The Simple Gospel

Apologetics is both an art and a science. The ability to explore the mysteries of theology and philosophy deeply, using logic in the one hand and evidence in the other, has always been impressive to me. I’ve got to admit that a lot of that stuff goes over my head – once you get three proofs deep and need to have done six hours of background reading to understand where the author is by the third paragraph I tend to check out. So this is my attempt as a pretty simple country boy to explain some of the truths of the Gospel.

On Heaven and Hell

If God is so loving, wouldn’t He want us all to go to Heaven? Why is there even a Hell?

To answer the first question, God does want everyone to go to Heaven. 1 Timothy 2:3-4 states that God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” He isn’t up there on a cloud waiting for us to screw up so He can zap us (if so, I’d be bearing permanent smoke marks from lighting strikes by the time I’d hit the ripe old age of 18 months). But God loves us enough to let us choose.

God could make us all robots; He could remove all free will and simply make us programmed little minions to walk about and do His bidding. But that isn’t what He wants. He doesn’t simply want compliance to a set of regulations and requirements. God wants our heart – He wants us to choose Him; in order to do that He must give us the option of not choosing him.

To answer why God even allows a Hell to exist, I think the answer is probably pretty straightforward there, too. If God is the only One who is truly “good,” if He is the source of all things good then it would make sense that where He is is the place with the most good. Conversely, if God (who is all good) is not somewhere then no good exists in that place. I picture Hell in the same way I do dark and cold – both concepts that technically don’t exist. You can’t make dark; you can’t create cold. Dark is revealed as soon as you remove light (a measurable, creatable thing); a shadow is proof that darkness lurks everywhere as soon as you step between it and the light. Cold is the same way – you can’t create cold, you can only add or remove heat (a measurable, creatable thing). Absolute cold simply measures the absolute removal of heat.

Hell is merely the complete absence of good. Think about how awesome and awful that is at the same time – God would allow those who do not choose to accept Him to experience the repercussions of their own choice: to not be in His presence.

On Entering Heaven

Why doesn’t God allow everyone into heaven? OK, I guess I can understand rapists and murderers and child molesters, but what about all of the good people? Well, there are two answers to that: first, there really isn’t anyone who is “good.” If Heaven is the place of absolute goodness, then one must be absolutely good with absolutely no screw-ups (ever) to get in. I think we could all safely say that we’ve told at least one little white lie in life, if nothing else. We’ve all done something really small we know to be wrong. So that makes us not absolutely good – we may not be as bad as someone else, but entrance standards (even in this life) generally don’t measure from the bottom up. “OK, as long as you didn’t get a 100 or lower on your SATs you can be admitted to this college.” No, we measure from the top down; acceptance is measured, even by human standards, by the degree of departure from a standard of perfection.

As humans, we’re all okay with a little bit of sin, a little bit of gray area, a skinned up knee here and there. Why? Simply because we all know that we’re imperfect so we’re okay with other people being that way too. As humans it’s hard to wrap our mind around the concept of a perfect, holy God. Someone who has never screwed up. Someone who has never failed, made a mistake, or said “Oops.” That’s the standard.

I tell my wife all the time that I’m practically perfect.
“I thought a was wrong once, but I was mistaken.”

Since we can never go back and erase those mistakes; we can never make them to have never been, God had to make a way. That way is a relationship with His Son, and there’s an easy way to demonstrate this.

You’re probably living in a house, apartment, trailer, or some place you call “home” with a front door, even if it’s a van down by the river. Imagine there’s a knock on the door and you go answer it; when you open the door, you don’t recognize the two guys standing there. One of them is clean cut, wearing a suit, and is very well-spoken. The other guy has a pink Mohawk, is completely covered in tattoos and piercings, has a shirt with an expletive and a rude statement about your mother and has his finger up his nose. Who do you let in? Well, if you’re like the average person the answer is probably neither. You have no idea who these people are!

But let’s say they tell you that they know your son, so you call him to the front door. “Oh yeah,” he replies. “This is Tommy. I’m working with him on a school project.” He points to the nose-picker. “Come on in man.” You let Tommy in because you trust your son. As the two teenagers head back down the hallway your kid throws back over his shoulder “But I have no idea who the other guy is.” Are you going to let him in? No?! But why not?! He’s got a list of credentials a mile long, volunteered thirty hours a week, saved eight kids’ lives, never did anything wrong that was too serious in nature, and he’s a genuinely nice guy! Jesus, God’s son, once said this about letting people into His Dad’s house: “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me.”

