Sunday, August 21, 2011

God's Job Approval Rating

The glaring headline on Fox News is that President Obama's job approval rating hit the lowest level ever. Only 39% of those polled believe he is doing a good job. But what else I saw recently was a little more astonishing.

The same folks who brought us the Obama job approval rating decided to take the same poll for God. They felt it wouldn't be fair to God to take into account the answers of the atheists. They don't believe in God anyway. Nor did they take into account the answers of the agnostics who admit they don't have a clue. So they only tabulated the answers from those who who claim to believe that God exists.

What were the results? Fewer that 50% felt God was doing a good job. The most common reason listed for His bad grade was the abundance of terrible tragedies that take place - tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, plane crashes, terrorist attacks, murders, rapes, robberies, etc. People felt that either God could have prevented them and didn't, meaning He didn't care; or that God was incapable of doing anything about it, meaning He isn't up to the job.

Politicians live or die based on their job approval ratings, and I'm sure our President is pretty nervous about his. But I doubt that God is up in heaven wringing His hands over this. Yet, the reasons given by people need to be explained. The truth is the ratings show a complete lack of understanding about the way the world operates.

The truth is it isn't God's fault the world is messed up. It is ours. Starting with Adam and Eve, we've lived in rebellion against God and His rules. We've ignored The warnings of God. Then we complain when we get the outcome.

Adam started it off. Adam disobeyed the one and only restriction God placed on him in paradise by eating the forbidden fruit, and he suffered the promised punishment. He died - spiritually at first and eventually physically.

Beyond that, this entire world was cursed. Genesis 3:17-19 gave the details as God addressed Adam,
"Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken, for dust you are, and to dust you shall return."
We bear the burden of living in this cursed world - a world cursed because of man's sin.

Throughout history, men knew their sinfulness, and they knew who to blame for the curse. The Puritans used to say, "Life is brutish and short, and then you die." But they never lost their faith because of it. Why? Because their pulpits thundered against sin. They never thought to blame God when they were so obviously sinful. They were simply grateful for the opportunity to repent and receive forgiveness.

Now it seems like lots of God's spokesmen are embarrassed by the God of the Bible and by the Bible itself. They have eradicated any mention of sin, judgment, punishment, or hell. Rather God is presented as a jovial Santa Claus like figure who doles out goodies and winks at our failings.

Bob Burney wrote that these pastors have done to God what they used to do to criminals and mentally ill patients in the 40s and 50s. They lobotomized God to make His behavior acceptable to society (A lobotomy being a surgery to remove part of the brain to alter behavior). He writes,
"His holiness makes us uncomfortable. His justice seems a little harsh. His righteousness seems totally out of touch with our culture as a whole. So what do we do with a God who makes us feel uncomfortable and inferior? It's easy. We perform a lobotomy. We simply perform an operation to remove the offending attributes."

Jeromy Johnson tells why:
"Cause if God behaves and thinks like that, that is not a God worthy of my - nor anyone else's worship or even respect. This god would be deemed as evil, hating, unjust, and demented."
Really? And this from His so-called spokesmen?

So instead of preaching the God of the Bible, we hear of a kinder and gentler God. Quoting Burney,
"It's not hard to find this gentler, kinder God. Turn on the TV or radio and you're likely to hear from Rev. Johnny Glitter-teeth smiling broadly and telling the congregation that God only wants to do good things for them. Think happy thoughts and God will give you all you want whenever you want it. You will hear wonderful platitudes like 'Turn your scars into stars' and other wonderful possibilities."
No wonder people blame God when it doesn't come true. They have been offered a false god, not the God of the Bible. The God who allows tragedies doesn't fit that modern template.

What you won't hear from their pulpits are the words of Scripture, words like these from Hebrews 10:28-31,
"Anyone who has rejected Moses' Law dies without mercy on the testimonies of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment do you suppose will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
But no one is warned about that from most pulpits.

Rather than be surprised by tragedy, pain, or suffering, we should wonder why any of us are ever spared. Yet we are. Praise God that He sent His Son to die on the cross to bear the penalty of our sins.

But as to the job rating of God, the blame should never be laid at the feet of God. Rather, it should be laid at the feet of the church, and more specifically the pulpits. Jesus said in Matthew 5:13, "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned?"

Salt was the preserving agent that was rubbed into meat to keep bacteria from growing. Symbolically, the salt is the church (the individual believers making up the church) rubbed into the world, permeating it and providing a preserving influence on society by teaching and modeling Biblical truth. If our world has gone rotten to the core, who is to blame? Is it the meat's fault of the salt? Obviously, the church has lost her saltiness.

Chuck Baldwin wrote.
"There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the biggest reason America is in the mess that it is in today is directly due to the apathy and indifference of the American pulpit."

