Will More Guns in School Resolve the Safety and Security Issue?


It seems logical.  Let some teachers get concealed carry permits, buy pistols, pack them in their purses or briefcases, or carry them under your jacket or sweater, strapped to your body, ready to use at a moment’s notice.  That will solve the problem of active shooters coming on campus to murder students and staff.  That’s a predictable response, especially from people who don’t understand what it is like to work in an educational environment, and who are blinded by political rhetoric to the reality of what is actually happening.  But it won’t work.  Frankly, I think it will make things worse than they already are, if that can be done.

Anyone who knows anything about weapons, especially firearms, knows that a person with a concealed carry permit and a pistol is no match for a calculated killer with an assault rifle.  There might be a few more bullets popping around, and there’s an outside chance that a teacher might be able to concentrate, get into position, aim and fire in the middle of a hail of bullets from a modified semi-automatic weapon firing at random, but it is more likely that the teacher would draw negative attention and be shot themselves, not to mention how confusing or difficult it would be if dozens of students are milling around, trying to get themselves to safety.

So what about training?  Can teachers, and other school employees, be given the kind of training necessary to confront an active shooter situation?  Look at how extensively police officers are trained for the same thing.  If you advocate for this method, the necessary training would be extensive.  That is in addition to the high level of training teachers must already undergo to be qualified to teach.  And we’re not just talking about schools here, because mass shootings aren’t limited to them.  In Texas, it was a church.  In Arizona, it was a shopping center parking lot.  In Colorado, it was a movie theater.  Could you find a politician willing to forgo tax cuts to the wealthy in order to pay the massive amount of money it would cost to do this?  Yes, that’s a rhetorical question.  The vast majority of law enforcement agencies in this country say this is a bad idea, and that’s a virtually unanimous opinion among those who have had a school shooting occur in their jurisdiction.

Teachers are educators.  Putting the additional responsibility of being a campus security guard into their job description is not going to make a school any safer, nor will it make the education being provided more effective.  What if the shooter is a student, or a former student?  After being trained in the way that they are, how easy will it be for a teacher to pull the trigger?  And will they survive the split second it takes for that thought to run through their mind before they make that decision?  What parent will think that their children will be safer, or better served,  in a school where their child’s third grade teacher has a pistol, and would be the first line of defense if an intruder walked into their school building?

Think about this with some common sense.  An active shooter with a modified AK-15 and dozens of rounds of ammunition gets into a back entrance of a high school, pulls the fire alarm and starts shooting.  Responding to the gunfire, and to announcements that there is a shooter in the building, trained teachers pull their weapons.  There are still students running for cover in the hallways, some in classrooms, some in common areas like the library or cafeteria, and the gunman pulls the trigger and sprays bullets.  A few teachers decide they have to do something, and start firing back.  Now there’s crossfire.  The shooter finds cover and waits.  Or finds a place where he can still see fleeing students, and keeps pulling the trigger.  The police enter the building.  Their first sight, upon reaching the second floor where the shooting is coming from, is a guy ducked down behind a cinder block half-wall, firing a pistol their direction down the hallway where other shots are being heard.  The police naturally assume it is a teacher with a gun, and leave him alone.  Right?   Turning schools into war zones is not the answer to this problem.

It would make more sense to provide trained, armed security guards on campuses, and control the entrances and exits.  Some schools already do this, as a result of circumstances related to their location, or as a reaction to the potential problems that exist when you have a school where 2,000 teenagers come to class every day.  We already do this at airports.  Every time I enter a state or federal government building, I have to show ID and pass through a security post with a metal detector.  Though we have an aversion to the appearance of elementary students walking through a metal detector, past an armed security guard to get into their school each day, if it keeps the kids and staff safe, we need to get used to the idea.  Here’s the problem with that.  Getting the politicians to put up the money for it is a problem.  Already loathe to spend money on education anyway, those of a particular political persuasion would likely not be willing to give up tax cuts for the wealthy, and for high profit corporate business in order to protect the children of poor Americans in public schools.  They’ve already weighed the cost of school security, and done what they’ve wanted with the money, which is why we are still, decades after the first school shooting, still having problems with it.

What makes more sense than any other plan is simply restricting access to the kinds of weapons designed exclusively for the taking of human life.  No sensible, legitimate, “law abiding” gun owner sees the ownership of an assault rifle as an expression of the right to bear arms, or as necessary for self-protection.  Doing this doesn’t damage the second amendment.  It puts a dent in gun manufacturer and seller’s profits, which, in turn is against the prevailing political philosophy of one side of the aisle in Washington.  But if you really believe in the sanctity of human life, how much profit is one human being worth?

And this is a sanctity of life issue.  What purpose does it serve to go to great lengths to protect and preserve the life of the unborn when you aren’t nearly as passionate about making sure that same life isn’t gunned down in a school classroom 16 years later?  It is hypocritical to have a desire to criminalize the use of instruments which are used to perform a procedure that ends the life of a child in the womb, but be in favor of completely unrestricted use of instruments which ends the life of children in school.  There is no difference between a medical doctor performing an abortion, and a gun show operator providing someone with the means to shoot kids for target practice.





What’s Happening with the New Baptist Covenant?

The New Baptist Covenant creates vibrant, inclusive Baptist communities, building bridges in places previously marked by division. We are called by God to champion the weak and oppressed, honor the diverse workings of the Holy Spirit and to share the love of Christ. Our work is rooted in the words of Jesus Christ found in Luke 4:18-19:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free.

This statement comes from the New Baptist Covenant’s website, and is found as part of the definition of its mission and purpose.  You remember the New Baptist Covenant?  The organization founded by Jimmy Carter, assisted by Bill Clinton, in 2006 as a means to bring segregated Baptist denominations and church bodies together for the purpose of building “covenant relationships” to engage in social justice ministry.  That was its narrower purpose, but during the first gathering in Atlanta, many of the speakers envisioned the covenant as a means of drawing various Baptists together in other ways, and laying the foundation for a greater unity and cooperation between the churches and denominations that share the common theology, practice, and the name name, “Baptists.”

