To R. Schott Clark and his blogpost that criticizes churches for trying, as institutions, to end payday lending. This appeared in Heidelblog.
Sometimes our theological models provide a glue to the different parts of the Scriptures that help us see a fuller picture of what they are saying. But other times, our theological models limit or even mislead us as to what the Scriptures are saying. And that is especially true to those who exhibit a tribal loyalty to a given theological school of thought.
The above presents a standard 2KT viewpoint on whether it is the Church's job as an institution to end predatory payday lenders. And 2KT has contributions to make in that discussion. In particular, 2KT helps us see some of the differences that should exist between the Church and society. However, we should also note that with those differences comes the possibility that the Church's prophetic role in the world is obscured or infringed on. After all, shouldn't the Church preach the law along with the Gospel? And aren't many payday lenders breaking biblical laws that should apply to both the Church and society? Therefore, shouldn't the Church, as an institution, preach against payday lenders and how they exploit the vulnerable? And by the Church as an institution, I am referring to either the preaching or public stands taken by either individual churches or denominations.
But Clark frames the question of what the Church should do a little differently than the question asked. He asks if the Church should <b>END</b> payday lenders? Here, Clark's question assumes the ability of the Church to do so and that assumes that the Church should have a power in society that it really should not have.
But that isn't the question being asked in this comment. The question is whether the Church as an institution should preach against the exploitation practiced by payday lenders? If Clark says 'no,' then we should ask why should the Church, as an institution, speak out against the legalization of same-sex marriages in this nation? The Church as an institution certainly worked to prevent the legalization of same-sex marriages in this nation. Does Clark see same-sex marriages as not being similar enough in sinfulness to exploitive payday lending? And, isn't the Church, as an institution, actively working to end legal access to elective abortions.
We might also ask Clark why he takes the same approach to interpreting what Jesus said was the roles of the Church with how some view the roles of government according to Romans 13. For some Christians see Romans 13 as providing an exhaustive view of the roles of government even though that wasn't the purpose of that chapter. So is Clark correct in viewing Christ's words as an exhaustive view about what the Church should do? Should the Church be limited to preaching the Gospel and making disciples? After all, aren't there Scripture passages from both the Old and New Testaments which comment on how the Church should act in the world? Of course Clark's answers to these questions are questionable themselves. For Christ didn't say then that the Church should discipline its members but that was part of what Jesus had taught. So the question is, is preaching against payday lenders implied but what Jesus taught?
At this point, Clark not only fails to address the above questions, he retreats into his Reformed traditions and unquestionably uses their teachings to criticize what we now call other Christian denominations. And he does so with a certainty that the Reformed Traditions have everything to teach the other traditions and nothing to learn from them.
Clark's approach to interpreting and applying the Scriptures today regarding what should be the Church's duties in responding to payday lenders is quite literalistic. And such an approach assumes that there are no significant contextual differences between now and both the times of the Reformers as well as the times of the Apostolic Church. Such is a mistake.
We should note that both Jesus and the Apostles were concerned about the reputation of the Gospel. Jesus warned us not to become stumbling blocks to those who would hear the Gospel. And Paul tells his audiences not to harm the reputation of the Gospel by what they do or how they live. Thus we must ask this question: what if the Church's refusal to speak, as an institution, against payday lenders hurts the reputation of the Gospel? After all, we hear the Church, as an institution, speak against sexual and other personal sins committed by individuals. Doesn't the refusal to preach and take action against payday lenders hurt the reputation of the Gospel of the Gospel and thus provides a stumbling block to some who would otherwise listen to the Church's preaching?
And we should add one more concern here. Is it possible that the reason Clark doesn't think that the Church, as an institution, has a responsibility to oppose payday lending in society perhaps because no one he goes to church with has become a victim of such businesses? On the other hand leaders of some Black churches from lower economic classes must constantly face of payday lending because too many of their members have become its victims? Contextual differences might be the real reason why Clark doesn't believe that the Church, as an institution, should be involved in battle against payday lending while some Black ministers from urban areas do.
