That’s Reality

Reality shows are all the rage in Hollywood these days. They run the gamut of subjects from The Bachelor to Ice Road Truckers. We’ve watched the “stranded” try to survive on Survivor and housewives trying to do the same thing in an urban setting in The Real Housewives of…well, just name a city. We witnessed Jon & Kate Plus 8 recalculated to Kate plus 8 minus Jon. They seem to be the modern day equivalent of soap operas.

Last season was the debut of Preachers of L. A. and this “reality show” about pastors is to begin its second season soon. I have not watched it, but based on the previews it is focused on the flashy lifestyles of the cast more than their ministry. If Madonna is the “Material Girl,” then the Preachers of L. A. are the material guys. The attention given their clothes, cars, and houses seems to be taken from a script of The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, and not the lifestyles of the righteous and faithful.

If the programs are like the previews then the series follows the typical Hollywood pattern of lampooning those who stand in the pulpit and caricaturing Christianity. The sad reality here is those who think such a program is a real reflection of the Gospel ministry or what it means to be a Christian. Of course, that is not the purpose of the program. The purpose of the program is to make money, and it must have made some or there would not be a second season.

The entertainment industry makes a lot of money promoting a packaged product they call reality that is more fantasy than fact. And the reason the viewing public embraces such fantasies so readily is because of a desire to escape from the harsh realities of life. It appears Colonel Nathan Jessup’s indictment is true; we “can’t handle the truth.”

This rejection of truth for that which distracts and entertains is a sign of the times. Paul writes that “those who perish” do so “because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved” and “did not believe in the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness,” 2 Thessalonians 2:10, 12.

Our culture gives little thought to eternal consequences in its blind pursuit of pleasure. Even when we witness the death of loved ones and friends we pause merely to shed a tear or two and return to our distractions and the finality of life is forgotten, until we die.

I am convinced no one is deceived who does not want to be. What many find to be entertaining and claiming to be reality actually distracts us from the truth and ultimately deceives us.

“It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment,” Hebrews 9:27. That may not be very entertaining, but that’s reality.

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Christians are Theophobic

Matthew Vines who claims to be an “evangelical gay Christian” has written a book, God and the Gay Christian. He writes that biblical passages on the matter of homosexuality have been misinterpreted. James Brownson agrees and has published a similar work, Bible, Gender, Sexuality.

Both are touted as having a “high view” of the Scriptures meaning they believe the Bible to be the final authority in matters of faith and practice. They also claim the Scriptures should not be interpreted to accommodate personal beliefs. They say the Church has made mistakes in the past like excommunicating Galileo suggesting it is making a mistake now regarding homosexuality.

In an article titled Kirsten Powers: Christianity’s new look on gays, Powers mentions all of this and asks, “Could there be a future where most American Christians support same-sex relationships?”

We live in a culture that breaks its neck to jump on the bandwagon of “anything goes” and many claiming to be Christians are all too willing to go along for the ride. So to answer Ms. Powers, there is no way to predict what those who claim to be Christians will say or do, but Christians will continue to hold to the trustworthiness of the Scriptures as Christ did.

There will always be men like Matthew Vines and James Brownson who in the name of interpretation “exchange the truth of God for a lie,” Romans 1:25. The mendacity of Vines’ self-serving interpretation and Brownson’s popular perspective are clearer than the nose on Pinocchio’s face. Peter tells us the Scriptures are not a matter “of one’s own interpretation,” 2 Peter 1:20, and those who do interpret God’s Word to promote error “distort…the Scriptures, to their own destruction,” 2 Peter 3:16.

The Church has made mistakes and there is probably none more glaring than the one made regarding Galileo. The Church stubbornly embraced the Ptolemaic theory of a geocentric (earth centered) universe. The Bible says nothing of the earth’s position in the universe. When the Bible is silent on a subject, the Christian should be silent. Galileo proved the earth was not even at the center of its own planetary system, but was heliocentric (revolved around the sun). The Church unwisely kicked Galileo to the curb.

The Church made a mistake, but the Bible did not. Even the Church cannot invent truth by filling in a biblical blank. And the Church discovered it is not the final authority; everyone including the Church is subject to the Scriptures.

