One Final Word on Trump and This Greek Tragedy of an Election

 

Steve_Buscemi_Armageddon 2

In a climactic moment in the movie Armageddon, a team of drilling experts valiantly attempting to save planet earth from complete annihilation has everything that can possibly go wrong, do so.

When it seemingly becomes clear that the entire universe is conspiring against the success of their noble efforts to save the world, the team member played by Steve Buscemi looks in awestruck wonder at the FUBAR-ity of it all, and the enormity of the tragedy they’re about to witness, and mutters:

“It’s a g#######d Greek tragedy.”

That profane line of dialogue has come to mind on numerous occasions as this election year has rolled along.

What a difference a year makes. A year ago I was optimistic that after eight long, heartbreaking years of watching a great nation intentionally weakened; her standing in the world diminished; and her blood-bought liberties eroded;  we had our best opportunity in decades to put a conservative statesman in the White House. (It’s been since 1980 since we had one of those.)

On one hand, the Democrats were set to put forth the weakest, most flawed, most beatable group of candidates since 1968. Old, tired, corrupt, extreme, unlikable and white.

On the other hand, the Republicans boasted one of the most impressive crops of candidates in living memory. Young, intelligent, articulate, proven and ethnically diverse.

Then came Trump. And everything instantly went to hell.

Early on I dashed off a few thoughts in posts titled, “On Donald Trump,” and “Deconstructing the Appeal of Donald Trump.” This will be my final post on him.

It now seems clear that one of two scenarios is inevitable:

  • Donald Trump wins the Republican nomination and loses to Hillary Clinton in the general election.
  • Or some sort of brokered convention snatches the nomination from Trump with the result of alienating a significant swath of vital Republican voters.

Either outcome puts Hillary Clinton in the White House for eight more years of calamity for America. The only wildcard that might avert this Trump-caused catastrophe is a multi-count federal indictment of Hillary between now and November. Not likely (although appropriate.)

The Enigma of Evangelical Attraction to Trump

In a non-Armageddon-like universe, Ted Cruz would have owned the Evangelical vote. But here in Bizzaro world, he hasn’t. Instead, large numbers of Christians have cast their vote for a profane casino-owning huckster who boasts about the proportions of his genitalia in televised presidential debates.

Christian leaders like Jerry Falwell, Jr., FBC Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress, Beni Johnson (wife of Bethel’s Bill Johnson), and numerous others are vocally endorsing and defending a man who thinks personal insults like “loser” and “clown” are an adequate substitute for cogent policy arguments.

He has not once given objective listeners a reason to believe has has thought deeply or read seriously about a single issue important to Christians or conservatives.

In recent weeks, Mr. Trump has doubled down on his promise to “force Mexico to pay for a border wall.” (He can’t. Of course, he knows that. He’s just betting that you and I don’t.)

He has suggested that as President he’d  make China assassinate North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. (Uh, again, no.)

He talks about the presidency the same way liberals and children do, as if the office conveys god-like power. Again, he doesn’t really believe any of this. It’s marketing.

In an email to his subscribers, liberal comedian Louis C.K. recently had a word of warning and advice for conservatives. “He is not one of you. He is one of him . . . He is playing you.”

It’s true. And it’s disappointing to find a significant number of my fellow evangelicals either blissfully unaware of that fact, or bafflingly indifferent to it.

It feels like a tragedy. A Greek tragedy.

The West’s Refugee Dilemma

 

In this moment of history, many of my fellow believers are arguing passionately that the nations of Europe (and the U.S., too) should continue accepting and settling every poor person who makes it to their shores. I’d like to explore that assertion but it will require a couple of long posts to do so. Stay with me. This is important stuff.

wwjd-bracelet

Do they make these in nation size?

A nation can choose to be a welfare state. A nation can choose to have open borders. But no nation can choose both. Not for long anyway. So observed famed economist Milton Friedman many years ago.

The validity of Friedman’s assertion is now being tested in Europe before our eyes. Friedman, math and common sense all argue:

As a nation, to provide a social welfare safety net of services for the poor AND welcome the poor of the world to your soil is tantamount to economic and cultural suicide.

As I write, refugees by the hundreds of thousands are pouring across Europe’s largely open borders and into the generous social welfare safety nets those liberal nations provide for their residents.

The British newspaper, The Independent, published the stunning data visualization below to illustrate the scale and scope of what has taken place over the last few months—and very importantly, where they’re coming from. Each moving dot represents 25 individuals.

If image doesn’t load, CLICK HERE.

One of the striking things about this map is WHERE these refugees are coming from. The narrative is the they’re all coming from Syria and Iraq where ISIS’ reign of hell is rampaging. That’s clearly no longer the case.

