You Should See This Movie…

Mike Vogel as Lee Strobel

I was pleasantly surprised recently when I went to see The Case for Christ. Grab your spouse or a friend and see it while it’s still in theaters.

As an artist who is also a follower of Jesus, I guess I’m supposed to be a movie snob, especially when it comes to “Christian movies.” I think I’m not supposed to publicly admit that I loved this movie. But I did.

The movie tells the story of atheist Lee Strobel coming to faith in Jesus. (Whoopsie. I guess I just gave away the ending. That’s part of why I didn’t have high hopes for the movie. I expected another predictable Christian film.)

But you know what? I knew how my dinnertime was going to end last night but I’m still really glad I sat down at the table.

The movie highlighted the Strobel family’s journey to faith, and the relational tension that ensued during the process. That story was believable, well-written, and well-acted. It felt like a love story to me, full of characters that I was moved to care about.

Some Things I Liked
Maybe it was just me, but the movie touched on a lot of things I’ve been thinking about lately.

I’ve been dialoguing with some atheists for several months, and the portrayal of the atheists in the film felt familiar to me. I liked that the atheist Strobel wasn’t made out to be an evil character. He deeply loved his wife and was a great dad. He had a strong moral compass and sense of justice.

I’ve been doing some reading about brain science and social psychology. I’m fascinated with how and why people change their opinions when confronted with information that challenges their worldview. (Or how they don’t, as is usually the case.) It was fascinating to watch one person’s process, knowing that it was a true story.

A big surprise was a direct reference to the “father wound” issue. I’ve been a bit obsessed with this issue for several months, and I’ve come to think that it’s widespread and profoundly important. In the near future I’ll post more on this topic specifically.

Also, an important truism for me is that biblical faith is evidential. This idea directly contradicts what “New Atheism” preaches – that faith is “belief despite the evidence.” The “New Atheists” are demonstrably wrong about what the Bible says about faith. It was nice to see a correct perspective on the screen.

Finally, on an incidental note, The Case for Christ is not a white Christian film. The story takes place in Chicago and several black characters figure prominently in the journey. We see blacks and whites working, attending church, and doing life together. This isn’t talked about; it’s just assumed, as it should be.

I don’t recall anything inappropriate for kids, but very small children might be bored with it just because it’s an adult conversation. At any rate, I say “two thumbs up”!

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Religious Freedom and the Gay Birthday Cake

Bakery-blog

Wrong is wrong, no matter which side does it.

Recently I saw a news story about a baker who refused to make a birthday cake for a gay person. Some months ago I also read about an auto mechanic in Michigan who refuses to serve openly gay people.

As an ardent supporter of religious freedom, I would like to stand up and say this is not religious freedom. This is simple discrimination against people one disagrees with. This is indefensible and mean-spirited, especially if these people are calling themselves Christians. The business owners in these two cases do not understand the issue.

I hope it’s obvious that we don’t want America heading down a road where freedom of religion can be claimed as an excuse for business owners to refuse service to anyone with a differing opinion.

A clear distinction needs to be made and maintained by religious conservatives. Throughout the “marriage equality” debate I have contended that religious freedom is not about the right to discriminate against LGBT people simply because they are LGB or T. This is not what followers of Jesus are after. What is in contention is the definition of marriage and the right of religious people, including business owners, to not participate in an ideological campaign to redefine marriage.

The proof that the religious freedom debate is not about anti-gay discrimination is clear: The photographers, bakers, and other business owners who first brought this conflict to light had all knowingly served gay customers for years. That is proof. However, these business owners drew the line at providing wedding services because, for them, marriage is a religiously defined institution. According to our Constitution, the government has no right to redefine it for them and then force them to comply. There is also a free speech component involved in many cases.

I fail to see how it is a burden on one’s free exercise of religion to serve a sandwich to, repair a car for, or give a haircut to a gay person. Eating, car repair, and hair-cutting do not ordinarily constitute an ideological statement. By contrast, how a society defines marriage affects a host of fundamental cultural and anthropological concerns. It affects the state of the nuclear family. It affects how a culture views motherlessness and fatherlessness. Forcing a follower of Jesus to participate in an ideologically anti-Christian wedding celebration arguably may burden that person’s free exercise of religion.

So this is not about dislike of gays or any other particular group of people. It’s about government overreach and coercion along ideological lines.

Missing the point
In civil discussions with my friends on the Left, typically they argue that, to be consistent, Christians would also have to refuse to provide wedding services to divorced people, couples who’ve had sex before marriage, interracial, and interfaith couples, because these things are also forbidden in the Bible. This is incorrect for several reasons. To our point here, none of these types of arrangements constitute a fundamental redefining of marriage. Again, religious freedom is not about the right to refuse service to people simply because one disagrees with them.

