Saturday, February 18, 2017

31 Truths to Doubt

They Ain't Necessarily So

Some accepted truths there are reasons to doubt (in no particular order). There are things here to irritate almost everyone, and one on which all will agree:

1. You voted for Trump because you are a Christian.

2. You oppose Trump because you are a Christian.

3. Only a woman can understand and can minister to the deepest needs of women.

4. There is only one person in the world who's right for you, so look hard and be sure.

5. Couples should have a weekly date night.

6. Christians who believe in an old universe have capitulated to unbelieving science.

7. Only black people understand the black experience and white privilege, so only black people can speak about issues in the black community.

8. Churches can be relevant only if they do practical ministries that meet people's perceived needs (how to parent, how to handle money, exercising with Christian music, creating enterprise zones), etc.

9. The church must have a prophetic voice by speaking to social and political issues of the day.

10. Anglicanism is or should be a halfway house between Rome and Protestantism.

11. Spiritual ministers preach long sermons and spiritual congregations demand them.

10. Frequent celebration of the Lord’s Supper makes it less meaningful.

11. "Blessed Assurance" is a true and glorious expression of Christian experience.

12. Tim Bayly is a great defender of Christianity without compromise.

13. If you want your children to be godly spank them early and often.

14. Home school your kids so they will not be socialized by peers from other families in either the public or the Christian school.

15. Anything that looks or feels Roman Catholic is.

16. Christians should speak to and instruct the government on its duties from the Bible.

17. An education in any Christian school, including the most rigid fundamentalist ones, is always better than education in any public schools.

18. Questioning the perspective of black evangelicals on matters of race, society, politics, and church betrays a latent or crypto racism.

19. It is un-Christian to believe in providing health care through a single payer system.

20. It is un-Christian to believe in providing health care through the free market.

21. Christians should study the Bibles to form their political views and vote accordingly.

22. Vaccinations are bad for you and your kids and are a conspiracy involving big-pharma, medical professionals, and government

23. Organic foods are better for your health.

24. Churches should provide gluten and wine free Communion.

25. Whatever is natural is best.

26. "Saved" ("life now is sweet and my joy is complete") tells the truth about post-conversion experience.

27. Anglicans should look at the English Reformation as an unfortunate and overwrought historical turn and return to the catholic (with no pope) doctrine and worship of the pre-39 Articles English Church.

28. Traffic law enforcement is all about public safety.

29. Betsy DeVos is qualified to be Secretary of Education because she is a Christian and believes in charter schools.

30. Betsy DeVos bought her position with contributions to politicians and is totally unqualified to be Secretary of Education.

31. Bill Smith is always right.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

People Ought to Care What Michelle Higgins Says

What Hath PCA Racial Reconciliation Wrought?

Ms. Higgins

Michelle Higgins is a Black voice in the PCA to whom everyone ought to be paying attention.

She is the Director of Music and Outreach at South City Church in St. Louis, where her father, Mike, is the Lead Pastor. She holds the M.Div. degree from Covenant Theological Seminary where her father is a Dean.

In December 2015 she caused quite a stir in the evangelical world as one of the speakers at the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship's Urbana Missions Conference. The Urbana brochure introduced her in this way:
A native of St. Louis, Michelle Higgins is actively engaged in the #BlackLivesMatter movement through participation in civil disobedience, leadership development, logistics, and administrative support in both sacred and secular spaces.
 ...She is a proud supporter of local activism groups MCU (Metropolitan Congregations United), MORE (Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment) and OBS (the Organization for Black Struggle), through which she has learned a great deal about collaboration and solidarity. She is also the director of Faith for Justice, a Christian advocacy group. She serves as an organizer for the Leadership Development Resource Weekend (LDR Weekend), an annual gathering founded to address the core concerns of dignity, identity, and significance for people of color.
After Urbana I wrote twice about her Ms. Higgins: This Does Not End Well for the PCA and Why This Doesn't End Well for the PCA.

Last April she spoke for the Religion Department at Ashland University, a Christian school which thus describes its "Spirituality and Faith": "Affirms Christian values as a core element of the University's institutional identity, emphasizing faith in God, moral integrity and respect for the diversity of values and faith of each person in a community of learning." The Religion Department introduced Ms. Higgins to the University Community: "The Ashland University's Religion Department is hosting musician and activist Michelle Higgins on April 20-21. She will have a full schedule preaching, teaching and conducting workshops with Ashland students (emphasis added)."

