April 9, 2009
Observing that the momentum of the current political climate is resulting in a greater secularization of the American mind, I suspect that the numbers presented in this ARIS report will likely increase in the next five years. As Christian doctors continue to have their right of conscience threatened, as institutions like Notre Dame make an impractical distinction between the office of President and his ideology, and as common, every day believers hand over their religious freedom of expression for a mythical notion of neutral language and practice, I think we will see these numbers increase throughout the country. But this is not the end of Christianity and God is not dead. America may no longer be easily identified as a “Christian nation,” but the work of the church has not ceased.
American Christians do not really know what it means to be persecuted. Yet on a relative scale, I do believe that the infractions against conservative religious voices will motivate an uprising of American Christians willing to challenge the rising tide of intolerance. The question for Christian conservatives is, are we willing to work harder AND smarter to impact individual’s lives that will ultimately have an impact on the overall worldview of our society? In theory, we are all willing, but are we willing to stake our lives and reputation on an explicit expression of the Christian worldview? Perhaps we can even take some responsibility for the problem of secularization for preferring a godless conservative language and approach over that which is consistently and unabashedly Christian. That is not a battle between the conservative vs. the secular, but the Christian vs the secular.
November 11, 2008
"Morality doesn't come from religion. It's a set of values embraced by individuals and society based on empathy, fairness, and experience."
Competing against God would no doubt make an individual or organization insecure, necessitating the launch of a campaign aimed at desensitizing the voting public against the existence of God. Apart from their inability to account for objective good, they clearly are inconsistent in application of tolerance. A pluralistic public square is indeed what we have, and in a democratic society the predominant beliefs of the people are going to have the greatest impact. So organizations like the American Humanist Association go all, poisoning the well against theistic perspectives on public issues.
But to the heart of this advertising, it's no surprise that they would try to argue for goodness without God. As part of how man was created, he can have a sense of right and wrong, good and evil. But he'll certainly struggle giving an account for the right and the good in absolute terms. Humanism leaves us in the mire of relativism, with numerous interpretations of the right and the good.
As we move into the new administration in 2009, we will undoubtedly encounter more efforts to promote humanistic ideals at the expense of policies that protect human life and promote human dignity. Resulting from this will be more confidence for the anti-theistic verbiage. Clearly we're in for a rough ride, but certainly not a without an aggressive response.
July 22, 2008
On NARAL.org, it states: "If you are facing an unintended pregnancy, it is important that you talk about your feelings and emotions with someone you trust, be that a family member, a close friend or a member of the clergy. It is also important that you consult a health care professional to discuss your options."
Did you catch that? You can talk about your feelings and emotions with your clergy--not the truth, but your feelings and emotions. The role of clergy in this circumstance is purely therapeutic where the role of the health care professional is about the facts, the "options." This fact/feeling divide is grounded in assumptions about the nature of religion, that it has nothing to contribute to the decision at hand. By relegating religious leaders to the domain of emotions, it deems them irrelevant to any discussion related to the fate of the pregnant woman and the unborn child. As well, it assumes that abortion is primarily a medical decision and that there are no spiritual dimensions to the situation. They have determined, as an organization focused on "health care," that philosophical/theological reflection has no place in discussing "the options."
It also needs to be pointed out that they believe in the myth of the purely secular, that they and abortion providers have no worldview commitments.
So you're wondering why this is news. It isn't to me, but for some, it needs to be clarified that the worldview being expressed here has a view of religion as fiction, or something created by culture. For them, life begins only at birth because that is when a person begins to be enculturated. The meaning of life isn't found in anything metaphysical, but in the influence of culture who has created meaning for itself. Until birth, there is no meaning, rendering preborn life meaningless.
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T
June 3, 2008
Showing the contrast between the historic Christian faith and the secular-friendly spiritualities of today’s world may not go over well with friends and neighbors. In fact, there are many women within the walls of the church who are attracted to the latest wave of talk-show religiosity. These age-old heresies in celebrity attire have a heart-hold on women everywhere, revealing an urgent need for apologetics--a defense of the faith--in women’s ministry.