By October 20, the number of refugees passing through Greece had surpassed 500,000. This literal exodus indeed began as a result of the deteriorating security situation in Iraq and Syria, which in turn is a direct result of President Obama’s foolish, catasrophic withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq (as I pointed out in this blog post). But once it became clear that Europe was going to accept refugees, the flood gates opened from all over that half of the world.

Each one of those moving marks represents 25, heartbreaking individual stories. Real people, with real needs, hurts, dreams and aspirations.

However, viewed as a whole, these immigration flows create a self-reinforcing, self-amplifying cycle. Welcoming refugees triggers more and increasing refugee movement. Accept a trickle and invite a flood.

This is precisely what we saw here in the U.S. between 2012 and 2014.. As soon as the Obama Administration made it clear that underage illegals immigrants would be allowed to stay here and helped to establish residency, a tsunami of children and youth began rushing toward the Rio Grande from Central America.

As this PBS report explains, prior to 2012 an average of 8,000 children were intercepted at the border each year. Then word got out that the White House had ordered immigration officials to stop enforcing the laws on the books, especially where minors were concerned.

Many within the American Church—from Unitarians to Southern Baptists—cheered this move as a more compassionate, more humane, more Christian policy.

However, news travels fast. And the law of unintended consequences is merciless.

Minor Migrants 2014

Soon poor mothers across Guatemala, Honduras, and elsewhere were sending their unaccompanied children north, asking them to run a gauntlet of vicious narco traficantes, human traffickers, pedophiles, abusers, jungles and deserts.

We know that in the first half of 2014, roughly 60,000 minors actually made it to U.S. soil. What we will never know is how many did not make it. How many died along the way? How many were pressed into child labor or into the service of the drug cartels?

Accept a trickle and invite a flood.

Here’s a hard truth. Those who, with the best of righteous intentions, advocate for governmental acceptance of the trickle must own their responsibility for the deaths caused by the flood.

Of course, American liberals never, ever take responsibility for the catastrophic unintended consequences of their poorly thought out do-gooding. But my fellow Christians and I should. But back now to Europe . . .

Today many of the same voices of faith are saying the governments of Europe must accept and care for every Middle Eastern and African immigrant that arrives on their shores. They are explicitly claiming that it is the “Christian” thing to do and that governments ought always do the Christian thing.

In other words, many people believe the governments of Europe should put on a giant WWJD bracelet. But is that true?

I believe it is both possible and necessary to distinguish between what an individual Christian should do and what the government of a nation-state should do. Not only is it possible—it’s vital.

I know this sounds heretical, but a government can’t be a good Christian. And I don’t believe it should try.

I’ll explain in my next post.

Another Embarassing Series of Date-Setting Failures

TheEnd

The Three Businessmen of the Apocalypse

It’s been a bad couple of months for the date setters.

Several years of Blood Moons hype did more than sell a jillion-teen books and DVDs and provide the premise for countless breathless interviews on Christian television. It worked millions of my fellow believers into a frothy lather of end-time expectation focused on the Jewish holy days in September.

Tens of thousands of man-hours of research went into building elaborate cases for why the rapture of the Church was likely to take place during or around the lunar eclipse of September 28.

For example, here’s an  site aptly titled, “The Coming Blood Moon Rosh Hashanah 2015 Rapture.” And here’s “Blood Moons POINTING to Rosh Hashanah 2015 for the Rapture…?

Back in May, a writer at this site wrote, “I have no doubt that something major is going to happen in September of this year.” There were tens of thousands of others, of course. Most had the usual disclaimers and qualifiers but still went to great lengths to build logical cases utilizing lots of math, scripture and Hebrew word study.

Let me emphasize that most of these cases were indeed logical and, in their own way, biblical, in that they cited a lot of scripture. Most built a highly persuasive argument that something BIG was likely to happen on 9-13 or  9-23 or 9-28-2015.

All were wrong.

Up next was an online group called E-Bible Fellowship. They built an equally elaborate case the world was “in all likelihood” going to end a few weeks ago—specifically on October 7.

Then on October 8 they posted an article titled, “A response to being incorrect with the prediction that, “in all likelihood, the world would end on October 7th.” (At least they owned up to being wrong. Most end-times hypsters don’t do that. They generally just start looking for the next secret biblical code everyone else has missed over the last 2,000 years.)

Once again, an extensive set of facts, calculations and scriptures were marshaled in support of what the folks at E-Bible Fellowship believed was a nearly airtight argument.

LGPEOf course, we’ve seen this kind of thing repeatedly over the last 45 years or so. When I was an impressionable 11-year-old, a well-meaning Sunday School teacher took me and a group of other boys chapter by chapter through Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth.

