Did Paul Shame His Neighbor?

In a previous post, I wrote a fairly mild piece on the issue of shaming one’s neighbor.  That article was in response to a small, hardly noticed episode of Facebook shaming that affected people known to me.  The article was met with a rather bland kind of enthusiasm, rife with atta-boys and way-to-goes.  I hardly noticed any opposition, though I was made aware of some through the ever-vigilant eye of my lovely wife, who can sniff when someone doesn’t like me from several miles away.  Since there seems to be one mildly serious point of opposition to what I have written, I thought I would use this space to answer it.  So, here goes.

The protest runs something like this: didn’t Paul shame Peter when he was engaged in public sin?  Wouldn’t that be grounds for shaming others who are in public sin? 

Ah yes, the ole’ “if-it-was-good-enough-for-Paul-its-good-enough-for-me” argument.  Well, yes, I suppose we might consider dealing with that question.  Actually, I can think – off the top of my formerly hairy head – of quite a few examples in the New Testament when one of the Biblical writers started naming names.  Of the New Testament name-namers, Paul is probably the most prominent.  In addition to Peter (Galatians 2:6-16), Paul called out Barnabas (Galatians 2:13), Demas (2 Timothy 4:10), and even two women, Euodias and Syntyche (Philippians 4:2). John called out Diotrephes, who loved to have the preeminence (3 John 1:9).  Peter called out Simon Magus, who (he perceived) was in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity (Acts 8:18-23). If these apostles called out public sin publicly, why wouldn’t we?  Don’t they set an example for us to follow?

Continue reading “Did Paul Shame His Neighbor?”

On Shaming Your Neighbor

Late Thursday night last week as I was about to fall asleep, my wife showed me a post that my friend Pastor Courtney Lewis had on Facebook.  We could tell from what was said that he had posted engagement pictures from a young couple, and had chastised them for holding hands in their pictures.  Pastor Lewis led off his commentary on the picture with a quote from I Corinthians 7:1-2, which says,

Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

By the time my wife showed me the post, Pastor Lewis had taken the pictures down, but left the post up.  My wife began reading some of the more than 500 comments on the post. Suffice it to say, we were horrified, both by the comments that were being made and by the use of a couple’s engagement pictures to make a point about purity.

When I had a few moments on Friday morning, I took a look at the post for myself.  By this time, the post had more than 650 comments, many of which I would characterize as flaming.  I scrolled through the comments to get a feel for what people were saying, and then I started typing a message to Pastor Lewis to ask him to remove the post altogether.  As I was typing the message, I saw that he in fact had removed the post and replaced it with another.  You can read the replacement post here.

In the second post, Pastor Lewis doubled down on the couple he used as an example, naming both the young man and his brother and expressing his disagreement with the engagement pictures each young man had published.  In particular, Pastor Lewis pointed out that the older brother had posted similar pictures, and that since nobody opposed him for it, now the younger brothers thought it was okay.  Pastor Lewis also took to task larger churches with more influence who could speak out on this.  He didn’t name the larger churches he had in mind.  I can only think of one larger church that he might be thinking of, but I won’t speculate about whether he thought they should have been the one to shame these couples. 

I absolutely agree with the standard Pastor Lewis holds.  My wife and I did not so much as hold hands until we met at the altar on our wedding day.  We have taught this same standard in our church and to our children, and we would not approve if they went against it.  Because many of the vitriolic comments Pastor Lewis received focused on the standard itself, I made the choice to support him on the standard, and to publicly express my concern for the way many had responded.

Later that afternoon, I received a call from a pastor friend who had read my comment and wanted to know if I also supported the tactic Pastor Lewis used to make his point.  He made it abundantly clear to me that he agrees with the standard – several of his children have married, and they followed that standard as well.  But he was concerned about the tactic of publicly shaming a young couple, using their engagement pictures.  After hem-hawing around for a minute, I had to agree.  The tactic was wrong.  I was disgusted by it from the moment my wife brought it to my attention.  My pastor-friend (who mainly knows Pastor Lewis through Facebook), pointed out that my comment left it unclear where I stood on the tactic.  I agreed with him.

