November 22, 2017

The Great Methodological Heresy

ww1 mad brute posterLet me say it at the start: I don’t give a rat’s tail about the “Hobby Lobby” case that the Supreme Court decided the other day.

I don’t buy the Chicken Little mania of the progressives who think the sky of freedom and protection for women is falling.

Nor do I buy the triumphalistic crowing of the conservatives who are hailing this as a monumental victory for religious liberty.

The culture wars exhaust me.

Oh sure, on some level I’ll try to stay informed, but when are we going to stop letting media pundits and propagandists define what’s important and what we should give our attention to?

As I said in a comment the other day, I watch no cable news, nor do I give a minute to any of the smart asses on the right or left who comment on the news. I can’t afford to.

Who has time to soak up all that blather and bluster? No wonder people seem so angry all the time. And Christians often come across as angriest.

Do you know what scares me most?

When Christians think they must win in order to win.

This is the great methodological heresy — that Christians win by winning.

Sometimes it’s the conservative Christians fighting for morality and individual freedom and sometimes it is the progressive Christians fighting to uphold the social contract so that groups they deem oppressed can gain their version of justice.

Many of the causes for which culture warriors fight are good. Many of the methods they use to fight for them are not. And when one side or the other wins a battle that advances their cause, the triumphalistic pronouncements that follow are often hard to stomach. You read headlines like:

The left’s hysteria over the Hobby Lobby decision

The Supreme Court defended religious liberty in the Hobby Lobby case; it didn’t ban birth control

Feminist Outrage Over Hobby Lobby Is A ‘Cynical Game’

Of course, these are then answered by wailing and lamentation from other side:

Ginsburg Got It Right: Poor Women Are Getting Screwed By Hobby Lobby

Hobby Lobby ruling jeopardizes women’s health

A minefield of extreme religious liberty

Guess what? Next week few will be talking publicly about this anymore. But now, by God, this case is being touted as the linchpin of all that is sacred by every screaming mimi out there with a strong opinion one way or the other.

Both sides have bought into the “war” imagery and mentality. What matters is that we win and our “enemies” lose. What matters is that we gain power to implement what we think is right and that we strip our opponents of power so that they can’t. How we get there, well, let’s not talk about that. All’s fair . . .

wargb013But didn’t the Apostle say, “Love . . . does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth”?

True enough, but it doesn’t say that love gloats. Love doesn’t rub the opponent’s face in it. Love doesn’t dance around singing “We Are the Champions” and waving banners. Love doesn’t imitate the Roman triumph, a victory parade in which the vanquished were put on display, shackled and shamed, before the swaggering crowds.

But that’s the natural result of making winning the goal and of thinking that you achieve that goal by triumphing over the opposition.

If Jesus taught us anything, it’s that his followers win by losing.

By laying down our lives for our neighbors.

By loving our enemies, turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, praying for our persecutors — doing the counter-intuitive thing, the unnatural thing, the dying thing, the cross thing.

For the life of me, I’ve never been able to see how to be a soldier in the culture wars and do that.

Comments

  1. There’s nothing wrong with fighting for whatever side you want to see win, as a Christian.

    The problem comes when that fight, on either side, is somehow tied to being a good or real Christian. When the gospel gets tied to causes it ceases to be the gospel…and just becomes another law.

    In this life, there is no lasting peace. No lasting rest. No lasting victory.

  2. I’m rather burnt out on the culture war myself, but, it is true that left wingers are in hysterics over this.

    Repeatedly, on various sites or social networks I participate on, liberals are either innocently ignorant about the case or are deliberately being obtuse about it and posting about it all day long, and they post the same untruths and inaccuracies constantly. That is what drives me nuts.

    One of the most basic errors left wingers keep bringing up is that “Hobby Lobby / SCOTUS” is denying women contraception”.

    Not so. Women who work for HL still get up to 16 forms of contraception. HL was only unwilling to fund four specific types (ie, abortifacients, eg, morning after pill).

    Female employees of HL can still buy those, but will have to do so on their own dime, not via insurance.

    Women don’t have to have sex, meaning they won’t get pregnant (hey, I’m over 40 and still a virgin, so I don’t cry a river for other people on this issue), women don’t have to choose Hobby Lobby as their employer, and, based on other reports I’ve read, the cost of a morning after pill is anywhere from $10 – 20 or so bucks, which is not going to be out of reach for many people.

    • Amen, Daisy!

      Can you imagine what the Founding Fathers would have said about forcing someone else to pay for another’s contraceptives ?

      They would have had a conniption on more than one aspect of this stuff.

      • Robert F says:

        While you’re imaging the moral indignation of the Founding Fathers concerning the contraceptive issue, you might also remember that they were slave-owners who didn’t allow women to vote (and just to be transparent about my political commitment on this matter, I agree with the Supreme Court decision regarding Conestoga Wood and Hobby Lobby). Too bad they didn’t have conniptions about those issues.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          > moral indignation of the Founding Fathers

          An imaginative image concerning a technology they probably never imagined.

          Lets stop recruiting dead guys to buttress our arguments in discussions of 21st century issues. It is nothing but empty rhetoric.

          And, historically, it ignores the *wide* diversity of opinion on just about everything held by “the founding fathers” (whomever you do or not not choose to include in that set). That is a thread that leads us nowhere resembling forward, historians can argue endlessly about whatever form of consensus on anything that did or did not exists among the FF.

        • “They” were not a monolith. Heck, even “they” were internally torn on the issue.

        • Thanks for reminding me how terrible the Founding Fathers were.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            Yes, they were all humans. They carried within themselves the virtues, maladies, vision, and blindnesses of the time and place where they lived their lives.

          • Robert F says:

            “Thanks for reminding me how terrible the Founding Fathers were.”

            Thanks for remembering that the Founding Fathers are not moral arbiters for the way we arrange our polity in the present.

      • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

        Actually Steve, the logic behind the history and legal precedent goes something like this:
        1) The US government has the right and the duty to mandate compensation to and treatment of employees. Examples include the abolition of slavery, the establishment of minimum wage laws, mandated PPE, MSDS, OSHA, etc. The US also regulates maximum salary, for most publicly held offices, etc.
        2) The PPACA created a situation where health care is now a mandatory part of an employee’s compensation package.
        3) The Supreme Court upheld the first provision of RFRA, creating legal precedence that US Government does have a legitimate and compelling reason to mandate contraceptive coverage. What was at issue was the second part of RFRA, namely, if such a mandate is the best option.

        I personally believe there is a fatal flaw in the majority argument, namely that the ruling is based on what the plaintiff believed about four products, not about the products themselves. This creates a very thorny post-modernist law system where individual perception trumps science and critical-realism. I believe that in the future the HL case will be seen as one of the major motivations for moving to a single-payor system.

      • Liralen says:

        I imagine the Founding Fathers comments would have been much nicer than my thoughts when I found that I was paying for Viagra through my insurance rates.

    • Danielle says:

      “Repeatedly, on various sites or social networks I participate on, liberals are either innocently ignorant about the case or are deliberately being obtuse about it and posting about it all day long, and they post the same untruths and inaccuracies constantly.”

      I won’t argue with this. However, your comment also advances some misunderstandings. For example, the problem that keeps liberals awake at night isn’t how many forms of contraception one employer, Hobby Lobby, wants it’s health insurance policy to exclude. They are somewhat more worried that principle being established is that category of employers responsible for employing about half the workforce can now object to as many or as few forms of birth control as they wish.

      Nor is the liberals main complaint the cost of any particular method. (For the record, some are cheap; an IUD costs several hundred dollars.)

      To liberals, the central issue is that the argument Hobby Lobby made, and the ruling SCOTUS made, treats a key component of women’s health care as a negotiable add-on to health insurance policies, to be included or removed from policies according to the whim of the employer. What worries them is their perception that women’s reproductive health and couple’s family planning is being seen as gratuitous. And if it is allowed to be treated like it is gratuitous, over time women’s health care will be impoverished and women’s access to contraception will be compromised.

      This does not necessarily make the SCOTUS ruling “wrong” or the legal logic incorrect. SCOTUS was wrangling with a very interesting question: How do you balance reproductive health and choice (this is important) against the religious freedom (also important)? There are some points to be made on both sides. And there are lots of points to be made because the system we have for providing health coverage creates weird, difficult conflicts.

