jasonbwatson

July 27, 2016

Identifying reality

In the July 9, 2016 issue of WORLD Katie Gualtney had an article entitled “Showdown in Cowtown.” The topic of the article is transgender student guidelines created in Fort Worth, TX. Those guidelines apparently clarify, or add to, a previously-existing anti-discrimination statement the school district issued in 2011 by adding that students can use the restroom or locker room of their choice “based on their own, self-perceived gender identity without ‘medical or mental health diagnosis.'” That means, of course, that there is absolutely no barrier to any student claiming to identify with one gender or another, regardless of his or her biology, and for whatever reason. If a guy wants to go in the girls locker room, all he has to do is say he identifies as a girl that day. If no diagnosis is required and actions are dictated solely by self-perceived gender identity then said identity can change on a whim without limit, I assume.

Gualtney also writes that the Fort Worth school district also supports “self-designated-gender participation in athletics.” There again, this would mean, I assume, that a student could identify as a girl to play on the volleyball team and then as a guy to play basketball before identifying as a girl again for track season. Actually, if it is all self-designated anyway, what’s to stop a student from claiming to be bi-gendered and playing on both the girls and guys basketball teams? After all, we have bisexuals now, why not bi-gendered individuals? And if someone is bi-gendered it would surely be wrong for us to make them pick one gender or the other, would it not?

It gets worse, though, believe it or not. Gualtney reports that teachers “must use the pronoun and name preferred by the student, regardless of the student’s legal name or parents’ permission, and they are not to tell parents about their children’s gender confusion.” Any student, just to be a jerk and irritate a teacher, could therefore insist on being called a different name or referred to by a different pronoun–and the teacher could do nothing about it. Not even talk to the student’s parent. Surely, therefore, this could not be a behavior deserving of a consequence or reprimand of any kind from the school because how could a school discipline a student for something that has already been defined as being purely up to the “self-perceived” and “self-designated” gender of the student? Schools have to have permission to give out headache medicine but apparently there is no need to talk over serious matters like gender identity with the parent. After all, we should let everyone make up their own minds in this area, free from the cumbersome interference of their parents. (Yes, that’s sarcasm again–lest anyone pull that quote out and use it completely out of context).

If you have read this space much you likely know that I have a like/dislike relationship with the writings of WORLD columnist Janie B. Cheaney. In more than fifteen years of reading WORLD, Cheaney has authored some of the more ridiculous things I have ever read as well as some of the more thought-provoking. Her column in the July 23, 2016 issue is one of the latter. It is also one of the first mainstream journalism articles I have come across to articulate the point I have been making here for a while–that when we throw open the door for self-perception and self-designation, we throw open a door we really cannot then close. We cannot, after all, decide to allow individuals to decide for themselves whether or not marriage is only between a man and a woman, or whether or not they are a man or a woman, and then tell them that cannot decide whether or not marriage is limited to two people or whether or not they are red, yellow, black or white.

Chaney references a video made by the Family Policy Institute of Washington–which I have not seen–in which an interviewer questions students at the University of Washington about transgender issues. “None of the young adults who appear on the video have a problem with Backholm [the interviewer] hypothetically identifying as a woman, but they squirm a bit when he suggests he might be Chinese, or 7 years old (‘What if I wanted to enroll in first grade?’), or 6 feet 5 inches tall.” They squirm because we know, inherently, that an adult is not seven years old and that a white guy is not a Chinese woman. Or do we? After all, we used to know, too, that marriage was between a man and a woman and we knew who was a male or female within seconds of their birth (if not before).

If we can no longer take for granted what used to be obvious and uncontested then we can no longer put any weight or merit on those characteristics. That means there can be no real limit on when students have to start school or be finished with school, there can be no age limit on when someone must come off their parent’s insurance, there can be no quotas for interviewing, hiring or admitting individuals of certain racial or ethnic identities… I rather liked high school. Maybe I’ll go back and do it again, claiming to only be 16.

On vacation recently my family spent a day at a water park. I do not remember what prompted this thought in my mind but it occurred to me at some point–probably because we were in California and my wife and I were far more attentive to the issue of using public bathrooms and changing rooms than we ever had been before–that a biological woman could walk around the park topless and no one could do anything about it if, when questioned, she said she was a man. “That’s ridiculous,” you say. “It would be obvious she was a woman in that scenario.” Really? Based on what? There is nothing obvious about self-perception or self-identity. There is no standard, no metric, no objective basis on which to make a decision, develop a rule or make an evaluation.

That is why some congressmen recently sponsored legislation to the effect of making all men and women register with Selective Service upon turning 18. Partially, anyway. Their point was that if women will be allowed to participate fully in the Armed Forces, as Ash Carter has decided, and if homosexual and transgender individuals are allowed to participate fully in the Armed Forces, then why should men be required to serve if drafted but not women? The point was you cannot pursue something–total equality within the Armed Forces for women, homosexual and transgender individuals–without there being consequences to that pursuit. They were aiming specifically at the full combat participation of women, but the principle is the same in every area. When we eliminate standards and objective realities we have to eliminate all of the results that stemmed from those standards and objective realities that previously existed.

By the way, the absurdity of both the amount of attention being given to transgender issues and the accommodations being foisted upon the rest of us to allow these individuals to do and claim to be whatever they want is made only more absurd when we truly consider the number of people we are talking about. By their own estimate, according to Gualtney’s article, the Fort Worth school district has 0.0001% of their 86,000 students identifying as transgender. A June 30, 2016 issue in the New York Times reported that the transgender population in the United States was actually double what previous reports had indicated–actually 0.6% of the population instead of 0.3%.

Despite these still-miniscule numbers, the Times went on to state that this apparent doubling of numbers “is likely to raise questions about the sufficiency of services to support a population that may be larger than many policy makers assumed.” Really? Even if the number doubled, just over one-half of one percent of the nation now identifies as transgender. And we are worried about the sufficiency of services to support them? Maybe we should improve the support services to our veterans first–I think there somewhere between thirty and forty times more of them than there are individuals identifying as transgender. Maybe we should worry about unemployment, those living below the poverty level, those who cannot read or those struggling with other disabilities should be addressed first–the numbers for all of those groups is much higher than the number of identifying transgender people. There are no doubt many, many categories of people we could come up with in greater numbers than the 0.6% of the U.S. population identifying as transgender. In the study cited by the Times article the states with the highest percentage of identifying as transgender still had only 0.78% and 0.76% and 0.75%–Hawaii, California and Georgia respectively. Interesting, isn’t it, how “the 1%”–the wealthiest of Americans–are often targeted as needing to be taxed more, to sacrifice more of their income for the greater good, to have more of their money taken away to pay for the services the government provides for everyone else. Yet, “the less-than-1%” need additional support services and ridiculous accommodations and allowances that interfere with common sense living for the rest of us? There are more Americans with Autism and celiac disease then there are identifying transgender people. There are about sixty times more Americans with diabetes than there are with transgender identities. Need I go on?

The Times article also states, “Noting that younger adults ages 18 to 24 were more likely than older ones to say they were transgender, researchers said that the new estimates reflected in part a growing awareness of transgender identity.” I agree, but not in the way “the researches” intended. I agree only because people are now aware that there is this thing that they can claim that no one can do anything about or say is or is not so, so of course more people are claiming it. Almost any time there is some dramatic change–like transgender identity or gay marriage–there will be more young people identifying, agreeing or supporting than there will be older people.