Isn't it time the American pulpits thundered again?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Cheating Scandals - No Longer Confined to Students

Cheating is probably as old as tests. Considering the sin nature that dwells within each of us, it's not surprising it pops up from time to time. But usually cheating is done by the students, not the teachers and the administrators. That is why the cheating scandal that enveloped the Atlanta Public Schools is so shocking to us.

Now the scandal has reached Maine. On Saturday, August 6th, the Bangor Daily News ran a front page article on a Newport teacher who resigned after a state probe into cheating on standardized tests. The resigning teacher is alleged to have reviewed MEA Science Test answers with his students before the test, which in turn allowed the students to score better. This is only the latest shocker.

The widespread scandal on standardized tests from the Atlanta Public Schools (and Baltimore, Detroit, Philadelphia, Washington, and other cities) shows the failure of the system. Rather than simply teach the test, these educators changed answers to cover up their academic failure. Cheating took place in 44 of the 56 schools examined in Atlanta. Apparently some 178 educators, including 38 principals, were involved. What incredible widespread corruption. It's understandable that families would flee from that kind of system.

What was to blame for this scandal? Why, the standards, of course. That's what we were told. It put undue pressure on the schools to perform better. It was, "No Child Left Behind," which tied federal subsidies to performance. This is the reason given by Diane Ravitch, research professor of education at New York University.

Seems to me this is the same reason kids give for cheating. The test is too hard. It must be too hard to teach competency in reading, writing, math, science, and history. So rather than work to improve performance of the students, many of the educators cheated to raise test scores.

If we looked at performance, indeed the standards do seem too high, until one examines the facts. Education Secretary Anne Duncan states that by next year as many as 82% of all public schools could be failing. She writes,
"When a child is meeting the state standards, they are in fact barely able to graduate from high school. And they are absolutely inadequately prepared to go to a competitive university, let alone graduate."
Apparently the standards aren't really that high. Yet, turning out an educated student is too much to expect. That's why some educators had to cheat.

As I've written before, the focus of public education is wrong. Our President's friend Bill Ayers, Weather Underground founder and former professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, was an influential thinker formulating the modern philosophy of education. Mr. Ayers has written that subject mastery isn't necessary for teaching. In other words, your child's math teacher doesn't have to know math. Rather, Ayers and his cohorts who have hijacked education advocate that teacher colleges train teachers to engage in "social justice," and even teach subjects like math and science in the context of social consciousness. Little Johnny can't read, but he can learn to be a leftist activist.

Quoting Marybeth Hicks,
"When teachers don't view their role as imparting information, knowledge, and skills, but rather as preparing students to be 'agents of social change' through 'critical; thinking,' it's no wonder that the kids aren't capable of passing standardized tests."
She concludes,
"It must be said: we aren't training our teachers to do the job we say we want done in our classrooms."

What is the answer? Parents need to reclaim their right to determine the education of their children, not bureaucrats. Part of the answer has to be competition. Charter Schools are a start, but just a start. Give parents vouchers that they can use in whatever way they deem best to educate their children - public, charter, private, Christian, or home school. It should be a parent's choice where the money is spent to educate their child. Unfortunately, this is the one answer that the educational establishment resists with a passion.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Why We Home School

Every parent has the right and responsibility to determine the education of their children. I don't intend to denigrate anyone else's decision, but my children are among the 2 million k-12 home school students in this country (the figure is provided by the National Home Education research Institute). We would not consider any other method of educating our children because it works.

A recent poll showed that more and more parents are leaving public education, fleeing a system that undermines their values yet fails to educate. That's understandable. In spite of well meaning educators, the system itself is the problem.

We have a system that crams up to thirty kids in one room and treats them as if they were all the same. It doesn't recognize that boys and girls are different, and doesn't accommodate the difference. These children spend most of their waking hours for five days a week within four walls where every aspect of their day is programmed. Students are expected to do and learn the same things and at the same pace. It's a place where dreamers like Thomas Edison, who was labeled addled by the school he attended, don't fit. Anthony Esolen has called the schools human warehouses where any act of imagination is dangerous.

No wonder they turn out bland uniformity. Like at McDonalds, anywhere you go in this country, every Big Mac is the same. Shopping malls all look the same. The same brands are in every grocery store. And we mass produce mediocre students. Now there is a push for a nationwide standardized curriculum to assure even more uniformity. but children are not all the same. That's why for many of us, we home school out of a simple desire for a better education for our children.

This desires includes wanting my children to be good citizens. The National Assessment of Educational Progress reported a couple of weeks ago that only one in four high school seniors scored at least "proficient" in knowledge of U.
S. citizenship. History is just as bad, and the older the student the worse the results. It showed 20% of sixth graders, but only 12% of high school seniors could demonstrate a grasp of our nation's history. That is scary to think about these kids getting old enough to vote. I want my children to know why our country is the greatest on earth.

