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    How can Christians be Conservative? Part III

    Wednesday, March 16th, 2011 by Elgin Hushbeck

    The final question, posed to me on how Christians can be conservatives dealt with the issue of how, since they are so against government intervention, can they seek to use government to impose their view of morality on others, in particular with the Pro-Life movement?

    While a common question, it has several problems.  For one, conservatives are not against all government. There is, for example a difference between libertarianism, and conservatism.  Thus there is nothing inconsistent with conservatives seeking to, as the question puts it,  “use government to impose their view of morality on others.”   But the question is more complex.

    When you get right down to it, the slogan “You can’t legislate morality” is just silly.  Virtually all laws legislate some view of morality, and thus impose that view on others.   It is not that all morals should be legislated, but rather that laws are basically the morals of a society that are believed to be so important; the power of the state should be used to enforce them.

    Murder is morally wrong. In fact, it is so morally wrong, we do not want to leave it up to individuals to decide this particular issue for themselves. Therefore, we use the power of the state to enforce the moral view that murder is wrong and to impose that view on others.

    What does distinguish conservatives from, on the one hand, liberals, who seem at times to want to right every wrong by passing a law, and on the other hand, libertarians, who often seem to be boarder line anarchist, is that conservatives, for the most part, have different standards depending on the level of government.  At the federal level, they are much closer to libertarians wanting very little government. Yet the closer the level of government is to the people the boarder the latitude they give the government to pass laws, and thus in that sense are closer to liberals when you get to local government, at least in their willingness to use government.

    For example, while I oppose prostitution, I would also oppose a federal ban on prostitution, as that is not a federal concern.  If a state or better yet, a community wants to ban it as in most of the country, or legalize it, as in a few areas of Nevada, then that is their concern.

    So how does this come into play with abortion?  There are two parts to this question. The first is the closely related, but somewhat different issue of Roe v Wade and the constitution.  Many, but certainly not all, conservatives seek the overturn of Roe, and this is very consistent with conservatism in general.  This is because an overturn of Roe, would simply remove the issue from the federal level and return it back to the states.  Before Roe, abortion was already legal in many states, illegal in others, but the trend was towards legalization at least in cases of rape, incest, or threat to life of the mother.

    When it comes to opposition to abortion itself, it really comes down to how one views the fetus. It is biologically alive and genetically a human life distinct from that of the mother.  Thus those who are pro-life believe that the power of the state should protect innocent human life in the womb, just like it protects it in a lot of other areas.

    Now granted things get very complex at this point because there is not just one human life to consider, but two.  Exactly how the rights of the two humans are balanced and in what circumstances one can take precedent over the other, is a matter of consider disagreement and a discussion of this would go well beyond a blog post.   But, in short, pro-life conservatives believe that the Declaration of Independence’s claim that we have been endowed by our creator with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness applies to human life even if it is in the womb.

    Thus they don’t see any contradiction is pushing for laws to protect human life in the womb, just like we have laws protecting it out of the womb.

    How can Christians be Conservative?

    Wednesday, March 9th, 2011 by Elgin Hushbeck

    As I mentioned on my other blog, the wife of a liberal friend of mine recently asked some sincere questions trying to understand Conservatives.  I answered her more political question there.  Here I will address the more religiously oriented questions, though they all still have a strong political component. In general she was basically asking, how a sincere Christian could be a Conservative.

    Before answering that question, I want to be clear that I do not subscribe to the opposite position, i.e. I do not question how a Liberal can be a Christian.    While politics and religion do overlap in some areas, rarely are things so clear cut as to lead to a clearly “Christian” political view, be it on the Left or the Right. Also, I want to note that the Conservative movement is itself a broad spectrum of beliefs and not all Conservatives will agree with my answers, especially since not all Conservatives are Christians.

    But back to her questions; as a background she referenced three major touch stones of the Christian faith, at least when it comes to social policy.  The first was the Sermon on the Mount; the second was Jesus’ statement in Matthew 25:40, “I tell you with certainty, since you did it for one of the least important of these brothers of mine, you did it for me.” (ISV)  Finally she mentioned Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters, because either he will hate one and love the other, or be loyal to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and riches!”

    Against this background she asked three questions. How can conservative Christians oppose the workers right to collectively bargain?  How can they show a lack of concern about the uninsured as seen in their objection to Obamacare? Finally how come, since they are so against government intervention, they seek to use government to impose their view of morality on others, in particular with the Pro-Life movement? I will deal with the last two in future posts.

