Metal Friday

Metal Fridays is up a little late because I forgot again. I dipped out of work early, went to the gym and then home to play video games. I had all the intentions of putting on up real quick. I was reminded when I turned pandora on.

So this song is a few years old, but it is from the band Oh, Sleeper and come from their latest CD ‘Children of Fire.’ The song is called ‘Endseekers’ and appears to be one their only produced videos. Enjoy:

 

In the News

In uncertain things, liberty; in everything, compassion: Her.Meneutics says we can agree to disagree on Ordination of Women; while the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests says the newly revealed Frescos of the Catacombs of Priscilla show female priest.

This is a topic I am admittedly unsure of. One the one hand the original Greek is pretty clear (though, even that is disputed) to me, but on the other hand I’m a big believer in trying to understand the text in the original meaning (also disputed).

In my mind, I do differentiate between preaching and authority. I don’t find as much evidence to disallow female preachers as I do not permitting them to become Elders or have ruling authority. Maybe I’ll try to go into further detail in a later post.

Speaking of controversial: The United Methodist Church found Frank Schaefer guilty of officiating a same-sex wedding; which isn’t surprising as he never denied it. Along with a suspension of 30 days he was told that if he cannot up hold the Book of Discipline he would need to surrender his credentials. It will be interesting to see his actions in the future as he as stated he is not a LGBT advocate. Church members interviewed were torn on the reverend.

One seems worse than the other: One is your reminder that it is truly criminal to be a Christian in some parts of the world. Please pray for our brothers and sisters around the world.

The other is your reminder that some people either don’t like Christians or like messing with them. I really do not think this is an issue we should get worked up about. They quote the pastor who found/tweeted the incident as wondering if Costco would do this to a Koran. My guess would be no, because they probably don’t sell Korans.

And some people really dislike Christians and have made a living messing with them: Bill Maher is right here, there aren’t atheist marching in the streets to attach Christians and Christmas in the US can barely be considered a religious holiday considering what it has become.

 

Christians and the ACA Continued

Last week I had a post up about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and specifically whether or not pastors should be speaking about it. That post ran long, so this is basically part 2.

I’ll be up front and state that I support the ACA. I don’t think it is a great law, especially with all the exemptions, and I fear it will be implemented poorly, but I have to support the idea behind it. If anything, I think the law doesn’t go far enough. I’d have preferred a true universal single payer system. I am fairly alone in the Evangelical community in my support for this. A lot of people have doubts and concerns about it, and I think that’s fair, but I’m not sure their criticism is based on the Bible.

Not the Government’s Job

From the article:

Wages says the Bible teaches that the care of orphans, widows and the sick are given to the church, not to the government. Early Christians were the first to create hospitals, orphanages and hospices.

“I have an issue with the government coming in to get money through me – through taxes – to take care of people, when my argument is that I should be free to give to charities or to my church in order to take care of the sick and destitute,” he says.

Wages says he has no doubt that lack of health insurance is a monumental problem, and that many people are poor because of circumstances beyond their control. Yet there is no New Testament example of Jesus trying to shape public policy on behalf of the poor.

“I do not see any biblical precedent where Jesus ever went to Herod or Pilate and said you should be taking care of the poor,” Wages says. “Jesus told his disciples to take care of the poor and the apostles said the same thing to the early church.”

This is probably the most common line I hear about why we shouldn’t support healthcare for the poor. It’s not the government’s job, it’s the churches.

Frist, does the Bible prohibit the government providing healthcare? No. We are simply told to take care of them. Where the Bible is silent, we should remain silent. Forget the long laundry list of things that would be prohibited due to not being mentioned in the Bible, we’d also be required to be against Medicare and Medicaid, and I’ve never heard those arguments before.

Second, the writers of the Bible couldn’t have imagined the power Christians would have today. The early Christians were an upstart maligned sect of a minority religion who weren’t considered citizens of an empire ruled by a Caesar. This is why we don’t have Jesus arguing for public policy. Forget for a moment that modern medicine didn’t exist 2,000 years ago, but try to figure how such a small powerless group could have even gone about making the change to have care provided from the empire. Today, however, the President puts his hand on the Bible to be sworn in. The congress opens its sessions with a prayer. The majorities of Americans attend a Christian church and believe in God. We have to read the Bible in the context it was written and realize we have far more power to do far more good than Paul could have fathomed.

Third, while early Christians were very active in care, we modern ones have failed. I’ve seen multiple new hospitals and urgent care centers built in the general area where I live. None have them been Christian based. Old city centers are filled with Frist Pres and Methodist General, but even with all the new urgent cares that pop up in old shopping centers over the past 5 years, I’ve never seen a Baptist Urgent Medicine. But you hear this all the time, Christians should care for the sick and needy, but we just don’t. There probably isn’t a financially feasible way to care for all the uninsured, but that is moot as there certainly isn’t the will.

