Redskins, Monkeys, & Big Butts: A Recrimination of The United States of the Offended

Any citizen that has spent much time in The Manoverse knows a couple of things: I’m not easily offended and I despise political correctness. So it was with beleaguered bemusement that I observed a few recent incidents that had people talking…or stirring the pot…take your pick.

 

Washington_Redskins_logoThe first issue is a tried & true chestnut that ESPN loves to trot out periodically, but this time they had a reason. A new Washington Post poll came out indicating that 90% of Native Americans do not find the moniker of the NFL’s Washington, DC franchise…aka the Redskins…offensive. 80% don’t even believe it’s an issue worth discussing. That jives not only with what I’ve been saying for awhile but numerous other polls that have been conducted thru the years. I made sure to tune in to my favorite ESPN shows to get their reaction, and unfortunately it was mostly predictable…with one notable exception. You see, for some reason, mindless, spineless, weasely liberals HATE the majority. The mantra that I have heard repeatedly over the years about the Redskins in relation to these polls is that if 10% or even just ONE person…in the entire country…is offended by it then it must be changed!! It’s the same mentality that has gotten us into the quagmire created by “LGBT” issues, wherein the majority has been silenced in deference to a miniscule number of individuals. Screw the majority!! What most people want doesn’t matter!! We shall kowtow to the vocal minority!! To my utter amazement PTI’s Michael Wilbon, though he disagrees on a personal level, seemed to wave the white flag. He basically said that this latest poll pretty much shuts down the debate for the time being, and he is absolutely right. It should end the argument forever because a) it’s a media driven, completely fabricated controversy meant to stir the aforementioned pot, and b) the Washington Redskins have been in existence for 84 years and if the nickname was rubberstamped in 1932 and not changed in 1952, ’72, ’92, or 2002 then why bother now. About that last point I know what you’re saying: “But…but…times have changed!!”. We’ll get to that idiotic premise. Be patient.

 

adamsStaying in the world of sports, you may or may not know that the NBA Playoffs are going on right now. In the immediate aftermath cosellof a surprising victory over the defending champion Golden State Warriors an interview was conducted with Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams. During the interview a relieved, happy, exhausted Adams gave props to the athletic skills of his opponents, calling them “quick little monkeys”. Football fans of a certain age may recall that in 1983 Howard Cosell said of Redskins wide receiver Alvin Garrett “That little monkey gets loose doesn’t he??” during a Monday Night Football game, an incident that is often mixed up with a 1973 MNF telecast during which Cosell was showing highlights of the previous day’s games and said of another Redskins WR, Herb Mulkey, “Look at that little monkey run!”. At any rate, when Cosell abruptly left MNF after the 1983 season an urban legend grew giving the impression that he was pushed out in part due to his “offensive” comment. The truth is that Howard Cosell not only used monkey as a term of endearment for his own grandchildren but had also used it to describe athletes both black and white on multiple occasions. At any rate, Steven Adams was given a pass by the talking heads because not only was it obvious to anyone with a brain that there were no racist intentions, but also because he hails from New Zealand and has only been in America for a few years. His ignorance of our culture was thought to be a reasonable excuse…another train of thought to which we’ll circle back soon.

 

The third situation is a bit out of my wheelhouse but it illustrates the point so we’ll go for it. Alleged actress Blake Lively, whose only work I am vaguely familiar with is the delightful 2005 film The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, recently posted a photo of herself on Instagram. The marginally lovely Ms. Lively, who is married to the guy who just played Deadpool, is apparently pregnant but the weight has mostly gone to her booty for now. Yes I just used the term “booty”. I’m hip like that. Anyway, she captioned the pic “L.A. face with an Oakland booty” (because she’s hip too), which are lyrics from Sir Mix-a-Lot’s 90’s hit Baby Got Back. Now let’s be honest…anyone who has utilized social media for longer than five minutes has probably used song lyrics as a status update, Tweet, or photo caption. I’ve done it, you’ve done it, everybody has done it. Harmless fun, right?? Well, except to the PC Police, who see racism in EVERYTHING and wouldn’t know fun if it sat on their laps, fed them grapes, & sang a song.

 

As mentioned, one of the reasons the Steven Adams remark was quickly forgiven is because he isn’t from America. He doesn’t know our ways or understand what we mirror-1might consider offensive. So has anyone considered the possibility that we may want to look at our collective selves in the mirror?? Maybe we are doing it wrong. If people in New Zealand don’t find the term monkey offensive then why do we?? If the Washington Redskins was a good enough name in 1932 and even today 90% of the population the name could conceivably offend aren’t offended by it then what is the freakin’ problem?? If a gal with a big butt references a song about gals with big butts then what exactly is the issue?? It was common knowledge three decades ago that Howard Cosell meant nothing offensive with his comments and often used the word monkey in a positive way. Yet here we are talking about it because people are under the impression that Cosell was an evil racist.

 

americaProgressive types constantly use the thought that “times have changed” as a defense for their madness, but I have two questions. First, is that really true? And secondly, if yes then how much and in what way?? Certainly there are thought processes and social norms that evolve…sometimes in a positive way. Women have a lot more freedoms & rights than they did a century ago, which is wonderful. Slavery ended after The Civil War but it took another century after that for black folks to achieve legitimate legal equality. I don’t know why it takes so long for obvious things to become obvious, but clearly it sometimes does. That being said, my issue is that this is the United States of America. The greatest nation on Earth…or atleast Americans used to believe that. We used to tackle big issues. We fought world wars in defense of big ideas like democracy & freedom. We ended slavery. We got women the right to vote and do any other thing they decide they want to do. We welcomed tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free because they came here wanting a better life and happily assimilated and embraced American culture. We went to space and walked on the moon. We invented light bulbs, airplanes, jazz music, baseball, & The Internet. But now?? We indulge a small percentage of the population who wants to argue about the name of a sports team. We take wholesome TV shows like The Dukes of Hazzard off the air because a handful of people are offended by a flag. We stoke the fires of a national debate about bathrooms to pander to an infinitesimal percentage of mentally ill people who need treatment not absolution. We are offended by innocuous uses of language that clearly have no malevolent intent. We seem all too willing to sacrifice fundamental rights that the Founding Fathers deemed bedrock principles of the nation. To the extent that “times have changed” I’m not at all sure that they have changed for the better. We tell ourselves that these modifications are positive because we’re more educated, informed, open-minded, multicultural, & inclusive now than ever before, but that’s a bunch of poppycock. There is a thin line between awareness and hypersensitivity and that line gets crossed more & more every day.

 

1The media only exacerbates the problem. Journalists don’t look at their jobs as simply reporting the news. They believe it is their responsibility to shape the narrative. They view themselves as crusaders fighting for the little guy, for those not in a position to help themselves,thus their disdain for the majority. They prefer to be champions for the minority, to be the voice of the voiceless. Isn’t it ironic that…despite claims to the contrary…it is often liberals who side with the 1%, atleast on some issues.

 

The fact is that most people are decent folks. Very few are looking to harm anyone literally or figuratively. Redskins is just the name of a football team, its original focus-glassintent was to honor Native Americans…not insult them. Monkeys are cute little animals, imagery rarely used for racially insensitive purposes. Song lyrics are just that, and if one has a problem with the words then target the songwriter, not fans of the music who innocently regurgitate those words. The world would be a much better place, and more specifically America might get back to achieving great things, if everyone would step off their high horse, get their priorities straight, and focus on what’s really important.

The Fruits of the Spirit – Temperance

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
– William Shakespeare

fruitNearly seven years ago we began a quest to examine, assess, and learn about the nine Fruits of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23. Today we finish that journey. I don’t know why it has taken seven years to complete a project that could have easily been wrapped up in a few months, but hey…I just go with the flow folks.

 

If you’d like a refresher on what we’ve talked about previously just follow the links to see my thoughts on love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness/gentleness/goodness/meekness, and faithfulness.

 

tempWe are crossing the finish line by taking a closer look at temperance. The first thing that probably comes to mind is The Temperance Movement, which dealt with promoting moderate consumption or even outright banning of alcoholic beverages, especially in early 20th century America. However, the Biblical definition of temperance is a little more comprehensive.

 

There are two words in the Bible that correlate with temperance. The first is enkrateia, which means “strong in a thing; strength; power; dominion; having power over; being master of.” The second word is nephalios, which has the same general meaning but more specifically refers to self-control as it relates to drunkenness.