I want my children to have a rigorous and broad liberal education. Bruce S. Thompson, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford and professor of classics and humanities at Cal State, surveyed the educational offerings of colleges. His bleak conclusion,
"No longer do they provide students with a grounding in the best that has been said and thought, as (Mathew) Arnold put it. What they do provide is a poor substitute: vocational training and unexamined left-wing orthodoxy."

According to Thomas Sowell,
"Unfortunately, an increasing proportion of American education, whether in the schools or in the colleges and universities, is closer to the baton twirling end of the spectrum than toward the nuclear physics end. Even reputable colleges are increasingly teaching things that students should have learned in high school."
Sowell continues,
"Too many of the people coming out of even the most prestigious academic institutions graduate with neither the academic skills to be economically productive nor the intellectual development to make them discerning citizens and voters."
That's not good enough. We want better for our children.

What is an educated person? Robert Heinlein, the noted sci-fi author, defined it like this:
"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."
I couldn't agree more. As home school parents, we try to give our kids a wide variety of experience. Our children have helped butcher pigs and chickens. They have written poetry. They have followed the Oregon Trail and explored Civil War battlefields. They have taken boards and nails and made elaborate tree houses. They have taken years of Latin. They have compared the Code of Hammurabi with the Law of Moses. They have read Eusebius and Plutarch's Lives - not snippets, but the whole books. They have practiced fencing with home-made swords. And they are thoroughly grounded in the Bible.

Someday, I want my children to be the leaders in their communities, not followers. I want them to be able to think and use their reservoir of learned knowledge, not follow blindly anywhere the so-called elites take them. And above all, I want them to be grounded in their faith. That is why we home school.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Moral Decline of America - Part Two

Last time, I discussed the moral decline of America. I said we were already over the edge morally and in a free fall. I gave examples of that free fall, and I gave a Biblical reason - America has kicked God out of public life.

To prove it, I quoted Romans 1:18, which said,
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness."
I pointed back to the turning point, when the Supreme Court decision of Abington versus Schemp in 1963 forbid Bible reading in schools.

Since then, there has been an ongoing assault on the public knowledge of God. We cannot post the Ten Commandments for fear someone might read them and actually obey them. We cannot allow prayer at graduation ceremonies or football games. The list goes on and on.

But if we are in moral decline, this presupposes we were once a moral nation. Some claim we were even a Christian nation, a claim President Obama denies. Certainly nations can't be Christian, only people can. But there is clear evidence that was the intent of the founders. Many of the earliest came to America to escape repression and to seek religious freedom. They desired to build a nation on the laws of God.

We were forged to be "One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." We were to protect certain "inalienable rights" endowed to us by our Creator - rights including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness - and yes, freedom of religion. We were to be a nation ruled by people who were ruled by God's Law.

James Madison, Principal author of our Constitution and Bill of Rights, who was often called the Father of our Constitution, wrote:
"This duty [homage to God] is precedent, both in order of time and degree of obligation,to the claims of civil society. Before any man can be considered as a member of civil society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the universe."
What makes a good citizen, and in turn, a good country? That her citizens have faith in Jesus Christ.

George Washington said,
"Of all the dispositions and habits which leads to public prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports."
The founders built this country on the twin supports of religion and morality. When Washington said religion and morality, he understood that to be Christianity and the morals taught in the Bible.

John Adams, our second president, eloquently concurs,
"We have no government, armed in power, capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion [same two supports]. . . Our Constitution was made only for a moral people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other."
Aren't we finding that true?

What makes the current state of affairs seem so dark and dismal is because we've experienced a righteous nation. Perfect? Oh, no! It never was. But at least it tried. But not anymore.

As Ron Blue writes,
"The nation's moral fiber is being eaten away by a playboy philosophy that makes personal pleasure the supreme rule of life. Hedonism catches fire while homes crumble. Crime soars while churches sour. Drugs, divorce, and debauchery prevail and decency dies. Frivolity dances in the streets. Faith is buried. 'In God We Trust' has become a meaningless slogan stamped on corroding coins."

We've lost what we once had, and the blame falls squarely on the church. We, who were called to be salt and light, to preserve and to show the way, have failed our mission. But we are the only hope for the future.

In 2nd Chronicles 7:14, God says,
"If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will forgive their sin and heal their land."
That is a conditional promise.

We who are God's people, who bear the name of Christ as Christians, must put aside our arrogance and fall on our knees in fervent prayer for this land. We must seek God's face where it is revealed - in the Bible. We must diligently study, teach, and obey God's Word.

Plus, we must turn from our wicked ways. This is talking to God's people. We must stop being part of the problem and start being part of the solution. We must get over our love-affair with the world and fall in love with God all over again. Then God will hear and heal our land. But it is up to us. If we do, I believe revival will sweep this country once again. Yes, we can regain what we have lost.