Finally, related to the last two points, how much do you give? We hear the common line of leave it to charity, but how much do people who express this actually give? I certainly don’t give extra money to some Christian charity that helps with peoples’ healthcare, I’ve never even heard of one. My guess is that most people aren’t out giving more than to their church and that very few volunteer to provide free medical services. My understanding of the ACA is that unless you are extremely rich or frequent tanning beds, you will not pay extra ‘through taxes’ to help provide people with insurance. If your taxes do go up, you always have the opportunity to gain charitable deduction by giving away more money to organizations that care for the poor.

God’s concern for the poor

Wages’ position is impractical and unbiblical, says Ronald Sider, a longtime advocate for the poor and author of “The Scandal of Evangelical Politics.”

Churches and charities don’t have enough resources to take care of an estimated 48 million Americans who don’t have health care. The Bible is filled with examples of God’s fury over economic oppression of the poor, which Christians should regard as scandalous, he says.

“If you are not sharing God’s concern for the poor, it raises huge questions about whether you are a Christian at all,” he says about pastors who say nothing about the uninsured poor.

“As God’s spokespersons, you ought to be talking about God’s concern for the poor as much as God. In the richest nation in world history, it’s contradictory to have millions without health insurance.”

While I think it is too harsh and a jump to judgment to say someone isn’t a Christian, I agree with the rest of the sentiment. Again, maybe there are a lot of Evangelicals out there that care, but there just are not very many who show it. We are called to go the other mile and to give someone our jacket and I like people believe that, but when it is time to step up we get this:

“Government programs sometimes encourage dependency, unintentionally break down family structures, and become unsustainable financially,” Moore says.

This is probably true, but not to the extent that some people fear. My question is, so what? Christ didn’t ask us to determine how much someone needs and then to provide only that; he didn’t command us to judge how worthy they were of assistance; and there is certainly no mention of the question of why the person is in need.

Final Thought

I think this quote perfectly summarizes the American Evangelical Christianity:

… a memorable quote from the late Brazilian Roman Catholic Bishop Dom Helder Camara, who said: “When I feed the poor they call me a saint. When I ask why so many people are poor they call me a communist.”

Metal Friday

I came up with this idea two weeks ago and already missed a week. So it’s back, I’ll try to do better next time.

Today’s band is Emery, probably one of my favorite all time band for over 10 years. They are more on the post-hardcore side of things, which is probably my favorite style; but ‘Post-Hardcore Friday’ just doesn’t have the same ring to it. . This is ‘Walls’ from their first CD “The Weak’s End“. Early on, the top comment on their video was, “When did Jason Batemen start a Screamo band”, I thought that was hilarious. Enjoy:

In the News

Probably not getting enough attention right now: Evangelicals still hopeful for immigration reform despite Speaker Boehner’s announcement yesterday.

For the win: Pope Francis won the internet.

‘Tis the Season: The Archbishop of Canterbury reminds us to be mindful of rampant consumerism this Christmas.

Pastors’ Kids: A new study from Barna says that while only 7% of pastors’ kids are not Christians (9% for Millennials), 33% percent are no longer active in church. The article did not state whether this was in line with Millenials or not. Reasons stated for these kids leaving included unrealistic expectations of the children and a failure for them to make religion their own. Somewhat unsurprisingly, Evangelicals where more likely than mainline to still be involved.

Another reminder: There are worse things than Target calling it a holiday tree.

Christians and the ACA

There was a great article up last Friday over at the Belief Blog that touched on the Affordable Care Act’s  (ACA) coverage gap as well as how pastors should handle discussing it. The gap being a ridiculous situation where, in some states, people can make too much money to qualify for Medicare but not enough to qualify of subsidies for health insurance (see more here).

I guess more specifically the author is trying to call out ‘Bible Belt’ pastors because their states rejected the Medicaid expansion.  First, though, as a Southerner and someone with academic and professional training in cartography, let me clarify; this is a map of the states that rejected the Medicaid expansion:

States and Medicare Expansion

Half of the states and DC (dark green) are expanding coverage, 21 states essentially rejected and four states are considering expanding. Now, for comparison, two more maps, first, a map that Wikipedia deems as the Bible Belt and second, a map showing church attendance based on Gallop polling data (source):

Bible Belt Map

Church Attendance Map

So you have Arkansas and Kentucky expanding coverage while known Bible thumpers like Idaho, Main and Wisconsin rejecting expansion. Again, I get his point, that most of the most religious states rejected the expansion. Also, writing against the Bible Belt draws views and honestly I just get really nitpicky about things like maps, stats and facts. For example, as even Jon Stewart noted, a better overlay would be which states have Republican governor s. I’ll also note that Southern states are the poorest and had the most to gain from expansion but sadly the vast majority rejected coverage.

