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I watched Moana for the first time yesterday. I’m kind of ambivalent about it, since I can think of some good and some bad messages, and as a 32-year-old, wasn’t all that captivated by the story (though I appreciated the quality of the animation).
Maybe because the setting is more tribal and not so Western, and maybe because of Disney’s motif of sort of refuting some of its earlier fairy tales, I was partially hopeful that this would be a story less about following your heart and more about courageously and sacrificially submitting to the leadership and community you were born to.  I was disappointed.

 

It wasn’t the demi-gods or coconut-demons or fire-monsters or reincarnated/ghost grandmas that most concerned me about this movie; it was that message of how to find out who you are meant to be: Disregard your parents and authority figures.  Be inspired by stories and legends.  Find some distant ancestors whose way of life is most appealing to you, and believe it’s an integral part of you.  Don’t prepare; just literally let yourself be thrown into something, and then pursue it with all the publicly rebellious determination you can muster.

 

One thing that complicates this for a Christian is that some of Moana’s discernment is based on the spiritual encounters she has.  There is no true God and Savior Jesus Christ in this movie, so other things stand in for the role He plays in directing our lives and gracing us to fulfill our “destinies”.  If the water-spirit that is so influential in Moana’s journey were actually the Creator God of the Bible, her story would be less concerning.  But it isn’t, and I believe that there are other spiritual forces in the real world, not only in fantasies, that stand-in for the place God ought to have in our lives.  And these beings are not good, not neutral; they are in evil opposition to the loving Lord of the universe.  What kind of message is it sending us and our kids to trust these kinds of spiritual experiences to direct us?

 

Moana did keep in mind and heart, always, how to serve and care for her people.  This is one of the better aspects of the “find your purpose” theme.  I was telling my brother that if they’d written the story of her father encouraging her to be different from him, while holding these same values of service to the tribe, I’d be way more excited about all of it.

 

Also a positive, in Moana, Disney has released another film that demonstrates the need for teamwork.  Moana and Maui each come to realize that they are more effective with each other’s help, and that the other does really need them in order to save their world.

 

I think I am actually most intrigued by the character of Maui, who wrestles with his own identity questions.  When we first meet him in person, we quickly recognize a dominant trait of arrogance, but later we learn that this is sort of a cover, a compensation for a deep insecurity.  The complex ways these issues affect his choices are fascinating; and over-all, I think they send a good message to audiences.

 

In the end, Moana does have a suitably communal argument for everyone having something to contribute, be it a peculiar chicken, a teenage girl, a demi-god with or without his hook, an experienced leader, or the village crazy lady – and the value of embracing what others have to offer.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Response to Dr. Wayne Grudem’s Endorsement of Donald Trump, July 2016

A missionary I know, Cal Zastrow, said, “If the primary goal of voting is winning, instead of being a faithful witness for Christ, then all kinds of evil grows.” I believe that as Christians, more than being patriotic to our nation, we are called to be faithful ambassadors of the Kingdom of God, and to further that kingdom.  We do this, in part, through involvement in earthly matters like grocery shopping, like changing diapers, like giving food to the poor, and like voting.

This week, respected theologian Wayne Grudem endorsed Donald Trump for president in an article, “Why Voting for Donald Trump is a Morally Good Choice”.  A friend shared the article on Facebook.  I admit that I was shocked at how much I disagree with such an influential evangelical Christian.  I was overwhelmed by how many things seemed 1) unsubstantiated; 2) rational leaps; and most grievingly, 3) misinterpretations of Scripture.  There were other things that may be qualified as more differences of opinion. These do not surprise me; I am used to being in a minority in what I believe about how government should function.  For a brief discussion of these things, see Footnote [1].

The first category of concern, things that seem to me to be unsubstantiated, mostly fall into three subsections.  They are either wild speculations or what I believe to be delusions of fear.  Most of these have to do with the future.  The third subsection is ignoring relevant truths.

The treatment of third parties at least excludes some truth: the truth of why our political system allows third parties; the truth of what some third party candidates (with far more demonstrable integrity and intelligence than Trump or Hillary) have said they will do as president[2],[3]; the truth of history, that parties have fallen and risen[4], including the Republican Party which was a new, third party when Lincoln was elected president[5]; the truth that the reason we don’t presently see third parties as viable is because we have consistently refused to vote for third party candidates who better represent us; and the truth that votes for third parties have impacts on future elections.

This year’s election is not an unusual opportunity.  Every year there is an evil candidate, or rather many evil candidates (for many third parties put forward evil candidates), which we the people have an opportunity of defeating.  Sort of:  I can try to persuade you to help me to defeat evil.  I can pray.  And I can vote.  It may not actually be within my power to defeat the Democrat or any other candidate.

Grudem believes that Trump sincerely wants what is best for America.  I am not in a position to say that this is false.  I don’t have evidence that Trump is plotting the demise of the United States.  I get a different impression, though, that Trump actually wants to further his own interests and to build his own ego.  I am wondering what evidence Dr. Grudem has for his belief in Trump’s motives.

Will the election be close?  (If he didn’t believe the election will be close, would the arguments in his article be the same?)  We’re three months from Election Day.  Polls of the popular vote, even when factoring in the Libertarian and Green Party candidates, show Hillary Clinton neck and neck with Donald Trump[6].  But elections in the United States are not decided by the popular vote.  They are decided by electors in each state.  News outlets[7],[8], analyzing polling data and voting patterns in previous cycles, have Hillary in the lead by about 50 electoral votes likely to go to her.  Estimates have her with around 200, Trump with around 150, and around 180 votes from a number of states too close to guess.  But if you look at the breakdown of how strong each candidate is in the votes analysts think they are likely to get, you can see that Hillary has far more votes in the “almost certain” and “very likely” categories, whereas about half of Trump’s fall into the “leans towards” Trump description.  If third party campaigns are somewhat successful, as many Republicans fear, more of the independent voters will go to the Libertarian or other conservative parties than would be persuaded to vote Republican, and Hillary’s lead could be even bigger.

Given the extent of the criminal behavior already documented on Hillary Clinton, without producing prosecution or sufficient public outrage[9], it is very unlikely that “additional shocking email disclosures” would have any new effect.  Obama has endorsed her[10] and has nothing to lose (except before God) from standing behind her and abstaining from prosecution.

The article gives a description of liberalism, “pro-abortion, pro-gender-confusion, anti-religious liberty, tax-and-spend, big government…”  The author applies it to Clinton and Obama, but the definition can just as honestly be applied to Trump[11]Therefore, we will not defeat “that kind of liberalism” by voting for Trump.  He is that kind of liberal.  He may practice it to a different degree, but the essence is the same.

The judicial supremacy described in this article may be a dominant theory, but it is not true, constitutionally speaking.  We should hold judges accountable for the subversion they commit by usurping the rule of law (the US Constitution) and exceeding their jurisdiction.  Impeachment could moderate their extremism.  And it could remove actual vigilante judges from office.  Then the activism wouldn’t be locked-in.  States and presidents, especially, are obligated to obey the supreme law of the land, the United States Constitution, and there is an argument to be made for states and executives to defy broad applications of specific decisions by the courts.  That is, Obergefell, for example, wouldn’t have to apply to any actual laws (court rulings are not laws) or states or cities or policies that were not included in the original case being brought.  This is the position that Alabama Justice Roy Moore seems to be most recently in trouble for[12].  There are also third party presidential candidates[13], [14] in the current election who agree with at least some of these answers to the Supreme Court argument, and would be willing to act accordingly.  I do appreciate Grudem bringing these problems to light, even if I disagree with his submit-to-the-corrupt-system solution.

Grudem mentions several close votes on the Supreme Court over the past 30 years, such as the Partial-Birth Abortion Act[15] and Hobby Lobby’s conscience and religious freedom case against being forced by Obamacare to pay for employees’ abortifacient contraceptives.  Some of these have gone in ways we agree with, submitting to the clear language of the Constitution and upholding liberty.  Many significant others have not.  Republican-appointed judges have a long history of assenting to egregious Supreme Court decisions.  Four of five Supreme Court justices giving us the decision in Utah v. Strieff[16], weakening the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution’s protections against unreasonable searches[17], were Republican-appointed[18].  Republican justices have given us Roe v. Wade[19], upheld Obamacare[20], and decided Obergefell[21] (attempting to mandate homosexual marriage).