Ultimately, there is only one solution for this stupidity and it is the recognition that there is an objective standard and an absolute truth. Cheaney notes that “[t]his is a level of confusion that…goes down to the very rejection of being. Identity, as it’s understood today is not being. Identity begins with choice, even if that choice seems unavoidable. Being begins with birth. … The agonizing confusion some people experience about gender and sexuality is not the problem. It’s a symptom. The solution is not crafting an identity, but centering ourselves in our Creator.” And I say Amen to that.

By the way, before I go, let me draw your attention to something that happened just over a year ago. A woman named Rachel Dolezal was all over the news because she had been serving as the head of the Spokane NAACP and claiming to be black. She resigned amidst the charges that she had lied about her race. Despite the fact that she was born to two white parents, she had been labeled at various times a transracial, biracial and black. What did she say amidst all the hubbub on June 16, 2015? “I identify as black.”

Hmmm….

July 26, 2016

Defining Modesty

In the June 28, 2016 issue of USA Today Maria Puente had a lead story in the Life section entitled “‘Modest Fashion’ Has You Covered.” There were three large photos above the fold, including Melanie Elturk, who founded Haute Hijab, Duchess Kate, whom the caption said “has long been a model of modesty,” and a bridesmaids dress from Dainty Jewells. I do not think I have ever devoted a post to women’s fashion, and I have no reason to think it will become a regular addition to my topics of comment, but several things about this article struck me. Perhaps it is because I am an administrator of a Christian school and dress code is always topic of discussion and debate. Perhaps it is because my own daughter is on the verge of entering her teenage years and is more attentive to her own clothing choices now. Primarily I think it was a third reason, which I will elaborate on shortly.

Puente’s article begins like this: “Sooner or later, every American woman with an eye on fashion has to make a conscious decision, based on factors such as religion, personal preference, work rules, age or shape: Who do I want to dress like–Bella Hadid or Kate Middleton?” I think that is an interesting lead for a couple of reasons. First, because Puente listed religion as the first factor that women have to take into consideration. As much as I would like to think that is because “religion” is a significant factor in the decision making of most Americans on whatever the subject of consideration may be, I think it speaks more to the increasing number of Americans who are part of religions with strict dress codes–specifically Muslims. The second reason Puente’s intro is interesting is that she presents Middleton and Hadid as if they are the only choices. In reality, they are more like two points on a spectrum, with Hadid firmly on the one end and Middleton to the modest side of center but certainly not at the extreme.

Puente states that “more women are choosing to wear ‘modest fashion'” these days, and that Middleton is one of their icons. She goes on to say that that is not a “slam against the young-and-lithe Hadid, 19, who last month at Cannes grabbed eyeballs and camera flashes ‘dressed’ in an Alexandre Vauthier silk gown that amounted to a large red scarf artfully draped around her underwear-less frame.” Next to this statement is a picture of Hadid at Cannes. Now, I was not familiar with Hadid before reading this article so I did not want to make a broad stroke assumption based on this one example. A quick Google images search , however, revealed a plethora of images, precious few of which could even come close to being described as modest. That is part of the reason why I think Puente’s intro creates a false dichotomy; a woman could dress with far more threads on her body than Hadid usually sports and still not be modest. By the way, some of those image results reveal–literally–that it is possible to be “covered” with material while still leaving absolutely nothing to the imagination. This is part of why defining dress code is such a joy *sarcasm* for those of us who have to do it regularly. The sheer, lace and burnt out fashions of today mean a girl or woman can leave very little skin uncovered yet still leave very little hidden. Similarly, Middleton is a great example of a woman who dresses tastefully and fashionably yet still does not go so far as some would require in order to accomplish modesty. The photo accompanying the Puente story, for example, shows Middleton in a dress that stops just above her knee. It is a dress I would be more than happy for my wife or daughter to wear but that many would say is too short. And while I was familiar with Middleton and her well-known modest fashion before reading Puente’s article, I wanted to be fair. A Google image search for Kate Middleton revealed plenty of images, and none of the initial results I viewed were what I would call immodest, but above-the-knee dresses and skirts are common and a few necklines are plunging.

Peunte’s article states that among the reasons women are choosing modesty these days, “often it’s to comply with religious traditions and laws for women to dress modestly, as among Muslims, Orthodox Jews, Mormons and conservative Protestants and Catholics.” That statement by itself, of course, reveals the vast range of what may be considered modest. After all, using only the images accompanying the story, Elturk is revealing nothing but her face and hands, while Middleton’s face, neck, arms from above the elbows and legs from just above the knees are visible. Many Muslims would consider Middelton’s attire quite immodest. Even Orthodox Jewish dress, with ankle-length skirts, neck-high tops and a head covering would be considered immodest by strict Muslims. Yet, many conservative Protestants and Mormons would consider Orthodox Jewish dress more conservative than necessary and the Muslim hijab and accompanying dress to be so far beyond what is appropriate as to be almost ridiculous.

Puente quotes Zahra Aljabri, a former attorney and the co-founder of Mode-sty, an online shopping site providing modest clothing choices for women, as saying, “It takes intestinal fortitude to go against the culture. Consciously dressing modestly every day means you really have to believe in it. And before, you weren’t always happy getting dressed.” The tag line on the Mode-sty site is “style + modesty. no compromise.” A quick peek at some of the sites offerings reveals clothes I would happily purchase for my wife or daughter as well as options I would consider more “modest” than I would prefer or find necessary. The site does include a link entitled “How do you define modesty? Read our definition.” Following that link takes you to a 2013 blog post with this excellent question and answer:

So what does it mean to be a modest dresser? That answer depends on who you ask. What you may consider a modest outfit may not be to others. While everyone may agree that a strapless cutout mini dress doesn’t qualify as modest, defining what does isn’t as clear cut.

We’ve found that modest dressing is really a continuum comprised of many factors, and we’ve identified ten. Your view on each of the following factors determines your personal definition of what is a modest look.

The ten factors fit, shoulders and arms, upper chest, hem length, pants, style, color/print, shoes, hair and make-up. The commentary on the subject of pants provides an insightful look into the range of what can be considered modest:

When it comes to pants or jeans some women do not consider them modest and will not wear them in public. Other women will wear pants or jeans as long as they are loose so as not to show the shape of the leg. For other women as long as your legs are covered it doesn’t matter how tight the pants are. Still other women will wear tight pants as long as they are wearing a long top that hits at least mid-thigh.

This fits with my statement above about the ability to be covered with material and still not be hiding much. It also acknowledges that there can be significant differences about what is modest. For example, loose-fitting pants will reveal very little and most people would not consider them inappropriate at all. Yet, still others find them immodest by default; it would not matter who loose they are, because they are pants, and pants are unacceptable. Period. It does not take walking around in a crowded public area for very long to realize that it is true the some women do not care how tight their “pants” are–and I put that in quotation marks because I am not certain that what some women wear as pants are really pants at all. This is an appropriate moment to point out, as well, that it is entirely possible to wear something that is simultaneously modest and immodest. Maxi skirts are quite popular these days. Length-wise, they are certainly modest, as they come just about to the floor. I have seen more than a few of them, however, that are not modest in the seat area. The fit and fabric are loose down the leg but very, shall we say “snug” around the seat. Likewise, some of the geometric or “Aztec” pattered pants that many women are wearing these days are loose and modest everywhere but the seat, which is quite form-fitting.

