As a pastor, I’m privileged to be a part of great moments in the lives of people. But I also get a front row seat to the pain of life. Much of it caused by people trying to break God’s laws. Instead, they end up breaking themselves against them.
I can still see the shiny streets of Saginaw, Michigan. My sister driving the car. The stillness of the world. A gentle rain and the sound of the methodical wipers as the only noise. Silence in the car.
Immigration is a hot topic today. The news cycle is full of presidential candidates making statements and border issues coming to the fore. There are real security concerns that should be addressed.
Immigration is a hot topic today. The news cycle is full of presidential candidates making statements and border issues coming to the fore. There are real security concerns that should be addressed. There are questions of assimilation and citizenship that shouldn’t be ignored.
I will often run across someone juxtaposing reason and religion as if they are mutually exclusive. “You have faith, I have reason.” As if to say, “Look you idiot, you can believe your archaic myths, but don’t bring that out into the real world. We need people who use their minds to rule this planet. We are just waiting for you to die out so we can have this place to ourselves.”
Nativity scenes have been a Christmas tradition for as long as I can remember. They come in all shapes and sizes.
Today, nativities are hotly contested. Cities and townships battle all kinds of religious groups that want to make a point. What point? I’m not sure. In Tallahassee, Florida this year, they created a “free speech zone” so various groups could put up different holiday expressions. A Christian group put up a traditional nativity. A group of Seinfeld worshipers put up a Festivus pole.
My daughter and I visited the Lincoln Park zoo recently. As we approached the tiger pen, I looked with amazement at the lengths the zoo went to in order to keep the tigers and people separated. A small fence separated by a tall fence, separated by a large mote. All so we could enjoy the majesty and glory of the tiger without experiencing his destructive power. It reminded me of the boys in San Francisco who relentlessly teased a tiger at the zoo until she surprised them by jumping out of her enclosure and attacked.
Our culture is teasing a tiger. We are smugly tearing down the fence of marriage. As if we invented it, we declare traditional marriage (there really is no other kind) to be an outdated, puritanical, oppressive institution. Like any destructive force, it destroys faster than we can realize the full implications of its destruction. If we tear down this fence, we will momentarily look around and declare – “See, everything is fine, those religious rednecks were simply stupid” — then the tiger will stalk. We can quickly tear down fences, but societies erode slowly, almost imperceptibly. Please allow me to share with you just a few reasons why marriage matters.
Marriage helps hold the fabric of society together.
In his book Family and Civilization, Harvard Sociologist, Carle Zimmerman compared the disintegration of various cultures with the parallel decline of family life in those cultures. He identified no less than eight specific patterns of domestic behavior typified the downward spiral of each culture he studied.
- Marriage loses its sacredness; it is frequently broken by divorce.
- Traditional meaning of the marriage ceremony is lost.
- Feminist movements abound.
- Public disrespect for parents and authority in general increased.
- Juvenile delinquency, promiscuity, and rebellion accelerate.
- People with traditional marriages refuse to accept family responsibilities.
- Desire for and acceptance of adultery grow.
- Interest in and spread of sexual perversions and sex-related crimes increase.
He wrote this book in 1947; it appears to be prophetic.
Marriage Helps Society Progress Culturally
Joseph Unwin was a noted British anthropologist of Cambridge and Oxford of the last generation. His comprehensive study called Sex and Culture shows how the sexual morals of a culture impact the cultural advancement of that society. He studied eight civilized and un-civilized cultures over several hundred years of history.
He divided cultures into four categories:
- Primitive (zoistic) –builds no temples, no thought out ideas about the universe and how it works. No rituals for their dead.
- Semi-Primitive (manistic) – slightly more advanced, still no temples, have a few post-funeral rituals for their dead, a few vague ideas about how the universe works and the powers behind it.
- Deistic – Builds temples, employs priests in order to maintain a right relationship with the powers of the universe
- Rationalistic – this group is the only one that can be called cultured. Developed a logical understanding of the universe, which allows its people to control their environment to a degree. Elaborate rituals to mark important life events.