I don’t see how a “right to abortion” could be found in the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution, nor how it would be substantially different from the Supreme Court rulings already dominating our political climate.  Groups seeking to end abortion are seeking to have Roe v. Wade overturned.  Some are doing this, not by increasing laws that would regulate abortion[16], but by using the wording of the Constitution, including the Equal Protection Clause.  These laws include so-called “Personhood” legislation[22] and the “Sanctity of Life Act”[23].  With an unaccountable judiciary, the court is likely to strike such laws down.  They are, perhaps, slightly more likely to “with one decision” remove all abortion-regulating laws from our country, as Dr. Grudem fears.  I don’t see how a more liberal court would be much more likely to do this than the court we already have, or the one we had when Roe was decided.

In the history of our country, few significant Supreme Court decisions have been overturned by that court[24].  Fashions have shifted.  The Constitution has been amended.  Wars have been fought.  These have affected the application of some rulings.  Christians want Roe v. Wade to be overturned.  We want justices who uphold justice and the rule of law.  Republicans have not given us such radically righteous justices.  It is an extremely unlikely hope that Donald Trump (who is more liberal than previous Republican presidents) would appoint enough justices who would oppose the trend of popular opinion (our country is more liberal than ever) on abortion, and overturn Roe v. Wade.  I cannot find such a wild speculation to be even a considerable justification for voting for a man who disregards morality (unashamed adultery[25], owning a strip club[26], lying[11], essentially stealing[11]) and justice and the rule of law (promotion of unconstitutional laws, executive orders[27], and policies) himself.

At multiple points, Dr. Grudem indicates that he is a proponent of state-regulation of things like marriage and abortion.  On both of these issues I believe he is wrong.  Under the United States Constitution, Article IV: Section 1[28], separate states must honor the laws of other states.  If Massachusetts “marries” same-sex partners, then Connecticut is obligated to consider the couple married if they visit or even relocate there.  Thus marriage ought not to be excluded from the jurisdiction of the federal government.  Regarding abortion, the Constitution requires[29], “nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”  Thus the federal government also has a responsibility to enforce this part of the Constitution, taking only an oversight role if the states are in compliance.  States allowing abortion are not in compliance.  The solution to the immoral and unjust status of our laws is not just to have Supreme Court decisions return authority to the states.  We have a bigger problem.

Many of the threats to our religious liberty are not coming from courts, but from private businesses or from other branches of government.  Trump, if he were to be elected as our executive, is sympathetic to the homosexual agenda[30], at least, and would no doubt be influenced by that perspective when “executing” his office.  That is, we wouldn’t need a liberal Supreme Court to infringe our rights; the president (whose power via executive order has gone basically unchallenged for decades) would be committing the very trespasses we’re afraid of the court for.

Even if I prove so wrong, and Trump is electable, and Trump does nominate an honest and wise and selfless judge, and the judge passes the scrutiny of the Senate to have the appointment confirmed, and if the court can hear and rule on cases in such a way as to reign in the courts – we will still have the problem of a lazy, impotent Congress and a largely-unchecked executive branch (the latter of which would likely be exacerbated by a Trump presidency as by a Clinton one – Trump has promised to use executive orders to accomplish his will[27]).

While the argument that historically, politicians have not “gone back on most of what [they have] promised to do, especially on issues that are crucially important in the election,” might be accurate (and I have doubts even about this), it would be hard to apply to Donald Trump for two reasons.  The first is that he is demonstrably a liar[11].  And the second is that he has, in this one campaign, made many contradictory “promises” about what he will do.  It actually seems incredibly gullible to let a politician take many possible positions that could appeal to different constituencies, and to assume the one he’ll actually faithfully come through on is the position that you prefer.

Since the article focuses on the issue of the Supreme Court, let me here briefly address the things that Trump has said about the court during this presidential campaign.  Early on, Trump suggested that his sister would make a “phenomenal” appointment to the Supreme Court.  She’s already a federal judge, and she’s not a conservative[31].  Afterward, he said he was joking[32].  Then, he said he would release a list of 5-10 names of potential Supreme Court appointees, and guarantee that, if president, he would pick from that list[33].  Then he released a list of 11 names[34].  Within days of publishing this heralded list, he said he was not guaranteeing that he would appoint a judge from the list[35].  There is also the chance that he would attempt to appoint one, and then back down at the least resistance from the Senate, and appoint someone else.

Trump has also taken confusing positions on Israel.  Dr. Grudem says that Trump has promised to vigorously defend Israel.  In this same campaign, he has also said that he will remain neutral[36] on Israel’s dispute with Palestine.  But a top advisor has also said that Trump might be against a two-state solution[37].  On the other hand, and in contradiction to the fearful portrayal of “facts” that Grudem’s article gives, we have decades of speeches and actions by Hillary[38],[39] that, even if we don’t fully trust or agree with them, distance her from Obama’s snubbing of Israel.  Grudem’s only evidence that Hillary would be worse than Donald on Israel is that Hillary worked for and is of the same political party as Obama.  She is, however, also married to President Bill Clinton, of the same party, whose treatment of Israel[40],[41] was very different from Obama’s[42].

My second concern was about Wayne Grudem’s reasoning.  If he has a way of connecting principles to his applications, he is not including them in the article.  He asserts that it is OK to vote for someone bad (he calls them “flawed”) because he will do more good for the nation than his opponent.  But he doesn’t justify why he believes this is OK.  This is pragmatism.  I am not opposed to we humans evaluating the world in order to figure out what would be most effective – so long as, in the flow-chart of decision-making, we consider those things after we have determined if we could do them without committing an unrighteous act.  A good end does not make the “means” moral.

Grudem believes Trump will do the most good for the nation.  Some of this is founded in conservative policies.  Some is founded in speculation (particularly on the power and goodness of the Supreme Court under Trump).  Some is based on subjective consideration of some things as more important than others.  That is, if Trump is too busy doing harm to this nation to do it the good that his supporters hope, this reasoning might turn out to be inaccurate.  I see potential, especially in foreign relations, for Trump to do great harm to our country, including getting us into wars resulting in American casualties.  And in this one area, I believe that he may be likely to get us into bigger wars than Clinton would.  There are also the more abstract ideas of the good or harm of having such a man as Trump represent conservatives and Christians in this country.  What does that mean for the future of the Church here?  What about the future of the Republican Party?  What influence are conservatives and Christians left when we have demonstrated that we are willing to compromise – or worse, been led to justify the wickedness we are endorsing?

I am just as horrified that a vote may help Trump as I am that a vote may help Clinton.  This whole line of reasoning, that a vote for a third party is actually helping the slightly-leading candidate, has redefined what a vote[43] means.  A vote, to my mind, ought to be viewed as a contribution to collectively making a choice.  Like every choice, one choice excludes another.  If I say that my favorite flavor is chocolate, then I am automatically stating that vanilla and strawberry are not my favorites.  A vote is an endorsement, approval, help.  I am helping whom I vote for.  And there will be all sorts of indirect consequences for what I choose.

Some sure indirect consequences of Christians not voting either Trump or Clinton are: Republicans will receive less votes than they believed themselves entitled to.  The influence of third parties will be increased for the future.  Speculating now, Republicans in the future may feel less confident that the liberal candidates they’ve been putting forward are electable.  They may begin to reform, to shift to the more conservative end.  Or the system might be too corrupt already.  The powers behind the GOP may be too ideologically against justice, righteousness, the Constitution, economic liberty, and limited government to nominate conservative candidates, even if it might help the Republicans to gain power.  In which case, enter speculation category number two: third parties.  If lesser parties collectively get more attention and votes this election cycle, it strengthens the chances of any third party to gain momentum for the future.  If one third party gets a lot more attention and votes, it makes that one all the more powerful for future elections.  There are federal laws that give campaign money[44] to political parties based on if they reached a certain threshold of the popular vote in the previous election cycle.  There are state laws that grant ballot access based on thresholds of votes in that state[45].  (In Colorado[46], I’m not sure if votes for president apply.  The legal language is confusing to me.)  There is market pressure for websites and television and radio to give attention to things their audiences care about.  And votes indicate that we care.  The whole election paradigm in the United States could be shifting. 

Grudem suggests that we should see Trump’s vice presidential pick as an indicator of the trend of his policy shifts.  Trump is, the author says, moving towards the conservative.  While it is possible for a politician’s choice for vice president to reflect one’s values, in a man famed for “closing the deal”, I have a different hypothesis: that he picked someone who would appeal to a demographic that Trump hadn’t secured by his own personality and variously-contradicting policies.  Maybe he picked Pence to lure conservative Republicans to vote for Trump.  This would also be a tactic seemingly consistent with those of past presidential candidates.

The third point I raised is – coming from a theologian, seminary professor, and author of a much-used systematic theology – by far the most concerning.  This is his use of Scripture in his argument.  I am certainly interested in learning how the Bible applies to the decisions that we make in this life.  So I am not objecting to a Christian leader making a statement about politics, or bringing the Bible into it.  Rather, I am concerned by the hermeneutics he uses.