In the Oprah-endorsed book “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle, truth is redefined as you. Forget that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, or that there are facts about God, life and reality that we can be certain about. All of this is tossed out for the sake of you. Tolle writes:
The Truth is inseparable from who you are. Yes, you are the Truth…Jesus tried to convey that when he said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” These words uttered by Jesus are one of the most powerful and direct pointers to the Truth, if understood correctly. If misinterpreted, however, they become a great obstacle. Jesus speaks of the innermost I am, the essence identity of every man and woman, every life-form, in fact. (p. 71)
This section from “The New Earth” is laden with difficulties. If truth cannot be found in words, but is self-contained in the knower (that’s you), then Scripture has no meaning and there has been no self-disclosure from the God of Scripture. This is a direct assault on the authority of Scripture and the Christian worldview, dangerous to anyone who subjects their mind to this way of thinking. There are eternal ramifications. As well, if there is no truth to be found in words, Tolle has no truth to impart on the matter. The self-refuting nature of his argument is glaring.
The authority of Scripture is only one of Tolle’s challenges to orthodox Christianity. It cannot be suggested that every person, “every life-form,” is the way, and the truth and the life, without holding that these are all God. This is a teaching called pantheism and is a common teaching of Eastern religions, as Tolle himself explains in this book. God cannot be identified with the Universe or the created order as God is the creator of all things.
The search for truth is, I believe, the result of the search for meaning and significance. As women gravitate to the spiritual gurus of self-helpianity trying to get a handle on their place in this world, they need to know that Truth exists and is found in the person and work of Jesus. Someone needs to be ready to give an answer, the only way to peace and contentment is through knowing the God of all creation. The meaning of life is found in Christ. WFC
February 24, 2008
I never cared to read Obama’s Audacity of Hope, but I recommend you do as it is helpful in understanding the nature of his political aspirations.
Negative Campaigning & Partisan Politics
For those of you fearful of being accused of “negative” or unnecessary “partisan politics,” check this out. Obama hopes that the weight of such accusations are stronger than your own convictions. He writes,
Perhaps my greatest bit of good fortune during my own Senate campaign was that no candidate ran a negative TV ad about me. This had to do with the odd circumstances of my Senate race, and not an absence of material with which to work. After all, I had been in the state legislature for seven years, and had cast thousands of sometimes difficult votes.” (chapter 4, page 132)
This “good fortune” is unfortunate, but seems to be continuing.
One of the messages we hear from Obama is that the focus on what divides conservatives and liberals are really small and incidental issues, and that they should be abandoned for the sake of unity. The notion that taking a firm stand on conservative convictions amounts to nothing more than partisan politics is condescending and philosophically fraudulent because it seems that the issues he thinks ought to be abandoned are those that typify conservatism—I don’t see any concessions coming from him.
Obama’s Postmodern View of Truth
A look at his childhood reveals how he has come to understand truth, and that his political views are really an extension of his religious views, thus his religious beliefs are clearly being communicated in the public square. Speaking of his mother, he says that
In her mind, a working knowledge of the world’s great religions was a necessary part of any well-rounded education. (p. 203)
She’s not entirely wrong, but to what end does this knowledge serve in her mind? We should understand the teachings of other religions, but not embrace them all as equally valid.
In our household, the Bible, the Koran, and the Bhagavad Gita sat on the shelf alongside books of Greek and Norse and African mythology. On Easter or Christmas day, my mother might drag me to church, just as she dragged me to the Buddhist temple, the Chinese New Year celebration, the Shinto shrine, and the ancient Hawaiian burial sites. But I was made to understand that such religious samplings required no sustained commitment on my part…Religion was an expression of human culture, she would explain, not its wellspring, just one of the many ways…(p. 204)
And yet for all her professed secularism, my mother was in many ways the most spiritually awakened person that I’ve ever known. She had an unswerving instinct for kindness, charity, and love, and spent much of her life acting on that instinct…Without the help of religious texts…she worked mightily to instill in me the values that many Americans learn in Sunday school; honesty empathy, discipline, delayed gratification, and hard work. She raged at poverty and injustice, and scorned those who were indifferent to both. (p. 205)Christianity is not just about values, nor is it about “personal values,” it is about ultimate truth. This obviously escapes him as he clearly emulates this state of “spiritually awakened” he attributes to his mother. Kindness, honesty, and hard work values that can be seen in the day-to-day life of an atheist. These behaviors should be seen in all believers (fruit), but the presence of these does not make one a Christian.