Later that evening, I typed a second comment, in which I expressed my agreement with the standard and my disagreement with the tactic.  I commented that, if one of my own children were to publish engagement pictures that went against our standards, I would hope that the first response would be to pray for them, and the second to contact me to see if there is a problem and what can be done to help.  I would hope that the first response would not be to publicly shame them.  Far too often, when a young person does something wrong, we trample them under foot rather than address the problem Scripturally. 

I sent Pastor Lewis a message prior to posting my comment, and I offered to discuss any disagreement with him.  He replied fairly quickly with a simple “No” to my offer for a discussion.  I posted my comment, went to bed, and the next morning, I had a message from Pastor Lewis that assured me of his friendship despite our disagreement.  I didn’t think much of the reassurance until another friend contacted me to ask why I took my comment down.  Since I didn’t take it down, I asked Pastor Lewis if he did.  He told me, “Yes.  Feel free to post it on your account.”  Thus, this rather lengthy post.

Before I wade into the issue here, let me make a few preliminary points. 

Continue reading “On Shaming Your Neighbor”

Why I’m Not Leaving Facebook. Yet.

I think we can apply the familiar maxim to Facebook: don’t take Facebook too seriously – Facebook already takes itself too seriously.  Over the past few months, I have given a lot of thought to my involvement with Facebook, and particularly to the question of whether I should stay or leave.  In frustration, I have threatened to leave and urged others to consider doing the same.  I have opened accounts with Parler and with MeWe.  I haven’t opened anything with Gaab, but that’s only because… well, I just haven’t. I have raged against the censorship, against the glaring double-standard, against the obvious bias of the medium.  I have chuckled wryly (that is a thing, you know) as I scrolled through old posts of mine to see shadow-ban screens covering select posts.  My favorite warning screen, which appears on several of my more recent posts, warns of inappropriate or explicit content.  I found myself trying to remember what it was I posted that Facebook might consider to be “partial nudity.”  If you are curious, just scroll through my old posts. You’ll be shocked to discover what passes for sexually explicit content these days. 

The big question is, do I stay or do I go. Ultimately, I have decided to stay for now.  And since I like to get a little mileage out of these decisions, I thought I would share my thoughts on it with you, the reading audience.  Notice that I said “reading” audience, not the “glancing” audience or the “skimming” audience.  How ‘bout we slow down that scrolling, swiping, and/or surfing for a minute so you can see for yourself.

Here are five reasons why I’m not leaving Facebook YET, followed by a few rules for my fellow rebels who stay with me.  I’m not leaving Facebook…

Because I don’t have to.

And you can’t make me.  Neener, neener, neener.  So there.

Continue reading “Why I’m Not Leaving Facebook. Yet.”

What I Learned About Martin Luther King, Jr.

For most of my life, I had been taught certain things about Martin Luther King, Jr. – specifically that he was a communist and an adulterer. Looking back, I wasn’t confident that my sources told me the truth or that those characterizations painted an honest picture of King.  

I decided to study the life of Dr. Martin Luther King for myself. As part of my study, I listened to the audiobook version of Joseph Rosenbloom’s Redemption: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Last 31 Hours. I also read one of King’s earliest biographies, Let the Trumpet Sound, by Stephen B. Oates.

In hindsight, a better choice would have been one of David Garrow’s three biographies of King. Oates’ biography is thorough enough. Questions have been raised about plagiarism in his book, but that has more to do with the “gotcha” culture of acadamia than any legitimate problem with citations in his material. Oates answers these charges here, for reference. I got the overall impression that Oates was a bit too enamored with King to tackle some of the controversy surrounding his life. Nonetheless, I am glad I read this biography since it gave me a better perspective of King’s life and legacy.

When I finished those two books, I checked out from the library two documentaries about King’s life. The better documentary came from The History Channel and featured Tom Brokaw. The footage in that film included some of the most important events in King’s life. I enjoyed watching video of the things I read about in King’s biography.  

