Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Check Out The New Site!





If you have been a follower of this blog I want to say, first and foremost, THANK YOU!

That said, I have revamped the website and moved the entire operation to:

TrueHorizon.org

I would really appreciate it if you would check out the new site and SUBSCRIBE to it there, as I believe the new platform will allow me to make more useable content available more efficiently. Of course, all the old content from this blog will still be available at the new site.

Thanks again and I hope to see you all over at TrueHorizon.org

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Finding Her Mind

The Soul, Our Hope For Glory
My mom has Alzheimer's Disease.

Most of us have read about it or seen movies about it, but until you experience what it does to a loved one, those are nothing but detached observations that can't possibly describe the evil tyrant that Alzheimer's is. Yes, its attack is relentless and debilitating. But the person who has the disease is not its only victim. In fact, the sad reality is that the victim seems blissfully unaware that anything is wrong with them -- at least I pray that is the case -- while those who love them must stand helplessly by and watch the one they love drift further and further away, even while they're sitting right in front of you.

My mom tells stories from years ago but can't remember that she just ate dinner. The stories are jumbled and intertwined. Sometimes she laughs or gets sad as she tells them, whether the emotion is appropriate to the story she's telling or not. She warns us about imaginary problems and wonders why people who have been dead for many years haven't stopped by to see her. We go along with the stories and ask questions to hear her tell more. We love to hear her tell them. We heed her warnings and encourage her to tells us more. We remind her who we are and where we live -- several times a day. We tell her about the five grandsons she is shocked to learn she has -- even as she can recite us their names in order if we prompt her in the right way. My wife and I explain that yes, we really did invite her to our wedding 30 years ago and, yes, that man over there has been her husband since 1956.

There are glimpses of coherence that pop in and out, but those moments seem to be showing themselves less often.

She loves to watch old movies. The beauty of that love is that you can tune into the American Movie Classics channel on TV at any point during a broadcast and she becomes completely engrossed in the story from that point forward. Unfortunately, it also means the TV is on a lot -- and not just replaying old movies. The incessant news. The sports. The blathering chatter and audio pollution is ever-present in her family room. Her ears never get a rest from it. Sadly, both she, and we, have gotten too used to hearing it. It's background noise.

But last Sunday morning we turned it off.

This was not some well planned attempt to remove an agitating source of tension from the room. The truth is we simply hadn't turned the TV on yet when my mom came in and sat down in her favorite chair. For no apparent reason, I noticed a stack of CDs sitting on top of my parents' Bose stereo system. I picked the top one up and read it: "Susan Boyle: The Gift"

I had never listened to Susan Boyle before so instead of pushing a button on the TV remote, I slipped the CD in the slot and hit "play." The first song was titled, "Perfect Day." I had never heard it before but the music was haunting and the lyrics captivated all of us.



My mom's reaction to Susan's voice was instantaneous. Utter calm. Her countenance went blank. Her shoulder's relaxed. Her eyes looked up but there was nothing there to see except a melody floating on the air.

And then she started to sing.

At times she was muted and subdued, but at others she sang out with strength and confidence. I didn't remember what a beautiful singing voice my mom had. I was stunned. The Christmas songs she loved bubbled up out of her heart. Susan Boyle was accompanying her. Song after glorious song.
"O holy night, the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior's birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
'Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn'
Fall on your knees, O hear the angels' voices
O night divine, O night when Christ was born
O night divine, O night, O night divine"
All the words. In the right order. Thirty minutes of heaven on Earth, not with the incoherent lady who had sat down in her chair, but with the mom -- the person -- I've always known and loved.

The scientists can scan my mother's brain and they will find a corroded mass of neurons crisscrossing one another on a wild goose chase to nowhere. They can tell me her prognosis is nothing but addled chaos because her machinery is falling apart. But they are wrong because my mom is not a machine; she is not just a computer made of meat.

None of us are. We are more than that. We have minds and souls that animate and make us who we really are -- human beings made in the image of God. The theologians can argue about the implications of the Imago Dei. The philosophers can tell us if, and how, saying such a thing makes sense. The scientists can tell us that it is just an illusion. But the union of body and soul is the only way to make sense of the totality of what it means to be human ... and it is the reason addled chaos is not my mom's, or anyone else's, only future. There is more to her than that.