Pastors and Politics

Sorry for the digression, back to the article: a major theme is whether pastors should be talking about the coverage gap or the ACA in general. This is a really interesting topic that has been in the new recently. Not necessarily the ACA side, but rather churches discussing politics topics overall. There are a number of groups that say if churches are supporting specific political causes or politicians they should lose their tax-exempt status. By the letter of the law, I think they should, because the law explicitly prohibits certain non-profits from engaging in political activity. In reality, that is not what happens. Many pastors do speak out on political issues and the IRS has never challenged any churches’ exempt status.

The author seemed to be of the opinion that the pastors should be speaking out on the issues of healthcare. You have to wonder, though, what he would have said about speaking out against gay marriage. I think that is the frustrating thing about the discussion about pastors and church involvement in political issues. If it is a conservative cause, you see groups calling for the end of the exempt status, but no one would disagree with Martin Luther King, Jr. calling for racial equality. The problem becomes exacerbated then as conservatives double down with a bunker mentality as they claim the media or government or society is against them.

However, maybe there is a case to be made that you could support ‘justice’ politics over let’s say, ‘sin’ politics. That is you could support pastors discussing things that help the poor and need while avoiding promoting law that seek to prohibit sin. I think the coverage of the issues does a poor job of pointing this out, instead showing a fairly clear bias towards supporting so-called liberal ideas.

Conservatives are just as hypocritical, the article points out:

“When their own interests are involved, they are very much involved in politics,” Cone says.

And I think that is right. You have a number of conservative pastors who talk issues like gay marriage and the ‘sanctity of marriage’, but then turn around and say that the issue is a political one and something they don’t need to address.

Sometimes pastors have to tell people what they need to hear, not what they want to hear.”

My bigger concern is that the pastors are scared. They know the ACA is a political landmine that most of their congregants do not support. So they don’t speak up for the poor, because speaking for the poor seems to be liberal, and that can get you run out of the church. Maybe that is another post all together, but it seems ever since the fundamentalist controversy, conservatives and evangelicals are afraid to be associated with anything related to the social gospel.

Pastors shouldn’t be afraid. They should be calling out their congregants to love the world. That should include taking care of the poor, and we should be concerned for those without healthcare. I guess, in my mind, pastors should discuss political issues from the pulpit. They are, after all, our shepherds in life that are supposed to help guide us. Some issues are large and divisive and affect many people, and those are issues we shouldn’t shy away from. I think pastors should have the freedom to give what they believe is Biblical guidance.

Of course, pastors need to be cognizant of what they speak for or against. They need to remember that we can’t hold non-believers to the same standards as we hold ourselves; that we need less condemnation and more calls to action and love; and mostly that we need to look towards Christ and remember that most of his admonishment where for the religious.

To be continued…

The other main theme that comes out of the article is how Christians react to and view the ACA. That will be another post sometime next week.

Daniel

Well, I just started this blog and have already taking a longer break than I anticipated. It started by taking a few days away from work as my wife’s sister and her husband came into town and continued on through Veterans Day yesterday. Thank you to all who served in war, especially those who had no choice.

Them being here lead to an idea for a post that I had for a while, but wasn’t sure I really wanted to write about. Back in August, my sister in law was due with their first child in a few weeks when suddenly the child died. Apparently he had an issue with the umbilical cord.  When my wife called me to tell me there was a problem, I thought worst case scenario, he’d be born premature (my wife’s sister, my brother and I were all born earlier in pregnancy), so I really didn’t give it a second thought. I had no idea that there was such a thing as cord issues or that baby could still die this late in pregnancy.

I suppose I was also a bit naive. A week prior, my brother’s wife had to have emergency surgery due to an ectopic pregnancy that resulted in a miscarriage and her having one of her fallopian tubes removed. For some reason, I felt as if since one bad thing had already happened, another would couldn’t. Obviously, that is not the way the world works and so while one of my sister in laws is recovering from surgery the other is being told she has lost her son and tragically will still have to go through labor. She delivered Daniel earlier the next morning.

Later they decided it would be good for them to get away from everyone one and come visit us (we are about a 12 hour drive away) and that is why they were here over the weekend. Now obviously, I can’t imagine they pain and anger they felt. Outside of my grandmother dying about a year and a half ago, I have never experienced death. They, on the other hand, had experienced what many people consider the worst loss, the death of a child.

Talking with my brother in law (well, technically my sister in law’s husband, but that is harder to saw) this weekend, I began to realize more of the frustration that comes with tragedy. He is understandably angry with God; but he also realizes that God didn’t kill Daniel. Recognizing God’s sovereignty, he is angry that God didn’t intervene and save Daniel. So he struggles with the question of why, why did this happen?