The answer isn’t religion and following a set of rules, achieving a minimum number of good things, or doing enough to make up for the bad in our lives. The answer is relationship, and in that relationship Jesus gives us access to the one thing we could never have, no matter how good we are: access to His Dad, as a son, in His house.

On Chance

Well, that’s all well and good, but what about people who have never had a chance to hear about Jesus? What about those who have never had an opportunity to know about God and make that choice for themselves?

It’s important to realize right off the bat that God knows everything about our lives. He knows our words before we speak them (Psalm 139:4), the number of hairs on our heads (Matthew 10:30), in short, he literally knows everything (1 John 3:20). God knows what our entire life will look like before it even starts: “Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.”

The second thing that is important to acknowledge is related to the first, but is different enough that it deserves its own paragraph: God sees our heart. 1 Samuel 16:7 says “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Not the left/right ventricle blood-pumping organ heart, but the center of our thoughts-intentions-attitudes-desires heart. He not only knows what we’ll do before we’ll do it, He knows why. Because He knows why, He knows what we would do in a hypothetical situation.

Child Playing with Beans

Keep those two things in mind while I ramble about my daughter for a moment. One time I let her play with a bunch of kidney and navy beans on the floor. As I watched she arranged one nice, neat pile of red beans and one nice, neat pile of white beans. Then she made a line next to them with alternating red and white beans, then she dumped a bunch of mixed beans into a bowl and there was no discernable order. Finally she made groups of beans that had no semblance of ratio; she seemed to be more concerned about the size of the piles.

Then I saw it.

What if God, creator of all things, who knows our hearts, who can put anyone anywhere in any time He wants… what if all of human history looks like my floor did at that moment? Let’s say the red beans represented those who had the heart to accept Jesus, regardless of where they were placed – they could be the only red bean in a pile of white beans, or they could be totally surrounded by other red beans, or they could be mixed in a pile with an equal number of red and white beans. I saw how entire areas of the world could be made of white beans for hundreds of years, and the first time that a red bean appeared was the first time someone accepted Jesus as Savior. From the human perspective we examine the causal relationship in the other way (as soon as someone brought the gospel to them they found someone who accepted Christ)… but what if we’re looking at it backwards? What if the good news about Jesus wouldn’t have borne any fruit for all of the generations before?

My daughter wasn’t any less my daughter because she arranged the beans in any certain way. There was no requirement for a certain ratio of red to white beans in any given pile, nor was she wrong for not making sure each white bean had contact with at least one red bean so it could be given a chance to become a red bean. The red beans would be red regardless, and the white beans would be white regardless, it didn’t matter where they were placed.

If I were to drop an egg from five feet up onto a hardwood floor, what would happen? Yes, my wife would throw a frying pan at me but besides that, what? It would splatter, right? Not necessarily. All you saw was the egg, but you didn’t see the character of the egg inside. You assumed it was raw; had it been raw, you would have been right about how the egg would have reacted to the floor. But I, as the creator, changed the character of the egg. I hard-boiled it. You couldn’t tell from looking at the outside but I knew the difference. When I dropped this egg it cracked a bit, but remained intact – and the only difference was the character of the egg.

And that’s the simple story behind predestination. Romans 8:29 says: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…” Those whom God knew would react in a certain way (to accept Christ) He predestined. How did He predestine them? He simply created them. You see, when I squeeze a whole, raw egg in my hand I’m the one who broke it. When I drop it from five feet up I don’t break it, the floor does. Since I knew the character of the egg and I released it on a path I knew would result in a shattered egg (because of the character of that egg) I could say I predestined it to shatter because I foreknew it, and the same situation with a boiled egg would be true as well.

So then the million dollar question – why doesn’t God just “hard-boil” all of us? Why doesn’t He make us all with the character of one who would accept Christ? To answer that we’ve simply got to go back to how we started this discussion – if God were to eliminate the possibility of anyone not choosing Him, would we be any better than robots to start? For there to be the option to choose Him, there must also be the option to not choose Him. For that to be real, it can’t just be theoretical.