 

Obviously we know that temperance is, in part, about avoiding intoxication. The Bible cautions against drunkenness on multiple drunkoccasions. Isaiah 5:11 warns “woe to those who rise early in the morning that they may follow intoxicating drink; who continue until night, till wine inflames them.” Proverbs 20:1 says that “wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise.” Ephesians 5:18 instructs us “do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit”, with dissipation being a synonym for debauchery. Proverbs 23:29-33 asks “Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes?” and answers “Those who linger long at the wine and go in search of mixed wine. Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly. At the last it bites like a serpent and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things.” Isaiah 28:7 says that ”The priest and the prophet have erred through intoxicating drink. They are swallowed up by wine. They are out of the way through intoxicating drink. They err in vision and stumble in judgment.” Though drinking wine seems to have been a part of normal, everyday life in Biblical times, God’s Word strongly advises against imbibing to the point of intoxication. There are two reasons for this.

 

First of all, when referring to drunkenness the Bible often uses the Greek word methuo, which means “to be filled”. Look at Ephesians 5:18 again. It says not to be drunk with wine but to be filled with the Spirit. If we’re going to fill anything…our body, our mind, our time…it should be with the Holy Spirit or corresponding things that are edifying to and glorify God. Romans 8:5-8 says that “Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”

 

drunk3Secondly, Mark 7:15-20 says that “There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him. Whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled. What comes out of a person is what defiles him.” Think about that in terms of intoxication. It’s not the wine, beer, or liquor that is the issue. They are merely things that we are putting into our bodies. But what often happens when we overindulge and get drunk?? We make bad decisions, say & do wrong things, and generally act immoral & ungodly. So the actions that come out of us as a result of that intoxication are what defile us in the eyes of God, not to mention tarnishing our relationships and our reputation.

 

This thought process can be expanded to so much more than just our use of alcoholic beverages. Temperance requires moderation in everything. It is the ability to master our desires. It is a sense of duty with regard to conduct. It is the practice of always controlling actions, thoughts, or feelings. The influence of the Holy Spirit on the heart should make a person moderate in all indulgences, teaching them to restrain passions and control evil propensities.

 

Glutton ElfThe opposite of the Fruits of the Spirit are the works of the flesh spoken about in Galatians anger5:19-21. “The works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” All of these things are the opposite of temperance. They indicate gluttony, wrath, & being out of control. Proverbs 16:32 teaches that “he who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city..” Self-control is mastery over passions, thoughts, emotions, & words. It is the virtue that holds our appetites in check, controlling our rational will and regulating our conduct without being duly swayed by sensuous desires.

 

Jesus2Self-denial, self-sacrifice, & self-control are inextricably linked in Christian life, but notice the troublesome use of the word “self”. It is indicative of the stubborn human notion of trying to achieve this massive goal on our own, which is demonstrably impossible. This is another reason why temperance is a key fruit that we must exhibit. Temperance is vital to demonstrate to God that He is in control…not one’s flesh. It is the proof that Jesus is the Lord of one’s life. Controlling ourselves, denying human nature its impulse to satisfy its desire, and even sacrificing ourselves are necessary if we are to stop sinning as a way of life. With God’s Holy Spirit help we can practice temperance. Titus 2:11-14 says “The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” Temperance is a necessary building block in our relationship with Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:5-9 instructs us to “Add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. If these things are yours and abound you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Jesus3Lord Jesus Christ, for he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.” Romans 13:12-14 says that we must “cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” Galatians 5:16-17 says to “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another.”

 

And what is the ultimate goal of this temperance (as with all the Fruits of the Spirit)?? 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 says “Do you not heavenknow that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.” I’m not very athletic and don’t know much about running races, but I am knowledgeable enough to know that one must have the proper tools & training to compete. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 lays the cards right out on the table, cautioning “Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.” 1 Timothy 3:8 says that “God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.”

Starbucks, Righteous Indignation, & The War On Thanksgiving

starbucksOn a cool day in the early spring of 2008 I ventured out into the world. This is notable because it was my first time behind the wheel of a car in over two years after having been laid up in hospitals & “skilled” nursing facilities and being homebound due to medical issues that I may have mentioned here once or twice and may or may not talk more about some other day. But since that is not the focus of my current mission I shall move on. At any rate, in the two+ years that I was out of commission (I call it My Unfortunate Incarceration) a couple of things had changed in my modest little hometown…we had gotten a Blockbuster Video and a Starbucks!! Now I realize that may not seem very stimulating to most, especially since Blockbuster has since gone out of business and every town in America seems to have multiple Starbucks at this point…but almost a decade ago this was a big deal in my world. First of all this town isn’t that exciting. It’s Mayberry-esque, except with meth clinics, unethical politicians, homeless people, & strippers. Secondly, I had been locked up alone & bored for more than two years. My life consisted of Becker reruns, nurses, & MySpace. Upon that initial re-entry into blockbustersociety just about anything would have seemed fun, and experiencing two places that I’d always heard about but never been to sounded awesome. Blockbuster turned out to be much like other video stores I’d frequented only twice as expensive. I never went back. And since there was still the slightest remnant of winter in the air & I’m not that much of a coffee guy I decided to get a hot chocolate at Starbucks. I quickly surmised that I had a box of Swiss Miss packets at home that tasted a lot better and were way cheaper. I’ve never been back and hadn’t really given Starbucks much thought…until recently.

 

There is a “controversy” brewing (HA!! Pun alert!!) due to the fact that Starbucks has apparently dissed Christmas and will be using plain red cups this holiday season.

 

O M G !! The HORROR!!!!

 

Y’all know I’m not big about in-depth research, but I am assuming a couple of things. First, I guess Starbucks writes the customer’s name on their cup?? Is this to avoid confusion?? Is it some sort of self-esteem/validation thing?? I have no idea. Secondly, Starbucks must have previously had more festive cups at Christmastime and has decided to go simple & basic this year, kind of like when Regis Philbin popularized solid color ties about 15 years ago.

 

jf2I gleaned the name thing from online “preacher” Joshua Feuerstein, a dude known for posting evangelically themed videos on YouTube. He’s what my old ESPN nemesis Colin Cowherd would call a “backward hat wearing guy”, a fashion choice that speaks poorly of an adult male’s maturity & intelligence (George Carlin once called it an abomination). On top of that Feuerstein evokes a faux radio/preachy voice and looks disturbingly like alleged actor Kevin James (aka Paul Blart Mall Cop). The combination is creepy to the point of distracting from his message, and now that message is a movement wherein one would go into Starbucks and tell the barista (is that the right terminology??) that their name is Merry Christmas, thereby “tricking” the server into writing Merry Christmas on the cup. Inspired?? Subversive?? Rebellious?? Clever?? Well, maybe if you’re a ten year old whose idea of cinematic genius is Jurassic Park or someone who ever thought boy bands were cool. To most of us grownups it seems a bit juvenile.

 

My man Rush Limbaugh calls our nation The United States of the Offended, and he isn’t wrong. Now, let’s be honest…there are things about which Christians have a right to be perturbed. God, Jesus, The Bible, & anything related to Christianity has become a bigger target with each passing year over the past few decades. That’s not imaginary. But questions arise. What exactly should offend us?? What should our reaction be?? My answers have evolved a bit over time.

 

As my friend Don pointed out on social media, folks have been disparaging Jesus since His birth. This is not a new thing. In the jesuslmb9th chapter of Luke, when Jesus was rejected by a Samaritan village, James & John (aka the Sons of Thunder) wanted to call fire down on them from Heaven (the Biblical equivalent of a boycott), but Jesus wasn’t having it. As a matter of fact, He opined that He had come to save lives, not destroy them. He & His disciples simply walked away and went someplace a bit more receptive. This is something that Christians struggle with…me included. The fact is that not everyone is ready to hear The Good News of Jesus Christ. Some may never be responsive to the message. Does that mean that we just give up?? No…but it does mean that we may need to look in the mirror and re-examine our approach. I disagree with those who whine about Christians “shoving our beliefs down others’ throats”. I don’t think that is the accepted or prevalent methodology. It seems to me that proponents of “alternative”, progressive, deviant lifestyles & principles are much more vociferous in trying to standardize & promote their choices. However, we Christians sometimes get caught up in absurdity like coffee cups, and when we do it certainly doesn’t reflect well on The Lord or accurately communicate His wisdom. Perhaps if we focused inwardly, recognized the plank in our own eye, tried to better imitate Christ, & let our light shine before others, it would be a more productive & fruitful strategery.