Puente’s article describes a number of women who are creating web sites to explore modest fashion, pointing others to sites or stores that provide tastefully, fashionably modest choices or actually creating their own clothing lines to provide the same. Mimi Hecht and Mushky Notik are Orthodox Jewish sisters-in-law who created Mimu Maxi. Of the growing number of women who dress modestly Hecht says, “People are seeing that covering up can be super-fashionable. It doesn’t mean dowdy or your fifth-grade teacher or dressing biblically.”

That leads to my third reason, that I said I would elaborate on later. Hecht’s statement goes far beyond fashion and reinforces a truth that I always am struck by and find fascinating, and that is that the world is continually “discovering” ideas and beliefs and facts that the Bible has said all along and acts like it is a fantastic new notion. Is it possible for women to dress modestly without having a biblical motive? Certainly. Does that mean modest dressing is not biblical? No it doesn’t. What, by the way, would dressing “biblically” mean? Is Hecht referring to the dress styles of the ancient Israelites? I do not know. I would call that ancient rather than biblical. Dressing biblically would mean, to me, dressing in a manner consistent with the teachings and principles of the Bible. That leaves, by the way, plenty of room for personal discretion and style. It also leaves plenty of room for disagreement. I am an Evangelical Protestant, and there are plenty of varying opinions within that group of people on what modest dress means, from the fit and length of shorts to whether or not bikinis are acceptable; from whether or not women can ever wear pants to whether or not bare legs are acceptable with skirts and dresses. What the Bible definitely makes clear, however, is that women are not to dress in a manner that is immodest (1 Timothy 2:9). There is plenty of room for discussion about what immodest looks like exactly, and there will never be uniformity of opinion or conviction. It is usually much easier to agree on what is definitely immodest, though–something like “a large red scarf artfully draped around her underwear-less frame.”

If you’re a school administrator like me, there will always be the necessity of creating a definition of acceptable attire in order to minimize conflict and daily headache. But if you are a parent, a Sunday school teacher, a pastor, recognize that modesty does not have a nice neat definition. Recognize that there is room for disagreement and difference of opinion and that someone can be dressed in a way you would not approve of or prefer if it were up to you and still be modest. At the same time, do not be afraid to have conversations about dress. It is an extremely important part of self-expression and it is something that does impact attitudes, thoughts and actions–among the wearer and the viewer. It is irresponsible for parents and church leaders to ignore the topic of fashion and modesty but it is equally irresponsible to just create black and white rules and say “that’s just the way it is.” That means these will be hard conversations, because there are no easy answers. If we allow that to keep us from ever having them, though, we will be letting the world have great influence. And while Kate Middelton or–Ivanka Trump, since we was in the news so much last week–will influence some women, Bella Hadid and others will no doubt continue to go more attention from the major media and will surely influence more women to dress immodestly.

July 25, 2016

False Prophet (Part 2)

Filed under: Politics/Current Events — jbwatson @ 8:23 pm
Tags: , , ,

On May I posted False Prophet. Since then, that post has been viewed far more times than I would have imagined. It has also generated a few–not many, but a few–comments from individuals who felt that my comments on Mark Taylor’s so-called prophecy were off-base and full of examples of me misquoting him. I am human and I am certainly capable of making mistakes, so I took the time to listen again to the entire hour-long program on TRUNEWS in which Taylor discusses his prophecy. Having done that, and reviewed my May blog post, I do not find any examples of my having misquoted Taylor at all.

One of the comments was made by an individual identified as GHiles, who said that Taylor never said Trump would lead the church to anything. I said in my post that Taylor said Trump was going to restore the church in America. This is the closest thing to an inaccuracy I can find in my post. Taylor did not use the words “restore the church” but he did state that God was using Trump to hold off the forces of Islam and “bolster the voice of Christianity.” That is the only correction or clarification to my original post I feel is warranted.

Taylor also said, by the way, that God is using Trump “to literally split hell wide open,” and He is doing so because the church is not doing its job. The church no doubt has neglected its role in many ways. And while the Bible contains many references to God using unbelievers to judge His people for not doing what they are supposed to do (i.e., obey God) I am not familiar with any instance of God using unbelievers to battle Satan and the forces of hell because the church was not doing its job.

GHiles also stated that he has found America in the Bible. Since no specifics were provided I cannot comment specifically but to say that I disagree; I see no mention of the United States in end-times prophecies nor do I know of any Bible scholar whom I respect who suggests that America is found in the Bible.

Patsy Bates suggested that my post was full of misquotes but she failed to provide examples and, as I said above, I did not find any with the possible exception of the one I have described here. Patsy also suggested I am off balance. I am not quote sure what she means by that or why she said it, so I will have to let that go without response.

Someone identified as Woot Queen said my post was “stupid,” that is misrepresents Taylor and that my logic was nonsensical. I cannot argue intelligently with someone whose best rebuttal is call my thoughts “stupid” so I will let that go, too. I find that “stupid” is usually used as a catch-all condemnation for ideas, thoughts and opinions with which someone does not agree. If Woot Queen disagrees with me that’s fine. She did provide one specific, which is that no one, including Taylor, is claiming that Trump is a child of God let alone a prophet. Well, I did not claim he was a prophet either. And I have heard several people claim he is a believer, but since I did not say so in my original post I see no need to address that here either.

Pat Anderson said Woot Queen was right on with her comments.Pat also said later that I need to be at the altar getting my act together. I am not sure what that means or how to respond to it. The implication, to me, would be that I somehow sinned in my post, since that is the only reason I can think of for needing to go to the altar. However, I am aware of no sin in my post nor do I feel the need to seek forgiveness for anything I wrote. Pat does not want eight more years of Obama, and on that we can agree; neither do I.

Someone named Douglas said that my post “wreaks of a sour grapes Cruz supporter.” That is technically true, but not in the way Douglas intended. I was a sour grapes Cruz supporter. My grapes were sour, though, because I had to support Cruz. Due to where I live and the date of our primary there were only three candidates on the ballot from which I could choose–Trump, Cruz and Kasich. There was not even a write-in option. Of those three, I had to choose Cruz. All of the candidates I would have preferred over Cruz were out of the race before I had a chance to ever vote–and there were at least five running at one time or another whom I would have preferred over Cruz.

Douglas also asserted that everyone who has opposed Trump has suffered personal loss, but I have no way of verifying that and therefore cannot knowledgeably comment.

The most recent comment, as I write this, is from a ggerim, who questioned who I am. I answer that question in the About section of this site. I do not claim to speak for God, though, as ggerim suggests. I was speaking as clearly and truthfully as I know how based on my understanding of God’s Word, but I do not claim to speak for God. Ggerim also charges me with putting God in a little box. Far from it. I believe God is awesome in the truest sense of the word and He can do anything. I do not believe, though, that He has given this prophecy to Mark Taylor. I am, therefore, putting Mark Taylor in a little box, I suppose, but there is a real difference between saying God could not have given Taylor this prophecy (which I did not say) and saying that I do not believe Taylor (which I did say, and still say). I should perhaps clarify that, too. I could accept that Taylor may really believe God gave him this prophecy; I am not suggesting he made it up. I do not believe, however, that God still provides prophecy of this nature and even if I did believe that there are several statements made by Taylor that would cause me question the validity of this one. See my original post for those reasons.