      But I have to say, the Left’s broad fear that the importance of contraception and women’s reproductive health are being trivialized, if not by SCOTUS, certainly on the Right, strikes me as valid. Your comment even bears this out. When you drop this into the mix, “Women don’t have to have sex, meaning they won’t get pregnant,” you are coming very close to saying (if you aren’t simply saying it outright) that because it is possible never to have sex, reproductive health is a non-essential matter of personal health and public policy. One placard being held up outside the Supreme court floors me every time I think about it. It read: “Women in control don’t need hand outs from their bosses.” There it is in a nutshell: women on contraception are “out of control” and don’t deserve anything; and coverage for reproductive health is a “handout.” Tell me, when your health plan pays for gall bladder surgery, is it a “hand out?” This language mainly gets brought up in regard to reproductive health, no one wants to discuss diabetes or cancer like this. So, I admit that I find that kind of statement, which seems only to have gotten popular in political rhetoric in the past few years, to be rather alarming.

      So, you can tell by now that I lean liberal on this topic. I’m a feminist, and issues like this are why I am feminist. My point, though, isn’t so much that everyone should share this stance on the SCOTUS opinion, as that we recognize what the central concern of our opponents is. Usually there’s something sensible there, that warrants some consideration.

      • Of course, the issue is why hard working Americans should be compelled at gunpoint to pay for entitled rich girls’ birth control pills. Please someone explain why Danielle here has any right to stick her hand in my wallet, or how any “Christian” can support the government forcing me — again at the point of a gun — to subsidize your fornication. As a side item of interest, this nation gives billions in aid to nations that mutilate girl children by the millions, yet the president thinks my reticence to subsidize fornication is a “war on women.”

        • If you want my money to pay for your birth control pills, I would want a say in whom you sleep with.

          ‘My Money, My Choice’

          • Danielle says:

            So I write:

            “But I have to say, the Left’s broad fear that the importance of contraception and women’s reproductive health are being trivialized, if not by SCOTUS, certainly on the Right, strikes me as valid.”

            And then I get back:

            “entitled rich girls’ birth control pills”

            and

            “I would want a say in whom you sleep with.”

            Thanks for proving my point: the left isn’t entirely nuts to be wringing its hands over your attitude toward women or contraception. You couldn’t have been more dismissive of the concerns the feminist’s have over women health and economic opportunities.

            And that is my point: there are plenty of people on both sides of the culture war debates who are not crazy, and who to some degree are raising valid concerns. This means there is at least some opportunity to acknowledge what these valid concerns are and try to have some kind of dialog. But the rhetoric is so over the top, that it obscures this completely. We don’t even get to step one: articulating our concerns and hearing what the other side’s concerns are. We just throw our hands in the air and run in circles. We prefer to assert our identities against a paper mache enemy of our own fabrication, which we can hit with sticks and destroy, than to talk to anyone.

            Unfortunately, adding to the religion to the mix is only making people more intense.

          • Danielle says:

            A sidenote: I have aimed to be measured in my comments, and to point out that the other side is rarely crazy, and probably worth trying to “get.”

            However, I think I’m probably fueling the fire more than anything, so my comments stop here.

          • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

            You are aware, I hope, that the majority of contraceptive prescriptions are actually prescribed for something other than to prevent pregnancies, right?

        • You guys are making my point. I don’t give a rat’s tail. Let’s get back to the point of the post, ok?

          • Yep, this thread illustrates it very well, CM. The reason you (and I) don’t give a rat’s carcass is that we don’t view the church as the moral teacher/enforcer for the rest of society. We don’t have a stake in “(re)making America ‘Christian'”. We think the Church’s job is first of all *model* the Gospel to the world in our own lives and in the life of our congregations, not fight for our peculiar vision of how that should play out politically for the rest of society.

          • Marcus Johnson says:

            +1

            The “you made a great point that their histrionics are a complete waste of time, but I’m the exception to the rule, right?” argument in full display.

        • So is this a Christian concern or a conservative concern? Learn to separate the two.

      • Danielle, the unspoken word here is NOT “health”, it is abortion. It’s plain and simple. The plaintants cannot abide abortion because of religious beliefs and the government was forcing them to pay for it in the form of drugs that cause a woman’s body to abort a fertilized egg. All of the standard buzz words and phrases for it do not matter if it all comes down to this subject and religious conviction.

        • Danielle says:

          Your concern seems to be that I am using the term “health” to gloss over the “real issue,” abortion.

          My position is that we are talking about women’s health care, when we discuss contraception or abortion. These are most definitely areas where women go to medical providers and receive (legal) medication or procedures to address matters directly relevant to health (various concerns related to the reproductive system, fertility, pregnancy, all the medical factors related to pregnancy). So, it is definitely an area of health care. But it is an area of health care that raises moral and religious questions, which ought to be discussed, and it is contentious territory that requires a democracy to balance the freedoms of various parties against one another. SCOTUS was, rightfully, holding a conversation about how this ought to happen.

          So I think we should use the word “health,” but I also acknowledge fully your point that we need to acknowledge the problems inherent to these topics, and not gloss over them.

        • Final Anonymous says:

          Please show me sources which scientifically prove those contraceptives cause abortions. I am genuinely curious.

          • Danielle says:

            I said I’d stop posting, but to answer this question:

            The current scientific evidence does not support the view that IUDs or Plan B are abortifacients.

            Researchers used to be unsure how these methods worked, and thought that it was possible that they sometimes worked by preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg. This was the original source of pro-life objection. However, we have better evidence now. There does not appear to be cause for concern about these methods. The literature that comes with the contraceptives doesn’t discuss this anymore, because it has been removed, because there isn’t support for it.

            SCOTUS made its decision on the basis of what the plaintiff believes is true about contraceptives, and the effects that these beliefs have on the plaintiff’s conscience. It did not address the question of whether these beliefs correspond to medical evidence.

            Many in the pro-life movement has opposed hormonal contraceptives, IUDs, etc. for so long that they’re reluctant to view them as “safe.” They will have to weigh the evidence for themselves. But in my opinion, they should move on to focus on questions that actually preserve life. So far as we can tell, this dog won’t hunt.

            I’ll post some links explaining this view.

          • Danielle says:
    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > it is true that left wingers

      I’m a left-winger … and I don’t much care. It is one court case about two clauses in overlapping laws using an obscure third “dictionary” clause almost nobody knows about [and pretty much nobody reported about… ah, journalists]. Meh.

      The biggest meme in this for me is that politicians are very good at some things and should be allowed to do them – it was an `impartial unbiased` group of scientific advisers who drafted this regulatory [not legislative] foot-note of the Affordable Care Act. A politician would have known it was a tempest-landmine; everyone surprised by this broa-ha-ha either is lying or not qualified to have an opinion reported by journalists. This is America, and you touched reproduction… duh. Don’t do that. Swap out this coverage mandate replacing it with dental care – problem disappears.

    • I’m pretty much with CM on this and am not worried too much either way….but what you (Daisy specifically) and others seem to forget is that there is a fairness issue here. From a pure secular big picture stance it is unfair that one women will get everything covered at one employer, but not at another…(especially after a “majority – voted” for the ACA and it’s attempt at said fairness) Now life isn’t fair and it will never be…but the right forgets that most people to the left of them (in our case, the majority of the US population) values equality/fairness pretty highly… That majority is not going to take lightly to the idea that a minority gets to trash its sense of equality/fairness. The minority is cheerful now and willfully ignorant of the other sides concerns…(We are right, always right and have no need to even think of compromise or listening – We Won!) But that kind of attitude is only going to inspire a bigger backlash and just like gay marriage…the minority’s policy preferences will be crushed… main point – best not to gloat to much…

  3. You ever notice that whenever a Supreme Court decision goes 5-4 to the conservative side that the media, and many pundits say “Today, a divided Supreme Court decided…”? But when it goes 5-4 toward the liberal side it is simply reported as “The Supreme Court decided today…”.

    • No, I hadn’t noticed that, Oscar, could you fill us in with the actual facts, like links to media, instead of personal perception. If we had to prove all our anecdotal posts this comment list would be a lot shorter, but it’s fun to lob bombs.

  4. Dan from Georgia says:

    Amen Chaplain Mike! As one who has become borderline progressive over the last few years, I pretty much am disgusted by the hysterics and drama displayed on both sides. I just want to be a Christian by gum. Some (read: most) of which I have read and perused on the ‘net has been downright disingenuous and purposefully hyped up. Knock it off people already!

    /rant

  5. Robert F says:

    The culture wars will continue, because our our identities are more wrapped up in political commitments than Christian, or religious, ones. We like to think that we are Christians first, and other things follow that primary commitment, but our behaviors show otherwise. As sociologist Peter Berger has said, ethical and political perspectives are far more resistant to change than religious identity; people often change their religious address without changing their moral or political addresses one iota. We are not what, or who, we think and say we are; we are what our habitual actions and habitual language demonstrate us to be.

    • Indeed. Some of the positions I’ve seen Christians on both sides of the political divide defend illustrate much more loyalty to their political party than to biblical/Christian teachings and thinking. It reminds me much more of loyalty to one’s favorite sports team than of reasoned discourse or debate.