 

It is true that political correctness has become a malignant blemish that is slowly eating away at the fabric of daily American life, and God is often the target of the PC Police. It can be frustrating. Yet Isiah 41:0 says “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God”. Jesus tells His disciples in John 16:33 “in the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” 1 Peter 5:7 instructs us to “cast all our cares upon Him”. James 1:19 says that we should be “swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger”. Joshua 1:9 exhorts us to “be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go”. Exodus 14:14 says that “the Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace”. It is difficult to completely ignore some of the things that go on around us, but we can control our response to those circumstances. I’m not really into boycotts. In this particular case I plan on neither rejecting Starbucks nor telling them my name is Merry Christmas, mostly because I haven’t frequented the place in years and don’t see that changing. But there have been other situations…restaurants that promoted sociopolitical beliefs contrary to my own, actors or singers who spouted some kind of nonsense, retail outlets who donated to causes or candidates that I didn’t particularly like…and it dawned on me that cutting those entities out of my life hurt only me. Does anyone truly believe that a few people getting upset at a billion dollar corporation will elicit some sort of change in policy?? Maybe occasionally, but mostly it is empty, meaningless rhetoric. If it makes you feel better though, go for it…it’s a free country. To thine own self be true.

 

thanksA meme I saw online awhile back said something to the effect of keeping Christ in Christmas means feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, forgiving the guilty, caring for the sick, welcoming strangers, & loving our enemies. I’m not one to rail against many of the secular trappings of our modern Christmas. I dig Rudolph & Frosty, singing carols, drinking eggnog, lights on the tree, & buying nice presents for my family. However, all of those things do seem to have obscured the true meaning of Christmas for many of us. Not only that, but we are in such a hurry to get to all that fun & delight that we almost totally ignore Thanksgiving, which used to be one of our most sacred holidays. The early settlers would have multiple days of Thanksgiving in any given year and they’d spend those days in church worshiping & praising God for all their blessings. When was the last time we did that?? These days retail outlets don’t even close for Thanksgiving and it has been reduced to a parade, football games, a big turkey, & some pie. Gripe all you want about a “war” on Christmas, but ateast it hasn’t been ignored & forgotten simply because no one outside of Butterball, Macy’s, Kraft, & your local grocery chain has figured out how to make a few bucks from it. Myles Standish & William Bradford would be much more horrified by our flippant treatment of Thanksgiving than the lack of snowflakes & ornaments on a coffee cup.

 

In the book of Matthew Jesus talks about turning the other cheek. While I do not believe that this indicates that we should always let people run roughshod over us I do think it means that we should pick our battles and seek wisdom. Way back in the 1960’s The Byrds wrote a catchy little tune called Turn, Turn, Turn, with the lyrics being copied almost verbatim from the third chapter of the Book of Ecclesiastes. In those verses we are counseled that there is “a time to break down and a time to build up”, “a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing”, “a time to keep and a time to throw away”, “a time to keep silence and a time to speak”. From everything that I have read the past few days most people with any sense don’t think that coffee cups are worthy of our outrage. It would be more…useful…to go into Starbucks or any other restaurant and buy some coffee or a meal for someone who would legitimately benefit from it. In the upcoming holiday season take time to smile. Wish someone a Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or even just a simple “have a nice day”. Appreciate the lights & music. Eat some pumpkin pie. Praise God. Worship Him. Watch Clark Griswold, George Bailey, Charlie Brown, & Ralphie. Love your neighbors. Pray. Ask for wisdom & guidance. Don’t get bent out of shape about trivialities. Drink a grande, non-fat, soy caramel macchiato if you want. Enjoy. Spoiler alert: Jesus wins. It’s going to be okay.

The Undeniable Appeal of Donald Trump

trumpWhile listening to a local radio show recently I heard the host ask listeners to call in and explain why they are supporting Donald Trump in his bid for the Republican nomination for President of the United States. It was clear by the host’s tone of voice and thinly veiled derision that he is not a Trump supporter and thinks that anyone who does like Trump is crazy & stupid. He never actually said that, but he didn’t need to…it was quite obvious.

 

Let me first say that I am unlikely to vote for Mr. Trump. While I appreciate the fact that he is a successful businessman and believe that career politicians are part of what has gone wrong with America in the past couple of decades, I also feel that the President of the United States should have some solid experience in the political arena. Barack Obama’s lack of practical understanding in that realm has been obvious in the past 7 years. At the end of the day Trump’s lack of finesse and bull-in-a-china shop mentality is unlikely to inspire much confidence and negatively impacts his viability as a contender. However, that doesn’t mean that his candidacy is a joke. Many people are taking Donald Trump very seriously and there are reasons why.

 

boehnerFirst of all he is not a politician and people like that. As I said, I personally am a little uncomfortable with someone who has never been a Governor or Senator ascending to The White House, but lots of folks believe that our country could benefit from an “outsider” shaking things up and challenging the status quo. We’re tired of candidates that have spent 30 or 40 years in public office. My home state of West Virginia enabled the political career of Jay Rockefeller for more than four decades, even though he was a carpetbagger from New York who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and couldn’t possibly understand the issues facing his constituency, yet West Virginia has become steadily more conservative in the last several years, as if the population has finally realized that electing guys like Rockefeller over & over benefits no one other than the politician himself. Many have become cynical and believe that there is very little difference between the Republican & Democrat parties. One can easily see that there is a protocol in Washington DC, that people like Senator John McCain, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Speaker of the House John Boehner, & Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi know the game and play by a certain set of rules. They may fight & argue amongst themselves, but they’re all in an exclusive club and will do anything to stay there reaping the benefits of power. Donald pelosiTrump isn’t in the club and many are horrified at the thought of him crashing their soiree. In a strange way that makes some sympathize & root for him, as if he is an outsider just like them, even though he is probably wealthier & more out of touch with the lower/middle economic classes than his competition. The idea of Trump going to Washington and ticking off just about everybody is as appealing & idealistic as it is impractical & unsustainable.

 

Secondly, Donald Trump has no filter & no fear, and that is strangely attractive. He doesn’t mince words and much of what he says has a lot of truth in it. Sadly his greatest strength is also his biggest weakness. The Thought Police have effectively dumbed down the populace to the point that someone is always offended about something. We don’t take the time to intelligently discuss issues or admit that maybe…just maybe…a person might actually have a point. Do I believe that all immigrants (specifically from Mexico) are drug using rapists?? No, of course not. And neither does Donald Trump. But instead of having a meaningful debate about illegal immigration and the undisputable problems it creates the media has successfully painted Trump as a bigot & a racist. Did I cringe just a little bit when he stated that Sen. McCain isn’t a war hero and that he “likes people who weren’t captured”?? Well, yes. It was out of bounds and unnecessary. However, it is true that McCain’s tragic yet triumphant POW story is just about the only positive thing about him. He is a wishy-washy, milquetoast RINO, the type of career politician that people are beginning to turn against. Such is the dichotomy of Trump – we like that he isn’t afraid to call out guys like McCain, but his lack of tact & grace make him ultimately unelectable.

 

The fact though, is that Trump has nothing to lose. He is filthy rich and professionally prosperous. He doesn’t needtrump2 the job. I have no doubt that he would serve faithfully if elected, and it would be endlessly entertaining, but since it is doubtful that he will get the nomination the more likely scenario is that, at some point, he bows out and goes back to doing whatever he was doing before with barely a scratch to anything, especially his ego & his bank account. Even during this campaign he has seen his stupid reality show on NBC get canceled and has lost business relationships with companies like Macy’s, Univision, & NASCAR, but his hilarious reactions to those losses made him even more popular. He brushed them off like Andre the Giant used to swat away opponents half his size, as if the criticism & temper tantrums hurled in his direction were so insignificant that he barely felt like they warranted comment let alone genuine concern. While other politicians have teams of people that carefully craft their message and write every speech in an effort not to upset potential voters thus securing repeated election victories and lifelong power, Donald Trump doesn’t give a second thought to who he might anger. That doesn’t make a great politician, but it sure produces an appealing candidate.

 

And finally…and most simply…Donald Trump appeals to true conservatives. He is pro-gun, anti-illegal immigration, pro-life, has proposed a simplified tax structure, understands the importance of job growth, says that man-made climate change is poppycock, & disagrees with ObamaCare. In political parlance he “checks all the boxes”. Conservatives are thirsty for a candidate that supports their deeply held beliefs. We’re tired of candidates that want to “reach across the aisle” and compromise those beliefs. If Donald Trump didn’t have so much baggage, was a little smarter in his choice of words, & had even a little bit of meaningful political experience he might run away with the Republican nomination easily.

