The Great Divide

Americans are quite familiar with partisan propaganda and bickering.  They’ve assumed, and quite correctly too, that it is just the nature of American politics.  Republicans and their minions will be fighting the good fight against the left-wingers, while Democrats and their cronies will continue a never ending crusade against the conservative infidel.  And we the people love it.

We can’t get enough of it.  You are hard pressed to find a movie, blog, newscast, or sermon that doesn’t include some political bias.  This isn’t anything extraordinary since everyone has certain convictions which govern their life and actions, even those regarding government.  But we don’t like to admit it.  We want to believe that everyone around us is exactly like us.  And if we do meet someone who does disagree, we tend to trivialize it as an anomaly rather than a reality.  Which is why our view toward political gridlock caused by partisanship is so oxymoronic.

When Bill O’Reilly, Piers Morgan, or Diane Sawyer decry how Congress is being held up because one party is refusing to play pretty, we get really upset.  It is unlikely that you’ll hear anyone say, “I’m glad to know Congress can’t anything done” or “The best part of movie was how it setup a straw man argument of my political views and totally destroyed it!”   Yet as I mentioned earlier, we love it despite how we feel about it.  The reason for this is how we are currently living our lives and how outside factors are manipulating us.

Think about it.  Who are you going to socialize with more?  The people who disagree with you 100% of the time?  Or those who do agree?  Unless you thrive on conflict, you’re going to interact with the latter because there will be less tension and greater opportunities to explore common interests.  This in turn creates bonds which help build a stable community.  Don’t believe me?  Look at your neighborhood.  Chances are good that you and your neighbors belong to the same party, are in the same income bracket, and probably attend the same synagogue, church, mosque, etc.  Obviously there will be some exceptions and even then the difference can be pretty minor.  For example, you might go to a Southern Baptist church while the family across the street attends the local Disciples of Christ.  Or you might a registered Democrat and your neighbor a Republican, but you both vote for the same person in the general elections.  If you look at Nate Silver’s article from the NY Times, you’ll read that there are fewer and fewer swing states in presidential elections.  Gerrymandering, the process of redistricting states to a person’s or party’s political advantage, might have something to do with this. But Silver believes its impact is not as big as previously thought which leaves room for individual decisions to influence how states are becoming more polarized.

So are individuals ultimately the reason for this “great divide” in American politics?  Not necessarily.  Consider that when you buy a house you have tens if not hundreds of factors affecting your decision some of which may not have anything to do with politics.  And it is unlikely that you’ll be surveying potential neighbors about what they think when you’re looking for a new home.  In fact the polarization may be an indirect result of those other factors.  For example, if you are looking for a city or state with low taxes you are probably going to live in a conservative if not Republican leaning community.  Or if you want to live in a city, chances are you’ll be surrounded by Democrats.  But again there are exceptions to this.  The point is that some of our desires for a community tend to overlap with the characteristics of a political ideology.  And considering higher wages and easier access to transportation we have now to years past, it isn’t too surprising that people are moving to or building communities that seem to accept only one kind of mindset.

Another factor is the expansion of communication technology, particularly in the form of social media.  Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are designed to show you things that you like or have in common with others who may not live in the same state or even the same country as you.  They are also breeding grounds for dissent.  Because online forums and Facebook pages aren’t bound by geographical boundaries, they allow people from multiple communities to read what one person or group has to say.  And that is when things get interesting.  If someone says that abortion should be banned at the national level, a person from state that endorses abortion will find that comment frightening and mean-spirited.  He or she will respond out of emotion because it appears that an opposing view is threatening his or her community.  It may not be the first or even the second, but eventually the fact that someone is declaring an idea that is so antithetical to the commenter has reached their community and others will become too much.  Or perhaps someone chooses to be a “troll” and purposefully goes about haranguing people because they need attention and love to see people get upset.

And it isn’t the average Joe with access to computer who’s adding fuel to the passions of the people.  Politicians and newscasters are part of this as well.  News anchors and TV producers know that sensationalism sells and the best way to get ratings is to find or make someone a victim and someone or something the oppressor.  Elected officials know this as well.  If a new bill about immigration reform can be construed as an attack on unemployed American workers, then they’ll do it to get votes and to damage the image of the other side.