But it was my mother’s fundamental faith—in the goodness of people and the ultimate value of this brief life we’ve each been given—that channeled those ambitions. (p. 206)
Obama knows that this sort of religiosity is empty as he states that the dilemma his mother faced was passed on to him—that he had “no community or shared traditions in which to ground [his] most deeply held beliefs.” But Obama never really convinces himself—or me—that he has fully embraced orthodox Christianity. I’m not suggesting that he might not be a believer (nor am I suggesting that he is), but he offers several statements that suggest his system of belief outright rejects the historic Christian faith.
Almost by definition, faith and reason operate in different domains and involved different paths to discerning truth. Reason—and science—involves the accumulation of knowledge based on realities that we can all apprehend. Religion, by contrast is based on truths that are not provable through ordinary human understanding—the ‘belief in things not seen.’ When science teachers insist on keeping creationism or intelligent design out of their classrooms, they are not asserting that scientific knowledge is superior to religious insight. They are simply insisting that each path to knowledge involves different rules and that those rules are not interchangeable. (p. 219)This is almost unfair to Obama because the flaws here are so many and so obvious. His argument suggests that science doesn’t start with presuppositions or pre-understanding. The truth is, science does not operate in a vacuum, outside of the influence of personal bias—and brute facts simply do not exist. Obama’s political philosophy is clearly seen in this statement as he falls into a Rawlsian trap, that moral assertions in the public square can never be grounded in religious reasons because of the pluralistic nature of our society. For religious reasons to have a bearing in the public square is to infringe on the freedom of nonreligious persons according to Rawls. This is where secularism gets some of its philosophical footing, as if it is religiously neutral, as if it is even possible for any idea or philosophy to be religiously neutral. Religious neutrality is a myth and reasons asserted by anyone in the public sphere eventually find their way back to a religion or worldview.
Another statement that impugns Obama on his claim to Christianity is his postmodern hermeneutic that pits certain passages of Scripture against others. It’s reminiscent of a feminist hermeneutic in that he is filtering the biblical text through his experience. Pitting verse against verse, he states,
I am not willing to have the state deny American citizens a civil union…nor am I willing to accept a reading of the Bible that considers an obscure line in Romans to be more defining of Christianity than the Sermon on the Mount. (p. 222)
Its unclear how he determines that the Romans passage is “obscure” or how the Sermon of the Mount is to be understood in isolation of Romans or any other area of Scripture. But it is clear that Obama, despite his great spiritual notoriety, is no theologian.
Finally, Obama’s view of Scripture is best understood in his own words.
When I read the Bible, I do so with the belief that it is not a static text but the Living Word and that I must be continually open to new revelations… (p. 224)
This statement is clearly problematic. While we may refer to Jesus as the Living Word, we must accept the Scriptures as unchanging in meaning and intent, though we as fallible humans may not always understand what read. We cannot confuse our inability to always discern the meaning of the text with God revealing new meanings unrelated to the text. The Bible was written by men in time and space with specific messages, not with ambiguous and every-changing purposes. To be generous, it’s unclear exactly how far Obama wants to take his method of interpreting Scripture, but it is safe to say that he has kept the door open for interpreting Scripture according to experience. His is a faith of values and experience, not of knowledge.
The hype over Obama in the last year has been about nothing—literally. His campaign could be an episode of Seinfeld. He’s gone to great lengths to be not only the candidate of change, but the candidate of charisma….so shallow that it might actually work to win the general election. This is more of an indictment on the American voters than it is on Obama, unfortunately. But realize that he is equally a product of this shallow society. What are the dangers for America if he is to become the most powerful leader in the world? An increase in access to birth control, fewer parental rights, tighter restrictions on religious expression, higher taxes, naïve foreign relations that put America at risk……
February 7, 2008
One of the speakers was Arab American News publisher, Osama Siblani, who spoke on "Church & State: Freedom of Religion." One of Siblani's claims stated that of the many presidential candidates, many are bringing religion to the forefront of many issues and using it as a tool to sway voters.