What he found was that in each culture, there was a direct correlation between what they taught about sex and marriage and their cultural advancement. If a culture had a low view of marriage and sexual morality, they lacked what he calls, “expansive energy.” Those cultures that had a high view of marriage and sexual morality within the marriages had great cultural expansive energy which is dedicated to cultural enhancement.
Glen Stanton, a social research analyst, referring to Unwin’s study writes, “Those cultures that allow sexual freedom do not display this kind of social energy and are consistently of a lower order. They are slothful because their energy is consumed with meeting their physical appetites. Therefore, they do not have interest or energy to invest in cultural improvements. In these cultures, life is for now.”
Clearly, our culture is in decline. Many of our cities are dying from the inside out. There are a number of places within our own borders where it is not safe to travel. We are so self-indulgent and lacking personal discipline that our national and personal debt is threatening to strangle our financial viability and freedom as a people. The news headlines are getting more gory and bizarre. Our law enforcement officials are consistently over-worked. The dockets in our court systems are growing longer and longer. Sexually transmitted diseases are rampant and getting worse.
We as a society are having to expend tremendous amounts of material, emotional and creative resources simply trying to hold our society together, let alone applying those resources toward advancing ourselves a civilization. While marriage breakdown isn’t the only factor in this decay, it is one of the largest ones.
Marriage is oppressive, we want to be liberated from it? Like the fish wants out of the bowl. He finds that where he was wasn’t so bad.
Marriage matters to your children. It provides the best atmosphere for raising children.
Children raised with a married mom and dad are:
- Seven times less likely to live in poverty
- Six times less likely to commit suicide
- Less than half as likely to commit a crime
- Less than half as likely to become pregnant out of wedlock
- Achieve better grades
- Have better social skills
- Are more healthy physically and emotionally as adults
Marriage matters to you: Makes for happier healthier adults.
The mountain of research is now in and one of the most consistent findings is that men and women do markedly better in all measures of specific and general well-being compared to their unmarried counterparts.
- Married couples are healthier physically
- Healthier mentally
- Less prone to addictions, suicide, and stress
- Live longer
- Enjoy a more fulfilled life
This is rarely mentioned in the news about marriage. Marriage is much more than a legal arrangement. Marriage truly makes a positive difference in the lives of men and women.
Some say marriage is an outdated, oppressive institution. They say it’s time to admit that traditional marriage might have run its course. Social evolution demands we progress to more enlightened forms of the family and child rearing.
My advice — don’t tear down a fence before you pause long enough to find out why it was put there in the first place. You might find it was guarding the pen of a tiger.
The last twenty years have brought us a tide of sentiment into our world that recites the mantra, “Don’t judge me.” Along with that core statement come many iterations of the same: “Tolerate,” “I can’t tolerate intolerance.” “Who are you to judge?” “Don’t be hatin.” We usually precede these words with a lot of emotion, passion, and well…judgment.
The fact is, we cannot live without judging. In fact, the people with the best judgment live the best and often the longest lives, while those with poor judgment often remove themselves from the food chain. The question then is: “How best to judge?” While the scope of this blog cannot answer this entire question, I want to share some observations gathered along my travels and perhaps, help you gain some insights into better judging.
1. There is an external reality. Reality matters. We live in a world of reality outside of us that we didn’t create. Without a grasp of true reality you can only make decisions based on what you think is true. If what you think is true is really false, then you tend to make decisions that harm you.
2. Not all things are the same. Fruity-Pebbles is not the same as oatmeal. Judgment differentiates. It stands upon the first law of logic that states: A is not non-A. This may seem elementary, however, people often ignore this law by saying things like, “All religions lead to heaven,” or “You have your way, I have mine, it will all work out in the end.” Ummm, no.
3. Truth is exclusive. People use the word, “narrow-minded,” as an insult. However, truth is narrow and exclusive. This doesn’t work in real-life. “I clocked you going 65 in a 25.” “Uh sir, aren’t you being a bit narrow minded?” or “You failed the test.” “Mr. Jones, I was giving you my interpretation of the questions, who are you to judge?” Try these just for fun.