And do you want to know what the sad thing is?  We the people are the ones allowing this occur.  We cry out for “bi-partisanship” yet we don’t really practice it ourselves.  We want everyone to be open-minded, yet we balk at the idea of someone thinking differently.  If change is to occur-and it must if we want a government for, by, and of the people-then we need to start accepting that we live in a pluralist state and that compromise isn’t a dirty word.  This doesn’t mean accepting everyone’s views as being equally valid or living in neighborhoods that may be hostile toward you.  But it does mean taking a deep breathe before writing a spiteful reply to a YouTube commenter.  It means not rubbing it in when the other side’s candidate loses the election.  It means saying, “Alright, for both of us to live together peacefully, what can be done that will meet our satisfaction?”  The great divide will not disappear.  But it can be bridged if both sides meet the other in the middle.


The Sin of Gluttony

In last week’s post, “Christians, Get Over Yourselves!,” a commenter mentioned the sin of gluttony as a reaction to the post’s mentioning of homosexuality.  This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this response to any debate concerning gay marriage or having a same-sex lifestyle in the Church.  You’ve probably seen friends post memes or web articles describing how everyone shuts up when gluttony is mentioned but is quick to show how the Bible condemns homosexual behavior.  And to be fair there does appear to be a silence from the American Church about this subject.  Particularly when there is a great concern from medical officials and the public about obesity.  However I would argue this has occurred because of American culture and spiritual shallowness among believers, not out of some desire to put one group of people down.

First, what does the Bible say about gluttony? Actually, it says very little.  More specifically, the word “gluttony” doesn’t appear very often if at all in the English Bible.  According to, the NIV uses it only once in Proverbs 23:2.  Other translations like the KJV, Douay-Rheims, ASV, and NASB.  It does appear six times in the NRSV, but only in the books that belong to the Apocrypha which most Protestants leave out in their Bibles.  Does this mean the Bible, specifically the 66 books that Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox hold in common, has nothing to say about this?  Absolutely not!  Instead it means we need to define what gluttony is and see what Scripture has to say about it.

According to the online version of the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it is “1: excess in eating or drinking, 2: greedy or excessive indulgence.”  The first definition is perhaps the one most people think of when it comes gluttony.  The second depends on how loosely you use the word.  Therefore let’s begin with the stricter meaning of the word and go from there.

In the ancient world, food was never treated as a commodity as it is today with fast food chains and the candy industry.  There were certain delicacies which the upper classes could afford like they can now; however, the flow of foodstuffs in commerce was a primary point of concern for the rulers at that time.  Examples of this can be seen in Genesis when Joseph was appointed overseer for Egypt’s preparation for famine or in I Kings when Elijah withheld rain and dew in Israel.  Even in Rome, one of the greatest global empires, the supply of grain and cheap bread was a major issue for elected officials.  Thus feasts and parties with surplus food were rare occasions.  To eat more than was needed for the day was simply not done unless one was of course a glutton.

With this in mind, take a look at Numbers 11.  Here we find the Israelites in their wanderings through the desert complaining about the lack of food.  More specifically they whined about having no meat.  Now it should be noted that when the Hebrews left Egypt they took their flocks and herds (Exodus 12:38).  So they did have animals which they could have slaughtered and eaten.  Even a cursory look at Leviticus shows that the people could sometimes eat certain sacrifices made to God, so even sacrificial animals were on the menu.  Yet despite this they were unhappy with what they had which was manna, the bread of heaven, that God had graciously and freely gave to them.  As a response to their desire for more food, God provided them with quail for a whole month.  And not just enough quail for each day, but so much that the Lord hoped it would come out of their nostrils and make them sick to see the birds (Number 11:20).  And when they ate, they didn’t even give thanks for God’s mercy. Thus he struck many down with a plague so that the place was called the Graves of Lust because of their extreme passions.

Clearly God wasn’t happy with the Israelites demanding for more food, in this case meat, than they really needed particularly when he was already providing for them with manna.  But is that the real problem with gluttony?  Was God truly upset with the people for wanting more meat?  I’d have to say no.  I believe the real problem with gluttony lies in how it changes a person’s behavior, attitude and priorities.  Consider how the Israelites acted.  They wanted meat so badly they were able to describe Egypt, the land where they were slaves, as a paradise.  What a slap in the face to both God and Moses!  The latter had risked his life returning to Egypt and defying the authority of Pharaoh.  The former had displayed his incredible power and nature to tear down the false gods of Egypt to show his love for the offspring of Abraham.  Yet they now wished that none of it had ever happened.  Truly the saying is true.  “As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.”-Prov. 26:11 (NIV).  Thus they were not only being rude, but also placed food and life as slaves to better than having a relationship with the Lord as a free people.  So then any desire which displaces God in our lives is a form of gluttony.  It may be centered on video games, porn, relationships,  or jobs instead of food, but it will still have the same effects on us.