    • I agree that the culture wars are going to continue. And I think it’s an idealistic pipe dream this notion that religion and politics can really be kept completely seperate, either when it comes to our beliefs and opinions or in our public lives. LIke popular trends in art, music, fashion, food, health habits, etc., both politics and religion are indredients in a larger soup we call “culture.” You can take your spoon, and try to keep the green beans from ever touching the corn, but no matter, how hard you try, they’re going to bump into each other quite frequently. And even if you manage to capture a spoonful of just corn, you’re still going to taste the green beans (and all the other ingredients) in the broth.
      I think history bears this out. I can’t think of any religous movements of the past that didn’t, sooner or later, take on political trappings. And I can’t think of any political structures or movements — even those of the communist variety — that have really been able to operate in a religion-free vacuum. It just can’t be done.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        The Communist movements did it by making their political philosophy — THEMSELVES — into their State Religion and going Fundamentalist with it, One True Faith, One True Way, and Death To All Infidels And Heretics,

        • And they never really succeeded in doing even that. Heck, Stalin himself cut a deal with the surviving remnant of the Russion Orthodox Church during WWII, allowing them a degree of “state-sanctioned” existence if they agreed to help him boost flagging troop morale. And the Great Cultural Revolution in China served to birth one of the largest, fasting growing Christian movements on the planet.
          Then again, North Korea might be another matter. There’s just not enough information coming out of that country to tell.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            So God can only be glorified when His people have to live under third world dictator conditions?

            Remember after the second russian revolution, when all those forged-in-the-flames-of-persecution former soviet christians were going to emerge and show all us spoiled-rotten baby-fat american “christians” whar REAL CHRISTIANS were like? (Sounded way too much like one of those cold war-era editorials from Guns & Ammo or Soldier of Fortune — always comparing the Communist Supermen vs spoiled-rotten baby-fat whiny americans.)

  6. Adam Tauno Williams says:

    > By loving our enemies, turning the other cheek, going the extra mile,
    > praying for our persecutors — doing the counter-intuitive thing, the
    > unnatural thing, the dying thing, the cross thing.

    Even if a lot more people did those things than are doing those things – and many people are doing those things – it would never make the news.

    I’m pretty convinced the Culture Wars are a dying fire; the demographics don’t exist it support it as the raging conflagration we see reported on. But there is still money there, and confrontation, so that makes news. It is a better story and more fitting for lots of talking heads.

    The guy who goes the `extra mile`… nobody cares. And he may be glad about that, if all the reporters descended on him people would probably claim he was grand-standing, being a moralist, or contemplating running for office.

    And you can’t report on actual news, data, and information. Your audience will be vanishingly small; probably the saddest thing of all.

  7. William Martin says:

    So as most of the comments back up the article I would have to agree. I do have the hardest time not getting drug into things. Most of the time I am trying to see things how he does which is hard enough for me. Loving the way he shows me seems to be impossible for me on my own. How many times do I pray have mercy through the day. The person pushing my buttons is the one I need to pray for. Not out in the open unless he says to but in the prayer closet. Seems others aren’t fertilizer to my dreams and goals here on earth but really important to the one who made them. On the subject of winning, if it means I have to lose in order for others to know him like I do and I know what I say and what hell is I would rather lose.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      Seems to me your comment most closely addresses the theme of the article than any others. I like your thoughts. Since I look to the gospels to see how Jesus did things while he was here with us, all I see is a man who kept walking toward the path of “losing.” Losing his friends, losing the trial, losing his life. All for love of us sinful folk.

      So what battles am I being asked to lose in order to love? As the article says, too many Christians fight battles to win, and love gets lost. I see it in some friends of mine at church.

      • “So what battles am I being asked to lose in order to love?”

        Indeed.

      • Robert F says:

        “So what battles am I being asked to lose in order to love? ”

        Whatever they may be, don’t forget to count the cost. Because if you willingly undertake the necessary losses to love, and subsequently find out that it’s a lot harder than you thought it would or should be (your loss is likely to surpass your willingness to surrender, and to keep on going when you believe it should have stopped already), you may end up with a heart full resentment, which bears little resemblance to love. By all means be willing to lose those battles, but try your best to count the cost beforehand, to avoid a bitter heart and resentful heart.

        • William Martin says:

          I like this statement. It is food for thought. Again it leads me back to the one who knows me best and what he is trying to teach me as I am able. So many times I see in the good news how he elevated a person in what they were able like the woman at the well and many more. Reminds me of Paul saying he won’t give us anymore than what we can handle. This is always the problem when I want to charge from the gate and he is trying to reign me in. Most of the time I end up with a sore neck and believe me I have had a sore neck a lot in my life. I am learning how not to do that so much in my older age.

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      +1000

      >William Martin then yells, “I’m outta this piece” and drops his mic.<

      • William Martin says:

        With a smile on my face, nice try. I remember a story someone told at church how if everyone in a class got the same grade no matter how hard anyone had studied that as time went on the average of that same grade would fall as those within the class would say why should I try harder when others are not. The kingdom doesn’t work that way. Love doesn’t work that way. Those that are gifted would work harder in love to bring those less fortunate higher with them. Those who are not as gifted would soon see how hard those that love them are working and would be encourage to be their best too. So it would seem in of ourselves we get it wrong most of the time. I wish I had more to say but I really don’t. I’m trying to understand what he is telling me and how I need to be. I want the same thing for others too. Sorry it was a long day in the heat and I just went blank. Good day to everyone.

  8. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    This is the great methodological heresy — that Christians win by winning.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mrdfPLBaYXU

    Both sides have bought into the “war” imagery and mentality. What matters is that we win and our “enemies” lose.

    The Zero Sum Game. Where the only way for ME to win is to make YOU lose. And the bigger You Lose, the bigger I WIN.

    What matters is that we gain power to implement what we think is right and that we strip our opponents of power so that they can’t. How we get there, well, let’s not talk about that. All’s fair . . .

    “A crown based on lies,
    YOU WIN OR YOU DIE —
    Game of Thrones!”
    — filk lyrics to Game of Thrones

    “There is no Right, there is no Wrong, there is only POWER.”
    — Lord Voldemort

    • Rick Ro. says:

      Yep. Good stuff here.. Thanks, HUG.

    • HUG, I was waiting for the Thomas Merton quote.

      But if you won’t, I will:

      Another characteristic of the devil’s moral theology is the exaggeration of all distinctions between this and that, good and evil, right and wrong. These distinctions become irreducible divisions. No longer is there any sense that we might perhaps all be more or less at fault, and that we might be expected to take upon our own shoulders the wrongs of others by forgiveness, acceptance, and patient understanding and love, and thus help one another to find the truth. On the contrary, in the devil’s theology, the important thing is to be absolutely right and to prove that everybody else is absolutely wrong. This does not exactly make for peace and unity among men, because it means that everybody wants to be absolutely right himself, or to attach himself to another who is absolutely right. And in order to prove their rightness they have to punish and eliminate those who are wrong. Those who are wrong, in turn, convinced that they are right… etc.

      Link to the entire essay “The Moral Theology of the Devil” from Merton’s book New Seeds of Contemplation:
      http://thegroundoffaith.net/issues/2008-10/Merton.htm

      • Ted, thank you. Excellent quote.

        • Got that from HUG. Then I bought the book. Going through it for the second time now because I’m slow.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        it’ll have to wait. i’m on vacation on the other side of the country, i broke the wrist on my good hand, and i won’t know unil monday whether the permanent cast will let me sign my name or drive a car. if not, i’m going t have to cut my trip short and try to get back early. can’t afford to get stranded. typing this with one finger on mt off hand.

        • = = Ouch = = Sorry to hear that.

          If you’re on the other side of the country, that would be my side. Or maybe you’re near Hurricane Arthur and it’s time to get on out of there anyway. Take good care of yourself.

    • “There is no Right, there is no Wrong, there is only POWER.”
      – Lord Voldemort

      Really, when you think about it, everything we do is an exercise of power in one direction or another. Even through things like inaction and apathy and lazziness, people still exert a kind of paralizing, life-sucking power over the people around them. Day-to-day living and survival requires exerting power over ourselves and others and our environment. So, in a way V. may be right in that life is a will to power.
      But, to quote Stephen R. Donaldson: “Any power that is not also power over death is an illusion.” Death makes all efforts to attain and maintain power merely temporary flashes in a continuing electrical storm of people willing themselves to power.
      I think that’s one of the things that makes the power by which our Lord was raised from the dead so different from other kinds of power. It transcends death because it is inextricably alligned with His love, which is neverending. He can win by losing, and He can win by winning, and He can win by just being Himself because He loves, and because He is love.
      And if we could somehow learn to allign our exertions of power to His love, then maybe we could start truly doing good and advancing His kingdom in this world without being arrogant assholes in the process.