What follows is a rundown of the things I took away from my research. I know that we have little tolerance for wordy online articles, but I hope you will “endure to the end!” Perhaps this article will help you better understand one of the truly iconic characters in American history.

He was a great man.

No man is without his flaws, and King had some glaring shortcomings. But King is worthy of honor, and I am glad to celebrate him. 

By design, some men rise above the crowd. Martin Luther King, Jr was one such man. He would have been famous and wildly successful at whatever he attempted. He was a driven man; he had tremendous talent; he had a magnetic personality. The fact that he possessed so many marks of greatness makes it all the more remarkable that he dedicated his life to the civil rights movement. King did not launch the civil rights movement. Men like W.E.B DuBois and others fought for black people’s rights for many years before MLK came along. King drew our attention to the movement, put it in the national spotlight, and forced America to take note. It was the sheer force of his personality, his presence, that caught America’s attention.

He was a brilliant man.

He entered college while still fifteen years old and earned a Ph.D. when he was twenty-five. He wrote his thesis on “A Comparison of the Conceptions of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman.” He studied nearly all the great philosophers and almost all the Great Books. He wrote at least four books in his lifetime, the first while still in his twenties. He was conversant in all the great thinkers of Western Civilization, often quoting these philosophers in his sermons. He had a grasp on the nuances of the philosophies that influence our modern era. He knew these philosophies well enough that he could discuss them at length and explain his disagreements.   

He was one of the last great orators.

It has been said that Martin Luther King was one of the last orators to use the grand style properly. I do not believe there has been a man with more natural oratorical skill since King died. 

Continue reading “What I Learned About Martin Luther King, Jr.”

Let the Healing Begin!

Spoiler alert: I don’t think Antifa was behind the assault on the U.S. Capital.  I think it was Trump supporters.  No doubt there were some bad actors there.  On the same day, January 6th, a Trump rally was held at the Utah State Capital.  At that rally, both QAnon and the Proud Boys showed up in full force.  Agitators are on the rise in our country, fueled by a growing sense of frustration and discontent. 

Caution: bad language throughout

I don’t excuse what happened, and I don’t deny it.  I think President Trump bears some of the blame; I don’t think he carries all of the blame.  I don’t think he gets a pass; I don’t give his opponents a pass.  I think we are in a real mess right now, and I don’t see relief on the horizon.

Sorry if that feels too gloomy for you.  Generally speaking, I am an optimistic person.  But in this case, we need to face reality.  We see a rising tension in our country that threatens to explode at any moment.

Immediately after the media projected Joe Biden the winner of the Presidential election, newspapers from Australia to Arizona ran the same headline, almost verbatim: “A Time to Heal”  The message was clear: a Biden presidency can bring healing to our nation.  I find it uncanny the way the news media can present the same story in almost the same words across the board.  I have often wondered whether there is a central agency that provides all the mainstream media with the verbiage for their news reports.  Perhaps if we could find that agency, we could make TV news watchable again.

The left believes that with the removal of Donald Trump, we can experience healing in our nation.  The tension in Washington is all his fault, after all.  He is a dictator, a tyrant, unhinged, a rogue, a Russian agent, Putin’s pawn.  He colluded with Russia.  He stole the 2016 election.  He is bad for democracy.  He sought a quid pro quo with Ukraine.  He is the problem.

And Joe Biden can bring healing to our land.

Continue reading “Let the Healing Begin!”

Where To?

My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace. I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war. (Psalm 120:6-7)

No Christian should rejoice at what we saw Wednesday.  No matter which side is responsible for the things that happened at our nation’s capital, whether Antifa or MAGA, we should all be concerned.  I doubt we will know the truth of the matter for a while.  We are watching our republic implode at this very moment.  And it ain’t pretty.

Continue reading “Where To?”