In January of 2016 a interview with Ms. Higgins by the Religion News Service was published in the Washington Post. The interview was introduced as follows:
Higgins has been making waves. A leader in the BlackLivesMatter movement, she recently addressed a gathering of 16,000 evangelical students at an InterVarsity conference in St. Louis, during which she urged them to support the movement.

Her activism has drawn criticism, with some labeling her “Michelle the Marxist,” and others criticizing her for questioning the assumptions of the anti-abortion movement.
In the interview she was asked what Black Lives Matter is:

First and probably most publicly at this point, it is a political ideology. is the official recognized political ideology founded by three women of color who are uplifting and affirming that multiple black lives have been ignored and abhorred by our system, and these different types of black lives must be affirmed in whole, holistically...
Black Lives Matter is also a decentralized movement...The decentralized movement of Black Lives Matter allows local pastors or local groups to use the phrase to mean all black people are despised systemically in such a way that our country does not hesitate to refuse them proper health care, quality education or fairness in the face of potential arrest...
Ms. Higgins was asked to explain her Urbana criticism of the evangelical sanctity-of-life position: 
If you are black, you wear your pants down on your hips or lower, if you say one curse word or consider for a split second that you might be gay, then you are not worthy of being marked as sacred to God. This is how many people in the evangelical church view victims.
'If VonDerrit Myers (a black man shot and killed by a St. Louis police officer in October) was wearing an ankle bracelet at the time that he was killed, then he deserved to die.” I’ve heard those words before, from the same people who would protest and get sick to their stomach at the idea that young babies are perishing at the hands of people who are sinful as well. But we are unwilling to give over our framework about the sanctity of life to God. We are unwilling to give over our framework about the worth and the value of nonheterosexuals. We are unwilling to say, “God, you are the judge of who should live and who will die. That belongs to you, and not us.”
During the current Black history month, Ms. Higgins was published by an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America minister who blogs at Trybal Pastor and describes herself as "Child of Creator; Guided by Ancestors = Revolution; Empowered by Holy Spirit = Transformation; Liberated by the Orishas and the Lwa=Love. #DecolonizeLutheranism." She wanted to share "a powerful exegesis from Michelle Higgins." Here it is:

Ms. Higgins:

Hebrews 12:18

Humanity is a sacred vessel, bearing treasures wherever we go,

whether or not we realize it.

Ours is a testimony of Blackness embodied, pursuing a treasure we were once told to forgo, forced to forget. Set on a course of discovery from the ports of our invisibility, descendants of Mother Africa who now people the Americas still have a mountain to climb. Stony the road we trod.
For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom, and storm; Hebrews 12:18

After the great liberation and Exodus, when Moses had gathered all the people at Sinai, they trembled at the greatness of The Presence. The mountains were wrapped in smoke. There was lightning and thunder hurling through the skies, sounds like trumpet blasts and the sight of fire descending upon the mountain of God. The whole terrain shook. The sights and sounds were inapproachable; here was a God of glory. Here was a mountain that cannot be touched.

Here the Lord informs the people: “I am not human. I have made you in my image and stretched out my arm to deliver you from oppression. I want you to live in the way I will show you.”

(Curmudgeon: To compare the Exodus account with Mrs. Higgins retelling of it, see Exodus 19 and 20. The mountain must not be touched by the people, because it is the place of the special manifestation of the LORD in his holiness and power. He is the God whom no man can see and live, and whose visible manifestation of himself in thunder, fire, and lightening testify to his total "otherness" of being. When God spoke he identified himself as the God who had liberated from slavery the people who belonged to him, the Old Testament covenant people, not all the slaves in the world. As redeemed people they received the Ten Commandments, but even that was too much for them. They did not believe they could continue to hear the voice of God and live, so they asked that Moses serve as their mediator, to hear the Word of the Lord and convey it to them. As the mediator Moses was a forerunner and type of Christ, who himself is the embodied Word of God and the speaker the Word of God to us so that we can see and hear God and live.)

Ms. Higgins:

The writer of Hebrews prophecies (sic) of a new mountain where God’s glory shines; where jubilation and abundance are the testimony of the peoples gathered there. Access is now the mark of God’s glory. Here the Lord informs the people: “I have become human. I lived among you and stretched out my hands so that you might touch me and know my empathy. I want you to live in the way I have shown you.”

If Sinai is the mountain of God, Zion is the mountain of the people. But both places direct us to see God alone as the only Spirit that can cause humanity to tremble.