The most loving thing that God could do is to allow us to choose – to give us real, actual freedom to make that decision and live with the consequences. Anything less wouldn’t be real love. Do consequences of the wrong decisions suck? Absolutely, and I tell my kids this all of the time – but in love, I allow them to make their own decisions and learn from them. I’ll give them advice and guidance; I’ll teach them and then release them, but as anyone with kids knows they’ll eventually run into the table no matter how many times I tell them to look. And because I love them, I don’t handcuff them to the soft, comfortable couch.

God loves you, and He wants to be in relationship with you. We try to make it complicated, full of rules and regulations, but really He just wants you to love Him because He already loves you.

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When I tell any truth, it is not for the sake of convincing those who do not know it, but for the sake of defending those that do.

~William Blake

My Basic Philosophies

Several folks have wondered about the basic philosophies on which I operate as they read my ramblings on this blog, so I’ll do my best to set up a baseline for expectations 🙂

With regards to politics, my liberal friends call me a far right-wing, stuck in the backwoods conservative. My conservative friends call me a flaming liberal. My libertarian friends think I’m too mainstream and my mainstream friends think I’ve gone off the reservation.

My Christian friends doubt my salvation and understanding of Scripture. My non-Christian friends think I’m a religious fanatic.

Those I know who possess the most knowledge call me humble. Those I know with the most ignorance call me arrogant.

I’m in the military and I’ve had people call me a warmonger. My friends in uniform don’t quite know what to do with me because of how much and how apparently I hate war.

My racist friends call me tolerant, while my tolerant friends call me racist.

One might be tempted to look at me and use the words Winston Churchill coined when discussing Russia: He’s a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

 

But in reality, I’m a pretty dang simple guy.

 

One of my all-time favorite Bible verses is 1 Thessalonians 4:11, which pretty accurately describes my attitude towards daily life – “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you.

My view towards religion is found at the intersection of two verses: Hosea 6:6 – “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” And Micah 6:8 – “He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

I think that change should start closer to home, which means that I’ll focus on correcting my sin before I address that of my wife and children; I’ll concentrate on keeping my family on the right path before I seek to instruct the church; I’ll try to keep my church on the straight and narrow before I presume to tell those outside of the church how to live. So when you see me ranting and raving like a wild man on my blog, know that I’ve already tested myself, my family, and my church against that standard and am at least in the process of addressing any shortfalls I’ve discovered, if they’ve not already been solved.

I think the motivation of liberals, when taken at face value, is far more reflective of the attitude of Christ. I think the motivation of conservatives, when taken at face value, demonstrates a much more accurate grasp of solid family values and the small-town principles upon which this country was built and what it must cling to if it is to survive. I think the views of libertarians do the best job of demonstrating what life would look like if we truly were able to live according to the principles of liberty.

I value truth. I attempt to learn from everyone I meet even if, unfortunately, sometimes the best lessons I can learn are what NOT to do.

I think that every man should work, and if he doesn’t work he shouldn’t eat. I also believe that the true test of a man’s character comes in how he voluntarily treats those in need who legitimately need help. I think that the life which lives for self and nothing else is a life not worth living. I think that a government which mandates the sharing of resources for the express purpose of equalizing a standard of living removes all that is good from this inherently good concept. Once you remove the free will and the choice from this ideal, it becomes hypocritical, cynical, and self-defeating.

I think that the Constitution was written to promote the general welfare, but not to provide the general welfare. I think that the most powerful public office should be the county sheriff. I believe in democratic principles but not democracies, which rapidly and inevitably devolve into mob rule. I believe that strong leadership is key, but only and always with the best interests of those least able to represent themselves in mind.

I believe that all law is moral, but the only requirements which should be laws are those which prevent the trampling of the rights of others. I believe that allowing our rights to be expressed often involves impacting the comfort zones of others, and I think that’s okay as long as it doesn’t cross into violating their rights.

I believe that safety is the enemy of liberty and that these concepts exist at opposite ends of a spectrum. I desire safety for myself and my family, but I’m not willing to surrender our liberty to achieve it. I believe that the basic responsibility for provision, protection, and leadership for the family rests with the husband and father, and not any government institution.

I believe that the right to life comes before the right to liberty, but that life can only truly be lived when one begins to value one’s liberty over one’s life.