    As for the first question, as it turns out, this is an issue that Christians are pretty evenly split on.  But I will address it from my view.  First, I have a problem with the whole notion of “workers rights” and see this as part of the general confusion that exists concerning the whole understanding of rights.  In brief, the concept of rights developed from the belief that we are special creations of God, created in his own image, and that God has given us abilities, such as the ability to think and reason.  The basic notion is that what God has given, no one, not even the King, as a right to take away.  Thus we see in the Declaration of Independence,

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

    Given this view of rights, there is no such thing as a right to collectively bargain.  Unions, and the arrangements that they make with management, are just one of many potential financial arrangements that employees and employers could enter into.  Thus I would argue that collective bargaining is neither Christian nor Unchristian, and this may very well explain the divergence of views.

    This of course does not meant that particular employers, or particular unions, have not acted in Christian and/or unchristian ways from time to time. This does not mean that employer or unions are always good. History is full of examples on both sides of greed, bad faith, and unconcern of the welfare of “the least of these.”

    In terms of the recent attempt to restrict unions in Wisconsin, and in other states, I have a particular problem.  When dealing with a company driven by profit, there is always the possibility that management is greedy and simply trying to exploit the workers.   Yet when with comes to government employees, they are not unionizing against a greedy owner, but against the people.  In addition, there is the dichotomy, at least for those on the left, that government is supposed to be a benevolent force, not driven by profit, and looking out for our best interest, as opposed to corporations who are out for profit. Yet when it comes to unions, government is just another employer to be demonized.

    Then there is the fact that it is hard to hold that state workers are in “the least of these” category when both the pay and benefits they receive are significantly better than those in the private sector who must pay the bill.  This is especially true where the public sector unions have become a significant political force, such that they have been able to elect politicians beholden to them into office.  These politicians then repay the favor by giving them pay and benefits that well exceed the private sector.

    As a result, many states such as California are in serious financial problems and have huge unfunded liabilities resulting from these union contracts.  Unions can claim that the state made the contract, but they cannot ignore the fact that these contracts were made often under a threat of strike, and often by the very politicians the unions sought to elect.

    Thus one could just as easily turn the whole question around.  Is the Christian position really to side with those workers who are the best off, at the expense of those who must pay the bills; many of whom are worse off, or who will suffer a loss of services, because the money is not there?  Is the Christian position, really to ask those struggling on fixed incomes to do will less even less, because their property taxes must rise to pay the wages of government workers making far more.

    Bottom line: I believe this is a place where Christians of good heart can and do disagree. Not because of the principles of the Christian faith, but how they are applied and how they view the issue.

    Spirituality & Religious Behavior & Life

    Tuesday, September 15th, 2009 by Elgin Hushbeck

    There is a direct correlation between spirituality and religious behavior and how we see and feel and react to the world around us.  Those who pray on a daily basis, and attend religious intuitions on a weekly basis,  are happier,  healthier,  more content, more satisfied in their job,  closer to their families, and have a better outlook towards the future. If you ever wanted evidence that spirituality and religiosity has a direct impact on how we regard life,  its  right there in the book for you.

    Frank Luntz, discussing his book “What America Really Want … Really” with Dennis Prager Sept 15, 2009 Hour 2 on Prager’s paid site .

    Sharpening Iron: A Review of The Jesus Paradigm

    Friday, July 24th, 2009 by Elgin Hushbeck

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    In his new book.  The Jesus Paradigm.  Dr.  David Alan Black issues a bold challenge to the church.  His fundamental premise is that the Church lost its way around the time it became allied with the Roman Empire following the rise to power of Constantine.  and for the most part has been doing things wrong ever since. 

    While the reformation was an important corrective.  it still retained many of the errors.  and thus was still locked into a pattern for the church that was based more on the world’s way of doing things rather than the biblical pattern.  For Dr.  Black.  what was needed was not a reformation but a restoration more in lines with the approach taken by the Anabaptists.  a restoration of the Church back to what it originally was and was meant to be.  A Church not based on the way the world works and views things.  but a church that follows the model found in the Bible.  a church truly centered on the teachings of Jesus.  not just in theology and morality.  but in its organization.  structure.  and practice as well. 

    My view of The Jesus Paradigmis best summed up by Proverbs 27:17.  “As iron sharpens iron.  so one man sharpens another.” Calls for change are never easy.  and calls for changes so large as to constitute a paradigm shift are extremely difficult.  Dr.  Black’s challenge is no different.  In fact many will find much they disagree with.  I certainly did.  But the true value in Dr.  Blacks’ book is not the suggestion he makes.  but the effective way he calls.  and even challenges.  the reader to think deeply and seriously about the Church.  its structure.  and its role in both the world and the life of the believer. 

