Archive for June, 2009

The Failure of the Stimulus Plan

June 29, 2009

Remember that near trillion-dollar spending bill that Congress absolutely had to pass, without even taking the time to read it, because if they didn’t we were on the verge of total economic meltdown (so we were told by the White House)?  How are things shaping up now that that bill has been in the works for several months?

Rick Klein of ABC News reports that the President’s goals for this bill keep shifting as it becomes evident that his original prognostications about its effectiveness were completely wrong.  With no hard numbers to prove the success of this bill, the President keeps talking about the number of jobs that have been “saved” because he and Congress acted when they did.  The problem with this argument is that there is no scientific way to determine how many jobs have been “saved.”  It’s a false statistic. 

The White House talking points on this have already begun a shift into this kind of claim:

“The economy is still bad, but it would have been a whole lot worse if we hadn’t passed the stimulus bill.” 

There is no way to verify or falsify this claim.  And that’s why it will probably work so well for the White House: it doesn’t really deal with reality, just like the stimulus bill itself.

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Obama’s New Church

June 29, 2009

UPDATE: Time Magazine updates the story, reporting that the Obamas are still in the process of searching for a church. (HT: Justin Taylor

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Four things on earth are small, but they are exceedingly wise: the ants are a people not strong, yet they provide their food in the summer; the rock badgers are a people not mighty, yet they make their homes in the cliffs; the locusts have no king, yet all of them march in rank; the lizard you can take in your hands, yet it is in kings’ palaces.–Proverbs 30:24-28

President Obama has chosen to make Evergreen Chapel in Camp David his new place of worship.  I doubt that theology played much of a role in this decision, but I applaud the President’s evident concern to worship in a place where he will not become a spectacle and a distraction to others. 

The irony of this decision is that Obama is now sitting under the preaching ministry of chaplain Carey Cash, a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.  I know nothing about Rev. Cash (other than what is explained in the link), but I find it highly ironic that President Obama now has a Southern Baptist pastor. 

I pray that Rev. Cash preaches the true gospel to the President, because I have a deep suspicion that Obama probably never heard it from his former pastor.

Thoughts on the “LGBT” Abbreviation

June 25, 2009

We are nearing the end of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month.  As June 2009 will soon pass into history, I would like to offer a couple of ruminations on the recent rise of the “LGBT” abbreviation and the linking together of bisexuality and transgendered identity to homosexuality. 

First, I wonder if bisexuals feel like they are getting overlooked in this political battle.  After all, homosexuals are pushing for a redefinition of marriage as the union of any two consenting adults.  And it is precisely the number “two” that throws out the bisexual formula.  Technically, I suppose someone who is bisexual could marry one other person, and he or she would then be indifferent to the other person’s gender (does Elton John still consider himself bisexual?), but this kind of arrangement would not truly be a bisexual marriage.  How long will it be before bisexuals begin demanding state recognition of their legal right to join in three-way marriages?  And what will homosexuals do when we reach that point?  Will they throw bisexuals under the bus or follow their own arguments to a logical conclusion and admit that three-way marriage must also be a legitimate expression of the institution?  Will proponents of gay marriage, when pressed by the logic of their own arguments, finally admit that, if we accept what they are telling us, there really are no restraints on the definition of marriage?  If this truly is one “LGBT” movement, it will be interesting to see the conflict that might result between the LG’s and the B’s. 

Second, how did transgendered people get into this mix?  The transgender issue is not about sexual orientation but sexual identity, and these two issues, while related, are not really the same.  I wonder if lesbians, gays, and bisexuals are generally happy with this link that has been drawn between themselves and those who are trangendered, or if many of them believe that this link has actually hurt them culturally and politically.  I wonder if there is any internal tension between the LGB’s and the T’s. 

For whatever reason, the B’s and T’s have joined up with the L’s and G’s to constitute a single cultural and political movement, backed by none other than the President himself.  Yet I find it ironic that within this one movement there are different political goals, some of which are either unrelated to one another or even mutually contradictory.

The Southern Baptist Convention: Louisville 2009

June 23, 2009

Today and tomorrow the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention is being held right here in Louisville, Kentucky.  I attended the afternoon session, but unfortunately I had to miss out tonight when it appears that all the good stuff happened.