4. There’s a difference between truth claims and preference claims. Bumper sticker, “Don’t like abortion, don’t have one.” Sounds logical. But hidden in the phrase is the assumption that moral issues are equal to preference issues. Try this, “Don’t like slavery? Don’t own one.” Hmmm. “Don’t like murder? Don’t kill anyone.” Moral truth claims stand above us. Morality is given to us through the character and nature of God. It is not our jurisdiction. It is above our pay grade. God has given us free-will, yet this is a limited sovereignty. He is the ultimate Sovereign. We can choose between vanilla and chocolate, but we cannot choose our own morality.
How to Judge?
We cannot live without judging, yet a misuse of this ability can lead to broken relationships and pain, which is bad. Jesus pointed out that judging wrongly is wrong. So how do we judge rightly?
1. We live in a world of ideas and people. Reality shows us that there exists equality with regards to people, and elitism with regards to ideas. We get onto thin ice when our judgments rank the value of people rather than the value of their ideas. God has placed in all of humanity inherent value. If we, in our judging, devalue another person, we have judged wrongly. We run into all kinds of problems when people put their value and identity in wrong ideas then when the idea is denounced, it’s taken personally.
2. We can judge wrongly when pointing out a speck, with a log in our eye. When we make a moral pronouncement, it comes best through people who have moral authority. Jesus’ often quoted “don’t judge” passage is really a denouncement of hypocrisy, not of making judgments. However, a lack of moral authority in the pronouncer doesn’t negate the morality of the pronouncement. Just because a thief denounces your stealing doesn’t make stealing right. It just makes the thief disingenuous. Mother Teresa denounced abortion during a prayer breakfast in front of President and Mrs. Clinton, when asked about it, President Clinton remarked, “It’s hard to argue against a life so well lived.”
3. Align your judgments with the sacred. Some things are sacred. Anything expressly and exclusively given by God or owed exclusively to God, is sacred. We cannot prefer in this arena. Things like life. Life is given by God and owed to God. Our sexuality is sacred – given and designed by God. It is biologically purposeful, powerful to create the immortal, bond families, and pleasurable. We should judge ideas and actions that de-sacrilize, life, worship, marriage, and sexuality.
As we live in this world of ideas and people, may we learn to love deeply and judge rightly. As the prophet said, “He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you? But to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
Growing up, science was a great passion of mine. I graduated with a bachelor’s in Applied Science with an emphasis in Aviation Technologies. I’ve studied biology, chemistry, physics, and geology just for fun. But something happened along the way to the cockpit. I became a Christian and devoted my life to teaching life to the living and bringing hope to the dying. And in the last few years, I have seen a shift in the perception of “people of faith”.
I experience this shift when people find out I am a follower of Christ and the discussion turns toward ultimate questions. It usually manifests itself with a phrase something like, “That’s great that you have found something that works for you (and kids and hairy-legged old ladies) but I’m a person of science. You have faith, but I need evidence. I am a person of rational thought, I cannot live by blind faith.”
I want to address this attitude by helping anyone who thinks along these lines because, well, you need help. First, you present a logical fallacy called the false dilemma – you are either a person of faith or evidence. No, you can be both, in fact every rational person is. Second, to further the point: everybody has faith. Even if you deny the existence of God, you must accept key presuppositions by faith because you cannot have ultimate knowledge about the ultimate questions of life. Otherwise you could say, “By virtue of my infinite knowledge, I declare that there is no being out there with infinite knowledge (God).” Anyone catch the internal contradiction?
