Category Archives: Editorial

Rule of Law

So, you don’t like the way things are going? You don’t like President Trump? You don’t like Confederate monuments? You don’t like illegal/undocumented immigrants? You want to smoke marijuana without being arrested? What to do? Impeach Trump? Get a mob and pull down a statue? Create “sanctuary cities” as safe zones? Pass a local or state ordinance that ignores federal law? There is a serious problem with all of these solutions. To one extent or another they abuse, ignore or circumvent the Rule of Law.

The President was duly elected. I didn’t vote for him. However, his opponents cannot just get rid of him. A member of congress recently posted that she wanted to see the president assasinated. She subsequently removed the post, but it betrays the lawlessness of some of our elected officials. Impeachment is a serious legal procedure against a sitting United States President, who must have clearly violated the law. Hatred, outrage or dislike for a President is not cause for impeachment.

You see, it actually doesn’t matter how full of rage you are about whatever it is you’re protesting. It is illegal to smash a window, loot a business, burn a car, or tear down a statue. It doesn’t matter how righteous you believe your cause to be. If you break the law, you should be punished accordingly. That the police stand by and watch riots like those in Charlottesville or Berkeley, that they do nothing when protestors stand in the middle of a busy highway, is sad commentary on a society that is ignoring the laws upon which t is founded. Our country, indeed Western Civilization, was founded on the Rule of Law.

Rule of Law was established in the Magna Carta in England in 1215. It is enshrined in the Constitution of the United States of America. Rule of Law, simply stated, is this: all citizens from the President, to the police, to the average person are responsible to obey the laws of the land. If you don’t like something, follow legitimate procedures for grievance, and make/change the law. Such a procedure begins by electing representatives who will be responsible and responsive to citizens.

Protest is a legitimate way to make a point, which may get the attention of elected representatives to remove, change or make a law. A protest, however, that turns into a riot is illegal. Individuals who assault other individuals or destroy property must be arrested, prosecuted and punished. It doesn’t matter which side they represent, how enraged or offended they feel, or what point they sought to make.

The problem is our nation is moving away from the principle of Rule of Law. In it’s place we value personal feelings and the opinion of our political or social groups. The law doesn’t care about your feelings. Justice is blind to your political party, your self-righteous indignation, or the popularity of your cause. If you don’t want to obey authority and break the law, you get arrested, prosecuted and punished. If you don’t like the law, you seek to change it peacefully.

Rule of Law is the basis for civilized society. The alternative is descent into chaos, mob rule, might makes right, and the consequences are already being seen.

Charlottesville

There are so many problems with the recent protest by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia that it is difficult to know what to address. I’ll begin by speaking to the supposed reason for the protest: removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. For the history-challenged, Lee was the military leader of the Confederate Army during the United States Civil War. Lee’s side was the South. They supported slavery. They lost the war. Robert E. Lee has been a hero among a significant number who identify themselves as southern and white. Two years after Lee’s death in 1870 Jbual A. Early, one of his ex-generals penned the following panegyric: “Our beloved Chief stands, like some lofty column which rears its head among the highest, in grandeur, simple, pure and sublime.” Frederick Douglas, perhaps the most prominent African-American who fought against the South, had a different perspective. “We can scarcely take up a newspaper . . . that is not filled with nauseating flatteries” of Lee, from which “it would seem . . . that the soldier who kills the most men in battle, even in a bad cause, is the greatest Christian, and entitled to the highest place in heaven.”

Organizers of the protest gave as their reason, the Charlottesville city council’s decision to remove Robert E. Lee’s statue. The monument was erected in 1924, many years after the Civil War ended, and Lee’s Confederate States of America lost. Why is there a statue of this man? I’m certain that supporters will give impassioned rationale. it’s about Southern culture! It’s history! Lee was an honorable man! If you are the son or daughter of former slaves, you likely have a different perspective. Lee’s statue represents institutional racism in the South. It is offensive, not only to African-Americans, but to all people who reject slavery, racism and all vestiges of it.