  9. Marcus Johnson says:

    Seriously digging your opinion, Chaplain Mike. We’ve come to define winning the culture war as the ultimate mission of the church. We’re also becoming more interested in protecting our perceived rights and the rights of people who are like us, rather than the rights of the people less fortunate/privileged than we are (this applies to both liberals and conservatives, no one is immune from this charge). I’m not sure when the mission of the church changed from being ministers to being soldiers, but it’s high time that pendulum swung the other way.

    • I grew up in a church where “Onward, Christian Soldiers” regularly made it into the hymn rotation. When those ideas get served up on Sunday as theology you can understand where some of the cultural warrior attitude comes from. For those who aren’t familiar with the song – the refrain goes like this: “Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war. With the cross of Jesus going on before.” Yikes.

      • Marcus Johnson says:

        My pastor has been working with me in my role as one of the worship leaders to remove songs like “Onward, Christian Soldiers” from the canon of hymns that we sing (“Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus” and “Marching to Zion” are out, too). He noticed it had an effect on our congregation similar to that of sugar on hyperactive six-year-olds. Instead, we sing “The Battle Belongs to the Lord” and “It Is Well With My Soul.” I like the switch.

        • We sang “It Is Well With My Soul” on Sunday. One of the best hymns ever.

          It balanced out some of the praise songs from earlier in the service. I had a hard time with one of them because I kept correcting the grammar while trying to sing.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        And the song goes on to say he is trampling out the vineyard where the grapes of wrath are stored. It is actually a pretty lousy song for culture wars, at least if you listen to the lyrics.

        • Marcus Johnson says:

          Actually, that’s “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” another song we tossed, to the mild dismay of the uber-patriotic among us.

          • Rick Ro. says:

            And I bet there are people wanting to fight to keep them, right?

          • Marcus Johnson says:

            In the very beginning, yes. I would have some folks (liberal and conservative) approach me with individual song requests for songs we had retired for their political bent (e.g., “It’s the Fourth of July; why don’t we sing “America the Beautiful”?).

            As folks realized our pastor was directing the change, though, those arguments died out rather quickly.

          • Faulty O-Ring says:

            It traumatizes people whose teachers hit them with a ruler.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      Good comments. It made me think about most Christian men’s groups I’ve been involved with, how we usually use combat/battle terms to define the group. “Warriors for God.” “Band of Brothers.” “Christian Soldiers.” “God’s Army.” “His Posse.”

      More appropriate might be “Hapless Losers, Loved by God.” Might not get too many wanting to join that group, though.

  10. CM, I’m fully with you on this one.
    Does “Love God; love your neighbor” mean anything any more?
    I’m so tired of the fighting. Does it ever end?
    Only in the grave, it seems.

  11. It is true that we Christians do not win by winning; we win because Christ is our victory. The Church will ram down the gates of hell not because the Supreme Court rules in our favor but because the power of heaven is behind the battering ram. Amen!

    Having said that… the left’s position on matters of religious liberty are to regulate churches (and everything else) by government fiat. And that is enslavement to the state and the very opposite of what’s guaranteed by the First Amendment.

    I saw what happened when the left was unopposed and in full control of the people (I refer to my experiences in Cuba). The end result (besides economic disaster and loss of civil liberties) was that religious practices were mostly prohibited.

    So, the argument that the left here in the U.S. are not Marxists or that they have no intent on doing the same as was the case in the Soviet block or still is in China, N. Korea, and Cuba is of little consolation to folks like me. Been there, seen it. And it ain’t pretty!

    Whereas I agree with CM that we Christians place way too much emphasis on getting the “right” folks elected, laws Congress passes and rulings from the Supreme Court, when liberties are taken away we will be concerned about it.

    The left needs to get it right.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      As a Christian, though, I don’t need to tell the left that they need to get it right, nor would I (if I was more liberal) need to say that the right needs to become left-handed.

      As a CHRISTIAN, I just need to let people know there’s a savior who loves them. All that left/right stuff detracts from that, if I’m truly trying to show Christ’s love.

      In other words, if you’re going to get all political and fight battles to WIN, don’t do it while waving the banner of Jesus Christ over your head.

      • When I wrote “The left needs to get it right” it was a play on words intended to stimulate a response and get discussion going. So, since you bit the bait I will respond to you.

        There is nothing which says that if I chastise the left for taking away my religious freedoms I am being un-CHRISTIAN, quite the contrary. As Christians we need to promote religious liberties on ALL arena. I will not go so far as to agree with Malcolm X’s “by all means necessary,” but I would say “by all means ethical.”

        Speaking of political battles, today we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the enactment of the Civil Rights Act. Now that was most definitely a political battle fought–and won–by Christians, and sadly against fellow Christians. I lived in Louisiana at that time. I saw how African-Americans were treated and their rights violated. God heard their cries and prayers and responded, in part, by the passing of this act. Anyone here care to say that Martin Luther King Jr., et al., were too “political” and not CHRISTIAN in pushing for this legislation?

        And in that case the left was right and the right was wrong. But when it comes to maintaining religious freedom, the left needs to remember a time when they got it right and get it right again.

        • Rick Ro. says:

          Just as a point of debate, I’m not sure Martin Luther King Jr. was waving the banner of Jesus Christ as he fought the battle. He may have been a CHRISTIAN fighting the battle – and clearly we Christians CAN fight battles – but I don’t think he was doing it under the banner of Jesus. His banner was “Here is what is right!” and left Jesus off of it. (Certainly, though, he was guided by Jesus and had spiritual overtones/undertones in his messages, but I don’t recall hearing any “Jesus says what you’re doing is wrong.”)

          • Danielle says:

            This is perhaps no modern political movement steeped in Christian imagery, and creating more change, than the American civil rights movement. One good book among many is David Chappell’s “Stone of Hope Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow.” King’s mode of putting faith together with politics follows a different path than what evangelicals are used to – but her certainly did it.

            This is only tenuously related, but I also can’t help but mention, “God’s Long Summer” by Charles Marsh. It is a brilliant book. He writes about five very different people in Mississippi during the summer of 1965 — Fannie Lou Hamer (black civil rights activist); Sam Bowers (the Imperial Wizard of Klan in Mississippi); William Douglas Hudgins (a white Baptist pastor), and Ed King (white Methodist minister and civil rights activist); Cleveland Sellers (SNCC member, who later radicalizes and moves into the black power movement). He chases around how the faith of each person intersects with their political and social activities.

          • Danielle says:

            Sorry for all the typos.

        • I’m afraid you are mistaken on this. Read his speeches (e.g., https://www.biblegateway.com/blog/2011/08/bible-references-in-the-i-have-a-dream-speech/). He quoted Scripture all the time.

        • Oops…meant 48th, not 50th anniversary of the enactment of the Civil Rights Acts.

          And here I am teaching mathematics at a university! Please don’t tell the department chair. Oh wait, I already have tenure–never mind.

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      The right’s position on religious liberty is not much better. Sooner or later, we’ll have to realize that the politics of fear is prevalent in both the liberal and conservative camps, and that that dogma has nothing to do with the mission of the church.

      • Rick Ro. says:

        Indeed, the far left and far right tend to loop around and meet together under the term Fascism. And that has nothing to do with the mission of the church.

      • I disagree. The right’s position is that there should be religious liberty according to the framer’s original intent when the First Amendment was written. The left’s position appears to be that “original intent” is supplanted by “growing understanding”; consequently the Constitution means whatever we want it to mean based on current norms. This results is a democracy supplanted by an oligarchy of nine.

        Fortunately, the oligarchy got it right in the Sebelius vs. Hobby Lobby case. But with a narrow 5-4 ruling and scathing dissent from Ginsburg + 3 there is no guarantee that we Christians will be free to exercise our religion according to the tenets of our faith in the future.

        In God we trust–not in the oligarchy.

        • Marcus Johnson says:

          Well, the right’s position seems to be that there should be religious liberty for a certain type of Christians. Muslims, Mormons, atheists, etc. need not apply. The only difference between them and the left’s “us vs. them” mentality seems to be that you agree with the right. That’s not a very profound difference; the politics of fear still underscores both sides.

          And thank God for that “growing understanding” which causes us to revisit the Constitution, otherwise slavery would still be a thing, right?

          And, as a Christian, I wasn’t worried that my ability to exercise my religion would be affected by the Court’s ruling. I can still affirm my religious tradition, while someone else gets to affirm theirs. If your religion/faith tradition is so easily threatened by something as ultimately trivial as a court ruling, is your faith really worth holding onto?