I believe that our country was created on a moral foundation, but not a Christian one. As a Christian my hope is that everyone would eventually share in my faith, but I believe that the quickest way to destroy that hope is to attempt to create some earthly government with a mandated form of religion. My faith is based on a personal relationship with the God of the universe, and that’s neither something I can nor something I should attempt to mandate for others – it is counterintuitive to everything I believe. My faith informs my political actions and my life is profoundly impacted by this, the most important relationship of my life – but any political views or actions of mine are not an expression to mandate Christianity in the lives of others.

I believe in personal liberty, personal responsibility, and personal faith. I hate war but believe that there are things worth fighting for. My beliefs are simple, but they run deep.

Unexamined Life

Abortion Rights

The vast majority of pro-choice advocates center their arguments for abortion around the issue of reproductive rights. They say that women should have the primary say in how their body is used, that this is an issue that relates to women’s freedom and quality of life. They say that the government shouldn’t be allowed to tell them what they can or can’t do with their bodies.

Well… they’re right.

Women do have a right to freedom. They do have a right to the pursuit of happiness in the way they define it. They shouldn’t have to worry about the government telling them what they should and shouldn’t have to do with their bodies. These are legitimate rights that exist and we should all be incredibly grateful that they do. Arguing that they do not exist is dangerous and wrong; arguing that they should not be acknowledged or allowed expression is outright despotic, oppressive, and tyrannical. But…

Not all rights are equal.

The Declaration of Independence does a great job of illustrating this.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Although it doesn’t state it explicitly, these rights are listed in descending order of importance. One cannot truly engage in the pursuit of happiness unless one is free. One cannot be free unless one is alive. It’s a bit like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, except with basic human rights.

Women absolutely have reproductive rights; depending on how you define them they could easily fall into either the category of Liberty or Pursuit of Happiness – I’d be satisfied with either one of those classifications. The problem is that in order to express those rights in certain ways requires that the higher right of another be violated – the baby’s right to life.

It is outright disingenuous and delusional to even attempt to argue that this mass of cells inside a womb is anything other than a person from the moment of conception; any way that one would attempt to define it otherwise carries dangerous implications for the old, the young, and the mentally handicapped. If that level of life were discovered anywhere else in the universe it would be hailed as not only undeniable proof of life, but of intelligent life. Once we accept, which we must, that a fertilized egg is an actual person, the debate about abortion centers around the expression of rights.

Some have attempted to contend that the rights of the mother outweigh those of the baby. I could buy this argument if we’re talking about equal level rights; for example, if the life of the mother is at risk and the life of the baby is at risk, the life of the mother would take precedence. But if we’re talking about non-parallel rights, then we need to look no further than the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”

If all men are created equal, then the expression of their rights must be treated equally. Therefore, a baby’s right to life trumps the liberty and pursuit of happiness of anyone else, including the mother.

I mentioned previously that the government shouldn’t be allowed to tell women what to do with their bodies. Well, let me clarify: I’m a huge proponent of individual civil liberties. Huge. The uses of central government are few, but they do exist. So in the same way that laws against murder, rape, and robbery place certain limits on what I could do with my body, so laws should make abortion illegal in order to protect someone’s right to life.

“…That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men…”

As I’ve stated previously, I’m not a big fan of appealing to the federal government to solve much of anything, but this is one of the (very) few areas that is completely in their jurisdiction to address, and they are remiss if they do not.

This issue is deceptively simple – but that does not mean that it is easy. Often the issues of incest and rape are brought up; what do we do when the woman has been subjected to a pregnancy in which she may have had no voice, no ability to deny its occurrence. My heart goes out to the women in these circumstances; I cannot imagine what they must be going through. The emotional burden on these women must be all but unbearable, and it is our duty as decent human beings to do everything we can to support these women in every way possible. But the legitimately awful circumstances of their truly terrible situation do not give anyone the right to rob that child of their most basic right – to live. In no other situation in the civilized world would we contend that a child must die for the sin of their father; why do we attempt it here?

The right to life is our most basic right. It must be allowed expression to even the smallest, most indefensible persons in our midst. Indeed, it is the protection of the rights of those who are most unable to protect themselves that should be our highest calling as citizens of the human race.