I came away absolutely, 100% convinced that I would never reach adulthood. Never marry. Never have a career or children.

As you might expect, this didn’t have a particularly positive effect on my study habits or motivations to prepare for grown-up life.

It’s hard enough to get young people to have a future-oriented vision and make  sacrifices for the future without convincing them that the Bible says they’re not actually going have a future—not on earth anyway.

Here’s why I bring all this up. 

There is a fundamental rule of logic . . .

If logical processes consistently lead you to incorrect conclusions, it’s time to reassess the assumptions (a.k.a. premises, presuppositions, givens) upon which your logic is based.

I learned this valuable truth in a college course in Logic. If one or more of your premises is false, it’s very possible to build a sound logical case and reach a false conclusion. For example, it you begin with the premise that the earth is flat, it’s logical to be wary of sailing too far in any one direction lest you fall off the edge.

88 ReasonsAs I’ve noted, all of those who predicted an imminent Second Coming or Rapture through the decades have built their cases logically. Indeed, Edgar C. Whisenant and the World Bible Society gave us all  88 very sound, very compelling reasons why the rapture was going to happen in 1988.

So, I offer this question:

Is it possible that one or more flawed assumptions or premises is lying unexamined beneath the twisted rubble of all these rigorously researched cases and arguments?

Given the decades of predictive carnage, I would hope we would at least be open to examining the biblical validity of the assumptions that underlie these prognostications. This isn’t a hobby horse I’m particularly interested in riding. But I do have a few thoughts along these lines.

In an upcoming post, I’ll drag one of these “givens” into the light so we can all take a good look at it. But for now, it’s . . .

the-end-of-the-world

 

 

Why Saying, “God won’t give you more than you can bear” Is Pretty Much The Worst Comfort Advice Ever

Job and Friends

Job and Comforters

A few days ago I posted a quick, scold-y note on Facebook after reading this heart-felt and transparent piece by ESPN writer/host Jason Wilde.

In it, Wilde opens up about battling darkness and depression after he and his wife lost a baby about halfway through the pregnancy. In it, without anger or bitterness, he mentions how profoundly unhelpful it was to have well-meaning Christians (he is not one) come up to him and try to help by saying things like, “God only gives you as much as you can handle.”

On Facebook, I linked to his essay and wrote:

Fellow Christians of planet earth: Stop trying to comfort the grieving by saying “God only gives you as much as you can handle.” It’s crappy theology. And it’s not comforting. Stop. It.

I meant that. And here’s why.

The advice (falsely) positions God  as the great cosmic dispenser of misery and suffering. What’s worse, it depicts Him as carefully monitoring just how much misery and suffering we each can handle without completely collapsing under the weight, to keep Himself from over-doing it.

It encourages us to imagine Him viewing our misery capacity as some sort of dashed line at the top of a measuring cup. Should our capacity to handle heartache increase a bit . . . well, then God is surely there with an eyedropper of pain ready to add more until we’re topped off, but never to the point that it rises above the line.

Prometheus, Handling Suffering

Prometheus, Handling Suffering

It’s hard to count how many ways this is wrong. But let me hit a few of the highlights.

1. It misidentifies the source of evil and suffering.

We live in a fallen creation filled with fallen humans operating with the gift/power of free will. The flooded home; the miscarried pregnancy; the child lost to the drunk driver, the housewife with the swollen black eye, the stolen iPhone, and the irritable bowel  . . . all of these and an endless list of other heartaches and headaches are a result of either the one (broken creation) or the other (broken people). And of course there’s God’s raging enemy, Satan, who is actively at work in and through both.

2. God is all about healing pain, not causing it. Restoring, not destroying.

Jesus told us that if we’ve seen Him we’ve seen the Father. (Jn. 14:9) He said that He only did the things He saw the Father doing. (Jn 5:19) Thus, it’s revealing that Jesus broke up every funeral he ever came across. Healed every person who requested it. Wherever he encountered human suffering, He relieved it.

He said the thief (Satan) comes only to steal, kill and destroy. But that He had come to provide abundant life. (Jn. 10:10)

 3. It distorts the concept of God’s sovereignty.

The sad young man from ESPN really believes God took the life of his baby. And every would-be comforter who offered up, “This was part of God’s plan,” or “He won’t give you more than you can handle,” seems to agree. “God did this to you,” they’re affirming. “But cheer up. It’s all for the best!”

One of the most common and disastrous theological concepts loose in the world is the child’s cartoon view of God’s sovereignty that suggests that God is getting exactly what He wants every second of every day in every place on planet Earth. Dear friend, He isn’t.

I wish I could link to a 4-part series of blog posts I did several years ago titled, “Tragedy: The Mother of All Bad Theology” because I addressed this topic in quite a bit of detail there. (Alas, it was lost, along with seven full years of blogging output, in a web site corruption.)