Christians do not hate or fear homosexuals; we love and respect the God of the Bible. We will not change on the issue of homosexuality because the Bible addresses the issue clearly. We are not afraid of being on the wrong side of history; we do not want to be on the wrong side of God. Not because we are homophobic, but because we are theophobic, we love and fear God.

A Salutatorian Worth Saluting

Since the Supreme Court of the United States decision in Abington School District v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203 (1963), confusion over the ruling is still with us more than fifty years later. Tension exists within the minds of administrators in the public school systems of our nation between the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. This tension surfaces during this time of year when school districts are the venue for graduation exercises.

The pertinent language in the First Amendment reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof.” The Supreme Court in Abington interpreted “Congress” as any government entity, such as a public school, represented by a government employee, such as a classroom teacher, is creating an unconstitutional establishment of religion by leading a class of children in Bible reading or prayer. Nothing in this decision prohibits the free exercise of religion by an individual, such as school staff or students during appropriate times.

This past June 12th Brooks Hamby addressed the graduation class of Brawley Union High School in Brawley, California as their salutatorian. Brooks is a Christian and wanted to mention the influence his faith had on his educational experience. He had to submit his remarks in advance to the Brawley Union School District to be approved. The district turned down three of his speeches because of religious language it considered unacceptable.

Brooks later said he was at a “crossroads” when the school district failed to approve his fourth draft. He did not want to be thought of as a rabble-rouser, but neither did he want to compromise his convictions. He went with his convictions.

As you can imagine there has been some fuss over the matter. Thanks to the district’s futile attempts to stifle Brooks, the controversy has brought quite a bit of attention. His speech went viral and Brooks is being heard by many more now than the school district intended.

I’m glad Brooks went with his convictions. I have said more freedoms are lost from failure to exercise them than from being taken outright. What can they do to a student who simply ignored their instructions and exercised his constitutional right to freely exercise his faith?

Solomon writes, “Like a trampled spring and a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked,” Proverbs 25:26. When we give in to ungodly people and principles, we defile ourselves, and our culture in the process. The Irish statesman Edmond Burke echoed Solomon when he said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” There are times we will have to take a stand for what we know is right; Brooks did.

Brooks does not strike me as an arrogant young man; I imagine it took quite a bit of courage to do what he thought was right. I think he is a salutatorian worth saluting.

Hallelujahs and Howls

When the Supreme Court of the United States announced its decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. in favor of Hobby Lobby’s opposition to the U.S. Department of Human and Health Services (HHS) mandate, there were hallelujahs from their supporters on the religious right, and howls from those on the liberal left.

David and Barbara Green, co-founders and owners of Hobby Lobby, felt gratified their religious beliefs were vindicated by the decision. They believed it to be a violation of their First Amendment right to the free exercise of their religion as reinforced by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act when the HHS required them to provide four supposed contraceptions to their employees that were in fact abortifacients (chemicals that cause the newly conceived child to be aborted).

The Chicken Littles of the liberal left are already whining the sky is falling over women’s rights. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the High Court’s matron liberal, wrote what was characterized as a “blistering” thirty-five page dissent, and Hillary Clinton called the decision “disturbing.”

I can understand the jubilation of those who desire religious freedom, but we may be rejoicing over too little, too late. I think this ruling missed the point entirely.

The real issue is not about women’s rights or even religious liberty, at its heart is the simple issue of what it means to be a free people served by a just government. Citizens are granted certain rights, but those rights are not necessarily to be secured at another citizen’s expense.

Hobby Lobby will enjoy a “religious preference,” but why should every other business be denied their basic freedom to negotiate in a free market the terms and conditions of their employees’ service? When the government tells one group of citizens they must pay for and provide a service to another group of citizens that is not freedom; it’s socialism. This is not a denial of a woman’s right to contraceptions, it is about whether the government is being just, or fair to each citizen, when it forces one group of citizens to pay for the rights of other citizens. Hooray for Hobby Lobby, but what about the rest of our citizens that are having their freedoms raped?

Moses wrote, “Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land,” Deuteronomy 16:20. The sole purpose of government is to protect its citizens from injustice. Government cannot accomplish justice when it grants a right to one citizen at the expense of another.

     This was not about women’s rights or religious freedom; it was about simple freedom and justice. But an attack on freedom anywhere is an attack on freedom everywhere, including religious freedom. I fear those who are shouting hallelujah today, may be howling tomorrow.