He also stated that after September 11, religion was suddenly thrown back into politics...I don't believe we are practicing separation of church and state; I believe we are witnessing the abuse of religion in politics.
He may actually have a point. I've seen more religious activity coming from the left than ever before-because they know that there is a religious left that they need to address. There has been more "God-speak" on the left than on the right, primarily because each side is held to different standards, but that's a topc for another day.
It is, however, unclear what Siblani's point is...if he is talking about everyone or if is making the charges commonly asserted against the Christian right. Whatever he means, he has opened the door to hypocrisy. Take note of what else was reported about what he had to say:
Siblani went on to discuss the diversity of religion that exists in the U.S., stating, 'We need to use it as a tool to reach out to those around us. Islam should be used in th US as an asset, a way to build bridges with the rest of the world.'This comment leads me to believe that he is well-aligned with the religious/political left of the US that asserts faith as a matter of political expediency, not as a matter of truth. This reveals a level of blatant hypocrisy that is permissible in our culture. It seems that, with diversity held as the highest value, that the concern isn't really about the separation of church and state. It is a movement to separate Christianity and its influence from the public square.
October 25, 2007
As I was riding on the train today, I was (of course) thinking about how secularism is both the result and the cause of fragmented thinking and why it is that some choose separate one's values from the realm of truth and reason. In article in Harvard's Under-Current, a student writer proposes that "[w]hen a person attempts to use both eyes simultaneously to reach a decision on a particular issue, he discovers that the two eyes often see things differently. Ultimately, he either follows God—a feeling for which he has no evidence—or he follows reason. No other alternative is possible." This is the typical view had among secular thinkers, a view to which Christians could provide a more explicit response. To reduce belief in God to a feeling reveals the assumptions made about religious belief by this writer.
As a Reformed presuppositionalist, I get it. Faith is a gift from God, unbelieving man suppresses the truth in unrighteousness, the natural man does not understand the things of the Spirit, and so on. The secularist who hasn't had an encounter with God doesn't yet understand how faith and reason are not incompatible. I believe that this is part of our ministry to them, responding to the negative assumption that faith and reason are foes, and responding positively by establishing their necessarily correlation. Conversations with my 14 year old reveal the priority of this dialogue for all believers, not just academics. He asks about the veracity of Scripture, how we know God exists, the relationship between science and faith, etc. And as we discuss these matters, he's hard-pressed to respond to the arguments that (1) because God exists it's not unreasonable to believe that he would communicate to us through the Scriptures and (2) that by subjecting God to our own authority we are placing ourselves in a higher place than God.
September 20, 2007
to provide information on how the incorporation of religious views into secular policy and law is limiting medical services.The issue of the RCRC is that certain views, what they term fundamentalist biblical values, are having a real influence on the American people and the public square. People everywhere get that abortion and legislation that undermines or infringes upon parental discretion or the conscious of pharmacists is bad. So instead of letting the people hear and be persuaded by prolife groups, the RCRC is doing two things: undermining the credibility of prolifers who appeal to scientific truths, and promoting a secular agenda such that even if they could not undermine their science, they could silence them on the basis of their religious motivations.
The report goes on to assert that the views of the "medical right" contradict "accepted medical consensus" and that to the degree in which they have influence should be cause for concern, especially to those who "value scientific integrity."
Equally disturbing is the disregard of the principle of the separation of church and state in the drive to impose sectarian religious tenets on people of all faiths and beliefs. In sum, the Medical Right threatens basic democratic values by its determination to impose its theological views on a religiously pluralistic public.So who decides? This so-called "religious coalition" is foolish if they really believe secularism can speak for everyone and protect the rights of everyone. Secularism may not have it's own divinely inspired book (outside of the secular humanist journals) and a higher power (outside of each individual, that is) to which they appeal for truth, but secularism is, nevertheless, a worldview with it's own set of presuppositions and values. In this case, secularists such as those of the RCRC believe that preborn life is not life, or (to be slightly generous) they believe it's less valuable than older, more mature life.
