In the News 11/17/17

Antarctica was once covered in forest, so that’s pretty cool.

Another ‘responsible gun owner’ accidentally shoots himself and wife, at church, will explaining how he would protect himself and others should someone attack the church. It is ironic, but it isn’t funny, almost like guns aren’t toys and this wanna-be hero complex might be dangerous. Hopefully, he and his wife will cover quickly.

FCC again trying to ban net neutrality. As a reminder, this means that companies like AT&T and Comcast could slow your internet down if you use things like Google or Netflix.

House passes a tax bill that along with ballooning the deficit that they supposedly care about will also repeal state and local tax deductions and limit the mortgage interest deductions.

As the article points out, “Repeals many other deductions: These include those for medical expenses, tax preparation fees, alimony payments, student loan interest and moving expenses.”

Not mentioned in the article, and just in time for National Adoption Month, the bill would also repeal tax credits that help offset adoption cost. Natalie has a good run down of why adoption is so expensive.

Hannity calls for a boycott of the sponsors that pulled their adds from his show after he should support for Roy Moore, who apparently likes underage girls.

Related, this article. The Evangelical response to Moore is going to be a huge point in our political history, I think. Then again, we screwed it up with Trump, so who knows? It has been well documented what Evangelicals thought about Bill Clinton in the 90’s and why he wasn’t fit for office. As the article points out, we’ve already given up ground on morality so that we could claim it was alright for ‘our guy’

 Between 2011 and last year, the percentage of Americans who say politicians who commit immoral acts in their private lives can still behave ethically in public office jumped to 61 percent from 44 percent, according to a Public Religion Research Institute/Brookings poll. During the same period, the shift among evangelicals was even more dramatic, moving from to 72 percent from 30 percent, the survey found.

Think about that, the number of people that basically said, ‘never mind, morality doesn’t matter’ went up almost 150%. Trump is the only reason. If we take the correct stance with Moore, maybe we can regain whatever little credibly is left of Christians to have in society.

Quickly, on Moore, he has done nothing illegal, it appears. I want to make that clear to start with, because there are people accusing him of being a molester or pedophile, and that is incorrect. The age of consent in most states, including Alabama, is 16, so the girls that he did interact with were of age. It just make him creepy and weird as man in his early 30’s dating high school girls. As a man in his early 30’s, this is really unimaginable, when I see high schoolers or even college students at church, I can’t believe how young they look. We just hired a guy in his early 20’s at work and another 30 year old and I swear we didn’t look that young. So, that is a bit repugnant and anyone violating the half plus seven rule is creepy to me.

Now, if he did have sexual contact with the 14 year old, then he is, in fact, either a child molester or statutory rapist, depending on how the law is in Alabama. Either way, if convicted (hypothetically, as the statue of limitations has run out), he would be a registered sex offender. Since he cannot be tried, you have to seriously ask yourself, do you believe that his plan was to hold this girls hand for a few years until she was old enough? To me, the answer is clearly no. So, is a potential sex offender who we want representing ‘evangelical morality’? Again, we have Trump, so what is the difference?

Two more thoughts, then I’ll wrap it up. I appreciate that a few people are at least willing to admit, that it is all still just about abortion. I disagree we should be single issue voters, especially when it means supporting a possible sex offender. I’d appreciate if some more people were even more honest and just say they only care about low taxes, drop the whole morality charade completely. That would at least be consistent.

My other, and final, thought is really more of a fisk of this quote by a Moore supporter (and Bill Clinton detractor) from the article:
“All of us have sinned and need a savior,” Floyd said.
Sadly, pastors discussing sin in public now only seem to happen when they are dismissing a sin.
“Of course, moral character is still important.
Obliviously moral character doesn’t matter, we have Trump (81% of Evangelical voters) and you are literally being interviewed about your support for someone who attempted statutory rape. 
But with Bill Clinton or Harvey Weinstein or Bill Cosby, we’re talking about something completely different.
In what way? 
You have to look at the totality of the man.
Exactly, he has a long history of dating teenage girls as a man in his 30’s. He attempted to date a girl that, had he been successful, would make him a sex offender. This is why people are saying he is unfit for office, the totality of the man. Speaking of which, he is also a man who said Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to hold public office. 
That’s why I support Judge Moore.
Why again? I missed any actual reason.
I’ve prayed with him.
Oh, sure, that’s a legit reason.
I know his heart.”
No, no you don’t. No one knows anyone’s heart. You don’t even know your own. Jeremiah 17:9
“The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?

Book Review: The Way of Hope

The Way of Hope: A Fresh Perspective on Sexual Identity, Same-Sex Marriage, and the Church

My Rating – Must Read

Level – quick, easy read; short

Summary
The book is broken into 10 chapters, each more or less representing different phases in Fisher’s life story. Mostly written as an autobiography of her life and journey from fundamentalist church, through homosexual relationships and considering a sex change operation, back to church and struggling to understand it all. Woven throughout the book are suggestions on our response as a church to same-sex marriage and identity issues, based on things she has seen go right and go wrong.

Outside of the 10 chapters that are the core of the book, there is the typical intro and then, at the end (obviously), there is an epilogue that consist of three brief interviews with her mom, her dad, and her ex-wife that are really just incredible. She ask her mom when she suspected she was gay, talks to her dad about her parent’s divorce, and discusses the pain of her own infidelities with her ex-wife.