Some “marriage equality” advocates have contended that “anti-gay” Christian business owners should post signs at their places of business and on their websites openly stating that they refuse service to LGBT people. This would spare LGBT people the indignity of being refused service at a place of business. But again, the issue is not about LGBT people, but about the redefining of marriage. It is not “anti-gay” to agree with Jesus’s definition of marriage. Jesus loves LGBT people, so His followers should too. Therefore, Christians should absolutely refuse to wear the “anti-gay” label because such labeling is a political PR stunt.

I’m a small business owner and I would never post a sign saying I refuse service to gays. However, I don’t want to do graphic design for a gay wedding announcement. But then, neither would I do a wedding announcement for a “throuple.” Or a wedding announcement for a consensual, adult, incestuous marriage. Or a wedding announcement for an open marriage.

Or a celebration for a “female circumcision.” (But here I digress. Slightly.)

Is it ever right to discriminate against gays?
This is not even a desirable question. LGBT people are not subhuman, second-class citizens. It is wrong for anyone, Christian or not, to refuse service to someone simply because he or she is same-sex-attracted, and religious freedom laws do not allow for such behavior. Religious freedom laws simply limit the power of government in unnecessarily forcing an ideology onto religious people. Homosexuality is not an ideology. However, the “marriage equality” movement is part of a left wing, ideological movement called Postgenderism. The government cannot force such an ideology onto the citizenry, try as it might.

We are where we are today because the American government has attempted to solve inequality issues around LGBT people in a doltish and arrogant way. If the real issue was inequalities suffered by LGBT people, those inequalities could have been corrected legislatively through congress. This would have been the constitutionally correct course of action. Instead, five Supreme Court justices pulled a new, arbitrary, ideologically biased definition of marriage out of their butts, and they expect all of America to go along with it.

I’m not anything remotely resembling a lawyer, so I’ll quote Legalzoom:

If there’s an anti-discrimination law, does that mean that a business can never refuse service to a member of a group that is protected from discrimination?

The answer is that you can refuse to serve someone even if they’re in a protected group, but the refusal can’t be arbitrary and you can’t apply it to just one group of people…

… Second, you must apply your policy to everyone. For example, you can’t turn away a black person who’s not wearing a tie and then let in a tieless white man. You also can’t have a policy that sounds like it applies to everyone but really just excludes one particular group of people. So, for example, a policy against wearing headscarves in a restaurant would probably be discriminatory against Muslims…

…“We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone” sounds vague and arbitrary. As we’ve seen, a business can’t just randomly refuse to serve someone.

I think that if a business owner wants to support, serve, and strengthen marriages in line with his/her religious or ideological beliefs, he or she could have a policy of not providing services for unconventional marriages. There would be defensible, societal reasons for doing so. Unconventional marriages would include same sex, open/monogamish, incestuous, and polygamous marriages. People who so desired would be free to be unconventionally married, but the religious business owner would be free to not be involved.

What’s wrong with that? I’d like to hear your opinion.

 

Did Jesus Become Sin?

2 Cor 5:21 - "sin" or a "sin offering"?

Part of what defines Evangelicalism is the belief in the authority and reliability of the Bible. As with all subcultures, American evangelical church culture has developed certain beliefs through repetition that may or may not be correct. This post will examine one of those beliefs. I don’t see this issue as critical or disastrous to one’s faith, but I now think it affects how one views the God of the Bible.

The question
The issue in question comes from the singular usage of a phrase that the apostle Paul employs in a letter to the church at Corinth:

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Cor 5:21)

It has become a widespread evangelical belief that part of the mechanics of mans’ salvation is that in order to pay the debt for our sin, Jesus literally somehow “became sin” on the cross, suffering the punishment we deserved, even enduring separation from His Father for a brief time. This is understood to be part of the terrible price that had to be paid in order for Jesus to secure the salvation of sinful humanity. This idea has many respectable and orthodox proponents, foremost among them being Billy Graham, whom I deeply respect. This idea has been central to Reverend Graham’s presentation of the gospel for decades.

I didn’t have a problem with this idea until a few years ago. One morning I was sitting in church, listening to a pastor friend articulate this article of evangelical belief. But he went into a bit more detail, taking the idea to its logical conclusion, and suddenly, I felt that what I was hearing wasn’t true. Here’s what he said:

“…(Jesus) became the adulterer. He became the pedophile. He became the nasty…”

Well…when you put it that way…

I went home and studied the issue for myself. I wondered if there was a better way to understand Paul’s words “made to be sin.” Perhaps this was one of those ideas that gets passed down without having been critically examined. What follows is what I found. You decide for yourself.