 

calmAlas, he does have those blemishes and they are enough. So have no fear Trump haters. He won’t be the Republican nominee for President of the United States. Republicans will choose someone much safer & more prosaic. Your nightmare will be over soon enough. But don’t sit on your high horse and marvel at the fact that people are listening to Donald Trump and liking much of what he has to say. It’s not shocking. It isn’t mysterious. It actually makes a lot of sense, atleast moreso than voting for a person based solely on their race or gender.

America: A Eulogy

Okay…I tried. I have been holding back…resisting the urge to pontificate on a confluence of recent events that a decade ago I wouldn’t have imagined possible. But I just can’t do it. I cannot remain silent.

 

hugLet me first say that my purpose is not to insult, demean, or degrade anyone. I come in peace. I approach my task with love. I respect the opinions & feelings of others, although it seems like nowadays that peace, love, & respect is a one way street. My father has always taught me to disagree without being disagreeable, a lofty goal that I far too often fail to achieve. However, thru that failure I have learned that arguments, contempt, & vulgarity do nothing except intensify the chasm, and really…aren’t we divided enough??

 

Today is Independence Day. The 239th birthday of the United States of America. Millions of people will be celebrating flagwith cookouts, concerts, fireworks, & various other frivolities. Many may have already began the festivities a couple of days ago. I plan on participating in some of those activities and will undoubtedly have a nice time. However, from a big picture perspective I do not consider it to be a happy birthday. As a matter of fact I believe that our nation went on life support on November 4, 2008 and the plug was finally pulled sometime in the past few weeks. Now I am no medical expert, but I do know that a person in a vegetative state can sometimes hold on for awhile after the machines are turned off, and I think that is where America stands at the moment. We’re still breathing, but the end is imminent. Depressing?? Obviously. Honest?? In my opinion…yes. Your mileage may vary and that’s okay. I’ve tried being an optimist but it doesn’t seem to suit me.

 

What would a medical professional say is the cause of death for America?? Probably something like “complications resulting from sin, political correctness, & apathy”.

 

constFrom the time of its founding America was referred to by many as The Great Experiment. Democracy. Freedom. Liberty. These were radical concepts in the beginning. No monarchy for us. Freedom of Speech. Freedom of Religion. The right to participate in the process by voting and, atleast theoretically, pointing our elected leaders in the direction we wanted the country to go. Oh sure there were some pretty significant bumps along the way. I don’t think you’d find anyone these days that believes slavery was ever a good idea. The fact that women couldn’t vote for the first century & a half of the nation’s existence seems silly now. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s & 60’s is an undeniable blight on our history simply because black folks should have never had to fight for equality & fairness in the first place. But I believe that one can be patriotic without being intellectually dishonest about these scars, and we should be able to acknowledge past mistakes without painting America with the broad brush strokes of hatred & disdain.

 

Unfortunately it seems the experiment has ended. The United States has somehow transitioned into an oligarchy gavelwherein a chosen few with money & influence make the rules while condescendingly patting the rest of us on our collective head and treating The Constitution as if it is was written with erasable ink. Free speech is only free if this ruling class deems it appropriate. Freedom of the press is laughable since the media has become nothing but a tool willingly used by the powers-that-be to propagate their agenda. Religious freedom has been completely redefined and may very well be eradicated soon enough. The right to keep & bear arms…written by the Founding Fathers to provide an avenue for the citizenry to protect themselves against lawbreakers of all kinds, including an overzealous & tyrannical government…is constantly under attack and will likely be eliminated in my lifetime. American exceptionalism has been portrayed as arrogance, with too many of our leaders seeking to bring this once great nation down to an equal level with other countries so they don’t hate us. The Godly principles that were undeniably a bedrock of our discovery as “The New World” and our fight for independence are now seen by many as offensive & obsolete. I suppose there are those that would call this progress, but nothing could be further from the truth.

 

iwoThe United States used to fight for big ideas. Now we bow down to the lowest common denominator. We used to go to war in defense of freedom & liberty. Now we file lawsuits and ban things from public view because a few overly sensitive types whine & complain. We used to be the tough guys on the block that everyone else looked up to and expected to lead the way. Now we are a nation of sheep who are afraid of upsetting anybody and fret over whether or not people like us. Our media has sold us out. Our politicians have sold us out. Our culture has been decimated. Our history has been bastardized.

 

fathersI often wonder what men like George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, & Abraham Lincoln would think if they could visit America in the 21st century. No one knows for sure, but allow me to offer an opinion. On one hand I believe they’d be fascinated by technology…television, The Internet, automobiles, computers, smartphones. Those guys were sharp cookies. Brilliant minds. They’d dig having so much information & knowledge readily available. But on the flipside I sincerely believe they’d be horrified & disappointed in how we’ve taken their life’s work, the nation that they fought so hard to make a reality, and damaged it by twisting or outright dukesignoring their words, spitting on the beliefs & values that guided them, reducing God’s influence in society, & becoming a weakminded, narcissistic, covetous population that blithely murders 3000 innocent babies every day but thinks The Dukes of Hazzard is evil.

 

I want…I need…you to know that it is hard for me to express these things. I love my country. There is nowhere else obama-logoI’ve ever wanted to live. I truly believe that it is those that oppose our traditions, our values, our history, our culture, our freedom, & our God that hate America. During Barack Obama’s initial presidential campaign he talked about “fundamentally transforming” the country. Now I know that supporters of Obama try to shine that up real pretty and make it sound like something good. However, when you study Obama’s history, his influences, & his education it becomes clear that those words weren’t used accidentally. He never wanted to tweak things, make minor changes, slightly adjust policy, or do a course correction. His goal was always to alter the United States on such a deep level that it would essentially become unrecognizable in comparison to what it was before. To that end he has been frighteningly successful. The transformation is so profound that I don’t think the damage can easily be undone no matter who we elect in 2016. I suppose it is possible that I am being slightly unfair to Obama, that this makeover would have happened even without his guidance…but I don’t think so.

 

pray2I don’t have many answers. I wish I did. I would prefer to be more hopeful, especially on this holiday, but I’m being honest. Your opinion may be different. You may think everything is just dandy. That is certainly your right. Unlike the vitriolic, smallminded keyboard warriors that like to vomit their hatred in the direction of myself & others who see thru the stupidity and understand what’s really going on I don’t seek to censor anyone. If that’s how entities like WalMart, NASCAR, & Warner Brothers choose to approach things then all I can do is spend my time & money elsewhere. That may be the silver lining in all of this. As more & more individuals, companies, & entertainment outlets cave to sin & political correctness it provides more time for me to focus on God and His purpose for my life. I truly believe that He is at work separating the wheat from the chaff. Which will you be??

Pro-Life vs. Pro-Choice: A Whole New Perspective

Is legal suicide the same as legal abortion??

 

This is a question I have been pondering lately as a result of a story out of Oregon where a 29 year old woman with an inoperable brain tumor has think“scheduled” her death. It’s an emotional topic with a variety of opinions. No one wants to disparage a terminally ill individual. However, it’s an issue that is bigger than just one person…partly due to this woman’s actions.

 

I do think there is one significant difference between physician-assisted suicide and abortion even if terminology like “pro-life” and “pro-choice” can be applied to both. One of the things pro-choice advocates always say is that it is a woman’s right to decide what happens to her own body, to which my rebuttal is usually “what about the innocent child’s body??”. In the case of suicide though there is no baby to consider. This woman really is deciding only what happens to her own body.

 

handsAlso, though I have been blessed enough to not have to witness it myself, I empathize with the idea of someone not wanting to suffer and not wanting their family to be burdened with the emotional & financial toll that a dying person’s last days may present. My mother died of lung cancer when she was 52 years old in 2000. I was a grown man by then but it was nevertheless gut wrenching. However, my mother’s passing, though realistically the end result of health problems that she had suffered thru for two decades, was fairly sudden. I only had to see her in a vegetative state for a few days. So I will not criticize a person for not wanting to experience weeks or months of horrific pain and for trying to spare their loved ones everything that encompasses. That being said, I have two problems with this story.

 

First of all, the woman (who I will not name…I’m not trying to pile on) is using her last days to become an advocate for assisted suicide. She’s doing interviews, starring in PSAs, and becoming an outspoken advocate for “death with dignity”. It’s a free country and she certainly has a right to live her life how she wants, especially given the circumstances. However, it is one thing to choose to quietly end your own life, but when a person decides to become a sociopolitical spokesman for a cause then they open themselves up to legitimate critique.