The first, general subject of biblical relevance is whether we can classify such a man as Donald Trump as “evil” or “wicked”, or if we should just remind ourselves that “nobody’s perfect” and consider him “flawed”, but decent as statesmen go.  I will agree with Wayne Grudem when he says that Trump is flawed.  I probably see more flaws than Dr. Grudem does, given the differences I have with him on policy issues.  And I agree with Dr. Grudem’s list of character flaws in Donald Trump.  I have some to add, as well[11]He is a liar and an adulterer.  He has, under cover of law (eminent domain for private use and intentional bankruptcy), stolen for his own gain.  For such things the wrath of God is coming on the sons of disobedience[47], and we are commanded to have nothing to do with these things[48].

I’m sure, like every evil dictator in history, that Trump has his good points.  The Bible acknowledges that no one is righteous[49].  We have all fallen short[50]But the Bible also categorizes people into righteous[51] and wicked[52], and warns against associating with the wicked.  I especially commend to you the Proverbs[53] for a study of which type of people fall into which category.

Christians have been cleansed from the unfruitful works of darkness, and are therefore not classified as evil.  Trump, by his own testimony[54], has not repented, has not sought God’s forgiveness.  He has not been made clean by Jesus’ blood.  So, he remains where his enumerated sins have put him, in the category of an evil man.

The Bible records what Moses’ father-in-law advised the Israelites about what kind of men to appoint to their government: “Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness….” – Exodus 18:21[55]  Wayne Grudem does not mention this verse when he declares that despite the wicked character of Trump, voting for him is a morally good choice.  Instead, he uses a passage from Jeremiah[56], about the Israelites seeking the welfare of the nation in which they are exiled.  He then goes on to expound what he believes is meant by “welfare”: that which is most likely to bring the best results.  And from there, he says that to vote for anyone who doesn’t have the best chance of beating evil and liberal and full of bad-policies Hillary is disobeying this instruction.  He claims that this command to Israel is to give us the “overriding question” we must ask ourselves when voting.  I wonder why the overriding question does not come from Exodus 18:21 that I quoted above, or Proverbs, or Romans[57]?

Perhaps the verse could be better interpreted as exhorting the Israelites to pray or warning the Jews against insurrection?  Something like Timothy’s exhortation[58] for Christians to “pray for… all who are in authority, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence”?

How would we actually foretell what will be “most likely to bring the best results”?  It is far less arrogant to decide things based on truth and what is morally good in itself – and maybe on direction straight from God – than to weigh out pros and cons of policies and possibilities and contingencies.  Which items hold more weight as we’re weighing?  National security?  Jobs and taxes?  Civil rights? Abortion?  Marriage? Education?  Good Christians can argue all day long on which should be weightier.  But when we vote for president, I contend that is not what we are being asked to do.  We are being asked to choose a leader (specifically one who will carry out the laws in existence, including the Constitution, to command our military in time of war, and to be the head of our foreign relations).  And a nation is blessed when the ruler is righteous[59].

Which brings up an interesting point.  What about God’s blessing?  What about God’s power to deliver and guide and reform?  If we’re being pragmatic about what is possible from a human standpoint, the way our government is in the habit of functioning (not even trying to exert ourselves to reign it in towards how it should, under the Constitution, be functioning) – then we’re leaving out part of the picture.  Is God more likely to do good to a people who choose evil individuals for rulers?  Or is God able to do much good with our faithful choices?  If a remnant of Christians abides by its conscience and votes for actually good, actually qualified candidates – don’t you think God is more likely to show our whole nation mercy for our sakes? 

Next, Wayne Grudem says that defeating Hillary would be a good thing to do, and that since supporting Trump is a way to do that, it is a good thing to do.  According to James 4:17[60], he says, if we know a good thing to do and don’t do it, we’re sinning.  But what is the intended application of the verse?  It is good to do my dishes.  It is good to do my friend’s dishes.  It is good to be a sidewalk counselor outside abortion clinics.  It is good to perform ultrasounds at a pregnancy center.  It is good to pray.  It is good to write books.  It is good to preach the gospel.  It is good to teach doctrine.  It is good to rest.  It is good to feast.  It is good to fast.  We cannot possibly do every good thing, all at once.  Is defeating the Democrats the only good thing to do?  In a given situation, we need to discern the good thing that God wants us to do.  If we don’t do the good thing that God wants us to do, more so if we know what it is, it is sin.

But, as we’re discerning about the “right thing to do”, let’s take into consideration this other Scripture: “And why not do evil that good may come?–as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.” – Romans 3:8[61]  So even if some good things could possibly result from our choices, the end does not justify the means.  We have to figure out if the choice itself is evil or good.

There is a quote going around, attributed to C.H. Spurgeon, “Of two evils, choose neither.”  To some Christians, what seems best to them is to not vote at all in this presidential election.  Wayne Grudem believes this is also sin, citing Obadiah 1:11.  The verse he quotes could be taken to mean that the Edomites did nothing at all, if it weren’t for the context[62], which describes them cheering for evil and aiding those who were attacking Israel.  Cross reference to Psalm 137:7[63].

I don’t believe that abstaining from voting is inherently wrong.  There are some times in the Bible where abstaining from something “good” is advised.  Take, for example, Ecclesiastes 5:5: “It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay.” Or, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” – James 3:1 Or, “The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given.” – Matthew 19:10-11  Or, “And the LORD said to Gideon, “With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home.”” – Judges 7:7 Or, “The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”” – Exodus 14:14

So the questions we need to ask are: Has God given us the obligation to vote? Are we responsible for the outcome of the election even if we chose a morally acceptable but arguably less strategic vote?  Is it wrong to choose an evil person as our ruler? 

I would exhort everyone, especially Christians, to do all things out of faith and not out of fear.  Or, at least, that we would fear God alone.  Fearing Him, may we be diligent to find out the truth, to seek His perspective on these matters, and follow His will for us personally.

Update, October 9, 2016: Wayne Grudem removed his endorsement and published this apology, in light of recent revelations about Trump’s previous moral corruption: Trump’s Moral Character and the Election.

Footnotes:

[1] I disagreed with some of Grudem’s approvals of Trump’s policies and what he considers “most likely”.  Below I mention some.

Lower taxes are good.  They do not in themselves constitute a more just or more limited government.  In fact, if unaccompanied by a budget a fraction the size of what it has been, lower taxes will only mean more borrowing, which is a hidden tax on the future[i].  It is also debatable whether graduated tax rates are just[ii].

I am not convinced that Trump would be good at diplomacy[iii],[iv],[v],[vi],[vii].  He may be convinced that he will not be manipulated, deceived, or out-strategized by Russia, Mexico, or Middle-Eastern nations, but I am not.  Trump’s “tough guy” persona may be useful in standing up to bullies, or it may make our international representative into a bully himself.  He has said that he would be in favor of having our military “go after the families of terrorists”[viii],[ix], and to, when fighting them, match the level of violence terrorists and ISIS use[x].  Victory at the cost of virtue is an unacceptable goal for me to support.  I am also concerned that it would not be so easy to win a war (without making many more enemies globally) as Trump seems to think.

My personal belief is that Hillary is rather smart, and rather interested in maintaining whatever power she can get her hands on.  Therefore, I think that she is actually less likely than Trump to get us into a big war or to alienate our allies.  (And if she does, she’ll probably do it behind the scenes where no one will be able to verify it was her doing it.)

Both Trump and Hillary have taken contradictory positions on fracking during this campaign, which perhaps could be characterized at this time by saying that they believe in local decision-making about fracking[xi].  I would find it impossible, without prophetic revelation, to determine what each candidate will actually do for or against this energy issue.

Trump’s words about health insurance have not always sounded like they are entirely free-market solutions, even during this campaign season[xii].  Like many Republicans this year, he does support repealing – and replacing – Obamacare, apparently with a mixture of free market solutions and with some sort of forced “safety net” for the poorer people.  Does this mean retaining an expansion of Medicaid?  Something else?  I believe there is a substantial difference between Hillary Clinton’s intentions for the health care industry, and that of Donald Trump.  But it may be a difference of degree only.  There are manifold problems with Obamacare.  One of them is the individual mandate, what I still believe to be an unconstitutional imposition on our liberties (whatever the Supreme Court says about the penalty being a tax).  The second is that the government funding for these programs is unconstitutional.  They have no enumerated jurisdiction to be spending money on a private citizen’s health care.  Trump’s plan would, presumably, deal with only one of these objections (the individual mandate). 

