So What's This All About?

In case you didn't know, I'm in the multi-year-long process of posting a Christian devotional at the TAWG Blog. The TAWG Blog is, and always will be, mostly apolitical. For the most part, Bible-believing Christians will find little to disagree with there. But I also firmly believe that God's word can--and should--inform everything in life, and this should include politics and popular culture. How should we vote? How should we respond to hot topics such as abortion, capital punishment, taxes, and other issues? Which party, if either, is closer to the Biblical ideal? Tony Campolo and Ron Sider, Evangelicals whose political leanings are on the Left, have made the case in several of their writings that God wants his followers to vote politically on the Left more than on the Right. At times, some of them have gone so far as to equate voting on the Left with obedience to Christ, either subtly or not-so-subtly contending that the converse is true as well: If you vote Republican, you're sinning against the Savior.
I don't agree. I think that to the degree they actually resort to the Bible, they're misinterpreting it. With a whole bunch of caveats, I think politically conservative positions are a lot more compatible with the Scriptures than the Leftist positions.
Just to clarify, I would never accuse people who disagree with me--especially siblings in Christ--of what they accuse me of. I don't judge my own heart, much less anyone else's, and I don't equate political disagreement with theological fidelity to God. I have no reason to doubt their love for the Lord and "for the least of these," but I believe that they're sincerely wrong.
So there are two main purposes for this blog. One is to make a case for my political beliefs based on Scripture. The other is a bit more vague, basically to work out my political beliefs and figure out what's based on Scripture and what's based on my own biases. I certainly don't have all the answers. Some of this stuff I'm still figuring out. And I'm certainly open to correction. As long as you make your case civilly and based on Scripture, feel free to make a comment, and I promise I'll post it and consider your arguments thoughtfully and prayerfully. Who knows? Maybe we'll learn a little something from each other.
May God bless our common striving together towards both the "little t" truth and "Big T" Truth. Our watchword here is a line from C. S. Lewis's The Last Battle: "Further up and further in!"

P.S. -- Below on the left is "Topics I've Covered" which lists everything I've posted topically. It's come to my attention that some people would like to see everything just listed for them. If that's you, you can get it here. Thanks to my friend Stephen Young for the tip!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Pleading the Eighth, Part One