That Awkward Republican Posture

If thieves break into your house and steal your valuables while you are away, that’s one thing; if they back up a moving truck in the middle of the day and start loading up your furniture while you are home, that’s quite another.  In the first case, you can be excused if they get away with it.  In the second, we have to ask Clint Eastwood’s question, “You gonna do something, or just stand there and bleed?”

Some lies are so bald-faced, so audacious, that for a moment, we can’t believe it would be told. It catches us off guard. We think that it must be true because nobody would push such a blatant lie. The Presidential election of 2020 amounts to the Democrats saying, “yeah, we cheated: what are you going to do about it?”

But to make our case, we should consider the options in the aftermath of this election.  Assuming Biden won the election, he either won legitimately, or he cheated.  If he cheated, he either gets away with it, or he doesn’t.  These are our only options. 

Let’s dig in a little more.  If Biden won legitimately, then his victory should stand up to scrutiny, and he should want it to.  He has enough of a lead that a recount will put to bed any accusations of cheating.  And since he wants to be the President of all Americans, he should want to set our minds at ease that this election hasn’t been the biggest hoax in history. 

Consider something else here: if Biden’s win is legit, that makes him the most popular presidential candidate in history.  Let that sink in.  He trounced Obama’s popularity.  Joe Biden.  Gaffer-in-chief.  The man who didn’t campaign.  Who stayed home.  Who couldn’t draw a crowd of flies if he was honey. That Joe Biden.  We are being asked to believe that Joe Biden is the most popular presidential candidate in history. 

Yeah, I didn’t think so. 

If Biden cheated (and I think he did – and not just a little), he either gets away with it or he doesn’t.  And this is what we are up against.  Because, if Biden gets away with it, then that signals the end of our Republic.  We become a third-world country, and no honest candidate ever wins another Presidential election.  The Democrats become the ruling party, and the Republicans get the consolation prize in Congress – maybe. 

But of course, if Biden doesn’t get away with it, Antifa will burn down our cities, and we will likely have the start of a Civil War. Don’t tell me that hasn’t played a role in the massive leap of the stock market. Wall Street generally prefers the non-rioting option.       

Trump has been howling about this sort of cheating since Mitt Romney lost to Obama in 2012. Predictably, the media brands Trump a conspiracy nutjob for his trouble. Which is enough to convince the average American that Trump has been on to something for a while now. In Romney’s case, it was the fact that 59 voting districts in Philadelphia – representing over 19,000 votes in all – voted unanimously for Obama. Not a single vote for any other candidate. When I read PolitiFact’s explanation for this anomaly, I have to smile: “fact-checkers” found only a handful of registered Republicans in those districts, and none of them even knew they were registered as Republicans. Coincident.

Of course, that is possible.  Those few didn’t know the difference between “R” and “D,” and they liked the shape of the R – especially that nifty little tale.  But far more likely, they knew what would happen to them if they admitted to being a Republican.  Saddam Hussein usually received 99% of the vote in Iraq’s “free and fair” elections.  And who wouldn’t vote for him, when the other option is a dirt nap?  Philadelphians might have had a premonition about the consequences of a vote for anyone else but Barak when they were ushered into the polling location by thugs armed with assault rifles.  This isn’t rocket science. 

I think the Romney collapse motivated Trump to enter the fray himself. Pennsylvania was a key state in that election, just as it is now. And Romney decided to be the bigger man and concede the election. That has become the Republican way: we get to be the bigger man for a moment while we concede; after that, the Democrats get to be the bigger man for the next four years.

Meanwhile, We have this growing suspicion that the “R” in Republican no longer stands for a core set of principles, but rather for a posture – “Rolled over.”  The Republican party has been domesticated for about 30 years now – give or take a couple of months.  The elephants are tamed, and now they do tricks.  We all smile politely and applaud while they run through their routines.

Republicans do what Republicans do

And so long as this is what we do, the circus will continue.  But our Democratic counterparts are deadly serious about this business.  They know where the real power lies.  Republicans can have the Congress if they want.  That can be our consolation prize.  Because the President has the power of the bureaucracy.  And our country is now run by unelected government agencies. 