Martin Luther King, Jr – A Look Into His Legacy

Today is a day set aside to remember the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr; a legacy generally assumed to be that of peace, equality of races, and opportunity for all. King may be most famous for his “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered on 28 Aug 1963 in Washington, D.C. during a march to end racism in the United States. Although many cite this as an excellent example of American oratory (which it is) few have bothered to read, study, or research the text of the speech – in fact, if one were to read the first half of the speech very few Americans would recognize it simply due to the fact that they’re unfamiliar with anything less than the actual “I have a dream” statements near the end of the speech.

Mr. King began his speech discussing the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring its author to be “a great American” and the document itself to be a “great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves” and a “joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.” The fact that Negro (in order to preserve historical context, I’ll simply use the proper term in use at the time) slaves were first put into captivity by other Negroes notwithstanding, the irony of this is largely found in the fact that the Emancipation Proclamation was nothing of the kind. In another example of oft-cited landmark American documents of which Americans are largely unaware, the Emancipation Proclamation was naught but a political ploy aimed at preventing England from entering the War Between the States on the side of the Confederacy (a goal it successfully accomplished). In fact, if you read the actual Emancipation Proclamation you’ll find that Lincoln declared all slaves to be free… only if they lived in areas still controlled by the Confederacy at that time. All slaves living in any Northern states (where slavery still existed, just in smaller numbers) were specifically excluded from freedom under the Emancipation Proclamation. Additionally, any slaves living in areas of Confederate ownership but under Union military control were specifically excluded from freedom. Effectively then, this document had no effect – it literally did nothing. Except, that is, accomplish a political goal that had nothing to do with slavery. What Lincoln did was to shamelessly use the institution of slavery and the persons existing in that station to further his own political goals.

But the irony doesn’t end there. If Lincoln had not been assassinated, his long-term plan for Negroes was a mass deportation/colonization to Liberia. In fact, Lincoln was hardly the great emancipator he is presently portrayed as; although he clearly believed that slavery was an institution that should be forsaken, that opinion was not predicated on the belief that whites and blacks should be viewed as equal. Here are a couple of quotes by Lincoln on the subject:

Our republican system was meant for a homogeneous people. As long as blacks continue to live with the whites they constitute a threat to the national life. 

I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races – that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.

But this post isn’t about Lincoln; that’s certainly a topic for a different day. I’m simply hoping to point out that the first words of King’s speech build a foundation of historical inaccuracy. I guess this shouldn’t surprise us, however, once we’ve done a bit of research into King’s tendencies in the realms of scholarship.

After King’s death his wife donated his papers to Stanford University. As the papers were reviewed it was noticed that substantial portions of King’s doctoral dissertation were plagiarized from a dissertation written by another student three years before King at the same institution (Boston University). As his writings were subjected to further scrutiny it was found that this was not only not the first time that King had employed plagiarism, it was such a frequent occurrence in his writings as to be viewed as commonplace. Clayborne Carson, director of the King’s Paper Project at Stanford, wrote: “instances of textual appropriation can be seen in his earliest extant writings as well as his dissertation. The pattern is also noticeable in his speeches and sermons throughout his career.” Civil rights historian Ralph Luker found that King’s paper The Chief Characteristics and Doctrines of Mahayana Buddhism was almost completely composed of secondary sources. He wrote: “Moreover, the farther King went in his academic career, the more deeply ingrained the patterns of borrowing language without clear attribution became. Thus, the plagiarism in his dissertation seemed to be, by then, the product of his long-established practice.”

You may have noticed by now that I don’t refer to MLK as “Dr.” King, but rather as “Mr.” I refuse to call someone by a title which was obtained, at every level, by a core of compromised integrity and was, in effect, stolen. The counterfeiting of this title by Mr. King cheapens its meaning for all who have legitimately earned it. But then, that shouldn’t surprise you if you know that his name wasn’t even Martin Luther – it was Michael. For someone pursuing a theological degree and station in a Protestant arena Martin Luther certainly sounds more dignified and pious – this is what he went by, despite never having legally changed his name. He was born and died as Michael King.

The fact that Mr. King engaged in numerous adulterous affairs is well known; it is often obscured by rumors which are likely unfounded, such as an affinity for white women or a tendency towards prostitutes or a penchant towards beating women. These unproven rumors aside, his infidelity is a well-established fact. Charismatic and well-spoken though he may have been, Mr. King displayed a startling lack of character in every facet of his life.