From what I have read and heard, there seems to be some debate about whether Trump owes his so-called business success to his own abilities[xiii] to “solve problems and get things done.”  Commentators have pointed out that Trump started with a substantial sum of money inherited from his father.  They say that his fortune, if invested in mutual funds back in 1982, and left there, accruing, would be twice what he claims to have made it today through business acumen[xiv].  They mention that more than one of his business ventures has gone bankrupt.  Some of them bring up his wielding of eminent domain for personal gain (abetted by corrupt politicians)[xv]; his use of bankruptcy (not paying bills) to pass off the risk of his investments to those providing the actual goods and services[xvi]; and that he is defendant in a lawsuit for fraud[xvii] in the case of Trump University.  There is even some question as to whether Trump is as wealthy as he claims.  All of these things cast doubt on the prudence of employing Trump to use his reputed problem-solving skills to tackle the big, nuanced problems the United States is facing.

[i] Mises Institute, “Tax Cuts Without Spending Cuts Are Pointless” https://mises.org/blog/tax-cuts-without-spending-cuts-are-pointless

[ii] Capitalism.org, “What About a Progressive Tax?” http://capitalism.org/taxation/what-about-the-fair-tax/

[iii] The New York Times, “Transcript: Donald Trump on Nato, Turkey’s Coup Attempt and the World” http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/22/us/politics/donald-trump-foreign-policy-interview.html?_r=0

[iv] Talking Points Memo, “How Donald Trump Is Already Doing a World of Damage Abroad” http://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/no-election-necessary-trump-already-doing-damage-abroad

[v] The Boston Globe, “The Day Trump Trashed US Diplomacy” https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2016/07/21/the-day-trump-trashed-diplomacy/gXunS1AcEhkSKGdpiErVvL/story.html

[vi] War on the Rocks, “Open Letter on Donald Trump from GOP National Security Leaders” http://warontherocks.com/2016/03/open-letter-on-donald-trump-from-gop-national-security-leaders/

[vii] The Chicago Tribune, “Column: On Foreign Policy, Hillary Clinton is Bad. Trump is Worse.” http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chapman/ct-hillary-clinton-foreign-policy-trump-perspec-0605-md-20160603-column.html

[viii] CNN, “Donald Trump on Terrorists: ‘Take Out their Families’ ” http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/02/politics/donald-trump-terrorists-families/

[ix] The video clip here is important. Mediaite, “Trump: The Military Would Not Refuse My Orders Even If They Consider them Illegal” http://www.mediaite.com/tv/trump-the-military-would-not-refuse-my-orders-even-if-they-consider-them-illegal/

[x] YouTube CNN, “Donald Trump Anderson Cooper CNN Interview (part 3)” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5NGbI3snZg

[xi] OilPrice.com, “Is Trump Flip-Flopping on Fracking?” http://oilprice.com/Latest-Energy-News/World-News/Is-Trump-Flip-Flopping-On-Fracking4276.html

[xii] Originally compiled and published on Facebook January 2016, this is my own research on “Donald Trump’s Similarities to Democrats”.  It is a list of sources about various positions Trump has taken, with a section of sources also demonstrating that he is a liar.  https://www.facebook.com/notes/lisa-cress/donald-trumps-similarities-to-democrats/10153386583390954

[xiii] Alternet, “Exposing How Donald Trump Really Made His Furtune: Inheritance from Dad and the Government’s Protection Mostly Did the Trick” http://www.alternet.org/story/156234/exposing_how_donald_trump_really_made_his_fortune%3A_inheritance_from_dad_and_the_government’s_protection_mostly_did_the_trick

[xiv] Money Talks News, “Trump Worth $10 Billion Less Than If He’d Simply Invested in Index Funds” http://www.moneytalksnews.com/why-youre-probably-better-investing-than-donald-trump/

[xv] National Review, “Trump and Eminent Domain” http://www.nationalreview.com/article/431005/trump-eminent-domain

[xvi] Forbes, “Fourth Time’s a Charm: How Donald Trump Made Bankruptcy Work for Him” http://www.forbes.com/sites/clareoconnor/2011/04/29/fourth-times-a-charm-how-donald-trump-made-bankruptcy-work-for-him/#3fae39ec6f7a

[xvii] The New Yorker, “Trump University: It’s Worse Than You Think” http://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/trump-university-its-worse-than-you-think

[2] Tom Hoefling for President 2016, “Platform” http://www.tomhoefling.com/platform.html

[3] Darrell Castle for President 2016, Constitution Party, issues page http://castle2016.com/issues/

[4] Wikipedia, “Political Parties in the United States”, history and early political parties section https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_parties_in_the_United_States#History_and_early_political_parties

[5] Great American History, “How Lincoln Won the 1860 Republican Nomination” http://www.greatamericanhistory.net/nomination.htm

[6] Real Clear Politics, Polls, “Election 2016 Presidential Polls”  http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/latest_polls/president/

[7] Real Clear Politics, Polls, “Battle for White House” http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2016/president/2016_elections_electoral_college_map.html

[8] 270 to Win, “2016 Election: Clinton vs. Trump”  http://www.270towin.com/maps/clinton-trump-electoral-map

[9] Huffington Post, “5 Reasons the Comey Hearing was the Worst Education in Criminal Justice the American Public has Ever Had” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/5-reasons-the-comey-hearing-was-the-worst-education_us_577ee999e4b05b4c02fbdcd5

[10] Politico, “President Obama Endorses Hillary Clinton” http://www.politico.com/story/2016/06/president-obama-endorses-hillary-clinton-224130

[11] Originally compiled and published on Facebook January 2016, this is my own research on “Donald Trump’s Similarities to Democrats”.  It is a list of sources about various positions Trump has taken, with a section of sources also demonstrating that he is a liar.  https://www.facebook.com/notes/lisa-cress/donald-trumps-similarities-to-democrats/10153386583390954

[12] Liberty Counsel Connect, “Chief Justice Roy Moore Counters Politically Motivated Complaints on Marriage” http://libertycounsel.com/chief-justice-roy-moore-counters-politically-motivated-complaints-on-marriage/

[13] Tom Hoefling for President 2016, “Tom Hoefling: Judges, and politicians, behaving badly” http://www.tomhoefling.com/home/tom-hoefling-judges-and-politicians-behaving-badly

[14] The Castle Report, “Original Intent” http://www.castlereport.us/original-intent-2/

[15] Some people who oppose abortion also oppose these incremental or compromise regulations.  Some of these people believe all regulations are wrong or counterproductive[a], while others only oppose language in laws that implies that if you follow the regulations, “then you can kill the baby”[b].

[a] Abolish Human Abortion, position paper on “immediatism” http://abolishhumanabortion.com/immediatism/

[b] American Right to Life, position paper on abortion regulations http://americanrtl.org/abortion-regulations

[16] The Washington Post, “Supreme Court construes the exclusionary rule narrowly in Utah v. Strieffhttps://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2016/06/21/supreme-court-construes-the-exclusionary-rule-narrowly-in-utah-v-strieff/

[17] Cornell University Law School, Legal Information Institute, “U.S. Constitution: Fourth Amendment” https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/fourth_amendment

[18] A 5-3 decision, given in October 2015 by Justices Thomas, Roberts, Kennedy, Alito (these four were appointed by Republicans), and Breyer (appointed by a Democrat). Supreme Court of the United States Blog, “Utah v. Strieffhttp://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/utah-v-strieff/

[19] Ironton Tribune, “Republican Nominees have Upheld Roe v. Wadehttp://www.irontontribune.com/2008/09/30/republican-nominees-have-upheld-roe-v-wade/

[20] The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was upheld 5-4, with Chief Justice Roberts being the only Republican-appointed Justice to vote in favor.  The National Law Review, “Analysis: U.S. Supreme Court Upholds the Affordable Care Act: Roberts Rules?” http://www.natlawreview.com/article/analysis-us-supreme-court-upholds-affordable-care-act-roberts-rules

[21] Obergefell v. Hodges was another 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court in 2015, all 4 Democrat-appointed judges voting in favor, and Republican-appointed Justice Kennedy joining them.  Wikipedia, “Obergefell v. Hodges” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obergefell_v._Hodges

[22] Personhood, Education page, “A Right to Life” section http://www.personhood.com/education

[23] Legislators who support the Sanctity of Human Life Act reintroduce it frequently.  Here is 2015’s bill.  Congress.gov “H.R. 426 – Sanctity of Human Life Act” https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/426

[24] Wikipedia, “List of overruled United States Supreme Court decisions” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_overruled_United_States_Supreme_Court_decisions

[25] The Washington Post, “GOP Senator Calls Out Donald Trump’s ‘Many Affairs’ in Lengthy Tweetstorm” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/01/25/gop-senator-calls-out-donald-trumps-affair-in-lengthy-tweetstorm/

