Thursday, December 22, 2011

What Child is This?

In our church, we often sing a Christmas Carol written by William C. Dix entitled, "What Child is This?" It's nice to sing, and it has a familiar tune written to the old English folksong, Greensleeves. But more than being simply a nice song, it asks an important question.
"What Child is this, who laid to rest, on Mary's lap was sleeping? Who angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherd's watch are keeping."
What a good question. What child is this? Who is this child born 2,000 years ago in an obscure village in a forgotten part of the world? Who is this baby whose birth we celebrate each year with parties and gifts and Christmas trees, who almost gets lost in the tinsel and wrapping paper? That might be the greatest question of the ages.

But even in Jesus day, the multitudes got it wrong. In Luke 9:18, Jesus asked His disciples, "Who do the crowds say that I am?" The answer given in the next verse was, "John the Baptist, but some say Elijah, and others say that one of the old prophets has risen again." They knew that Jesus was someone special, but they didn't have a clue who He really was.

Then, Jesus asked His closest disciples, His apostles, in Luke 9:20, "But who do you say that I am?" Their answer was right on. Peter, answering on behalf of them all, said, "The Christ of God."

Christ is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Messiah. Wrapped up in this title are all the meanings from Scripture. Peter is saying You are the One we've been waiting for. You are the One the prophets have proclaimed. You are the One God anointed to bring salvation. Peter got it right, while the multitudes got it wrong.

The multitudes still get it wrong. They say all kinds of things about Jesus, but few get it right. some call Him just a good teacher, but good teachers don't claim to be God. Others call Him just a good moral example, but good examples don't hang around prostitutes and sinners, and they don't get executed as a common criminal. Some call Him a madman, but madmen don't speak with the penetrating clarity of the Sermon on the Mount. Others call Him a fake, but people don't die for a lie. Some call Him a phantom, but phantoms don;t have flesh to crucify or blood to spill. Some call Him a myth, but we don't set our calendars by a myth. This is 2011 A.D. - anno domini in Latin - translated the year of our Lord. All those answers are wrong, even though all of Scripture gives us the correct answer.

Even at Christmas time, if the masses give any thought at all to the reason for the season, they think only of a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying on a manger with angels, shepherds, and wise men gathered around. The un-churched can't be blamed too much for this. All they ever see in the midst of the Santa Clauses at every mall is an occasional nativity scene set up in front of a church or somebody's house. And the baby Jesus is forever a baby, forever a cute little cherub that lies so peacefully.

But to end the story there is a colossal tragedy, because a baby Jesus could do nothing for anyone. Not like an adult Jesus can. So to leave Jesus in the manger is a greater tragedy, say, than to leave George Washington in a crib, and never have him lead our country to independence from Britain. Or to leave Abraham Lincoln in the cradle, and never have him sign the emancipation Proclamation that freed the slaves.

Leaving Jesus in the manger is infinitely worse. We celebrate Christmas precisely because Jesus grew up, proved He was the Son of God by His miracles and teaching, and precisely because He went to the cross as the sacrifice for our sins. Had He remained in the manger, we would remain in our sins awaiting the wrath of God and our eventual judgment. Praise God, Jesus didn't stay in the manger.

But I believe the real reason people get the question wrong is they don't like the answer - they don't like Jesus' answer. That can be the only explanation for the animosity so many people have for the baby Jesus at Christmas time. It is because Jesus said this of Himself: John 14:6, "Jesus said. . . 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.'" That is a claim to exclusivity. No other way to God, claims Jesus, will get you there. That claim is offensive to the broad minded and to anyone that concocts a different way, but it is exactly what Jesus said.

But what if Jesus is right? What if His claim is true? Truth is not broadminded. This Christmas season, I urge you to look beyond the babe in the manger, and take a good look at the man Jesus became. Examine His many answers in Scripture to that question, "What child is this?" See if His claims are true. Do so because the answers are eternally critical.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Feminism's Great Success - Feminism's Greater Failure

It's been fifty years since Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique, considered the magnum opus of modern day feminism. Since then, women have come a long way.

Feminists had a lot of legitimate beefs that needed to be rectified. I would have been furious if I was a woman working alongside a man, but receiving less money for doing the same work. I too would have been furious if I had been passed over for promotion simply because of my sex. I can understand their desire to fight for equality, and they have succeeded.

The Feminist Movement has made great strides in setting this right. As of 2010, women held 51.4% of all managerial and professional positions, compared with 26% in 1980. Women now earn the lion's share of bachelor and master degrees, and women outnumber men on college campuses 57% to 43%. In this regard, feminism has been a huge success.