I should state that I am not a theological liberal, and that I consider the Judeo-Christian scriptures to be God’s inspired and authoritative revelation to man. My aim is to understand and harmonize what the whole of scripture says, not to get it to say what I think it should say. In interpretation, my aim is to understand a biblical author’s meaning, operating from the underlying assumption that the entirety of scripture is internally consistent.

So…what was Paul’s meaning?
The passage in question illustrates why biblical inerrancy and biblical literalism are not synonymous terms. It is true that in 2 Cor 5:21 the Greek literally says that God made Jesus “to be sin.” However, I now contend that there are strong reasons why we can know that this is not what Paul literally meant, and that it is therefore appallingly incorrect to say, “He became the adulterer. He became the pedophile…” We never see apostolic teaching saying anything like this, 2 Cor 5:21 being the sole exception. The singularity of the phrase is the first red flag.

By contrast, if there is anything we can know with certainty about Jesus from the scriptures, it is that He was and is the sinless, spotless, Lamb of God (1 Pet 2:22; Heb 4:15; 1 Jn 3:5.) At no point did He take on a sin nature, nor is it necessary to believe this was essential in order for His sacrifice to secure our salvation. Furthermore, we know that YHWH doesn’t change, and that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8.) We must allow scripture to interpret scripture where the meaning of a passage is uncertain, as this one is.

As with all conundrums in the Bible, an understanding of its Jewish context is always essential to understanding what is being said. In regards to this question, the Jewish Tanakh (old testament) provides the foundation for properly understanding the sacrificial death of the Jewish messiah. This is not speculation. Indeed, one can argue that His sacrificial death was in view from the beginning, and that many old testament Jewish practices prefigure and foreshadow the redemptive, messianic fulfillment of the acts of Jesus.

There is ample reason to believe that the meaning Paul had in mind was, “He made Him who knew no sin to be a sin offering on our behalf…”

1) The sacrifice of Jesus was SUBSTITUTIONARY, as is prefigured in the Mosaic Covenant. There is no logical necessity or scriptural justification for saying that a sacrifice actually becomes guilty or sinful. If the Passover sacrifice was a prophetic picture of the better sacrifice to come in Jesus, (and it was: Heb 10:1; 1 Cor 4:7,) then in it we can see the nature of a sacrifice: substitutionary and spotless. Furthermore, in Lev 6:25‐27 we see the sacrifice remained holy before, during, and after the sacrifice was made. So it was with the spotless Lamb of God. The sins of the people are imputed/attributed to the sacrifice. The sacrifice must be innocent and free of all guilt to be acceptable, not so that it can literally “become sin,” but so that it can be offered in the place of the guilty. It becomes a sin offering.

2) There are many passages that refer to Jesus’ sacrifice as a “sin offering,” and it seems correct to me to say that Paul had this in mind when he used the shorthand Hebraism, “made to be sin.” (Hebraism = A linguistic feature typical of Hebrew occurring especially in another language.) Examples include:

> “So Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without (reference to) sin…” (Heb 9:28)

> “And He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time…For by one offering He has perfected for all time…” (Heb 10:10-14)

> “For Christ also died for sins once for all, (the) just for (the) unjust, in order that He might bring us to God…” (1 Pet 3:18 NASB. The substitutionary nature of the sacrifice is very clear here.)

> “…sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh [referring to the incarnation] and (as an offering) for sin [referring to the atoning sacrifice], He condemned sin in the flesh,..” (Ro 8:3 NASB)

> “Yet it was the will of YHWH to bruise him…when he makes himself an offering for sin.” (Isa 53:10 RSV)

3) Perhaps most convincingly, the Septuagint’s use of the Greek word hamartia, translated as “sin” in 2 Cor5:21, supports the contention that Paul had “sin offering” in mind. When referring to sin offerings in the Tanakh, Jewish translators often used the Greek word hamartia in the Septuagint translation. We know that Paul and the apostles often quoted the Septuagint in their writings, as it was familiar to Greek-speaking Jews, (even though there were technically better translations available.) It seems reasonable in light of the whole of scripture that in this one verse in 2 Cor, Paul was simply employing the Septuagint’s use of hamartia to mean “sin offering.”