So, to those who have commented, I thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts and even to provide comments. I have read your words and they have prompted me to carefully evaluate whether or not I may have made any errors in my May 5 post, but having done so I have concluded that no, I did not. I stand by my original rebuttal of Taylor’s prophecy.

May 5, 2016

False Prophet

Filed under: Politics/Current Events — jbwatson @ 10:25 pm
Tags: , , , ,

I was both shocked and troubled this morning when I saw that an acquaintance of mine had posted a link on her Facebook page to something called “The Trump Prophecy” with the question “Could this be true?” Now this acquaintance has made no secret of the fact that she is all aboard the Trump train and, while I disagree with her on that, that’s her business and certainly her right. However, as I listened to the hour-long radio program to which she had linked I grew more and more troubled at her lack of discernment if her comment about the possibility of the story being true was made sincerely.

The link was to a broadcast of TRUNEWS with Rick Wiles. I had never heard of the broadcast or of Wiles prior is listening to this broadcast, though his comments indicated that he had previously been with TBN. (Frankly, that was a significant indicator to me by itself that extreme caution would be needed). According to the TRUNEWS web site, “Today, people around the world faithfully tune-in to TRUNEWS every weeknight for news, information, and inspiration that they can’t find anywhere else.” I do not know how many people tune in, but if the story about the Trump prophecy is anything like their usual content that we have reason to be deeply concerned.

This broadcast was an interview with Mark Taylor, a retired firefighter who says he is a prophet–and that God gave him a prophecy in 2011 that Donald Trump would be the President of the United States. Taylor gave an exclusive interview to Wiles on April 18, 2016 to discuss the prophecy–and indicated that it was his first public commentary on the prophecy God had given him five years ago. Wiles and his co-host, by the way, seemed to believe the entire thing completely.

You can read the entire prophecy on the TRUNEWS web site if you are so inclined, but let me highlight for you a few serious matters that need to be addressed in order to ensure that you are not led astray by such nonsense.

First, Taylor claims that he received a visitation from the Lord in 2006 and that the Lord assigned an angel to him at that time.Then, four years ago, another prophet, whom Taylor had never met, told him that he had an angel assigned to him to minister to him, and through him, and that the angel would only hear the words that come from the throne of God. The angel would then immediately do those words and bring them to pass. There is nothing in the Bible to indicate that God ever has or ever will assign an angel to a human for any such purpose. Yes, God spoke through angels in the Scripture and revealed prophecies through angels, but those angels were heavenly messengers, not personally-assigned sidekicks who would provide exclusive insight from the Lord.

Second, Taylor claims that in 2011 he was watching television in his living room when he saw and heard Donald Trump giving an interview. “I am hearing the words of a president,” Taylor felt, prompting him to write down a prophecy from God. He originally thought the prophecy was for 2012, but when Trump never declared his candidacy, Taylor thought he had misunderstood the message from God and he set it aside. I will come back to the prophecy shortly, but let me add a few more things that Taylor shared during the interview with Wiles.

Third, Taylor claims that three months after he received the Trump prophecy he received a prophecy about a Triple Crown winning horse. He said this would be a sign to the church because Secretariat had been a sign to the end-times church (how this is so was not explained) and that this new Triple Crown winner would mean that it was time for the church to break out.

It turns out there was not a Triple Crown winner in 2012, though. The horse that could have done it, having won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, was injured before Belmont Stakes and did not run. That horse’s name was I’ll Have Another. Keep that in mind…

At some point God also told Taylor to re-write Dwight Eisenhower’s D-Day speech for God’s army. Then, in 2015, American Pharoah won the Triple Crown. God told Taylor to release the Eisenhower speech at that time,and ten days later Trump declared his candidacy for president. Taylor asked God if he had missed the prophecy in 2011 but God told him no, it was all supposed to happen in 2012 but His people were not ready. The horse I’ll Have Another One was God’s message that He would have another one coming later.

Now, one thing the Scripture makes clear about prophecy is that prophecy that is from God comes true. God sometimes used prophets to deliver messages saying that certain things would happen if they did not obey God or get right with Him, and sometimes they did–so the prophesied judgment was withheld. But there is no recorded instance of God declaring that something would happen and that it not happening because His people were not ready for it. Prophets who say “this will happen” and then it does not do get to say “I misunderstood, it will really happen at such-and-such a time.” Why not? Because a prophecy that was truly from God was unmistakably clear. Think about Harold Camping as but one example. He erroneously predicted–you might say prophesied–the end of the world and the return of Christ. It did not happen in 1994. He said he erred, it would be 2011. It did not happen then either. In 2012 he said he was wrong about the timing. Really? What else could he say, since Jesus had not returned? Camping was wrong because he was claiming something that God had not, in fact revealed to him. In fact, God makes it clear that what Camping claimed to know is known by no man.

Anyway, Taylor’s prophecy includes the following: “The Spirit of God says I have chosen this man Donald Trump, for I will use this man to bring honor, respect and restoration to America.” Later, the “enemy will quake and shake and fear this man.” Still later, Trump “will be a man of his word. When he speaks, the world will listen and know that there is something greater in him.” Trump, Taylor says, is chosen by God; he has spent his entire career to this point building his empire to prepare him for what God will use him to do.

Let me insert here that Taylor says, referring to the “quake and shake” portion of the prophecy that Trump made his announcement on the same date that the United States decided to drop the atomic bomb on Japan. That was surely a shot heard ’round the world, and that is not a coincidence. Well, Trump declared his candidacy in June 16. That is not the same date that President Truman decided to use the atomic bomb. On July 16 Truman found out that an atomic bomb had been successfully tested in New Mexico. It would be absurd to think that the decision to use the bomb had been made a month before anyone knew it would even work. According to Digital History, a research tool for historians and students operated by the University of Houston, several leading scientists announced on June 16, 1945 that they did not think that a demonstration of the atomic bomb would be enough by itself to end the war. Taylor, then, is grasping at straws. May 3, 1469 is the day that Niccolo Machiavelli was born. Does that bear some significance to the fact that on May 3, 2016 Ted Cruz dropped out of the Republican race? I doubt it. On 4, 1979 Margaret Thatcher was sworn is as the first female Prime Minister in UK history. Does the fact that John Kasich dropped out of the Republican race on that date in 2016, leaving only Trump left to oppose Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee and therefore first female presidential nominee of a major party in the U.S., have any significance? I doubt it.

Taylor went on to say that America has been chosen as the launching platform for the harvest. Every time Trump is attacked by the media or other candidates his numbers go up. Why? Because, Taylor says, he is anointed by God. Taylor claims that Megyn Kelly of FOX News was violently ill the day of the first GOP debate and that during the debate she had her legs covered with blankets and there was a bucket beside her on stage in case she threw up. Why? God was warning her not to mess with His anointed man Trump. (Kelly famously asked Trump about his treatment of women during the debate). Kelly’s questioning of Trump, said Taylor, is an example of the kingdom of darkness trying to stop Trump.