[26] Life Site News, “ ‘Anyone But Donald Trump’: Here’s His Record on Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty” https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/anyone-but-donald-trump-heres-his-record-on-life-marriage-and-religious-lib

[27] Bloomberg, “Trump Embraces Executive Orders to Avoid Congressional Gridlock” http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2016-06-27/trump-eyes-executive-orders-to-sidestep-congressional-gridlock

[28] Cornell University Law School, Legal Information Institute, “U.S. Constitution, Article IV, Section 1.” https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/articleiv

[29] Cornell University Law School, Legal Information Institute, “U.S. Constitution, 14th Amendment” https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/amendmentxiv

[30] PBS NewsHour, “Donald Trump May Support Gay Rights, but Does the Republican Party?” http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/donald-trump-may-support-gay-rights-republican-party/

[31] National Review, “Trump Praises His Sister, a Pro-Abortion Extremist Judge” http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/423196/trump-praises-his-sister-pro-abortion-extremist-judge-ramesh-ponnuru

[32] The New York Times, “Trump Says He Was Kidding in Suggesting His Sister for the Court” http://www.nytimes.com/live/supreme-court-justice-antonin-scalia-dies-at-79/trump-says-he-was-kidding-when-he-suggested-his-sister-for-the-court/

[33] Fox News, “Trump Says He’ll Release List of Potential Supreme Court Justices” http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2016/03/21/trump-says-hell-release-list-potential-supreme-court-justices.html

[34] Politico, “Trump Unveils 11 Potential Supreme Court Nominees” http://www.politico.com/story/2016/05/trumps-supreme-court-nominees-223331

[35] The Washington Examiner, “Trump Might Not Stick to Supreme Court Nominees on His List” http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/trump-might-not-stick-to-supreme-court-nominees-on-his-list/article/2591733

[36] Commentary Magazine, “Is Trump Really Pro-Israel?” https://www.commentarymagazine.com/politics-ideas/campaigns-elections/trump-really-pro-israel/

[37] The Jerusalem Post, “Top Trump Advisor to ‘Post’: Settlement Annexation  Legitimate If PA Continues to Avoid Real Peace” http://www.jpost.com/US-Elections/Top-Trump-advisor-to-Post-Settlement-annexation-legitimate-if-PA-continues-to-avoid-real-peace-460856

[38] The Intercept, “Hillary Clinton Wasn’t Always This One-Sided on Israel” https://theintercept.com/2016/05/17/hillary-clinton-wasnt-always-this-one-sided-on-israel/

[39] Truth Out, “What We Can Expect From  Hillary Clinton on Israel/Palestine http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/33868-what-we-can-expect-from-hillary-clinton-on-israel-palestine

[40] It is very difficult to find somewhat neutral historical summaries of the Bill Clinton administration’s relationship with Israel.  This source has almost a more social take on it. The Washington Post, “What Bill Clinton Can Teach Obama About Israelis”   https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/what-bill-clinton-can-teach-obama-about-israelis/2012/11/23/e654ef34-334d-11e2-9cfa-e41bac906cc9_story.html

[41] This one is more political and historical regarding Bill Clinton’s interactions with Israel. Gale Student Resources in Context, 2011 “Bill Clinton’s Role in Israeli Peace Accords” http://ic.galegroup.com/ic/suic/ReferenceDetailsPage/DocumentToolsPortletWindow?displayGroupName=Reference&jsid=874b6aa16ce31d9be921dfffb8e9df12&action=2&catId=&documentId=GALE%7CEJ2181500121&u=sand55832&zid=24730bc50ec2547e7f8807b03925dbb2

[42] The Wall Street Journal, “How Obama Abandoned Israel” http://www.wsj.com/articles/how-obama-abandoned-israel-1434409772

[43] Dictionary.com, “vote” http://www.dictionary.com/browse/vote

[44] Federal Election Commission, “Public Funding of Presidential Elections”, General Election Funding section http://www.fec.gov/pages/brochures/pubfund.shtml#General

[45] Ballotpedia, “Ballot Access for Major and Minor Parties” https://ballotpedia.org/Ballot_access_for_major_and_minor_party_candidates

[46] Ballotpedia, “Ballot Access Requirements for Presidential Candidates in Colorado” https://ballotpedia.org/Ballot_access_requirements_for_presidential_candidates_in_Colorado

[47] ESV Bible, Colossians 3:6 http://www.esvbible.org/Colossians%203/

[48] ESV Bible, Ephesians 5 http://www.esvbible.org/Ephesians+5/

[49] ESV Bible, Romans 3:10 http://www.esvbible.org/Romans+3:10/

[50] ESV Bible, Romans 3:23 http://www.esvbible.org/Romans%203%3A23/

[51] Blue Letter Bible, KJV occurrences of “righteous” in Proverbs https://www.blueletterbible.org/search/search.cfm?Criteria=righteous&t=KJV&csr=Pro#s=s_primary_0_1

[52] Blue Letter Bible, KJV occurrences of “wicked” in Psalms and Proverbs https://www.blueletterbible.org/search/search.cfm?Criteria=wicked&t=KJV&csrf=Psa&csrt=Pro#s=s_primary_0_1

[53] ESV Bible, Proverbs http://www.esvbible.org/Proverbs%201/

[54] CNN, “Trump Believes in God, but Hasn’t Sought Forgiveness” http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/18/politics/trump-has-never-sought-forgiveness/

[55] ESV Bible, Exodus 18:21 http://www.esvbible.org/Exodus+18/

[56] ESV Bible, Jeremiah 29:7 http://www.esvbible.org/Jeremiah%2029/

[57] ESV Bible, Romans 13 http://www.esvbible.org/Romans%2013/

[58] ESV Bible, 1 Timothy 2:2 http://www.esvbible.org/1%20Timothy%202/

[59] ESV Bible, Proverbs 29:2 http://www.esvbible.org/Proverbs%2029%3A2/

[60] ESV Bible, James 4:17 http://www.esvbible.org/James%204%3A17/

[61] ESV Bible, Romans 3:8 http://www.esvbible.org/Romans%203%3A7/

[62] ESV Bible, Obadiah http://www.esvbible.org/Obadiah/

[63] ESV Bible, Psalm 137:7 http://www.esvbible.org/Psalm%20137%3A7/

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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A friend recently asked me what are my family’s traditions for Christmas.  Besides a formal meal, we also purchase and decorate a Christmas tree, the latter usually to the backdrop of nostalgic Christmas songs and candlelight.  But the most familiar tradition, even an oft-lamented one in our materialism-saturated society, is the exchanging of gifts.  But I am convinced there is nothing inherently wicked with either the getting or the giving of presents.

Gift and give are newer forms of a presumed old, old root, the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) *ghabh- meaning “to give or receive”.  Before it reached English, it appeared in the Old Norse with a definition “gift, good luck”.  For a while it was pronounced yiven, before the guttural ‘g’ resurfaced.  An initial ‘h’ sound is also associated with the root, developing into the somewhat opposite word have.  Isn’t it interesting that giving and receiving are so closely linked that they’re all mixed up with the same family of words?

Present specifically carries the notion of something offered, freely, but before it is received.  It is set in the presence of one, placed “before their face”.

The word receive has a more Latin than Germanic heritage, entering English c. 1300, about 200 years after the Norman French conquest of England, from the Old North French, meaning at that time “seize, take hold of, accept”.  I like the emphasis on the fact that a gift cannot simply be thrust on someone; the action is interactive, with the receiver willingly taking the gift.  In earlier forms, found in Latin, the word meant “regain, take back, recover, take in, or admit”.  There’s a sense of vengeance contrasted with the sense of hospitality.

Hospitality is, in Greek, xenia, especially referring to the “rights of a guest or stranger”.  There is a city in Ohio named for this word.  I think that is a lovely motto of which to be reminded every time one’s city is mentioned.  It is not so much seen in our country as in many other nations, including the Israelite tribe whose generosity to the poor and stranger in the land was mandated by the Mosaic Law (see also this passage).

Hospitality is also a French/Latin borrowing, also since the 1300’s.  It comes from a word meaning “friendliness to guests”.  Compare this to the word host, whose entry at Etymonline.com goes further than the longer form hospitalityHost goes back to the PIE *ghostis- which is supposed to have referred to both the host and the guest, with an original sense of referring to strangers, on whichever side.

In the 1993 movie, “Shadowlands”, based on the life of C.S. Lewis, there is a scene about Christmas in which he is discussing the fate of the season in their mid-century culture:

One [Inkling] laments, “I’m afraid Christmas, as I remember it, is rather a lost cause.”