Does removing the statue constitute an attempt at forgetting or revising history. Although there is plenty of historical revisionism going around in academia, I do not think we can jump to the same conclusion regarding removal of a statue that is offensive to some because of the way it honors a shameful cause. To bring this home, allow me to use an example from another war. Let us say that a German-American community erected a statue of Heinrich Himmler, the head of Hitler’s SS, also known as the Gestapo. A unit of the SS operated Germany’s concentration camps. Let us further say that a sizable Jewish community lived in the same vicinity as the statue. Himmler was a notorious anti-semite and a participant in the deaths of millions of Jews. Do you see how the statue would be offensive? Would removing a statue of Himmler be an attempt to erase history, or is it an effort to remove a monument to evil and shame?

You might assume that I support of the removal of Civil War monuments. You would be correct, so long as the monument being removed is of a person who fought to retain slavery. I understand (but do not agree with) the argument appealing to southern culture. Certainly symbols like Robert E. Lee and the Confederate flag are representative of southern culture to many. However, I do not understand why one would continue to value something that represents racial injustice and slavery to many millions. It is quite telling that white supremacists in the Charlottesville protest stood side by side holding both Confederate battle flags and banners with the Nazi swastika. If something in your culture represents evil, it is incumbent upon you to repudiate it. Be an agent of change. Demonstrate that you can uphold the positive values of southern culture and avoid all appearance of evil.

You might presume that I would support suppression of protests like the one in Charlottesville, but you would be wrong. I believe strongly in the 1st Amendment right to free speech.  Everyone has the right to speak out and assemble peaceably.  Charlottesville was obviously not a peaceful protest. Why not. Protesters fomented a violent reaction. They brandished clubs, guns and bladed weapons. They were angry, hostile and ready for a fight. Contrast the protest of white-supremacists at Charlottesville with the numerous marches led by Dr. Martin Luther King Junior during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s. Dr. Kings protests were honorable, peaceful and garnered respect from the nation, even though counter-protestors and police responded with violence.

There were the counter-protestors in Charlottesville too, and they were angry and confrontational. They are equally responsible for the violence, which has resulted in three dead and many more injured. This didn’t have to happen. Counter-protestors could have permitted white supremacists to have their day. They could have stood quietly with signs. They could have sung positive songs. The media also could have refused to give these people the coverage they coveted. Robert E. Lee’s statue will come down anyhow. The protest would have come to nothing. Now this group is emboldened. Additional protests and violence will likely follow. The perception perpetuated is that there is a large scale problem with racism in America. In my estimation the greater problem is that of extremist groups, which gain all of the media attention and are subsequently used by politicians to define and divide the rest of the country.

I sat with a small group of young teenagers last night and discussed racism. There were two boys, one of mixed African-American heritage and an Anglo, and there was a Hispanic girl. Earlier this summer they went to youth camp, together with an equally racially diverse group from our church. These young people treat each other as brothers and sister (yes, they argue too). They aren’t racist. In fact, it would seem they don’t see color or ethnicity as terribly important. I had to convince them of the relevance of our discussion. They attend three different schools. I asked each one if they saw racism at their school, and I heard nothing to indicate that this is a problem. Three teenagers aren’t a statistically significant sample of America’s population. However, this anecdote presents us with good news. There young people who are not racists and who have little or no experience with the issue. In fact, I’d be willing to bet there are far fewer problems than the current media spin would have us believe.

Our nation is very deeply divided, but I don’t believe this to be primarily along racial lines. The most significant segregation in the United States is idealogical: Leftist vs. Conservative, and alt. Right vs. Conservative. I believe the violence we saw at Charlottesville was fueled both by racism and idealogical opportunism. The neo-nazis, kkk, alt Right, white nationalists represent a fringe, which may well be growing.

In the wake of Charlottesville the Left immediately blamed Donald Trump for the protest. President Trump initially condemned “all sides” who support violence. The Left pounced. “There’s only one side here!” Actually, as I observed earlier, counter-protestors were equally involved in the violence. Additionally, recent protests by other organizations, representing other ethnic groups and causes have been violent. Nonetheless, President Trump amended his remark to make clear he included white supremacists.

I would call this idealogical opportunism. The Left is masterful at spin and controlling the narrative. At this moment Leftist pundits and politicians are hard at work associating Republicans and President Trump with white supremacists. Bernie Sanders was asked if Donald Trump is at fault. To which he responded with an enthusiastic, “Yes!” I didn’t vote for Donald Trump. I am not a Republican. However, I do not believe President Trump is responsible for white supremacists any more than I believed that President Obama was responsible for terrorist attacks.