Taylor, Wiles and company say there are many instances of God using individuals who were “not choir boys” to accomplish His purpose. That is true. However, those individuals were not God’s anointed. They were not used by God to restore His people but to judge them. There were multiple references in the interview to Nebuchadnezzar. Ezra 5:12 says, “But because our fathers had angered the God of heaven, he gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this house and carried away the people to Babylonia.” Several Old Testament passages tell us that Nebuchadnezzar took gold and silver vessels out of the House of God and put them in his palace or in the Temple of Babylon.If Donald Trump is a modern day version of Nebuchadnezzar then we are all in trouble.

Yet, Taylor says that God is using Trump to split hell wide open. One of the radio hosts said he pictures Trump like a big oak log with handles and God is using Him as a battering ram against the gates of hell. He is strong enough to withstand the beating he is taking because of how God is using him. God, Taylor said, is using Trump to do what the church will not do.

What about Trump’s language? Well, Taylor says, Jesus said things like “hypocrites” and “brood of vipers” of the religious leaders of His day. Trump uses harsh language sometimes too. Uh huh. That comparison is so ridiculous as to not even warrant a response.

America’s best days are before it, Taylor says, and he is “absolutely certain” that Trump will be elected. Oh…and Trump will get to name five Supreme Court justices, too.

Donald Trump is not God’s chosen man to restore the church in America. Though he claims to be a Christian, Trump says he has never asked for forgiveness. Those two statements, of course, are mutually exclusive. If Donald Trump has never accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Savior then he cannot be a prophet of God. If Donald Trump has never asked for forgiveness then he cannot have accepted Christ as his Savior. God does not reveal prophecy with divine authority any more. Those gifts have ceased, because we have the entire revealed Scripture. Yes, the Holy Spirit is real and active and prompts and works in the hearts of believers, but again, Donald Trump, by his own admission, is not a believer.

So, no matter what Mark Taylor or Rick Wiles or anyone else may say, there is no Donald Trump prophecy and Donald Trump has not been chosen by God to restore the church or to batter the gates of hell. If Donald Trump is elected in November it will be because God allowed it to happen, but God did not tell Mark Taylor five years ago that it would. Of that I have zero doubt.

 

 

March 18, 2016

Keeping Up With the Joneses

I should state right up front that I am not a fan of rap. In fact, I would consider myself whatever the opposite of “fan” is when it comes to rap. I have been known, on more than one occasion, to ask someone what kind of music they like and, upon receiving their response of “rap,” counter with, “I said music.” So opposed am I to rap that, despite enjoying Broadway shows and loving American history, I had zero interest in going to see Hamilton while I was in New York recently. Once I learned that the show’s lyrics are rapped, I knew it was not for me. And yes, I know that it is considered the hottest ticket in town…but then that leads to the real point I want to make here.

I do not watch the Grammy’s either. It is my understanding, though, that rapper Kendrick Lamar took home five Grammy awards out of eleven nominations at this year’s ceremony. Granted, I have never listened to so much as a single line of his rap, but an article by Arsenio Orteza back in January struck me when I read it and has been rolling around in my mind ever since. Orteza’s view of Lamar’s “music” is that “herd instinct can trump better judgment when music critics move in packs.” Orteza is clearly no fan of Lamar, writing the following about his most recent album (the one that won him five Grammay’s):

[T]he verbal component of [To Pimp a Butterfly] comprisesa dim self-awareness held together with innumerable “N-words,” “F-bombs,” and other expressions of an intelligence far too limited to be taken seriously.

So whether he’s promising a race war the next time cops shoot a black man or confusing a chrysalis with a cocoon while invoking his album’s title lepidopterous imagery, Lamar sounds like a clown.

Clearly, if he had a vote, Orteza would not be supporting Lamar for any Grammy’s. He was not alone in his evaluation of the album, though. Even those who apparently enjoy rap had less-than-glowing comments about this effort. Justin Charity, writing on complex.com in November, said, “In its entirety, To Pimp a Butterfly isn’t a conventionally enjoyable record; it is, essentially, the screams of an agonized man performing open-heart surgery on himself. … To Pimp a Butterfly is, undeniably, an important album. It’s also frustrating, painful, chaotic, and wildly derivative of so many black musical influences that Kendrick Lamar barely elevates.” Billboard gave the album 4.5 stars out of 5, but even praising the concept and deeper meaning of the album, Kris Ex said, “the music isn’t the most challenging thing about the album: the lyrics are pre-occupied with race and personal identity in ways that are decidedly uncomfortable to mixed company. Rolling Stone included it as one of the 50 Best Albums of 2105, but still said, “The pleasures and rewards of To Pimp a Butterfly aren’t easy.”

Now, I am not suggesting that uncomfortable or uneasy are necessarily bad things. There are many excellent pieces of literature, music or art that are neither comfortable nor easy but that are quite valuable and thought provoking. Indeed there is much in the Bible that is neither comfortable nor easy–and that is specifically because it is so personal and direct. (Have you read James lately?)

Lamar’s rap, however, seems to have far more going against it than for it. Those lyrics from To Pimp a Butterfly that I have read are littered with language that negates any significant point he may be trying to make. Frankly, reading just one line of some of the “songs” on the album is too much for me to handle–and I do not consider myself easily offended or “Puritanical.” Is it really possible to make a meaningful point or initiate thoughtful dialogue when everyone word but “you” in a sentence is profanity?

At the Grammy’s he performed three songs, including a new verse alluding to the death of Trayvon Martin and an untitled song that refers to Martin. The Guardian said the performance was “studded with strong allusions to racial inequality, the prison-industrial complex and black identity.” The lyrics, if you can stomach them, are studded with all manner of reference to violence, anger, crime…and confusion. Not long after these lyrical lines…

The reason why I’m by your house
You threw your briefcase all on the couch
I plan on creeping through your damn door and blowing out
Every piece of your brain
‘Til your spine drip to your arm
Cut off the engine then sped off in a Wraith

He says this…

Once upon a time, I go to church and talk to God
Now I’m thinking to myself
Hollow tips is all I got