But like many good causes, when the pendulum swings, it usually swings too far in the other direction. This has been true with the feminist movement as well. Along with their great success in achieving equality in the workplace and academia, they have also made great strides in destroying the underpinnings of marriage and the family.

Betty Friedan described the life of a housewife as a comfortable concentration camp, and feminists would sit around in their consciousness-raising parties sharing horror stories about their husband's bad behavior. As a result, women went off in droves looking for a good divorce lawyer. Now, about 70% of divorces are started by women.

As a result, marriage is on the rocks. This was evident in the cover story of The Atlantic magazine a month ago. The November issue carried the headline, "What, Me Marry?" The story featured Kate Bolick, the daughter of a renowned feminist, who claimed she marched off to third grade "in tiny green or blue T-shirts declaring: A WOMAN WITHOUT A MAN IS LIKE A FISH WITHOUT A BICYCLE." Now, in mid-life, she laments not being able to find a man to marry; and she is terribly unhappy.

But that was part of the feminist's plan. They were out to destroy men, to free women from the bondage of marriage, to make sex recreational and totally detached from commitment, to make abortion commonplace so women could avoid the consequences of their choices - and in this, they have also succeeded greatly. Now, according to the Pew Research Center, 44% of Millennials and 43% of Gen Xers think marriage is becoming obsolete. Fully 50% of the adult population is single, compared to 33% in 1950. Co-habitation has increased 15-fold since 1960. Feminist Gloria Steinman and Mrs. Bolick's Mother convinced the culture that the old sexual mores were, along with marriage and children, oppressive to women. So the old ways were jettisoned.

Men, too, found great freedom in the Feminist Movement. No longer were they expected to make commitments to marriage and to raising of children. They could follow their Peter Pan dreams of extended adolescence, getting the fringe sexual benefits of marriage without any of the troubling demands to love, care for, and protect a family.

The only problem is this goes totally against the fabric of who we are as a people, of who we were created to be. The change of attitudes has left a wake of destruction in its path - it has been a disaster for children, and heartbreaking for the adults who have to live with the their choices.

The good news is that those trends are changing. Research from the University of Virginia's Marriage Project shows this. The divorce rate is declining since hitting its all time high in the 1980s. One of the reasons is that Gen Xers don't want to put their kids through the trauma they experienced watching their homes disintegrate as mom and pop split up. As a matter of fact, they "would rather put chocolate syrup in the baby bottles than put the children through a family breakup," according to Susan Reimer of the Baltimore Sun.

Citing the Pew Research Study, Glenn Stanton, author of The Ring Makes All the Difference: The Hidden Consequences of Co-habitation and the Strong Benefits of Marriage, writes, "Young adults have the strongest desire to marry of any generation alive today . . . . and the unmarried folks in other generations alive today are not, nor ever have been, disinterested in marriage."

Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project, concluded, "I think there are more couples out there who have been married and who realize, 'Hey, we may not be experiencing the life of bliss that we were hoping for, but it's the best thing for our kids for us to stay together and try to make this marriage work.'"

More and more, people are realizing that the destruction of marriage by the Feminist Movement was a colossal mistake. More and more, people are realizing that marriage as God designed it, as God intended it, is the best way for people to live. It brings people the most satisfaction with life. It is still the best way to raise our children. We need to again develop a family friendly culture that promotes, not destroys marriage.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Grinch Still Wants to Steal Christmas

When I was a kid, my very favorite perennial Christmas TV show was Dr. Seuss', "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." Oh, the Grinch hated Christmas, everything about it, and he was determined to eradicate it from the face of the earth. The show chronicled his evil, diabolical attempts to steal Christmas from the tiny village of Whoville.

By the end of the movie, the Grinch had reformed and returned Christmas, but those following his philosophical heritage are still at work, still trying to sanitize the world of this supposed evil of they hate so much. And they are doing a pretty good job of it - well, at least doing a good job of sanitizing Christmas of its true meaning, which, by the way, involves a baby lying in a manger.

So we are told, "Happy Holidays," at the stores instead of, "Merry Christmas," and the celebration is all about shopping and tinsel and lights and sometimes a jolly fat man in a red suit that prefers chimneys to doors and likes hot chocolate. But mention of the baby Jesus is all but forgotten, at least in the major media.