So why do I write this? Well, to put it simply: Mr. King asked me to. You see, there’s an awful lot about his “I Have a Dream” speech with which I agree; probably chief among these is this statement: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” The entirety of Mr. King’s legacy revolves around the color of his skin – should we not heed his dream and judge him by the content of his character? Mike King is a great reminder to me of how important it is to focus on our character first – the message we want to send will eventually flow forth from that spring, so it makes sense that our integrity is what we should spend our time developing. We should never hope that the legacy we want to leave will only be remembered by those who didn’t know the truth about our lives – let this MLK Day spur us to look inward and evaluate whether our own character reflects how we want to be remembered.

Why Iran Hates Us

It’s a pretty popular position in America these days to assume that (a) Iran hates us generally because we’re free and awesome and they’re not, (b) they’re all religious extremists who want to see Israel and the United States bombed to smithereens, (c) they’re desperately trying to get nuclear weapons so they can get their one shot to destroy Israel and the United States, despite the fact that they know that we’ll instantly turn their entire nation into a nuclear wasteland after they launch that nuke but that makes sense to us because well, see point (b).

Whew. That was a mouthful.

Unfortunately this opinion is so widely held that to simply outline it makes people give you the “um, I think you grew a third nostril” look. Even discussing this preconception is kind of awkward, like discussing that third cousin who shows up at every family reunion just a little bit weirder and, although everyone knows it, we all try to pretend it’s normal. “Look, we know Iran is weird, but that’s normal and we just won’t talk about it because we all know they’re, well…” (introduce twirling finger motion adjacent to head).

Before we discuss the merits of these opinions let’s briefly recap our history with Iran starting in 1952.

In 1952 Iran was a great friend with the West. They existed under a democratic parliamentary system with democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddegh at the helm. Prime Minister Mosaddegh instituted a number of reforms aimed at bringing power and wealth to his own people; chief of these was reducing the almost absolute rule of the Shah (in Farsi, this means “king”) and turning Iran into a full democracy. He also sought to nationalize the Iranian oil industry, which was then owned primarily by the British Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (which would later become British Petroleum, or BP). So just to be clear, the democratically elected leader of Iran sought to take power (in Iran) away from foreign corporations and return that power and wealth to the people of Iran. Hmm, this sounds suspicious! Perhaps we should oppose this.

Oops. We forgot that he screwed with a big multinational oil company. Bad move. Future BP turned to the British and American governments and asked them to get rid of this pesky guy who was concerned with the rights of Iranians and was cutting into their bottom line. Britain and America happily complied and instituted a coup d’etat (French term for illegal overthrow of the government) under the name “Operation Boot” (British) and the “TPAJAX Project” (American). Kermit Roosevelt quotes the shah as saying: “I owe my throne to God, my people, my army and to you!’ By ‘you’ he [the shah] meant me and the two countries—Great Britain and the United States—I was representing. We were all heroes.” So the American and British governments deposed the democratic system of government and institute the shah, an absolute despot who racked up an incredible record of human rights abuses over the next quarter century, including the use of torture, secret police, and the execution of political dissidents. Sufficed to say, he wasn’t that popular with the average Iranian.

Although nobody in Iran really liked the Shah, he was kept in power with lots of money, intel, and military might readily supplied by the United States, primarily through the CIA. When nobody really likes a bully in power and that bully is kept in power by a sidekick (generally referred to as a “henchman”), people really start to hate the henchman as well. The Iranian people finally got so fed up with the rule of the Shah that they instituted one of the most drastic democratic measures available: a revolution. They overthrew their king and put Ayatollah Khomeini in charge (back by popular demand!), leading to the current government system in Iran.

As you can imagine, the United States didn’t like losing their puppet ruler in such a key area of the world. Our government began to look for different ways to regain influence in the area and, lo and behold, just to the east was a young up-and-comer in Iraq called Saddam Hussein.

Before the Ayatollah returned to Iran to be put in power in 1979 he had lived peacefully in Iraq for a decade and a half. Religious tensions (the Ayatollah was Shi’a and Hussein was Sunni) eventually caused Hussein to boot the Ayatollah out of Iraq, but the Iraqi dictator publicly maintained for nearly a year after the Ayatollah rose to power that there needed to be peace between the two neighboring nations.