 

Many “hot button” issues these days are inherently controversial, but they are oftentimes made more contentious on purpose. Do we really think that shouthomosexuality didn’t exist a century or two ago?? Of course it did, but it has only been in the last few decades that it has become a topic of intense public debate. Did no one ever have an abortion before Roe v. Wade made it legal in 1973?? Of course they did. Why did no one seem to have an issue with the Washington Redskins in the 1980’s when they were winning Super Bowls?? Why is the team name offensive now yet it apparently wasn’t 20 or 30 years ago?? If this poor woman in Oregon had simply decided to take her own life and kept it low key then very few people would have even noticed. But she had to become an advocate. Okay…fine. But now it’s out there and the debate has begun.

 

Secondly, we must be able to objectively look at the subject matter in general aside from the specific individual(s) involved. Any human being would have sympathy for this person’s particular circumstances…but what about the big picture??

 

jesuslmbMany will have faith-based objections, i.e. it isn’t up to us to play God with our own lives or anyone else’s life. That’s the biggest issue in my book. It’s a real fork-in-the-road. Those who see nothing wrong with suicide…assisted or otherwise…are generally those who don’t exhibit a strong belief in or allegiance to God or His ways. They obviously don’t believe in miracles. People of that ilk are, in our modern times, increasingly self-centered & narcissistic. It’s the Burger King attitude – “I want it MY way, right away, NOW!!”. This woman in Oregon wants to die “on her own terms”. Nevermind that most of us will never have the opportunity to choose how or when we die…nor should we. One has the right to worship or not worship however they choose. However those who do have a deep belief in God and Biblical principles are going to see this as a poor choice. Of course the rebuttal to that is “well it’s her life and she can do what she wants”…which is absolutely true. But by advocating for this “right” for the masses and allowing the situation to go public that gives others…like me…the right to espouse an opinion. I’m really tired of Christians being accused of “shoving our beliefs down other people’s throats” and being called haters, bigots, & judgmental. Why does everyone else get to have an opinion but Christians do not?? Is my opinion not atleast as valid as pro-choice, pro-gay, anti-gun, Muslim, socialist supporters who think God is “our imaginary friend”??

 

Blogger Matt Walsh wrote a really good piece about this story and expresses his thoughts far better than I. His objection isn’t as much with the woman as it is with those who are holding up her choice as heroic, brave, inspiring, & honorable. I’ll let y’all peruse his article, but let me just add that to me this is a slippery slope full of “what ifs” that is all about the value of human life. It is completely understandable that this young lady in Oregon wants to avoid the horror of what is to come…as much for her husband and others as for herself. But let us ponder this. What if there is a person out there that is middle-aged, single, lonely, financially strapped, & professionally unsuccessful?? Should a doctor prescribe them The Pill of Death just because their life kind of sucks?? How about a perfectly healthy 75 year old who has retired to Florida but feels like they’ve accomplished all they can…raised their kids, had a decent career, donated their time & money to various charities…and wants to end things on a high note before they get old & decrepit?? What about the overweight teenager who struggles academically, gets bullied, and isn’t treated especially well by their family?? Should we legally help them end their life just because they’re going thru a rough patch?? Yes I know…none of this would ever happen. I am sure there is an assisted suicide rulebook in the places where it is legal. But it isn’t unusual for rules to be modified. The line in the sand often moves. People use the old chestnut “times change”. This is usually seen as “progress”. Using that logic it isn’t hard to see the very dangerous path all of this could go down without people even batting an eyelash.

 
I have never been terminally ill. I have never been seriously depressed. I have never been suicidal. My life isn’t all that grand but I have hope. I’m not bibleall that exciting but there are things in my life that make me smile and will continue to do so…hopefully for a very long time. I am not always the perfect ideal of morality and scrupulous behavior, but I do have faith in God and His Son, my Lord & Savior Jesus Christ. I believe that His will is more important than what makes me comfortable or content. It is for that reason that I believe we must be extremely cautious when dealing with certain matters…especially the sanctity of life. We must be sensitive to the issues that others face. But we should not put their decisions on a pedestal. The world is watching, and when we cross the line from empathizing with a person’s tragic plight to rubberstamping & applauding their decision to circumvent the will of God in a vain attempt at making their path easier then I believe we have gone too far.

 
I realize that I am likely in the minority on this. I understand that people are going to continue making these types of decisions whether I approve or not. And I agree that, at the end of the day, each person must choose how to live their own life and not get wrapped up in everyone else’s opinions. I just think the world would be a better place and the golden streets of Heaven would be far more crowded someday if folks were guided by God’s will instead of their own.

Why I’m Not Going to See the Movie Noah

After lamenting recently that nearly a quarter of the way into 2014 I had yet to go to the theater and check out any new movies (because in my Noahopinion there hadn’t been any films worth the effort) I finally ventured out to the local cineplex a few days ago. Not only that, but I did a little research on what the rest of the year has to offer and came up with…to my surprise…about two dozen flicks that I hope to check out if circumstances allow such frivolity. However, one movie that I will not be spending my hard earned money on is the alleged “Biblical epic” Noah.

 

sproutsAdmittedly I am a hypocrite. Why?? Well, I have routinely criticized people who say they “hate” guys like Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity without ever having listened to them. Remember when you were a kid and you’d turn your nose up at veggies or some other kind of food and your mother would say “How do you know you don’t like it unless you try it?”?? I usually embrace that philosophy and am a bit hesitant to criticize a movie I haven’t seen. Then again, there is usually an exception to most rules and in this case Noah is it.

 

This film first came to my attention atleast a year…maybe two…ago, and my first thought was “Cool. I’ll check that out when it hits theaters”. From what I read it was clear that this wasn’t going to be the type of small independent art film that usually defines and…to a degree…hampers psmany “Christian” movies. This was going to be a big budget blockbuster complete with well-known stars and expensive special effects. Now I’m not usually a fan of computer generated effects, but in some cases they can be cool. James Cameron’s Titanic was largely a love story, but the last part of the movie…the sinking…was really well done and amazing to see on the big screen. The only 5 minutes of 2006’s Poseidon (a remake of 1972’s much superior The Poseidon Adventure) poseidonworth watching is when the rogue wave capsizes the ship. To my pretty boy disliking chagrin one of my favorite films of the past 15 years is 2000’s The Perfect Storm starring George Clooney as a doomed Gloucesterman whose ship is lost in a hurricane. The story is superb, and the effects add to the experience. So in my mind taking one of the best known stories of The Bible and giving it the big budget treatment (“The Flood will be really awesome” I thought) seemed like a great idea. But then details started to emerge out of the production.

 

The director, Darren Aronofsky, is an atheist.

 

Aronofsky admitted that Noah is ““the least biblical Bible film ever made”, as if that is something of which to be proud.

 

The word “God” is never used in the film…not once.

 

Aronofsky called Noah “the world’s first environmentalist”.

 

Noah becomes a deranged lunatic who wants to kill his entire family.

 

All the sudden I started to get a bad vibe about this whole deal. And that was before the movie even hit the theaters. Now Noah has beenthinking released to the masses and my concerns have been validated. And yes…I feel comfortable saying that without having seen the film. One can ignore the comments of 2 or 3 reviewers, but it’s hard to look past what literally dozens of people are saying about this film.

 

computer-searchNot surprisingly Noah is getting rave reviews from leftist media types. It has a 76% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with words like transcendent, daring, visionary, groundbreaking, gripping, thought-provoking, unconventional, & masterful being bandied about. However, if one digs a bit deeper (which isn’t that difficult in The Information Age) a much different view emerges. I value the opinion of folks who love God and atleast seem to make an effort to live their lives as Christ-like as possible much more than the angry, cynical, Jesus bashers who seem to delight in antagonizing Christians.

 

To be fair, this is a free country and we all have a right to worship or not worship whomever or whatever we choose. aflagSo if Mr. Aronofsky, whose 2008 movie The Wrestler I rather enjoyed, wants to be an atheist that’s cool. Go for it. But honestly…would you let a vegetarian grill your steak?? Would you let an illiterate person write your term paper?? Would you let a European immigrant who just came to America a week ago and doesn’t know a word of English teach a high school English class?? Would you let a 12 year old drive you to work?? That’s not to say that Aronofsky is a poor filmmaker or that only Christians should be allowed to make Christian films (again…that free country thing), but my Dad told me years ago that if you want a good steak you should probably go to a steakhouse and if you want Italian food you might want to try an Italian restaurant. Writers are told to “write what you know”, so it makes logical sense to me that an atheist making a movie about The Bible seems a bit anomalous.