4) The wording itself in 2 Cor 5:21 is something of a parallelism, supporting the substitutionary nature of the Messiah’s sacrifice: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (a) that which was sinless became a sin offering; so that (b) that which was unrighteous could become righteousness in Him. In other words, He didn’t actually become sin, and we didn’t actually become righteousness – these things are imputed. We are counted as righteous “in Him.”

5) Finally, some may argue that, while Jesus was indeed a spotless sacrifice, it was necessary for Him to “become sin” in some way in order for Him to fully identify with us and secure our redemption. Similarly, some argue (incorrectly, in my view) that Jesus had to suffer in hell, or die spiritually, or endure separation from the Father in order to fully pay for the sins of the world. But it isn’t so. The scriptures explicitly say it is the blood of Jesus that secures our redemption. And His blood alone was and is sufficient because He is the eternal, incarnate Creator of all flesh, and He remained sinless in the flesh. As Creator, ultimate value resides with Him. It is neither logically nor scripturally possible for a holy God to “become the adulterer/pedophile.” Nor was it necessary:

You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot,…” (1 Pet 1:18.)

In fact, Paul describes precisely the extent to which our loving and holy Creator humbled Himself in order to secure our salvation:

…(Jesus) emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross (Php 2:7,8.)

But notice that Paul stops there. For the sinless Son of God to unjustly choose to die a humiliating, tortuous, criminal’s death demonstrates mind-bending love and humility. It is not necessary, and I would even say it is wrong, to embellish the story further by adding that Jesus literally became sinful, because the scriptures do not say this.

God is light and in Him is no darkness at all – 1 John 1:5
I think we can all confidently agree that the Bible says that Jesus “became a sin offering” in every full and complete sense. By contrast, we can only say that Jesus “became sin” in some figurative, qualified way, (which is what I believe Paul was doing.) Therefore, should say this at all without qualification?

The incarnation – the act of God becoming human – has many implications. Because human beings were made in God’s image, God could humble Himself to become human without violating His essential character. God could not become a monkey or a manatee, for example. This is a mind-blowing truth, illuminating the possibilities of what God created human beings to be. However, the incarnate Jesus entered into a fallen world where sin and its effects had damned the entire human race to disunity, destruction, and death. His life, death, and resurrection were God’s provision to restore us to life in Him. The scriptures repeatedly describe our life after spiritual rebirth as a process of being “conformed to the likeness of Jesus” (Ro 8:29; Eph 4:22-24; Php 2:1-5; 1Pet 1:14,15.)

Jesus arrived announcing the kingdom of God. He specifically claimed to have come in order that we might have life, and that He might reconcile us to our Heavenly Father. His life perfectly reflected the sinless beauty, glory, mercy, love, and justice of God. He did not “get Himself dirty” in the sense of becoming sin. His love and justice led Him to “get Himself dirty” for us in the sense that he humbled Himself, even to the point of laying down His life on our behalf. There is no greater love than this (Jn 15:13.)

 

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An Evangelical Opinion on Why Evangelicals are Backing Trump

Donald Trump Republican Candidate

I know. It baffles me too. It’s like watching a tumor grow. Or listening helplessly every day as a really bad song climbs to the number one spot on pop radio. Like everyone else, I can only make guesses, especially since, as an evangelical, I still can’t find any evangelicals who support Trump. Even on Facebook. None. It’s all very weird and suspicious.

But I do know many evangelicals, and I am one. On the other hand, watching liberal media trying to analyze the phenomenon of evangelical Trump support is like reading restaurant reviews by a vegan. It’s an utter waste of time. Liberals so do not “get” evangelicals. All such analysis comes through the lens of conservative Christians being racist, anti-women, anti-gay, anti-poor, theocratic, uneducated, etc. Here are 3 results of a 2 minute Google search:

> Author Sarah Posner thinks it’s because Trump is “arguably the candidate most resembling a televangelist.” (Sigh…)

> Robert P. Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute, thinks “Trump’s appeal to bring back an America that many conservative white evangelicals feel is slipping away turned out to be a more powerful appeal than a checklist of issues.” (…because we’re racists and want a white candidate.)

> And finally…(as if you didn’t know this was coming)…the inevitable and predictable liberal mantra voiced by someone who goes by “Hunter,” at the Daily Kos. Obviously evangelicals are flocking to Trump because “Trump hates the same people they hate.” (It’s gotta be all about hate. Because what other explanation could there possibly be for people to disagree with someone like Hunter?)

‘Sorry for wasting your time there.