    As Dr.  Black writes.  “Churches today have to make a choice to follow contemporary patterns of ecclesiology or use the early church as a model.” (p 40) He believe that the division between church leaders and members is far to stark.  Not only being unscriptural.  Dr.  Black argues that this has resulted in a “responsibility redistribution.”  For example.  the Bible is fairly clear that parents have the responsibility to bring up their children “by training and instructing them about the Lord.” (Eph 6:4 ISV) Yet the current church structure has encouraged parent to abdicate their responsibility turning it over to church leaders to deal with. 

    Rather than the current structure that is so common and widespread as to be taken for granted.  Dr.  Black believes that churches should move towards an “every-member ministry” where “most jobs that are currently salaried positions will be filled by volunteer help”(p 2).  and where “new believers will be asked to specify a regular community involvement… in addition to their commitment to a ministry in the church.” (p 3)

    Such suggestions are such a stark departure from the norm.  that many might be tempted to reject them out of hand.  But the way Dr.  Black lays out the biblical and historical evidence in support of his position will permit no such kneejerk rejection.  In some respects.  there is nothing new in Dr.  Black’s biblical evidence.  For the most part he simply quotes familiar verses.  But again this is one of the strengths of the book.  for often these verses are so common that we have passed over them without much thought as to what they are really saying. 

    For example.  in 1 Thess 5:14 Paul writes “We encourage you.  brothers and sisters.  to admonish the unruly.  comfort the discouraged.  and uphold the weak.”  As Dr.  Black relates.  “I well recall how shocked I was when I first realized that Paul was exhorting.  not leaders.  but the brothers to ‘admonish the unruly.’… Every time Paul wrote to a church in order to deal with its problems.  he never appealed to the leaders.  Instead.  his constant request was for the whole church to deal with its trouble.” (p 70)

    Perhaps the weakest part of the book is Dr.  Black’s comments on the relationship between politics and the church.  But this was not because I disagreed with Dr.  Blacks general position that “Christians today must maintain an ultimate commitment to Christ and eschew loyalty to a political party.” In many ways I agree there must be some sort of separation.  even if I do reject the recently developed constitutional concept of a strict separation of church and state.  This is why I do not write about political issues on my consider.org blog

    Nor is it because I disagreed with some of the political positions he took.  which I do.  Rather it is because he did not remain consistent with his own position.  Thus if I were to attempt to rebut some of the positions he takes.  I would need to do it on my political blog (Hushbeck.com/blog) and not on my Christian blog (consider.org/blog). 

    Still.  overall.  while I found much to disagree with in The Jesus Paradigm.  the process of working through the book.  of struggling with and considering the criticism Dr.  Black has concerning the state of the Church.  the corrective measures he suggests.  and most importantly the biblical and historical evidence he lays out.  helped clarify many of my lingering doubts and nagging problems I see in the modern church.  It moved my thinking.  and my understanding forward.  And what more could one ask for in a book other that the Bible?  In short.  it is an important book that should be not only read.  but seriously considered by anyone interested in the state and direction of the modern church.

    This is Elgin Hushbeck.  asking you to Consider Christianitya Faith Based on Fact.

    Note: as a matter of full disclosure.  Dr.  Black was my professor of among other things NT Greek.  and The Jesus Paradigm was published by Energion.  which also published my three books.

    Should Christians be Different

    Friday, July 17th, 2009 by Elgin Hushbeck

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    In his Christianity Today article “The Scandal of the Public Evangelical” Mark Galli gives a stark challenge to the evangelical movement.  Pointing to the many recent scandals that have involved evangelicals, he writes, “We assume that with sufficient exhortation and moral effort, our sins will become smaller than a widow’s mite and our righteousness larger than life. This is coupled with the long-standing evangelical myth that there should be something different about the Christian. A look. An attitude. A lifestyle.”

    I found a number of things troubling about Galli’s argument.  The first was his starting point: the failing of a few public evangelicals, in particular Carrie Prejean, the Gosselins, and  Mark Sanford.

    It seems to me that Galli has fallen victim to the celebrity based mentality so prevalent in our media driven culture, a culture that is normally very hostile to evangelicals, at least when they are not just ignoring them.    The sad story of Carrie Prejean, Miss California, demonstrates this very well.  She rockets to fame because she took a mild stance in favor of traditional marriage, and for that she becomes a star for evangelicals, and target for the media.