So why doesn’t this receive as much attention in American churches?  Well as I mentioned earlier, I think it partly has to do with being spiritually shallow.  Since we tend not to think of gluttony beyond the definition regarding food, we don’t think the occasional or long term obsession is negatively affecting our relationship with God.  There might be the occasional sermon about lust or message on idolatry, but we never think of these things in terms of gluttony.  And I think we should.  The only way to leave a spiritually shallow life is to go deeper in our faith.

The other reason it doesn’t receive the attention that homosexuality does is for cultural reasons.  With gay marriage being a hot topic politically and socially, it isn’t all that surprising more pastors and believers are speaking out on this issue.  For a long time, premarital sex and abortion were the big issues and sermons often were centered around them.  Given enough time, something else will take the place of same sex lifestyles.  So if someone feels believers are being unfair when comes to which sins they’re condemning, I’d agree but add that is the appearance rather than the intent.  And I’d exhort fellow Christians to try to be more equal when it comes to condemning sin and not just hype about the ones which are popular at the moment.  Christ didn’t focus his ministry to combating one sin, but all so that salvation could be offered to all.

The Problem with Republicans is…

Actually there are many problems with the Republican Party.  Instead I’d like to focus this post on one particular problem: the need to be ideologically pure.  And when I say ideologically pure I mean the candidate, the elected official, the spokesperson, whomever, has to be 100% conservative for every issue.   And by every issue I mean anything from foreign policy and pro-life views to having an uncle named Sam and saying, “Apple pie is ‘MURica’s pie!”  And yes, you do have to mispronounce America even though you believe English should be the official language of the country.

Okay, okay, so I might have exaggerated the last part there, but it is true that the GOP has witnessed a series of in-fighting about whether someone was truly Republican or a RINO, that is a liberal in Republican’s clothing.  Probably the biggest reason Gov. Romney had to nominate Congressman Paul Ryan as a running mate was to avoid such a debate about his legitimacy.  Members of the TEA Party, far-right voters, and some libertarians couldn’t stomach a moderate conservative who worked with a Democratic legislature that passed the precedent for Obamacare.  It didn’t matter how many Independents and conservative Democrats might have voted for him if Romney was allowed to be Romney.  The man had worked with the enemy and needed to be counter-balanced with someone more palatable for the party base.  The same happened to Sen. Rubio.  As a young senator from Florida with big dreams to take the presidency in 2016 and to reform the immigration process, he made the mistake of entertaining amnesty for the illegal immigrants currently in the country.  For that he was removed from the public view to allow “purer” conservatives to take the spotlight.  And as a result, the party lost a great opportunity to court Hispanics.  Even the  Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, is facing disfavor and must prove his credentials against a TEA Party opponent in the upcoming primary.  Not only is this a bad time for Kentucky Republicans to be having a civil war, but it is not fair to Kentuckians to lose such a powerful voice in the Senate.

Now to be fair, it isn’t unusual for members of a party to openly disagree with each other and even attack party leaders.  This is America after all, and Americans love to go head-to-head in politics.  But this isn’t just one small minority that has recently received some publicity.  No, this has been a growing movement since President Obama took office, and it gave Republicans the House in 2010.  And its ranks have been burgeoning ever since.  It has grown so strong, that the leaders felt they could force a stubborn President like Obama to acquiesce to their demands concerning the budget and his healthcare legislation. This of course ended with the government being shutdown for 16 days in October and a drop in the GOP’s approval rating.  The only saving grace was the troubled rollout for Obamacare that drew the nation’s attention away from the debacle.

So it is surprising to see some of the same Republicans complaining about the recent bill to raise the debt ceiling.  Sen. Cruz has particularly been outspoken on the issue.  According to the Huffington Post, the senator explained that “Historically, the debt ceiling has proven the most effective leverage for reining in spending; 28 times, Congress has attached meaningful conditions to debt ceiling increases. We should do so again…”  It is as if he’s already forgotten what happened in October and hopes the American people have as well.  And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what’s wrong with Republicans.