Jack, as his friends call him, and sounding rather like his voice is echoing out of far-away winter-bound Narnia whispers, “It’s because we’ve lost the magic… You tell people it’s about taking care of the poor and needy, and naturally they don’t even miss it.”

To which his friend, a Roman Catholic priest, responds, “The needy do come into it: ‘no room at the inn,’ remember?  The mother and child?”

I do like to remember that.  I like that older songs remember that.  I like that my friend this year asked for suggestions of how to make our holiday reflect the truth of this verse, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” She wanted to know how to celebrate being made rich and to imitate Christ’s poverty-bearing, rich-making love.

There is a tradition of being charitable particularly at Christmas.  (This is in the line of other, biblical feast-days, during which kindness to the poor was encouraged in response to God’s blessings of abundance that were being celebrated, especially in the harvest-feasts of Firstfruits and Tabernacles.  It is a way to recognize that it is God’s undeserved blessing that provides enough to survive or feast.  If we, by pleasing Him, do not relinquish His grace, we are to expect His continued blessings.  And He is pleased when we remember the poor and have charity towards them.  We can give like the saints in Philippi, depleting our own storehouses, knowing that the God who is using us to care for the poor will faithfully provide for us as well.)

This responsibility to the poor is communicated by the history of the word generous, which originally meant “of noble birth” (same root as genus, referring to biological descent and classification into kinds or races or families) and only by implications of the duty, of those blessed with more, to share with those who have less did it come to mean “magnanimous”.

Benevolence, “disposition to do good”, is a compound word, from the Latin bene “well” and volantem “to wish”.

Alms is another term for this benevolence.   In Old English it was ælmesse, occurring also in German, and Latin, where it is spelled eleemosyna.  This was, in turn, borrowed from the Greek eleemosyne, referring to “pity, mercy”.  In modern English, though rare, it means a gift, especially of money or food, given out to the needy.

Charity is from the Old French, “charity, mercy, compassion; alms” from Latin, “costliness, esteem, affection”.  Isn’t it instructive, the impulse of expressing love by costly, sacrificial giving?  It can be satisfying, and blessed, to give.

Love is, by own definition, the giving of a treasure.  Treasure comes from the same Greek root as thesaurus, and it means “hoard, storehouse, treasury” – presumably of something worth enough to be collected and kept safe.  Can stores be shared?  What does it say when one is willing to disperse a hoard?

Donation is attested in Latin, donum, “gift”, from the PIE *donum.  The same word is found in Sanskrit: danam “offering, present” and in Old Irish dan, “gift, endowment, talent”.

In my family’s tradition, the focus is more on expressing love to one another than to those less fortunate.  Our gifts are an exchange, late 1300’s, “act of reciprocal giving and receiving”, from the Latin ex- “out” and cambire “barter”.  Cambire is supposed to be of Celtic origin, the PIE *kemb- “to bend”, developing in the sense of altering the current state, then specifically changing something by putting something else in its place.

At Christmas especially, the packages under the tree are almost always wrapped, so as to be a surprise.  Unexpectedly, this word used to mean only “a taking unawares; unexpected attack or capture”.  The roots are sur- “over” and prendre “to take, grasp, seize”.  It might be ironic that though we think of thinly cloaked gifts as surprises, at Christmas they are not always unforeseen or unexpected; who hasn’t made a Christmas wish list?  In fact, it is perhaps a disadvantage of our custom: that gifts come to be expected, or even demanded, by the recipients.

When the word wrap appeared in English around AD 1300, it meant “to wind, cover, conceal, bind up, swaddle”.  I think we do this to increase the ornamental feeling of festivity, not as a symbol of the baby Jesus being similarly wrapped before being placed in a manger.

Swaddle seems to come from a word meaning a slice or strip.

Ribbon, which often adorns our gifts, might have a similar historic meaning, if it is related to band, “a flat strip” and “something that binds”, a rejoining of two divergent threads of Middle English, distinguished at one point by different spellings, band referring to joining together and bande to a strip or even a stripe (where it likely morphed into ribane, a stripe in a material).  The original root of band is, PIE *bendh- “to bind”.

Something else we use to hold things together when we’re wrapping them?  Tape.  My cousin says, “tape, lots of tape.”  This Old English tæppe is a “narrow strip of cloth used for tying or measuring”.  It could be formed from the Latin for “cloth, carpet”, tapete, or it might be related to the Middle Low German tapen, “to pull, pluck, tear”.

(These words are so fun, the way they communicate the action by which the thing got to be – or the state that inspired and enabled an action.  What was life like for the people who named a strip of fabric tape?  Well, maybe they were pulling on cloth {reminiscent of one of my favorite Christmas movies, “Little Women”, where the ladies of the house spend time tearing old sheets into strips to be used as bandages for those soldiers wounded in the American Civil War}.  Why would they do that?  To have something with which to bind things together.  It’s a different world from our manufacturing-driven lifestyles, where tape and ribbon and string are purchased in packages off of shelves.  They’re things made originally for their purposes, not improvised from something else.  It’s like a history lesson in a word!)

The other reason we think of gifts during the holiday season in which we remember God’s entry into our world in human flesh is because His birth was honored by gifts from wise visitors from the East.  These men recognized that Jesus was born to be the King, the long-prophesied King of the everlasting kingdom.  And though this God-King could have turned stones into bread, and summoned armies of angels, He chose to experience poverty.  Though He experienced the lowliness of being born to a poor mother and living as a refugee, a stranger, in Egypt, he was honored by costly gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh when a very young boy.

Such is the nature not only of love, to give sacrificially, but also of worship.  How remiss would any of us be, to overlook the presence of the Highest King?  Not only is His worth expressed by Kings giving Him treasures; it is demonstrated by the “sacrifice of praise” every person can offer:  The Christmas carols sing that the wise men have “come to pay Him homage,” Old French “allegiance or respect for one’s feudal lord”, from Latin homo, “man”.  Or in “What Child Is This?” we are bid to “haste, haste, to bring Him laud”, also Old French, “praise, extol” from Latin laus, “praise, fame, glory”.  A cognate, or brother-word in Old English was leoð, “song, poem, hymn”.  He is worthy of the richest treasures.  We owe Him everything we have, everything that is.  We also owe Him our allegiance, our praise, our songs.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Many thanks and credit to the resources of www.Etymonline.com and www.Dictionary.Reference.com in compiling these definitions and histories.  Also to www.BlueLetterBible.org for Scriptures.

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“Thank you, Jesus, for this food. Amen.”  – the prayer children have offered in my house before meals for as long as I can remember

We bless our food with a tiny word of thanks.

Before we share in the Lord’s supper in most churches, thanks is made to the Father who gave Only Son.

Thanks is in the story Paul tells of the Lord’s supper.

The Lord Jesus

On the same night in which He was BETRAYED

Took bread and when He had

GIVEN THANKS

He broke it…

Was Jesus simply giving a token prayer before eating?  In the middle of the feast?

I’m ashamed to confess that I never believed Jesus was sincere.  He said ‘thanks,’ because He couldn’t eat until He’d done so…  Except that I don’t actually believe that.  So what was He thankful for?  Was He only saying “thank you” for the next bite?  For a feast He had fervently desired to eat with His disciples before He suffered?  For the suffering?

Again, I have doubted Jesus’ sincerity, when He said “Not My will, but Yours be done.”  He meant it, surely.  As a declaration of submission.  That’s what I thought.  But in truth, it’s a prayer, not a declaration.  He’s been begging His Father.  And the begging doesn’t stop when it changes.  He begs for God’s will to be done.  Wants it.  Receives the will of the Father with joy, maybe as joy.

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.” James 1:2 (NLT)

Such were my thoughts when this morning, day after the traditional anniversary of the Last Supper, I picked up Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts after a long pause.  Half a chapter had been waiting for me to find solitude in which to hear it.  God saved it up for me for this day, I believe.  She writes…

“Let God blow His wind, His trials, oxygen for joy’s fire.  Leave the hand open and be.  Be at peace.  Bend the knee and be small and let God give what God chooses to give because He only gives love and whisper surprised thanks…  I hadn’t known that joy meant dying.  What did I think hard eucharisteo and the table of the Last Supper meant?  …follow Christ to the table of eucharisteo, the table of surrender that gives thanks for what is given – this is joy!”

Who gave thanks?  Who was doing the giving?  What did the giving cost?  What did the Giver do?  He is the one who gave thanks.

Not token.  Not insincere.  Grateful.  Trusting.  Joyful.  Sorrowful, too.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I guess God wants me to be thinking about these things.  On Saturday I was at a prayer meeting for a friend headed off to Africa on a three month mission trip.  Another prayer warrior present told me afterwards that one of his pastors has been in Nigeria for a few days, where the gospel was preached.  The report is that 150,000 people came forward to be saved by the blood of Jesus.  Numbers like that blow my mind.  I’ll admit, however hopeful I am, I’m skeptical.  But what if God really is moving in places like India and Africa?  What if the people in closed Muslim nations really are dreaming dreams about Jesus and running across Bibles and meeting people who will quietly preach the truth to them?