President Trump made an unforgivable mistake – in my opinion, the biggest of his Presidency. When he became President, he did not adequately clear out the State Department and the Justice Department. Obama did. Democratic Presidents routinely do. Republicans don’t. “R” for “Rolled.” 

And on that one, Trump rolled.  Too bad.  As they say, no good deed goes unpunished.  So, here we are with a scandal of all scandals, and very little we can do about it.

If Biden gets away with this, one is left to wonder what can be done in the future.  Democrats have been working on this particular election for many years.  Don’t think they will quit cheating in the future.  Why should they?

This is why I urge you if you care about liberty at all, to stand firm. We don’t have to capitulate. We aren’t required to concede, especially while there is so much suspicion surrounding this election. Our elected representatives draw strength from those who stand behind them. If we collapse now, they will surely collapse. Trump needs to know that you stand with him, that you are willing to absorb the media’s scorn to see this thing through. Please don’t forget that we waited 37 days for the Gore v. Bush election to be settled. Throughout that time, Democrats fought for their man. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, Republicans started begging Trump to capitulate almost from the start.

One meaningful way that we can stand with Trump is by supporting him financially.  Whether he needs the money or not, I cannot say.  A donation to his defense fund sends a message loud and clear: “keep fighting.”

Haiku for the UnWoke

We had a fun little haiku contest in our Rhetoric class, aiming to poke some fun at Woke professional sports, COVID-craziness, and the comedy that is 2020 in America. All while sharpening our poetic skills (in our best PC-defying voices). Here are some samples – my favorites from the class.

Feel free to jump in with your own in the comments section, if you are so inclined. Or nominate your favorite. Gratis.

NBA players
Virtue signals on their back:
Nobody watching.
Equal rights for all!
Down with the majority!
What equality!
Black lives matter, sport.
Hong Kong folks should conform;
So says Lebron James.
Bought seats to a game, 
Not a BLM rally; 
Should get a refund.
Chuckle dunderpates,
Your days will soon be over 
And no one will care.
Good-by basketball, 
Your pure young days are over; 
Now you’re CNN.
Sports once interested me, 
Until all the players started taking a knee. 
Let’s play duck-duck-goose.
Peaceful protesters 
Burning cars and murdering; 
We should salute them.
Oh beautiful for 
The spacious fields on which we 
Can no longer play.
snowflake Memes & GIFs - Imgflip

A Plea to Christians Who Won’t Vote for Trump

Dear Friend,

In the weeks leading up to the Presidential election of 2016, I found myself increasingly troubled with the choice of available candidates. In fact, I railed, fairly regularly, against both candidates. I saw it as a particular judgment of God that we had to choose between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Honestly, I thought of it as David’s choice between seven years of famine, three months of fleeing before their enemies, and three days of pestilence. Did I want to vote for arsenic or cyanide? I saw Donald Trump as ungodly, uncouth, unscrupulous, unproven, and unreliable.

I held onto a quote from Douglas Wilson in the months leading up to the election, in which he expressed my exact sentiment:

But if Trump is somehow elected, he will let down those who put him there. He has all the sturdiness of a chocolate eclair. He has the core values of a wet napkin on the counter. He has the reliability of a lost carnival balloon. He has the gravitas of Miss Piggy.

Douglas Wilson, Blog and Mablog “Recklessness on the Trumpoline”

One month before the 2016 election, I preached this to my church:

Continue reading “A Plea to Christians Who Won’t Vote for Trump”

Trump Didn’t Win the Debate; He Owned It

I wanted to get my hot-take on the debate off my chest while the topic is still hot. I get it that many of my friends are turned off by Trump’s style and bluster, and I see that many think Trump lost the debate. I want to get this out before all the talking heads start breaking things down, and you suspect that I am parroting someone else. This is my immediate opinion of the debate.