No one in leadership has the backbone or the clout to put the trouble-makers in their place.  And none of the “puritans” has the imagination to understand the concept of political suicide, let alone learning from one’s mistakes.  The only way this will change is if Republicans suffer another setback due to unreasonable ideology or if GOP voters start voting for moderate conservatives.  Unfortunately, the purist crowd is popular in the media.  Fox loves to talk about them and everyone else loves to attack them.  This wall-to-wall coverage allows their message to spread quickly and to large audiences.  And that message is pretty attractive.  Americans want their leaders to do and mean what they say.  It is even better if the officials hold the same values as staunchly as the constituents do.  And currently this new brand of Republicans does this very well.  It just doesn’t work when it comes to actually participating in government.

So this leaves us to witness another disaster for Republicans.  This would probably come in the form of another shutdown, particularly if cooler heads like Sen. McConnell lose to primary challenges like Matt Bevin, or if they fail to take the White House in 2016. Either of these events will demand review of GOP tactics and views, hopefully for the better.  However it occurs, Republicans better shape up or expect to be the Democrats punching bag for the next eight years.

Christians, Get Over Yourselves!

It isn’t uncommon for Christians to ponder what is wrong with the Church today, more specifically the Church in the United States.  Often people will grumble how Christians seem to be so stale and indifferent to the gospel message and the love God has for them.  Others complain how few believers are willing to go out and work in the communities around them or to go on meaningful mission trips.  Or maybe a few will mention the pandemic of biblical illiteracy running rampant in the Church and in the world.  But if you had to ask me, the problem of the Church today and probably tomorrow as well is the fact that we can’t get over ourselves.

Now I don’t mean we take our faith too seriously and therefore need to lighten up a bit.  After all how can somebody be too serious about getting to know God and leading others to salvation?  Nor do I mean to say that we are too snobbish when it comes to working out our faith.  I’ve yet to see someone with a passion for Christ act priggish while helping someone in need like a child suffering from malnutrition.  Rather I’m commenting on how we think the world around us will perceive our faith and good works.  We seem to think that if we just keep our heads down, don’t talk too loudly about set doctrines like sin and hell, and just show love, then everything will be okay and people will begin to like the Church more.  We’ve taken the hippie motto “Make love, not war” and turned it into “Make social justice, not hellfire and brimstone.”  The perfect example of this would be the debate centering around homosexuality.  The popular belief, especially among young believers, is that we can win over the LGBT community if we abstain from certain parts of the Scripture and the historical doctrines concerning sex and marriage.  To do otherwise is to antagonize and belittle others which is clearly not Christ-like behavior.

And I agree with this to some extent.  I’ve been on the receiving end of a couple “tent rival” or “hell’s fire and damnation” sermons myself, and it is no fun.  I’ve met people who like to drink, live promiscuously, or are gay and don’t want to be told that what their doing is wrong.  And they even told me how much they appreciate not hearing such a judgmental attitude from me.  The problem I have is when believers think that this all they need to do in order to meet their religious obligations and to gain the favor of a non-believer.  That is not a realistic expectation and it severely undercuts the message of the gospel.

Here’s why: they do what they do because that is who they want to be and to heck with whatever anyone else thinks.  We do it in order to curry favor.  If we truly want to impress these people, we need to start accepting what our religion teaches and has taught.  By doing this we will then show who we want to be.  I’m not saying we should join Westboro and commend “gay bashing” or start damning anyone who doesn’t perfectly follow the Law of the Spirit.  (Notice I didn’t say the Law of Moses).  What I’m saying is that we should honestly and freely declare what we believe to be right despite how others see us.  For that is what makes Christ so attractive.  He didn’t pander to adulterers, liars, thieves, and murders, though he surrounded himself with them.  Instead he boldly condemned sin when he saw it and was unashamed to declare the will of his Father.  So then we too should unashamedly follow the decrees of the Spirit and Scripture.

Now someone might say, “But what Moses taught in Leviticus and Paul in Romans will be abominable to those we are to be witnesses to.”  To this I would remind them of the words of Christ: “If the world hates, you know that it hated me before it hated you.”-John 15:18 (Orthodox Study Bible).  If Christ, the symbol of love and acceptance in our religion, was hated, then why should we his followers expect different treatment?  We need to get over ourselves and realize that our good deeds are not going to win us friends in the short term and ultimately denies our desire to obey the will of God by becoming more like Christ.  Christianity isn’t a nice little faith that never expects us to take any stand that might offend someone.  It requires total commitment from us with no room for compromising.  And sometimes, that means we are going to be very unpopular with people around us.