So, the deal is that Trump won 34% of the evangelical vote in the South Carolina caucuses. In Nevada, ABC News says he had his best showing yet among evangelical voters, winning four in 10 of their votes, vs. an average of three in 10 in earlier contests. Trump won overall in Nevada with 45% of the vote.

This is a surprise to everyone because Trump doesn’t seem to be the kind of guy that evangelicals that would line up behind. Especially considering that several of the top runners are self-described, strong evangelicals who have actually been courting the evangelical vote. Whereas Trump says and does mean, weird, and/or stupid things and it’s anyone’s guess what he would actually do as President, other than “make America great again.”

So what’s going on?
First, why are conservative Christians not solidly lining up behind Cruz, Rubio, or Carson, the 3 overtly evangelical candidates? I see one shining reason, but you must defy the liberal stereotyping of evangelicals in order to see it.

It is this: Conservative Christians love the American founding documents and the U.S. Constitution. We believe they were founded on Biblical principles. Therefore we don’t need, or even necessarily want, an evangelical Christian in the White House. A President who is committed to restoring and upholding Constitutional government is enough.

Remember when evangelicals chose former Hollywood actor Ronald Reagan over “born-again Christian” Jimmy Carter? Remember when Newt “open marriage” Gingrich got widespread evangelical support?

After all, conservative Christians don’t place their hope in government – we believe that it is the people, not the system (or the President) that brings life and health to the nation. We do not believe in, nor are we attempting to establish, a Christian theocracy. In other words, we do not need a “Christian nation,” whatever that means. Freedom and Constitutional self-government allow everything we need to thrive in our faith as U.S. citizens.

By contrast, the Left seeks a president and a government that will create a system that takes care of everyone. While this is a seductive idea, such ideas not only don’t work, historically they entail a loss of freedom while promoting dependence. We believe the universal brokenness of the Human condition corrupts all that humans attempt to accomplish. We can’t afford to see this on a massive, irresistible scale. Since governmental authority always equals force, limited government is the best we can hope for as a free people.

And speaking of hate…
There may be another practical consideration that evangelicals have in mind. I’ll speak for myself and you can tell me how this resonates with you.

As a follower of Jesus, my faith is far more important to me than what country I live in or who the president is. In fact, presenting a clear picture of Jesus is too important to risk having a “Christian” president muddying up the picture. Half the country will hate the next president within a couple of years, no matter who he or she is. If that person strongly identifies as an evangelical Christian, people will inevitably associate his or her actions with his or her Christian beliefs.

Considering the issues facing our polarized nation, we are poised for a hate-fest unlike anything this country has ever seen. If Planned Parenthood loses it’s taxpayer funding (as it should,) a Christian president will be accused of hating women. If the definition of marriage is sent back to the states (as it should be,) a Christian president will be accused of hating LGBTQ people. If we go to war, (as we probably will,) many Muslims around the world will see it as a religious war because of our Christian president. If the president attempts to balance the budget, whoever is affected by the cuts will accuse the Christian president of hate. Immigration restrictions will be viewed as hateful. And so on. Hate, hate, hate. Anger, anger, anger.

However, if Donald Trump does these things, nobody for a minute thinks he’s a legitimate follower of Jesus. They’ll just think he’s a racist, sexist, ego-maniacal bully, which everyone already thinks anyway.

I think evangelical Republicans don’t want to throw Ben Carson under the bus because he’s a nice guy. Plus he’s black. Same with Cruz and Rubio, the two Hispanic guys who may still have a shot at the nomination. Whereas Donald Trump is practically running out in front of the bus, calling it names and bragging that it can’t hurt him. Well…okay then…

But still…why Trump?
I realize that, even if I’m right, this still doesn’t answer the question of why evangelical voters are backing Trump. For me the best choice would’ve been Rand Paul, the most articulate defender of the Constitution in the race. He ran his campaign as “the only fiscal conservative on the stage,” and vowed to make the hard choices based on Constitutional principle, as opposed to his personal religious beliefs. For me he was the best candidate because his stated devotion to Constitutional government landed him on the right side of every issue, without the religious “baggage.”

But even though he placed better than most candidates, he dropped out after the first caucus, too early in my opinion. Apparently he wasn’t enough of a circus act for America.

All I’m left with then is that people, evangelicals included, think that Trump can win. Cruz and Rubio may be seen as too “religious right” to win broad support.

A freaking weird election year
On the Democrat side we have a former U. S. president’s wife, and a self-described socialist arguing over who is the most “progressive.” Incredible. On the (“racist and anti-woman”) Republican side, we have a woman, two Hispanic children of Cuban immigrants, and potentially, America’s first black president. And Donald Trump.