To Barbara Elliot and her blogpost tat seeks to define conservatism as believing in the Truth, the good, and the Beautiful. This appeared in the Imaginative Conservative blog.
Yes, we would all like to idealize the ideologies we subscribe to so we can claim that is why we follow this ideology or that one. The problem arises when we claim that our ideology or ideologies have a monopoly on what we claim is the ideal.
And so it is with conservatism, which has significant contributions to make. It's belief in the truth, the good, and the beautiful runs afoul of its belief in the individual and its stance against the concentration of power in the government.
For many conservatives seem to think that power only resides in authority, and such is not the case. Power is the ability to influence and that can occur in both the public and private sector. Elite individuals from the private sector often get to where they are by exploiting others. And when gov't is not big enough to defend people against elite individuals or when gov't is unduly influenced by these individuals, then individualism rules along with the abuse of other individuals.
In addition, conservatism doesn't seem to care about the accumulation of wealth. It pretends that power and wealth are unrelated in a Capitalist economic system. In our nation, wealth and political power go hand in hand. as seen by what our lawmakers concern themselves with (see https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/perspectives-on-politics/article/testing-theories-of-american-politics-elites-interest-groups-and-average-citizens/62327F513959D0A304D4893B382B992B ).
In addition, conservatives claim that the fundamental building block of society is the family. But again, conservatives claim to have a monopoly on what should be the working definition of the family. For in limiting the family to a heterosexual married couple with children, those individuals who wish to form a family around a same-sex marriage have their dreams crushed because of how conservatives insist that society should define what is a family.
In addition, by not allowing gov't to help people in need, those who are abandoned by their own families or whose families do not have the resources to care for them and any special needs become neglected because caring for someone is the family’s responsibility. And what can happen in a family can happen in a community.
And what about the conservative belief in God? Are conservatives saying that society should only recognize one religion by prohibiting the following of other religions or by giving that religion special privileges and thus a place of supremacy over others in a multi-religious society?
I could go on but the point should be made. The problem with conservatives is not that they believe in the truth, the good, and the beautiful. The problem is conservatism's insistence that it has a monopoly in identifying those qualities.. And by claiming that, conservatism starts to become inconsistent with its actions and thus acts like any other ideology that it condemns. And that is a shame because conservatism has things to contribute.
|This Month's Scripture Verse:|
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
2 Timothy 3:1-5
Wednesday, April 14, 2021
Tuesday, April 13, 2021
The title is this blogpost is a well known quote from Yogi Berra. And considering that we just had another police shooting of an unarmed Black man during a traffic stop followed by protests and the postponement of a professional sports event, that saying might be an appropriate description for this latest shooting.
Last year, the unwarranted shooting of a Black man led to professional athletes entering the conversation. That started with the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin and finished with some sports teams owners getting involved in the conversation as well by lending their facilities to eager voters.
Of course their participation in the discussion was a violation of the federal celebrity law authored by Laura Ingraham, 'Shut Up and Sing.' Apparently, Ingraham wants celebrities to only perform, she doesn't want them to use their platform to speak out against social injustices. Apparently, she either doesn't want to hear their voices at all or believes that they have nothing to contribute to conversations about social justice.
And Ingraham isn't the only one who found fault with professional athletes speaking out against social injustice. Viewership of pro sports was changed by athletes entering the public forum on social justice. The biggest change was seen in some Republican men who, by their decision to reduce or stop watching certain televised sports, decided that they didn't want to hear any messages about social injustice.
And so as the Red Sox-Twins game was postponed in the light of the most recent police shooting of an unarmed Black man, we might be tempted to quote Yogi Berra and one of his most famous lines. However, apart from the participation by professional athletes in the discussion. the unwarranted violence against Blacks by police itself was Deja Vu all over again not just this year, but last year and for many consecutive years before. And that is a story conservatives don't want to hear. It was because of the publicity of last year's killings, that made many white people, including myself, became more aware of our nation's perennial problem with systemic racism.