The question isn’t whether or not you have faith, the question is the veracity of the OBJECT of your faith. This is where many commit another fallacy. They say, I have faith in science. They reify science as though it has causal properties. Science is simply a philosophy and a methodology of answering the “what?” questions of life but it cannot answer the “why?” questions. Like “Why are we here?” or “Why is there something rather than nothing?” There are often two ways to answer the questions of life. For instance, if I asked you why the water is boiling, you could scientifically tell me that when water is heated to a specific temperature, it boils. But you could also answer, “Aunt May is making a pot of tea.” Science couldn’t answer the latter question without personal revelation of Aunt May’s motives. Therefore, true revelation is a legitimate system of gathering knowledge. Science isn’t the only game of knowledge in town. It’s a useful tool, a wonderful tool, but not the only one.
And lastly, when one says they don’t believe in God because they aren’t people of faith, they are affirming what they DO believe by default:
• That everything came from nothing. Oh, I know that people will go through all manner of contortions to avoid this conclusion but it ends up being an equivocating shell game of words that don’t mean nothing (vacuum fluctuations, multi-verse theories) but they desperately want them to mean nothing. Nothing means nothing – NO THING. And nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever will.
• That an undirected non-thinking process is responsible for thinking. Illogical on its face.
• That an undirected process working on non-living chemicals caused life. A process that even the father of chemical predestination refuted over 20 years ago. (See Dean Kenyon). They hope that one day life will be formed in a lab. But will brilliant scientists, working with very precise, intelligently-designed laboratory equipment, really prove that no purposeful intelligence was required when they ultimately create life? Actually, it will prove the opposite.
• That, love, hope, morality, will, and purpose all came from the periodic table of elements, which came from nothing, which birthed life and minds so we could all ponder the meaning of this.
So here is my humble plea to the smug atheist:
Don’t condescend to people of faith, because I will just tell you, the objects of your faith are not just evidence based but are also large, unproven leaps of faith. I recognize that Christianity has some faith bridges that one must cross, but these are not bridges of blind faith. They are under-girded by logic, science, and the historical person of Christ. So be careful when playing the “evidence” card, for the ice you are standing on is not that thick. As philosopher Ravi Zacharias puts it, “God has put enough into this world to make believing in him reasonable, but he has left enough out to keep us from believing in him by sheer reason alone.” Get off the ice and onto the Rock, it is a surer foundation from which to explore the wonders of the universe!
One hundred years ago, in the trenches of World War I, a peace broke out. German and British forces laid down their weapons, exchanged gifts and sang Christmas carols in no-man’s land.
Pvt. Oswald Tilley of the London Rifle Brigade wrote to his parents: “Just you think that while you were eating your turkey, etc., I was out talking and shaking hands with the very men I had been trying to kill a few hours before!! It was astounding.”
Because of an invasion 2000 years ago, men of war found cause for peace.
In our increasingly chaotic and violent world, only the Prince of Peace can offer hope. For men are not at peace with their fellow man because they are not at peace with God. Our nature is bent toward selfishness, power and pleasure. Out of God’s character, He gives us a moral law with which to govern our relationship with Him and our fellow men. However, we have all made decisions that have broken the law of God. Because we have sinned against an infinite God, we owe an infinite debt that only infinity could pay.
2000 years ago, infinity made an appearance. Jesus came to pay an infinite debt to the Father.
Of all the major religions, only Christianity has an incarnation – the infinite added the temporal so that our temporary lives could be eternally significant.
The perfect of heaven arrived to the hell of earth so that those deserving of hell could receive the perfect of heaven.
The peace of heaven arrived to the war on earth so that the people of earth could experience the peace of heaven.
The freedom of heaven arrived to the slavery of earth so that the slaves of earth could experience the freedom of heaven.
The infinite life put on dying flesh so that dying flesh could experience infinite life
After, the peace broke out in World War I, the battles grew increasingly bloody. Commanders began using poison gas and each side increasingly viewed each other as less than human. When we refuse the Prince of Peace, we fail to recognize and become what God made us to be.
2000 years ago, the fullness of God, draped himself with humanity so that humanity could reflect fully the image of God.
If you haven’t found a relationship with God through the Prince of Peace, lay down your weapons and bow your heart before the child King and He will bring you into a land whose builder and maker is God.
“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death — that is the devil — and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” Hebrews 2:14-15