    This brings me to one of Galli’s statements that I believe was exaggerated to the point of being a straw man. This was his claim that “our sins will become smaller than a widow’s mite and our righteousness larger than life.”   Now perhaps that is what he is hearing on Sunday mornings, but it has not been my experience.   In fact, I see almost the opposite; the stress on being just “sinners saved by grace” to the point of downplaying of sin; the increased stress on the praise portion of the service, and the downplaying of the actual study of the Bible; the growing idea among the young that church is a fun activity rather than a serious commitment to God.

    But even if that were not the case, Prejean’s is to me more an example of the viciousness of the media than any weakness among evangelicals.  Even if we could all reach perfection in Christ, we would still all have a past, and given enough media animosity, a past that could be exposed.   After all just look how Jesus was attacked, and he was perfect.  So how much more can we, mere sinners, be attacked.

    Neither the Gosselins nor Mark Sanford are representative of what I would consider “average” evangelical role models.  They are the “role models” the world chooses for us, but they should not be the role models we as the body of Christ look to.  Our role models are of little interest to the world but can be found in virtually every church should we care to look. They are those who live godly lives of service, with little or no fanfare, but a love for the Lord.

    Galli’s argument has at its root an additional flaw.   If we seriously follow Christ I do believe, in Galli’s  words, “that there should be something different about the Christian. A look. An attitude. A lifestyle.”  Following Christ will have an impact on us, how we live, and how we interact with others.    This, in fact can be seen in the decline in things like honesty in the culture as it has moved away from Christianity and embraced a more secular view.

    But there is a huge difference between better and perfect.   We are not, and I believe never will be, in this world at least, perfect followers of Christ.  We all still struggle with sin, and will continue do so while we live. But we are also indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and leading a spirit filled life will have a impact on how we live.  It will not make us perfect, but it will, if we seek to follow our Lord, make us better.   And this should be something we have to offer the world.  That so many Christians often resemble the world is, I believe, a failure of the Church.

    That said, Galli does make a valid point that this is not the only thing we have to offer the world. It is not even the primary thing we have to offer.   As he points out toward the end of his article, “What we offer the world is not ourselves or our moral example or our spiritual integrity. What we offer the world is our broken lives, saying, ‘We are sinners saved by grace.’ What we offer the world is Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

    That is, and always should be our primary message to a world that is lost; the message of Gospel.  The recent public failures should serve only to remind us that the world is hostile to the message of God and will use whatever it can to discredit it. This will not change, nor will Christians in the limelight cease to disappoint us from time to time.   But our goal is not to please a celebrity enthralled culture, it is to reach world with the Gospel, and to serve a risen Lord.

    This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.

    The Defense of Marriage Part I

    Friday, June 26th, 2009 by Elgin Hushbeck

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    As someone who taught critical thinking at university level to both students and teachers, I find few issues more lacking in critical thought than the debate over marriage.   As a strong supporter of the traditional view of marriage, it is no surprise that I would find the arguments of those who support nontraditional forms of marriage lacking, but I frequently find the arguments of supporters lacking as well.

    The reasons for this are many.  One, of course, is the generally low level of critical thinking found in society in general.  Despite the claims of academicians, people are not taught to think in most schools.  Rather than thinking for themselves, they are taught to accept what academics say, either directly, or in the modern equivalent of the Papal Bull, the scientific study.

    Another big source of confusion is the overlapping concerns of the state and religion. For many the institution of marriage is primarily a religious commitment, done in a church, with vows taken before God. Yet it is also licensed and controlled by the state.

    Finally, there is the fact that marriage has been so universally accepted and so ingrained into our society and culture that most have just taken it for granted. It is just what people do; with little thought as to why. 

    All of this combined leads to a great deal of confusion. So over the next few post I will try to clear up some of this confusion, and to outline some reasons why I support the traditional view of marriage and as a result oppose non-traditional forms such as same-sex marriage and polygamy.   This formulation is not accidental. In many respects, it is not so much that I oppose same-sex marriage and polygamy; rather it is that I support the traditional view of marriage, marriage between one man and one woman.

    So first, I will attempt to clear up some of the misconceptions that surround this issue. Then I will attempt to outline a case supporting the traditional view of marriage, finally I will attempt to answer some of the more common arguments used to support non-traditional forms of marriage.