Cue US funding and influence in Iraq…

On the 22nd of September, 1980, Hussein invaded Iran. For the next eight years US funding poured into Iraq; much of this funding was spent directly on the war effort, and much of it was spent by Hussein for the development of chemical weapons and in pursuit of a nuclear weapons program (which the US conveniently ignored). In 1988 the Kurdish town of Halabja in northern Iraq was gassed, resulting in the deaths of 5,000 and maiming, disfiguring, and debilitating twice that number. Hussein and the United States claimed that Iran gassed the town, attempting to increase international political support for Iraq during the war.

The war eventually ended but cost the lives of 1.25 million citizens of Iraq and Iran. During this time Hussein had grown increasingly big for his britches due to US protection of his excesses, and the US found that they couldn’t control their lap dog like they used to, so we looked for an excuse for war. The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait (which was actually a legal and justifiable action, but that’s a story for another day) provided just the justification needed. Further efforts to propagandize the war and increase international support brought about an ironic, but little noticed, switch by the United States as we claimed that the gassing of Halabja was not done by Iran, but was actually a criminal act performed by Saddam Hussein. On that basis the US claimed that international control and oversight was needed in order to contain Iraq’s WMD programs, many of which were instituted or directly furthered by US aid during the previous decade.

By the way, none of this falls into the realm of “conspiracy theory.” Every bit of this is well-established history admitted to by the US, UK, Iraqi, and Iranian governments. Go ahead, research it yourself.

Much more could and should be written about US involvement in the Middle East, but this brief history serves to demonstrate why Iranians could legitimately hate the United States. Think about this – if another nation had done to us what we’ve done to Iran for the past sixty years, would we have any problems calling them “The Great Satan”?

Christianity and Homosexuality

I’m a Christian, and we Christians love to condemn homosexuality. We call it unnatural, a recipe for the death of the family, and a relationship based solely on lust and not love & commitment. We Christians eagerly cite the five times in the Bible where homosexuality is clearly defined as wrong in order to point fingers and declare that the Bible decries this practice as evil and therefore we should outlaw it. We Christians declare that all law is moral (or should be, once we get rid of those dadgum marijuana and seatbelt malum prohibitum laws); since the foundation of morality and goodness is God and God’s Word is the Bible, if the Bible says something then we should attempt to codify it in civil law so as to require all mankind over whom we have control to abide by it.

So let’s examine these allegations for a moment.

Homosexuality is unnatural. It depends on what you call unnatural. If you mean that it wasn’t part of the original order created by God in the Garden of Eden, then you’re right. However, by that standard clothes are equally unnatural; so is eating meat and getting sick and people dying – these are all things that happen in the church and we don’t claim to hate as vehemently as we do homosexuality.
If we mean that it isn’t seen in the animal kingdom, that allegation simply isn’t true. In fact, 1,500 species of animals practice homosexuality. Homosexuality in the animal kingdom seems to be about as common as animals having sex for pleasure, and that’s something we Christians would readily defend as natural.

If we mean that it isn’t part of human history, we’re just flat out wrong. We love to claim that the West is a democratic society descended from the Greeks, constantly pronouncing all sorts of benefits of that historical lineage. Well if you read Greek writers such as Herodotus, Xenophon, and Plato you’ll find a pretty well-established history of homosexuality. If you claim that homosexuals aren’t manly you probably be glad you’re not saying that around Epaminondas, one of the greatest warrior-statesmen of Thebes who had not one, but two gay lovers. When he and his lover Caphisodorus died at the battle of Mantineia they were buried together as man and wife. I’m pretty sure that whoever you are, if you’re reading this blog Epaminondas was probably a more manly man than you are. The Spartans had a pretty well-established track record of bisexuality and they were some of the baddest boys history has ever recorded.

If we say that homosexuality is wrong because it’s a practice that doesn’t produce children and therefore further the human race then we must also condemn the practice of remaining single, something Jesus and Paul did and the latter actively praised, going so far as to recommend it for many. This practice certainly doesn’t result in the production of children and the furthering of the human race.

If we say that homosexuality destroys the traditional family, I guess it would be hard to say that it does so more than a divorce rate in the church that mirrors that of society.

So that leaves us with the simple declaration that the Bible calls it wrong. This statement is true, and others have attempted to find their way around it by doing hermeneutical gymnastics; to them I’d simply say that you need to quit attempting to lawyer up on the Bible and simply accept what God says as true. Proverbs 30:5-6 states: “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.”