Before Trump joined the race, I had always said I’d vote for Humpty Dumpty or Minnie Mouse before I’d vote for Hillary. Now that a cartoon character is actually running, I can’t bring myself to vote for him. Not that I’m voting for Hillary or Bernie. I secretly suspect that Hillary is somehow blackmailing Trump to run against her so that she has some chance of winning. It makes more sense than anything else. But I don’t have any evidence for that, so I’m left with my thoughts above.

What are your thoughts? How is this even possible?

 

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Planned Parenthood, Robert Dear, & Officer Garrett Swasey

Fetus-blg

On the occasion of this 43rd anniversary of the Roe vs Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion-on-demand, I want to look a bit deeper into a local shooting rampage. It’s a story worth clarifying.

On Jan 16, 2016 the Reporter-Herald in my hometown published an opinion piece entitled, The Sacramento Bee on the surge in the abortion wars.

The first sentence stated: “…anti-abortion activists unleashed a barrage of deceptive videos falsely accusing Planned Parenthood of trafficking in fetal tissue for profit.” Planned Parenthood’s defense from day one has been that the sting videos were “deceptively edited.” By now we’ve all heard this accusation.

Planned Parenthood even hired a research firm, Fusion GPS, to examine the videos. Not surprisingly, Fusion GPS found that the videos were indeed “manipulated.” Mainstream news media announced this finding without disclosing that Fusion GPS has ties to the Democratic party.

Subsequently, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) commissioned a third party digital security and forensics firm, Coalfire, to analyze the videos. Unlike Fusion GPS, Coalfire had access to the entire body of investigative footage. Coalfire’s findings were that the videos are “authentic and show no evidence of manipulation.” However, this finding has somehow not been reported in the mainstream media, even though the findings were sent to reporters at every major media organization in America.

The Colorado Springs tragedy
Over Thanksgiving weekend in 2015 lone gunman Robert Dear opened fire at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, killing 3 people, including a police officer, and injuring 9 others. Planned Parenthood and sympathetic news media were quick to blame the “deceptively edited videos” for the attack, and to associate the shooter with the pro-life movement, based on comments he made at the scene. (Police reported that Dear’s rantings included the words, “No more baby parts” – an allusion to the videos.)

Here is where decency and justice demand that a correction be made.

There was indeed at least one pro-lifer present at the shooting, but it wasn’t shooter Robert Dear. Dear doesn’t appear in Colorado Right to Life’s (CRTL) database of over 500,000 names. More to the point, by definition pro-lifers are morally opposed to the killing of innocent people. This is the reason there is an abortion debate. All right-to-life organizations strongly repudiate abortion clinic violence, (regardless of whether it is perpetrated inside or outside of the womb.)

Slain officer, Garrett Swasey, held this view. He arrived on the scene in response to calls from other officers. Since his death, many news reports have mentioned that he was a husband and father of 2 young children. Some have mentioned that Swasey was once a nationally ranked figure skater and ice dancer. Some have mentioned that he was a co-pastor at his church. But I’ve yet to see a report from a secular news source acknowledge that Swasey was a signer of the 2014 Personhood Amendment petition.

The Personhood Movement seeks to recognize unborn human beings as persons deserving of legal protection.

Officer Garrett Swasey was a committed pro-life Evangelical Christian of the sort that Planned Parenthood and the Left routinely demonize as being “anti-woman.” Swasey was not obligated to respond to the other officers’ call for help on Thanksgiving weekend. Nonetheless, he chose to serve and protect Planned Parenthood, an organization whose ideology he sharply disagreed with. As a “right wing pro-life extremist,” he gave his own life with the aim of stopping a shooter from harming other people.

His example should be held up, honored, and remembered. Let us refuse to allow the beliefs and motives of officer Garrett Swasey to be conflated with those of gunman Robert Dear.

Preview: New Christmas Storybook in Progress

Does the world need another Christmas storybook for children? I think so!

The book I’m currently at work on is called, “The True Story of Christmas.” If that title sounds presumptuous to you, I’ll only say that I believe the Bible gives us the true story of the birth of God’s Messiah – an event that we have come to call Christmas. The book I’m working on seeks to recount the story for kids, with as much fidelity to the Judeo-Christian scriptures as possible.

For example, I don’t recall having seen a kids’ Christmas storybook where the Magi show up in Bethlehem at Jesus’s house when he is a toddler, as the scriptures tell it.

I’ll explain more about why I think this matters when the book is released. I’m not at all sure I’ll be able to get it done in time for ordering for this Christmas but I’m sure trying!