     The first thing that I want to clear up is the confusion caused by the overlapping of government and religion on this issue.   There is little question that both are involved in marriage and have been for quite some time. Within the Judeo-Christian religious tradition, marriage has always had religious overtones.  Despite the claims of a few, marriage is between a man and woman, the model being the established with the first couple: Adam and Eve. (Genesis 2:18-25)

    For the most part, government’s role in marriage has been at best secondary and at times non-existent.  Why should there be otherwise?  Marriage was maintained by the church; enforced by the standards of the community as a whole.  When communities were small and closely knit, where everyone knew everyone else, there was little role for government to play.

    This began to change in the 18th century, one notable example being the Marriage Act of 1753 in England, which was a huge movement of the government into area of marriage.  The industrial Revolutions brought about not only great improvements in the standard of living, but also great disruptions in the culture. While the exact causes are disputed, illegitimacy skyrocketed. There was also a growing awareness of the period of childhood as a time in which children learn and are prepared to become adults.

    Few would question that governments have a legitimate interest in preserving their existence, and part of this is the development of the next generation of citizens. This is the justification for the existence of public schools.  Likewise, government has an interest in ensuring that children are raised in the best environment and this is the main justification for government entering into the realm of marriage. 

    Remove this interest and you remove the main reason for government regulating marriage at all. The other major issue would be property rights, but if viewed as an issue of property, there is little to marriage, at least from a government perspective, than any other contract and thus little reason for government involvement.  In fact as far as property, government marriage laws are already inadequate as is demonstrated by the increasing use of pre-nuptial  agreements.

    Despite the key role of religion, the current debate over marriage is not a religious debate. Frankly, from a religion point of view, there are religious groups that do permit polygamy and same-sex marriage, and such marriage can be, have been, and are being done.  There is, and should be, nothing illegal about this.  What these marriages do not have is the sanction, and recognition of the government.

    As such, what is really at issue here is state sanctioned of marriage, not the religious definition of marriage.   Since this is an act of government, it is by definition a public act and not just a matter between those involved in the marriage.   To request the sanction of the government is by definition to make it a public issue, and not just a private matter.

    So, even though there is a strong religion component to marriage, in the remaining parts I will restrict my arguments to what is really in dispute, the government role in marriage.  Because of this, I will not post the remaining parts of this discussion on my religious blog.  Those who are reading this on consider.org will need to go to my general blog (www.hushbeck.com/blog ) to read the remaining posts.

    An Isaiah 5:20 World

    Friday, April 24th, 2009 by Elgin Hushbeck

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    When I was  a new Christian, and a much younger man, there were passages in the Bible that did not make a lot of sense to me. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe them, but rather that I didn’t really see the need.   Isaiah 5:20 was one of those.   “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”  Ok, but who would ever do this, I thought.  Now doing evil I could see, as unfortunately there were far too many historical examples.  But Isaiah is not talking about just doing that which we should not, but an intellectual inversion of morality, that was for me,  incomprehensible.

    But over the last few decades, unfortunately many of these passages have come to make much more sense, Isaiah 5:20 being one of them.  At times I feel like Charlton Heston in the upside down world of Planet of the Apes,  and want to scream, “It’s a mad house, a mad house.”  One of those times was this week with the controversy surrounding the Miss USA pageant

    Now I am not a big fan of such pageants.  I don’t oppose them; I just don’t care about them much one way or the other.  But as I learned the details about the controversy I became very bother, because it was one of those moments of clarity where you see how bad things have really become, and how unless stopped they will get much worse.

    The basic facts are that a contestant was asked for her thoughts on legalizing same sex marriage,  and said that she believed marriage should be between a man and a woman.  It  was an answer that the vast majority of Americans would give, and one that even President Obama, and many democrats have given.

    Yet Miss California was denounced and condemned for her answer, and lost.  Shanna Moakler  a co-director of the pageant applauded her for being “willing to miss out on the opportunity of being Miss USA, to stay true to her convictions.”   But then she when all to say that, “we don’t hate her. But it puts us in a difficult situation because we do have a difference of opinion.” 

    Miss California’s crime was supposedly not her position, but her answer was “insensitive” and not “compassionate.”   In short, she should not have inserted “her own personal politics into it.” Here is what she said,

    “I think it’s great that Americans are able to choose one or the other, but in my country, and in my family, I think that I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there, but that’s how I was raised.”