So yes, I’ll admit that I believe that homosexuality is wrong based on the pure and simple statement found five separate times in the Bible.

But…

On Judgment

Let’s take that within context. Five declarations of something to be wrong falls far short of the number of times heterosexual divorce or heterosexual fornication or heterosexual adultery is discussed. In fact, each declaration of homosexuality to be wrong is preceded by at least one, and usually more, declarations of heterosexual sin to be wrong. Heck, the declaration of homosexuality to be wrong is overshadowed multiple times over by the sheer number of laws regarding how to prepare and eat food; friggin mildew is discussed in more depth in the Bible than is homosexuality.

In the grand scheme of what is and is not addressed in the Bible, homosexuality is a pretty small issue.

So why do we, as Christians, focus on and condemn it so vehemently? Honestly, it’s because it’s a sin with which most of us don’t struggle. Nobody likes to feel sinful, and when we can focus on an external sin that seems so obviously wrong and is something with which we don’t naturally struggle then we get double benefits – we can point out sin and feel like we’re a stalwart champion of justice, courageously making a moral stand for the good of our family, while simultaneously making ourselves feel awesome because this is a sin we’ve “conquered” because it’s one with which we don’t struggle. Wow, we’re AWESOME!

Then we feel completely justified as we turn to our computer and look up our favorite brand of completely natural, manly, heterosexual pornography. When we’re done we say a quick prayer of “repentance,” asking God for forgiveness for our brief lapse into “normal” lust, then turn back to our blog or Facebook page where we can condemn the latest attempts of the homosexual community to allow couples to be legally married.  In the end we Christians tend to be guilty of a double sin – we struggle with a sense of lust and sexual sin that’s neither worse nor better than anyone outside of the church, but we condemn those not like us in pride and self-righteous hypocrisy.

Here’s the crux of the issue: in the end, the Bible’s clear declaration of homosexuality to be wrong is one of many rules, and guess what?

IT AIN’T ABOUT THE RULES!!!

What it actually is about is our hearts, which Jesus Christ came to save. Once we have been reconciled to our Saviour then rules come into play as we begin to embrace them because they guide us into deeper relationship with the One who gave so much to bring us to Him. We choose to follow these rules because they reveal the heart of God’s holy, righteous character, and when we’ve been truly redeemed no price is too high, no sacrifice too much for me to draw close to the One who first drew close to me.

So when we see someone who isn’t a Christian and is an active homosexual, the fact that homosexuality is involved shouldn’t even factor into the equation. It’s a non-event. It’s irrelevant. We could legislate all of the morality in the Bible into codified civil legislation and all that would result, at best, is the behavior modification of a bunch of folks who are now driven further from Jesus Christ than they were at the beginning!

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel
across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes
a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves
.”
Matthew 23:15

Words cannot describe how strongly heterosexual I am. I love women – their form, their beauty, their grace. Per the dictates of Christian society, I am “normal.” But only I know the depths of my depravity; the dark, lonely nights I’ve spent lying awake in my bed, staring at the ceiling with tears in my eyes, begging God to “fix” my seemingly insatiable lust. How can I look at a homosexual and condemn him for his sexual sin when I yearn to be able to walk from the front door of the gym to the weight room without committing Matthew 5:28 adultery in my heart a dozen times. I know the effects that pornography has on me: how it makes me view relationships as expendable, how it makes me see women as disposable playthings, how it robs me of patience with my children and fills my heart with anger when I don’t get instant gratification in life. My heterosexual sin is neither different nor less sinful than homosexual sin; in fact, if anything mine is worse because it remains hidden, subtle, and accepted. God forgive me for looking at the speck in my brother’s eye and ignoring the 2×4 hanging out of mine.

Someone once said that the true definition of humility is recognizing where we stand before a righteous and holy God. I know the extent of my decadence, my immorality; I am confronted hourly with my need for a Savior to pull me from the muck and mire of my own wanton corruption. We Christians need to surrender our pride, put down our picket signs and pick up the cross Jesus described in Luke 9:23. Let’s focus on throwing stones once we’ve completely cleansed ourselves of our own sin, made ourselves absolutely perfect, and erased the totality of our regrettable past.