The man told me something else about Nigeria.  He said that in eight days, they witnessed two people raised from the dead.  The first was being carried, four days, by his father, to the evangelists.  By the time the child reached them, he was dead.  But the team of preachers prayed anyway, and the child came back to life.  Hearing that, another person attending the revival went and got his son from the morgue.  He’d died of a bullet wound in his chest.  They prayed for him, and he is alive now, too.

What would have happened if there had been no hope in those evangelists for the impossible?  What if, believing death to be God’s final answer, everyone had behaved rationally and ignored the impossible?  How often do I fail to even consider asking God for a miracle?

These reports are third or fourth or even fifth hand.  But I think it’s hard to confuse whether someone was dead and is now alive.  And why would you lie about things like that?  Still, my American rationalism, my lack of experience with supernatural things, pushes hard against reports about miracles.  Should I believe it?  What does it mean for me anyway?

My story isn’t over…  A few hours after that Saturday meeting (probably early on Sunday), a good friend was encouraging me that the Spirit of God is moving – an admonition to keep crying out to see Him move here, in the world around me.  My friend said that there are a group of church-planting pastors in India who prayed for someone and saw them brought back from the dead as well.  I hadn’t shared what I’d just heard from someone else.  So.

Two sources.

Two countries.

Three resurrections I heard about,

in one day.

And the time is coming, in less than a week now, when we celebrate the resurrection of Christ.  We remember that He has all authority, and has given power to us, through His Holy Spirit.  We have hope that even death that lasts for decades is not forever for those who believe.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Biblically, married couples should not use birth control. The Bible does say that children are a blessing, and commands us to be fruitful and multiply.  Barrenness is in a list of curses that will come on a people or a country that disobeys God.  God controls the womb.  Do we also forbid attempts to get pregnant (in vitro fertilization, for example)?  What about Natural Family Planning – no chemicals, surgeries, or other medical devices?  Is the issue taking control?  Avoiding blessings?  Or not valuing children?  Do we make exceptions for certain couples, for those with dangerous health  problems associated with pregnancy?  Yes, children are a blessing, but God describes many things as blessings, and we do not pursue them all.  Singleness is a blessing.  That blessing excludes parenthood in most cases.  Can you really choose and the blessing still be a blessing?  Who gives blessings?  Wasn’t the command to be fruitful only given to Adam and Eve and repeated to Noah?  It may be our right to pursue blessings, but as Christians, aren’t we supposed to lay down our rights in deference to God?  The Bible describes children as arrows in the hand of a warrior; if Christian couples are declining to have kids, are they shirking their responsibility to further the kingdom of God as best they can?  Our worldview has shifted, even in the last century, to see large families as abnormal or even undesirable.  Before this century it was the common teaching of Catholics and Protestants that birth control was wrong, that God wanted them to accept as many children as He granted.  We have biblical examples, if not mandates, of people regarding blessings.  Did anyone good ever refuse something that was a blessing?  What about the story of Onan where he acted the kinsman-redeemer but specifically avoided the possibility of conception in the union?  He was condemned.  But maybe he was condemned for the motives and implications of the act?

Christians become more like the world as they withdraw from the world. In what way would you describe those prime examples of religious seclusion: Amish and monks in a monastery, as being more like the world?  Worldly is defined as self-centered, reluctant to share our faith.  Though that is not particularly world-like, as they are eager to share their beliefs.  Perhaps it could be argued that Christians withdrawing from interaction with the world are growing less godly or less obedient (are we not called to be salt and light?) rather than more worldly.  There are many monasteries that, while pursuing a life apart, still engage in ministry to the community, to the “world.”  They do teaching ministries and nursing, for example.  Has not the US church become a club, withdrawing from the world in their exclusivity, because we are neglecting the command to reach out?  What made it become a club?  Maybe that itself was a consequence of becoming like the world, and inviting the world in on its terms.  If the world wants to come to church, shouldn’t they want to come for the truth?  Christians are commanded to be somewhat separate: more hospitable to other Christians than to nonbelievers; also to know who is “in” and who is “out” in order that outreach might be a definite, stand-out activity.  We as Christians are known by our love to one another.  Being so separate that the difference is obvious is a witness.  The Bible teaches Christians to engage in BOTH discipleship AND evangelism.  1 John instructs us NOT to love the world or anything in the world.  Those Christian leaders most recognized for being engaged in the world and having a large impact or effect on the world – are they having an impact for the Kingdom of God?  Billy [Graham], Joel [Osteen], and Rick [Warren] are “ruining the kingdom of God.”  Our interaction with the world should be one of confrontation.  And perhaps “Christians” in the US aren’t real Christians, so withdrawing from responsibilities to love their neighbors is a natural reaction.

(First Ever 2 Minute Debate!)  The Sun will go out before Jesus comes back, so we should colonize other solar systems. Jesus said He was coming back soon.  At that point the world had only existed for 4,000 or so years, so the absolute maximum that could have meant would be A.D. 4,000.  There is no way the Sun is burning out in 2,000 years.  If we’re still around then, though, and He hasn’t come back, maybe then we’ll look into colonizing other solar systems.  Plus we have better things to do than worrying about the survival of humanity after the earth.

Confessing sins to fellow disciples is essential for healthy community. Don’t we already confess sins to each other?  It just starts out with, “It was SO cool…”  Seriously, isn’t there a danger of confession turning into bragging?  If I tell you my sins, doesn’t that encourage you to gossip about me?  Disciple is defined as one who is pursuing godliness, trying to grow spiritually.  So the discretion used in confessing to disciples can guard against some dangers.  Another danger is the power of suggestion introducing a type of temptation to others.  But confession could – and should – be made without details.  The benefit of hearing sins confessed is to realize that other Christians are struggling with sin – maybe even the same sin – too.  That gives assurance that the temptation and failure is not a sign of being unregenerate.  Should confession be private (accountability partner) or communal?  History has recorded many times where revival followed public confession.  Pastors often set the example of public confession, apologizing for faults during sermons.  It is probably more important for leaders to confess publicly.  So what?  Now everyone knows that everyone else is a mess just like them.  How does that build healthy community?  Congregations can pray for each other when they know the need, support each other, and rejoice in the victories.  But people don’t have to wait until they’ve conquered sins to start confessing.  And a meeting could involve some confession and some victory reports.  Confession invites intimacy.  Public confession facilitates repentance, whereas not having to tell anyone about it lets a person “get over it” without being truly sorry.  Isn’t God sufficient pressure to invite true repentance?  Being one with God is tied to being one with others.  The Christian response to confession is forgiveness, especially if you were wronged by the sin.  But the Bible does record times when men confessed their sins and received judgment.  Take Achan, whose whole family was stoned with him even after he confessed.  Still, a case can be made that the stoning of Achan’s household was good for the community, which is the wording of the resolution.  Reality has Christians experiencing consequences even though we’re forgiven.

The way Protestants teach salvation by grace alone/faith alone/Christ alone leads people to faith in intellectual assent, not to faith in the Spirit of Christ (true salvation). So we shouldn’t teach that gospel?  Or we need to be very careful how it’s explained?  Christians tend to use terms with people who don’t know what we mean, like faith; in our culture it is understood as intellectual assent.  So if that isn’t what we mean, we need to define our terms or use words that anyone can understand.  Sometimes there aren’t words for concepts (some tribes have been discovered with no word for mercy or forgiveness): in such cases, longer explanations and even demonstrations may be necessary.  Part of the cause of false conversions in America today is that salvation is sold as a ticket out of hell…  But if it is true that we are saved by faith alone, why does it matter how an evangelist explains the gospel?  The gospel of intellectual assent is a Holy Spirit-less gospel; it doesn’t lead them to God.  Isn’t the Holy Spirit capable of using weak words to nonetheless convert hearts?  It is the Christian’s responsibility to be as clear as he can.  When we talk about salvation, we rarely mention that the choice brings a cost: lordship of Christ, sacrificing, how much easier it is to live without morals.  We say “God has a wonderful plan for your life” but look at Paul’s life.  Are we being dishonest?  What about using a word like “mistake” instead of sin?  Doesn’t that give the impression that your rebellion against God was an accident?  But that could be an attempt at using an understandable word when no one knows what sin is anymore.  Are there better words, though, like “wrong”?  Originally it was understood that converting to a certain religion, with its doctrines, had consequences.  It meant a conversion to that lifestyle as well.  How do we know when people are understanding us?  If our lives back up our message, we become our own visual aid.  Even the word saved can be misleading.  Most people don’t experience a feeling of danger because they were born spiritually dead.  They are not presently in Hell, so they don’t realize the importance of being saved from it.  But if you use the word “changed,” that implies that something happens to you but also that you are different.  And you are not only changed, but also changing.  Some people do get saved out of fear of Hell.  But the Great Commission was to make disciples.  To make changed people.  Aren’t Justification and Regeneration equal and indivisible parts of salvation?  Hearing the message of salvation from Hell gives people an appreciation for God’s grace, because they have a concept of His wrath.