Also interesting to me about this organization's views about religious perspectives is that they fall into the postmodern quagmire of nothing being true. For them, the highest value is inclusivism at the expense of truth and religious perspectives, including any that they hold including their perspective on secularism, are just their own personal values that cannot be true for everyone. So in a pluralistic, yet democratic society, who decides anything? The last I knew, "we the people" have something to say, so the only way to influence "we the people" against fundamentalist biblical values is to silence the medical right with the doctrine of secularism, slamming them up against the wall of separation - or so to speak.
September 19, 2007
I thought it would be fun to look at the definition. It must have been written by a liberal....note the reference to the elephant. But anyway, who made the list?
1. American Academy of Medical Ethics
2. American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists
3. American College of Pediatricians
4. Americans United for Life
5. Association of American Physicians and Surgeons
6. Care Net
7. Catholic Medical Association
8. Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity
9. Christian Medical and Dental Society
10. Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer
11. Concerned Women for America
12. Elliot Institute
13. Focus on the Family
14. Medical Institute for Sexual Health
15. National Association for Prolife Nurses
16. National Right to Life
17. Pharmacists for Life International
18. Pregnancy Centers Online
19. Pro-Life Maternal-Fetal Medicine
I'm only sorry I'm not visible enough to have made the list.
Note the introductory material....if you're listed here, you're "controlling the 'facts' of the Medical Right." This document is made available as a resource of the Religious Coalition of Reproductive Choice. Consider it free publicity, your donors will love it.
September 18, 2007
A report written by Marjorie Brahms Signer, the communications and policy director of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, spends countless pages showing the interconnectedness of organizations and coalitions like The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, Americans United for Life, The Christian Medical and Dental Association, Family Research Council, Do No Harm, etc. I'm left asking, so what? I know you're curious now, read the whole report here.
This report is fundamentally a list of unsubstantiated assertions about what Christian prolife conservatives think about human life and dignity and what they (supposedly) don't understand about science.
From the Foreword:
As we researched the organizations and individuals in this religion-politics-medicine network, a pattern became clear: science and medicine are being purposely used to provide a convincing rationale for political activities that appeal to Religious Right constituencies.The charge of politicizing the issue does nothing more than fuel ignorance on their own side because until the lives of every person at every stage are safe from experimentation and extermination, this is and should be political. Of course, it need not be a Democrat vs. Republican debate, but pick a side and be a liberal or a conservative. But I do find the above quote curious in that networking is a very smart thing to do, and if science and medicine were on your side, wouldn't you also "purposely use it?" What is unstated in the above quote, of course, is the belief that science and medicine are not on the side of the Medical or Religious Right. This becomes all too clear as Signer's position in the remainder of the report.
More soon: The Executive Summary
The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice brings the moral power of religious communities to ensure reproductive choice through education and advocacy. The Coalition seeks to give clear voice to the reproductive issues of people of color, those living in poverty, and other underserved populations.Rational; theologically diverse; safe, legal, abortion services.......these all seem to be very warm, welcoming terms, everything a good public relations strategy would encompass. Smart, pluralistic, safe, and legal do not look beyond the abortion debate, they ignore it.
While our member organizations are religiously and theologically diverse, they are unified in the commitment to preserve reproductive choice as a basic part of religious liberty.
Our rational, healing perspective looks beyond the bitter abortion debate to seek solutions to pressing problems such as unintended pregnancy, the spread of HIV/AIDS, inadequate health care and health insurance, and the severe reduction in reproductive health care services. We support access to sex education, family planning and contraception, affordable child care and health care, and adoption services as well as safe, legal, abortion services, regardless of income.
The RCRC statement on ESCR is lacking some serious content. Perhaps the organization is uninformed about the process of SCNT and the desire for proponets of ESCR to clone embryos for research. And if they are uninformed about SCNT (I doubt it), it's time for them to learn why bioethicists like myself are concerned not only for human life and dignity in all stages, but also for the young women who are being exploited by the pursuit of their eggs. It is difficult to believe that the best interests of young women are really the highest concern of pro-Roe activists. Willful disregard for the health and respect of young women is a prerequisite to the pursuit of ESCR.
But what about this "moral power of religious communities" ?? I'm not exactly sure what it means. It seems to suggest that a certain degree of influence in the area of reproductive choice on the part of this pluralistic religious community is something to be recognized and engaged. Is that really any different from the "moral power" leveraged by prolife conservatives? I don't think so.
