Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Elderly Anglican priest tried to shield his wife from flames as they died in massive California brush fire

There is a flag at half-mast in my heart if not on any actual flag pole.  We need to pray for all those who are being affected so terribly by the out-of-control wildfires in drought-stricken California.

From here, where there is video:
Gladys McKaig, 90, was in failing health, but her 81-year-old husband, Byron, was her constant companion and protector.  And it remained so even as they lay dying. 
The couple perished in the massive Erskine Fire that has devoured more than 46,000 acres in California and destroyed more than 200 buildings.
Their bodies were found outside the smoldering remains of their home, sprawled against a corner of their fence.
"He was like on top of her, and they were together, like he was blocking her from the fire," neighbor Bill Johnson told the Los Angeles Times.  "It made me sick because immediately I saw and knew exactly what had happened – that they were alive and ran out of this burning inferno and got stuck, and that was where they ended.
"I thought it was terrible for those people to go like that. Just horrible.  They didn't deserve it," he said.
Byron was an Anglican priest who married the church organist in July 1984.  He had come to the Lake Isabella area in the early 1980s after a divorce.
Gladys was a deeply religious woman with a fierce love of music, as was her husband.  They were a "perfect match," daughter Susan McKaig told the Bakersfield Californian.
"They were each other's half," she said.  "They loved each other very much and the family [is] taking comfort from the fact that they passed together."
The couple had two other grown daughters.
He had retired from his pastoral duties eight years ago, but was still active in the church.
"It was beautiful, his devotion to her," said Bishop Eric Menees of the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin.  "He cared for her up until their very last seconds."

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Why Can’t the Left Distinguish Conservative Christians from Islamic Terrorists?

The title says it all.  Liberals and the media look at a tragedy like Orlando and not only can't seem to distinguish between conservative Christians and Islamic terrorists, they seem to feel as though Christians are the greater threat.

National Review's Jonah Goldberg takes a look at this disturbing trend in a piece entitled, "Why Can’t the Left Distinguish Conservative Christians from Islamic Terrorists?"

Read it all.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Legislation Attacks Religious Liberty of Christian Schools

A bill working its way through the California legislature would drastically undermine the religious liberty of Christian universities in the state.  If passed, it could become a model for attacks on Christian schools across the country.

In recent years, the government has required that educational institutions not "discriminate" against LGBT students lest they lose federal funding.  However, religious schools have been exempted from this requirement if their "religious tenets" affirmed biblical sexuality and marriage.

Now this exemption is at risk.

If California Senate Bill 1146  is enacted, the religious liberty exemption would apply only to "educational programs or activities . . . to prepare students to become ministers of the religion, to enter upon some other vocation of the religion, or to teach theological subjects pertaining to the religion."  In other words, theological seminaries might retain their religious liberty protections, but faith-based colleges and universities, and, eventually, Christian primary and secondary schools, would not.

As a statement from California's Biola University warns, the bill "functionally eliminates the religious liberty of all California faith-based colleges and universities who integrate spiritual life with the entire campus educational experience."  It would "eliminate religious liberty in California higher education as we know it and rob tens of thousands of students of their access to a distinctly faith-based higher education."

According to the Biola University statement, other consequences of the bill for faith-based institutions include:
  • Faith-based institutions in California would no longer be able to require a profession of faith of their students.
  • These institutions would no longer be able to integrate faith throughout the teaching curriculum.
  • These institutions would no longer be able to require chapel attendance for students, an integral part of the learning experience at faith-based universities.
  • These institutions would no longer be able to require core units of Bible courses.
  • Athletic teams would no longer be able to lead faith-based community service programs.
All this to fix what many observers regard as a "non-existent problem."  Students who apply and attend colleges do so voluntarily.  There are no victims here—except for the institutions who will be singled out for their countercultural religious convictions.

There's even more to the story.

The First Amendment, often called our "First Freedom," states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."  However, in the past few years, observers have noticed a distinction between "freedom of religion" and "freedom of worship" in statements by political leaders such as President Obama and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.  What could happen if American society moves from protecting "freedom of religion" and instead only guarantees "freedom of worship"?

The California bill is one answer:  Schools that teach "worship" (theology and ministry training) would have some measure of religious liberty, but all other Christian schools would not.  Extending this outcome to its logical (and, in my opinion, inevitable) conclusion, pastors would be free to address issues such as same-sex marriage only in sermons delivered in worship services.  If they speak publicly on such issues in other forums, they could be accused of hate speech.  Church facilities would be tax-exempt only if they are used expressly for worship—offices, gyms, and educational spaces could be taxed.  Our personal religious convictions would be protected only when they are expressed during worship services or in private.