(Curmudgeon: To compare Ms. Higgins restatement with what the Apostle actually wrote, see Hebrews 12:18-28. It appears she missed the point. The people were not allowed to touch Mt. Sinai, for reasons stated above, but Mt. Sinai was still a touchable thing because it was a mountain on earth made of earthly materials. Even when the LORD appeared there, the people could have touched the untouchable mount, but they would have died. The mountain to which we have come under the new covenant is also not touchable, but for a different reason - because it is not here on earth. It is in heaven. We have come "to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel." There is absolutely nothing about, "I lived among you and stretched out my hands so that you might touch me and know my empathy." We believers on earth are joined in our worship to the angels and saints in heaven. We should be grateful we belong to the unshakable heavenly kingdom because of our heavenly Mediator who shed his efficacious blood for us, and we must be careful that our worship is acceptable and reverent. The God of the new covenant is no less a consuming fire that the God of the Old Testament. Mt. Zion is not the mountain of his people. It is heaven, where the church of the firstborn, consisting of the souls of the now perfected righteous, meets and worships.)

Ms. Higgins:

We remember…

In the months after Vonderrit Myers, Jr. was murdered by police officer Jason Flanery on Shaw Blvd. in south Saint Louis, police descended upon neighborhoods in the city with fire and smoke. They struggled to enforce fear and foolishness (what they called law and order), crushing residents and activists into blockades, then demanding that we “go home” as they waged war on our streets. They hunted our brother and shed his blood in the street. They constructed lies and shielded a murderer, they painted Vonderrit as a monster. Flanery later admitted that he was just out looking for “who the players were that night”, since he presumed that “groups of people loitering with no destination often commit crimes.”

(Curmudgeon's Note: Here are three newspaper stories about what Ms. Higgins calls the murder of Vonderrit Myers, Jr.: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times )

Ms. Higgins

Was he so deteriorated by his own hatred that he couldn’t see that WE ARE AT HOME? Vonderrit had reached his destination. It was Flanery who was wandering, loitering with no purpose, and bound to commit a crime. These false and failed “protectors”, they tried to build a mountain and make themselves untouchable, tried to make us tremble. They didn’t know that we tremble for no one. We cannot be blinded by paranoid thunder and artificial authority, for we have seen the glory of access. We have touched the truth.

(Curmudgeon: As I understand this, Mr. Meyers had reached home, where he should have been safe, because he was in a black area of the city. It was not he who was acting in a suspicious manner and who might commit crimes - which he had earlier - but the policeman, working that night for a private security company, was "wandering, loitering with no purpose, and bound to commit a crime - murder Mr. Meyers. The day of fearing the illegitimate power of law enforcement officers is over, because Black people have "seen the glory of access" - to God through Christ the mediator? - and have "touched the truth" - of Christ the truth apart from whom no one comes to the Father?)

Ms. Higgins

We are mountain of God.

(Curmudgeon: Well, no.)

Ms. Higgins

What witness is housed in our bodies, these lorded and fabled casks of bronze?
We are Ebenezer, a rock of remembrance:
for the groans of our ancestors
and the triumphs of our forgotten kings.
We fear not to shut down the shit that broken systems call justice.
We are stones hewn from Zion’s mount,
we touch and embrace one another,
to bear witness of our access to our once feared God-self.
We are the sword of God’s resistance:
for the accomplishment of vengeance without fear.

(Curmudgeon: If I understand this, Black people as Black people are stones cut from Mt. Zion, the heavenly church. They touch and embrace one another and so bear witness that they can now be comfortable with what they once feared, their Black God-selves. As Black people now in touch with themselves, they resist the pseudo-justice of society and are God's instruments of vengeance on the majority oppressive society.)
Ms. Higgins 
False testaments fed to us by white supremacy (those fragile stories of frenzied, fearful worship) now give way to a testimony we can touch and feel. The Black storm now an embodiment of the divine. As God’s fire dwells among the people, God’s thunder becomes the people; and the people become God’s great cloud of smoke. Our Blackness is God’s thick darkness — we cannot be approached, neither seen nor touched by those whose evils have corrupted their sight.
(Curmudgeon: Remember Black people as Black people are God's people: "The black storm now an embodiment of the divine...God's thunder now becomes the people; and the people become God's great cloud of smoke. Our blackness is God's thick darkness..." )
Come to this mountain, dark, strong and sweet.

Come and see, this mountain of Zion’s might.