 

bibleOne refrain that I have seen numerous times the past several days is “it’s just a movie!!”. Okay…that’s true. I’m fine with creative license. I know that two people named Jack Dawson & Rose DeWitt Bukater didn’t actually meet on the aforementioned Titanic and fall in love with the sweet dulcet tones of Celine Dion playing in the background. Two of my favorite movies, Forrest Gump and Field of Dreams, are different from the books on which they are based. Even past Biblical epics like The Ten Commandments, The Passion of the Christ, & Ben-Hur have taken a few liberties. But I do expect historical drama to fairly represent…well…history. And when it comes to the Word of God my standards are even higher. One can craft a great story (with CGI and everything!!) and not veer way off course from what actually happened (or for the more skeptical among you what was actually written).

 

Okay…so what actually happens in The Bible concerning Noah?? Another defense I’ve read about this movie is that the Genesis story about arkNoah & The Great Flood is relatively short so the powers-that-be necessarily “had to fill in the gaps”. Alright…I can buy that. However, the fact that this movie is 139 minutes long (that’s 2 hours & 19 minutes for those that don’t like math) is very telling since the average running time for a Hollywood film is right around two hours. What that says to me is that the makers of Noah didn’t struggle to fill in the gaps…it says to me that they had an agenda.

 

Whatever that agenda is…environmentalism…veganism…animal rights…the one thing that is clear is that telling a faithful story that is true to God’s Word is not even close to being part of the equation. That may be fine for a lot of folks…including Christians. It may even be desirable to many. But I just can’t do it. I have had to learn to overlook many things in the name of entertainment. There are so many movie & TV stars whose political beliefs I know are opposite to Man with pen and questionnaire. 3dmy own. Numerous athletes are of the anti-intellectual Neanderthal-thug variety that I know I could never have an intelligent conversation with. Entertainers of all kinds have very publically fallen off many a pedestal after having their personal problems, relationship issues, criminal activities, drug & alcohol battles, & general ignorance exposed. But I had to decide long ago to pick & choose whose foolishness I was willing to overlook as long as they still create a quality product that I enjoy. In the case of Noah and Darren Aronofsky they fail on all accounts because the filmmaker seems to have purposely made a film that reflects his own warped viewpoint and appears to be consciously hostile to a rather large chunk of what could have been a massive audience.

 

I am sure Noah will make a boatload of cash (pun intended). The drive-by lapdog media already loves it. Undoubtedly there will be many lukewarm “Christians” who’ll love it because of the incredible CGI and resemblance to other visually stunning & auditorily obnoxious BeanManIdeaLightblockbusters like Gladiator, Transformers, and every comic book/superhero based film of the past two decades. Well-known Christian “leaders” have already come out in support of the film if only because it is an opportunity to “begin a dialogue” and persuade people to study The Bible. But my money will not be among the hundreds of millions going into the pockets of Darren Aronofsky and whomever else stands to earn a check from Noah. I am not easily offended, and I wouldn’t even use that word in this situation. I just happen to have the privilege of living at a time in the universe’s existence where there is an abundance of data readily available that allows me to make a relatively educated choice. You may choose differently and that’s fine. Freedom is a wonderful thing.

Righteousness – Hunger, Thirst, & Persecution…Part 1

I am well aware that The Manofesto has been somewhat sports-centric lately. That tends to happen during football season. Rest cornassured however that I have not forgotten the mission of this little rest stop on the ol’ information superhighway to be a cornucopia brimming with the vast array of topics that frost my cupcake. And for anyone who might be following the progress of our concurrent examinations of The Sermon on the Mount and The Fruits of the Spirit that thinks things may be moving a bit slow…you are not wrong. For some reason God has not laid upon me the inspiration to complete these series in a prompt & timely fashion, and I have decided to follow His lead and go with the flow. At the moment though I am being guided to pick up the pen (so to speak) and take a stride forward.

 

Over the past couple of years we have looked into why The Sermon on the Mount tells us we’ll be happy if we mourn, if we are meek, and if we are poor in spirit. Our next step in studying is to define righteousness, something so important that we will be persecuted because of it. We’ll get to that, but first we are told that hungering and thirsting for it will make us happy.

 

Now I am pretty fortunate. I live in the United States, grew up in a solid middle class home, and throughout my adulthood have had DrinkingWatereatrelatively stable employment. I have always had a roof over my head and food on the table. I cannot identify with the folks we see on television in impoverished Third World countries who know true hunger. But when it’s been a few hours since my last meal and my stomach is growling, y’all best not be standing between me and wherever the food is stashed. And we’ve all had that parched, dry feeling in our mouths on a hot summer day or after any type of strenuous activity. Nothing feels as good as that moment when we finally get to pour an ice cold drink down our throat. But do we seek God on a daily basis like we hunt down the nearest pizza joint on a night out with friends?? Do we earnestly yearn for a relationship with The Lord like we desire that cold beverage??

 

The Hebrew word for righteousness is tzedek, which means integrity, equity, justice, & straightness. The root of tzedek is tsawdak, which means upright, just, straight, innocent, true, & sincere. To be called righteous in Scripture is a compliment. It means something akin to what we say when we call someone “a great guy” or “salt of the earth”. Righteousness is simply freedom from guilt or sin. It is following the ways of God. It is doing the right thing (according to God, not Spike Lee). However we tend to go about such things halfheartedly. We give lip service. Just like most of us have never experienced true hunger or thirst, we aren’t really passionate about living Godly lives. The book of Revelation says “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth”. Yuck. That sounds rather unpleasant, but it can be avoided. God is happy…and He promises that so are we…if we have a sincere hunger and thirst for understanding His Word and knowing Him personally. In the fourth chapter of the Gospel of John Jesus tells a Samaritan woman “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.”  Righteousness describes the nature of God – justice, truth, mercy, and love. So here Jesus blesses those who hunger and thirst after…who deeply desire to identify themselves with…the nature of God.

 

It is extremely important to recognize a significant distinction made by Jesus. He says “blessed are those who hunger and thirstright after righteousness”…not those who are righteous. To hunger and thirst for righteousness is to hunger and thirst for Him and for transformation into the fullness of His image and likeness. Implied in this blessing is an understanding that we are being challenged to commit ourselves to a process, a journey, an ongoing reaching out for the righteousness of God. This blessing comes with a promise that we will be satisfied, we will be filled, and we will be transformed by his Holy Spirit. Thus it seems that as we hunger and thirst to identify ourselves with God, God’s Holy Spirit will honor that desire, fill us and transform us. Matthew 6:33 instructs us to  “seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness”. To thirst after righteousness means wanting to live according to God’s will instead of the world’s.

 

Both a physical and a spiritual appetite are normal for a healthy human being. Neither the body nor the soul is self-sustaining…both must be fed regularly. Just as physical hunger is a sign of physical health, so is spiritual hunger a sign of spiritual health. But while we instinctively understand that when we are physically hungry or thirsty that we need to eat food or get something to drink I am not so sure that we recognize or comprehend the spiritual appetite. Restlessness and longing are universal traits of the human heart. Gambling-The-Problemcollege-guys-drinking-300x200God has put eternity in our hearts and we have a wretched yearning. Many of us understand that there is something missing in our life…that too often we are unhappy, frustrated, anxious, unfulfilled, bored, angry, and discouraged. We try to solve those issues any number of worldly ways…spending money we don’t have on things we don’t need, climbing the corporate ladder, scenic vacations, accomplishments of creativity, stunning cinematic productions, national sports extravaganzas, illicit sex or pornography, drugs & alcohol, gambling, overeating, etc. But the longing remains. In Isaiah 55:2-3 we are asked “Why do you spend your laddermoney for that which is not bread and your labor for that which does not satisfy?”, but then we are given the answer: “Hearken diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in abundance. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear that your soul may live.” Why is that so hard for us to grasp?? The very first Psalm says “Blessed smoking-man-300x262is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.” Yet in our humanness we shun the opportunity to prosper, mostly because we think that walking in the counsel of the ungodly and sitting in the seat of the scornful is a lot more fun. The 37th Psalm tells us that “a little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked, for the arms of the wicked shall be broken but the Lord upholds the righteous.” I think it’s that “little” part that is our downfall. We want more. We are too bullheaded to grasp the fact that most of the time that “more” is temporary. Proverbs 10:2-3 says that “Treasures of wickedness profit nothing, but righteousness delivers from Michael_Dudash_Living_Water_700death. The Lord will not allow the righteous soul to famish, but He casts away the desire of the wicked.” We’ve all been told that “you can’t take it with you”, and we get that on a physical level. When you die your fancy car, nice big house, and whatever else you’ve collected in your time here on Earth won’t be buried alongside your body. But we need to wrap our heads around the fact that there is something more important than those possessions that we enjoy so much…our soul. And while we can’t haul a boat or a fat bank account into the afterlife we will be taking along our soul. It says that the Lord will deliver the righteous from death. We have the opportunity to live eternally in a place that’ll be a lot more fun and way more awesome than anyplace we’ve ever lived or visited in this world. As my new minister might say “ain’t that cool??