What is the answer to all of this  idealogical, political, racial division? The Gospel. No, really. The good news of Jesus Christ is powerful, transformational truth. The Holy Spirit unifies all of those who believe and receive Christ. It is true that Christians are as divided as everyone else, but not all of those who name themselves “Christian” believe the Gospel and have received the Spirit of Jesus. Love is the product of a Gospel transformed heart. Love for God and love for all people, of all ethnicities, origins and orientations.

“For those of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ. There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Christian Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), Galatians 3:27–28.

So, rather than rally or protest, I will proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, who died for our sins, according to the Scriptures (including racism), was buried, and was raised from the dead on the third day, according to the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, parenthesis added by me).

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…” (Romans 8:1)

“To as many as received him he gave the right to be children of God, even those who called on his name” (John 1:12).

“Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).

Call on Jesus to forgive you and save you now! That is the good news I offer to everyone. In the end every tribe, nation and people will bow before Jesus. Choose to do so now and be saved from this corrupt generation! (Acts 2:40).

Are Christians Mean?

In reality people are people, some are mean, some are nice. Most of us have good days and bad days, and that affects how we treat others. However, people have higher expectations for Christians, as they should. To be a Christian means I follow Jesus, and that is what sets the expectation of others.

Was Jesus always nice? Not really. I know, I know, we all believe in “gentle Jesus, meek and mild,” but Jesus was pretty harsh sometimes. Most of us can call to mind the story of Jesus driving the money-changers out of the temple. That’s a good example of who and what made Jesus angry. Jesus had little tolerance for the self-righteous Pharisees of his day, and the Lord was often upset over the unbelief coming from people who would claim to belong to God.

Jesus was gentle, however, if you understand the term. It doesn’t simply mean “nice,” nor does it imply Jesus was soft concerning injustice and evil. It means he was genuinely understanding of those who were enslaved to sin, and was willing to love them and spend time to teach them the truth. The Pharisees just could not understand why Jesus “ate with tax-collectors and sinners.” Yet Jesus never advocated for excessive or fraudulent collection of taxes, nor did he participate  in or promote sinful lifestyles. Jesus taught those who would listen, and many believed in him and changed their minds and their lifestyles as a result.

Sometimes Jesus’ followers weren’t very nice. On one occasion two of his disciples, called the Brothers Thunder, (James and John were known by this name), wanted to bring fire down from heaven to consume their Lord’s opponents (cf. Luke 9:54). Jesus scolded them for this. “You don’t know what kind of spirit you are of.” When parents tried to bring their children to Jesus, so the Lord could bless the little ones, these same disciples tried to keep them away. Jesus said, “Don’t hinder them from coming to me, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14).

The Holy Spirit is gentle, and Christians who are full of the Spirit will be too. He is also called “the Spirit of Truth,” and he guides Christians into the truth  (John 16:13). As a result we will speak the truth in love when under the Holy Spirit’s influence (Ephesians 4:15). Not everyone responds favorably when they are told the truth, even when that is done in love. The perception by those who hear what they don’t believe or want to hear may be to accuse the messenger of being unkind.

Christians may be genuinely mean, though. In fact, some of the most difficult, self-righteous, unpleasant people with whom I’ve had to deal over the years were in church most every Sunday. This should not be true of those who claim the name of Jesus. The root problem behind this unkindness is self, or self-centeredness. I want things to go my way, and when they don’t I will mistreat you.

In Christ, though, I am a new creation with a new nature, which is focused on Christ, not self. It is not difficult to be unselfish when I simply turn my mind’s eye on Jesus, and allow him to fill me with the Holy Spirit.

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,  but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”   The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Php 2:5–8.

I want to challenge my fellow Christians: Be kind! Pay attention to others. Smile at people. Love each other and treat everyone with respect, especially those with whom you disagree. Courtesy is a Christian virtue. Hold doors open for people. Give up your seat on public transportaion or at church, or scoot over so others can sit down easily. Give up the prime parking spot instead of cursing and fighting for it. Don’t cut people off  or flip people off because they aren’t driving the way you want. Refuse to gossip or speak unkindly about anyone. “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” And that includes social media! Pray for people you’re angry with, don’t post hateful things about them. Forgive those who’ve done you wrong; don’t hold grudges. Refuse the play the judge. Take the log out of your own eye before you go hunting for sawdust in someone else’s. Walk around in other people’s shoes for awhile before you snap to a judgment about who they are and why they’re doing what you don’t approve of.