But I’m glad to see that Michael Spencer has provided an excellent summary and analysis of what happened tonight.  The Southern Baptist Convention is changing as it transitions to a younger generation of leaders.  I see the shift as a positive development.  Younger leaders typically have little or nothing to do with the “boycott” mentality the SBC has been famous for recently.  They are typically more focused on the gospel and on local churches than they are on culture wars.  They are more likely to support a statement like the recent call for a Great Commission Resurgence than they are to support a resolution rebuking Pepsi. 

Tonight was a good night for the SBC and a new generation of SBC leaders.  But this is not the time for triumphalism, as Michael Spencer points out:

 Younger leaders: You won today. Now be mature. Be gracious. Be kind. Build bridges. Heed wisdom and heal riffs. Watch Danny Akin and do what he does the way he does it.

I agree.  In fact, there are three people I would point to who have been models of gracious and effective influence in the SBC recently: Southeastern Seminary’s president, Danny Akin; the current president of the SBC, Johnny Hunt; and the director of Founders Ministries, Tom Ascol.  I think those of us who belong to the younger generation of the SBC should look to these men as models of gospel-centered ministry.  There are a number of differences in theology and style between them, but they are all three united by a common vision for local churches to fulfill the Great Commission by partnering with one another and taking the message of Jesus Christ crucified to the nations.  I hope and pray that the future of the SBC is defined by this vision.

The Liberal Moral Contradiction

June 20, 2009

Why do American liberals display vehement moral outrage when discussing matters related to their own country and then suddenly lose all capacity for moral intestinal fortitude when the subject turns to oppression of basic human rights in other nations?  Take the President’s recent embarrassing display of cowardice at an opportune time to offer support to the Iranian people who are fighting against oppression.  Just when they need us the most, we have a President who would rather continue to confer legitimacy on the mullahs than lend any moral support whatsoever to those who desire the same kind of freedom we enjoy here in America.

I have a hunch about why liberals live with this kind of contradiction.  I think they are prone to the sin of moral equivalence.  A liberal looks at what is happening in Iran and thinks, “You know, that may be terrible, but we’re not any better here in America.  We don’t have the right to say anything in this case.”  And so, by weighing America’s sins as equal to (or perhaps greater than) those of other nations, liberals think they have removed the capacity for America to have any positive influence on the rest of the world (unless it takes the form of “dialogue,” a non-threatening way of inviting bad people to change their ways without assuming in any way that we have the moral high ground).

Of course, I’m not saying America doesn’t have her sins.  We have plenty of them, and we are a nation in dire need of repentance.  But liberal moral equivalence is itself a sin, for it removes from us the capacity to make any distinctions between right and wrong, thereby leading us to make excuses for the worst kinds of atrocities.  Moral equivalence feeds into liberal naivete about the true depths of evil that exist in this world.

Twenty-two years ago President Reagan said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”  I can’t imagine our current President coming anywhere near such boldness.

The ABC Propaganda Machine

June 16, 2009

When the press becomes nothing more than an arm of the government, you know your country is in trouble. 

Apparently, ABC News is happy to prostitute its services for the sake of government propaganda.  According to the Drudge Report, ABC will be airing  a special report entitled “Prescription for America” from the East Room of the White House.  This program will promote the President’s health care agenda, and opposing voices will be entirely excluded. 

Let’s just leave aside the complicated issue of health care reform for a minute.  Even if you are a die-hard Obama supporter on that issue, can’t you agree that when the press does something like this, we are entering into dangerous territory?  When press and state get so mixed up that it becomes difficult to distinguish one from the other, government takes one more giant leap away from accountability to the public.  Propaganda has long been a tool used by totalitarian regimes to silence opposition and deceive the public. 

What is so tragic about this is that ABC News is volunteering for the job.

Justifiable Homicide?

June 9, 2009

The recent murder of late-term abortion specialist Dr. George Tiller has renewed an ethical discussion among pro-lifers about the consistency of their own position.  Those who are not pro-life may think they can use this event as a springboard for a reductio ad absurdum argument against the pro-life position.  In other words, the pro-choice proponent can argue in the following manner:

Premise 1: The pro-life position, taken consistently, entails that killing abortion doctors is morally acceptable, even a moral duty.

Premise 2: Yet the vast majority of pro-life proponents know by ethical intuition that killing abortion doctors is wrong, and thus resist this conclusion.

Conclusion: Therefore, the pro-life position is discredited because it leads to an absurd conclusion that most pro-life proponents will always resist. 