She does not just have ears that interpret vibrations; she is a being who experiences music. She does not just accept inputs from a digital processor whose circuits have gotten corroded; she is a sentient creature whose personality comprises will and emotion. The words to those songs and the tunes that accompany them are not stored on some magnetized, spinning disk in her head. They are possessed by a mind that can access them even when its hardware is malfunctioning.

There is something about us that is not mechanical -- a part of us that animates and transcends the physical things we see. Something that provides us with a continuity of personhood that extends beyond our rotting parts and attaches us to the glorious divine. It is this that gives us a future and the hope of glory. Nothing else explains what we witnessed with my mom last Sunday morning.

Yes, she is in there. And her Father can hear her sing.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Please, Give Them An Answer

Recently, I saw the following quote offered as one reason that its author, Richard Rohr, should be considered a "go-to guy" if you are interested in demonstrating the story of Christianity to the world around you:
"Jesus is asked over 183 questions in the Gospels and only answers 3 of them. We are not meant to be answer givers."
~ Richard Rohr
I saw the quote on a public forum. Plenty of people were commenting about it's wisdom and relevance. I chimed in and questioned the legitimacy of the quote. I asked for an explanation as to why anyone would consider the quote so wonderful ... but nobody would give me an answer.

See what they did there?

I don't know anything about Richard Rohr but I do know that, as a professing Christian, I find this idea to be indefensible drivel. Not only is it in complete opposition to what the Bible says in 1 Peter 3:15 ("always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have"), but also to what the Apostles did when they went about implementing the Great Commission Jesus gave them in Matthew 28. Paul himself made it a point to "reason with them from the Scriptures" in every town he entered. He did it in front of the professional philosophers in Athens and in the backwater towns in Galatia. He got beaten up and left for dead because of it.

You don't get beaten up unless you're giving answers somebody doesn't want to hear.

I don't just think Richard Rohr's quip is wrong; I think it's dangerous. It's a reflection of a trend that has become popular within the church at large, that sees getting along as superior to telling the truth. It's the same kind of nonsense that many attribute to St. Francis of Assisi when they offer his famous saying, "Preach the gospel always, if necessary, use words." You can see this little aphorism repeated everywhere and it sounds pretty cool. It is used by plenty of well-meaning Christians to emphasize that our actions speak louder than our words. It even seems to imply that talking the talk may be detrimental to the cause. "Keep your mouth shut," the quip seems to tell us, "and just walk the walk."

There is no arguing with that simple fact and on one level I completely agree. I have written elsewhere about the idea that "who we are speaks so loudly that no one hears what we say." This is meant as a warning against the false pronouncements of a believer whose life denies everything the believer claims to represent. We can, in fact, diminish the message to insignificance by our own hypocrisy.

But does that mean the reverse is true? Can we proclaim the message simply through our actions?

Here's the problem: the Good News (a.k.a. the Gospel) is a propositional declaration about our status as rebels and the way in which our rebelliousness against a perfect Creator can be forgiven by the sacrifice of a perfect Redeemer. It is about redemption. And it is "good news" because without it we are all doomed to eternal separation from our God. So here is my question:

How can we "preach" that message and explain its implications without using words?

We can't.

There is no denying that our actions support our representation of the Gospel message. But that doesn't change the fact that it is a message that needs pronouncement.

I honestly don't know the context of St. Francis's quip but I find it hard to believe that a thinker like him meant it in the way contemporary Christians use it. A little research confirms this. For starters, we have the quote wrong! What Francis actually said was:
 "Preach the Gospel always and when necessary use words."
Notice that St. Francis himself did not render preaching of the gospel as a contingent option, nor did he separate it from the act of living it out. He didn't say, "if," (as the famous aphorism puts it) he said, "when." He linked the preaching and the actions directly together. We are the ones who have attributed an improper context to his words.

It is also interesting that Francis of Assisi (birth name: Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone) devoted himself to the kind of life for which he is now known ... after being convicted by a sermon he heard in 1209. His vow to a life of poverty; his connection to nature and the beauty of the creation; his empathy for others -- all these were rooted in a sense of community and shared redemption that he learned from study and experience. In fact, St. Francis himself was known for the powerful sermons he delivered in his pursuit of that noble goal.