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”  The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Eph 4:32–5:2.

Sweet Mary Jane, Some Facts On 420

The following conversation was overheard between a street preacher and a heckler. Evidently the street preacher had said something negative about marijuana, so you know somebody’s going to jump to the defense of their precious Mary Jane!

Heckler: Ok, who created marijuana?
Preacher: God did.
Heckler: Well, since God created it, there’s nothing wrong with me smoking it (Proceeds to high five his friends who all think he burned the preacher).
Preacher: God created poison ivy too. So why don’t you go take your clothes of and roll in it!

Today is 420, the chosen day for hedonists to celebrate their favorite weed. I don’t think it likely I’ll be able to convince anyone who smokes marijuana regularly that it is a bad idea. Weed is now considered by many to be not only safe, but healthy. This is not an objective conclusion. You can read studies that demonstrate marijuana’s destructiveness when used in a chronic way (pun intended), and studies that tout marijuana’s helpfulness in assisting cancer patients with nausea, for example. As is the case with many things, the truth about weed is likely found in the middle, not at the extremes of opinion.

The source of marijuana’s capacity to make someone feel “high” are cannabinoids that mimic brain chemicals. This is why young teenagers are particularly susceptible to the siren song of Mary Jane, since their brains are in development.

Here are some excerpts from neuroscientist Marc Lewis in his book Memoirs of an Addicted Brain:

“Cannabinoids are specialized neurotransmitters released by neurons that have only just fired… in some parts of the brain, cannabinoids increase the firing rate of the neuron that has just released them….By increasing the action of neurons that are already active, cannabinoids cause each thought, each response, each act of perception or imagination to magnify itself… The cannabinoid receptor system matures most rapidly…during adolescence…. teenage thinking bears an uncanny resemblance to the delusional profundity of a marijuana high…Even when they’re not stoned, adolescents live in a world of ideation of their own making and follow trains of thought to extreme conclusions, despite overwhelming evidence that they’re just plain wrong” (exerpted from pp. 51-53).

So, let’s relax all the “weed is safe” rhetoric here. Marijuana is a powerful drug because it changes the way your brain works. By the way, that’s exactly what prescribed psychotropic medications like Xanax, Zoloft, Celexa and Ativan do, not in the same way, but all of these drugs affect how your brain functions. In fact, so does alcohol (There’s an interesting chapter on this in Lewis’s book). Therefore, it would seem caution, perhaps extreme caution, is in order when deciding to put these chemicals into your body and brain.

It is quite ironic, in an insidious sort of way, that many who smoke marijuana and tout it’s positive medical benefits, vilify cigarette smoking. The irony comes in two forms: one, the idea that sucking smoke from one plant into your lungs is healthy while doing the same with another plant is not; and two, consider that the exact claim being made about marijuana’s health benefit was also made regarding cigarettes in the earlier part of the 20th century. The only healthy substance that belongs in your lungs is clean air, not smoke from a weed or the leaf of a tobacco plant.

What about the medical benefits of THC? Should it be administered to help, say, epileptics if it is shown to slow or stop seizures. Absolutely, yes. However, that’s a far cry from the majority of medical marijuana prescriptions being written. Quite frankly, the medical marijuana industry is largely just a cover up for those who want a legal way to get high. The reality is, some doctors write prescriptions to make more money. I have anecdotal evidence to illustrate. My sister, who is now deceased, saw a doctor for years who prescribed a long laundry list of drugs for her to take, many at her request. Taking a high quantity of so many different drugs was very destructive to her health, but this doctor didn’t care about my sister, just his bottom line. I mention this in the event that someone is tempted to leave decisions about their health to the judgment of just any doctor, especially a doctor who writes a large quantity of prescriptions for marijuana, or other psychotropic medications.

Now, you might assume that someone with opinions like mine would be opposed to the legalization of marijuana. I don’t think it is healthy, but neither do I think it is any more dangerous than alcohol. This country went through some violent times during prohibition, and there are parallels between the distribution of illegal liquor in the 1920s and the violent drug cartels that supply marijuana today. I am interested in seeing some hard data that demonstrates how legalization has impacted Colorado and other legalizaiton states, not just economically, but how it has impacted usage, especially among teenagers. I really don’t want to smell weed on every corner, but I don’t like the violence associated with it’s illegal sale, nor do I believe those who smoke it should go to jail.