Survey Update:
A couple of weeks ago I did an informal survey on Facebook around the styling of the characters in the book. I was just about to start painting the first illustration when a thumbnail I had done caught my attention, and I suddenly had second thoughts about the styling I had developed for the characters. So I roughed out a couple of samples in a more elongated styling, posted them side by side, and asked people to vote on their favorites. I asked parents to get their kids’ input as well. There were lots of interesting comments.

Here are the roughs I posted:

illustrated Christmas storybooksSurprisingly, the votes were fairly evenly split, but a significant majority of adults voted for the squattier figures. However, many did so because they felt this styling would appeal more to kids. Interestingly, slightly more kids voted for the elongated figures. However, the very youngest kids did seem to favor the squattier characters.

I promised to post my final decision and the finished version, so, here it is. Thank you all for your input!:

Christian holiday kids books scott freemanOne of the other distinctive aspects about this Christmas book is that it puts the Christmas story in context, and explains the reason why there is a Christmas – the Big Picture. It tells of the nation of Israel and introduces children to Israel’s prophets, and their foretelling of a child who would be born to bring peace to the world. I like the way the illustration of the prophets came out. You might recognize the surrounding symbols from various prophetic biblical passages:

prophets watercolor storybooks bibleAnd now, I need to get back to work if I’m going to get this done in time for Christmas! I’ll keep you posted…

(If you haven’t already done so, please join my email list so that I can notify you of new book releases, and send you an occasional deep thought! You can sign up HERE.)

Settle Down, People! American Christianity Does Not Want A Theocracy.

Uncle Sam-I want you-theocracy

The ongoing accusation that the “religious right” wants to impose a theocracy is so wildly ignorant that it has to be another political tactic. Like the political tactic of painting anyone who opposes redefining marriage as being hateful and anti-gay.

Accusing Christians of seeking to establish a theocracy is simply bizarre. It might be an understandable offense to accuse goat worshipers of promoting theocracy, because most of us don’t personally know any goat worshipers. But if one wants to find out what Christians believe, one could simply talk to a neighbor who is one, or visit a church on a nearby street corner. Or one could find a Bible and read the words of Jesus, or the letters of the Apostle Paul. Easy. The more theologically orthodox a Christian is, the less he or she will be in favor of an American theocracy.

Why? Because the Bible teaches that all human beings are naturally depraved. It follows then for Christians that human beings cannot be trusted with power.

This is a biblical principle. This is what those scary Christian homeschoolers are teaching their kids in history class. It’s why American Christians love our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. It’s why our religious Founding Fathers established a system of checks and balances – our 3 branches of American government. It’s why we hold to being a nation governed by laws and not men. Because “fallen” people can’t be trusted with power.

In fact, Bible-believers have a compelling basis for believing these things, whereas secularists do not. It is secularists who tend to hatch idealistic, utopian political schemes and foist them onto the world. Even giving humanist totalitarians and oligarchs the benefit of the doubt – that they impose their systems “for the good of the people” – doesn’t change the fact that millions of “their people” in the last century ended up imprisoned or dead for the crime of resisting their utopian governments.

This should be common knowledge, yet somehow, we are now seeing a festival of uninformed fear-mongering from the Left crying that Christians want a theocracy. Those of us who are Christians need to start demanding proof.

So…prove it
I’m willing to be corrected. All I need is for someone to give me an example of ANY mainstream, respected, widely supported Christian leader, spokesperson, organization, politician, or theologian calling for an American theocracy. Just one. Please copy and paste your theocrat’s quote into the comment section below with a reference.

I’ll even help. Because we have lots of examples of religious people calling for and working toward theocracy. Scores. Masses of religious people are unapologetically and publicly opposed to democracy and freedom because of the “unrighteousness” these ideas allow. Unfortunately for those who might take me up on my challenge, these people are never Christians.

I got your theocracy right here:

Theocracy-sharia-anti-freedom

…But I digress.

This is all Kim Davis’s fault
The latest round of fear-mongering comes because Kim Davis is a publicly elected official, who, for reasons of conscience, is refusing to carry out her job responsibilities to issue marriage licenses, and has attempted to keep clerks under her from doing so, as well. When privately owned businesses refused to participate with the Left’s novel and arbitrary redefining of marriage, that was intolerable. But for an elected government official to refuse to comply with an arguably unconstitutional Court decision, that apparently amounts to establishing a Christian theocracy. Who knew county clerks had such power?

But is that what’s going on? Is this religious freedom, or theocracy?