What have we got here? We have an example of "Black exegesis." Those who who keep up with our universities are familiar with "a feminist reading of..." or "a Marxist reading of..." What Ms. Higgins gives us is an example of "a Black reading of Scripture." It is indeed Black, but it is cut loose from the historic principles of interpretation of Scripture. Of course, that means nothing, for those principles are the white and western principles.

Unfortunately, Ms. Higgins is not alone in this approach. Jemar Tisby, who heads heads the African American Leadership Initiative at Reformed Theological Seminary, takes a similar approach arguing the need for an indigenous Reformed 

Mr. Tisby

Mr. Tisby: 
Yet indigenous refers not only to the people involved but also to the type of theology being done. The theology itself has to be indigenous to African Americans... 
An indigenous Reformed movement among African Americans will draw upon existing Reformed theological formulations, but it will not simply mimic them. Theology, not truth, will be adapted to the unique social and cultural milieu of Black communities.
 Commentary by the Curmudgeon: indigenous movement will require an indigenous theology. The type of theology will be different for the theology itself must be indigenous. This theology may draw on existing Reformed theology as suggestive of lines of investigation or even as a kind of source material, but the theology must be adapted to the unique culture and circumstances of Black communities. 
...Mr. Tisby and other African Americans believe an indigenous theology is required by race. Some females believe it is required by gender. Males don't have the same chromosomes, nor the history and experience of oppression in a patriarchal society. In fact males are the oppressors of females. Just as we need feminist studies in general, so we need feminist theology in particular.
The part of this statement, however, that leaves me scratching my head when I stop banging it against the wall is that "theology not truth will be adapted" to the African American milieu. What does that mean? What is the distinction between theology and truth? Try this for comparison: "It is ethics not morality that must be adapted. 
 Mr. Tisby:
Since today’s questions and issues are different than the ones faced 500 years ago, we have “do” theology differently. We have to have different paradigms for drawing out the truths out Scripture and applying them to situations and questions that most affect African Americans. 
Many will read this idea of doing theology differently as changing or compromising God’s truth. This is not at all the thrust of an indigenous Reformed movement. God’s word is unchanging and eternal. But every evangelist and missionary, including the Biblical writers, recognize that while truth is timeless, applications are endless. If we want to more effectively apply God’s word to a variety of cultural contexts we’ll have to figure out a variety of methods of application. 
Reformed theology that truly comes out of the African American experience will look different from the Reformed theology that comes out of, say, 16th century Europe or 19th century North America.

  Commentary by the Curmudgeon
... an indigenous theology will require indigenous methods: ... Neither Mr. Tisby nor African Americans are alone noting the historical and cultural distance between the early 21st century and the Reformation era...But Mr. Tisby is saying that the distance is greater for African Americans than for those of northern European and British descent. This requires an uniquely African American theological method. 
Perhaps the main difference between this approach and the Reformers is that, while the Reformers knew they were addressing issues of their time, they did not think the substance of their theology was time or culture bound... Some of the issues were timely; the theology was timeless. The Reformers did not see themselves as producing a theology indigenous to their ethnicities, histories, or cultures. 
Is anyone out there paying attention?

Where are the two PCA theologians who moved the racial reconciliation movement front and center with their resolution of repentance for the PCA's failures during the Civil Rights movement? Do they really think the Gospel will be left pure?

I'm an Anglican by choice and conviction. So why should I care? Well, I was ordained and served for 40 years as a minister in the PCA. I'm still a Calvinist. And, I still care about my old church. And, I think if this sort of thing wins the day, the PCA will not only not be its old self, which it has not been for a long time, but will become something will little continuity with itself except its name.

One of my REC friends commented last week that evangelicalism is fast become mainline Christianity. Can't argue with that. 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Who Cares What Tim Keller Says?

100 Evangelical Leaders 
Sign Open Letter to the President

Tim and Kathy Keller, along with 98 other evangelical pastors and leaders, have signed a public letter to President Trump and Vice President Pence. The letter, sponsored by the World Relief Agency, is published in the Washington Post. The subject of their letter is President Trump's (now stayed) Executive Order that pauses the immigration of persons from seven majority Islam countries, including those refugees who are seeking asylum in the United States. 