          • It is one thing to say “the right’s position seems to be that there should be religious liberty for a certain type of Christians” and quite another to prove it.

            Please provide instances where a bona fide conservative organization has lobbied or otherwise advocated for the prohibition of religious practices by Muslims, Mormons, atheists, etc. And please cite your sources.

            Thank you.

            PS: BTW, although I’m not into Cuban santeria beliefs or practices, I absolutely agree with the 1993 Supreme Court decision that santeros have the right to sacrifice animals in keeping with the tenets of their faith (http://www.nytimes.com/1993/06/12/us/supreme-court-animal-sacrifice-court-citing-religious-freedom-voids-ban-animal.html). FWIW, that was a 9-0 decision.

          • “I wasn’t worried that my ability to exercise my religion would be affected by the Court’s ruling.”

            That is because you weren’t a business owner being forced by your government to pay for the killing of someone’s child.

            “something as ultimately trivial as a court ruling”

            When it affects the lives of so many millions, it may not be all important but, it is far from trivial.

          • Marcus Johnson says:

            Ever tried to build a mosque in Tennessee? Or run for president as a Mormon while a vocal majority of your base questions your Christianity? I had my reasons for not voting for Romney, but I felt profoundly sympathetic for him when his invitation to give the commencement address at Liberty University was met with a vicious backlash from students who still affirm that Mormonism is a cult. You don’t need “sources”; these are not well-hidden stories. Google them for yourself if you’d like.

            These are not lobbying efforts, and I never suggested that they were (although, we can talk about the insanity that is political lobbying at another time).

          • Marcus Johnson says:

            TPD:

            A passionate, but faulty argument. The government was not forcing anyone to pay for killing anyone’s child. Not even the plaintiff argued that position. That’s just silly, vitriolic language, evident of the same kind of fear politics that the left spewed to get the Amazon CEO fired for a personal belief on abortion.

          • Bringing up anecdotes such as attempts by some to keep a mosque from being built in Tennessee is not evidence of a conspiracy by the right to deny Muslims their constitutional rights to worship freely according to the tenets of their faith. I could cite instances of Muslims who would like to apply Sharia law in their neighborhoods here in the US and it would prove nothing either.

            BTW & FWIW: I voted for Romney even though I consider many Mormon doctrines to be outright heretical. When I voted for him I was voting for the President of the US, not the President of my association of churches.

            BTW & FWIW 2: If recent polls are accurate, there are many who did not but now wish they had voted for Romney.

          • Marcus Johnson says:

            Again, you’re placing words into my argument. I never claimed that it was a conspiracy. Conspiracies are effective and subtle; this was an overt assault on the right of Muslims who were neither violent nor affirming Sharia law to practice their faith in their own house of worship.

            And while you, like many conservatives, voted for Romney based on his qualifications as president, he struggled to gain the votes of evangelicals in the Republicans primaries, and it had little to nothing to do with his potential as compared to other candidates. It was really only when it was pretty certain that he was going to be the Republican nominee, that there was a huge sway in the party. Check out what conservative evangelicals were saying about Romney back in 2011, versus the beginning of 2012.

            All of this is still a digression, of course, from the main point: The politics of fear underscore both parties.

          • I agree with you that it is a digression from the main topic. But it is germane all the same. It’s also fun.

            BTW, I voted for Ron Paul in the 2012 Republican primaries. I did not vote against Romney for being a Mormon, but because of Ron Paul’s consistent stand on a variety of issues important to maintaining freedom (e.g., staying out of the Middle East, libertarian fiscal policies).

            PS: You did not use the word “conspiracy” but your Tennessee mosque argument and other statements you’ve made about the right most definitely lean in that direction.

            PS-2: Slavery was not abolished by way of “growing understanding” but by the adoption of the 13th, 14th & 15th amendments. Likewise, African-Americans received their long overdue civil liberties by an act of congress. That’s how laws should be made, by congress and the states, not by an oligarchy.

          • Marcus:

            “A passionate, but faulty argument.”

            Employer “A” is forced by law to pay for someone else’s abortifacient contraceptive which is used to kill what they believe to be a human child. Pretty straight forward. Please explain how my argument was faulty.

            “the Amazon CEO fired for a personal belief on abortion”

            Are you referring to the Mozilla co-founder forced out over his personal belief on same-sex marriage? I’m not familiar with the news story about the Amazon CEO. Either way, I hardly see how these issues qualify as “the same kind.”

          • Marcus Johnson says:

            TPD:

            It’s faulty because a) there wasn’t a pregnant Hobby Lobby on a table with an OB-GYN waiting to kill her fetus, provided the Supreme Court compelled an employer to pay for her insurer, who would pay the doctor, and b) because the plaintiff’s attorneys, while I disagree with it, never took that position.

            And yes, I was actually referring to the Mozilla co-founder case. And I’m not sure why you don’t see the profound similarities in two political platforms which perceive a person or people with a conflicting belief as a perceived threat, then use that perception as a justification for their mistreatment or marginalization.

          • Calvin said:
            PS-2: Slavery was not abolished by way of “growing understanding” but by the adoption of the 13th, 14th & 15th amendments. Likewise, African-Americans received their long overdue civil liberties by an act of congress. That’s how laws should be made, by congress and the states, not by an oligarchy.

            THIS! thank you, thank you. Many people today have forgotten how government was designed to function. I had some naive college kid show up at my door the other day wanting me to sign a petition to get the EPA to tighten their rules regarding run-off in streams. My response: “Even if I agreed with your cause, you’re going about it the wrong way. This is an issue for our elected legislature, not some unelected overreaching group of Federal bureaucrats.” A political bunny trail, I know. But we could sure use some basic teaching on civics nowadays. Instead we have unelected bureaucrats making whatever rules they want and elected executives who think they can cherry pick which laws (passed by elected legislatures) they want to enforce.

          • Marcus:

            “there wasn’t a pregnant Hobby Lobby on a table with an OB-GYN waiting to kill her fetus”

            The pill kills the child in the privacy of the home, no table or OB-GYN needed.

            “…perceive a person or people with a conflicting belief as a perceived threat, then use that perception as a justification for their mistreatment or marginalization.”

            That is one excellent example of why these issues are not the same. Where is the “mistreatment?” Unless you’re referring to the act of requiring someone to pay the $10 for their own abortifacient contraceptive. Yikes! Absolutely horrific!

          • Marcus Johnson says:

            CalvinCuban:

            You’re going to have to explain how my comments “lean toward” suggesting conspiracy when I never suggested conspiracy. Please try pulling out phrases that I actually used.

            And abolition didn’t just happen. Slavery would never have been abolished if there wasn’t a social evolution in the North that made it possible for those amendments to get passed. Former slaves had to be heard about their experience. Writers had to publish arguments. Even Lincoln had to go through a profound change of heart before he was willing to make the abolition of slavery part of his political platform.

            As far as Romney, you really have to go back and see what a lot of conservative evangelical leaders said about him before it was obvious that he was the only real candidate. Then look at the reserved comments they made about him before the election, to the effect of, “Screw it, we hate the Obama administration more than we distrust Mormons…but we still distrust Mormons.”

            While these digressions may be fun, they aren’t germane to the topic, which has a lot of potential without taking the back roads. In the end, both the fundamentalist left and the fundamentalist right are exactly the same, except for their differences. It’s why Bill Maher and Ann Coulter are BFFs, and why most of the talking heads on 24-hour news stations probably high-five each other before screaming at each other on “news” segments. A scared public means job security for political pundits, lobbyists, Rush Limbaugh, Al Sharpton, etc.

          • Marcus Johnson says:

            TPD:

            Birth control, if taken properly, doesn’t kill children any more than a condom does. And while OTC medications are relatively inexpensive, some women prefer to get an exam and doctor’s opinion/prescription before taking medication that can temporarily affect their reproductive system. If I were to find out that a condom could cause me to experience nausea, vomiting, and unnatural bleeding through my penis, I’d want a doctor’s OK first.

            All of this is becoming a digression from the main topic, of course, because the problem isn’t so much Hobby Lobby. If they want to call themselves “Christian,” they’re more than welcome to do so, as it is something that they alone will have to answer for. The point of Chaplain Mike’s article was that the Christian church has been infected by an consuming desire to win a culture war we were never meant to fight in the first place. Pretending that conservatives are just doing their job, or that liberals are walking around with halos, dances around the truth of what he’s pointing out.

          • Marcus, my friend (yes, I mean that sincerely), social revolutions are the catalysts which lead to change. But unless change must be enacted in an orderly manner (I refer to constitutional amendments and laws passed by congress) or what we risk ending up with is tyranny of the few against the many.

