Syrian Refugees

One of the political footballs right now is the question of what to do with Syrian Refugees. Some people say we should absolutely not allow them into the United States. Others say that attitude is Islamophobic and Americans should always embrace immigration. The one side points out that some of the terrorists in Paris had come in as Syrian refugees, and possibly the same thing would happen here. The other side believes our vetting process will catch any possible trouble makers.

Both sides of this discussion have invoked a rhetoric of extremes. For example, many have questioned why we would spend resources on these individuals while we have so many problems of our own that are inadequately addressed. One such example has been the cry to not house a single Syrian refugee until every homeless veteran has been sheltered. Although this is an apples to oranges comparison it is a set of priorities I would agree with. Still the reality of government is they do not have the luxury of working on one thing at a time, finishing up higher priorities before working on lower priorities would never work. Government inherently attacks some problems that will never be completely solved.

Those in favor of bringing in refugees also have their rhetoric of extremes. The worst of these, at least in my mind, was hearing Hillary Clinton say “Islam has nothing to do with terrorism.” I couldn’t believe she said those words. History argues strongly against her on that point, as does the Koran.

But that is what happens in politics today. No one listens to reasonable discussion, yet they care deeply about the topics so they resort to shouts, extreme statements, and Facebook memes. This lack of real investigative reporting, genuine information, and open discussion is what is really destroying America.

It will probably surprise most people who know me that I am in favor of bringing in carefully vetted families of Syrian refugees with young children. Yes, I really would limit it to husbands and wives with young children. Unfortunately, I do not believe either that our government will adequately background check these immigrants or that they will limit it to families as I have described. For these two reasons I would stand opposed, but if we would follow these two limitations then I can see several benefits of taking part.

In no particular order here are my reasons. The Syrian refugee crisis is the largest since World War 2, according to the news. Assuming this is not some of the persuasive misinformation put out by the media, it only makes sense that the world leader, the United States, would lead in alleviating the crisis. Also remember that leaving families in the situation tends to raise up new radicals. Islam is inherently violent towards non-Moslems, and in a place of warfare and oppression young men tend to grow up angry. Finally I note that in the United States these individuals will have the most likelihood of understanding the greater rule of law. I am assuming we will not be so foolish as to grant them pockets of sharia law. When exposed to a better way, most people will recognize it and accept it. In fact, I believe more Moslems than ever before are converting to genuine Christianity. This by itself is a powerful reason to allow the ones who are not already hard core opposed to come here, where they will be in contact with Christians and a society shaped by a culture very different than their homeland.

A Philosophy of Gratitude

I believe Christians should be grateful. They should live a life shaped by gratitude, among other attributes appropriate to Christianity.

This gratitude begins with salvation. The person who recognizes what Christ did for them on the cross will overflow with appreciation when they turn from their sin and turn to Jesus in order to receive the great gift of grace made available by His suffering. Nothing I am aware of matches the glad exuberance of a new believer.

If a person has never had this experience of overflowing thankfulness, it may well be they never had a genuine encounter with Christ. You see it’s possible to believe in all the right things and still not be a Christian. Redemption begins with a sinner becoming aware of the magnitude of his sin and the price paid for our sin by the Lord. This is followed by a conscious decision by the convert to accept the gift of salvation, which naturally is followed by a huge relief of the pressure felt by having been aware of the ugliness of his own sin. Salvation is not in the knowledge of the facts, but in the experience of making a personal commitment and receiving forgiveness.

But as I mentioned earlier that starting point produces a wonderful gratitude in the believer’s heart. What comes as a surprise to many is that this sense of having been blessed, will not last forever. Even though the gift of salvation is eternal, the human heart will not retain the same gratitude for this salvation that it had when the experience first occurred. After the passing of time our thankfulness becomes more of a mental exercise, knowing we should be grateful, than an overwhelming, overflowing rush of emotion.

Nevertheless, I still believe my first assertion. Christians should be grateful. As we walk and grow with Christ the ongoing experience of living as a believer should bring us back to the point of overflowing gratitude again and again. In other words, the proper living of the Christian life will bring you to thanksgiving, not just because of its miraculous gift at the start, but also because of the ongoing experience with a miraculous God in your day to day walk.

Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, overflowing with gratitude. Colossians 2:6-7 (NASB)

Abortion Clinic Standards

Recently the motel I was staying at dropped a USA Today on my door. One of the sidebars on the cover stated, “Court may face abortion rematch: Justices to decide whether to address state restrictions.”