The Christian grounding of pastors' and leaders' appeal to the President and Vice President is found in the first two paragraphs:
As Christian pastors and leaders, we are deeply concerned by the recently announced moratorium on refugee resettlement. Our care for the oppressed and suffering is rooted in the call of Jesus to “love our neighbor as we love ourselves.” In the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), Jesus makes it clear that our “neighbor” includes the stranger and anyone fleeing persecution and violence, regardless of their faith or country.
As Christians, we have a historic call expressed over two thousand years, to serve the suffering. We cannot abandon this call now. We live in a dangerous world and affirm the crucial role of government in protecting us from harm and in setting the terms on refugee admissions. However, compassion and security can coexist, as they have for decades. For the persecuted and suffering, every day matters; every delay is a crushing blow to hope.

They appreciate the concern shown for Christians, the most persecuted religious group in the world, but they are concerned that other groups not suffer at the expense of receiving Christian refugees:
As leaders, we welcome the concern expressed for religious minorities, including persecuted Christians. Followers of Christ face horrific persecution and even genocide in certain parts of the world. While we are eager to welcome persecuted Christians, we also welcome vulnerable Muslims and people of other faiths or no faith at all. This executive order dramatically reduces the overall number of refugees allowed this year, robbing families of hope and a future. And it could well cost them their lives.
Who else signed this letter (and, since it was opened to others, following the lead of the leaders, the list has grown to 500. For those interested in the PCA, the signers of the original letter are, in addition to the Kellers, Scott Sauls of Christ Church Nashville; Bruce McDowell of Tenth Church, Philadelphia; and Patricia Hatch of Mission to North America. Other notables include Ann Voskamp, Bill and Lynne Hybels, Max Lacado, Ed Stetzer, Danny Akin, Rich Mouw, John Perkins, and Stuart and Jill Briscoe. The only Anglican I could find is John Yates of Falls Church. I was surprised not to find Russell Moore among them. You can find the full letter and a list of all the signers here.

Let me ask just two questions: 1) Most important, does the Parable of the Good Samaritan direct the President of the United States about the admission of refugees into the country? By what exegesis and reasoning does one get from the Good Samaritan to Donald Trump? Did Jesus in telling this parable envision that he was instructing the secular governments of the 21st Century regarding their immigration policies? 2) Did Jesus in the parable make "it clear that our 'neighbor' includes the stranger and anyone fleeing persecution and violence, regardless of their faith or country?" If you say, "neighbor means anyone in need of whom I have any knowledge," I suppose you can get there. But that still leaves the question of whether Jesus was speaking to Donald Trump about the policy of his administration.

Lynne Hybels says:
For some people, embracing refugees is a political issue. For me, as a Christian, speaking up for and caring for refugees is more an act of worship and obedience to a God whose Kingdom is global and whose "mercies are new every morning."
For Mrs. Hybels "embracing more an act of worship and obedience to a God whose Kingdom is global," but does she think all Christians are bound to offer the same act of worship and obedience? Since it is an act of worship and obedience, am I disobedient if I do not embrace the refugees as she does?

Which immigrants and refugees and when to admit those from seven countries is about politics. Just politics. It is not about the kingdom of God or my neighbor. As a political question, according to the law, it is a matter for Chief Executive to decide. If, as a political matter. I disagree with him, maybe I'll write him a letter. (I once wrote Bill Clinton, "Tell your maw, tell your paw, we're gonna send you back to Arkansas," which threat failed to come to fruition. If people would have joined me, we could have avoided the whole blue dress thing.) 

But I don't give a rip what Tim Keller and 99 other evangelical pastors and leaders think. Which evangelicals elected them to speak for the rest of us evangelicals? Who made them competent, as pastors and leaders, to instruct the President about immigration policy. As far as I am concerned they can do with their letter what Johnny Paycheck told the boss man to do with that job. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Memories of an Inauguration

Life in Washington

Reagans and Bushes descending Capitol Steps
after Inauguration

We lived inside the Beltway from June of 1988 till August of 1992. My wife was determined that we would get the full immersion experience of Washington, D.C. I once began a sermon with "There went out a decree from Susan Augustus" that we would attend the lighting the National Christmas Tree. 

On Veteran's Day, 1988, the church was closed but school was open, so the two of us decided to drive into the city. On the way we heard on the radio that President Reagan would be speaking at amphitheater at Arlington, and we decided go. It was a very short (his main speech was at the Vietnam Memorial) but vintage Reagan speech complete with Nancy looking on in her adoring way. An experience we are happy we had.

Reagan at Arlington (Probably 1985)

There were great many other experiences - all the museums and monuments, the National Cathedral, concerts of military bands on the Capitol steps on summer evenings, tours of the White House, Evening Parade at the Marine Barracks, the cherry blossoms, Fourth of July Concerts on the Capitol lawn, Food Court at Union Station,a series of Marine Band Concerts at Constitution Hall, lunch at the American Cafe on Capitol Hill, Messiah at the Kennedy Center. 