So what’s happened to the New Baptist Covenant?

It’s still there.  There are Baptist groups and churches which become involved, engage in covenant relationships with churches of like faith and order but a different racial makeup, and do social justice ministry together.  And that’s a good thing, wherever it is happening.  Baptists, like most other Protestant church groups in the United States, remain far more racially segregated than the culture at large, so when churches are working together, pooling resources and doing some good, especially in the realm of social justice, it’s good, and it is also a very effective way to model the gospel.

It’s still meeting.  It has summits which feature worship times, speakers drawn from the Baptist constituency that supports it, mostly individuals with prominent jobs within the various denominational groupings.  After the initial gathering in 2006, where several African American denominations were meeting together in a historic show of unity, the attendance and participation has been quite small, the result of the fact that most Baptists haven’t caught the vision, and don’t participate.  At the initial gathering, news media reports stated that the delegates in attendance represented Baptist denominations with a collective membership of over 20 million.  But the nature of Baptist gatherings is not representative.  No Baptist speaks for another, so if there are ten thousand delegates from 20 different denominations with a collective membership of 20 million, there is no representation by anyone in attendance of any Baptist who isn’t there.  And it’s become pretty clear, in the years since its formation, that only a few thousand Baptists, out of the more than 30 million people who are members of a Baptist church in the US, are involved in the New Baptist Covenant.

So why didn’t this movement get off the ground, so to speak, and start a move toward Baptist unity, as its founders hoped?

A majority of Baptists in the United States belong to denominations that can easily be labelled as “conservative” from a doctrinal and theological perspective.  The Southern Baptist Convention accounts for slightly more than half of all Baptist church members in the US.   Another large conservative Baptist constituency is found in churches that label themselves “Independent Fundamental Baptist.”  The SBC is not likely to support any group in which the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is involved, and they are one of the groups that participated in the organization of the Covenant.  There are some Southern Baptists who see the value of it, and some churches which have become engaged and involved, but as a denomination, there is no support, and very few churches and individuals have made a commitment to the Covenant.

Independent Fundamental Baptists generally don’t get involved in anything that doesn’t demonstrate an exact line up with their doctrinal positions.  They see the Covenant as a gathering of “liberals” and there are few, if any, of their members or churches willing to get involved.

Unfortunately, social justice ministry isn’t a high priority for many conservative Baptists.  Seen more as a fief of more liberal Baptist denominations, mainly because it is the leadership of those groups that are prominent advocates for this kind of ministry, the conservatives don’t cooperate.  There is persistent resistance to cooperating with any other Christian groups that don’t share some of the common doctrinal marks of more conservative Baptists, and something like the covenant looks “ecumenical,” which they see as doctrinal and theological compromise.  But social justice ministry is a model of the application of the gospel.  It is a more effective means of planting seeds for evangelism than some of the methods churches use now.

“Baptist unity,” too, is a fleeting concept.  Outside of a few common doctrines, and some common church practices, mainly the idea of the independent, non-connectional, congregational local church and baptism by immersion following a testimony of faith in Christ as savior, there is not much which Baptists share.  The Southern Baptist Convention is build around its missions ministries, and theological seminaries, and is not interested in cooperating in ministry because it does not need to do so.  The nature of an Independent Fundamental Baptist church is that you can’t work with anyone else because they might not have right doctrine.  And they incorrectly see any form of Christian cooperation as automatic endorsement of everything those other Christians believe.  Their colleges and universities don’t mind accepting tuition dollars from the majority of their students who don’t attend or belong to Baptist churches, but they won’t work together with the church down the street to build a better neighborhood for the kids or families.

So the Covenant continues.  It’s small, it has become relatively unknown and ignored by most Baptists, but it is still there, and it forms a valuable foundation and framework for social justice and ministry cooperation between the Baptists who are interested in using it as a resource.  And to be honest with you, I’m not so sure Baptist unity would be all that good.



The Super Bowl, God, and the Struggle Between Good and Evil

When I’ve lived in a large metropolitan area with a professional football team, I’ve tried to be a fan.  It’s been tough at times, more fun at others, but I’m really more of a purist when it comes to football, and I’d rather be in the bleachers on a Friday night at a high school game or in a backless metal seat in a college stadium than watching a pro game on a Sunday afternoon.  I can literally count on one hand the times I’ve seen an NFL game live.  But I do watch the Super Bowl.

It would have been hard not to have been interested in this one.  The success of the Eagles over the course of the season runs counter to the normally predictable NFL pattern.  The NFL is usually a math equation, with the predictable performance of players paid premium salaries to deliver at a predictable pace.  When a team loses a key player to injury, like Philadelphia did when they lost their starting quarterback to injury, it’s supposed to change the outlook.  Players like Nick Foles aren’t supposed to make a difference.  But he did.

I grew up near Tucson, Arizona, and have been a lifelong fan of the Arizona Wildcats.  So this Super Bowl was particularly interesting because it featured three former Wildcat players.  Rob Gronkowski has made a name for himself as Tom Brady’s top receiver.  Marquis Flowers is one of the Patriot’s top defensive ends.  And of course, there was Nick Foles, who had made a name for himself in his short time as the Philadelphia quarterback.

The matchup was fascinating for social media.  The Patriots have replaced the Dallas Cowboys as the most hated team in the NFL, largely because of the ingrained trait of hatred of success.  They’re just a good team, consistent, and they have a coach who is, whether you like him or not, one of the masterminds of the game.  He gets the players he needs who are capable of executing a game plan that wins, and they do.