            Wilberforce is one of my heroes. He was an Evangelical who believed that the slave trade was inconsistent with Christian beliefs. he was right and he was able to change the law in Parliament to abolish the slave trade. Others in England after him ended slavery altogether in the British Empire without a war. Wilberforce, influenced by Newton (a former slave ship captain), and others changed the plight of slaves by changing the hearts of the people and then changing the law. It’s slower this way, but it has a lasting impact, not to mention zero blood-letting.

            As to your Romney the Mormon argument and conservative Evangelicals not liking him but voting for him because better him than Obama, i don’t know how to respond to that except to say that “the masses are asses!” I already told you that his religion was not an issue with me in the election.

            As for your list of radio, TV, online, etc. commentators, I don’t listen to these people. About the only ones I read or listen to are Charles Krauthammer and Cal Thomas, neither of whom would be considered to be incendiary.

          • Marcus:

            “Birth control, if taken properly, doesn’t kill children any more than a condom does.”

            Hobby Lobby only objected to four specific methods of “birth control” that had the potential to destroy fertilized eggs. They gladly pay for all other forms of birth control.

            “The point of Chaplain Mike’s article was that the Christian church has been infected by an consuming desire to win a culture war we were never meant to fight in the first place.”

            I know that. As I say in my comments below, I agree with CM’s point but I think he picked a terrible example to try and make his point. This isn’t a culture war issue about whether other people can or can’t get married, have sex, smoke pot, whatever. This is about Christians being forced to violate their beliefs, grieve their Savior, and harm other human beings. CM makes a good point but uses a bad example.

          • Marcus Johnson says:

            CalvinCuban:

            Keep in mind that this argument is not just about you and your position, but about the state of the Christian church in America, and its steady descent into fighting this culture war. As such, while it is admirable that you voted for someone other than Romney because of something other than his faith tradition, several conservative evangelical Christian institutions and spokespeople either criticized his faith, or were extremely hesitant to support him primarily on the basis of his faith tradition.

            And while it’s great that you don’t listen to 24-hour so-called “news” stations, there is a large enough group of Christians, both liberal and conservative, who allow their faith to be diminished through the fear-based political rhetoric of these pundits. Can’t pretend that they’re not out there, or that they’re not regurgitating their hate and fear onto the political rhetoric, and we certainly can’t pretend that it’s all either conservatives or all liberals.

            As for slavery, I’m not sure where you’re headed. Constitutional amendments, by definition, are acts that revise and rework the original meaning of the Constitution. In the case of the 13th amendment, that was based on hundreds of years of social progress. If you’re defining liberal ideology by the idea that “‘original intent’ is supplanted by ‘growing understanding,'” as you did in your original response to my statement, then every amendment is a liberal political initiative, including state amendments which define same-sex marriage between men and women and restrict access to abortion clinics.

          • Marcus Johnson says:

            The question of whether fertilized eggs are human children (at least, in the public sphere), is a statement of fact, not belief. Ten medical groups filed an amicus brief stating that none of the FDA-approved drugs are abortifacients, and that fertilized eggs are not fetuses. If you want to ignore the credibility of medical and scientific associations, be my guest, but when that dismissal of their findings means that women have less access to medical care than men, then that is a marginalization that is unwarranted. I should also point out that if this was strictly about aborting fetuses, we actually might be on the same camp, as there is more evidence to prove that fetuses are living persons.

            Seeing as how the gospel does not have anything to do with abortion, or same-sex marriage, or illegal immigration, the fusion of faith and political hysteria, which is undeniably present in this case, to “win” one for Jesus is ultimately self-serving. This case wasn’t about what God wanted; it was about what a for-profit organization wanted, which conflicted with a government mandate and their employees’ needs. It was also about the desire to slap the label “Christian” on things that we don’t want the federal government to touch. Nothing about this case will make it easier for the folks running Hobby Lobby to practice a religion that reflects who Christ is, but I seriously doubt that was as much a concern for them as was their desire to avoid government regulation.

          • Marcus:
            Your last post there was mostly opinion. So I guess that about sums up this disagreement. You have yours and you’re going to believe what you’re going to believe. nuff said.

          • Marcus Johnson says:

            Where was the opinion? The statement that the gospel doesn’t have anything to do with hot-button issues? The fact that ten medical organizations do not concede that the contraceptives in question were abortifacients? If you want to move from this topic, I understand, but claiming that facts are subjective opinion is a cheap out. Besides, this is a discussion forum; everyone here has an opinion, and yet we are able to continue discussion.

            I admit that my statement about Hobby Lobby was an opinion, but it seems much more likely that a for-profit institution wanted to escape restrictive governmental regulation than that they were merely trying to practice their religion. I’m just going where the odds are in my favor.

          • Marcus, I’m not responsible for what other Christians do or listen to. My sphere of influence is my family and my church. And in our church we focus on the gospel and do not get involved in politics.

            You made mention that “If you’re defining liberal ideology by the idea that ‘original intent’ is supplanted by ‘growing understanding,’ as you did in your original response to my statement, then every amendment is a liberal political initiative, including state amendments which define same-sex marriage between men and women and restrict access to abortion clinics.”

            The difference here is whether it’s done constitutionally or in violation thereof. Amending the Constitution is neither a liberal or conservative thing, it is a process regulated in the Constitution. If a state wants to allow same-sex marriage then so be it, and if another state wants to prohibit it, ten so be it also. The Constitution does not define marriage and so in accordance with the Tenth Amendment,

            “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

            Such regulations should be left up to each state and its residents. Hopefully, the Supreme Court will see it from the “original intent” perspective and let the people decide.

          • “Where was the opinion? The statement that the gospel doesn’t have anything to do with hot-button issues?”

            Yes, that’s your opinion. There are lots of hot-button issues dealt with in the Bible. Check out Daniel, Amos, Jeremiah, then move on to the gospels and Acts. You’ll be amazed.

            “The fact that ten medical organizations do not concede that the contraceptives in question were abortifacients?”

            Yes, that’s your opinion. There were 84 Amicus Briefs filed in this case. 3 to 1 in Hobby Lobby’s favor. legal, medical, and scientific organizations on both sides of the issue expressing their opinions. And that’s just it; it’s all opinion Marcus. Stop pretending you’re superior because you have “facts” on your side. You don’t. Maybe you need to reevaluate your need to “win?”

          • @ Marcus. This is wells said: “This case wasn’t about what God wanted; it was about what a for-profit organization wanted, which conflicted with a government mandate and their employees’ needs. It was also about the desire to slap the label “Christian” on things that we don’t want the federal government to touch. Nothing about this case will make it easier for the folks running Hobby Lobby to practice a religion that reflects who Christ is, but I seriously doubt that was as much a concern for them as was their desire to avoid government regulation.” I don’t fault the zeal or even necessarily the principles they want to live out, but so much of the cultural warriors battles are about self-preservation…self, self self… and that’s why Jesus can’t and won’t be seen by onlookers… because the fighters are focused on ME/MY/I/SELF.

        • Rick Ro. says:

          The right and the left aren’t the problem, the far right and the far left are. And the far right and the far left do indeed circle around to meet at a point called Fascism. Reasonable right-leaning and reasonable left-leaning people won’t go there, and that’s not who I’m talking about.

          • Marcus Johnson says:

            It’s not what I’m talking about, either. We’re talking about the extremes, and an ever-increasing number of self-identified Christians who define themselves by political extremes. Once we whip out the tinfoil hats and start screaming about Big Brother coming to take away our Bibles, or about how the LGBT community can only be safe if we fire every celebrity who doesn’t affirm same-sex marriage, then we fall into those camps.

          • Rick Ro. says:

            Yes, I agree with you.

          • Marcus Johnson says:

            I know. Consider that last statement more of an addendum to yours.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Ever since you invoked the word “Oligarchy” (which you find these days only among political science/sociology types andX-Treme Activists), evveyone in the above thread has been making CM’s point for him.

          As one judge said on another blog’s comments, “Once the opening statement starts with ‘I am a Free White Man who only RESIDES in the territory illegally claimed by this Gubment…’ there’s only one way my day can go from there, and that’s DOWNHILL.”

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > I saw what happened when the left was unopposed and in
      > full control of the people (I refer to my experiences in Cuba).

      Equating the Left in America to mid and early century central and south american revolutionary movements, and the resulting states, is simply absurd and has no historical or philosophical merit. You are engaging in rhetoric that does little but draw lines and divide people into friend and foe.

      There is no shortage of dirt which can be pointless dragged up about Christian communites, or the Church, or whomever. This is POINTLESS, WRONG, COUNTER-FACTUAL, and it needs to stop.

      • Adam:
        He may have a point.

        I have watched Canada move more to the left and it is amazing how much the so called progressives in this country resemble fundamentalists.