Creationism vs. Evolution

Creationism vs. Evolution

So last night, Bill Nye the Science Guy and Ken Ham from Answers in Genesis held a debate over creationism and evolution.  The central question for the debate was whether or not creationism, more specifically Young Earth creationism, is a scientifically viable model for the origin of life.  This wasn’t an new debate and it has raged from public places like last night to the “troll” fields of the internet.  It has also been a popular subject for Christian apologists like Lee Strobel hoping to assuage the questions burning in the hearts and minds of confused believers.  And what is the best answer to this whole debate?  Should we just go with the flow of what the modern science community tells us?  Or should we stick with the Bible and try to look for evidence that supports it?

To answer this question, let’s make a couple acknowledgements from the debate.  First, Mr. Ham was correct to make a distinction between what scientists do in a lab and how we know what happened in the past.  I don’t think we should call one “experimental” or “observational science” and the other “historical science.”  Science, if defined by the scientific method, relies on empirical observation of experiments and interpretation of the data produced in those experiments.  We can’t perform experiments to determine the origin of life and how the descendants of one species will eventually be of another phyla or scientific family.  This is because these are historical events which cannot be tested empirically.  However, Mr. Nye is correct that we can safely assume (yes, there are assumptions made in science) how things came to be if we have evidence of how they are coming to be now.  Thus if we know how ice layers form in Antarctica, we should be able to “look back  in time” based on our observations of samples from ice layers.  We use a similar concept to predict the weather, only we’re looking to the future instead of the past.

Second, Mr. Ham didn’t answer the debate’s question: is Young Earth creationism a viable scientific model?  He did a good job showing serious and legitimate scientists who don’t believe in evolution, offering questions which evolutionists don’t always answer, and presenting the gospel.  But he never provided scientific evidences as to why his views should be seen as credible scientifically.  Mr. Nye on the other hand did a better job defending his position.  These two points I think were the most important ones presented from both sides and provide the best foundation for looking into this subject.

So if the origin and progression of life to the present day is a matter of history and not science, and if Young Earth creationism can’t be scientifically proven, what are we left with?  The answer is simple: philosophical speculation.  Since none of us were actually there at the time and the author of Genesis was writing about it several centuries after the fact, we can only speculate as to what actually occurred.  Thus if you’re going to argue with someone about the existence of God, don’t try to say that science and a literal interpretation of Genesis 1 supports your views because they don’t.  Rather ask if they can scientifically demonstrate, by way of an experiment, how life can be brought about without any intelligence creating an environment with necessary materials for life.  They’ll be unable to because whatever they do they’ll be acting as an intelligent being who has designed a conducive environment for life.  Which is ultimately what Genesis 1 and 2 teach.  God, an intelligent being, created a world suitable for human life.

Now Mr. Ham might think this is too simplistic and that I’m not giving Scripture credit for being scientifically credible.  However I would remind him that the Bible isn’t a science textbook.  Rather it is God’s most direct method of revealing who he is and what he has done in human history for mankind’s salvation.  Of course this would require looking at the creation accounts in a figurative manner which is death for Mr. Ham’s views of Young Earth creationism.  But it isn’t death for creationism as there are multiple creationist theories.  There’s the Old Earth theory which teaches God made the earth and the heavens long ago.  There are the Gap theorists who believe there’s a time gap between Gen. 1:1 and Gen. 1:2.  There are theistic evolutionists who believe God made life via naturalistic processes like evolution.  All of these theories are creation theories because they all admit God made everything.  And they don’t have to rely upon a literal reading of Genesis like the curators of the Creation Museum do.

Personally I think the debate receives too much hype.  Whether or not man or animals are descendants of an ancient single cellular organism or if they suddenly came into existence by God’s grace is ultimately trivial.  It will not determine if it is wrong to abort an unborn child or how we should best improve the economy.  Rather Christians should understand and appreciate the fundamental truths of creationism which are: 1) God made all things alone, 2) he did so in an orderly and non-violent fashion, 3) he made the world without moral evils, and 4) mankind was the pinnacle of creation because it was formed in the image of God.  If one must use an argument from creation to witness the gospel, don’t enter into the creationism vs. evolution debate.  Rather argue for the fundamental truths because these can be proven with science, history, and logic.  This isn’t denying the Bible to save face or to make it more compatible for the modern era, but it is making the modern era more compatible with the Bible.


Like many Americans, I don’t watch the Super Bowl for the game.  I might root for a team, but that’s because of social expectation and not because I have an affinity for a particular sports group.  Instead I watch it for the commercials.  And this year had some pretty good ones, especially the one with Laurence Fishburne reprising his role as Morpheus from The Matrix in the Kia ad.  Then there was Coca-Cola and its rendition of “America the Beautiful.” Continue reading