People discovered that the Eagles have a core of quarterbacks who are also Evangelical Christians.  Foles is studying to become a pastor.  Carson Wentz is an evangelist who has led several teammates to faith in Christ and baptized some of them.  If hating the Patriots wasn’t enough motivation to cheer for the Eagles, knowing that some of the players were open about their Christian faith certainly created some.  It was “God’s team,” and there was some open implication that the Patriots were playing for the other side.  Wink, wink.

Don’t get me wrong, I was glad for Foles, and for the Eagles, and for what their victory represented and meant to their team.   I’m glad that the coach, and some of the players, were open about sharing their faith, but not obnoxious about it.  It was a great game.  Not only did the former Wildcat Foles distinguish himself, but so did former Wildcat Rob Gronkowski, who, once he warmed up, was the player whose performance led the Patriot comeback.  The defensive play of former Wildcat Marquis Flowers was also a factor in slowing down the Philadelphia offense.

But I don’t think it matters to God who wins the Super Bowl.  I don’t think he used his sovereign power to top the balance in favor of the Eagles because a couple of their players are pastors, and I don’t think the Eagles win is some kind of symbolic victory for Christ followers and a Biblical worldview.

It was a game.  There will be another season and another Super Bowl.




Sending the Wrong Message

Many of the names that we’ve seen in the news over the past several months have been those of men who have left their jobs, been fired, or were removed from a position because they were accused of sexual harassment or abuse.  They are, of course, the high profile individuals whose positions have them in the public eye already, so it seems that we are seeing some kind of epidemic.  It’s really not that, but the way we report news now is such that more people become aware of the high profile stuff more quickly.

The standards for the threshold of what defines sexual harassment, and sexual abuse of women are quite different among the various cultures and human populations of the world.  What we see as something that is intolerable and disgusting is viewed as common practice in some cultures, and there are places where women endure far worse abuse, and are considered subservient and unequal simply because of their gender.  Frankly, as far as I am concerned, it is correct to evaluate a culture as backward and inferior based on its allowance of abuse based on gender, race, or any other characteristic that separates an individual from the majority.

After what I’ve seen in the past months, I’m really wondering where we are on this issue.

It is apparent that the pass that is given for unacceptable behavior, especially toward women, depends on your political view.  Christian leaders, many of whom once declared that character and integrity were among the most important elements in a candidate for political office, have supported, at least twice within the past year, one candidate whose lifestyle, public actions, personal philosophy, and words, are virtually diametrically opposed to any form of Christian faith or principle, and another whose past wasn’t really all that much of a secret, who had been banned from a mall because there was enough evidence to indicate he, an adult in his 30’s, was stalking teenage females for the purposes of asking them out, and physically molesting them.

On the surface, they gave lip service to the right politics, and that’s all that matters now.  One of them, yeah, it’s Trump, actually provided a rationale for electing the other, Roy Moore, because he would be better than the other guy, a “liberal,” in the senate, and he would support the Trump agenda.  Lacking any real definition of “liberal,” other than some vague, nebulous, alleged support for abortion, and perhaps for same-gender marriage, it was white, conservative Christians who banded together to support Moore, leaving the job of redeeming Alabama from a reputation as some kind of political backwater full of inbred, paranoid nut jobs to the African Americans, inner city liberals, college and university students, educators, labor unions and high techsters.  They came through.  Among them were a few white, Protestant and Evangelical Christians who saw the credibility in the details and circumstances about Moore’s past, along with the insidious racism and irrational fear stirred by his political positions and previous actions.

Character has to matter again, and along side that contention, the realization needs to sink in that lip service to a pro-life, anti-same gender marriage position is not enough to ensure the effectiveness, productivity, and above all the integrity of an effective public servant.  Electing politicians to office who are verbally committed to ending abortion and preserving traditional marriage has been ineffective at best, and a failure, in all honesty, because both things are now more accessible and widespread than they were before the “Religious right” was formed.  In addition, a lot of incompetent individuals have been elected to office because voters were single issue, and didn’t look past the lip service to actual qualifications.

If you’re really serious about ending abortion, and you’re not in favor of same-gender marriage, if you’re a Christian, you actually do have an answer and a solution to the problem.  Put some effort into evangelism, and then put some more effort into effective Christian discipleship.  Heart issues require life transformation.  The Christian life teaches the sanctity of life, and it also teaches self-respect, accompanied by personal morality.   Life transformation and a life that glorifies God is the most effective way to lower the abortion numbers.  How can you teach that, and endorse, with support and a vote, candidates whose lives are examples of an opposite way of life?



Opinions Change. Values Don’t.

Some of the most caustic and harsh criticism ever made by the group of Evangelical Christians that has become identified as the “Religious Right” was directed at Bill Clinton.  Not only were they right on top of extra-marital affairs he was reported to have had, but they were critical because he had been accused of sexual assault against at least three other women, including one of those with whom he had been rumored to have had an affair.  They claimed that character in a politician mattered, and that extra-marital affairs were a sign of a character flaw that disqualified Clinton from the Presidency.  You can check the record, the rhetoric was varied in its intensity, but that was exactly what was said.  They were right, as far as I am concerned.

They also pushed the issue raised by several women who accused Clinton of unwanted sexual advances.  Even more than the extra-marital affairs, the Religious Right insisted that the women should be heard, and that their words should be weighed against his for truthfulness, and that he should be held accountable, and be forced to resign if the evidence pointed to his guilt.  Ironically, the woman at the center of the issue that involved his eventual impeachment never accused him of unwanted advances, and has stated that she was a willing participant.