The Culture and Media Institute of the Media Research Center reported on the coverage of Christmas over a two year period. They spent two years watching the coverage on ABC's World News, CBS Evening News, and NBC Nightly News. They found that of the 527 stories on Christmas,
"98.7% of the Christmas references highlighted the holiday's impact on the economy, weather, travel, retail sales, the passage of the Senate Health Care Bill, and other less religious connotations."
Just seven of the stories, 1.3%, referenced Jesus or God. In fact, only 312 words were given to the miracle birth of Christ. That's the message that can't be spoken.

Nor can you do good in the name of the Christ of Christmas. The U.S. Air Force apologized for their academy encouraging cadets to participate in Operation Christmas Child through Samaritan's Purse. This is a project our church participates in each year. People pack shoe boxes with toys, toiletries, school supplies, and other gifts to be distributed worldwide to children in need. It sounds like a great way to spread a little Christmas joy. Ah, but alas, Samaritan's Purse also adds a little cartoon booklet in the native tongue of the recipient that tells the story of Jesus. The shoe boxes could no longer be allowed at the Air Force Academy. I guess the Grinch wasn't just a made up character. The spirit of Grinch won another battle.

This past week, a Rhode Island lawmaker, Rep. Doreen Costa called her Governor Lincoln Chafee "Governor Grinch." Why? He defied lawmakers and decided that the state should have a "Holiday Tree" instead of a "Christmas tree." In announcing the decision, the governor pointed back to the founding of Rhode Island by Baptist Pastor Roger Williams, who fled Puritan domination in Massachusetts and their oppression of other denominations to open a haven of religious tolerance. But what Pastor Williams was looking for was religious freedom, a cornerstone of this country, not freedom from religion. "Governor Grinch," I mean Chafee, seems to have it backwards. In arguing against the governor, Rep. Costa stated,
"He tries to be politically correct 24/7. . . I'm sick of being politically correct. Nobody's been offended by calling a Christmas tree a Christmas tree. If we have a Menorah in the State House, what are we going to call it - a candle with sticks?"
Indeed, the Grinch people are political correctness run amuck, and I too am sick of it.

But Governor Lincoln Chafee is not alone. All across this land Christmas must be banned from public gatherings. Liberty Counsel, a non-profit legal group that seeks to protect religious freedom around the country, lists 44 lawsuits they are involved in. Here is a partial list:

In Plano, Texas, students were told not to wear red or green because these are Christmas colors. In Wisconsin, a school's winter program contained songs like "Silent Night" and "O Little Town of Bethlehem," but with the words changed. "Silent Night" was changed to "Cold in the Night," and contained phrases like,
"There is no one in sight, the winter winds are blowing, I wish I were happy and warm, safe with my family out of the storm."
Not quite the same meaning, is it?

In Houston, Texas, a school a school changed the words to "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" to ""We Wish You a Swinging Holiday." What holiday? Isn't it Christmas we are celebrating? Why can't they say so?

In Birmingham, Alabama, elementary students were to make "Holiday bags" for their class mates with the following rules: nothing religious as in angels, Noels, crosses, etc., no candy canes because of the obvious religious connotations, no red or green colors. Can you imagine how catastrophic it would be for these children to see stuff like that? They might be scarred for life by being exposed to Christmas, like we were. Imagine.

Why does the world hate Christmas so much? Why are they so intent on sanitizing the culture of the reason for the season? Perhaps they are like the Grinch, who Dr. Seuss described this way:
"The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season! Now, please don't ask why. No one knew the reason. It could be his head wasn't screwed on just right. It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight. But I think that the most likely reason of all may have been that his heart was two sizes too small."
Could that be the reason? Could their hearts be too small?

Yes, this is a heart issue. But fortunately, the Grinch finally saw the Christmas spirit in the eyes of a small child and the celebration of that small town. These modern day followers of Grinch need to look into the eyes of the Christ child who came because of hearts too small. This Christ child gave up all the glory and grandeur of heaven to be born in a stable in Bethlehem, all for the purpose of eventually ending up on a cruel wooden cross to be executed for the sins of the world. Without that sacrifice, Jesus knew there could be no hope for any of our too small hearts.

Won't you find the real reason for the season? Won't you look into the eyes of the Christ child and find love and forgiveness?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Transgender - The New Politically Correct Chick

The media always want to decide what we think and believe. They do so by the news stories they choose to publish, by the slant they report in their broadcasts, or by the cast and story line they feature in their sit-coms. They are the gurus of political correctness, and we follow along like blind sheep.