The challenge, then, for the pro-life movement is to demonstrate that Premise 1 is faulty.  The pro-life position does not logically entail justifiable homicide.  The argument for Premise 1 normally goes this way: If you were walking down the street and saw in an alley a man who was about to slit the throat of a child, your moral duty would be to do whatever is possible to save that child, including killing the potential murderer if necessary.  Those who intervene with violence to protect the innocent are hailed as heroes.  Why, then, are those who kill abortion doctors not given the same kind of praise?

The best argument I have read on this is found here, in another sermon addressed to President Obama (this time from a pastor named David Bayly).  Pastor Bayly formulates an ethical argument that closely resembles the one that I personally formulated when this question was posed to me a few months ago.  Let me unpack it for you. 

What is the difference between the one who intervenes to save the child in the alley and the one who ambushes the abortion doctor out on the street (or, in the case of Dr. Tiller, in a church service) and kills him?  The answer is context.  The one who intervenes in the alley is operating within a context where the civil government has authorized him to use violent force and even take life if necessary to save another life.  The one who murders the abortion provider has no such authorization from the civil government.  Basically, the issue boils down to the legality of the act: the one who saves life in the alley has not broken the law.  The one who murders the abortion doctor has broken it. 

Why is this detail so important?  It is important because God has given the power of the sword to the state, not to zealous individuals, no matter how righteous their cause may be.  Individuals do not have the right to appoint themselves judge and jury in society.  Where the state has said, “Thou shalt not kill,” God himself has said, “Thou shalt not kill.”  If it were otherwise, then total anarchy would be the result.  If every regular Joe had the ethical duty to bypass the authority of the state and become an executioner of the unrighteous, there would be no order in society at all. 

Of course, I realize that I am saying this in reference to a civil government that has abdicated its responsibility to protect unborn human life.  When the state says to the abortion doctor, “You may kill,” where God himself has not authorized it, then the authorities of the state will have to answer to God for that.  Not everything the state permits is right.  And not everything the state forbids is wrong.  But when we are talking about taking human life, the only human authority who has a justifiable right to do so is the state, acting in accord with God-ordained principles.  And the state has authorized the individual to take life only in a few exceptional situations.  The murder of George Tiller simply is not one of the exceptional situations for which our government has authorized the use of violent force.  Therefore, the person who committed this murder, in spite of his good intentions, defied not only the authority of the United States but also that of God himself. 

Of course, some may wonder about those situations where the civil authorities have become the targets of violence that is apparently justifiable.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s plot to assassinate Hitler, for example, comes to mind.  Obviously, Bonhoeffer was not authorized by the state to kill Hitler, but could he have been authorized by God to do so?  I think it is important for us to acknowledge that not even Bonhoeffer himself was fully convinced of this.  He thought of his act as sin, even if it was a lesser evil than the alternative.  This is an area where I continue to struggle.  Is it ever morally permissible to rebel against the authority of the state?  And if so, under what conditions?  The United States of America was born out of rebellion against the British crown, but that act was not perpetrated by rebellious individuals but by an authoritative body established by the people as a whole.  Bonhoeffer’s case is very different, but even then I am tempted to say that once a government has gone past the point of moral reform and has become an agent of such severe evil, then the moral equation might change.  And yet, I tend to lean more toward the Lutheran view on this question.  If I were going to err, I would probably err on the side of submission to authority rather than rebellion.

But coming back to the murder of George Tiller, we must acknowledge that the United States is not Nazi Germany.  President Obama is not a new Hitler (knock on wood).  Our Constitution has taken a beating, our checks and balances may not be functioning properly, but as a nation we are not beyond the hope of moral correction.  To this point, certain state governments may help fund abortions, and even the federal government may begin to do so eventually.  But we have not reached the point where abortion has become government policy as genocide was for the Nazis.  And that is a significant difference.  The pro-life movement rightly recognizes that submission to the governing authorities must be its modus operandi, especially when we are talking about the right to bear the sword.

Children of Homosexual Couples: What Are the Long-Term Ramifications?

June 9, 2009

WorldNetDaily reports that a recent study indicates that children raised by homosexual parents are seven times more likely than other children to develop “non-heterosexual preferences.”  And yet, it appears that the pro-homosexual lobby is either unwilling to acknowledge this fact or wants it kept from the public.  I doubt very seriously that any mainstream news organization will pick up this story. 