        All political parties in Canada are virtually enthralled by the feminists, to the point of where you can’t even discuss abortion in parliament.

        Unfortunately the more power the progressives get, the more freedoms they take away, all in the name of protecting us.

        And btw, I don’t have any particular use for our right wing party either

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          It’s starry-eyed True Believer time. The One True Way so True it jutifies anything whatsoever to bring it about. whether republique of perfect virtue, pefect progessive society, or godly theocracy. Left or right, the perfect utopia always bats her eyes and beckons from the other side of the “regrettable but necessary” reign of terror, And you can never break too many eggs for thr Perfect Omelet.

  12. Nice. So, the message is “Christians should disengage from the society around them and let government do whatever it wants”. I mean, when SHOULD a Christian stand up for a matter of conscience when they live in a society whose government allows them a voice in how things are done? The family owned businesses in the court case did and it came out in their favor. Did the :”win”? Yes, they DID. Was it bad that they “won”? No, it was NOT. It was their right as citizens of this country to protest what they were being forced to do.

    Unfortunately, it is the loudest voice that gets heard, and if we cede the bullhorn to only one opinion then we are doomed as a free society and marginalized as Christians in a free society.

    The problem is not Christians thinking about “winning” the culture wars. It is Christians withdrawing from society and becoming passive because they are “tired” of the “culture wars” (a term popularized by media, by the way). Personally, I have not met ONE Christian who talks about “winning” in the way it has been described here. THAT type of definition comes from…popular media!

    So here’s an idea for a future post: “When SHOULD a Christian speak up for a moral issue?”, and “How far should a Christian extend him/herself in contending for moral issues?” Rather than call for disengagement, the polite term for “Just shut up!” why not discuss terms of action?

    • “Personally, I have not met ONE Christian who talks about “winning” in the way it has been described here.”

      I’m not sure if you’ve been to an evangelical church lately. I’ve been hearing it in the corridors and from the pulpit routinely since the 80’s, in big ways and small. Almost every conversation I have with a religious conservative includes this kind of discourse, and it is increasingly so with progressives. Robert is right: we are more deeply defined by our politics and ethics than by a Jesus-shaped spirituality.

      • Well CM, you’re travelling in the wrong circles. I’ve been attending evangelical churches for 40 years now, and not one of them speak about “culture wars” in the same manner as you do in your post. And the fact that you say you don’t read media means you are relying on other peoples’ testimony, or you are just making a judgement based on your own impressions.

        By the way, I live in California so I am not in some insular community. There indeed HAS been discussions of social issues and a proper Christian response to them, but if you consider that to be a “culture war” then your definition is so broad that there is no other option left but to withdraw to a monastery, pun intended.

        • I do live in a fervently red state. And the reason I don’t listen to certain news programs ANYMORE is because I couldn’t take the strident rhetoric any longer.

          • I agree with you on this, CM. I quit listening to “talk radio” years ago as the rhetoric did little more than plaster the Bride of Christ with political bumper stickers.

            However, I have not disengaged from either culture or politics altogether but am much more cautious in my approach and reliance on it.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > the message is “Christians should disengage from the society
      > around them and let government do whatever it wants”.

      It is certainly possible to read this post that way. I doubt that was the intention.

      Aside: the “government” is a construct of elected officials, and those appointed by elected officials.

      > I mean, when SHOULD a Christian stand up for a matter of
      > conscience when they live in a society whose government
      > allows them a voice in how things are done?

      Whenever facilities and resources permit. But that participant also needs to keep in mind that TONE MATTERS, tone is part of the message, and that in participating they are under the civic obligation to be substantively informed concerning the issue. Repeating what someone else said is lame participation.

      > Did the :”win”? Yes, they DID.
      > Was it bad that they “won”? No, it was NOT.
      > It was their right as citizens of this country to protest
      > what they were being forced to do.

      Exactly, this is the rule of law in practice. It was disturbing to hear how many protestors and talking heads said they disagreed with the decision…. but they did not give a *legal* grounds for the disagreement. A legal disagreement is the only one that matters. This decision, or its results, can be changed/reversed – by changing the law. When the supreme court rules they are *defining* what the current law *is*; it is their role to define that, they are the *supreme* court. This seems completely lost on a lot of people.

      > if we cede the bullhorn to only one opinion

      I don’t see an issue of “one opinion” here. There were/are numerous opinions on display.

      > It is Christians withdrawing from society and becoming passive
      > because they are “tired” of the “culture wars”

      It is sad when this becomes the model of participation.

      > (a term popularized by media, by the way).

      Christian media has used the war methaphor with abandon.

      > Personally, I have not met ONE Christian who talks about
      > “winning” in the way it has been described here.

      I could personally introduce you to a dozen, they exist in abundance. Come to any community meeting about *anything* and there will be at least one. But it also needs to be reconginzed that there is a, possibly not insignificant, overlap becomes the ideological warrior and the mentally ill.

      > THAT type of definition comes from … popular media!

      This is not true. This definition comes from Media, popular or otherwise. Evangelical [not popular] Media does plenty to advance this notion. This is a natural consequence of mass media, and it has been true for hundreds of years. Technology just makes it worse.

      > “How far should a Christian extend him/herself in contending
      > for moral issues?” Rather than call for disengagement, the polite
      > term for “Just shut up!” why not discuss terms of action?

      IMO, because discussing such things in general terms is nearly always a waste of time. Every issue and context will be different. The shrillness of our civic space currently is in large part due to the lazy tendency to generalize.

      • Rick Ro. says:

        I, too, have several Christian friends, good people, who are all about “winning” the culture wars. I posted this a couple months back, I’ll post it here again. Just take a look at the schedule of talks at this Christian conference and you’ll see it’s all about the battle. Even the title of the conference: “Overcoming the World.” Not one topic devoted to Jesus.

        http://www.ligonier.org/learn/conferences/overcoming-the-world-2014-west-coast-conference/

        Here’s a little blurb from the website:
        “The 2014 Ligonier Ministries West Coast Conference theme is Overcoming the World: Being a Christian in a Post-Christian Culture. Steven Lawson, Stephen Meyer, Albert Mohler, R.C. Sproul Jr., and R.C. Sproul consider what the Scripture says about confronting worldliness, defending the faith, living as a faithful remnant, and understanding biblical ethics.”

        Now there is probably some good stuff in there, but trust me, I’ve heard my friends talk about this both before and after attending: there’s a ton of “fight the fight,” “draw the lines and plant the flag”, “win for truth” kinds of mentality going on. And again, not one single session that I could see that was “Here’s who Jesus is”…no gospel message to be heard or seen anywhere, just “fight the culture wars, boys!”

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Just take a look at the schedule of talks at this Christian conference and you’ll see it’s all about the battle.

          “WAAAAAUGH! DAKKA DAKKA DAKKA DAKKA DAKKA DAKKA!”

    • Rick Ro. says:

      If you’re wearing a Christian hat, I think you need to limit the extent of what you fight/resist. Anything I get too hung up about as I wear a Christian hat will only serve to tarnish what Jesus truly came here for…to die for our sins aka LOSE. While wearing a Christian hat, I just need to let people know there’s a savior who loves them. All that political/culture war stuff detracts from the Good News message of gospel.

      That’s not to say you can’t engage in the battle. Just be careful that if you’re going to get all political and fight battles to WIN, don’t do it while waving the banner of Jesus Christ over your head.

    • “I mean, when SHOULD a Christian stand up for a matter of conscience when they live in a society whose government allows them a voice in how things are done? The family owned businesses in the court case did and it came out in their favor. Did the :”win”? Yes, they DID. Was it bad that they “won”? No, it was NOT. It was their right as citizens of this country to protest what they were being forced to do.”

      THIS.

  13. Radagast says:

    For Catholics it is against our beliefs if we are forced to subsidize contraception, some being abortive in nature. There is nothing here that says an individual cannot purchase contraception on their own. It is not a culture war thing for me. It is a slap in the face to my faith. And by the way, insurance isn’t covering Viagra, couldn’t that be construed as reproductive health in older Americans?

    There are things worth fighting for. The perception I get here sometimes is that the most important thing is love, doesn’t matter how you live your life, what you believe, how others are treated, as long as we love… almost a universalist way of looking at things. Maybe I am seeing this in the extreme.

    I am a conservative, though not a nutty right winger as some of you term. I tend to be open minded. But as a Catholic I just can’t let some things go. I don’t expect those not of my faith tradition to think or act along these lines but I don’t want government infringing on my religious beliefs.

    • Are you willing to give that same leeway to the Jehovah’s Witness employer who may not want to pay for health care coverage that provides for blood transfusions because he or she believes it violates conscience and faith, or for the Christian Scientist whose entire health care benefit consists of faith healing? Both of these are hypothetical examples, but the matters of faith may be as important to them as contraception is to you. Are you willing to let them have the same kind of freedom you are asking for yourself, if it comes to that?