The Religious Right has always stood with his accusers and against Clinton.  They believed the accusers, even though it was basically just their word against his, and the only evidence that turned up in their support was some corroboration of his behavior patterns.  There was never enough to charge him, and in at least one case, and alleged in another, the women also had a record of behavior with men that didn’t contribute to their credibility.  But the leadership of the Religious Right, including many of those who are still recognized as such today, insisted on applying Biblical values and Christian standards to the behavior of national leaders, and indicted Clinton on those principles.  Rightly so.

The Bible’s values and Christian standards have not changed.  But apparently, the “Religious Right” has decided, for the sake of political expedience, not to insist on their application to the behavior of national leaders anymore.  Women came forward in much larger numbers, with much more evidence of unwanted sexual advances on the part of Donald Trump, including corroborating testimony, photographs, and video, along with his own conversation admitting to such behavior, and the Religious Right went silent.  There was a little bit of a weak attempt to excuse the silence by claiming that they were simply doing what the left did with Clinton, but admiring and emulating the behavior of the “left” is not consistent with their claimed values, or their previous words.

Now there’s Roy Moore.

Moore is a darling of the Religious Right, and he is one of them.  He’s an active member of a Southern Baptist church and his political views come from the extreme right wing of the movement, where white supremacy is still accepted theology and doctrine.  And while his racism, and his misconduct in office as a court justice aren’t consistent behaviors with Christian standards derived from the Bible, he’s provided mid-level leadership, and is a featured speaker and presenter at various Religious Right events.  The credibility of the movement has been chipped away over the years by their continued support for individuals that turned out not to meet their previously proclaimed standards of moral conduct (like Newt Gingrich and Bob Packwood, among others) and by their looking past George W. Bush’s endorsement of Islam as a legitimate pathway to God, and his acceptance of same-gender marriage.  It was seriously damaged by the almost wholesale support they gave to Donald Trump.  But now, any credibility they have left lies in the hands of those who claim to be part of their influence among the voters within the state of Alabama.

All of it.

The credibility of Conservative Evangelical Christianity, as an identified movement of churches and Christians, is now in the hands of their like-minded brethren in the state of Alabama.  They have to hope that there are enough of them in the state who hold Biblical values and Christian standards in higher regard than partisan political ambition, and will act on that belief.  For some, that might just mean staying away from the polls on election day, if they sincerely believe that voting for a Democrat runs counter to their values.  For others, it might mean doing their homework, discovering that the Democrat isn’t standing against their values, and casting a ballot for him.  Because if Moore wins, the hypocrisy of their previous words and position is exposed, and they’ve abandoned the gospel they claim to preach for the sake of political gain and worldly power.

“Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings who cannot save.”  Psalm 146:3, NIV

Mainline denominations began experiencing a decline in membership and attendance in the 1960’s due to what their critics said was a theological shift to the left, and the advance of liberal theology.  Evangelical churches and denominations are now in a fully involved decline in membership and attendance of at least equal number and proportion, attributed by many observers and analysts to the marriage of the movement to conservative politics, and the dependence on worldly power to attain spiritual goals.   The church researchers are loathe to discuss it, but in most cases are honest enough to produce the evidence which supports it.  Maybe the Alabama Senate special election will provide the kick in the pants that Evangelical Christians need to turn their focus away from the use of political influence to advance their cause back to the Biblical values and Christian standards, and to the wind of movement of the Holy Spirit.



What does Free Speech Look Like?

It looks like Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem prior to a football game.

That might make you angry.  OK.  Of course, Kaepernick is no longer alone in taking a knee at the beginning of the national anthem.  The number of players who are doing it, for the same reasons, is increasing.   Fans are also joining in.  Their critics are dismissing it as some kind of racial “thing,” that is nothing more in their mind than “disrespecting the flag,” and of course, in the process, they are insulting the military and veterans who “fought and died for the flag.”

It’s not that.  Not even close, and you can figure that out by simply paying attention.

First of all, the veterans and military who fought, and died, in the service of our country were not fighting “for” the flag, which is a mere symbol of it.  They were fighting, and dying, and sacrificing, for the individual rights and freedoms that America stands for, including the right to freedom of expression, or free speech, guaranteed in the Constitution.  That is exactly what is being exercised by the NFL players taking a knee at the beginning of the national anthem.  They have the constitutional right to do so, and to define exactly what their actions are expressing.

Kaepernick, among some of the others, has made it very clear that from his perspective, his taking a knee is not intended as disrespect for either the anthem, or for the flag.  This is a protest aimed at injustice, mainly motivated by the frequent and high profile police shootings of African American men.  He’s been quite specific about it.  They’re protested peacefully, purposefully, and quietly, as opposed to some of their critics who have been rude, disrespectful, and intolerant.  Even if you completely disagree with the way they have chosen to protest, and with what they are protesting, that doesn’t excuse a rude, disrespectful demonstration of bad behavior, or name calling, or making accusations based on unfounded and mistaken perceptions.

These guys are protesting on behalf of people whom they feel are powerless and disenfranchised.  Of course, most of them are pretty well off, given the salaries in the NFL, and the more talented players, like Kaepernick, won’t ever have to worry about where their next meal is coming from.  Most of them realize how well off they have it, and if you bother to look into it, you’ll find that most of them use their advantages to help those who are disenfranchised, and impoverished in the economically disadvantaged communities where they’re from, or in the cities where they play.  Most of them are very generous with their fortunes, and with their time.  If you want to know how much, well, do a little research.

Most of them grew up in the ghettos and slums of America’s large cities.  Playing football was, for most of them, their way out.  They have a clear understanding of how it feels to experience discrimination, violence, fear and intimidation that is racially motivated.  They’ve experienced the injustice that we only know by looking at statistics, that African American males are far more likely to be suspected and profiled by police even when they haven’t committed a crime, and are far more likely to be treated more harshly by police than their Caucasian counterparts, twice as likely according to the facts.  Few of us have uncles and aunts, parents or grandparents, who lived in fear of being accused of a crime they didn’t commit, or of being subject to violence, threats of lynching, intimidation in the form of a burning cross, or a burning church.  Trayvon Martin, Anthony Lamar Smith, Eric Garner, Michael Brown and Freddie Gray make it difficult to conclude that race no longer matters, and is no longer a factor in injustice.