And believe me, there is plenty more I am not quoting.
Following his Grammy’s performance the Twitter-sphere lit up with celebrities tripping all over themselves trying to praise Lamar’s performance. Piers Morgan tweeted, “This guy stole the show.” Mark Ballas said he was blown away the performance, saying Lamar had “so much heart.” Katy Perry tweeted, in all caps, “THAT WAS SO POWERFUL”. Kobe Bryant said “YES!” and Ellen DeGeneres tweeted, “@kendricklamar, you are brilliant.”
Don Cannon, though, topped them all when he said, “God bless @kendricklamar. For using your gifts to teach and inspire on such a huge platform.” Teach and inspire? What was he teaching? What did he inspire? Nothing, as best I can tell, that is socially acceptable or remotely helpful. Are African-Americans overrepresented in American prisons? Yes. Is there room for a legitimate and sincere debate about the treatment of African-Americans by law enforcement? Of course. But talking about blowing out someone’s brain until their spine drips onto their arm is not constructive and is certainly not the starting point for a meaningful or productive conversation.
So why in the world do we (the collective “we”–and far more than just the twittering glitterati of Hollywood) commend and celebrate such nonsense? Well, to go back to Arsenio Orteza, I think he hit the nail on the head in his column, which was written, by the way, before the Grammy’s performance. This observation is one of the more poignant and memorable ones I have seen in a long time:
So why do critics love him? The easiest answer is that, being mostly liberal, they consider nobly savage inarticulateness to be a sign of authentic “blackness,” not realizing that in so doing they’re perpetuating a negative stereotype at odds with their putative racial egalitarianism.
That is exactly right. Somehow we have all become like the advisers to the emperor. We can see that he is not wearing any clothes, but we are not willing to say so. We go along with everyone else, not wanting to stick out or draw undue attention to ourselves. It is easier to agree, to smile, to nod, to tweet some pithy congratulatory–and insanely stupid–commendation of words and antics that civilized people with their heads on straight would never condone.
This is true of far more than a rap performance at an awards show, of course. No doubt we have all found ourselves racing to keep up with the Joneses by wearing clothes we don’t even like because it is the “in” brand, of watching shows or movies we really do not enjoy because “everyone else is doing it.” There are innumerable examples of the ways in which we refuse to stand on our own two feet and proclaim that the emperor is naked. Years ago Ryan Dobson wrote a book entitled Be Intolerant…Because Some Things Are Just Stupid. To that I would say a hearty Amen!
We cannot expect our young people to resist peer pressure and say no to the crowd when we as adults are not willing to do so. There is nothing progressive or avant-garde, certainly nothing to be desired, in celebrating or commending that which is aimed squarely at the destruction of civilization. And it’s about time we say so. Kendrick Lamar’s rap may be a good place to start, but that is all it is…a starting point. We are paving the way to our own downfall with our expanding embrace of abortion, euthanasia, transgender identity, gay marriage, marijuana use…and on and on it goes. Somehow we do not realize, as Orteza wrote, that we are perpetuating beliefs, behaviors and positions that are actually quite at odds with our own survival as a civilized people.

 

 

February 16, 2016

My trust and my hope

I know I am not the only one who has been thinking a lot about the unexpected passing of Supreme Justice Antonin Scalia over the past few days. His legacy will last for decades and his decisions, and minority reports, will no doubt be studied by law students, lawyers and judges for even longer. Albert Mohler was correct when he wrote, “Antonin Scalia is almost surely the most influential justice to sit on the Supreme Court in many decades. The loss of his influence, as well as his his crucial vote, is monumental.” I agree with Mohler, and I was very sad to learn of Scalia’s passing. I was sad for his family’s loss of a loved one but I was mostly sad for our country and for the impact that Scalia’s too-soon departure from the Supreme Court will potentially have on both the present and future of this nation. That is why I also found it necessary to reflect on the following thoughts.

First, the United States as a nation, conservatism as a movement, judicial restraint as a philosophy and respect for states’ rights and individual liberty as ideologies did not begin with Antonin Scalia nor will any of them end there. He was a great and influential figure in each of those areas but now that he is gone they must all go on. Someone else–or, ideally, multiple someone elses–must step up and fill the very large shoes left behind by Justice Scalia. This is much like a baseball team losing its star player. The face of the team may change, the strategy of the team may change, the success of the team may even change, but the other players do not pack up and go home.

Second, this has been a great opportunity for me to remember the importance of seeing things from someone else’s perspective. Right off the bat I was thinking that I hope there will be some way for the Republicans to delay the confirmation of a new justice until after the election. There is no guarantee how the election will turn out, of course, but there is at least a chance that a Republican will win, which would also greatly increase the likelihood of the new justice being more in line with the positions held by Scalia than any justice appointed by President Obama. Mitch McConnell announced right away that he thought the new justice should not be appointed until after the election, and others were saying the same thing. President Obama, of course, indicated that he would appoint a justice. On Sunday evening it occurred to me that if the situation was reversed and there were a Republican in the White House right now I have no doubt that I, Mitch McConnell, and many others would be advocating for an appointment and confirmation before the election. It was rather like remembering that I cannot only like and defend free speech when it is speech I agree with and approve of. The beauty of free speech is just that–it is free, meaning you can advocate whatever you want no matter how much I do not like it, and I can do the same no matter how much you do not like it. I am not saying I want President Obama to appoint the next justice, but I cannot in good conscience argue that he should not, or that his appointment should not be confirmed if qualified.

The third point is somewhat similar to the first one but is important enough on its own that it needs to be stated separately. No one’s hope is in–or should be in–originalism, conservatism or any other philosophy or ideology of man. Neither is it in any human being, politician, judge, theologian or anything else–including Antonin Scalia. Psalm 146:3 says, in the Good News Translation, “Don’t put your trust in human leaders; no human being can save you.” One reason not to put trust in them is that they, as Matthew Poole wrote, “are utterly unable frequently to give you that help which they promise, and you expect.” Antonin Scalia was a wonderful Supreme Court judge, but his power and influence was limited. He was also a flawed human being. In his Notes on the Bible Albert Barnes comments on Psalm 146:3 this way: “Rely on God rather than on man, however exalted he may be. There is a work of protection and salvation which no man, however exalted he may be, can perform for you; a work which God alone, who is the Maker of all things, and who never dies, can accomplish.” If Justice Scalia had lived to be 150 and remained on the Supreme Court for that entire time, he could not have ever accomplished anything that would save anyone, eternally speaking.

Albert Mohler was correct; a giant has fallen. But that giant was a human being. A giant in the legal realm, yes. Still–and Albert Mohler would wholeheartedly agree with me, so do not read this as me suggesting that he said anything otherwise–whether or not I like the person who assumes the seat vacated by Scalia, whether or not that person is an originalist or an activist judge, is not where my priority should be. Whether or not Antonin Scalia is on the Supreme Court does not matter, eternally speaking. What matters is that God is still on the throne–and in Him will I place my trust and my hope.

January 25, 2016

Snowflakes and Babies

All of the snow blanketing the East Coast from Winter Storm Jonas coincided with the anniversary of Roe v. Wade and Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. That prompted me to do some thinking about the correlation between snow flakes and humans. Some quick online research informed me that according to Jon Nelson at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan–a physicist who has spent a decade and a half studying snow–the number of cubic feet of snow that falls on the earth each year is about one million billion, or a one followed by fifteen zeros. So how many snowflakes is that? Well, again according to Nelson, one cubic foot of snow contains about one billion snow crystals (or what most of us commonly call snow flakes), meaning that in one year one quadrillion–a one followed by 24 zeros–snow flakes fall to earth.

What does all of this have to do with humans? Well, like me, you have probably always heard that no two snow flakes are alike. Nelson suggests that may not be entirely true. He thinks that snow flakes (crystals) that fall to the earth before they fully develop might be alike, actually. Of course, neither he nor anyone else will ever be able to prove that. Here is what Nelson had to say in an article posted on Live Science in 2007:

How likely is it that two snowflakes are alike? Very likely if we define alike to mean that we would have trouble distinguishing them under a microscope and if we include the crystals that hardly develop beyond the prism stage—that is, the smallest snow crystals. Good luck finding them though. Even if there were only a million crystals and you could compare each possible pair once per second—that is, very fast—then to compare them all would take you about a hundred thousand years.

So, maybe you would rather say “no two snow flakes are alike as far as we know” but I am content to leave off the qualifier. And if you believe that God is in control of the entire universe and the creator of every snow flake, as I do, then this is even more astounding. Job 38 references the storehouses of snow and hail. I find it fascinating to contemplate massive warehouses somewhere in heaven, filled with billions and quadrillions of snowflakes! Anyway, I got off track. What does this have to do with humans?