In the article itself the first paragraph discussed how long it had been since the court took up an issue on abortion. The second small paragraph mentioned that both this instance and the last were during presidential elections. And then in paragraph three, it finally gave the gist of what was going on.

Quoting the article, the court may choose to “hear a challenge to tough new limits placed on abortion clinics and doctors in Texas.” Notice the word tough and the word limit. This implies to me limitations that some kind of unreasonable restrictions, but that wasn’t what I found in the article.

The effects of the law were discussed in two parts, the first of which is the new requirements and the second is the result on clinics. The two new requirements are that the doctors must have admitting privileges, for patients who have complications, to a local hospital and that the clinics must measure up to outpatient surgery centers.

What this article communicates to me is that clinics are currently staffed by hacks who do not care enough to have recourse to with deal the difficulties that arise from their procedures and the facilities they do these procedures in are substandard. I would not describe these laws as tough, but as common sense. Anyone opposing them would fit my description of taking advantage of and endangering women. But in today’s climate the idea that abortion clinics be made safer for the women who visit them is filed away as part of a war on women.

The second effect of the law discussed is that it would leave the state with only 10 clinics. The article didn’t say how many clinics will be forced to close, but they implied it was enough to restrict access. They didn’t seem to consider the possibility that these clinics would raise their standards.

How did abortion become such a sacred cow that the clinics need to be protected more than the women who enter them? When abortion was first becoming legal, one of the arguments was to get rid of dirty back alley locations staffed by ill trained workers. Now that abortion is legal the arguments are somehow in favor of these conditions.

Church Government

One of the ways that different churches show the most diversity is in church government. A congregation has to have some form of leadership and decision making, so avoiding the concept altogether is not a viable option. However, it is not possible to draw from Scripture one singular concept of how to structure a church, and groups have used varying principles leading them to diverse structures.

Today let me discuss church government beginning with the different principles. Discussion of actual structure and the Biblical foundations for the principles will be saved for another time unless it is mentioned to clarify the principle.

Headship is the idea that everyone should be under the leadership of Christ as the head of the church. This is most commonly expressed by putting everyone under the authority of someone else and very commonly this puts the group into a hierarchical structure, Bishops over pastors over deacons. In some cases, the structure has a single leader on earth with highest authority and responsibility to speak for God, God over the pope over the cardinals over the bishops and so on. Other churches also believe in the headship of Christ even if they do not have a hierarchy in their structure.

Giftedness and calling is the idea that God chooses the workers in individual churches. He equips them to do certain tasks and chooses where He wants them in the structure. When it comes to pastors and missionaries, many have used the word calling, but it is basically used the same way as giftedness is for all other believer’s placement in service to the church. Notice that giftedness is more about functionality than authority.

Elders are people with a certain level of proven wisdom and leadership in the church who are then given a decision making responsibility. Elders and elder boards may or may not be accountable to the remainder of the congregation depending on the structure of the individual church. These individuals may be selected by the congregation or be recruited by the other elders.

Theo-Democracy is the idea that God can speak through the vote of the members. In this model every believer is given credit for being led by God, but also given leeway to be mistaken. The principle is that the majority of people will be on track the majority of the time. God directs the church then as its head, but the means by which He speaks is through the vote of the members. For this reason the highest earthly authority in these groups is the agreement of the congregation. The congregation will find it necessary to appoint groups to take on specific tasks so that decision making is not tied down with the minutia of daily operation.

When it comes to any one church or denomination they will generally operate with more than one of these principles. Their resulting structure may not look like the structure of the next group down the road, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that either is right or wrong on the issue of church government. At least in my opinion, church government is one of the areas where we should not believe there is only one right way to do things.

A House Divided

Recently there was a debate in which MSNBC made mistakes such as accusing Dr. Ben Carson of business connections that did not exist and suggested other candidates should withdraw or resign. The candidates did what we hope politicians can do, point out the errors and confront them with truth.

A few days later President Obama, branded them as weak. Unable to handle MSNBC moderators.

Not long after that Democratic candidates backed out of a debate which was going to be partially sponsored by Fox News. While the initial reports I saw seemed to indicate this action was over comments made by Fox chairman and CEO Roger Ailes. I notice that many of the news outlets I researched did not connect it to Ailes comments, and the Democrats failed to define exactly what was said that crossed the line. But either way it was noted that Fox news might be biased against Democrats.

What I think is most important to point out is that many of those involved in the process, both politicians and news outlets, are furthering the gap in America.

The obvious result of dividing America will be that we no longer stand united. This point should be of more concern to Americans than demonizing our opponents. Jesus said it, Abraham Lincoln quoted it, and it’s still true, “A house divided cannot stand.”