The California bill is just one example of this frightening trend.  If it prevails against Christian universities, will the other outcomes I have mentioned be far behind?  If it applies to LGBT "discrimination," what other religious convictions will eventually be punished?

Truly Christian schools—like churches and people—cannot separate faith from the rest of life. Our call to discipleship is clear.  As Jesus taught: "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23).

We need to pray for our leaders to affirm the religious liberties our forefathers died to protect.  And we need to exercise that liberty by loving and serving God every day in every dimension of life (Mark 12:30), whatever the cost.

For further analysis of S.B 1146 and its effects, read this article from the Christian Post.  And if you want a glimpse of the kind of persecution a Christian political candidate in California can experience, read this article from the L.A. Progressive.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Report: Media Give Gorilla Death 6 Times More Coverage Than ISIS Beheadings of Christians

From Breitbart, where there is more:
A new study by the indefatigable Media Research Center (MRC) has revealed that mainstream media devoted some six times as much air time to covering the recent death of Harambe the gorilla than they did to the gruesome Islamic State decapitation of 21 Coptic Christians on a Libyan beach last year.
Read the rest.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Prof. John Webster, 1955-2016

The world lost the greatest theological mind whom most contemporaries have yet to discover when John Webster went to his eternal reward last week.

Webster had only as recently as 2013 joined the faculty of the University of St. Andrews, Scotland.  He began his studies at Clare College, Cambridge University, where he went on to earn a doctorate with a dissertation on the German theologian Eberhart J√ľngel.  After teaching at St John’s College, Durham, from 1982-86, he spent ten years as Professor of Systematic Theology at Wycliffe College, University of Toronto, which is where I first had the pleasure of meeting him.

In 1996 he returned to the UK as Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity and Canon of Christ Church at the University of Oxford.  In 2003, he moved to the University of Aberdeen as Professor of Systematic Theology.  It was from there that he moved to the professorship at St. Andrews.

It has long been my contention, asserted in several posts on this blog over the years, that there are two ways to do systematic theology:  Either you approach it as a speculative discipline grounded in philosophy, or else you view it as a dogmatic discipline grounded in Scripture.  Which of these approaches you take makes all the difference.

Most academic theologians over the past two centuries have taken the former course.  I, along with theologians such as John Webster, chose the road less traveled.  Choosing the latter course doesn't mean that you ignore philosophy.  Webster's dissertation was on Eberhart Jungle, a philosophical theologian.  My own dissertation was an orthodox critique of  Process Theology--itself grounded in the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead--and you don't get any more philosophical than that.

But the difference comes in where you see theology as being grounded and what you see as its source of authority.  It makes all the difference in your methodology and the conclusions to which you come.  

Although trained as a philosophical theologian, Webster soon grew rightly suspicious of the prevailing liberal school in his own discipline; and the theologian who helped him find clarity was Karl Barth.  Writing in the Cambridge Companion to Barth, Webster said of his adopted mentor:
[T]heology was not, for him, simply one more academic discipline, but an aspect of the holiness of the church, the sanctification of its speech and thought.  He seems remarkably assured where many others have not even begun to establish their certainties.  He is immersed in the culture of Christian faith, intimately familiar with its great texts, themes, and episodes....  He persistently goes against the grain of some of the most settled intellectual habits of modernity.
Being steeped in the Scriptures and the great Tradition of Christianity led Webster, just as Barth before him, to another realization:  Truth in theology is the result of revelation, not discovery.  We may discover new insights about God in Scripture, but we do not discover (or invent) new truths about God, as would be the case if our understanding of God were the result of philosophical speculation, or in the empirical sciences where new discoveries often mean that new truth supersedes the old.

Webster's theological commitment put him squarely in what has become known as the Post-liberal tradition, and this is seen most clearly in the anthology he edited with George Schner entitled, Theology after Liberalism.   In the introduction to that work Webster wrote,
Postliberal theology has shown considerable interest in constructive rather than critical dogmatics… postliberals have undertaken a good deal of descriptive doctrinal work, giving renewed attention to the internal structures of Christian doctrine, offering expositions of doctrine which are not directed by apologetic concerns but by a sense of responsibility towards (and, one might say, delight in) the grand ideas of the Christian tradition.  
Webster asserted that Postliberal theology is,
"… a return to ‘positive’ theology–theology which sees itself as reflection upon a positum, a given.  Postliberal theology has both emerged from and sponsored a re-reading of some of the great texts of the Christian tradition.  [It] gives priority to description over critical inquiry; matters of theological method are distinctly secondary.
This, Webster concluded, amounts to: "viewing theology as an aspect of the practice of Christianity."  It is perhaps too cynical of me to comment that many academic theologians would find this a novel idea.