This is truly ironic.  We have been told by the homosexual lobby for years that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a homosexual.  We have been told that it is a trait akin to skin color, one that society should accept as an acceptable alternative lifestyle.  If they were consistent with their own views, homosexual activists would warmly embrace this scientific finding.  Sure, it does seem to throw a little cold water on their theory that homosexuality is entirely a genetic issue, but other than that, what is the harm, given their worldview, in acknowledging that homosexual couples are more likely to rear homosexual children?  What is wrong with nurturing children in an environment where they are seven times more likely to opt for a non-heterosexual lifestyle?  The only way we can say that such a thing is harmful is if we privilege heterosexuality as the norm and label non-heterosexual lifestyles as deviant. 

And this is precisely where the rubber meets the road in our society.  I think there are a lot of people who think homosexuality is fine for their adult neighbors and friends, but the minute you bring children into the picture, everything changes.  I don’t mean, of course, that children are coming into the picture as sexually active children.  That would offend any sane person.  What I mean is that once people begin to imagine the children they know growing up to be gay or bisexual, and they believe that this result is attributable primarily to environmental factors associated with the rearing of these children, they will quickly have second thoughts about the wisdom of gay marriage and adoption.  No matter what they may say about the acceptable nature of homosexuality, deep down most people really do not want children being influenced in that direction.  When the innocence of a child enters the picture, the true deviant nature of the non-heterosexual lifestyle becomes plain, in spite of the public rhetoric.  And this is what the gay lobby fears the most. 

This scientific finding should come as no surprise.  Children develop a sense of morality, of inhibitions, of what is normal and abnormal, by watching and living with the most important people in their lives: their parents.  Children who grow up seeing homosexuality as normal will not share the same inhibitions, the same sense of normal, and even the same moral compass in general, as those reared in a traditional home.  We as a society should think long and hard about this before we proceed with these little alternative lifestyle experiments that we are so fond of trying these days.     

Disclaimer: Obviously, I am not saying that all children raised by homosexual parents are determined to be non-heterosexual or otherwise abnormal in any way.  I am speaking here of general tendencies, not rigid laws. 

Quote of the Week

June 4, 2009

Last night, Conan O’Brien was doing his bit on looking into the future.  Now it is called “In the year 3000.”  Here is my nomination for quote of the week:

In the year 3000

“…Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook will all combine into one giant time-wasting website called ‘YouTwitFace’.”

LGBT Pride Month

June 3, 2009

It is well-known that President Obama is seeking in many ways to recapitulate President Lincoln.  In 1863 President Lincoln issued his famous Thanksgiving proclamation, a major milestone in our current celebration of that holiday.  Since a proclamation setting apart a day to offer thanks to God was already taken, therefore, President Obama apparently decided that the next best thing would be to issue a proclamation naming June 2009 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month.  Lincoln would be so proud. 

There are three interesting observations I have on this proclamation:

(1) Did you notice that Obama never mentioned gay marriage?  He mentioned civil unions, but according to most gay rights activists that is a distinction that preserves discrimination by prohibiting them from the exact same legal relationship recognized among heterosexuals.  If they can’t get “married,” then they will forever be second-class citizens, so they argue.  Apparently, Obama disagrees.  Furthermore, he has taken the same position on this issue that Miss California famously did, and she was crucified by the gay lobby for it.  Why won’t they accuse President Obama of hate as well?

(2) It is clear from the proclamation that Obama sees this as a civil rights issue.  What is so interesting about that is that most African Americans disagree.  Most African Americans oppose the gay rights movement and resent the fact that the LGBT community is cheapening their struggle with this kind of false comparison.  Skin color and sexual behavior are totally different categories. 

(3) As part of his strategy to ensure full equality for LGBT Americans, one of the measures to which President Obama is committed is given as follows:  “We must also commit ourselves to fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic by both reducing the number of HIV infections and providing care and support services to people living with HIV/AIDS across the United States.”  Now, I have been told my whole life by liberal propagandists that HIV/AIDS is in no way uniquely prominent in the gay community.  I have been given the impression that if I somehow link HIV/AIDS to homosexuality, I am committing a thought crime.  And yet here, in the very proclamation that is endorsing LGBT pride, the President explicitly links HIV/AIDS to the gay lifestyle. 

And he is right to do so.  AIDS is transmitted among gay men much more frequently than it is among other groups.  But political correctness generally prohibits us from acknowledging that fact.  Here again, the President unwittingly lends his support to a conservative viewpoint that LGBT activists would normally call ignorance or hate speech.  It’s really quite ironic.