The answer, in my mind, leads to more frustration because it is so utterly unsatisfying: we live in a broken world. I think my brother in law knows this. I think he knows that this wasn’t some punishment for his sins or divine retribution, but instead that death is a just a part of life. Outside of the Garden, tragedy happens. Away from paradise, there are murderers and rapist, 30 year olds get cancer, people bomb buildings, storm surges kill thousands and umbilical cords get tangled.  And really, that just sucks. It is not comforting during times of loss. It does not encourage us emotionally, but instead reminds us that we could be, at any moment, seconds away from death and tragedy.

My pastor likes to say that life was great in the first two pages of the Bible and will be again during the last two, but in between is terrible as we experience loss and separation from God. I suppose in times of tragedy we should be reminded that one day we will experience no death; that we will walk with God and worship him for eternity. It should give us hope for the future and of Christ’s return. We should be reminded that our time is short and that we are commanded to go to every nation preaching the Gospel. Instead of renewed hope I think most people experience hopelessness; instead of looking to the future the dwell in the past and what could have been; instead of vigor for those without Christ, they feel apathy and the sinking feeling that life is pointless.

Our models for this include Job who continued to praise God and even Christ who asked forgiveness of those who crucified Him. Most people fail to meet these standards; I know I would in the face of tragedy, I usually do just in the face of minor inconvenience.

Too rich?

For Halloween, I went to party at a mansion. I mean that in the fullest extent possible. One of those eight car garage, 10,000 square foot (not counting the full basement), 15 bathroom kind of houses. The ones in neighborhood that are gated with guards that have to have your name on a list to let you in, kind. Everyone’s reaction to the house was pretty much split into two groups, the jealous and the judgmental. There was a good bit of awe with people wondering what he did and another group that condemned him for him for the ostentatiousness of the house.

I went back and forth between the two. Obviously, I would love the kind of salary that would afford this house, but I doubt I could ever pull the trigger on something that nice or big and fancy. Regardless, it got me thinking about money and really how much you should spend.

This house was probably around two million dollars. That’s roughly $70K a year on a mortgage; which is more than I make in a year, but what if he makes a million? Then he is spending less as a percentage of his income than I am. What if he gives $100K to charity or $500K, then you are talking someone who spends less on his mortgage and gives more to charity than the average person. Take it a step further, say he makes $5 million and bought the house outright, then I’m the ostentatious person who took out a loan for a house.

Maybe that is too dramatic, but my point is, there aren’t clear guidelines in the Bible. No one can point to any specific verses that would tell you how big your house can be. All anyone can ever give you is the ‘love of money’ and not to chase money or serve two masters. On the other hand, there has to be a point that is too much, even if you don’t love money.

Another example, it would be pretty foolish for me to buy a BMW. I don’t think any of them are less than my annual salary. It would be poor stewardship of what God has given me to spend so much of my monthly income on that when I can’t even afford a Corolla. Someone else may be able to buy one straight up with no problems. If they did it for status or envy or some other reason, then I guess you could throw a stone. But if a guy just likes them, probably nothing wrong there. Again, though, where does it stop? What if someone can buy a Bentley? Surely there are better uses for our gifts. The issue becomes, where is that line? Should you be eating steak when people in other parts of the world don’t have clean drinking water? I really have no idea, and have struggled with this since I first read Richard Stearns ‘A Hole in our Gospel’.

It is also something I’ve been struggling with since the media storm around Steve Furtick. I know that part of what bothered people so much is that he is a pastor and I guess that means he should be poor (pastor pay should be another posts all together). If he is paying for the house out of his book sales, why should his salary matter?

But I get it. We hold our pastors to higher standards. Non-believers hold a Christian to a higher standard of living as well. Maybe that’s part of the take away here. When you appear so rich that it takes away your credibility to those who need Christ. You can’t blame someone for their income, but you have to be aware that when telling other people to give to the church and to give generously, maybe an 18 bedroom home is too much.

Metal Friday

When you are trying to write a blog, one good plan is to have a recurring segment. I got an idea after reading yesterday that on Venus it rains metal: Metal Fridays. I’m a huge fan of hardcore music including post-hardcore and metalcore. Many of the good bands I like have members that are Christians and even have lyrics focused on Christian themes. This lead to the awesome attempt to rename the categories. So you end up with ‘genres’ like life-metal or white-metal or my favorite, Christcore.

Anyway, one of my favorite bands right now is Wolves at the Gate, whom I actually saw live a few weeks ago. I like all their songs, my favorite probably being ‘Man of Sorrows’ but they don’t have an official video for that yet. I heard about them from a buddy of mine, looked them up on YouTube and I believe this was the first video I ever saw of them: