 31: A Word for My Single Sisters.

  If you live in or around the theological community that is Evangelical Christianity, you know what I mean when I write of a "Proverbs 31 Woman".

This pithy slogan is based on the idealized woman of the Old Testament book of Proverbs chapter 31 verses 10-31.

This is not just any woman. She is a "wife of noble character" (10), a blessing to her husband (11-12), a caretaker for her family (15, 27), a helper of the poor (20), a hard worker (17), and so on for miles.

Many a Christian sister has been encouraged to imitate the Proverbs 31 woman. And more than one book, Bible study, and sermon has been published on the subject.

And you know what? That's not a bad thing.

As long as it is understood that the book of Proverbs gives us idealizations and general principles of what could be, rather than hard and fast rules of what will or must be, I see no problem with looking at Proverbs 31 as an example for Christians wives and mothers.

However, there is one problem.

Not all Christian women are wives and mothers.

Either by their own choice or otherwise, there are plenty of unmarried, childless women who, through the selective preaching and teaching in some Christian quarters, get the impression that being a mature woman and a good Christian is synonymous with having a family.

While we hear less of crude statements like "a woman's place is in the home", whenever Christian women are exhorted in the church it seems to be in the context of having a husband or children.

This can lead to unmarried Christian women feeling like they are not full participants in their own faith and faith community.

Often they are pestered with questions that assume they want to get married or should get married, or else there must be something wrong with them.

This is harmful, theologically and personally, and needs to stop.

But what can be done about it?

I propose that our talk of the Proverbs 31 woman needs to be tempered with that of the woman of 1 Corinthians 7:34:

"...An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit..."

This simple little statement packs a gigantic punch.

Paul is defining the nature of what it means to exercise single womanhood in Christ: to be utterly devoted to God with all one's being.

Not a freak who needs to hurry up and get married. Not a half-way Christian. Not a rebel against God's created order.

A woman whose heart is completely sold out to God, undivided.
If you are in that place, don't feel the need to change. Embrace your current vocation and throw yourself into the love of the Lord.

What greater honor could be bestowed on any woman?

What greater honor could be bestowed on any Christian?