Conservatives will cherry pick statistics in vain attempts to show that there is no systemic racism in this nation against Blacks. For to admit to our nation's system racism would not only be an attack on their self-serving pride in our nation, it would be an attack on many of their heroes.
But the point is that regardless of whether the latest shooting was an accident or not, the reaction to the shooting by some sectors of the public shows the serious problem at hand. That problem is that because of nation's past atrocities against Blacks, we might have lost the ability to discern whether each new shooting of a Black man by the police was justifiable, an accident, or criminal.
Friday, April 9, 2021
I happen to have two leanings that some find to be paradoxical if not contradictory: Reformed Theology and Marxism. To say that I lean to either one includes the idea that I have both agreements and disagreements with each ideology--counting theology as a religious ideology. I am use to those unbelievers who share my political and activist leanings thinking that to get Christians to become allies in social justice movements, they must first be deconverted and I have argued against such an belief (click here for an article).
Thaddeous Williams (click here for a very brief bio) of Biola University argues against the same point but to a different audience (click here for the article). Whereas I was addressing my fellow activists and those who held to a political ideology that was roughly similar to mine, Williams is addressing my fellow Christians who are considering leaving the Church because of the disparity between their concern for social justice and that of the churches they belong to.
In his article, Williams makes a distinction between two social justice camps: Social Justice A and Social Justice B. The former one is a view of social justice based on what God says while the latter one is not. Williams is worried that some Christians will leave the faith because of their dissatisfaction with the Church to head to the Social Justice B camp. He strongly disapproves of that camp because of its views on Christianity. He would rather have these disgruntled Christians join the Social Justice A group and thus remain in the Church though they might have to change their individual church membership.
Williams wants Christians who are considering leaving the Church because of what the Social Justice B groups says about Christianity to consider 5 questions. Those questions are listed below and will along with my attempt to represent how Williams's commentary on those questions along with my own responses.
- As I seek social justice, have I distinguished a breakup from a breakthrough?
Williams wants disgruntled Christians to consider that their dissatisfaction with their church's lack of stance on social justice issues as a sign that they have broken through their church's barriers to working for social justice. He characterizes all such churches to be neo-gnostic or, as Francis Schaeffer called them, 'super spiritual.' And right there we have a problem with social justice.
After all, social justice includes battling against all kinds of prejudices. And to describe those Christians who disagree with us on social justice as a monolithic group is at the heart of prejudice. For myself, my own church is terribly deficient in addressing social justice issues. But for me to respond to that lack in the same way that Williams does not only promotes bigotry, it also strongly indicates that I believe myself to be a better Christian than those who don't share my views on social justice. In Biblical terms using the parable of the two men praying (see Luke 18:9-14), Williams is telling these Christians to think of themselves as the Pharisee from that parable and to think of those neo-gnostic Christians as the tax collector about whom the Pharisee thanked God that he was not like him.
Sure, I believe that my views on social justice are better and more biblical than that of the leadership of my own church. But my Christian faith can't be reduced to my views on social justice. And where I might be stronger on social justice than many, but not all, in my church, I have many faults where they have strengths. In addition, it isn't the person who bragged about his spiritual superiority who was justified before God in that parable, it was the person who could only ask for mercy because he was too aware of his own sins who received mercy.
- As I seek social justice, am I breaking from a one-sided stereotype of Christianity?
Here, Williams is asking social justice conscious Christians if they are breaking the mold of what Social Justice B people say about Christianity. To do this, while acknowledging some major sins committed by Christians in the past, he painted a picture of Christians as leading the charge in social justice. He said that it was Christians who rescued unwanted babies in the Roman Empire. It was Christians who founded the more hospitals and orphanages than any other group. It was Christians who started major universities, drove up literacy rates and led the way in abolishing slavery in the UK, US, India and other places in the world.
But in listing those accomplishments by Christians, Williams forgets to mention that Western Civilization was dominated by Christianity and so some of those accomplishments are due to that place of supremacy that Christianity had. But with its place in supremacy in Western Civilization, came religious wars, harsh anti-semitism, imperialism, colonialism, and white supremacy. In addition, yes, some Christians opposed slavery but some other Christians not only supported slavery, they also supported Jim Crow and white supremacy.
