Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The End of Civilization

As I teach church history to spiritual leaders in Singapore this week, my students are intrigued by the rise and fall of civilizations and institutions. Examining the stories of ancient, medieval and modern empires is instructive as we consider the future of the USA.

It is easy for melodrama to overtake sound reflection, as recent media circuses testify. From unwise comments about a narcissistic student to inflammatory cries about a tragic shooting, we are experts at outrage and comeuppance, but afraid to face our issues and find partnerships to solve them.

Civilizations collapse for many reasons, from environmental disasters (both human error and natural events) to invasion/deportation to internal anarchy leading to implosion and totalitarianism. Historians such as Arnold Toynbee have made valiant attempts to systematize the rising and falling of cultures and empires, with some success. Other thinkers, with less-than-hidden agendas, weave narratives of the past with that foster present activism.

In these paragraphs, I have a more modest aim. The end of the American experiment is immanent unless millions of thoughtful people act quickly and wisely to reverse the current trajectory. Here is why we are on the precipice:

* Moral and spiritual anarchy that is in practice and principle undermining social stability. When we argue about the human identity of babies, the nature of marriage and refuse to respect faith, we are in serious trouble.

* Immigration chaos that prevents solid folks from pursuing citizenship and fosters defiance for the law among those that have no desire to sustain our American ethos.

* Fiscal inanity that stifles creativity, increases dependency and furthers the erosion of markets that can ethically generate new wealth.

* A political process that rewards bluster and fabrication and alienates the thoughtful.

With God's help, "we the people" are the only way to a better future. The warfare-welfare state must yield to ethical enterprise, social responsibility and new neighborly concern. Voting is for citizens with ID. And reverence for the Almighty and respect for Life are paramount if we are going to enjoy Divine favor and foster justice.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Signs of Hope

In the midst of global crises, domestic politics and information overload, there are some wonderful signs of hope. Right now there are unspeakable tragedies occurring; there are also amazing triumphs of the Spirit. While we wrestle with who will be the next President of the USA, millions of people around the world are finding common ground is the battles against AIDS, hunger and slavery. Internet blogs abound with accusations and ad hominem attacks; however, people of diverse backgrounds are finding hope for their communities as they work for justice.

This week in Nashville, Tennessee I joined with scores of Christian leaders from across the nation and from around the world for a time of worship, reflection, discussion and partnership in mission. Leaders from almost every tradition and all continents were represented at this Messenger Fellowship Summit. We diverged on some areas of theology and politics and engaged in intense conversations about moral and theological integrity. All of us expressed respect for the authority of Scripture and how to walk in unity even while we disagree on issues. Leaders from Columbia, England, France and the Ivory Coast helped us see our faith with new eyes, instead of an American-centric lens. There was profound agreement on the core of the faith, the call for holiness and the need to empower all church members for living in a world of change. My faith grew, my hope increased and my love for God and others was revitalized.

A few days earlier I met with seminary professors from diverse Evangelical traditions concerning integrating faith and economics, worship and work. We were from different denominations and geographies, but we discovered profound points of unity as we shared about preparing our students to serve their churches. This Kern Family Foundation moment provided another boost to my innate hopefulness. When thoughtful people gather with humility and a common mission, great things can happen.

Watching my colleagues and students at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary learn and serve inspires me every day. The creativity, faith and insights of women and men from their 20s to their 80s helps spur me forward. There is a good blend of idealism and realism as the challenges of missional living are explored.

The stories from my facebook friends offer hope as well. Even as we wrestle with the loss of loved ones, financial and physical challenges, it is encouraging to see the prayer, support and mutual respect that connects thousands of people around the world. Friends in all spheres of life are bringing so much good to the world for the glory of God.

Today is a Sunday. It is a good moment to be thankful. I will continue to comment incisively on events. I will be unsparing in exposing evil and uncompromising on some crucial issues. But it is right to unveil the greatness found in the acts of service carried out by so many humble friends. It is healthy to pause and remember the faithfulness of so many moms and dads even as we redeem the victims of divorce. it is honoring to God to remember that we are part of a global family as well as citizens of the USA. Let's look for signs of hope - and perhaps place one in the soil of our community as we serve others.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

We The People

Some pseudo-scientists from Oxford and NYU recently published another "groundbreaking" paper positing human re-engineering as one solution to the crisis of global warming. Part from the muddled state of climate change research, the proffered ideas are startling for their irreverent hubris and utterly inhumane worldview.

The notions that smaller stature, an anti-beef patch and drugs to reprogram behavior will change the environment have no basis in anything approaching objective research. Added to these audacious suggestions are the numerous violations of any ethical boundaries, along with a view of humanity that is supremely utilitarian.

Ethicists have been battling eugenic fantasies for almost two centuries. From insane notions of racial hierarchies to social Darwinism to the awful classist and racist notions of Margaret Sanger and the Nazis, modern humanity has attempted to turn advances in knowledge that can heal into the formation of master races and designer persons.