Those who knew him and his work will mourn the loss of John Webster, a leading light of the Postliberal school, who departed this life all too soon (in human reckoning), at age 60, on May 25.  May he rest in peace and in closer fellowship with the God he represented so faithfully.  And may the Church benefit from his legacy by approaching theology as John Webster did.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

I am not making this up: "Canadian man leaves family to be transgender six-year-old girl"

There used to be a time when the psychological profession was devoted to helping people feel "comfortable in their skins."  If your self perception didn't agree with your biological sex, they would help you adjust to become comfortable in the body with which you were born.  Today, the psychological and medical professions will help you chemically and surgically mutilate your body to fit your self perception. 

But this story from the Daily Mail illustrates just how absurd things have become:

'I've gone back to being a child': Husband and father-of-seven, 52, leaves his wife and kids to live as a transgender SIX-YEAR-OLD GIRL named Stefonknee

  • Stefonknee Wolscht, 52, lived as Paul until she realized she was trans at age 46 and was not accepted by her family
  • After two suicide attempts and a bout of homelessness, she found hope in the transgender community in Toronto  
  • She now resides with an adoptive 'mommy and daddy' and spends her time playing with dolls and the couple's young grandchildren
Read the rest of the story where there are more photos, some, like the one above, from Stefoknee's own Twitter account.  (How many "six-year-olds" do you know with Twitter accounts?)

I am not sure who is crazier, this man or the adoptive "mommy and daddy" who took him in.  Someone should have helped this man before he became suicidal and homeless (after all, he is not the first person to become depressed in middle age).  But they should have helped him play the hand he was dealt, instead of shredding the whole card deck into confetti.

In a few years, this "six-year-old girl" is going to be eligible for retirement and most likely have heart issues, prostate issues, and arthritis.  You can pretend all you want, but reality has a way of catching up with you.  It would be nice if this man got some real help before it does.
Oh, and as a further illustration of how absurd things have become:  If I lived in Canada, I would probably be hauled before the Ontario Human Rights Commission and punished for even writing this post.  Thank God for the United States of America and the First Amendment!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Target Suing Man Who Saved Teen Girl from Stabbing in Its Store

First the bathroom scandal; now this.  It seems like, no matter what the issue, Target cannot make a sane decision.  The company needs a housecleaning, starting at the top.  And until they select a corporate management team more in line with real American values, they aren't going to see one cent of my money.
In 2013, everyone agreed that Michael Turner saved the life of a teenaged girl who was attacked in a Pennsylvania Target store. Now, Target is suing him.
When she was sixteen, Allison Meadows was shopping in an East Liberty, Pennsylvania, Target store when Leon Walls rushed into the outlet and stabbed her.
With the assistance of surveillance video, Walls was convicted of attempted homicide for his attack on the girl.
The only reason the girl did not suffer more injuries is because Michael Turner interceded and, along with several other men, confronted Walls. Turner himself chased Walls out the store with a baseball bat.
Unsurprisingly, Meadows was extremely thankful for Turner’s efforts.
“I thank him,” Meadows has said. “I thank him every time I see him.”
But Meadows launched a lawsuit against Target, saying the store’s lack of security put all shoppers, not just her, in danger.
Target, however, is less grateful for Mr. Turner’s heroics. And now the retailer is suing him for “endangering” the store’s customers.
According to the company’s filing, Target says Turner and several others chased the suspect toward the store’s entrance after the attack on the girl. The store insists Turner put other shoppers at risk with his actions.
The victim of the stabbing and her family are furious with the retail chain and say Target is just trying to shift the blame away from its own security failures.
“Suing Michael Turner is just Target’s way of trying to blame someone else for what happened under their own roof,” the Meadows family attorney said. “The family certainly doesn’t blame Mr. Turner and they are thankful he was there that day.”
Target is already getting negative publicity; the chain is the subject of a major boycott effort due to its announcement that it is allowing men to use women’s bathrooms and changing rooms.
Despite the uproar over its decision–not to mention the loss of up to $6 billion in stock valuesTarget doubled down on its policy.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

I'm Just asking...