    The moral and intellectual inversion involved in the condemnation of this answer clearly qualifies this as an example of Isaiah 5:20. Consider the last part, that she should not have inserted her personal politics into the pageant.   This complaint was made by the judge who asked her view about same-sex marriage.  If her opinion on same-sex marriage did not belong in the pageant, then why ask for her opinion about same sex marriage?  The judge who asked the question is a militant homosexual.  Does anyone seriously believe that if her answer had supported same sex marriage this judge would have been “shocked”  or that he would have posted  the tirade against her on his web site?  This tirade was so vile and disgusting, that the Host on CBS’s the Early Show had to caution him at the beginning of the interview that there show was a live family show.

    Yet in the upside down Isaiah 5:20 world in which we live, vile and disgusting attacks on a woman who expresses biblical values are acceptable, even understandable.  But saying that marriage should be between a man and a woman, well,  that is just beyond the pale.

    As a result,  the world in which those with traditional values are allow to participate is a little bit smaller.  Again I not a fan of such pageants so in many ways I don’t care. But I am a fan of liberty and freedom. I believe that true marriage is only between a man and a woman, not just because this is what the Bible teaches, but for a number of reasons independent of the Bible. More importantly, I believe the reasoning on this is so strong that given a fair and open debate the traditional view of marriage would remain the dominant  position of society.

    I also believe that this is why the minority that supports same-sex marriage is so intolerant of any contrary opinion.  Their position is ultimately flawed, irrational and grounded in silly and false notions such as there is no real difference between men and women.   In fact, the position is so weak that the only way it can survive is through the suppression of  any contrary, that is biblical, views.  That this minority controls virtually all the major media and pop culture, allows for this suppression.

    And this is the true significance of the controversy at the Miss USA pageant  for is shows how far this intolerance of biblical views has spread.   The antipathy for biblical values is already in the movies, news, music,  and most importantly the schools.  The fact that the younger generations see no problem with same-sex marriage, is a testament to how successfully biblical views have been suppressed.  

    So now the suppression has expanded even further. In  the name of tolerance and compassion,  the expression of the biblical view of marriage can no longer be tolerated, and no compassion will be show for those who express such views.  It is truly an Isaiah 5:20 world.

    This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.

    Jesus and Illegal Immigration

    Friday, April 17th, 2009 by Elgin Hushbeck

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    While it has drifted off the radar screen at the moment Tim Morgan at Christianity Today’s political blog recently raised a question that is sure to come back into the forefront as a hot divisive issue, what to do with the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants and their children.  That it is coming back as an issue is clear from President Obama’s plans to grant them citizenship, an effort that news reports say will begin next month and last through the summer. 

    Morgan’s question was not so much the policy issue directly, but asks the question in terms of “What would Jesus do?” My thinking on this question has always been somewhat mixed.  On the one hand, it is a great question and one that we should all ask far more often than we do.  But if that’s the case, then what is the problem with the question? 

    My problems begin when the question enters public discussions, and are for a number of reasons.  The biggest problem is that your answer to the question will strongly depend on your knowledge of Jesus, and even for Christians in general, the actual knowledge of Jesus is somewhat lacking, and even more so for the public at large.  While it can be very valuable to struggle with this privately in prayer and contemplation before God, as a general rule, the more people involved, the less prayer and contemplation you will have. 

    I think it can be stated as a general rule that nobody really knows what Jesus would do in the case of such public policy issues.  In fact, the verse that would seem to apply the most is, Jesus’ comment in Matthew 22:21 concerning taxes, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

    The problem with trying to figure out what Jesus would do in any particular issue of public policy, is that we live in a world corrupted by sin and governed temporally by sinful people.  Issues of public policy such as illegal immigration are basically tinkering at the margins.  Jesus would go to the root of the problem, and when he was finished, the answer to the question of “What would Jesus do about illegal immigrants would be : nothing, for there would not be an Illegal immigrants issue to begin with. 

    This is not to say that we should have open boarders and allow everyone in, it is to point out the reality that the roots of the Illegal immigration problem are vast and deep.  There is the economic, political, and social problems in the countries from which the illegal immigrants come.  If every country in the world had the freedom and prosperity of the United States, there would not be a problem. 

    Then there is the breakdown of law in this country that has allow the problem to grow such that there are now so many here.  If there were only a few thousand illegal immigrants in the country who had only been here a few months, again this would not be an issue.  But for a variety of reasons, government at many levels have ignored the growing problem until now there are millions of illegal immigrants here, many for decades. 