Not all of the protests involving the perception of injustice surrounding these incidents, and others, have been peaceful, but these are.  They take a knee at the beginning of the anthem, thus making the point, and when it’s over, it’s over.  Putting personal constrictions on their actions, misinterpreting what they’re doing, or accusing them of “disrespecting the military” is misguided and mistaken. Not all of the military, or all of the veterans, are opposed to the actions being taken, in fact, many of them get it.  An increasing number of social media posts from military personnel and veterans who are very supportive of the way these players are going about their protest, are getting the word out.  Many of them also see, and have experienced,  the same kind of injustice.

Personally, I would very likely not choose to take a knee, or remain seated during the national anthem, as a means of protesting something I believed to be unjust.  But I’m a Caucasian male, almost 60, who grew up in small town, rural America and never worried much about being attacked and shot because I was walking through a housing complex where most of the residents were a different race, or being racially profiled and chased down by police, or being wrestled to the ground and suffocated because I didn’t hear a police officer’s command.  I’m also not an NFL player who realizes that he has a rare but powerful opportunity to draw attention to something that needs to be made right, because this is America.  The veterans and military personnel who defend this country also fought for the civil rights of those people for whom Collin Kaepernick, and the other NFL players who are taking a knee, are protesting.

Pay attention before you jump to conclusions.


Where Were You?

This morning, from a distance, I watched the 16th commemoration of the September 11 attack on the Pentagon.  I didn’t get into the area where the ceremony was being held, but watched from a vantage point nearby.  I still can’t imagine what it looked like for a passenger jet to crash into the building, even one that looks as sturdy and and solid as the Pentagon.

Once things calmed down, then-President Bush made a speech at the Islamic Center in Washington, DC.  The setting was chosen to make a point, as the speech was intended to do.  I rank that action, and that speech, as the finest moment of his presidency.  The President refused to indict an entire religion based on the extreme actions of a group of individuals representing a tiny, fractional sect of it.  Instead, he emphasized that those Muslims who were citizens and residents of the United States were entitled to a clear constitutional protection of their religious freedom, and he acknowledged those Muslims around the world, the vast majority of them, who had no part in the terrorist action.

You can read the speech here   https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010917-11.html

Much has been written about the “why” behind this worst terrorist attack in American History.  Most people are dismissive about it, because the shock and pain was so great.  It’s much easier to simply state that “they hate us and what we stand for” than it is to get past that into actually looking at the root causes and giving consideration to a whole series of events, much of which goes back to 1917, and some of which goes back long before that.  A terrorist attack of that magnitude, especially with the suicidal dedication of the attackers, doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  They are also not as simple as an easy dismissal makes them.   The Bible confirms the flaws of fallen humanity and the condition of living in a fallen world separated from the power of God.  Resentments abound over struggles for world hegemony that represents the pinnacle of worldly power, and those resentments have a nasty habit of boiling over into vented rage.  These are capable of defeating the best intentions and the most lofty idealism.  War is the result, fought on many different scales, dependent on the resource ability of those who decide that destruction of the foe is the only way to determine who is in charge.

This was a war.  It was a small one, and it was quick.  It depended on the element of surprise for an impact that was far greater than the physical damage that was done.  It succeeded in that, though only temporarily.  It may have also succeeded in some places on the ideological front as well, in that the emotional reaction to what occurred actually helped push the cause along, and put some of the divisions in place that the attackers intended to accomplish.  Hatred erupted, of the same kind that caused the attackers to do what they did, and fear increased exponentially, also an intended goal of the attackers.  Those are the things that must be conquered in order to claim the victory.  That’s why Jesus came.  His sacrifice makes it possible to overcome fear, hatred, and the evil that springs up with events such as 9-11.  He provides the kind of power that allows a family member of a victim to pronounce forgiveness upon those who organized and conducted this attack.

That’s powerful, indeed.





























The Difference Between Robert E. Lee and George Washington

The President made some remarks today about Robert E. Lee, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, basically an ongoing attempt to divert the negative publicity he has been getting because he can’t seem to get it right when it comes to the Alt-Right, the Neo-Nazi movement, and the issue of white supremacy.  Among the many levels of help he needs when it comes to making public statements, he needs someone who can help him get the history correct.  One of the qualifications of a president should be a thorough knowledge of American History, or at least, the ability to do some research in advance before speaking about it.  The current President needs a lot of help in this area.

Trump questioned whether statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson would now be subject to removal like those of Robert E. Lee because they also owned slaves.  The answer is no, because the point he was trying to make, that taking down statues of Robert E Lee is political correctness running amok over culture and historical tradition, is not supported by historical fact.  Merely owning slaves isn’t the real issue.  Washington, Jefferson, and others among the founding fathers, were part of a culture in which slavery was an accepted institution.  The incongruity that exists because the author of the Declaration of Independence owned slaves has long been a topic for discussion in countless history classes.  But there are vast differences between Washington and Jefferson on one side, and Lee on the other.

There are some interesting, quirky connections between Washington and Lee.  Lee was born on a Virginia plantation in an elegant home owned by his parents, but during his childhood, his father went broke, and eventually moved the family to a small house in Alexandria. Lee attended Christ Church, the Anglican-turned-Episcopalian church in Alexandria of which George Washington had been a member, and had attended.  Lee married Mary Anna Randolph Custis, the great-granddaughter of First Lady Martha Washington and her first husband, Daniel Parke Custis.  Mary’s parents owned Arlington Plantation, directly across the Potomac River from Washington, DC, and the mansion at the top of the hill became their residence.  That’s quite a pedigree, and those connections should have served to make Lee, who attended West Point for his commission, a patriotic and loyal American.