The memory that comes to mind on this Inauguration Day is the 1989 Inauguration of George H.W. Bush. Again Susan found out there would be a concert at the Lincoln Memorial. (I was surprised that Donald Trump did not know there had been a concert on Inauguration eve there before.) The other day I opened a drawer in a desk and found a small flashlight. All of us received one as we arrived at the Memorial as tokens of the Bush theme - "A Thousand Points of Light." I remember only two acts - Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine and the Beach Boys. My favorite memory of the Concert is of our youngest son, Joel, then 5 years old, sitting on my shoulders and singing at the top of his off key voice, "Aruba, Jamaica, ooh I wanna take ya..."

The next morning we caught the subway into the city. When we arrived we claimed a spot on the street in front of the Navy Memorial. Of course, there were hours left till the Inauguration itself, but, if my memory is correct, we managed passing the time without family crisis and without a meltdown on the part of any of the five boys or dad. Susan has always been the glue (by calmness, resilience, and organization) that holds our family together, and the Inauguration was no exception.

The twins had got a battery operated TV with a very small screen for Christmas, and much of the time was spent watching TV on the curb. It was on that TV we witnessed the Inauguration itself. Not too long afterward we watched as a giant helicopter carrying the Reagans to Andrews for their flight to California flew over our heads. Eventually the "entertainment" began, and we watched as band after band passed before us. We saw the the Bushes darkly as through a tinted glass waving as their limousine made its way to the White House the the reviewing stand.

Navy Memorial

At last the sun began to go down, the temperature began to drop, and the Queen said that we could go home. We made it home in time for those who wished to watch the end of the parade and then the Inaugural festivities. The boys were nowhere to be found.

We lived in Washington at the right time. (We moved to Pittsburgh in August of 1992.) Susan always said she was glad we got out of town before "those people" moved into the White House.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Questions about Insurance and Healthcare

Questions about Insurance and Healthcare
for Conservatives and Liberals

For Conservatives

  • Are you prepared to see people denied healthcare if it means their not having serious illness treated or dying from preventable causes because they lack healthcare?

    • If are so prepared:
      • Would you also do away with or severely limit the benefits currently provided seniors by Medicare?
      • Would you do away with or severely limited the benefits provided to the poor by Medicaid?`
      • Do you make any distinction between the sick and the injured in the obligation of hospitals to treat? Would allow hospitals to deny emergency treatment to either or both?
      • If the Affordable Care Act is repealed, to what point in American history would you set back the clock with regard insurance and healthcare? 
      • Do you favor a purely market-driven (to the extent such is possible in the American economy) to the availability of insurance and the distribution of healthcare?
      • Would you do anything at all to insure or provide healthcare for those with pre-existing conditions?
      • Is there a limit in the numbers of persons or percentage of the population suffering death because of lack of healthcare you would find unacceptable?

    • If you are not so prepared:
      • What would you be willing to do to assure that persons with serious illnesses are treated and that persons whose deaths are preventable do not die?
      • Assuming you would want churches and charitable organizations to enable uninsured persons either to obtain insurance or to receive healthcare, what, if anything, would you do about those for whom these organizations could not or would not provide?
      • Would you leave in place Medicare? What changes do you think are necessary for it to continue to be viable?
      • Would you leave in place Medicaid? What changes would in terms of contraction, expansion, modification to keep it viable?
      • What, if anything would you do about those with pre-existing conditions?
      • What, if any role, do you envision for the government?
      • Do you think it would be more likely to come up with workable healthcare solutions by working with Conservative Group 1 above or Liberal Group 2 below?