Well, not only do I believe that God makes each snowflake, I believe He makes each human being. Psalm 139:14 tells us that each human being is “fearfully and wonderfully made.” The previous verse says, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” I love that word picture, because knitting is such a delicate craft, requiring attention to detail. It should encourage each of us to consider that God put each human together exactly as He saw fit, according to His specific desires and plans for each person. The Message presents Psalm 139:14 like this: “you know exactly how I was made, bit by bit.”

According to Professor Nelson it would be an impossibility to compare every snowflake that falls to the earth in one year. I suspect it would also be possible to compare–or even to count–ever hair on the heads of the earth’s six billion inhabitants, yet Luke 12:7 tells us that the very hairs of every head are numbered–meaning that God knows how many hairs there are on each and every head. The Voice renders that verse to include the statement “God knows you in every detail.” That is both comforting and intimidating but it means one thing for certain; if God cares enough to knit each human together and to be familiar with each detail of each person, down to the number of hairs on each head, then each human being has inherent worth.

In a recent column Mindy Belz wrote the following:

What role do I–one of 6 billion–have in the world? Infinitely the same value as all others, and theirs infinitely of more value to me when I know they matter infinitely to God. The fact that life is valued before it has done anything of value is groundbreaking enough to remake whole political systems–if it means the life of a plumber, poet, or president can be conducted for God’s glory. All men everywhere, leveled. Your one blank slate, while it is yet blank, created equal–preeminently so–to all others. It is earthshaking enough to unravel the world’s looming human catastrophes–if a life has infinite value to God.

So, next time you look at the snow outside your window–whether that is today or months from now, whether you like the snow or you wish it would just go away–let it be a reminder to you that God makes each snowflake unique, He makes each human being unique, and each and every human being was made by design, exactly the way God wanted him or her to be. God, as it has so often been said, makes no mistakes. And life beings at conception. The science is actually unmistakably clear and so is the Bible. Regardless of the arrogant and selfish attitudes of those like Lindy West–who announced last year, “It is a fact without caveat that a fetus is not a person. I own my body and I decide what I allow to grow in it.”–no one has the right to arbitrarily end the life of another. God created that life, He designed it perfectly, exactly the way He wanted it. God owns that body, not Lindy West or anyone else, and we must never forget that we are not God. None of us.

January 11, 2016

The one-eyed babysitter

Odds are good that you have heard the term “one-eyed babysitter” applied to television and, specifically, the use of television to entertain and occupy children. The amount of time children spend watching television and, now, occupied in front of other screens–computers, tablets, cell phones, etc.–is another serious side effect of the decline of marriage-based, two-parent families and the number of two-parent families in which both parents work. In January 2015, The Atlantic reported on a groundbreaking study conducted by researchers in Australia that calculated the total amount of time children were spending in front of screens of all kinds, as opposed to previous studies which focused on television or computers alone.

According to the article, “the study would suggest that many students worldwide are probably using technology much more than the recommended two-hours maximum every day.” That figure has long been the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which also recommends that children under three avoid screens completely. A March 2015 report on the BBC web site stated that children aged five to sixteen spend, on average, six and a half hours per day in front of screens, with teenage boys spending an average of eight hours per day. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ web site states, “Studies have shown that excessive media use can lead to attention problems, school difficulties, sleep and eating disorders, and obesity. In addition, the Internet and cell phones can provide platforms for illicit and risky behaviors.” Therein lies the real problem.

Any internet-capable devise puts its user a matter of a few key strokes away from accessing just about anything–and that is both good and bad. The access that we enjoy to information today provides incredible benefit and convenience. Our lives have been transformed by the ability to push a button and find the answer to virtually any question. One could easily argue that that is not always a good thing. For example, the need to memorize anything has all but disappeared. Still, the advantages offered by technology cannot be discarded. Neither, however, can the disadvantages and risks.

In a December article in WORLD on sex trafficking, Opal Singleton, training and outreach coordinator for Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force, was quoted making an important observation about the risks associated with our worldwide connectedness. “Never before has there been this much competition of influences on our kids’ morals, spirituality, self-image, and sexuality,” Singleton said. “We have perfectly normal parents handing their child devices that provide access to hundreds of thousands of strangers around the globe.” Internet chat rooms, social media sites and myriad other tools, apps and web sites that make communication to easy and convenient also make it, when unfiltered, unmonitored and carelessly used, dangerous. Singleton went on, in the same article, to describe a high school senior with a 4.0 GPA who had been confronted by her mother just days before she planned to fly to Ireland to meet a 28-year-old man she met playing an Xbox game. That is just one example among thousands that could be shared.

In December 2015, Tim Challies authored a blog post entitled “Please Don’t Give Them Porn for Christmas,” which he started this way: “This Christmas a lot of children will receive porn from under the tree. It not what they wanted, and not what their parents intended for them to have. But they will get it anyway.” What did Challies have in mind? “[G]iving your children computers, iPods, tablets—any of these devices—gives them access to the major gateway to pornography,” Challies wrote, after citing these statisics: “According to recent research, 52% of pornography is now viewed through mobile devices, and 1 in 5 searches from a mobile device is for porn. The average age of first exposure to pornography is 12. Nine out of 10 boys and 6 out of 10 girls will be exposed to pornography before the age of 18. 71% of teens hide online behavior from their parents. 28% of 16-17 year olds have been unintentionally exposed to online pornography.”

When parents are absent or are too busy to spend time with their children, getting to know them, keeping an eye on how they use their time and what they do with their electronic devices, they are creating opportunities for children to seek the attention they are not receiving from their parents in very dangerous places. Parents who are too busy, too tired or simply not present cannot provide the supervision, the attention or the training essential to the development of discernment that children need. Parents need to remember that children are a gift from the Lord and with children comes great responsibility. Parents need to be wise as serpents when it comes to the devices they allow their children to have, the amount of time they allow the children to use them and the amount of supervision they will insist upon while they are being used. Technology is a wonderful thing and can be great fun. Never, though, will a parent forgive him- or herself if they flip and east response of “go watch the television” or “go play on your tablet” results in a child addicted to pornography or lured into sexual slavery. No one thinks that will happen to their child, but the risk is just not worth it.

January 4, 2016

The 800-pound gorilla

At the end of November WORLD published an article that includes lots of contributors. Marvin and Susan Olasky got the byline, but the piece included contributions from Katlyn Babyak, Onize Ohikere, Abby Reese, Jae Wasson and Evan Wilt. The article took up six full pages of the November 28 issue and was also the inspiration for the cover, featuring a plump Uncle Sam in an apron offering broccoli to a young man who seemed less than thrilled. The cover headline was “Fat Chance: What Happens When Washington Says ‘Eat Your Vegetables?'” The article title was “Fat of the Land: How a healthy idea became a bloated bureaucracy.” What was all this about then? About the obesity epidemic in America in general, about the child obesity rate particularly and about Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign and resulting overhaul of federal guidelines for student lunches.