What about you? Believe it or not, I didn’t write this to judge you or tell you what to do with your body. I write it as a counterpoint to the rhetoric you’re likely to read online. I will say this, if you are buying weed (or any other chemical) from a drug dealer, you are supporting organized crime and violent cartels. You share responsibility for the deaths of thousands in Mexico. If you want to smoke marijuana, move to a state where it’s legal and buy it from a store. Put these violent gangs out of business. Quit supporting organized crime with your habit.

Be informed. It has been proven that chronic marijuana usage, particularly in teenagers, lowers one’s IQ.  Marijuana Lowers IQ Smoking weed also lowers motivation, inhibits memory and learning.

Make an informed decision. As for me, I’ve never possessed marijuana and I’ve never smoked it. I don’t intend to start, not even if it becomes legal.

President Trump

Never thought I’d write what I did in the title to this entry. I didn’t vote for Donald Trump. In fact, I stridently opposed his nomination. When he received the Republican nod, I withdrew my lifelong identification with the party.

I didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton either. I did vote.Honestly, I wanted a good reason to vote for Hillary, but her unbending loyalty to abortion on demand at any time during a prengancy, and her unwillingness to support religious freedom, as concerns those who disagree with the LGBT agenda, kept that from becoming a reality. More than that, I cannot support the Democrats in any area any longer. In my estmation Progressives have contributed significantly to the moral ruin of this great nation.

I am surprised that Trump won. I thought HRC would take the presidency in a landslide. There will be challenges to the Trump presidency, perhaps many, but there will also be benefits. Yes, benefits. I said it in 2008 and I say it again: the pendulum must swing. After eight years of GW Bush, I welcomed Obama, even though I voted for McCain. Now, after eight years of the Progressive agenda I believe it is time for the other side to be in power. Not that Trump is a true Conservative, but it is largely that constituancy (in spite of grave reservtions among many) that broght the billionaire to power. So, I expect that Conservative ideals will be at the fore of Trump’s policies.

The primary benefit from a Trump presidency could be in the judiciary (assuming the President-elect keeps his promises). Trump has listed a group of Conservatives as candidates. A Conservative judge will seek to apply the Constitution, as opposed to reinterpeting it in order to overthrow legitimate legislation that disagrees with Progressive ideals, or using it to legislate from the bench.

The potential damage from a Trump presidency could be in US international relations. I am opposed to building a wall between the US and Mexico. I am in favor of compassionate, yet strict, enforcement of immigration law. I am opposed to an anti-immigrant stance, even as I support vetting those who enter this country. Every citizen should be required to support the U.S. Constitution.

I support dissent. If you disagree, then make your voice heard. However, I am strongly opposed to protests that break the law and promote violence and disorder. Standing on a highway (or other public road) is illegal and dangerous. People have to get to work, get home, earn a living. Anger over the outcome of the election shouldn’t penalize everyone and infringe upon their rights and responsibilities. Beyond that, I doubt that these protesters are not winning any support for their cause. In fact, what is the cause? A legal election took place. So, since you don’t like the outcome you would do what? Overthrow the legal election of the President so that your candidate would win instead? If that’s the motive, then it is hypocritical and should be spurned by everyone.

For eight years I opposed the never ending ad-hominem attacks against President Obama. I read ridiculous, false, and, in some cases, offensive accusations. Now the tables are turned. Trump has offended many people. There is anger that he got into office. Understandable. However, calling him names and making incendiary (and often unproven) accusations is simply sour grapes, small minded and wrong. Oh, and hypocritical, since disrespect and name calling is exactly what these people would say Trump has done to offend them.

Respect the President. Provide good evidence as to where and why you disagree with his policies. President Obama modeled decorum in this area when he spoke yesterday. The present President vowed to work to make the transition smooth for the President-elect. Obama affirmed our democratic process. Follow his example.

We need to learn to respect one another, even (and especially) when we disagree. We need to focus on issues instead of personalities. Debate against a position; don’t seek to defeat or disrespect a person.

Learn to apologize. Don’t be implacable when someone apologizes to you. No one is always right, not even you. And doing the right thing the wrong way makes it wrong. Beating someone because they support racism only proves the perpetrators are  as bad (or worse) than the racists they assault. I watched a video (rarely do this) of several young men beating a woman who tried to keep them from removing her Trump/Pence candidate sign. They jumped into their car and laughed. They should be in jail. Protests are democratic. Assaulting those who disagree with you is criminal and invalidates your legitimate grievance.