    So to come in now and ask “What would Jesus do?” is somewhat like asking what would Jesus do to deal with  his past sins?  He wouldn’t do anything because he would never be in that position.  When he does come back he will not tinker with minor issues such as illegal immigration. He will address the root issues and eliminate the problems that cause it in the first place. 

    One other problem I frequently have with this question comes from the view of God that currently predominates the public square: God is Love.  The predominant view of God is Love, often expresses itself in such questions making them almost “What would Love do?”  In this case wouldn’t love say we should have compassion for the illegal immigrants?

    While certainly true, that is not the only attribute of God.  We sinful humans are never very good at balancing, and it takes a lot of effort.  When balancing something on the end of your finger, if you get distracted or inattentive, it will fall.  The same goes for the church balancing the attributes of God.  God is Love, but he is also Justice.  Psalm 101 starts, “I will sing of your love and justice; to you O Lord, I will sing praise.”

    Love says we should have compassion for the illegal immigrants, but justice says that they have broken the law.  Then there are all the other attributes of God, such as Righteousness and Holiness.  So what would Jesus do about the illegal immigrants and their families?  Ultimately I don’t know. 

    I do think that we need to approach the issue beginning with all the attributes of God, not just Love that would let them all stay, or Justice that would throw them all out.  I also think that any solution would have to focus on the root causes that has allow the problem to get out of hand in the first place, though unlike Jesus, here we are somewhat limited to control over our own country, though we can work to spread economic freedom and liberty to other countries.  Still while easy to say, working these out into actual public policy will take a lot of contemplation and prayer. 

    This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.

    Of First Importance

    Friday, April 10th, 2009 by Elgin Hushbeck

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    As I have discussed previously all too often people dismiss rituals as meaningless and of little value. But is somewhat of a chicken and egg problem.  Are rituals dismissed because they are meaningless and of little value, or are they meaningless and of little value because they are dismissed?

    Whether something does or does not have meaning depends largely on us.  The cross is meaningful because we see it as a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice.  We give it meaning by associating it with what Christ did.  In short, we choose whether or not we will see it as significant.

    This phenomena is not simply limited to religion.  For example in 1971 Congress restructured federal holidays to give more three day weekends.  Before 1971 Memorial Day was May 30th. Now it is the last Monday in May.  As a three day weekend every year Memorial day has for most completely lost its meaning. A Gallop Poll last year show that only 28% of Americans knew the actual reason for the three Day weekend they were celebrating.  Instead,  for many Memorial Day is nothing more than a time for barbeques and parties rather than what it was originally intended, a solemn day to honor those who gave their lives in the service of their country.

    Yet when rituals are seen as meaningful, they can focus and magnified belief. They also serve a teaching function, as a way of transmitting important values to the next generation.  The casual anything goes attitude of society exists just as strongly in a church more eager to attract members than to make disciples.

    Apart from older churches with a long history of tradition such as the Roman Catholic Church, Easter and Christmas are pretty much the last Christian rituals, and for many even these are in decline. The meaning slowly draining away year after year, and for increasing numbers of young people the meaning is never implanted.

    This weekend most Western Churches will celebrate Easter which commemorates the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  (Orthodox observe Easter on the 19th)  This is the most important date on the Christian Calendar.

    Paul writing to the Corinthians said that “I passed on to you the most important points that  I received: The Messiah died for our sins according to the Scriptures, he was buried, he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures-and is still alive!-” (1 Cor 15:3-4 ISV)

    This is so important and central to the Christian faith that Paul later writes “if the Messiah has not been raised, then our message means nothing and your  faith means nothing… your faith is worthless and you are still imprisoned by your sins.” (1 Cor 15:14,17 ISV)

    Given its centrality and importance it is not surprising that the resurrection is not only one of the most well documented events of the Bible , it is one of the most well documented events of the time period, and one which skeptics have attempted in vain to refute for 2000 years.  (See Christianity and Secularism Chapter 6)

    The magnitude of the event is beyond comprehension.  Even the natural aspects are difficult to fully grasp,  a man was betrayed by one of his inner circle and deserted by the rest.  The crowds that had hailed him one week earlier now called for his death.  He was savagely beaten, scourged, condemned to death and then crucified.  Because of the coming Sabbath, his body was hurriedly placed in a borrowed tomb. Which was then guarded by those who had had him executed.

    Yet starting early on the following Sunday morning, people began claiming to have seen him. And not just a few,  all of those close to him did, along with many of his followers. Even Paul who strongly tried to suppress the growing faith, saw him and converted as a results.   In fact Paul point out that one appearance was before a crowd of over 500 , and challenged skeptics to go and talk to those that were still alive about what they had seen.  In short a man who had died, had come back to life.