It is fashionable these days to label those who defend the gospel with logic, philosophy and confidence as displaying some level of arrogance in their attempt to do so. But let's not over-spiritualize or look down our collective noses at the relevancy of proclaiming the truth. Preaching the gospel and living the gospel are not mutually exclusive projects. Our choice is not an "either/or" dilemma -- it is a "both/and" duty.

So, when a follower of Christ tells us that we are not to be "answer givers," one has to wonder how in the world they ever came to such a conclusion and thought it wise to say so. The reality is that the post-Christian world we live in demands that we demonstrate grace, but also that we deliver truth.

And that includes giving answers.

Preach the Gospel using words ... and act it out as you do. The world is watching, but it's listening too.

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Truth About Warren Davidson

I live in the 8th congressional district of Ohio. Anyone who knows anything about the American political landscape knows about Ohio 8 even if they don't realize it. That's because, for the last 26 years, our representative in Washington has been John Boehner, the man who has been Speaker of the House since 2011. We moved to West Chester the year John Boehner was first elected. Before that, I was politically ignorant. But that election was when I was first awakened to the importance of politics and the need for me to be informed and involved in the world my kids would grow up in. John Boehner was impressive. He (along with Rick Santorum) was part of "The Gang of Seven" who, as freshmen congressmen, exposed the cronyism in Washington and broke the House Banking Scandal. Four years later they were heavily involved with the very successful Contract With America.

I have friends who know John Boehner and will tell you he is a great guy. I have no reason to doubt that. But, after 26 years in Washington, D.C., I believe anyone can and will become politically flawed simply because they have been operating in The System so long they forget why they were sent there to try to change it. It's the water they swim in. Like fish, they don't even know they're wet. Nobody embodies that phenomenon more completely than John Boehner. He's a great guy, but he ceased being the guy bringing new solutions to the problems in Washington. Instead, he became part of the problem. I wish him all the best, but it was time for him to go.

So, for the first time in 26 years, we in Ohio's 8th District have a realistic chance of making a massive statement about who want to replace our congressman. We don't just need to replace the person; we need to reset the system. The problems our nation faces are too big and too threatening to our children's future to leave them to the cronies of the system John Boehner just left behind.

Enter Warren Davidson.

You can read about Warren at Warren Davidson for Congress. Go see if he is someone you agree with. I did, and I have met him twice. He is the real deal. If you're a conservative, he's the most conservative candidate in the race. That's not my judgement, it's the judgement of the independent iVoterGuide.com. You may have to input some information to get to the actual comparison page so I have taken a screen shot of it:

Warren Davidson is the most conservative candidate in our local Ohio 8 race

You may agree or disagree with either Warren Davidson, or with my assessment of him. That's OK. Vote accordingly.

But that's not the reason I'm writing this.

I'm writing this because of what Warren Davidson's opponents are doing to him. To put it as gently as I possibly can, they are lying through their teeth.

Today I received a mailer with a dark, ominous looking picture of Warren that made the following points about him:

THE LIE: "Warren Davidson ships American jobs overseas. He has a manufacturing facility in China and even owns a website CheapAsianTools.com -- boasting about his use of cheap Chinese manufacturing ... Like is big-money special interest backers, Warren Davidson favors profits over the American people, operating his company in China to boost his profits instead of creating U. S. jobs.

THE TRUTH:

1)  Warren Davidson’s company has 3 manufacturing plants. All three are in Ohio’s 8th district, and employ more than 200 Ohioans. Those companies are Global Source Manufacturing, West Troy, and RK Metals. While these companies have international customers and suppliers, none of them have any jobs or facilities in China.

2)  Yes, Warren's company does own a website named CheapAsianTools.com. He bought the domain name as a marketing move. Go ahead. Type that name in your browser and see where it takes you ...

You see, when someone types in that name, they are redirected to a webpage on Warren's own Global Source Molds company website. Check it out for yourself. It's a page that encourages you to stop buying cheap, low quality tools from China and instead buy American tools made by his company here in the U.S.

In other words, not only is the mailer I received a complete lie, but the truth about Warren Davidson is exactly the opposite of what the mailer claims.

Why do you think that is? Do you think the people who sent me this mailer are unaware of these facts? Do you think they are incapable of typing CheapAsianTools.com into their own browsers to see where it leads?