Recently we have seen celebrities and businesses, and now state and local governments refuse to do business with North Carolina because the state passed a law regarding bathroom privacy.  Now the Los Angeles City Council has banned the city government from doing business with North Carolina, alleging that the law creates a "climate of violence."

Yes, I understand that increasingly our culture is buying the idea that gender is a human construct.  However (apart from a few, very rare cases of chromosomal abnormalities), biological sex is undeniably binary.   

So how is having a law saying that a person should go to the restroom that corresponds to that person's biological sex creating a climate of violence?

I mean, isn't this the way it has been for as long as there have been public restrooms?

It seems like we didn't need laws about this--and no one was a victim of any violence--until this insane confusion over "gender" began gripping our nation.

Let's be clear: the law has noting to do with being "anti-LGBT" and doesn't incite violence against anyone.  As long as you go to the restroom that corresponds to your biological sex (the way it has been for, you know, like forever), no one has to know or care whether you are LGBT, WXYZ, or have a long-hidden fetish for Bactrian Camels.  NOBODY CARES!!!

But we do care when someone goes into whatever restroom a person claims to identify with and starts sexually molesting others--including children.  Yes, we care A WHOLE LOT about that!

So this is a public safety issue.  And it is not the law that is inciting violence.  But when perverts start abusing children in California and other states that refuse to pass laws protecting children and insuring bathroom privacy, you will see violence from outraged parents.  Plenty of it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

I really should have majored in English.  Despite scoring in the 99th percentile in every subject on every intelligence test I ever took, and despite doing well enough in math to represent my high school at Math Field Day while still a sophomore, it is language that I truly love--and particularly the English language, the finest, most expressive language known to man since ancient Greek.

Instead I earned a degree in Music and worked as a symphony clarinetist until--as I often remark in sharing my call to ministry--I realized that a lot of well-entertained people were going to hell.  So I earned another degree in Psychology before I realized that a lot of well-adjusted people were also going to hell.

Along the way I took courses in everything from political science to engineering and indulged my wide-ranging interests in earning graduate degrees in everything from Theology and Philosophy, to Psychology, to Computer and Information Science.  But I never took the step of indulging my love of English language and literature--afraid, I guess, that a degree in English would not be good for anything but teaching English (as though Music, Psychology, and Ministry were all that lucrative!)

Consequently, I find myself, now much older, still marveling at what can be accomplished with mere words.  And when I read a poem like this one from Wendell Barry (whose life illustrates my fear about a degree in English only being good for teaching English), I nevertheless get wistful over the road not taken and sit in awe at all the beauty and meaning that language can convey.

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay.  Want more
of everything ready-made.  Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.

And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more.  Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.

When they want you to buy something
they will call you.  When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute.  Love the Lord.
Love the world.  Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.

Denounce the government and embrace
the flag.  Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand.  Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium.  Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit.  Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.

Listen to carrion — put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.

Laughter is immeasurable.  Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.

Ask yourself:  Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade.  Rest your head
in her lap.  Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.

As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it.  Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go.

Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Poet, essayist, farmer, and novelist Wendell Berry was born on August 5, 1934, in New Castle, Kentucky. He attended the University of Kentucky at Lexington where he received a BA in English in 1956 and an MA in 1957.

Berry is the author of more than thirty books of poetry, essays, and novels. His collections of poetry include: Given (Shoemaker Hoard, 2005), A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997 (Counterpoint, 1997), Entries: Poems (1994), Traveling at Home (1989), The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry (1988), Collected Poems 1957-1982 (1985), Clearing (1977), There Is Singing Around Me (1976), and The Broken Ground (1964).

His novels include A World Lost (1996), Remembering (1988), and The Memory of Old Jack. Berry is also the author of prose collections including The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture (Counterpoint, 2004), Another Turn of the Crank (1995), Sex, Economy, Freedom, & Community (1993), Standing on Earth: Selected Essays (1991), and A Continuous Harmony: Essays Cultural and Agricultural (1972).

About his work, a reviewer for the Christian Science Monitor wrote: “Berry’s poems shine with the gentle wisdom of a craftsman who has thought deeply about the paradoxical strangeness and wonder of life.”

He has taught at New York University and at the University of Kentucky. Among his honors and awards are fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations, a Lannan Foundation Award, and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Wendell Berry lives on a farm in Port Royal, Kentucky.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Ted Cruz: Why?