    As amazing as this was, this was still just of secondary importance, serving mainly as a confirmation of what was really the most astounding part, a part that went completely unseen by those who witness Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection.

    Jesus did not just die on the cross, he died for our sins. This is the truly astounding part and something that is beyond all comprehension. He died for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2), He died for me, and he died for you.  He did this that we may live.  “For as in Adam all die, so also in the Messiah will all be made alive.” (1 Cor 15:22 ISV)

    This is the true meaning of Easter, that Jesus the Son of God,  “died for our sins according to the Scriptures, he was buried, he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures-and is still alive!” (1 Cor 15:3-4 ISV)    This is the true meaning of Easter.   Will what you do this weekend be in accord with this?

    This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.

    In and Just Like

    Friday, March 27th, 2009 by Elgin Hushbeck

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    It is very common to hear Christians talk of impacting the world for Christ.  Or to talk of how we are to be in the world but not of the world.  But the latest numbers  from the Barna Group clearly show that the impact is the other way around.  Rather than in but not of, American Christianity is becoming in and just like.

    Given that the government mandated secular worldview is so prevalent in the culture, it is not all that surprising to find that only 34% of Americans believe in absolute moral truth, or that half of Americans believe that the Bible is “accurate in all the principles that it teaches.”  What is disturbing is the inroad such beliefs are making into the church.

    In the survey, “Born Again Christians” were those who said “they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is important in their life today and that they are certain that they will go to Heaven after they die only because they confessed their sins and accepted Christ as their savior.”

    While born again Christians who were asked the same question did better than Americans at large, it was not much better.   While half of Americans did not believe the Bible was accurate, 21%  likewise did not believe the Bible to be accurate.  As for the belief in absolute moral truth,  even a majority of born-again Christians, 54%,  no longer accept that.

    The Barna Group’s uses these and four other beliefs, such as Jesus lived a sinless life, to define a Christian world view.  Those who hold all six beliefs are then said to have a Christian world view.   Based on this the survey shows that only 9% of Americans have a Christian world view. Born again Christians do better, but not much.  Only 19% of Born Again Christians could say that they hold all six beliefs.

    In a broader perspective, this decline in belief has been going on for sometime.  It reached a low point in the mid 1990s when only 7% of American held a Biblical world view. The trend reversed somewhat climbing back up to 11% by 2005,  but now is back down to 9%.

    Worse however, are the statistics for the younger generations.  Those in the 18 to 23 year age group, commonly called the Mosaic generation, were virtually completely secularized, as less than one-half of one percent had a biblical world view.

    Now those pushing the secular world view, would undoubtedly say that was because of the superiority of the secular world view and that people are just rejecting the false superstitions of the past.  But then they would say that, wouldn’t they.  Ultimately I do not think they can be blamed, any more than you could blame a prosecutor if you lost a trial where the evidence was on your side, but your defense lawyer never bother to get up to present  your side of the case.  

    I do believe the evidence is on our side.  In some cases very clearly.  In fact, in my classes on critical thinking I would use the rejection of absolute morality as an  example of how people don’t really think through what they believe.  

    I would ask how many in the class believed in absolute moral truth, and would get results similar to those found by Barna.   I would then ask if torturing babies for fun was inherently wrong, or was a matter of opinion where for some it was wrong, but for other it might not be.  With the exception of one student,  all the students in all the classes where I asked this considered torturing babies for fun inherently wrong, and the one who didn’t was not very comfortable with his conclusion but was being honest with his belief that there was no absolute moral truth.

    Thus with one simple question I was able to almost completely turn around people’s thinking on absolute morality.  Granted, winning over the culture will not be quite as easy as this, but on  the other hand it is not the insurmountable problem that some seem to think, nor is everything lost.

    Still the Church is like the defense  attorney with a strong case to make who never presents it. Josh McDowell, in his book The Last Christian Generation, discusses how many young people see church as little more than a place to go with a lot of fun activities, but with little impact on their lives.   This is also seen in the very large number of people who leave the church when they leave home.

    Yet it need not be this way.  The Church not only has the truth, but in many cases the preponderance of the evidence to back it up.   Yet sadly many Christians have the attitude of ‘I already believe’ so they don’t need to learn about things like doctrine or apologetics.  In fact, it is not only quite sad, but very telling, that many Christians do not even know what the word  apologetics means.  Given this, the results from Barna, are really no surprise.

    This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.