Also, Christianity has had its intellectual struggles with science over heliocentrism, verified parts of evolution, and climate change. And in teaching people from other continents how to read in English, French, and German, Christians were, in part, replacing the cultures of many indigenous people with a European culture.
- As I seek social justice, am I taking the deconversion stories of other Christians seriously?
Williams addresses this question by citing Monique Duson who had been battling evil systems. Then she came to realize that while she was battling evil systems, she was forgetting about the evil in her own heart.
I've seen many protesters who are very angry and self-righteously indignant against evil systems and elites. And the way Williams answers this question is very biblical and needed. On the other hand, we should be reluctant to think that all unbelievers are unaware of their own faults or who are protesting out of hate and anger. The true Christian faith is about Jesus's followers who recognize their own sinfulness and are told to forgive others as they have been forgiven. That is what Jesus taught as well such as in His parable of the man who was forgiven a great debt but could not forgive a person who owed him a small debt (Matthew 18:21-36).
We could also include the previously mentioned parable of the 2 men praying and ask ourselves whether we want to protest against the injustices of the world as the Pharisee prayed or having the same mind as the tax collector had who begged God for mercy.
But we should note here that quite often, long standing social injustices are initially corrected with a phobic mindset so that everything that could be merely associated with a given injustice is lumped together with those factors that contributed to a given injustice. That is because there is a fear that we can't distinguish between the two. This kind of thinking also produces the anger and self-righteousness that Williams mentions in his question.
- As I seek social justice, am I replacing the fruit of the Spirit with resentment, self-righteousness, and rage?
Here, Williams has a legitimate concern. And that concern is addressed by the parables mentioned in the commentary on the previous question.
- As I seek social justice, am I heeding the grandfatherly wisdom of John Perkins?
What did Perkins teach? Perkins taught that to pursue justice, one must start with God. He also said that we can't pursue justice if we replace the Gospel with a human agenda.
These are disturbing points because they seem to imply that only Christians can promote social justice. And thus, Christians must take the lead in promoting social justice because unbelievers cannot promote social justice because of their unbelief. Thus, there is no working with unbelievers as equals when pursuing social justice.
Williams makes a similar point when citing Abraham Kuyper. It was Kuyper who said that 'every square inch of human experience' is under the lordship of Christ. But how does that work in nation and society in which there is religious freedom. What does that imply for all Christians who live in a multi-religious nation and society?
Though there are problems with some of the other things Williams has said, it is his answer to the last question that is disturbing. Shouldn't the work for social justice be a collaborative effort between Christians and non-Christians as equal partners. And if we take Perkins's statements seriously, what we should consider social justice to be for those in the LGBT community?
Overall, Williams's article is lacking. It does make a some good points and express some legitimate concerns. But the overall tenor of the article strongly suggests, if not implies, a Christian place of supremacy in both working for social justice and in society in general. And history teaches us that that is not a good idea
Wednesday, April 7, 2021
To Bradley Birzer and his article on what Conservatism must to continue. This appeared in the Imaginative Conservative blog.
Where I see conservatism is that it is at the center of denial. That denial is a failure to recognize the system racism and the oppression of other groups and its own culpability in that oppression. And thus recognizing the dignity of individuals does little to address people's needs when their problems are not adequately recognized. In addition, conservatism is in denial of its own inadequacies and its need to learn from other ideologies.
But conservatism is not the only group in such denial. Liberalism and the Left are in the same kind of denial as conservatives are. There are circles from all of these ideologies that fail to recognize both their own weaknesses and failures as well as the contributions other ideologies can make. what distinguishes conservatism from the other ideological groups in their denial is that in America, conservatism is the most boisterous of all the ideologies.
Conservatism has become tribal and with that tribalism has come hubris and the assumption that conservatism had everything to teach and nothing to learn from other isms and ideologies. and thus all other approaches are seen as threats by conservatism. One only needs to listen to conservative talk media or conservative politicians or blog sites like this one to observe that hubris.
