Category Archives: Culture

A Sign of the Times? Chicken Sandwiches and Famous Rappers

This post is a little late in coming, considering the events I am writing about took place several weeks ago. However, I still feel it is worth speaking about the topsy-turvy world we live in. So, Chick-fil-a, a company many in the Christian community have supported for decades, has recently made drastic changes in what charitable agencies would receive funding from the fast-food chain. Some of these changes are surprising, and even saddening. Especially, when one considers that the chicken sandwich giant has decided to stop giving to the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army? Really? Yep. There has been a great deal of ink spilled regarding these changes and you can find great write-ups here, here, here, and here.

Now, Chick-fil-a is a private company and it can spend its money however it chooses. At the same time, it is also true that a lot of people drive out of their way specifically to support the business because of its strong ties to the Christian community. So, while I will still dine there from time to time, I no longer see any reason why I should drive past Popeye’s – avoiding a rather delicious sandwich ūüôā – just to support Chick-fil-a.

At the same time all this was happening in the world of chicken sandwiches, the entertainment industry experienced its own shakeup of sorts, which came in the form of Kanye West. Not too long ago he publicly declared his faith in Jesus Christ. Then he said he would no longer make secular music. Then he started hosting a worship service that drew massive crowds and made a clear gospel presentation. Next, he dropped an album with explicitly Christian music. And now he is planning a massive event with Joel Osteen!

While I may not be that keen on Joel Osteen, the man attracts quite an audience and I do think the Lord can use anyone He sees fit. So, the man who brought us “Gold Digger” is now making music that glorifies God Almighty. Praise the Lord! This is truly remarkable and I hope that Kanye stays faithful and strong as he walks down this new path.

Two lessons these episodes should teach us is that things are not always as they seem, and our trust should not be put into things of this world. After all, it is the Lord who is unchanging. That is something that cannot be said of worldly things.

Woke Credits?

Carbon credits are those remarkable items that some people purchase to make themselves feel better about their own pollution. It is a remarkable system – I won’t change anything about my habits, but I’ll send money to have someone else plant a tree (that I’ll never see) somewhere in the world. The ultra-wealthy love carbon credits, and are known to jet set around in private airplanes while complaining to everyone that will listen about how we are killing the planet. Take this story for example.¬†

However, despite these initial thoughts, I am not writing this post about carbon credits. Instead, I wanted to talk about something I will call, “woke credits.” It seems that there is a newer phenomenon in which people in one class bewail the fact of their existence in an effort to show solidarity with others. So, for instance, there is the example of a young man from a rich family who finds his wealth repugnant.¬†He has written a piece describing his horrible plight for all the inquiring minds out there.¬†Now, like most of you, I was not born rich and have no idea about the sufferings of those who have more than a billion dollars (or a million dollars). But, for some, the struggle is real and they want to identify with the rest of us… or something like that. Now, the real world simple solution is just to give all the money away and come down here and live and work like the rest of us. But, thanks to woke credits he doesn’t have to do that. Instead, he writes an article for a website, tells his readers how his wealth is immoral and the system should change, describe his struggles with juggling so much money while being ever vigilant in recognizing social issues. The beauty of this is that, by writing this article he gets to stay rich, sleep well at night, and be a hero to all of his woke buddies. But, to most of us, we just look at him, scratch our heads, and think,¬†is this guy serious?

Woke credits are also used by certain Hollywood types to signal their angst at being in the elite section of society. So, take for example the recent screed by Rosanna Arquette in which she laments being born her. Yep, you read that right. To heck with the self-esteem movement! (You can read about the incident here, here, and here) So, this particular actress was born into a family of actor-types, has been in several movies, enjoys the wealth and fame that comes with such, and has decided that she is disgusted by being born the way she was. What message does this send to people who are born into actual bad predicaments? Still, by claiming she is ashamed to be who she is, and disgusted by her own birth, she has managed to utilize woke credits to her advantage (how privileged) and is now able to return to her posh Hollywood life as herself. This entire post so far has been difficult to compose with a straight face and feels like fiction. Sometimes, however, truth is stranger than fiction.

Now, there are some out there that are not yet fully invested into woke credits. Instead, they are merely working off of “feels.” It is true that “feels” are a powerful force in our present world, but they don’t seem to have the same purchase power that woke credits do. Take, for example, the case of Tom Steyer. He is a billionaire that recently decided to let folks know that he doesn’t see himself as rich. This is, without question, a truly remarkable statement. A man worth over a billion dollars, and who is willing to spend 100 million dollars on his own political campaign, does not see himself as rich! I suppose he sees himself as one of us common folk. I mean, after all, don’t most Americans you know toss around a hundred million here or there on pet causes and political campaigns? Sheez… Anyhow, as Ben Shapiro is fond of saying, “Facts don’t care about your feelings.” So, Tom, I’m thrilled to learn you don’t see yourself as rich. However, this doesn’t change the fact that you are rich. In fact, you are very, very rich.