For Liberals

  • Are you prepared to spend an unlimited amount of money so that everyone with a serious illness and everyone with a preventable cause of death is treated?
    • If you are so prepared:
      • Would there be any role of the insurance industry?
      • Do you favor a single payer system of providing healthcare?
      • Even, if an unlimited amount of money were provided, would rationing of healthcare be necessary?
      • How would you provide the money to insure and/or treat everyone? Increased deficits? Higher taxes for some? 
      • What, anything would you do to restrain the cost of healthcare? Would hospitals be run by the government? Would doctors become employees of the government? Would the pharmaceutical companies be owned by the government?
      • How do you see money being available for medical research that would lead to such things as innovation in treatment, development of new drugs, etc?
      • Would parts of the federal budget have to be eliminated, cut, or restrained in order to have money to spend on healthcare? If so, what parts?
      • When you say you are willing to spend an unlimited amount of money, do you mean an absolutely unlimited amount of money? Would there be any limits in terms of such things as percentage of the federal/state budgets or percentage of the GDP?
    • If you are not so prepared:
      • Would you cover with insurance or by some other means provide healthcare for all?
      • Do you favor a single payer system or a system that uses some combination of government and private involvement?
      • What limits would you impose on expenditures for healthcare?
      • What changes, if any, would you make to Medicare and Medicaid?
      • Do you think it would be more likely to come up with workable healthcare solutions by working with Liberal Group 1 above or Conservative Group 2 further above?

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Is Martin Luther King in Heaven?

Is Martin Luther King
Looking Over Heaven's Balcony?

(What follows is a post from January 21, 2015, at my old Blog, "The Christian Curmudgeon. It addresses the doctrinal views of Dr. King. This seems to me relevant given the tendency among some evangelicals, black and white, to portray Dr. King, not only as a civil rights hero, but as an exemplary Christian.) 

To answer my own question, I hope so. I very much hope so.

I am not a fan of hell. I bow to God's sovereign wisdom and justice, but I wish there were no hell. I wish that every life were sooner or later redeemed, set free from the scourge of sin, and released from the eternal judgment that follows sin. I don't want to go to hell, and I don't want anybody else to go there.

I hope that Dr. King now rests in peace and will rise to glory. He was in many respects a great man who did good and important things not only for Black people but for the whole country. The thought of his being anywhere other than in heaven and waiting to share in Jesus's resurrection to eternal life is one I don't like to contemplate.

Yesterday (1/20/15) the Reformed African American Network published A Dream Conferred: King Day Reflections by John 
Richards. Mr. Richards has a B.A. from Morehouse College, a J.D. from Howard University, and a M.Div. from Fuller Theological Seminary. He blogs at John C. Richards,Jr.

Mr. Richards seems to have no doubt that Dr. King whom he describes as "one of the greatest preachers of the twentieth century" (true if by preacher one means homiletician and/or orator) is "looking over heaven's balcony" at us. Reflecting on Dr. King's sermon "The Drum Major Instinct" (the desire to be first, to be the leader), Mr. Richards writes of King:

He marched to the beat of the One from whom every family in heaven and in earth derives its name. He marched to the beat of the Drummer in whom all things are held together. He marched to the beat of the Great Different Drummer.
However, there are reasons it is necessary to be concerned about Dr. King's eternal destiny (which should have nothing to do with our evaluation of his civil rights legacy). I do not refer to Dr. King's marital infidelities. Dr. King would not be the first Christian or the only preacher in heaven whose life contained large moral inconsistencies. Nor am I overly concerned for his misunderstanding of the relation of Gandhi and Jesus:  
Gandhi was probably the first person in history to lift the love ethic of Jesus above mere interaction between individuals to a powerful and effective social force on a large scale…
His belief that Gandhi worked out in practice "the love ethic of Jesus" is an error, but not one that would exclude from heaven. Moreover, we can be thankful that he employed Gandhian non-violence as his method of protest and gaining of rights: 
It was in this Gandhian emphasis on love and nonviolence that I discovered the method for social reform...the only morally and practically sound method open to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom.
It is not either of these issues, but Dr. King's theological beliefs, that give me grave concerns about him. In his writings as a student Dr. King did not just question but denied outright basic tenets of historic Christian orthodoxy such as the virgin birth, the eternal Sonship, the atonement, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and the second coming.

On the virgin birth: 