It would be unfair to not to mention the hubris that exists in liberal and leftist circles as well. And that hubris makes each group act as if collaboration with other ideological group as compromising, if not a betraying, one's principles. But again, those in conservatism seem to be the most boisterous of all ideological groups.
What we see to today on all sides is ideological tribalism where in each tribe outsiders are shunned if not demonized. Such tribalism is divisive. Such tribalism causes people to declare culture wars in a forever king-of-the-hill battle for survival.
So conservatism is basically not just following the path that other ideologies are pursuing, it is leading the way. And the only way for conservatism to change course is to emerge from its current state of denial and to escape tribalism. And to do that, conservatism has to admit that it doesn't have all the answers and that it could a few things from liberals and leftists.
To Stephen Klugewicz and his article that criticizes MLB for moving its All-Star game from Atlanta in protest against Georgia’s new election laws. This appeared in the Imaginative Conservative blog.
The above article shows nothing but contempt for those whose views oppose what Klugewicz believes. Broad assumptions are made of anyone who is woke--those who see and oppose systemic racism or promote equality for those in the LGBT community.
Does Klugewicz know how MLB made the decision to oppose Georgia's voting laws? Does Klugewicz understand the issues surrounding Georgia's election laws? What could be the goal of changing election laws when Trump appointed officials supported the fairness of the 2020 election? Does Klugewicz comment on the fact that Trump injected a conditional suspicion into the elections when he claimed during both the 2016 and 2020 campaigns that he could only lose if the election was rigged?
Does Klugewicz see systemic racism in our nation or is such a notion itself an insult to what he values?
The whole above article is nothing more than an ad hominem attack on wokeness without making any distinctions. Everyone who is woke to any degree is considered to only be self-serving and uninformed by Klugewicz. And it is that kind of overgeneralized thinking and labeling of people that wokeness says is a major problem with this nation. Basically, in protesting wokeness, Klugewicz demonstrates the kind of thinking that bigotry is made of.
Tuesday, April 6, 2021
The first question that comes to mind regarding Georgia's new election laws is why? We had multiple Trump appointed officials from different parts of the government who vouched for the fairness and legitimacy of the 2020 election. So why introduce bills that say that they will restore or guarantee election integrity?
Suspicion of the election started before the elections of both 2016 and 2020. That suspicion was based on Trump's pre-election claims that the only way he could lose was if the election was rigged. We had many "prophets" of God who first called for a Trump victory in 2020 and then supported Trump's claims that the election was rigged. And regardless of how the Courts ruled with many of the presiding judges being Trump appointees, and the Attorney General, a Trump appointee and loyalist to some degree, who vouched for the election, and Trump's Department of Homeland Security that also vouched for the election, his disillusioned followers believed Trump and desperately clung to legal appeals and conspiracy theories in believing that there was massive fraud. BTW, distrust in the election system is a reported aim of Putin's Russian government. And it is no secret that Trump was Putin's representative in our government.
So now, not only do we see many Republican led overtures to change election laws in their states, these proposals are aimed at limiting minority participation in elections. Why?
It is because Trump's lies live on. And they live on in one of his largest bases: white Evangelical Christians. Franklin Graham serves as an example. Graham has criticized MLB on his Twitter account for moving the All-Star Game from Atlanta in response to Georgia's new election laws. Graham's criticisms seem to come from a tribalism that, out of loyalty, embraces Trump's false claims about the election.
In the meantime, many middle class white Evangelicals will wonder why those in lower economic classes don't have the same degree of access to ids, especially the new Real IDs, that they have. That simply is a matter of privilege and a deliberately obscured view of what life is like for many Blacks who live in lower economic class neighborhoods.
How can we assess the effects of the new election laws passed in Georgia and in any other state? We simply look at the statistics regarding minority participation in our future elections. And that might seem counterintuitive to those conservatives who claim that the Republican Party is appealing to more and more people of color. But we should note that increased participation by minorities in elections infringe on the chances that Republican Party candidates will win. We can thank the NBA players who started getting their teams' owners involved in increasing the opportunities for people to vote. That is a point not lost on many white political conservatives who have altered their viewing of professional sports because of the stands on social justice that many players are taking.