That is all for now. Until next time, know that in addition to carbon credits you can also now use woke credits.

Viva la Resistance! Or, something like that…

Well, it is June and that means it is Annual Conference time here in United Methodism. Of course, this year the hot topic at Annual Conferences across the connection was the Special General Conference that took place in February. Ever since that seminal event in St. Louis the leftist faction of the denomination has been feverishly at work to organize their resistance… or, something like that.

Not terribly surprisingly, LGBTQ clergy were ordained or commissioned in the Northern Illinois and Baltimore-Washington Conferences. I guess you can file this in your ever-expanding “Who Needs Rules in the United Methodist Church” folder.

Slightly more surprising, though not entirely, was the ordination of an LGBTQ clergyperson in the North Texas Conference. I say it is not entirely unsurprising because North Texas does include Dallas, which is not exactly a bastion of conservatism. However, there is a unique aspect to the situation in North Texas. That is, the clergyperson in this case is not a practising homosexual. Thus, the argument can be made that the ordination in North Texas is within the parameters of The Book of Discipline.

Now, the “resistance” can be further witnessed in the passing of resolutions at the various Annual Conference meetings. If you are unfamiliar with our propensity to pass head scratching, facepalm worthy resolutions, then you are missing out on quite the spectacle.

Case in point: the Great Plains Annual Conference passed a resolution condemning the Traditional Plan and apologizing for the way the vote went at the Special General Conference. Now, the folks at MainstreamUMC.com want us to believe that this is some pretty radical and shocking stuff. Of course, the Great Plains Annual Conference is Adam Hamilton’s backyard.

So, we’re told in the article that Nebraska and Kansas are reliably conservative and have a history for voting for Republican presidential candidates. They do, in fact, have a history of voting for Republican presidential candidates. However, Kansas also has a Democrat Governor and Lieutenant Governor – so, I’m not sure what we are to take from the voting habits of people in Kansas. Kansas was also home to the well-known late-term abortion provider, George Tiller. And, the Kansas Supreme Court recently ruled that abortion is a constitutional right under the Kansas Constitution. So, let’s not pretend that Kansas is the poster child of conservative states.

Now, couple this with the fact that the UMC in the United States has a substantial number of left leaning members and the Great Plains Conference is in the backyard of a megachurch whose pastor is actively campaigning against the Traditional Plan, and suddenly it is not too surprising that such a resolution would pass. If this resolution had passed in Oklahoma, then that would have been worthy of note. As it is, its just another resolution that will be read by a small group of people and ignored by even more, just like nearly every other resolution.

UMC Shenanigans!

Unsurprisingly, certain members of the liberal wing of the UMC are suggesting underhanded tactics to rip apart the church in the face of their defeat at the Special General Conference. In one case, it is being suggested that United Methodist churches in United States become separate from the global body and govern themselves according to their own wants, unshackled from those pesky Christians overseas. Reading such an article, I can certainly understand why the Bishop John K. Yambasu of the Sierra Leone Area was quoted by the United Methodist News Agency as saying,¬†‚ÄúAs an African, I find myself thinking, is this the church where I really want to be?‚ÄĚ Indeed, the reaction to the vote by United Methodists in the U.S. and Europe have the Africans wondering if they should become an autonomous church. But this is exactly what the liberal wing of the church wants.

In a telling moment, Adam Hamilton, who has finally started to come out from under his sheep’s clothing to reveal himself a wolf, had this to say to UMNews.org:

‚ÄúOne is people saying, ‚ÄėThis is our church and we‚Äôre not giving it up and we‚Äôre going to resist and we‚Äôre going to disobey the Discipline,‚ÄĚ he said.

Hamilton added that ‚Äúif it‚Äôs uncomfortable enough‚ÄĚ then traditionalist churches may choose to leave and form their own denomination, especially if they can retain their property.

According to Hamilton, this was one of two possible paths for progressives moving forward from the Special General Conference. The other was to form two Methodisms from the existing church. In short, the progressive/liberal wing of the denomination has no real intent to be part of a global church.

This goes a long way to explain another move within the church to determine what can and cannot be contextualized in varying cultures.  While there certainly are questions about contextualization in relation to missions, there are some things that should be universal regardless of cultural context. For instance, moral principles based on Scripture should not be altered based on cultural context. If we are simply talking about matters related to trustees and what not, contextualize all you want. If we are talking about moral issues, Scripture is our guide and not our culture.