My Thoughts
Probably the only critical thing I have to say about this book is that the subtitle is wrong. For me, there was nothing in this book that offered a ‘fresh perspective’ on any of her topics. However, her more intended audience might be more of the fundamentalist, don’t discuss sexuality type people she describes in her book that made up her church, family, and small town.

Other than that, the book is great. Her writing style is fantastic – fasted-paced and kind of erratic, funny, and very open and honest. While she does quote quite a bit of scripture and state clearly that homosexual activity is wrong, that isn’t really the point of the book. She isn’t trying to convince anyone to change or offering a theological and biblical defense of the viewpoint from scripture. With the book being mostly about her mixed with her personal writing style, you, instead, feel like to get to know her.

Even more importantly, you get to understand where she is coming from, and, to the extent you can, what she went through. I think this is really the strength of the book. Proximity to issues changes your view, or at least your reaction to them. Extremely conservative Christians in rural areas or small towns, might not have many opportunities to engage with gay people. So, it is easier to ostracize, from a distance. The way she writes this book, someone could read it and start to feel that proximity. Someone could put a face on an issue and at least try to understand.

It is easy to just say, being gay is wrong, and you should chose that. Reading her story (or hearing someone else’s), you see it isn’t that simple. I hope that more people that have that view will read it and see the struggle that gay Christians have. That instead of judging and condemning, we need to love them and help (if we can) them in their struggle.

Finally, those last three interviews at the end were just crazy to me. Obviously, her mom was one of the those people who would rather cut off contact with a gay daughter, but they have since reconciled. Her ex-wife has also made it back into a church, one connected with the one fisher attends. The interviews alone make this book worth the price, add in the personal tone of her spiritual and emotional journey and changes and this is definitely a must read book.

Payday Lending and the Church

A week or so ago, the small group I lead watched this video at the suggestion of some of the pastors at my church. I had planned to write a little more about it, but haven’t really found the time. This is an industry that preys on people’s poverty and need, and there is a lot of hesitancy to do things to regulate it, mostly because so many politicians have been bought off by the industry.

I especially appreciate the irony of the one Texas city councilmen who said he wished the Federal government would do something (as his excuse for doing nothing).  I figured saying the Federals should tell local cities how to run things would get you kicked out of the Republican Party in Texas.

Another difficulty seems to be that there aren’t great solutions. There are many other issues associated with poverty and emergencies and other reasons people may need more or lack access to traditional credit. I like the attempt here, to cap how much you can take from people and to require more transparency.

I was very happy to see some churches taking the lead in helping to care for the poor. For one, we are literally told to do this in the Bible. Not just the ‘love your neighbor’ type Gospel message, but there is much in the Old Testament, especially the Prophets about fair treatment and wages for the poor. Also, this issue of high interest rates has been something the church has been against for at least 500 years. Both Martin Luther and John Calvin wrote about the problems of high interest rates. Luther called people who take advantage of those in need through high rates as bad as the worst people on earth. Calvin considered the maximum allowable rate to be around 6% (while debatable, the 400% or so payday and title lenders charge now is clearly wrong.)

Check out the video (just over 30 minutes and pretty well done) and go look into rule in your state. See if there is something you can do to curb the abuse.

Texas Church Shooting

As always, we wonder if there was any way to prevent this.

Once again, we have a mass shooting in this country. Unsurprisingly, Trump calls this a mental health issue.  Of course, earlier this year, he signed a bill into law that rolled back Obama-era regulations that made it harder for people with mental health issues to purchase guns. If we needed extreme vetting after the NYC attack, does this mean we will have extreme focus on mental health care in this country now? Some sort of ‘extreme’ funding for social services.

I don’t really know what to say. I saw on the news this morning that there was a memorial in Atl yesterday for the Las Vegas shooting. So, we didn’t even have time between the largest mass shooting in modern history and the memorial before another mass shooting. I’m not a very emotional guy, but I feel like crying watching the news stories. Mostly because nothing will happen. Some think that if we can’t talk about gun control now, we never will; but I’m not convinced. I think the ultimate nail in the coffin was 20 first graders being murdered, along with seven others (and the shooter). Just think about that over and over again. There were 20 first graders shot one morning. As a country we did absolutely nothing. If anything, by some accounts, gun control was weakened since then.

It was only 10 years ago that we thought we’d hit an unsurpassable number of 33 at Virginia Tech. We easily passed that just a year ago in Orlando, then set a new record just last month in Vegas. So, two of the five deadliest in modern history have happened over the past 35 days. I was in high school when Columbine happened, and that was a big deal then. I’m sure people thought the same thing, that if we couldn’t talk about it now…. Of course now, Columbine doesn’t even rank in the top 10 deadliest shootings anymore. If you sort that table by year, you’ll see that 12 double digit body count mass shootings have occurred since then.

I have no hope that anything will change. The NRA has an inexplicable amount of power over congress. If you wanted to be very generous and say that some of the congress members who blame mental health aren’t lying through there teeth, still nothing will change, because none of them are proposing to fund mental health counseling in this country or even adequate social services. As always, Christians remain silent and useless. We don’t want to step on anyone’s ‘rights’ regardless of the body count. I guess every couple of months they’ll be a mass shooting with 20 plus dead and we all sit around with our thumbs up our asses and wonder how we could prevent this.