I call this a cartoon view of God’s sovereignty because it’s the way God is depicted in cartoons, Hollywood movies and sitcoms. That He is exercising direct causative or allow-ative control of everything, and can therefore justifiably be blamed for everything.

God gets blamed for a ton of horrific stuff He didn’t do. As some have heard me say on numerous occasions, Romans 8:28 does not say, “God causes all things.” It says God causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him and are called . . .”

That’s a very different proposition.

A lost, hurting, dying world is understandably reluctant to run to a God whom they believe to be the author of their deepest pain. But that’s simply not an accurate picture of who He is or why they’ve been hurt.

He is good. And He has gone to extraordinary lengths, at unspeakable personal cost, to meet us at the point of our suffering and offer healing and hope.

jesus on the cross

 

Perhaps the next time an unbeliever has his or her heart shattered by loss, a more comforting  (and more theologically sound) response might be:

“I’m so sorry that happened. How painful that must be. Let me walk through this with you. And please know that you can take that pain to a God who loves you. Because He’s not your problem. He’s your only hope for healing.”

One Final Mad Men Peeve

meditation

Before I just let it go and move on, I thought I’d point out one additional annoying, yea, even galling aspect of the way the writers of Mad Men chose to rescue Don Draper from his eight-year-long free-fall of drink, deception, and debauchery.  That is, to have him stagger into a touchy-feely retreat center built around a blend of Eastern mysticism and hippie humanism.

Here’s why that cheeses me off.

As I mentioned in the previous dissertation post, the overarching premise of the entire Mad Men series is that women were treated horribly by Neanderthal men in the years before the feminist movement. But here’s the thing.

The cultures built wholly on Eastern Mysticism—Hindu, Buddhist, Confucian, and Taoist religion—are some of the worst places on Earth to be a woman.

India, for example, is the headwaters of the river of hippie New Age gobbledy-goop that started flowing into our culture like the nasty Ganges in the late ’60s. Thanks Beatles.

Maharishi Beatles

Look at John—hanging on every word of the Maharishi. George has already chugged the Kool-Aid. Paul knows it’s B.S. but he’s here for the weed. Ringo wishes he was somewhere else. Anywhere else.

I currently work with or support about a half-dozen ministries that are working in India—striving mightily to make it a little less of a hellish place to be a female. Same goes for Nepal and Tibet. And China? . . .

Can you point to a single solitary woman in China with any meaningful power or authority? In government or business? Just one?

Women in DangerThe only places on the planet in which it is worse for women than societies built upon Eastern mysticism are Islamic cultures. The animistic societies of Africa aren’t a picnic for females either.

In fact, across the globe, life is best for women where Christianity has had the largest impact on the culture. The least Christian places are the most oppressive for girls and women.

The clear and indisputable testimony of History is that wherever the Gospel of Jesus Christ has taken root and become a pervasive influence in the creation of the culture, the lot of women has radically improved. In societies built upon Christian presuppositions—such as those in Europe, North America, and Latin America—women enjoy the most equality and highest status. This is the case even when the vast majority of the population has reverted to paganism (Hi there, Europe!)

This is no accident or coincidence.

One of the many effects of the radical, transformative revolution Jesus unleashed; and that has been spreading from East to West across the planet; is the elevation of women to a place of equality with men. And it does so without destroying the God-given distinctives and differences between the sexes.

As I mentioned, in any given month I do work for about a half-dozen organizations that are working to ameliorate a little of the suffering experienced by women and girls in India and the Far East. The needs are overwhelming precisely because Eastern religions spawn cultures that view women as livestock.

Which brings us back to the Mad Men finale . . . This is what makes free-falling Don Draper’s rescue in the arms of Eastern mysticism so . . . well, maddening.

As I noted in my previous post, the series was essentially about the oppression of women. Clearly, the writers, like most post-Christian Americans, have no understanding that if America were built upon the presuppositions of Eastern mysticism rather than those of Christianity, the country would be just another third-world hell-hole for women and girls.

In one of the final few episodes of Mad Men, an angry, unpleasant character shouts at Don that he needs to turn to Jesus.

Of course, that was actually good advice. In fact, it’s good advice for any society that cares about the rights and well-being of women and girls.

Jesus, Mary & Martha

Jesus, Mary & Martha

 

Holy Week Musings Pt. 2

Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles, but on a cross between two thieves; on a town garbage heap; at a crossroad of politics so cosmopolitan that they had to write His title in Hebrew and in Latin and in Greek . . . and at the kind of place where cynics talk smut, and thieves curse and soldiers gamble.

–George MacLeod (1895-1991)