 

 

 

Christians need not apply?

It seems undeniable that keeping the faith in the market place is becoming increasingly more difficult. That is, if your faith involves holding traditional Christian convictions. If you are okay with being a “silent Christian” that does let your faith be widely known, then you should be okay. However, if it ever gets discovered that you hold to traditional Christian convictions, even though you are one of the silent ones, you should still expect repercussions. In recent news, the retailer of those delightfully delicious chicken sandwiches, Chick-fil-a, has been targeted for the views of its founder. It seems that in the name of tolerance and non-discrimination, a public showing of intolerance and discrimination by our elected officials is in order. Heh? Yes, you read that right. According to the more liberally minded, intolerance and discrimination are perfectly legitimate if they are aimed at people, organizations, and businesses that disagree with you – and as long as the intolerance and discrimination is being done in the name of tolerance and non-discrimination. Anyhow, you can read anti-quality food news stories here, here, and here.

Years ago, the Five Man Electrical Band releases the song, “signs.” In it we learn that, “Long-haired freaky people need not apply.” Increasingly, it seems that the sentiment is, “Faithful, Bible-believing Christians need not apply.” I only mentioned Chick-fil-a, a large business. But there have also been instances where bakers, caterers, florists, photographers, bed & breakfast owners, and others have faced public backlash, lawsuits, death threats, and more.

Now, as much as I wish there was a quick and easy solution to such shenanigans, there simply isn’t. The politicians that ban Christian businesses, questions the religious beliefs of judicial nominees, the officials that come after Christians who dare wish to stand for their beliefs in the market place, all of these people were put into power by us. For whatever reason, we, the voting public, put them in power. And, power they now have. What will they do with this power? I think we can already see that the hand has been shown and we are starting to see the fulfillment of President Woodrow Wilson’s statement that, “Conformity will be the only virtue. And every man who refuses to conform will have to pay the penalty.”

 

 

 

Well, that didn’t take long…

It has not been long since the Special General Conference in St. Louis ended. Still, in the relatively short span of time between the end of February and now, it has become apparent that the liberal wing of the church was not prepared to deal with the defeat of their precious “One Church Plan.” The vote at the Special General Conference is being called into question by some who are claiming that unauthorized people voted – I do find it funny that the UMC required a photo ID for voters at the conference despite so many who protest against such policies in the secular arena. Now a task force has been organized by the conference’s organizers to investigate the alleged voting irregularities.

But, even that small matter pales in comparison to the defiant attitude of some Annual Conferences. ¬†Apparently, and admittedly unsurprisingly, the New York and Greater New Jersey Conferences are having trouble coming to terms with what transpired in St. Louis. UM News even has a quote from Bishop Bickerton stating, ‚ÄúJust because the vote went a certain way, we cannot expect conformity to follow.‚Ä̬†This is a strange thing to say, especially since many of us could venture to suppose that he would have expected conformity to follow if the “One Church Plan” won the day in St. Louis.

We should not be surprised that supporters of the “One Church Plan” are so up in arms at the moment and seemingly eager to engage in slash and burn tactics until they get their way or force conservatives out. At least the WCA and other conservatives were honest enough with themselves and others to put their cards on the table and let it be known that leaving the church was a live option. The same cannot be said of those on the left. They are like a hair in a grilled cheese sandwich – they will stay and make a mess until it becomes more desirable to throw it all away than try to salvage what is good.

Now, back to the “One Church Plan” and why we should not be surprised by their disgust with having existing, long-held, and Biblically based standards enforced within the denomination. The “One Church Plan” removes accountability and turns the denomination into a buffet of individualism. Supporters of the “One Church Plan” have essentially turned their noses up at historic Christianity and decided to throw off the yoke of accountability.

Anyhow, that is enough for now.

The Shocker in St. Louis

I did not think it would happen, but it did: the UMC took a conservative stance on a social issue at a General Conference. Much to my surprise, the Special General Conference passed the Traditional Plan Рthe one I had hoped they would. With the bishops throwing their weight behind the One Church Plan, and throwing in a big name like Adam Hamilton to speak on their behalf, it looked like the fix was in. But, thankfully, many brothers and sisters in Christ took a stand and upheld what the United Methodist Church already stated in its Discipline. Yes, you read that right. Despite some out there claiming that something new and sinister was passed at the General Conference in St. Louis, the truth is that the church voted to affirm and actually enforce what is already codified in The Book of Discipline. So, when you read a news story like the one produced by a Florida news station, just know that there may be a spin and more investigation is warranted.

It should be pointed out that the plan still has to go before the Judicial Council, which meets in April. However, there is certainly reason for traditionalists in the United Methodist Church to celebrate. The Church should be about the business of transforming culture, not being transformed by it. The UMC took a stand. Praise be to God.