I’m not going to defend Kim Davis, because I have mixed feelings about some of what she has done. Instead, to my own surprise, I’m going to quote the Pope.

I’m not really a big fan of the Roman Catholic Church, or such a thing as a pope, but I have to admit that brother (“Pope”) Francis cut right through the rhetoric around religious freedom with a simple statement:

“I can’t have in mind all cases that can exist about conscientious objection … but yes, I can say that conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right. It is a right. And if a person does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right…”

Truer words were never spoken. This is especially heartening coming from the head of a 2000 year old religious institution that has a long and disturbing history of not allowing conscientious objection. Happily, brother Francis owned up to this as well when he said:

“…Conscientious objection must enter into every juridical structure because it is a right, a human right. Otherwise we would end up in a situation where we select what is a right, saying “this right that has merit, this one does not.” It [conscientious objection] is a human right. It always moved me when I read, and I read it many times, when I read the Chanson de Roland when the people were all in line and before them was the baptismal font and they had to choose between the baptismal font or the sword. They had to choose. They weren’t permitted conscientious objection. It is a right and if we want to make peace we have to respect all rights…”

If I were a person who used emoticons, I would do a whole page of little smiley faces right here.

Then, when asked if conscientious objection includes government officials as well, brother Francis replied:

“…It is a human right and if a government official is a human person, he has that right.”
It is disturbing to me that anyone could disagree with this. For example, do we not all now despise the reasoning of Nazi government officials whose excuse for committing crimes against Jews, gays, and others is that they were “only following orders”?

But the importance of brother Francis’s statement seems to be lost on the Left. I’m saddened to see Huffington Post commenters, and the like, fail to grasp the gravity of what is at stake in this discussion. Instead, like a new generation of Hitler Youth, they are saying things like:
“If you work for the government you are obligated to carry out your duties no matter what, or else resign.”

But they’re wrong, and brother Francis is right. If no conscientious objection is allowed, then aren’t we left with totalitarianism? Just because it’s “Progressive” totalitarianism doesn’t make it good totalitarianism. Both sides of the political spectrum should be well aware that human governments are often wrong. In a free and pluralistic society conscientious objection must be allowed.

When Kim Davis was elected, she had no conscientious objection to performing her duties whatsoever. It’s not her fault that the Supreme Court pulled a new, arbitrary definition of marriage out of its butt.

A very big deal
It’s important to remember that we are not talking about the Supreme Court telling Americans that they must now abide by a new definition of weed whacking. What the Court has attempted to do is as penetrating and monumental as it is foolish. Heterosexual marriage is a longstanding institution upon which the very architecture of civilization has always stood. In addition it bears enormous religious significance for a majority of Americans. Furthermore, it is not defined in the U.S. Constitution. Does the political Left really think it can force such a major ideological bias onto an unwilling population?

“Progressives” attempting to use government to force their beliefs onto an unwilling populace is no different than religious people attempting to use government to force their beliefs unto an unwilling populace. Except that Christians have no intention of imposing their doctrines, while “Progressives” apparently do.

Contrary to LGBT talking points, people of biblical faith are not interested in re-criminalizing homosexuality, or preventing LGBT people from loving and committing to whomever they want, or forcing anyone to do anything. We’re simply not going to agree to the redefining of lifelong, monogamous, heterosexual marriage. Call it “civil unions” and this all goes away.

“Progressives” have said that non-compliant Christians are imposing their beliefs on gays by discriminating against them; that this amounts to theocracy. But it’s not true. These Christians are seeking non-participation, and it’s important that Christians not allow their motives to be redefined by the Left’s massive redefinition campaign.

There is no comparison here to America’s racial discrimination of the past. NO ONE is arguing that gays are subhuman, or that they are the property of heterosexuals, or that they should be denied fundamental civil rights. The proof is that these same people have been happy to serve gays so long as their service doesn’t require them to comply with the Court’s redefinition of marriage. The “right to marry” cannot be a fundamental civil right, because if marriage has any definition, then it necessarily excludes certain people. In fact the Court’s new definition is arbitrary and also excludes many U.S. citizens.

If there were ever an issue big enough, profound enough, and consequential enough to merit conscientious objection, the redefining of marriage is it. Bible believers are simply not going to go along with it, just as they have refused to be a part of the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision. In the same way that promoting the sanctity of human life has nothing to do with being “anti-woman,” so promoting traditional marriage has nothing to do with being “anti-gay.”

People of faith are going to act according to their consciences whether the government accommodates them or not. Fortunately, our Constitution’s first amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 limit the reach of government coercion in matters of conscience, within the confines of American citizenship.