Some are saying of Trump, “He’s not MY President!” I understand the sentiment, but that’s all it is. Are you a citizen of the United States of America? Do you plan on keeping your citizenship? Then Trump is your President. Respect the office. If you are a believer, pray for the President. Obey the law. If you want a different President, work to support someone who could defeat Donald Trump in four years. As a recent commentator put it, “T0 desire the defeat of the President is like a passenger on an airline desiring the death of the pilot.” We’re all on this plane together…

A Reasoned Response to Recent Shootings

Regarding the high profile officer involved fatal shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, realize this: every one of us is prejudiced in some way. To a degree this is a result of how our brains categorize and connect things. It is also the result of our past experiences and perceptions of the world. The truth is out there, but that doesn’t mean anyone has a perfect or strictly objective view of it. Facts must be evaluated by dispassionate and trained persons if we are ever to find the truth of any incident. That is why there are courts of law and trials. That is why the arresting officers in a particular case don’t have the final say. Ideally, a jury of the accused’s peers will determine guilt or innocence.

I have past experiences that bring me to realize that not all police officers are trustworthy. I choose to believe that most are, but I’ve been on the wrong side of criminal cops. So, when I hear, or read of a shooting like that of Sterling or Castile, I am immediately suspicious of the officers involved. I may be inclined to rush to judgment because of my personal experience with bad cops. You may have a glowing view of law enforcement because nothing bad has happened to you, your family or friends. Instead, your prejudice may be toward anyone whom the police accuse, arrest or shoot. Your automatic reaction may be to believe that the person must have done something wrong, rather than assuming their innocence as the U.S. justice system demands.

What I believe all of us must do is admit to our prejudices, withhold judgment, and let facts come forth. Somebody may well say, “Yes, but you don’t know how I feel. You don’t know what I’ve been through.” However, that is exactly what reason circumvents. My feelings and experiences do not form the basis for a reasoned evaluation of a unique incident. Reason looks at evidence and evaluates accordingly. You and I need to stop emotionally reacting and start thinking, evaluating available evidence, and praying before we speak, post, or protest.

So, I will admit that I am angry at what appears to be, at best, inept police officers overreacting and killing people. Were they racist? I don’t know. Did race play into their actions? I don’t know. It may have, but one would need to interview people in the lives of each officer to make that determination. Would Alton Sterling or Philando Castile be dead if they were white. Very probably, assuming all of the circumstances were identical, except for their ethnicities. I admit my bias. I am white, and I have been in an incident involving white police officers where I was accused of something I did not do, something those officers knew I didn’t do. In my situation the two officers involved should have been fired at the very least, and then jailed if justice was to be served. So, I know it is possible for police officers to act badly regardless of race. That said, I could be wrong. Maybe the officer would never have pulled Castile over. Maybe the two Louisiana cops would have treated Sterling differently. This might be racially motivated on some level. However, that cannot be determined without evaluating the officers involved, as well as the culture of the police departments where they serve.

Racism was clearly Micah Johnson’s movtive when he murdered five Dallas police officers and injured nine others. He stated that his intention was to murder white people, especially white police officers. It appears this was his twisted version of vengeance for the deaths of black persons by white officers. You and I need to back off of our hate filled, angry reactions to these events, or we may well find ourselves in the same kind of unreasonable, emotional state that motivated Johnson.

Jesus Christ taught that it is what comes from the heart that makes a person bad. What we think always comes before what we do. More importantly, how we think will put us in a position to do good or evil. “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual immorality, thefts, lies, slanders” (Matthew 15:19). A cop, a criminal, or a citizen may have an evil heart, a bad attitude, distorted thinking, and that is what results in evil actions. “When selfish desire is conceived, it results in sin, and sin results in death” (James 1:15). The way we think about what is happening right now really matters. Hatred and anger are not only a bad response, but an evil one. These attitudes will spawn further violence. Please, my friends, let none of us be part of it!

American Freedom Revolution

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
-1st Amendment to the United States Constitution.

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
-Evelyn Beatrice Hall paraphrasing Voltaire

“Government should protect every man in thinking and speaking freely, and see that one does not abuse another. The liberty I contend for is more than toleration. The very idea of toleration is despicable; it supposes that some have a pre-eminence above the rest to grant indulgence, whereas all should be equally free, Jews, Turks, Pagans and Christians.”
-John Leland, “A Chronicle of His Time in Virginia,” The Writings of the Later Elder John Leland, published in 1845.