So you don’t think there’s a difference between Washington, who served the country and devoted his later years to building the nation, Jefferson, who authored its foundational documents and helped define and build democratic principles into the nation’s government, and Lee, who took advantage of the resources his country had given him, trained as a general in its military academy, and then turned against it in rebellion, siding with his state’s defense of the institution of slavery, instead of defending the constitution and the unity of the country?  Yes, all three men owned slaves.  Washington recognized how degrading it was, and there is evidence that he cared for his slaves as well as the times allowed, freeing them in his will upon his death.  There is also documentation that Jefferson treated his slaves very well, freeing many of them, and providing for their well being.  Both men took action, within the limits of the restraint of the social fabric of their time, which promoted the eventual demise of institutional slavery.  Lee is also said to have treated his slaves well, but he chose to turn his back on his country to defend his state and its decision to go to war to protect the institution of slavery, and the white supremacy that was a philosophical foundation of the practice. Why does that deserve having a statue made of you?

The statues of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Jefferson Davis and other confederate leaders that dot the South were put up during a time when the effects of Reconstruction, mainly the government’s intervention to protect the civil rights of African Americans in the period following the Civil War, were being rolled back by a succession of Presidents and Congresses, beginning with Woodrow Wilson.  The Ku Klux Klan, sensing political support, grew larger and more bold, and helped to create an atmosphere in which such statues and monuments were built with public support and with tax dollars, in public places.  Prior to this time, it would have been very difficult, perhaps impossible, to put up a statue of Lee, or a monument to Davis.

We’re not going to take down statues and monuments to Washington, Jefferson, or other founding fathers.  They were slave owners, as were most of the wealthy and powerful men of their time.  They were caught up in the ideology of the day, time, and place, which relied heavily on the use of slave labor to produce a profitable plantation.  We recognize the history of slavery, and its impact on American settlement, economic and social development, politics, and just about everything else.  Yes, they owned slaves, but the ideals and principles which they built into the American democratic republic were eventually interpreted as applying to everyone, and the groundswell of support that was received as a result of that interpretation led to the eventual abolition of institutional slavery, and the extension of the guarantees of individual rights to all citizens, regardless of their race.  Did they foresee the day when that would happen?  I believe the evidence points to the fact that they did.  They were certainly major contributors to the ideals which made it possible.

Lee’s background, and his connection to the Washington family provided him with the same opportunity.  And at a critical moment, when the country was coming to the conclusion that slavery was an immoral affront to a Holy God, he made a choice to turn his back on his country, the principles of his faith, and his military oath and commission to defend those who were rebelling against the United States, and who held to the ideals of white supremacy.  He took command of the largest, and most effective military division of an enemy country, gave orders leading to attacks on American soldiers, and fought to defeat its principles of liberty by denying it the opportunity to prosperity.   More than 400,000 people, mostly soldiers of both sides, died as a result of his decision making ability.  At war’s end, the President of the United States, Andrew Johnson, had him arrested for treason.  Read the constitution’s definition of that principle, if you want to know why.  It was Ulysses Grant, Lee’s fellow West Pointer, who got him off the hook.

How would you feel if, in the wake of World War 2, statues had been erected honoring Alfred Jodl, Wilhelm Keitel and Adolf Hitler in public parks and in front of courthouses in the United States?  That’s exactly what it is like for African Americans, and for any Americans who are sickened and disgusted by the ideas of white supremacy, represented by the Confederate States of America and promoted by those who fought for it.  Our country exists as it does today, with a constitution proclaiming liberty and justice, and defending the “inalienable rights” of humanity, in spite of the Confederacy’s attempt to destroy and defeat it.  It is only the initial origin of the confederate states as part of the United States which forces us to share a common history.  During its existence, it was an enemy state not unlike Nazi Germany in ideology, including the belief that slavery was the natural product of a “social order” that determined white people were superior to dark skinned people.  If individuals want to display the symbols and monuments of that disgusting part of our past, free speech under the constitution they tried to destroy permits them to do so, on their own property.  But get it off public property and the tax rolls.

And let’s get this straight.  There were no “good” people in the mob in Charlottesville who marched through town carrying torches, and baseball bats, deliberately attempting to provoke people to violence, and shouting Nazi and anti-semitic slogans.  Good people protesting the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue, Mr. President?  Hardly.  And there wasn’t any violence until some of the white supremacists provoked it.  Many of those there to protest against the alt-right were clergy, or associated with a group of local churches who organized the protest.  The white supremacists were completely responsible for the violence, and for the death caused when one of their number rammed his vehicle into the crowd.  Their leader took responsibility for that, and promised more deaths resulting from their hatred and vitriol.   Hearing him speak so hateful toward anyone who doesn’t share his race or his ideology brought one word to mind.






Revisiting Ferguson

St. Louis county is made up of dozens of small and mid-sized municipalities.  It’s hard to tell when you cross from one into another, unless they’ve put up a sign, which most of them have done.  The city of St. Louis itself is crowded into a bend of the Mississippi River south of its confluence with the Missouri River, bowing out toward the east in a long sweep of about 15 miles or so, to the River DesPeres on the south side.  St. Louis County wraps around the city, to the north, west, and south, and is mostly suburban.  While some of the municipalities are small, with populations of less than 5,000, Ferguson is one of the larger ones on the north side, between the I-270 loop and I-70.