No folks, this is intentional. Read the fine print at the bottom of your mailer and you will see that it was produced by a Political Action Committee called, "Defending Main Street." I went to their website and searched. Here's a screenshot of what I found:

Warren Davidson is a "Targeted Candidate"

Now, two questions:

Q: Why would the most conservative candidate in the race for Ohio's 8th district be directly targeted by a supposedly Republican lobbying group who spends over $169,000 spouting lies that are so easily exposed? And why would they start spouting those blatant lies right at the end of the campaign?

A: Because they don't think you'll take the time to research it and because they know Warren Davidson doesn't have the time or the resources to respond and explain it before the election.

Q: Who would be behind such an effort?

A: The very people who want to keep the status quo in Washington.

I don't know which candidates in this race are behind the lies being perpetrated by those who claim to be "Defending Main Street," but I can guess. They are the people with political influence, power, and money in our district just like every other district in America. These people want keep their influence, power, and money right where it is.

But I can tell you that someone like Warren Davidson wants no part of their influence, power, and money. That's why they lie about him. They can't control him. 

Warren Davidson has no intention of making Washington D.C. his new "career." He is what we all thought our public servants were supposed to be -- servants. He wants to be a part of finding solutions for the travesties Washington D.C. is perfectly content to kick down the road to our children and grandchildren.

That's why Warren Davidson is a threat. He is what we all thought John Boehner was 26 years ago -- a non-politician with a heart.

The cronies can't have that.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Trump as Yogi Berra: The Danger of Pro-Life Consequentialism

Trump on abortion
After the 2009 presidential election, the Catholic Church spent a ton of money promoting its pro-life stance by running the following ad nationwide. It was a heart-tugging appeal to "imagine the potential" that would have been squandered if our newly-elected president's mother had decided to to have him aborted in light of the difficulties she faced in bringing him into this world:



Though many praised the ad for the power of its message, thinking pro-lifers criticized it for good reason -- it is based on a consequentialist ethic that is vulnerable to a thoughtful pro-abortion argument to the opposite effect. Here's why:

Consequentialism is a view of morality that looks at results and makes "ethical" decisions based on whether or not we like the outcomes we achieve from them. In the case of the Catholic ad above, the outcome was the first African American president. Because forgoing an abortion allowed us to achieve the result we liked, we should be against abortion. Sounds good.

But what if Barack Obama had turned out to be a street punk, drug-dealer who engaged in gangland violence and ended up in jail at age 17? Would hindsight lead us to the opposite conclusion? Would these negative consequences lead us to the conclusion that abortion is a great idea?

Absolutely not. Careful pro-life advocates insist that abortion is wrong not because of the possible consequences that may follow from it, but because of what it is in and of itself. Abortion is wrong in the same way rape, or murder, or child abuse is wrong. It is an objective moral wrong whether Barack Obama becomes president of the United States or a gangland murderer.

So, why do I bring this up today?

Take a look at the "evolving" view of abortion as articulated by today's leading Republican presidential candidate in 1999:


In 1999, Donald Trump was "very pro-choice." Today, he claims to be "very, very proud to say that [he is] pro-life." What changed?

Well, during the first Republican presidential debate last fall, Trump explained:
"Friends of mine years ago were going to have a child, and it was going to be aborted. And it wasn't aborted. And that child today is a total superstar, a great, great child. And I saw that. And I saw other instances ..."*
So, maybe Donald Trump had a legitimate change of heart. I certainly hope so. But let's just say I have reason to be skeptical. Here's why.

In his September 3, 2015 interview with The Donald, Daily Caller editor Jamie Weinstein asked Trump specifically about his change of heart experience and if he "would have changed his view on abortion if the child [referred to above] had become a 'total loser?'"

Donald Trump's response:
"I've never thought of it. That's an interesting question. I've never thought of it. Probably not, but I've never thought of it. I would say no, but in this case it was an easy one because he's such an outstanding person." (emphasis mine)
I have to accept Donald Trump's assertion that he has "never thought of it," but that's not a good thing. This is where consequentialism leads. Or, as Yogi Berra might describe Trump's "evolving view" on abortion: "When he sees a fork in the road, he takes it."

Maybe Donald Trump would be a solid pro-life president. Maybe he wouldn't. That's the problem with consequentialism; you never know where you'll end up when you follow it.


_________________
* These comments are quoted by Justin Taylor in his column of January 20, 2016 at The Gospel Coalition.