I am proud to be a supporter of Senator Ted Cruz for President of the United States, and I ask you to join me.  Here is why:

Barack Obama entered the White House espousing the philosophy which says that the nations cannot/should not be led by the United States.  So Obama adopted a position which he described as "leading from behind."  Never mind that this philosophy didn't stop him from instituting his own kind of "regime change" in the form of the Arab Spring which made the Middle East and North Africa a more violent and dangerous place.  The result of Obama's foreign policy for the past seven years is that our allies (Great Britain, France, the other NATO countries, and Israel) don't trust us; and our enemies (Iran, North Korea and other state sponsors of terrorism) along with Russia and China think we are fools. 

Despite the fact that the world is a more dangerous place than it was seven years ago, our military capability has been greatly diminished by this administration.  The branches of our armed services are being treated as laboratories for social engineering experiments rather than efficient fighting forces designed to keep our country (and the world) safe.  The Veterans Administrations is a scandal, and our veterans have been treated shamefully. 

The nation is more divided than it was seven years ago.  The candidate who promised to unite America has instead become the Great Divider; and the nation now stands divided along lines of race, class, age in ways not seen in generations--possibly not in its entire history.  Obama could have been a president who encouraged respect for law enforcement in a way that would have been an example for the African American community; but instead he has repeatedly undermined our law enforcement agencies, and respect for the police among African Americans is at an all time low. 

Instead of supporting our system of legal immigration that admits more legal immigrants each year than any country in the world, Obama has encouraged open borders with the result that several million undocumented migrants have swarmed our borders--an influx that threatens to overwhelm our social safety net and is already increasing crime in many parts of the country.

Every program with "Affordable" in its name (The Affordable Housing Act, the Affordable Care Act) has only made those things less affordable.  That's not hard to understand: When you make loans for housing more easily available, despite the creditworthiness (or lack thereof) of the recipient, it inflates the price of housing.  When you saddle the healthcare industry with extra regulations and suddenly add millions of people to the system, it makes healthcare more expensive.  Using the IRS to fine people for not buying health insurance is not the same as providing them with healthcare. 

Another effect of Obamacare, with its requirement of insurance for anyone working 30 hours per week or more, has been that employers have reduced their workforces, both in numbers and in hours, and the result is that we have a higher number of chronically unemployed than any time in modern history.  Government figures on unemployment don't take into account those who have quit looking for work.  Nearly half of the American public is on food stamps.  Employers are exporting jobs overseas where the economic and regulatory climates are more favorable.  Many college graduates cannot find jobs, and this generation has been predicted to be the first American generation to do less well than their parents.

The United States cannot continue in this direction and survive.  The corrupt Hillary Clinton and the Socialist Bernie Sanders cannot fix problems that the very positions they espouse have brought into being.  They are "doubling down" on Obamacare and promising to give "free everything" to voters; and when it doesn't happen, they will simply blame the Republicans.  But as Margaret Thatcher once observed, "the problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money."  With a national debt that has doubled under Obama--in fact, he has added more to the national debt than all previous presidents combined--no one can pay for all the things the Democrats say they want to give people.

And, so, I am proud to be a Republican who supports Ted Cruz for President.  He is the kind of principled conservative who would fix our economy and our national defense the way Reagan did after Carter.  He is a bright, courageous, articulate leader, who has none of the negatives I see in Donald Trump.  Ted Cruz is truly the Ronald Reagan of this current generation, and the Republican Establishment needs to get behind him.  Indeed, the future of the Republican Party may depend on it.  

The danger I see in Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, or anyone on the Democrat side is that while their kind of liberalism talks about equality, it does not raise people up, it only levels them down through redistribution of wealth, endless regulations, and mindless political correctness.  I see a nation that follows this path as doomed.  It will soon come to resemble the kind of societies depicted in George Orwell's Animal Farm and 1984.

So I see it as imperative that we take steps to fix this country.  But I am worried--the only thing that disturbs me more than the past seven years of the Obama presidency is the kind of electorate that would give us a president like Barack Obama--twice.  So I have extra reasons to pray these days.

God help us!  And God bless America!

Robert Stevenson Munday

(I use my full name only to mention that I am a nephew/cousin of the Adlai Stevensons (I, II, and III) from Illinois, who made a choice in 1975, while on staff for Representative (later Senator) Paul Simon to walk the road less traveled (at least in my family) and become a proud conservative Republican.