Originally a small town in a rural area outside St. Louis, with a core of historic buildings in its business district, and historic homes in a residential neighborhood, Ferguson was in the path of “white flight” growth as people left the city because of bad schools and high crime, and moved to the suburbs.  Ferguson developed into a working class community, with small bungalows and brick homes characterizing the neighborhoods.  And during the 70’s, as the African American population began to move out of the city because of bad schools and high crime, they came north.  Ferguson’s smaller homes, with better property values, was a big attraction.  The African American population, concentrated on St. Louis’ north side, kept moving north, and over a twenty year period, Ferguson went from being a predominantly white suburb to a predominantly African American one.

My wife is a native of St. Louis, and I met her while serving as a summer mission worker in a community outreach ministry of her home church in the city.  We both watched with concern and horror as the events unfolded in Ferguson following the Michael Brown shooting.  My wife has a close friend and several relatives who live near there.  Growing up in St. Louis, in the inner city, she was familiar with ongoing racial tension that came to a head from time to time.  Her church was located in a neighborhood that had been the scene of rioting and violence, and had taken precautions to protect the congregation during services.  Located virtually on the very street that was a defining boundary between races, it also tried in many ways to reach out to the community as a means of being able to preach the gospel, and bridge the tensions in the community by building relationships between its members and its neighbors.

I came to St. Louis in the summer of 1977 to work in the church’s community outreach.  The church was just a few blocks away from one of the largest public housing projects in the city.  Go north and cross the street on the north side of the park, and you were in an African American neighborhood.  To the west, across Jefferson, also African American.  To the south, along Gravois, and going south along the interstate and east of Jefferson, and it was a white, working class neighborhood where three breweries were the major employers.  Several of the areas to the west had pockets of Asian and Slavic groups. It was quite a change for someone who grew up in a small town in Arizona, very intimidating and frightening at first.  But after a few days, we got into a good routine and it wasn’t long before we knew the streets pretty well, where it was safe and where it wasn’t.

We hauled a projector, screen, puppets, cookies and a cooler full of red kool-aid around in a bus to a different neighborhood every morning, gathered dozens of kids, showed cartoons, had a puppet show and told Bible stories, then served the kool-aid and cookies. Afternoons were pretty busy, too.  We worked with a team from another church, packing donated food into boxes, and delivering them to apartments in the projects.  I’d never seen poverty up close.  It was pretty shocking, and it bothered me.  It was an existence of survival.  I tried to understand the circumstances that brought these people to this place, and why they couldn’t seem to escape them.  It was pretty overwhelming.  More than 7,000 people lived in the 10 story apartment buildings in the project, and the list of needs was endless.  People lived there because their circumstances forced them to.  It wasn’t a place you’d go if you had other options.

The woman who ran the social ministry in the church across the street from the projects helped me put things in perspective.  “Don’t question why,” she would say.  “Just try to love people the way Jesus loves them.”  I tried.  I made friends with some of the kids who came to the VBS we had at toward the end of the summer.  Some of them weren’t very trusting, understandably, though I didn’t know why at the time.  But there were a few with whom I did share a genuine friendship.  From them, I learned a lot.

One of the things I learned is that I can try as hard as possible to understand the circumstances and situations that have brought a person of another race, in poverty, to the place where they think and act as they do, but I can’t ever get to the place where I can feel what they feel, know what they know, and understand what they do.  I grew up white, in an overwhelmingly white community, relatively prosperous, at least, not ever being in a position where I didn’t know where my next meal would come from.  Most of my family was raised in a church, or at least, connected to one, and no one ever denied me anything because of the color of my skin.  I cannot point to relatives who were horsewhipped, or lynched, or who lived in fear of their lives and their property, or who were denied a job and a means of supporting their family because of their skin color.  My Dad was never without a job and a means of supporting his family, nor have I ever been in that position for any extended period of time, and I never experienced the disappointment of not being hired for a job for which I was well qualified because of the color of my skin.

No one ever burned a cross in my yard, or torched my church.  I was never turned away when I registered to vote because I could not pass an impossible test.  I was never told I had to sit at the back of the bus.  I was never turned away from a restaurant, or a bathroom, or a drinking fountain.  I might think I’ve had a few employers who didn’t pay me what I thought I was worth, but I never had to take a lower wage because of my race or skin color.  I was never turned away from the door of a school.

We visited Ferguson this past week.  It doesn’t look much different than it did in the 70’s.  The houses and schools are a little older, the trees have grown up, but it looks pretty much the same as it did in the 70’s, last time I was there.  It also doesn’t look anything like it did on those nights when the news coverage showed businesses ablaze and police cars overturned.  The damage is repaired.  The streets are quiet, and the historic downtown area, where protests crowded the streets in front of the police station and municipal buildings is as quaint as ever.  It’s still a nice looking St. Louis suburb.

What you can’t see, from driving through, are the scars left by generations of racial discrimination, the battles and fights for many of the city’s residents to get the housing they have, and into the schools where their children now attend, and to get away from the poverty and deprivation that they experienced simply because there isn’t a level playing field when it comes to race.

Jesus said, “Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged.  For with the judgment you, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  Matt. 7:1, HCSB  Supposedly, there’s a native American saying that has a similar interpretation.  “Do not judge a man until you have walked a mile in his moccasins.”  If you interpret Jesus’ words literally, you can’t get a better interpretation than that.  At this point, I haven’t walked the full mile, so I’m not going to point a finger and judge.  I’m going to listen to what you have to say…

If you believe in the sanctity of human life, you must come to the realization that it is more than just a catch-phrase for a political faction pertaining only to the nine month period of human gestation.  Don’t get me wrong, it most definitely does pertain to that, but that’s just a small part of the whole spectrum of the gift of human life, in God’s image, to which it does pertain.  Indeed, all life does matter.  To insist that Black Lives Matter is just a euphemism for a racist perspective is to lack an understanding of the affects of generations of racism on those black lives, and it invalidates your credibility when you claim you believe in the sanctity of human life.


What is an Authentic, “Biblical Worldview”?