      • Radgast says:

        I can choose where I want to work so the answer is Yes.

        • Faulty O-Ring says:

          In that case, all the employers will become Jehovah’s Witnesses, or whatever religion allows them the cheapest rates.

  14. CM, is this another way of saying that the “means” matters more than the end. Ie Jesus cares more about the way we’re living (now) than the “end/destination” we think He wants us to attain.

  15. David Cornwell says:

    “This is the great methodological heresy — that Christians win by winning.”

    Was not going to comment on this at all, but I must say that many of the responses here prove the truth of the above statement. Each of us seem to have an position, principle, or practice that must be proven by winning.

    Just noticed something when my finger hit the letter “s” rather than “w”, and “winning” became “sinning” but that was by accident.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      -> “Just noticed something when my finger hit the letter “s” rather than “w”, and “winning” became “sinning” but that was by accident.”

      That will preach! Turn that into a sermon!

      • Danielle says:

        This is the stuff from which bad puns are made! It was born for sermon use.

        • David Cornwell says:

          You’ve got that right! I’ve heard many bad puns in sermons; also some terrible jokes,.

          • I’m a fisherman. When I go to a Spanish-speaking country I’m a “pescador,” which sounds like “pecador” in the Caribbean, meaning “sinner.”

            French does the same thing with fisherman / sinner, with one slip of the accent mark in “pecheur.” Must be a sermon there, especially if Jesus chose guys like us.

  16. David Cornwell says:

    I think there are ways that Christians can and should engage politically without the conceit of thinking we must or will win. The problem is we live in a competitive culture, enthralled with sports, business competition, and all sorts of winning in other contexts. Even our large mega-church seem to compete with each other. To disengage spiritually and materially from this culture, and then to re-engage at another level requires radical change that only Jesus can bring about. (Think crucifixion). None of us can do this easily and without conflict.

    To pray that the Kingdom come into being on this earth might be a good starting place. And to remember that it might look more like John the Revelator than John Brown.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > I think there are ways that Christians can and should engage
      > politically without the conceit of thinking we must or will win

      I agree, with this, but not necessarily the rest. Which may be anathema to say on a religious site, but it is honest.

      > to re-engage at another level requires radical change that
      > only Jesus can bring about. (Think crucifixion).

      Many people are engaged in a way very unlike the one described here. And many of them are not Christian, or religious at all.

      > None of us can do this easily and without conflict.

      In many ways a more deliberative form of engagement is, in actuality, easier than warrior confrontationalism.

      • David Cornwell says:

        I think I agree with you. We probably have some confusion in the terminology I chose to use. I’m definitely not for a “warrior confrontationalism.” We already have that. Deliberative is good, especially when we have given up the idea that we have to win. One of the problems now is that we do not talk with each other and consider the “other” to be the enemy. Other Christians are not our enemies (or should not be). However there are principalities and powers that may be.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          St Paul used athletic and military imagery in his epistles, but these guys take it way too far.

  17. Yes. This.

    The other problem with the culture wars, on both sides, is that it makes it nearly impossible to have a reasonable and rational debate about series social issues. The minute you open your mouth you’re given a label and promptly fired upon, usually with the intent to discredit you. Our public policies and discourse are poorer for this, as is our witness as Christians.

    This is what happens when “seek ye first the kingdom of God” gets supplanted by seeking first the cultural and social power that will (allegedly) make the world ready and safe for our idea of God’s kingdom.

    On a side note, though kind of fascinating to me, this dynamic is similar to that of some hard-line fundamentalists when discussing even secondary doctrines.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Fundamentalism doesn’t need to be about a religion per se. Any belief system will do, so long as it elevates thngs to Great (if not Cosmic) Importance. As long as Groupthink and “HERE AHURA-MAZDA, THERE AHRIMAN!” can kick in.

  18. Daniel Jepsen says:

    Mike, extremely well put. Thanks for being a continuing voice of reason a midst the cacophony.

    I was listening to an Os Guiness lecture this morning. He made the point that the trouble with the culture war is two-fold. First, those doing the culture warring are then left in a perpetual state or warhood. This leaves little room for the quieter virtues. Second, culture warriors view the conflict in a very Manichean way. Our side is good. The other side is bad. End of story. And this, of course, distorts and minimizes how much sin and error is on “our side”.

  19. Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

    CM, I really appreciate this post, especially the way you are able to outline that methodology matters. The end does not justify the means; the medium is the message; etc. I also see a few corollary “problems” for consideration.
    1) The culture war stuff is not Christian. There have always been culture wars, and not limited to Christian nations in the least.
    2) We are to do good and promote the good. I don’t think you are promoting quietism, but this is really about values.
    3) By number two, I mean that we are commanded to do things like feed the hungry, etc., but are we actually doing that stuff? If not, why not? I have no problem raising political awareness for various issues, but have we got to the point where we think God was just too dumb to tell 21st century Christians how to live?
    4) Which leads me to a question of faith. Is it enough to do the works commanded of us without anything else (even voting is not Biblical, if we want to go that route)? Do we have faith that God will build his kingdom through the tools and commands he has given us?
    5) I’m not a biblicist, so I have no problem with ethical extrapolations that lead one to political activism, etc., that is not specifically prescribed in Scripture. However, do we actually have faith, or have we replaced Christianity with our own cultural religion (as CM rightly points out, this is a pitfall for right and left)?

  20. CM –

    I agree with most of what you are trying to say here. But I think you have picked a terrible example to try and make your point. This isn’t a culture war issue. This isn’t about whether other people can or can’t get married, have sex, smoke pot, etc, This is about Christians being forced to violate their beliefs, grieve their Savior, and harm another human being. Good point, bad example.

    • Final Anonymous says:

      Please see the links provided above regarding whether harm comes to any human being (other than women of course, but that’s not part of the discussion here).

      • I’ve already read extensively on these topics. Whether the four forms of birth control singled out have the potential to cause abortions or not seems open to question, although evidence seems to lean more that they do not. But until there is proof that they are safe, Christian business owners have every right to object to participating in there use.

  21. Dan Crawford says:

    Thank you, Chaplain Mike, for quiet words and clear thought amid the manic morass of hysteria so prevalent in our sad nation.

  22. This case only happened because of the American system that ties health coverage to employment. It makes little sense to do this when only about half the population is in paid work and families may have 0 or 1 or 2 workers in them. If this were decoupled as in other countries, workplaces wouldn’t have to be concerned with workers’ medical choices.

    Having got that off my chest… Well said – winning by losing doesn’t make obvious sense – “foolishness to the Greeks” – but it’s the gospel. The cross was a symbol of Roman power – “this is what happens if you defy us” – but it became the symbol of Christian faith. By losing, Christ won the victory for us all. Hallelujah!

  23. Faulty O-Ring says:

    Meanwhile, millions of diseased Mexicans continue to pour over the border, and the president still refuses to shoot them.

  24. Christiane says:

    for all of us tempted to get caught up in the fray of ‘the culture wars’, here is some food for thought by way of contrast . .

    I’ve been reflecting on this prayer-poem written by a dear friend’s daughter, Anne, a girl raised in the Quaker faith:

    “Too often, I hear only judgments and anger ringing through my head,
    and I cannot be a source of hope.

    I want to cry.
    I want to scream to Heaven:
    Make me better!
    Let me embrace all broken things–
    un-limbed spiders,
    the curled corpse of a rat,
    drug-addicted mothers,
    my humanly perfect son,
    my aging face–
    with tenderness.

    Let me stop being that thing against which anything, everything, can break.”

  25. I supported Hobby Lobby’s claim and agreed with the decision (at least the result of the decision) based more upon my libertarian political beliefs and, specifically, my position on the drugs in question rather than upon a “take back America” culture-war-based motivation. But, having read the primary opinions (Alito’s and Ginsburg’s) it’s clear that the decision isn’t nearly as groundbreaking/dangerous as either side wants to believe. As Dr. Fundystan pointed out above, the majority opinion was essentially that the government is entirely justified in taking money from people/businesses to fund reproductive care, but that, since the same care could be funded anyway by another application of the ACA, Hobby Lobby’s beliefs have to be respected. It wasn’t much of a victory for religious liberty and it barely if at all effects anyone’s access to the drugs in question.

    I’ll take it over an outright rejection of Hobby Lobby’s claim, but it doesn’t excite me much.

  26. My therapist told me this week,
    “Curt, losing is the best win you could ever have. Give up having to be correct and know that you are absolutely loved.”
    The context had nothing to do with Culture War issues, btw, but still applies.