First we must admit that the evidence for the tenability of this doctrine is too shallow to convince any objective thinker. To begin with, the earliest written documents in the New Testament make no mention of the virgin birth. Moreover, the Gospel of Mark, the most primitive and authentic of the four, gives not the slightest suggestion of the virgin birth. The effort to justify this doctrine on the grounds that it was predicted by the prophet Isaiah is immediately eliminated, for all New Testament scholars agree that the word virgin is not found in the Hebrew original, but only in the Greek text which is a mistranslation of the Hebrew word for "young woman." How then did this doctrine arise? 
A clue to this inquiry may be found in a sentence from St. Justin's First Apology. Here Justin states that the birth of Jesus is quite similar to the birth of the sons of Zeus. It was believed in Greek thought that an extraordinary person could only be explained by saying that he had a father who was more than human. It is probable that this Greek idea influenced Christian thought.
A more adequate explanation for the rise of this doctrine is found in the experience which the early christians had with Jesus. The people saw within Jesus such a uniqueness of quality and spirit that to explain him in terms of ordinary background was to them quite inadequate. For his early followers this spiritual uniqueness could only by accounted for in terms of biological uniqueness. They were not unscientific in their approach because they had no knowledge of the scientific. They could only express themselves in terms of the pre-scientific thought patterns of their day.
On eternal Sonship:
The orthodox attempt to explain the divinity of Jesus in terms of an inherent metaphysical substance within him seems to me quite inadequate. To say that the Christ, whose example of living we are bid to follow, is divine in an ontological sense is actually harmful and detrimental...the orthodox view of the divinity of Christ is in my mind quite readily denied. The significance of the divinity of Christ lies in the fact that his achievement is prophetic and promissory for every other true son of man who is willing to submit his will to the will and spirit of God. Christ was to be only the prototype of one among many brothers. The appearance of such a person, more divine and more human than any other, and in closest unity at once with God and man, is the most significant and hopeful event in human history. This divine quality or this unity with God was not something thrust upon Jesus from above, but it was a definite achievement through the process of moral struggle and self-abnegation.
On the atonement:
Any doctrine which finds the meaning of atonement in the triumph of Christ over such cosmic powers as sin, death and Satan is inadequate.... If Christ by his life and death paid the full penalty of sin, there is no valid ground for repentance or moral obedience as a condition of forgiveness. The debt is paid; the penalty exacted, and there is, consequently, nothing to forgive.
On the resurrection:
The last doctrine in our discussion deals with the resurrection story. This doctrine, upon which the Easter Faith rests, symbolizes the ultimate Christian conviction: that Christ conquered death. From a literary, historical, and philosophical point of view this doctrine raises many questions. In fact the external evidence for the authenticity of this doctrine is found wanting. But here again the external evidence is not the most important thing, for it in itself fails to tell us precisely the thing we most want to know: What experiences of early Christians lead to the formulation of the doctrine? 
On the second coming:
It is obvious that most twentieth century Christians must frankly and flatly reject any view of a physical return of Christ...
Actually we are celebrating the Second Advent every time we open our hearts to Jesus, every time we turn our backs to the low road and accept the high road, every time we say no to self that we may say yes to Jesus Christ, every time a man or wom[a]n turns from ugliness to beauty and is able to forgive even their enemies...The final doctrine of the second coming is that whenever we turn our lives to the highest and best there for us is the Christ.
At least in his student days Dr. King held typically liberal theological views. Did he change them? Some say he came to see neo-orthodoxy as a needed corrective to liberalism. Others say that in his latter years he identified increasingly with the sufferings of Jesus. Jim Wallis, the evangelical progressive social activist, apparently believes that King's theology developed in a more conservative direction:
His theological liberalism was not an adequate foundation for what he would face later...I would argue that the more deeply one moves in the struggle for social justice ... personal faith becomes more important.
However, one writer who interviewed the professor to whom Mrs. King entrusted the early writings of Dr. King says: 
Dr. Clayborne Carson, a world-renowned King scholar and director of the King Papers Project at Stanford, told me that he had not seen any documentary evidence of a later shift in King's thinking from his early views on Christian doctrines. He also said King may have found creative ways to avoid expressing his unorthodox views, as he was trained in a liberal seminary but served a Baptist congregation. 
I agree with both William F. Buckley and Ronald Reagan who favored a King holiday. It is important especially to Black people to have a day set aside for the celebration of the Black man who led their 20th century quest for personal dignity and equality of rights. Dr. King need not be a Christian believer to secure his place in history and in the American pantheon of heroes. 

I wish that Christians did not feel the necessity of doing the equivalent of the funeral practice of "preaching him into heaven." There is no necessity for the clergyman officiating at a funeral to determine what a person was or was not in this life or where he is or is not in the world to come. Read the service, preach the homily, commit the body to the earth and the soul to God. Leave it at that. 

Dr. King is a hero like all others - admirable in some ways, flawed in others. He is in the hands of a merciful God from whom we hope he, as we, will receive mercy. 

But let's be truthful. You don't raise questions about police brutality by claiming Mike Brown was an unarmed teenager with his hands up trying to surrender when an out of control white cop killed him. You don't make Martin Luther King greater by diminishing Lyndon Johnson. And you don't make Dr. King a Christian leader by overlooking what he said he believed.