Lately, the new darlings of the media have been those calling themselves transgenders. It is the new politically correct chick. Chaz Bono was the token transgender on "Dancing With the Stars." Twice in the past couple of months, the Bangor Daily News has run front page articles on the Maines family that were the focus of the school bathroom use lawsuit in Orono - the latest reporting that they had received the 2011 ACLU of Maine Roger Baldwin Award "for their courage and perseverance in helping defeat the recent trans-gender legislation in the Maine State House." Now, we read that a boy named Bobby, who thinks he's a girl, requests and is allowed to join a Girl Scout troop in Colorado.

What's next? "Just when you think you've heard it all, something even more bizarre and disturbing occurs, and you and you can only scratch your head and wonder," writes Michael Brown. Yet, the Girl Scouts, who have been homosexual friendly for years, issued the statement, "Girl Scouts is an inclusive organization, and we accept all girls in Kindergarten through 12th grade as members. If a child identifies as a girl and the child's family presents her as a girl, Girl Scouts of Colorado welcomes her as a girl scout." It doesn't matter if the supposed girl has all the plumbing of a boy.

Kathryn Lopez writes, "My heart goes out to Bobby as the Girl Scout cookie continues to crumble. Being a Girl Scout may only contribute to his confusion." Indeed, it will. Bobby's parents and the Girl Scouts are all confused.

Whatever happened to common sense? Why do we let our kids continue to live lives so confused? Why have we not instead become the mature parents who guide our children to accept who God made them?

Recently, I read an article entitled, "The Girl Who Thought She Was a Werewolf Vampire," by Michael Brown. It put this into perspective with bold clarity. Let me relate Michael's main points to you. He presented the following scenarios:

Scenario #1 - A troubled teenage girl says to you, "Since I was twelve. . . I know this is going to sound crazy, but I believe that I'm a vampire, part of a vampire and part of a werewolf." What would you tell her? Would you tell her that werewolves and vampires don't exist? What if she was diagnosed with lycanthropy, a mental illness that involves a strong delusional belief that you have been transformed into an animal? Would you tell her she needs help? This confession was made by 18 year old Stephanie Pistey at her arrest in the aftermath of the grisly murder of a 16 year old boy. She acted on her belief in what she thought she was.

Scenario #2 - A man is convinced that there is something terribly wrong with his body, and he wants to amputate one of his perfectly good limbs. What do you tell him? What if the person was diagnosed with Body Identity Integrity Disorder, a condition that is commonly manifested by a desire to have an amputation of a specific body part. Wouldn't you tell him something like this? "Regardless what your mind tells you, you shouldn't do it. You have a psychiatric condition, and you need help." Wouldn't there be widespread outrage if a surgeon performed the amputation on a perfectly good leg?

Now for Scenario #3 - A man comes to you and says, "I'm convinced that I'm a woman trapped in a man's body, and I want to have a sex-change surgery and go on female hormones for the rest of my life." What would you tell him? "Look, biologically and anatomically you are a man. That is reality, and you can't change that fact."

Oh, but that answer would be considered insensitive, intolerant, and bigoted. Don't we know that God makes mistakes like that all the time, putting girls inside boy's bodies? But why is this third scenario any different than the first two? Why don't we treat this delusion with the same compassion and common sense as we do the other delusions? Why don't parents simply say, "You may feel like a girl, but you are really a boy." Why don't parents help their children learn to accept who God made them?

Unfortunately, liberal elites try to accommodate that delusion. The Los Angeles United School District Reference Guide, for example, says this, "Gender identity refers to one's understanding, interests, and feelings about whether one is female or male, or both, or neither, regardless of one's biological sex." In other words, it doesn't matter what body you were born inside, you are what you think. So, if you think you're a girl, even though you live in a boy's body, go ahead and use the girl's bathroom, and the school district will support your delusion.

The fact is, our minds don't always tell us the truth. Maybe we ought to work on changing the mind. Dr. Paul McHugh, University Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry and Chairman of the John Hopkins Psychiatric Department, stated, "We psychiatrists . . . would do better to concentrate on trying to fix the minds and not their genitals." Yet, instead of fixing their minds, we accommodate their delusions.

Unfortunately for them, there is also a moral aspect to this. Even though the Bible clearly states equality of value and worth of both sexes, it also clearly states a difference in the sexes. God intended it to be that way, and He designed it into our bodies and minds. He doesn't take kindly to blurring sex identities. Deuteronomy 22:5 says, "A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman's garment, for all who do so are an abomination to the Lord your God."

This verse doesn't dictate particular styles of clothing, but it shows the need for difference. Boys are boys, and girls are girls; and people should be able to tell the difference by looking. We shouldn't have to wonder who is in the next bathroom stall. Don't let the media dictate how you think, use some common sense. Better yet, let God dictate how you think.