The secular Left claims to champion the causes of the poor and vulnerable while espousing abortion, infanticide and radical economic policies designed to limit population and ration medical care. To give any of these notions serious consideration is a violation of slop the progress we have moade during the last two millennia.

We need to champion excellent science that can heal. We must also declare that each human life is a gift that must be received and
nurtured. We must recover transcendent ethics and values that will give us discernment so that all scientific and technological breakthroughs find their proper place.

If we open the door to such manipulation, the day that we start limiting procreation to the "fit" and medical care to the "worthy" is not far off.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Vote the Future

One of the wonderful things about my faith is that the future inspires the present. The Christian message is is uniquely hopeful, with the resurrection of Jesus as the preview of our future, a promise that death does not have the last word. Whether all who read this share my particular faith or not, I think it is time that we evaluate our political candidates on their future visions as well as past statements and votes. Yes, history matters and can be an indicator of patterns and principles for the future. But people can change their minds. When someone adopts our position on an issue and we like her or him, we say she or he is wise and has seen the light. Conversely, if a candidate we do not like very much changes a position, we call her or him a "flip-flopper." It is time to dispense with such immature thinking and ask our candidates, "What is your vision of the future and what are the concrete actions you will undertake to lead us toward the vision?"

The current Republican candidates for President have all done and said things that open them to attack. Each opponent selects certain statements - in or out of context - and goes on the warpath toward the others. This is politics. Politics becomes statesmanship and visionary leadership, however, when the future can be articulated and new pathways presented. The future is more than vague hopes or talking points. How we see ahead sets the trajectories we choose today. I want our candidates to not only talk a balanced budget, but declare the disciplined decisions needed to get there. It is great to say that job creation matters, but reversing a generation of government interference while maintaining ethics will he a historic challenge. Confronting radical Islamicists while engendering real respect and toleration requires masterful sensitivity and wisdom.

I am going to vote the future. Any of the less-than-perfect Republicans (other than Ron Paul) are superior to our current regime; however, victory in the general election will require cultural, intellectual, moral and political courage. Please inspire and instruct us, Mr. Candidate. Please rekindle our dreams even while we restrict momentary pleasures for the common future. Please expose current follies while unveiling insights that will engender positive action. Please rise above the name-calling and call on the Name for help from above. Please be a person humble enough to change your mind, courageous enough to stand your ground when needed and wise enough to know the difference. Our future depends on it.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Ethical Murder

Oxford medical ethicists announced today that newborn babies do not have a right to life and should not be considered persons in the normal sense of the word. These inhuman elitists declare that parents should have a right to an "after-birth abortion" if their newborn is not to their liking! Such notions have been hinted at by a few fringe thinkers, but today's pronouncements unveil the anti-life, dehumanizing agenda of the elites that want their version of scientism to overrule millennia-old ethical principles. As the left caricatures Santorum and other Republicans as anti-contraception and the oppressors of women (ignoring freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed by the Constitution), this dystopian vision is obscured by shrill demands for freedom, choice and government subsidies for any and all medical procedures.

What kind of world are we in when Catholic health care providers are forced to violate their faith, while governments pay for sex-change operations for prisoners? What perverted notions of family lead us to abortion-on-demand without parental approval? Roe v. Wade has deprived our nation of 54,000,000 people. What happened to welcoming children as our beloved hope of the future?

There are no "good old days" and our compassion and knowledge of the complexities of human identity are important. We must not prosecute adults for consensual, private behavior. At the same time, we must not force people of deep convictions to celebrate activity they disagree with. We must live with our deepest differences and continue to understand all that makes us fully human.

Today's pronouncement by these "ethicists" crosses a line and must be universally condemned. If we allow any form of infanticide we are opening the door to a nightmare of inhuman and totalitarian behaviors. Why should we pay for the care of an imperfect child at all if they are not really "persons"? Who decides which babies live or die? Mom? Dad? Both? What about a "woman's right to choose" once the baby in completely out of the birth canal? If the government is paying for care, what is to prevent budgetary considerations from compelling many "after-birth abortions"? At the other end of the spectrum, why not actively rid our world of "unproductive" aged or infirm adults?

I am pro-life, from conception to coronation and every point in between. A Judeo-Christian ethos places equal, eternal value on every human being because s/he is created in God's image as a unique being. People can disagree about the technicalities of when life begins, but from conception we have the reality of a human. Even if one wants to allow for abortion in special cases or argue about personhood during gestation, no reasonable person can say that a newborn is not a human being! We are reverting to the horrific practices of ancient Greece and Rome as unwanted (mostly female) babies were left exposed to die. How can one be pro-choice while condemning gender-specific abortions? Radical activists face a moral conundrum. If the individual has absolute sovereignty over the death or life of her child, then she cannot be condemned for keeping one gender while aborting another. Yet activists in many countries, after winning abortion rights, are now bemoaning "femicide" as little girls are aborted in larger number than little boys.

The response to today's declarations must be absolute, universal condemnation, regardless of political or religious affiliations. If we open the door to killing the unfit and/or the unwanted, no one is safe.