            As I stated in the Précis, I really believe that a huge majority of  Leftist philosophy is based on ignoring or denying the 8th and 10th Commandments. The 10th tells us not to covet anything that our neighbor possesses, while the 8th forbids stealing. For the next few posts I’d like to submit a few thoughts on the 8th and how seriously we take it.
            Regarding the title, you've probably figured out that titles aren't my strong suit. The best I could come up with a take on "pleading the fifth," which is something people often do when they're accused of a crime and don't want to answer a question in a way that might incriminate themselves. In these postings I'm pleading with my fellow Christians to be more counter-cultural by taking the the Eighth Commandment seriously. 
            Before we get too far into this, I need to point you towards my previous posting on how the 8th Commandment endorses property rights. If you don't want to read the whole thing, then here's the upshot: The 8th Commandment means that property rights are real. You own your stuff. As far as your neighbors are concerned, they don't own your stuff. The "community" doesn't own your stuff. Our default position re: the government is that it doesn't own your stuff. You do. Now, of course as far as the Lord's concerned, it all belongs ultimately to him, and one day you'll have to return it and give an accounting for how you used it. And of course he commands us as his people to be extremely generous in our stuff as far as blessing other people. But as far as humanity is concerned, you own your stuff. God considers property rights to be important enough to include in his "Top Ten List," (literally) right next to the prohibition against adultery. 
            Why am I spending time on this? Because I think that this is one of the most disobeyed and underrated among the Ten. Most people realize that adultery and murder are wrong, and we still have enough of a lingering effect of the Bible that we usually feel guilty if we don’t honor our parents. But this one (and the 10th) are commands which not only a lot of people flagrantly disobey, but there are whole segments which encourage others to ignore it.
            Let me try to illustrate why this really concerns me. Starting in Romans chapter one, Paul is explaining to us why we need the Good News, and we can’t grasp the Good News until we’ve heard and understood the bad news: We’re all sinners before a holy God who must punish sin. In the first chapter, he’s talking about the Gentile world. Here’s the pattern: Although humanity started off knowing God (or at least something about him), “they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him.” This led to futile thinking and a darkening of their hearts. They then gave into idolatry, which led to a tailspin of more and more rampant and egregious sin, both sexual and non. A symptom of the fact that they were falling further away from God was more and more sexual immorality, along with a host of other sins.
            But please note the last verse, where Paul caps off his description of God’s judgment on Gentile humanity: “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” Did you catch that? It’s bad enough when someone indulges in practicing wickedness, evil, greed, depravity, envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossip, slander, hating God, insolence, arrogance, and boastfulness (please notice that plenty of these sins have nothing to do with sexuality). They approve of those who practice them.
            Yes, it’s a bad thing if you’re harboring secret sin in your life. As I’ve mentioned in the TAWG Blog, ultimately there’s no such thing as “private” sin. My sin affects you, and your sin affects me. Your sin affects your family, your neighborhood, your church, your region, and your nation. But. . .it’s even worse when you not only don’t hide your sin but applaud others’ sin as well. Because then you’re really adding to the problem. You’re encouraging more sin in your society, and you’re contributing to other peoples’ destruction as well as your own.
            I really feel the need for crystal-like clarity here. Whatever “private” sin you’re harboring, you need to deal with it. If you’re not a believer in Jesus, then the first step is to receive him as Savior and Boss. If you haven’t done that, then please read this. If you are a believer, then you need to confess, repent, and take whatever positive steps you need to in order to start doing things his way instead of your own.
            But I think people who flaunt their sin and encourage others to do it are doing a lot more damage. Have you ever heard the saying “Hypocrisy is the compliment vice pays to virtue”? What does that mean? I’m not for one moment condoning hiding your sin, but by hiding it, at the very least you’re agreeing with God (or society) that it’s bad. You’re not encouraging others to indulge in self-destructive behavior. You know you’d be embarrassed if your behavior became public knowledge.
            Every society has sin it needs to deal with, but I believe that every society and culture has its own “blind spots” of sin which it has a hard time seeing as serious. Let’s talk about the sin of racism for example. God’s word expressly condemns it, and there’s not one word of Scripture that gives one ounce of validity to it. But for a long time—way too long in this country—we indulged in the lie that a person’s skin pigmentation determines their worth or value. Now today, in this day and age, do we still have racism? Of course we do! We’re never going to completely stamp it out, especially as long as we indulge in the foolish notion that racism is something that certain races have a monopoly on. But it’s not considered acceptable in our society. Recently there was a huge brouhaha because an owner of a basketball team was recorded on a (private) phone conversation with his mistress making racist remarks. I’m not for one moment condoning racism in any form, but I find it very illustrative that he immediately apologized over and over and over, and as of this writing it looks like his team might be taken away from him. And it's worth pointing out that he was apologizing for racist remarks being made to...whom again? That's right...his mistress. To my knowledge, he wasn't apologizing--and wasn't facing the taking away of his sports team--over his regular (not a one-time instance) committing of adultery. Racism—or even the hint of racism—is considered completely unacceptable in our society, even to the point of overshadowing all other sins a man might commit. 
            But if you look at movies and TV shows of just 40-50 years ago, you’ll see very quickly how things have changed (and in this case, much better). Blacks and other minorities were routinely presented in a horribly stereotypical manner. Racist jokes (with the “N” word) were considered perfectly acceptable in allegedly polite company. Disney, for example, has had to make several of its earliest works unavailable to the public because they’re so offensive today. During World War Two, Superman and other comic book superheroes were calling on all of us to “Slap a. . .” well, it rhymes with “slap” and was a racial slur against Japanese people.
            I think that three big “blind spots” in this age are abortion, sex before marriage, and homosexuality. I defy you to find me someone who publicly objects to any of these practices who hasn’t been heavily influenced by biblical morality. Notice what I said instead of “Christian,” because A) there are a lot of sincere believers who are really confused as to God’s standards as set forth in the Bible, and B) there are people who are influenced by biblical morality who aren’t Christians, such as practicing Jews, Mormons, and people raised in a biblically-influenced household. 
            And I think there’s one more big blind spot, one facilitated by an entire wing of modern American political thought: The 8th Commandment. I maintain that the further you get on the political Left, the less you take this one seriously. And I’d also maintain that some on the political Right have let this into their thinking without even noticing it. And furthermore, I’d submit that even a lot of Christians who sincerely want to please our Lord have let this seep into their worldview.
            More on this in the next posting. 

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