The article highlighted some unique programs around the country that teach children how to eat healthy, that teach children to grow vegetables, that help overweight children (and adults) shed pounds and more. Some of the programs are impressive, while others sound almost too good to be true. After all, I struggle to imagine any environment in which a bunch of young elementary school students actually enjoy (or even actually eat) a lunch of steamed edamame, beef and brown rice pilaf, and oranges. At least half of the article though was devoted to Mrs. Obama’s crusade. The article touted good things she has done, including her willingness to do whatever necessary to promote healthy eating and exercise. She has, the article states, “danced and push-upped her way across television talk shows. She charmed kids by making a video in which she boogied with a turnip. She donned gardening gloves and tilled the White House kitchen garden.” All of those things are indeed impressive. Given that Mrs. Obama is the youngest First Lady the U.S. has had since Jacqueline Kennedy, it has been encouraging to see her engage in activities other First Ladies could not have done. (For the record, Hillary Clinton was only 83 days older than Michelle Obama when her tenure as First Lady began, but I do not think I am alone when I say that I cannot really imagine Mrs. Clinton doing anything mentioned above for public view).

The article does a good job of also highlighting the downside to Mrs. Obama’s crusade, including the resulting public school lunches that most students do not enjoy or even eat, the bureaucratic growth stimulated by so many new federal guidelines ans recommendations and the government overreach that comes when the government institutes a goal of average fruit consumption among students reaching 100% of the recommended level by 2030. Of course, trying to find ways to reach unobtainable goals calls for some creativity and guideline restructuring, such as the USDA’s decision in July to allow vegetables in smoothies to count toward the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act’s mandate a 150% increase in fruits and vegetables in school meals. Somehow I suspect I am not the first one to think of the ballyhooed inclusion of ketchup as a vegetable in the 1980s (even though pickle relish is what was actually recommended, not ketchup). Another part of the problem, of course, is the waste that results when students are served foods they won’t eat. I do not disagree that children need to be fed healthy foods and that they need to learn to eat and enjoy them in order to have a balanced diet, but I question the wisdom of making that the responsibility of the government.

That leads to the 800-pound gorilla in the title, which is alluded to in the article’s conclusion and is the real inspiration for this post. After referencing the many studies that attempt to diagnose why there are so many obese individuals in the United States the article states the following: “[A]mong the outpouring of papers and studies on why some adults and even some kids weigh more than 300 pounds, no one seems to be scrutinizing the 800-pound gorilla in the room: fewer families with married moms and dads in the home, and more families with mothers who come home from full-time work exhausted. Few things are more politically incorrect than to speculate on the connection between family and fat, yet until we do that we’re driving blind.” This is crucial–and I extend kudos to Olasky, et. al. for addressing it in their article. Of course there are plenty of two-parent families that do not eat well, but single-parent and two-working-parent families are more likely to eat processed, packaged and unhealthy foods I would bet. I dare say, too, that two-parent families with children whose schedules are slammed with school, practice, rehearsal, club and whatever-else, constantly scurrying from one activity to another, are more likely than children with well-balanced schedules to eat unbalanced meals.

To his credit, Mike Huckabee has raised the issue (healthy eating and its connectedness to many of the other problems and potential problems facing our country) in both his current presidential campaign and his unsuccessful 2008 run. Few journalists seem to take notice, few debate moderators seem to care and few other politicians seem to have any interest in the subject. That’s fine, I suppose, because there are myriad other important issues for presidential candidates to address and, as I mentioned above, solving this problem is not the bailiwick of the federal government. What is important though, and the point that Olasky is making, is that there are many ramifications and repercussions to family disintegration that we do not think about when we get used to no-fault divorces, single-parent families and other iterations of the family that vary from the way family was intended to function. Likewise important, and the point that Huckabee is making, is that when we do not consume a healthy diet, it is more than our waistlines that suffer. The law of unintended consequences is alive and well and we can find prime examples of it every day if we just look around. As we enter the thick of campaign season this is good to keep in mind as we listen to the promises and claims of those vying to get our votes.

It is also, of course, a great reminder that it would behoove us all to eat a good meal tonight–a home-cooked one, ideally without any processed food and with the entire family sitting around the table.

November 11, 2015

Celebrating sin

Earlier this year ESPN awarded “Caitlyn” Jenner its Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYs. I did not agree with that decision and still do not. Even if I did not think that transgenderism is a sin, I agree with a number of other individuals who commented that there were far more deserving, far more courageous possible recipients of the award than Bruce “Caitlyn” Jenner. Apparently, celebrating sin is in this year, though, big time. This past Monday, Glamour presented Jenner one of its Women of the Year awards. This not really news for Glamour, since it gave one of last year’s awards to Laverne Cox, a transgender actress. We cannot really expect much else from the world, though. The world is full of people who like to do their own thing, and when someone does their own thing so publicly and gets praised for it, it becomes a little easier for everyone else to do their own thing, too. The more people there are doing their own thing, the easier it is to suggest that your “own thing” is just as legitimate, just as deserving of acceptance. Celebration even.

One thing that did stand out about Jenner’s acceptance speech on Monday, though, was her assertion that coming out as a transgender individual was the reason God put “her” on earth. Said Jenner, “My transition was very, very long. I had many, many, many years of isolation from the world, of lying to the world, of not being myself. I sat down with each one of my ten children, and I said, ‘This is my story. This is who I am. What can I do?’ I had a lot of conversations with God. I came to the conclusion that this is why God put me on this earth — to tell my story. To be authentic to myself, to who I am.”

I have never met Jenner, and the odds a quite high that I never will. I am not a prophet, either. I will tell you this, though, with absolute certainty: God did not put Bruce Jenner on earth to come out as transgender, to tell a story or to be authentic to him/herself. God did not put anyone on earth to be true or authentic to themselves. The Bible makes it abundantly clear that ever since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden all humans have been born with a sin nature. The Old Testament law was given to reveal that we are flawed, sinful individuals and that, in and of ourselves, we fall short of God’s holiness, God’s glory and God’s perfection. In an of ourselves there is nothing we can do to earn or warrant forgiveness for our sins.

Proverbs 14:25 and 16:25 both say that the way that seems right to a man ends in death. Jenner’s words of choice were “to be authentic to myself.” That translates quite well to “the way that seems right,” and the Bible clearly does not condone that thought process. The Westminster Shorter Catechism, on the other hand, says that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Revelation 4:11 says that by God all things were created, and they were created for His pleasure. The Westminster Shorter Catechism goes on to state that we glorify God by adhering to the instructions in His Word, the Bible. Question 10 further addresses Jenner’s matter by stating this: “God created man male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over the creatures.” Scripture makes it clear that God created male and female. Scripture also makes it clear that God Himself creates each individual human being, knitting them together (Psalm 139:13). God does not mistakenly put a female in a male’s body, as Jenner is suggesting. God certainly does not create anyone for the purpose of contradicting the Bible and then celebrating it. That would be contradictory to God’s nature and His holiness.

God loves Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner, and if he/she ever chooses to confess his/her sins to God, repent and accept the forgiveness of sins made possible through the death of Jesus Christ on the cross–a perfect sacrifice paying a penalty demanded by a holy God that no human could ever pay–then God will forgive Jenner and we will spend eternity in heaven together. That, by the way, would be why God put Jenner on this earth. Unless and until Jenner chooses to do that, though, I think it would be in his/her best interest to leave God out of it completely. Bringing God into a celebration of sin–indeed, giving Him credit for it–is a really bad idea.

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