Christianity, and more specifically its Protestant expressions, often experienced preferential treatment by government for the first two centuries of the founding of the United States of America. The pendulum is swinging the other direction in our time, and with increasing momentum. Now Christian expression is in disfavor, not only with government, but corporations, academic institutions and the media. There is an obvious bias against orthodox Christianity.

How should Christians respond? How should government respond?

Let’s begin with the latter. The United States of America was not founded as a Christian institution, even though most of its founders were Protestant Christians, and some sought to establish a Christian commonwealth in their respective states. No, the U.S. was first settled by religious dissenters from England who sought freedom to practice their religion. The War of Independence was fought to establish a sovereign nation, whose people would be free from unrepresented taxation and tyrannical monarchy.

The United States was established so that people could have a government that is, as Lincoln famously stated, of the people, by the people, and for the people. Government is established to protect the God given rights of people, not grant those rights. Indeed, the Declaration of Independence opens with the famous lines:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Government exists for the benefit of the governed, not the other way around. Government receives its power from the people, and the people have the right to take that power back.
However, the United States government’s power has expanded continuously over time, and and dramatically in the last 15 years. Under the Presidency of George W. Bush, motivated by the fight against terrorism, federal spying and policing agencies were given unprecedented power under the Patriot Act and through the Department of Homeland Security. During the Presidency of Barack Obama government expansion continued into private healthcare. The U.S. government threatens businesses who will not violate the religion and conscience of their owners by providing health insurance that enables abortion.

From the beginning the Supreme Court has acted as though it has the authority to deny or create rights to persons. Slaves were denied rights under the 1857 Dred Scott decision because they were considered property by the Almighty Court. In 1973 SCOTUS denied unborn babies the right to life because, in the fatal logic of the court, the mother has an overriding right to privacy. Since that time courts have consistently upheld the right of a woman to terminate the life of the unborn baby in her womb because the court considers that baby nothing more than a part of the woman’s body. In 2015 the Supreme Court defied 5,000 years of precedent in every civilization by redefining marriage.

This is not government of the people, for the people and by the people: it is government granting rights to people. Such a government flies in the face of both the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the Constitution— the latter of which, ironically, the U.S. Supreme Court is supposed to interpret to protect the rights of citizens.

Citizens of the United States must retain their rights to think, believe and speak as their conscience or religion calls them to. The only limits to this are the rights of others to the same life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. In other words, if an Islamic extremist claims they are called by God to kill the infidel, they are not permitted to do so in the United States, since this obviously deprives other citizens of the very rights the jihadist would claim.

1st Amendment rights are being eroded by government’s ever increasing tendency to enforce a politically correct agenda. However, the same principle that applied to Christians seeking to establish a commonwealth, applies to secularists seeking to outlaw public expressions of Christian faith. Leave people to express themselves freely in the marketplace of ideas. The President of the U.S., Congress and the Supreme Court have no right to prohibit or inhibit the free exercise of religion, nor do they have the right to censor free speech. This applies equally to state and local governments, agencies and officials.

Examples of erroding 1st Amendment rights abound. A recent example comes from the State of California. Senate Bill 1146 seeks to limit religious exemptions from Title IX.
Dr. Kurt Krueger states: “The bill effectively eliminates the religious exemption under current law that allows Christian colleges and universities to operate in accordance with their beliefs, including the freedom to hire only Christian faculty and staff. If passed without amendments, the new law would also very likely disqualify students attending California Christian colleges and universities from eligibility for Cal Grants, a key state-level student aid program.” The law may be applied further by proscribing coed dorms, and enforcing acceptance of homosexuality, same sex marriage and transgenderism.

If passed, religious schools in California would not be permitted to operate according to the teachings of their religions if those teachings do not agree with what the government has defined as acceptable.

It is this kind of totalitarian legislation that the Supreme Court is in place to invalidate by properly interpreting and applying the U.S. Constitution. However, the consensus in government and in many cultural power centers is to aggressively pursue an agenda that eliminates the rights of religious persons, particularly Christians, to speak and live as their religion dictates. That is not the United States of America.