September 17, 2007
The article I am referencing in this post is just a lot of the same bad arguments that are usually lobbed at the prolife community. How I wish for something new.
Here is the essence of the article at Talk2Action and the 80 page document by the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice:
Religion comes into the equation because the Medical Right operates from a generally unstated, implicit and unwavering biblical worldview and intends to enact its version of Biblical values into law. The “sanctity of human life” is Religious Right Speak for the Medical Right non-medical definition of the beginning of life.Once again we are seeing people with a particular worldview, and in this case an obvious liberal bias, suggesting that only conservative Christians have a worldview. As soon as anyone begins to make statements about when life begins - or when it doesn't - they are engaging in a metaphysical dialogue that really goes beyond science. But at the same time, we know that at the earliest stages of development that an embryo is indeed a human life. ESC researchers don't ask for dead dog embryonic stem cells to study....they want living human embryos.
More to come.
August 8, 2007
It isn’t just that secularism prefers that you believe certain things about pluralism and politics, secularism just doesn’t want your life to have any meaning. I don’t mean that they, secularists, don’t want you to feel as if you have no purpose in life, but that is really the logical outcome of this way of looking at the world. I have a habit of not making mention of some of my thoughts as I formulate my commentary on a variety of subjects, secularism is no exception, so please bear with me on this.
The secular worldview in its embrace of religious pluralism and rejection of absolutes and of religious involvement in the public square is ultimately asking you to live a life that lacks coherence. What the heck does that mean? For secularism to retain it’s stronghold over the religiously wimpy, it must persuade them that religion can function in isolation of other important areas of life and it can’t possibly inform these other areas – because religion shouldn’t inform these areas. For example, when speaking of women’s reproductive rights, Christians with a conservative point of view can’t possibly contribute anything to the discussion because their point of view is in disagreement with the liberal slant. Now obviously, not all religious views are hostile to the pro-choice perspective, but prominent secular humanists would prefer that they not speak up, even to affirm the prochoice political agenda.
One thing I’ve always felt a need to address is the charge that evangelicals politicize issues, essentially by voicing their disagreement. As wonderful as consensus would be, that’s not the world we live in. Disagreements are based generally on differing worldviews, and these disagreements are nothing less than genuine. To avoid public discussion and debate over these disagreements (such as women’s reproductive rights) is like going to war without a weapon. No one in their right mind would do that, neither should we. The charge that we are guilty of merely politicizing a given issue is smoke and mirrors and is self-referentially incoherent. If acting with the same illogical incoherence, the charge could be deflected back. The point is, many matters of disagreement are worth the debate, no prolifer is interested in debating just to make the other person look bad, there is meaning and purpose in the cause. And why does politics have to be a bad word?
But I digress. Secularism depends upon individuals putting their worldview in their back pocket, and they are hoping you are just stupid enough to try it (I say try, cuz it really can’t be done.) The Christian worldview can and will continue to inform our approach on a variety of issues, and it will continue to be a force in the public square. Just how strong of a force is the question.
July 12, 2007
Koehler describes himself neither as a believer or unbeliever; to introduce a more interesting term, he prefers to call himself a trans-believer. This is someone he describes as more than tolerant of diversity, but rather someone who relishes it. For him, salvation does not rest in the power of a transcendent higher authority, salvation is when everyone in the world has a full appreciation, a genuine embrace of everyone's views of ultimate reality. And for this world to exist, Koehler states that "we need a world where church is separate from state." He actually believes that the "public side of the wall' protects the interests of the private sector.
I grow weary of the constant berating of evangelicalism because of it's commitment to absolutes and its desire to transform culture. Secularists like Koehler have been working hard for a long time to "release God" by embracing every possible view of a higher power that exists, obviously seeking to transform culture as well. He views this ecumenism as the highest value of a free society, I call it his right to believe whatever he wants. But popular editorial writing will not muster the critique of basic logic....developing dogma to undo dogma just doesn't make much sense. Secularism is trying to win what seems to be a turf war on values (and the ability to account for them)....and I'm just not sure that the whining is an ample defense for their worldview.