Are you tired of being buffeted by your fan?  (Did you even know you were being buffeted?)  Try the new and fantastic Dyson* Air Foil Fan.  It works like a jet engine.  Some people have noted that wind is naturally, uh, well, buffeting, so that style of air propellant might be preferred by some people.  But when is the last time someone invented a new fan?  Start saving now!  *Dyson, the inventor, is now “Sir Dyson.”  He was knighted by the Queen.  That’s how cool his fan is.  (The preceding paragraph should not be taken as an endorsement of Dyson or any of its products or ideas.)

Christians, for efficiency, should focus on saving kids dying of natural causes than the much more difficult task of keeping other people (parents) from killing them, as in pro-life work. Both victims want to be saved.  There is less resistance from authorities and parents to saving people who are starving or without clean drinking water.  Aren’t both causes of death the result of hardened hearts and sinful people?  Maybe even the result of our sin?  So the task involves overcoming hard hearts either way.  But the resolution was about saving lives, not changing hearts.  It is easier to save people – physically – from natural threats.  But the reason to save either children is to give them a chance to hear the spiritual message of salvation by grace in the future.  Don’t pit two good things against each other.  Doing something here in your spare time is easier than packing up the family and moving to Africa to dig wells for drinking water, and corresponds better to a lot of peoples’ callings.  The Bible talks about blood guilt for a nation that commits the shedding of innocent blood; doesn’t that put some priority on us addressing the deaths in our OWN nation?  But our influence isn’t just national anymore; it is global.  And blood guilt is a global phenomenon.  Shouldn’t we start at home?  Don’t do something just because it is easier.  But we weren’t talking about easy; we were talking about efficient.  And efficiency implies limited resources; our God who is sending us to care for the weak and needy is not limited.  Unless you consider that He is limited by human willingness (our willingness to obey or others’ willingness to receive).  Are we going for results?  The biggest number of people helped?  Shouldn’t we just be trying to glorify God in whatever we do?  Is it wrong to use wisdom, taking efficiency into consideration, to make that choice?  Jesus said that thousands were starving but Elijah was sent to only one widow.  So one needs to take into account personal conviction and direction from God.  Have God’s values.  Whatever you do, do it heartily.  Efficiency is a worthy consideration, but not the sole motivator.  We need God’s direction.  And what if those we save by using our energies efficiently end up transforming the world and saving people from other kinds of death as well?  Are we not furthering the kingdom of God by saving multitudes from starvation and disease – thus ingratiating the world to us and our message?

Institutional Church is fundamentally neither worse nor less biblical than any other form of church. Institutional Church is defined as that typical of the United States, including an order of worship, a building, pastors and elders.  Though theoretically the models may have equal ground, consistent tendencies suggest a flaw in the institutional model.  Are home churches any better?  Institutional Churches have the record for longevity.  House churches don’t usually last hundreds of years.  But maybe that isn’t the goal of a house church.  Where size is concerned, Institutional Churches tend to be larger, which guards against false doctrine and gives greater accountability.  Is that true?  Doesn’t the larger congregation provide anonymity, and so hinder accountability?  In denominations, a characteristic of Institutional Church, individual congregations are accountable to the denomination, particularly for their doctrine.  Jim Elliot said the Church is God’s, and it is important to Him, so if He has a way He wants the Church to meet and worship Him, we should do it that way.  [and this is my blog, so I can edit history and give the quote for real: “The pivot point hangs on whether or not God has revealed a universal pattern for the church in the New Testament. If He has not, then anything will do so long as it works. But I am convinced that nothing so dear to the heart of Christ as His Bride should be left without explicit instructions as to her corporate conduct. I am further convinced that the 20th century has in no way simulated this pattern in its method of ‘churching’ a community . . . it is incumbent upon me, if God has a pattern for the church, to find and establish that pattern, at all costs” (Shadow of The Almighty: Life and Testimony of Jim Elliot)  See also my website: www.ChurchMoot.wordpress.com]  The Bible describes a model of church that the Institutional Church does not match.  That is what makes it inferior.  For example, 1 Corinthians 14 says that when the Church gathers, every one has a teaching, psalm, prophecy, tongue – not just a pre-scheduled pastor.  But the Bible also teaches that there should be order, that everyone should not be talking over each other.  Isn’t that an “order of worship”?  The Bible does talk about pastors, though!  What is the role of a pastor?  When the New Testament talks about pastors and apostles and evangelists giving attention to teaching and preaching, doesn’t that suggest the sermon?  Preaching is primarily for evangelism.  Christians are to honor those elders especially who minister in the Word.  Shouldn’t a Christian convicted about these matters try to reform the Institutional Church?  How can he, when the means at his disposal are the very thing he wants to change?  You could keep the same people, the same congregation, but you would have to tear the whole structure down and start over.  The issue isn’t problems in individual congregations or even necessarily those “tendencies” to which Institutional Church is prone; it is the description of the Church meetings given in the New Testament.  Where did the New Testament Church meet?  How did they facilitate the Church in Jerusalem at thousands of members if it met in houses?  They didn’t all have to meet at once in one place.  Is it wrong to meet in buildings?  Buildings cost money to maintain.  The Early Church and House Churches can use that money for other things, not needing to budget for light-bulbs and parking lots.  And the money was administered not by a church fund, but entrusted to the apostles.  Would it be best to return to an Apostolic Model, then, or even recognize Apostolic Succession as in the Catholic Church?

What Americans call consumerism isn’t consumerism; it’s collecting and hoarding, so we should stop maligning consumerism. Why do we think of consuming as bad?  Everyone consumes.  But isn’t that the threat behind “carbon footprints” of every organism?  Hoarding is entrapping; it’s worse than cigarettes.  We store all this stuff in our houses and then we lose it by the time we “need” it.  But people find security in having backups for things they use a lot.  And the reason we need a backup is because our society has manufactured (or demanded the manufacture of) consumable products, things that break or wear out.  When something breaks, we have easy access to stores, which store replacements for you.  We don’t just throw out broken things, though; we get rid of things to make way for the “new” thing, the upgrade.  What should you do with things you’re not using?  You shouldn’t keep it unless you are highly efficient at your storage and make your supplies work for you, your neighbors, and friends (hospitality: see Pigfest February 2010).  Isn’t this hoarding just the “building bigger barns” as in Jesus’ parable?  Then again, maybe it is the responsible thing to do, to work hard now and save up (not just money) for later, like the fabled ants in The Ant and the Grasshopper.  But is consuming really bad?  If you’re really using something up, and people are able to keep producing it, go ahead and consume.  Stores aren’t always as accessible as efficiency would require.  Consumption doesn’t just cost money; it costs lives and freedom.  There are some economies purposefully enslaved, where the people are kept dependent and forced to manufacture that which we consume.  Consumption is not acceptable, then, at every cost.  Isn’t the hoarding we’re talking about a sign of a lack of trust that God will take care of us in the future?

The End.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I like circles.  Hula-hoops.  Rings.  Pi.  Domes.  Time travel.  Except that’s more of a spiral…

When I am embarrassed or flustered, I go in circles.  Literally.  I’ll do a little spin, adjust my hair, and be back to business.  Like a new start.

But really, circles don’t have starts.  And that’s what I really like.  Fresh beginnings.  Forgiveness.  History.

And I like endings.  Hope has to do with endings.  Fulfillment.  Consummation.  Happily ever after.  Completion.

The thing I don’t like about beginnings and endings is that there has to be time in between.  Waiting.  Remembering.  Continuing.  Perseverance.  Diligence.  It isn’t that I really dislike those things; they’re just hard.

It seems that for hope to exist, time has to be linear.  We can’t go in circles.  Chesterton described insanity as a circle.  Think about it.  Most of our natural laws follow the principle of cause and effect.  Order.

And God had the wisdom to describe Himself not as a circle, but as Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End, First and Last, Author and Finisher.  He it is that gives us starts.  Quickening.  Initiation.  (We love Him because He first loved us.)  And He is there at the end, pulling us to completion.  To joy and peace.  Because of Him we have an ending, and it is happy.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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