We need another revolution, a revolution that returns us to our founding principles. Government needs to be limited, not expanded. People must be left to exercise their God given rights.

How should Christians respond?

We must speak the truth in love. That means believers must be intimately acquainted with, and personally committed to, the truth found in the Bible and embodied in Jesus Christ. If you are a Christian I implore and challenge you to love God above all, and refuse to compromise or capitulate to a godless culture. Increasing numbers of nominal Christians are proving the reality of the Apostle Paul’s prophecy in 2 Timothy 3, “having a form of godliness but denying its power.”

You and I would do well to heed the Apostle’s command, “Have nothing to do with them!” Paul was not speaking of avoiding atheists or those from other religions, but those who profess to be Christians but fail or refuse to believe the truth plainly taught in the Word of God. They may be active in their respective churches, yet choose the same values as the godless culture around. The Apostle also prophesied about this in the same passage quoted above. “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—” (2 Timothy 3:1–4, NIV84)

Increasing numbers of formerly “mainline denomination” churches are now actively supporting sexually immoral lifestyles, even among their leadership. Episcopalians have ordained openly homosexual bishops. United Methodists are debating inclusion of transgendered ministers. If you are a member of one of these apostate churches I believe the following command and promise applies to you.
“Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:17–18, NIV84)

The United States is not a Christian nation– if it ever was. However, it can be a nation full of God loving, Bible believing Christians who seek to show the love of Jesus both to fellow Americans and fellow residents of planet earth. It may be a nation with a government occupied by many Christians who seek to protect the rights of all people, not Christians alone, and who seek to keep the marketplace of ideas free of totalitarian laws and leaders in order that the Gospel of Jesus may be openly shared alongside other ideas.

Christian faith is always harmed when it is enforced by government coercion.
“An enforced uniformity of religion throughout a nation or civil state, confounds the civil and religious, denies the principles of Christianity and civility, and that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.” Roger Williams (founder of the first baptist church in America), in The Bloody Tenet of Persecution for Cause of Conscience. The author of this quote, Roger Williams, is the same Baptist pastor to whom Thomas Jefferson famously wrote concerning the wall of separation between church and state in his Letter to the Danbury Baptists. This was a concept Williams strongly espoused. Williams likened the church to a garden around which God has placed a wall, and he saw the world as a wilderness outside that wall. What Williams didn’t want was influence from the world or coercion from government coming into the church. If properly understood, you and I would do well to support this concept. It is not a prohibition against public displays of religious thought and sentiment, but a prohibition against government involvement and intrusion into church affairs, or preference for a particular religion.

Some examples follow. Should children be permitted to pray in schools? Absolutely. Should children be required to pray with a teacher or administrator of a public school? Absolutely not. Should public schools teach the Bible?  Even if taught as literature there are many possible problems with teachers importing their own personal bias, or government mandating a certain interpretation, so I think this is a bad idea. Should private hotels be permitted to put Bibles in their rooms? Of course they should. What about celebrations of Christmas in schools? Considering the secular nature of Christmas in our time, I don’t know why this should pose a problem. Santa, Frosty and Rudolph have nothing whatsoever to do with Jesus. However, even recognizing Christmas as a celebration of the birth of Christ does nothing to establish Christianity. Perhaps we should be open to celebrations being limited in communities where large groups from other religious expressions exist. Certainly Christmas celebrations shouldn’t be enforced. Should displays of the 10 Commandments or Manger Scenes be removed from government facilities? Yes. This does not mean every religious display must be erased from public spaces. Christianity is part of the history and cultural heritage of the United States, and leaving a cross on a hillside where it has stood as a war memorial does not establish Christianity. These are examples of how I believe it would play out if we’re serious about the 1st Amendment and why the United States was founded.

Trust me, Christian friends, the Gospel will triumph because it is true and it is the best news. Christianity and its Gospel do not require government enforcement. When you combine Christianity and politics, you no longer have Christianity, just politics using that name. Believers must be free to preach and to live out their faith without government intrusion.

I’m sure I’ve made no one happy here. It is likely you disagreed with something I wrote. However, I hope you get the main point: no one’s point of view, religious or not, should be prohibited from public discourse. You have the right to disagree and believe differently, and so does everyone else. Shutting the opposition up or shutting them down is not American, and it is not Christian. Speak the truth as you understand it. Don’t be offended because someone disagrees with you. Give a better reason, a better argument. Live a better life!