Stay Tuned!!

The Fruits of the Spirit – Faithfulness

“What makes an authentic disciple is not visions, ecstasies, biblical mastery of chapter & verse, or spectacular success in the ministry, but a capacity for faithfulness. Buffeted by the fickle winds of failure, battered by their own unruly emotions, and bruised by rejection & ridicule, authentic disciples may have stumbled and frequently fallen, endured lapses & relapses, gotten handcuffed to the fleshpots and wandered into a far county. Yet, they keep coming back to Jesus.” – Brennan Manning

 

 

 

fruitsThus far in our examination of The Fruits of the Spirit we have looked at love, joy, peace, longsuffering, and kindness/goodness/gentleness/meekness. And now we’ll take a closer look at what exactly God expects out of us in exhibiting the fruit of faithfulness. This one has been a long time coming and to be honest I’ve really struggled with writing what you are in the midst of reading. The words just haven’t come easily. I believe there is a reason for that. The other fruits we have discussed or will discuss (we will finish up with temperance…at some point) could…theoretically…be discussed on a purely human level. They are behaviors that deal with how we act toward ourselves & toward each other. Of course we know that from a Biblical perspective there is a deeper significance, but hypothetically we could be kind, patient, loving, etc. just because it’s the right way to treat people. However, being faithful is a whole new ball game. Why?? Because it deals with how we treat God. Faithfulness is authenticity, the power & motivation for Christian living. Faithfulness is the one fruit that we give to God, whereas the others are from the Spirit working in us. Faithfulness is both an attitude and an action shown toward God.

 

The word faithful means a variety of closely related things: loyal, full of trust, constant, steadfast, devoted, staunch, and firmly & resolutely sticking with a person, group, cause, belief, or idea without waver. These adjectives imply adhering devotedly to someone or something that elicits or demands one’s fidelity. Constant stresses uniformity and invariability. Steadfast implies fixed, unswerving loyalty. Staunch suggests unshakable attachment or allegiance. Biblically speaking faithfulness comes from the Greek word pistis, which at its root is about holding fast or steady. Pistis is considered one of God’s strongest personal characteristics. God is a covenant maker who is faithful to that covenant with us even when we don’t hold up our end of the bargain, which is all too often for most of us. Pistis was common Greek lingo for trustworthiness and is the characteristic of a person who is what we would call reliable. The Hebrew for faithfulness is emunah, which literally means firmness, figuratively means security, and morally means fidelity. Being faithful combines prioritizing what is important and being committed to those priorities. God wants to be the #1 priority in our lives and desires for us to remain committed to that priority. I don’t know about you, but in that regard I fail miserably.

 

I’ve never been to Yellowstone Park near the Teton Mountains of Wyoming. However, most Americans have heard of one of the park’s most famous features…the geyser known as Old Faithful. From what I have read about Old Faithful it isn’t the biggest or most powerful geyser, but it is the most reliable…the most faithful…erupting every hour or so. We tend to like our people as we like our geysers. Whether it is a friend, a spouse, an employee, or any other relationship humans engage in, we like to know who we can count on. One of the best abilities to possess is dependability. oldfaithfulTalented & smart are positive traits, but if a person isn’t dependable then those positives hold little value. Proverbs 25:19 says that “like a bad tooth or a lame foot is reliance on the unfaithful in times of trouble.” I used to be a supervisor at a teleservices company and one of the biggest issues we faced was retaining dependable workers, because it didn’t matter how skillful folks were at their job if they didn’t show up for work half the time. Of course we seek exceptional skill & talent in almost everything, from sports, business, & entertainment to our personal relationships, but faithfulness…reliability, loyalty, and the ability to have priorities in their proper order…is a bedrock prerequisite that, at the end of the day, outshines everything else. Afterall, what good is marrying the prettiest gal in town if she’s just going to end up breaking your heart?? Obviously God understands that much better than any of us, because while we are oftentimes led astray by superficiality, glitz, false promises, & emotion, God doesn’t care about any of that silliness.

 

What God also doesn’t care about is our own shallow, worldly take on faithfulness. In the holiday classic A Christmas Story the narrator tells us that “Some men are Baptists, others Catholic. My father was an Oldsmobile man.” We all have a particular level of allegiance to certain things. My friend The Owl has knowledgeable opinions about who makes the best guitars and other assorted musical equipment. My friend Greg has manufacturers of photography equipment that he prefers. I have been a diehard fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers for almost four decades. All that is fine, but it must be understood that the kind of faith we are speaking of here goes much deeper and is far more FGN02medimportant. What we are dealing with is faithfulness to one thing and one thing only…God and His guiding principles. Without faith in God and faithfulness toward God nothing else matters. Even Confucius instructs to “hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles.” So why then does it seem to be so darn difficult for us to manage this first principle?? Faithfulness is based on what we value as important and our commitment to those things. We must love Christ above all else. If we are not willing to put Him before earthly possessions & earthly friends and obey Him above e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g else (including our own carnal desires) then our attachment to Him is tenuous at best. Faithfulness is love hanging on. It is love saying, “I will not quit. There may be misunderstandings, there may be disappointments, there may be discouragements, but I will not quit.” Being faithful requires personal resolve not to wander away from commitments or promises and requires trust in God. Humans can show a powerful capacity to be faithful to what we believe to be important, be it a spouse, friendship, employer, school, athletic team, or a brand of particular products. Where we often fall short is in translating that level of commitment & loyalty to God. Doubt, distrust and misplaced anger are the opposite of faithfulness, and they cause us to lose our trust that God is in control. When we are not exercising our faith we will be consumed with doubt & distrust. We use God as a kind of vending machine to get what we want then lose our patience with Him when things don’t go our way, but we have it all backwards. Proverbs 28:20 tells us that “a faithful man will abound with blessings.” In other words, God doesn’t have to prove anything to us…we’re the ones that have to prove our faithfulness to Him.

 

Deuteronomy 7:9 says to “know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments.” Psalm 101:6 says that “My eyes shall be on the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me. He who walks in a perfect way, He shall serve me.” In Matthew 24:35 Jesus says that “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away.” Psalm 100:5 says “The Lord is good & His love endures forever. His faithfulness continues through all generations.” 2nd Timothy 2:13 says that “If we are faithless He remains faithful. He cannot deny Himself.” Jesus told His disciples before He ascended to Heaven that “I will be with you always, even to the end of the world.” Hebrews 13:8 instructs that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” So you see God is faithful to us…always. All He asks is that we return the favor. But how??

 

We are studying the Fruits of the Spirit, right?? As I’ve mentioned, if we are doing things right we will bear visible fruit much like one can clearly see apples or oranges on a tree. If we are being faithful to God & His way there should be some proof.

 

Faithfulness means being selfless. Contemporary culture goads us in to asking “What’s in it for me? What are my needs, my ambitions, my desires, my goals, my hurts, my values, my profit, my benefit?” God says faithfulness is proven by giving our life away, by looking at others rather than concentrating on our own self. How can a person be faithful to God when he loves himself more treethan God? How can a person be faithful to God when his own gratification means more to him than pleasing God? We live in a world in which selfishness is promoted as the way to go. Television, movies, & music promote instant gratification – why wait, why deny ourselves, why sacrifice, why not go along with everyone else??? The occasion to sin, the incentive to do so and thus sin’s frequency & intensity are at their highest levels since just before the Flood. In other words, the environment to commit sin more easily grows ever more amenable, and human nature takes advantage of it. We have been born into an environment in which it is exceedingly difficult to remain faithful. Hollywood sells adultery & fornication as acceptable as long as the people involved are attractive and somehow oppressed thus “deserving” of a “better” relationship. We constantly hear, “Indulge yourself because you deserve it.” This isn’t really all that surprising. The apostle Paul saw this coming hundreds of years ago when he wrote in 2nd Timothy that “in the last days perilous times will come, for men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.” But 1 John 2:15 urges us to “not love the world or anything in the world” because “if anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.” Romans 12:2 says that we should “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” So when the world tries to persuade us to be self-centered and have a Me First attitude we need to remember that faithfulness requires the direct opposite.