5 key takeaways from Joe Biden and Donald Trump's 1st presidential debate -  ABC News
https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/key-takeaways-joe-biden-donald-trumps-1st-presidential/story?id=73304046

From my perspective, those who want to declare a “winner” or a “loser” of the debate miss the point. Trump doesn’t live by the conventions of the modern-day politician. Trump isn’t trying to be the second coming of the Bushes or even the second coming of Ronald Reagan. In 2016, I was a Ted Cruz guy. If Cruz had conducted himself like Trump in a debate, I would agree with you all that the debate was lost. But Trump isn’t trying to live up to our expectations for his conduct or for his debating skills. We want one of the debaters to be declared a “winner,” but I don’t think that is the goal for Trump at all.

I don’t think Trump is interested in winning the debate. 

He is interested in owning the debate. And he did precisely that, from wire-to-wire. Chris Wallace might have been the moderator, but Trump controlled the debate. And both Chris Wallace and Joe Biden were forced to play his game. Like it or not, Biden was merely the backdrop for an hour and a half of the Donald Trump Show. Chris Wallace was a prop, much like the media becomes a prop for Trump day after day after day. Why do you think Trump is so combative with the media? He protests – too much, by the way, to be serious – but he loves it. 

He loves mixing it up with them because it keeps our attention on him and allows him to get his message out. 

That, I think, is the point, and Trump did it again masterfully.

If there was a loser in last night’s debate, it was Chris Wallace. Wallace clearly lost his head. But all of his peppering Trump, playing tag-team with Biden, only served Trump’s purpose. It kept the focus on Trump and allowed Trump to dominate the conversation. At times, Wallace forgot that his job was to ensure equal time for the candidates. In his determination to force Trump’s hand, he gift-wrapped the time advantage for Trump. 

At one point in tonight’s debate, Trump talked about his big rallies, and Biden leaned into the mic with a snide remark about them lasting for an hour and a half. It made me snicker. It is yet another example of how Biden, like much of the political establishment, doesn’t get it. Conventional wisdom says, “keep it short, keep it simple.” But at Trump rallies, tens of thousands of people hang on to every word of his ninety-minute harangues. They eat it up and beg for more. I haven’t seen a politician who could captivate an audience for even half an hour. Trump triples that, and people just keep coming back for more.

I have to admit that I haven’t been so entertained by a debate in my lifetime as I am by the Trump debates. When Hillary was the backdrop, it was every bit as entertaining. 

In the days of Bush and Dole and Bush and McCain and Romney, I dutifully endured the debates, wishing the moderator would have mercy on us all and cut it off early. “I think we’ve covered the same three points a dozen different ways now, so we can let you all get back to something that interests you.” But watching a Trump debate, I’m sorry to see it end. It makes me laugh out loud. And that is the genius of the thing.

I’ll be candid: I am surprised that after five years of Trump (counting the year of his first campaign), we still want to measure him by political convention. Trump defies convention. That is the whole point and the reason he generates enthusiasm like few men in history.

Last week, my son and I spent some time with a pastor friend in Carson City, Nevada. We had a great time with a young and growing church there on the edge of Lake Tahoe. 

One afternoon, my son and I and the pastor’s son drove over to Virginia City. As we drove into town, we were shocked to see motorcycles lining both sides of the road – I would estimate a thousand motorcycles. People were waving Trump flags and Trump signs, and vehicles were slowly driving up and down the street with Trump flags streaming out the windows. Since Trump was holding a rally in Pennsylvania at that same time, I knew he wasn’t planning a visit to Virginia City. Otherwise, I would have been looking for him. The enthusiasm was incredible, and Trump wasn’t anywhere near. 

These were not my people, for sure. It was a rough and rowdy crowd. And they love Trump. I’ve seen similar displays in some pretty odd places around the country this year.

Whether Trump wins or not, I think we all have to admit that we aren’t looking at a politician. Trump is more pugilist than politician. And unlike any of his Republican predecessors, the man knows how to land a punch. Love him or hate him, admire him or despise him, agree or disagree, Trump plays for keeps. For Trump, the debate is a stage, and he is the star. And when the analysts break this one down, it will be all about Trump. On those terms, even if he loses, he wins. Because the discussion is all about him.