The Surveillance State

How often we become, or create, the very things we fear. ¬†This is the thought that came into my mind recently regarding the surveillance state. ¬†I have long heard people talk about “big brother” increasingly invading our privacy and how we are living in times reminiscent of the book 1984. ¬†While I do fear intrusive overreach, what I find intriguing is that the surveillance state we fear is not the product of the government. ¬†So, if the G-Men are not the ones acting as “big brother,” then who is? ¬†There are, of course, the obvious culprits in the tech industry. ¬†However, there are also those that are less obvious. ¬†In particular, I am thinking about those people who are obsessed with filming things on cell phones. ¬†I am repeatedly amazed at how so many scandalous moments on the news come as the result of a cell phone recording. ¬†It’s as if we are under constant surveillance. ¬†And, sadly, this might not be too far from the truth. ¬†But it is not the government, it is us, just as the old saying goes, “We have seen the enemy, and he is us.”

This is not to say that video recording is a bad thing.  Indeed, security cameras and vigilant citizens have captured video of criminals and their crimes in a way that allows law enforcement to act swiftly.  At the same time, it can also help to sort out truth from fiction in those moments where two or more sides cannot agree on what was said or done.

No, the whole point of this rambling post is not to condemn video, but to point out that in some instances (and perhaps many) the very things we dread are our own creation.

Happy Reformation Day!

In honor of this 500th Anniversary of Reformation Day, I am posting some photos relevant to the occassion.  Enjoy!

The Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.  Of the original, only the four walls remain.  The church has been destroyed multiple times since Reformation.

Sculptures of Luther and Melanchthon inside the Castle Church.  Also in this picture are the graves of the two men. Yes, there are a lot of people buried inside some of those old churches.

Pictures inside the church in Wittenberg that Luther actually preferred to attend.  He spoke at the Castle Church as part of his employment contract.  The Castle Church was, in fact, a private church.

The church in Erfurt, Germany, where Luther was ordained.

An original Luther Bible.  I only wish the picture was a little clearer and did a better job of showing the size of this volume Рit is massive.

An original indulgence and various coins that would have been used at the time frame to pay for indulgneces.

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And, finally, what you have been waiting for… “the door.” ¬†Unfortunately, it is something of a letdown since it is not original. ¬†The actual door was destroyed quite some time ago. ¬†This is the site of that famous door, and the one you see here memorializes the event by including the 95 theses in its design.

Have a blessed day!

A Denomination’s Descent Into Irrelevance

I have been a staunch defender of my denomination (The United Methodist Church) throughout my life as a Christian. ¬†However, that being said, I have also been a witness to that very same denomination’s continuous descent into irrelevance. ¬†I get daily emails from our News Service detailing all the trendy projects that we have gotten involved with or how we have joined in with issues that are celebrity causes.

I am saddened by what has happened, but I cannot say that I am surprised.  What, you might ask, has led this descent into irrelevance?  In my humble estimation there is no clearer answer than that the church has become obsessed with being culturally relevant.

What do I mean by this? ¬†To me, it’s simple. ¬†The church has chosen to alter or set aside it doctrines and discipline in an effort to be more acceptable to the mainstream culture. ¬†While this sounds all well and good there are some serious difficulties that accompany such a strategy.

  1. The church was never supposed to conform to the culture. ¬†From its inception, the church was countercultural. ¬†The membership of the body of Christ is to “seek ye first the kingdom of God,” (Matt. 6:33 KJV) not to seek approval of the prevailing culture. ¬†The church is to be in pursuit of holiness.
  2. By pulling up its theological anchor and allowing itself to be blown about by the winds of worldly culture, the denomination has diminished its identity and become just another unstable institution in an unstable world.  There is a longing out there for something that is consistent, steady, and willing to stand against the currents of our world.  The church has always been a rock that people could stand on during turbulent times.  But when the church seeks to appease the world by forsaking its doctrinal integrity, what you are left with is something built on shifting sands.
  3. Cultural appeasement is a slippery slope.  If we acquiesce to the whims of worldly culture at points A, B, and C, is there a point at which the process can, and will, stop?  Looking at other examples from mainstream Protestantism the answer appears to be, no.

This is something of a gripe session and it is late in the evening here, but it hurts me to see the way we have become obsessed with chasing after all the latest trendy projects while never looking back to make certain that we have not lost our way.

In the pursuit of relevance, we are becoming increasingly irrelevant.  Let us return to our roots and consider our theological foundations that we may be better equipped to engage a hurting world.  After all, if we lose our identity by tossing to the side our doctrine and discipline, then we are just another social group.  And that is not what we have been called to be.