America Needs Prayer Like Never Before? Really?

This is the headline on a Foxnews.com piece written by Pastor Greg Laurie, Honorary Chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force.  I’m not sure what that is exactly, but apparently they are instrumental in organizing events for the day.

On National Day of Prayer, America needs prayer like never before

Now, the article, which you can read here, goes on to quote several people expounding on the reason America is so much worse off now than ever before.  The reasons are the usual suspects of the breakdown of the family, the shutting out of God in culture, the loss of the founding Judeo-Christian values, etc.  Interestingly, the writer brings back the old “the 1960s started us on a downward spiral” argument.

This purpose of this post is not to argue these points.  The purpose is to question the premise of the headline, and I’ll keep it short because it’s the perfect opportunity to put into practice the purpose of this blog.  I want you, the reader, to think about this.

Are we really worse off now than we were between 1800 and 1960?  Examine those 160 years from roughly the invention of the cotton gin, which contributed to the revitalization of the slave system through a Civil War then the oft-excused, even forgotten, period of segregation.

Is homosexuality, not mentioned in the article but obviously a big target for this observance, worse than the systematic oppression of a whole race of human beings for 150+ years?

Think about it.

And as always, let me know what you think.

 

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Credit Where Credit Is Due

I don’t know anything about his ministry beyond the basics of the Lutheran denomination, but apparently the pastor who gave the benediction and closing prayer at an interfaith memorial service for the Newtown victims caught some flack for his participation in the service.

Also, he has apparently both defended his participation and apologized for it.

For me, this is a great example of what Paul was talking about in Romans 14 about trying to avoid being a stumbling block to “weaker brothers.”

As I mentioned, I know nothing about Rev. Morris, his ministry or his church beyond basic Lutheran tenets, but I do commend him for this one action.  I believe he did a good thing in participating.  I agree with his defenders who believed he was acting as a Christian witness and not militantly refusing to “mingle” with other faiths, and I also agree with his apology for causing problems amongst his brothers and sisters.

Good for him.

A Good Start

On the About page of this blog, I express, in essence, the hope that at some point, the church will be able to discuss differing opinions on any cultural, moral or political issue civilly no matter what it is.  I hope that this includes the “agree to disagree” principle so that we can come as close as humanly possible to the truth about such things as respect for human life (death penalty, abortion, etc.), the government’s versus the church’s role in providing for widows and orphans, etc., etc.

Same sex marriage is among the issues that I know a vast majority of Christians can’t, under the current church climate, question in their church.  I know there are exceptions, and I hope that this is beginning to change.

Well, I just came across this document calling for exactly this to happen.

A Call for a New Conversation on Marriage

Now, I looked at the list of signatories and am not satisfied with the number of church leaders involved.  There are a few who are to the right of center on the conservative spectrum, and there are a few (“liberal”) seminary leaders and a Bishop in the Episcopal Church.  I applaud these church leaders, but I wish there were more conservatives on the list.

The most encouraging for me is the name of the President of Fuller Theological Seminary.  Fuller has for a long while been a distinctly Christian institution, with a good reputation for facilitating this kind of discussion.

I do hope this document is the spark for a new kind of discussion..

Newtown and Responsibility

I wish I could avoid writing about this because I feel like I’m just adding to the noise.  And, of course, anyone who comments on this tragedy, unless that comment is a direct memorial to the lost lives, runs the risk of distracting from what’s really important.  I’m taking that risk, but I hope there’s been enough time to process and someone benefits.

First, a couple of videos, a comment (at the very end) in context and a (presumably more prepared) follow-up:

Now, I like Mike Huckabee personally even though I disagree with his political statements at least 40% of the time. I think he’s generally a fun-loving, commpassionate, smart guy, and for better or worse he’s not a cookie-cutter conservative.

But, during the election season and in response to the Newtown tragedy, Mr. Huckabee confirmed the worst Christian stereotype. And, I’m afraid many preachers followed his example in their sermons the next Sunday.

He tried to place the blame somewhere that it doesn’t belong. The blame lies squarely on Adam Lanza and anyone who knew of his impaired mental health, was in a position to help him but did nothing.

I actually heard a sermon in which the preacher, after he talked about those who “celebrate what God says is wrong” invited his congregation to repent on behalf of those who were responsible for the nation’s turn from God, which resulted in this shooting. That’s almost a direct quote, and I’m pretty sure it’s not hard to figure out what specific group of people he was talking about. I was frankly appalled.

Now, there are a lot of reasons I believe that what Huckabee said was wrong and that it was the wrong time to say it, but I don’t want to get lost in the weeds here. I think it’s enough, for now, to say that I was disappointed that such an admired Christian spokesman as Mike Huckabee chose to use this tragedy for political purposes.

I’m also disappointed that he chose to use the “God’s Judgment” theme in a way he likely knew would be repeated in churches across America. It’s arrogant and it damages Christianity! God will stay undamaged, but His followers won’t.

To be sure, the Christian Right is not the only group to use the tragedy for their own purposes (notably the gun control advocates), but Christians should be better than this.

Glenn Beck and his ilk

This is a blog about American culture written by me, a Christian.  The underlying goal of this blog is to help bring disparate voices together so the “rank and file” Christian can form intelligent and educated opinions.  I do not want Christians to end their involvement in the culture or even politics, but I do want to see that involvement more effective for the sake of the Gospel.  This blog’s content will question those cultural and political activists who claim to speak for the Christian Church.  Thus, people you will not see a lot of on this blog are:

  • Glenn Beck
  • Rush Limbaugh
  • Sean Hannity (though as a Roman Catholic, he may appear more than some others)
  • Bill O’Reilly

and others who do not claim to be Christians or whose commentary is primarily political.  Yes, they influence the Church and speak on moral issues with political implications.  However, this blog is not about whom we should elect but about what we the members of the Christian Church think and who should speak for us.

Thus, you will, most likely, frequently see the names of these and other people and organizations (because people tend to speak through organizations):

  • James Dobson/Focus on the Family
  • Ralph Reed/Faith & Freedom Coalition
  • Family Research Council
  • Sarah Palin
  • Mike Huckabee
  • Jim Wallis/Sojourners & the God’s Politics Blog
  • Tony Campolo
  • Brian McLaren
  • Ron Sider/Evangelicals for Social Action

You may notice that the second list includes people who fall all along the political and cultural spectrum.  I envision this blog to, eventually, become something of a clearinghouse of ideas from many perspectives.  In the meantime, though, I believe the first step is to think critically about what those who speak for us, the Church, are saying.  I’ll try to do this by digging into the reasons behind the things these voices say and their implications.

I’ll often draw my own conclusions.  Ultimately, though, the discernment is up to you.

As always, please comment and include people and organizations you think I should have included on my list.  I know there are more, and I know who many of them are.  But, if you want to discuss certain people and organizations, let me know.  Also, feel free to question my own motives, actions, and opinions.  Discussion and discourse contribute to an intelligent, truthful, and effective Church.  Please, just be respectful.