In fact, one of the reasons why the All-Star Game is being moved from Atlanta is because of the voice of the players who called for such a move because of Georgia's new election laws. And that is a point that Republicans and their supporters, like Franklin Graham, seem to have overlooked in their reaction to the moving of the All-Star Game from Atlanta. It is the voice of some of the people, not just the voice of corporations that seek to show woke credentials, that demanded the change.
Wednesday, March 24, 2021
Sometime on or after March 17
To R. Scott Clark’s quote from the WP that the Equality Act’s allows the gov’t to act without having to shows that it has a compelling interest and Religious rights. This appeared in Heidelblog.
I can't read the WP article on the bill because I lack a subscription to the paper, but I read the headline. And what is missing from Clark's above quote is any reference to the rights of the LGBT community, something not missing from the Post's article title. And such implies that Christians should be privileged over the LGBT community even when, according to Clark, the LGBT community receives some respect.
To James Davenport and his article that tries to provide a conservative approach to cancel culture. This appeared in the Imaginative Conservative blog.
The fault that cancel culture has is not conceptual. Its fault is in its scope. Cancel culture has taken an all-or-nothing approach to addressing perceived injustices. And in doing so, it has thrown the baby out with the bathwater. And it isn't just the "Left" that practices cancel culture, the "Right" does too. One only has to think of Trump's response to athletes who kneeled at the playing of the National Anthem to see that. Cancel culture was practiced by Rush Limbaugh's all-or-nothing tirades against non-conservatives. Cancel culture is about using marginalization as punishment in order to silence someone. And that is what Rush Limbaugh's show was all about.
Thus, to reject everything cancel culture practices and to deduce that it has no merit and must be opposed, let alone ignore, is to be a participant in cancel culture. After all, cancel culture is cancel culture no matter one's size or ideology.
The cancel culture being objected to in the above article is the cancel culture practiced by the "Left." Why the objection? It is because the Left challenges Western Civilization which many conservatives strongly associate with Christianity. And thus those conservatives see an attack on Western Civilization as an attack on Christianity. And that is seen in the above article by the predictions of future, and even present, persecution. In addition, those who are privileged are sensitive to significant criticisms of any context in which they have grown up.
If we can get by the sensitivities to criticism, we can both learn from and correct cancel culture as it is now. Otherwise, we will just become a unwitting member of it by rejecting everything it has to say.
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
Being publicly called a killer by the leader of the free world is not an honor sought by many people. And perhaps that is why it was not very much appreciated by this year's recipient, Vladimir Putin. By all of the reports I've seen, Vladimir Putin, leader of Russia, was upset with Biden when he called him a killer. Here, we might want to think of how Steve Urkel's trademark comment, 'Did I do that?' would sound like in a thick Russian accent. So Putin's reaction, though understandable because who wants to be called that in public, did not match the facts on the ground. Whether via assassination directives or policies, Vlad is a killer.
But why was Putin surprised at Biden's accusation? Was he surprised because, though true, making such a public accusation was considered to be 'bad form.' If so, did Putin consider it bad form because Biden's claim about Putin was like the pot calling the kettle black?
After all, does Putin order the assassination of individuals? Does the US has a drone strike assassination program? Certainly the targets are chosen for different reasons, but the end result of murder is shared.
Has Putin's policies led to the indiscriminate killing of people? Guess who can join him in doing the same? At least every American President I lived under and that goes back to Ike. As for Ike, we really don't think that innocent people were indiscriminately killed in American aided or directed regime changes that brought brutal dictators to both Iran (1953) and Guatemala (1954)?
Though the name 'Killer Vlad' does not have the ring to it for Putin that 'Killer Joe' would have for President Biden, and that might be partially due to the Benny Golson composition (click here for the music), those names would be accurate, real world descriptive monikers for both men. And perhaps that is why to be publicly called out for his killings by Biden seems to have struck a nerve for Vlad.