And the Lord said:  “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men, therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder, and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.”  Isaiah 29:13-14 ESV

The term “Biblical worldview” is, perhaps, the most overused one in all of the “religious speak” that has developed around the Christian faith.  It’s a term most commonly coined and used by those in the branch of American Protestant Christianity that has come to be known as the “Evangelical right,” or the “Conservative Evangelical” branch.  When it is used by leaders of that particular branch of Christians, it generally applies to a codified set of principles they have developed which blend their social agenda and their political perspective with selected interpretations of bits and pieces of Biblical principles.

In that context, “Biblical worldview” means a set of beliefs based on the presuppositions and assumptions that are part of the religious dogma of the Evangelical right which are used to justify, and claim to support, specific and identifiable parts of an agenda, and to contrast other beliefs not consistent with the presuppositions and assumptions that can be labeled “liberal” or “left wing.”  Sometimes it is couched in language indicating that your Christian faith is open to questioning if you don’t accept these assumptions at face value.  It’s a “populist” Christian perspective, with enough bits and pieces of scripture thrown in to make it seem genuine, and to make it palatable for those who accept the written and spoken word of the populist leaders, rather than read and study the Bible in depth for themselves.

Though it has taken on some new characteristics over time, it has some issues that have formed a core foundation.  The linking of the belief in the sanctity of human life almost exclusively with the issue of abortion is one of the primary characteristics.  Opposition to any kind of same-sex marriage or union has been another perpetual issue.  Unqualified support for Israel on the grounds of a premillenial, dispensational view of Biblical eschatology is also high on the list, and goes hand in hand with a Reconstructionist view of the American Republic, with faint echoes of “Anglo-Israelism” and a belief that the founding fathers intended the constitution to be interpreted from a pro-Christian perspective.

I’ve been a student of the Bible for most of my life, a study that involves as much as my church could offer, that I could gain on my own, and through formal coursework in Biblical studies at a Christian university and a Theological seminary.  So I know that a worldview that is genuinely founded on, and rooted in the principles of the Bible is not nearly that shallow, nor is it that slanted in its interpretation of Biblical principles.  You’ve missed the point completely if you think that a Biblical worldview has, as its substance or its ends, anything having to do with American politics or politicians.

The clearest, and strongest Biblical source for worldview development is Jesus.  Go figure.  The idea that God’s plan for the redemption of his creation was to come and be here himself, in the form of his son, Jesus, is the very crux of a Biblical worldview.  That answers the basic questions about the origins of humanity, and its nature.  The words of Jesus, recorded by the authors of the gospel, are the words of God in the flesh.  The actions of Jesus, recorded by those same authors, are acts of creator God interacting with the humanity that he created in his own image.  If you want to know a genuinely Biblical worldview, then Jesus is the place to start.

This isn’t difficult to figure out.

One of the most definitive statements about Jesus in Matthew 5:17, is at the very core and crux of a Biblical worldview.  “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets” he says.  “I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them.”  The religious leaders of his day considered those words pure blasphemy.  He meant it, too, and declared it when he screamed, “It is finished!” while hanging on the cross.  Put those words together with something else he said.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”  Matthew 22:37-40 ESV

There’s Jesus on a Biblical Worldview.  You’re right, it doesn’t sound much like anything we’ve been hearing about it, does it?  Jesus said he came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets, and then simplifies all of both into these two simple commandments.  Love God, and love your neighbor.  And we know how he defined that.  So a Biblical Worldview comes down to these two very simple things.  Loving God, and loving the humanity that he created in his own image.

We could leave it there, and let this be a definitive statement on a Biblical worldview, and it would be more than adequate.  But everything in Jesus’ ministry was an example of how these things got fleshed out.  He was all about demonstrating his love for his “neighbor” by serving them, unconditionally.   He sought out the neediest people to heal, and did so in such a way as to restore their quality of life, unconditionally.  In a few cases, he demonstrated his love by raising the dead to life.  He chose to serve the people who were social, political and religious outcasts by preaching and ministering to them, unconditionally, exhorting them and restoring them as God’s people.  He advocated for the poor.  And if you hold to a belief in the inerrancy and infallibility of the scripture, it is hard to re-interpret, redefine, or simply dismiss his words about the rich, or his contempt for the religious establishment of his day.

His church, in its early days, immediately following his resurrection, was inspired by the Holy Spirit to live out this same “Biblical worldview” by the surrender, and communal distribution of its private wealth.  A committee of seven deacons was appointed to make sure that the poorest and neediest members of the community, mainly the foreign-born, Greek speaking widows, were included in the distribution of the goods.  Once again, this was done unconditionally, to love their neighbors as themselves.

Jesus, and the early church, demonstrated their belief in the sanctity of human life by serving the needs of the poorest, and neediest people around them.  They healed.  They met physical needs.  They included.  They offered grace.  And look how blessed they were!  The narrative in the first third of the book of Acts is as exciting a description of revival as you can find.  The Holy Spirit was a clear presence.  They gathered to worship daily.  Their meeting place was shaken by the Holy Spirit.  People were healed, had their physical needs met, and the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. 

If you’re looking to twist this into some kind of political position, good luck.   Protecting the unborn is just one aspect of the sanctity of human life.  Turning it into a political issue, and then setting it against legislation that restricts human access to affordable health care is self defeating.  Jesus doesn’t mention same-gender marriage or relationships, and while I don’t believe that his silence can be taken as approval of it, I also don’t believe that his approach would be more consistent with his treatment of taxpayers, sinners, and the woman caught in adultery than it would be with the current interpretation of a “Biblical worldview.”  And after he cleared the money changers out of the Temple, and determined that it would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to go to heaven, I don’t have to wonder what he would think about a government health care proposal that gives the rich a huge tax break, while at the same time cutting off the ability of the working poor to afford health insurance, and have access to health care.

Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord…..