 

Faithfulness means living by the correct values and making sure our witness has integrity. A faithful person knows what’s important and what isn’t important in life. A faithful person can differentiate the significant from the trivial and considers what kind of testimony they have with unbelievers. It is more important to ponder what unbelievers think about you and how they see you than what fellow believers think. Christians should have an impeccable reputation of being dependable and keeping their word.

 

Faithfulness means good stewardship. How you handle your money is a test because the way thattithe you handle your worldly wealth affects what God is able to do in your life. We spend all our lives earning & accumulating money, saving it, and spending it. If we haven’t been faithful handling worldly wealth, who is going to trust us with true riches?? One should always ask “Do I pay my bills on time? Do I live within my budget? Am I consistent in tithing? How does my giving compare with my spending? How does my spending compare with my saving?” Luke 16:10 says that “he who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much, and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.”

 

Faithfulness means developing & using our gifts and talents. If you are not using the spiritual gifts God has given you people are getting cheated. Just because we can’t do the spectacular doesn’t excuse us from doing nothing. Faithfulness is based on what we do with what we have. The old hymn Victory in Jesus says that “He sought me and he bought me with His redeeming blood”. God has made an investment in our lives and He expects a return on it.

 

bible11350Faithfulness means obeying God’s Word. God defines faithfulness as obedience to the commands of Christ. 1 Corinthians 4:1 says that “Men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God.” A Christian is responsible to be a good custodian of the truths God reveals and to minister these truths in a reliable manner to those who will be taught. But how are you supposed to obey something you know nothing about?? You’re going to have to become familiar with the instruction manual. Romans 10:17 says that “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.”

 

Faithfulness requires us to look inward and ask some difficult questions. How do I exhibit faithfulness in my daily life? What can I do to develop a better attitude of faith? What hinders faithfulness from working and being exhibited in me? How can I make faithfulness function better, stronger and faster even in times of uncertainly and stress? We all have our stumbling blocks. We all face temptation. Holding true to the course God has laid before us is difficult amid this world’s many alluring distractions clamoring for our time and attention. Being faithful necessitates identifying our weaknesses and overcoming them. Jesus tells us in Luke that “no servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other.” We must commit to God and make Him our priority. Easier said than done?? Perhaps. But an apple tree doesn’t stand out in the middle of an orchard prayer-end-of-the-age-intercessionsaying, “Now how do I develop apples?” An apple tree produces apples because that’s what apple trees do. And when we are Spirit-led Christians, when we are a branch attached to the vine who is Jesus Christ, then we produce fruit because it’s the natural thing to do. We don’t have to sit around & think about it & analyze it. We just have to be careful that our branch is never detached from the vine. 2 Timothy 1:13-14 implores us to “hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus, that good thing which was committed to you keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.” Author Oswald Chambers said that “faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time”, and that is true. But the more we pray & study the more apt we are to understand. Actor & evangelist Kirk Cameron says that one should “Put your nose into the Bible every day. It is your spiritual food. And then share it. Make a vow not to be a lukewarm Christian.” We are pressured on every side to develop negative habits, tempted to be unfaithful in church attendance, in prayer, & in studying the Word of God. But if we prioritize and determine to serve God faithfully then people will be able to count on us. We’ll be consistent, trustworthy, & reliable. Hebrews tells us to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” We need to seek the Holy Spirit’s reinforcement in developing regular, positive, spiritual habits. We must cultivate these habits so that they become automatic. And when Satan tempts us, we can be prepared because we’ve grown the fruit of faithfulness.

 

 

 

 

Judge Ye Not

In recent years I have developed what I refer to as hermit-like tendencies. I have stated…only partly in jest…that if I were to ever win the lottery or otherwise come into a princely sum of cash that I would love to fake my own death, move to some remote island,mansion and hole up in a mansion reminiscent of stately Wayne Manor complete with Batcave (minus the bats). I’d have my books, Internet access, radio & TV, and of course Rocco. There would certainly be a few family & friends…my Dad, my sister & nephews, The Owl, and Greg…that would know the truth, but for the most part I’d be completely off the grid and I’d be happy. The reason is simple…humanity too often aggravates me and the less I am forced to interact with people the better I feel.

It wasn’t always this way. While I’ve never been an extrovert I have been a “people person” and enjoyed meeting & talking with different folks. A confluence of factors has led to my semi-withdrawal, probably beginning in 2006 with the two years of my life that was spent in hospitals, “skilled” nursing facilities, and homebound with medical issues that I won’t bore you with now because that’s not my purpose at the moment. It is adequate enough for my purpose here to state that solitude changes a man…alter’s one’s perspective in a deeply profound way that is difficult to reverse. At any rate, there have been other events & observations before & after that carved this path, but that was the major detour from which I’ve never quite returned to the main road…and I’m not sure I’d want to even if I could. Things happen for a reason and I’m okay with that fact.

My general unease & antipathy was recently reinforced in a truly eye opening way. And that’s saying something because I had heretofore been under the delusion that my eyes were wide open. I suppose there is always room to learn & grow.

Eph 1-7I cannot & will not go into any detail here, but suffice to say that an acquaintance of mine found themselves in some trouble…some pretty serious trouble. The story became public. What this person is accused of doing is dreadfully tragic. However, in America aren’t we all “innocent until proven guilty”?? And even if a person is guilty didn’t Jesus teach us that “he that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone”?? Doesn’t The Bible teach us about mercy, grace, & forgiveness?? Unfortunately modern American society doesn’t seem to believe in such principles…atleast when it comes to someone other than the person they see in the mirror each morning.

The story I am referring to was published on a website. Again the details are not important and not mine to divulge anyway. But I was truly saddened by the comments that dozens of readers left. I know Americans enjoy our blood sports, and I sincerely understand why the accusations involved evoked such passion & rage. Yet I couldn’t stop thinking…where is the mercy?? Folks were calling for this person to be shot, stabbed, beaten, burned, raped & murdered. And yes, some even suggested they be stoned, proving some familiarity with God’s Word but obviously not enough. This is all before a thorough investigation has been conducted and due process of law completely plays out. My my my…jump to conclusions much??

Look, I don’t know who did what in all this, but I do know a couple of things. I know that this person’s family is standing behind them and stepping up in ways that a month ago I am sure they never fathomed they’d be asked to do. This is a good, decent, close knit family. I am closer to the parents than the offspring and the little ones, and they are people with a deeply abiding faith, a strong moral center, and unquestionable love for one another. A few comments on the aforementioned article cast aspersions on the entire family rather than family_holding_handsjust the one person, which angered me tremendously since I know what kind of people they are. The fact that they are supporting their loved one is good enough for me and sufficient validation to doubt the veracity of the story as it is being portrayed in the media. Secondly, I know things that I have done in my life. No I have never killed anyone or committed any kind of violent act, but I have sinned in ways that I definitely wouldn’t want published in the local newspaper or discussed on television. I suspect many of you out there in the Manoverse might feel the same about your mistakes. As my relationship with God & our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ evolves & deepens I become more grieved by past errors and increasingly aware of when I choose the wrong path (which isn’t as often as it used to be but still far too much). I would hope that, if a wrong that I did ever grew into some kind of public spectacle, that others would grant me some level of mercy…but after these recent events I have my doubts.

What’s worse is that I can look back and see where I have been just as judgmental as the people who left those awful comments. I am far too quick to size up a person…assess their motives, assume their lack of moral fiber, and judge their actions. It is so easy to be reactionary in 21st century America. Social media gives us all an avenue to respond without thought, to opine without knowing all of the facts. Everyone is a critic, a pundit, and an expert. The mere fact that I can call myself a writer, publish The Manofesto, and dole out my viewpoint on anything I choose is proof of this. Who am I?? I am no better than you. I do sincerely believe that I don’t go off half-cocked and say anything too crazy in this forum, but in other situations I am easily angered and lack patience, understanding, wisdom, & compassion.

Jesus asks “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but do not consider the plank in your own eye?” and cautions us to “first remove the plank from your own eye, and handsthen you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” I am not advocating free reign. I am not saying that criminals should not be punished or that people should not be criticized when they make bad choices. But The Bible teaches us that “as iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend”, countenance in this case meaning character. Unfortunately too many of us spend a lot of time tearing others down instead of trying to help them or lead them to become better people.

I don’t have any easy answers or quick fixes for this issue. However, I can confidently say that we would all benefit from taking a moment to think…to look in the mirror and reflect on the mistakes that we’ve made and the skeletons we have in our closet whether they are big or relatively benign…before we haughtily lash out at others. No one is perfect…not you and certainly not me. The world would certainly benefit from more empathy & kindness rather than judgment, contempt, and anger.