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Ministering at Home AND Abroad

Matthew-25It breaks my heart and—in truth—I become utterly incensed over the willfully and woefully ignorant, defamatory, broad-brushing memes that people—all too often—post on Facebook that are critical of the Church and its ministry in the United States and around the world. I came upon one such meme this morning that questioned why (suggesting that) evangelists and missionaries go to other countries while neglecting those who are in need at home.

Here’s my reply:

We minister at home and abroad because the God we serve commands us to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). In Matthew 25:35-36, Jesus commends those who have fed the hungry, given drink to the thirsty, taken the stranger in, clothed the naked, and visited the sick and those in prison. You suggest, with this meme, that the Church neglects those who are in need near them.

As one pastor serving one church in New Hampshire, I encouraged the congregation to take seriously Jesus’ call to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and to visit the sick and those who are in prison. The church established a food pantry, thrift shop and clothing distribution center and I served as Welfare Secretary with the Salvation Army overseeing that organization’s ministries in four communities. The church transitioned between two daycare centers during my tenure: the first grew so large that it moved into its own newly-purchased facility and the second continued in place after my departure. A representative of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program was on site to provide nutrition education, supplemental foods and health care advice. The parsonage was converted into the program offices for a residential troubled teen facility. We ministered through Prison Fellowship and Angel Tree, gathered Bible and devotional materials and other items for prisoners at a nearby county jail. We led Bible studies in the prison and ministered one on one with prisoners. We also ministered in nursing homes and with individuals receiving hospice care. I served in leadership with a great many of the area’s social action ministries that provided food, clothing and housing. We also gave sacrificially to ministries around the world serving the poorest of the poor.

In another church, in another state, the congregation served breakfast each Saturday to more than 80 at risk and homeless individuals. Gene took classes to become a State of Pennsylvania-certified Food Handler so he could direct the work in the kitchen each week while I preached a message to our Saturday congregation. The church cooperated with other churches in providing emergency overnight quarters for homeless women; and helped to establish (with other faith communities in the city) an organization to meet the growing needs of the disadvantaged. The church was counted among the top 40 mission giving churches in the region for our denomination. I led a mission team to Mississippi for post-Katrina clean-up and ministry. We offered VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) preparedness training, and I worked with an area American Heart Association unit to develop and offer First Aid for the Body and Soul, a course in physical (CPR and first aid) and emotional and spiritual emergency aid. I also served on the Executive Board of the Salvation Army for that community.

That’s one pastor in two churches. Multiply that by more than 300,000 churches in the United States and you’ll begin to have an idea of the level of the Church’s ministry with those in need in this country. Now granted, not all would necessarily have the level of outreach to their communities as do these two congregations. No, a great many are doing a great deal more. And what should be brought alongside, as well, are all the parachurch ministries devoted to serving the homeless and at risk. Consider, for a start, Habitat for Humanity which, since its founding in 1976, “has helped more than 9.8 million people meet their affordable housing needs. In fiscal year 2016, Habitat improved the housing conditions of 3 million people through new home construction, rehabilitation, incremental improvements, repairs or increased access to improved shelter through partnerships with the private sector. In addition, nearly 2.1 million people now have the potential to improve their housing conditions as a result of Habitat’s advocacy efforts, which changed policies and systems to allow more access to shelter solutions, and because of our provision of information and training in construction, financial management and other housing-related topics.” [Source: https://www.habitat.org/about/annual-reports-990s]

But, you know, quite honestly, what I’ve just shared doesn’t even begin to touch on all that these two churches and thousands of other churches and parachurch ministries do every day to lift the lives of those who live on the edge in the United States. My question for my friend who got me going with what she threw up on her page: why would you post such a mean-spirited, insulting, judgmental meme?

You want to do something constructive? Spread the word about and support a ministry like Mission Waco: http://www.missionwaco.org/

What do pastors do? They’re part of a global enterprise…with outlets in every part of the world: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6TGxKvSqH8

A later-in-the-day addendum:

There are about a half dozen individuals to whom I’m connected on Facebook who regularly insult the Church (and—knowingly or unknowingly—me, as a pastor and Christian educator, by extension). Is the Church perfect? No. Should I have admitted that in my post? Perhaps. Why do I get so upset about these memes? Because they’re propaganda, and if they’re allowed to proliferate with no challenge, they will be ingested—as if by osmosis—by the unchurched populace. Propagandizers are repainting the “Church” with the broad brush of hypocrisy, and they’re blaming Christians (and, in particular, Evangelicals) for all of society’s ills. Memes, like the one that raised my hackles earlier today, spread like wildfire, and I see a pattern being replicated—and being more rapidly—a pattern that has been used time and again. A good example of that pattern was the introduction of a brand of feminism that indoctrinated women into believing that, if they chose to stay out of the “workforce” and to instead be homemakers and mothers, they were parasites on the economy. I took that thinking in, believed it, and chastised my mother—a woman who had devoted her life to raising me—chastised that woman for not being “more.” Every brand of feminism should have liberated women—including my mother and me—to be whatever they/we wanted to be. But I took in, by osmosis, the prevailing sentiment. I see the same thing happening today: folks are being emotionalized and propagandized to believe that which is not true about the Church. If we keep going in the current direction, we may well hit the hundredth monkey.

 

Celebrating and Giving Thanks for All the “Good Men”

The article to which I’m linking here reminded me, in the midst of all the MeToos, to celebrate and give thanks for all the “good men” who have used their strength to stand between me and those who would have harmed me. Good men who put themselves at great physical risk to protect me or rescue me from danger. Good men who used their influence to open doors of opportunity for me. Good men who have rejected or repented of “locker room talk.” Good men who refrained from taking advantage of me when I was at my most vulnerable. Good men who have apologized to me when they’ve let language loose they were raised to believe should never be spoken in the presence of a lady. Good men who have respected me, provided for me, educated me, encouraged me, loved me, blessed me.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2017/october/unsettling-truth-behind-metoo-movement-harvey-weinstein.html

 

Linking to and Reflecting upon a Lament about Anti-Intellectualism in the Church

bible-Sunlight-1I’m linking here to a lament over what is true of all too many churches. It begins with the author’s recollection of a pastor who, in the course of his sermon, said he was discussing things he didn’t understand. Worse, he seemed to have made no attempt to get a grip on the Word and just moved on to something else. This disrespect for the Bible, this disrespect for the Lord, this disrespect for the congregation, infuriates me. I’m sick to death of sitting in church buildings where, on a Sunday morning, no meat and barely any milk is being served from the pulpit. I wince each time I hear a preacher say he or she disagrees with a biblical author on a point of scripture. I don’t want to hear a preacher’s opinion in the sermon; I want to hear what the Bible has to say. I long for content-rich messages that will fill me and keep me full through the week. Why are we settling for this anti-intellectualism? Why aren’t we demanding more from our preachers and more from the seminaries where they are being trained? So many churches are empty or emptying. Too few congregations seem to want genuine servant-leaders who will lead them and who will challenge them from the pulpit. Too many pulpits are being filled with preachers who have little to no training and have received no calling from God.

I was baptized in a church that had a teaching pastor. I looked forward to his sermons each week because I knew I would come away with greater knowledge of the Word and a clear sense of how I was to apply that Word to my life.

I was educated in a seminary that established me in the original biblical languages (Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic) and taught me to work from those in constructing the sermon. I was taught to define a word of scripture according to the original intent, distinguishing the meaning from how the sense of the word might have changed over the centuries. I was taught to consider syntax, parallels, and connections throughout scripture. I was charged with making certain that I would engage in exegesis (drawing out the meaning from each text in accordance with the context and the discoverable meaning of its author) rather than eisegesis (reading into the text what I might want it to say). I was taught to review the authorship, the date of writing, the initial audience, the context (historical, cultural, geographical, and literary), the customs, the current events… I was introduced to the most reliable Bible dictionaries, commentaries, concordances, and books on history and more. When called to preach, I would spend hours in research and would then cull the cogent and craft a sermon to deliver to the congregation. Now, I have been in plenty of churches where that level of academic rigor was carried into the pulpit and evidenced in each message. But, sundry reports and my own observations would suggest this erudition is on the decline.

I should note here that I didn’t mean to go on for so long. My initial intent was just to share the following link. But, every day, it seems, I come upon article after article lamenting the failure of our educational institutions and the decline of the Church. The Church mirrors Society, and Society mirrors the Church. Today, emotions are emphasized to the detriment of reason; entertainment, to the detriment of scholarship. Let us expect more. Let us be more.

https://www.equip.org/article/anti-intellectualism-church/

Interviewing Paul Bogard, author of The End of Night

I’m looking forward, with great excitement, to next Monday’s interview with Paul Bogard, author of The End of Night. The cover of his book notes that: “A brilliantly starry night is one of nature’s most thrilling wonders. Yet in our world of nights as bright as day, most of us no longer experience true darkness. Exposure to artificial night at light has been cited as a factor in health concerns ranging from poor sleep to cancer. And eight out of ten Americans born today won’t ever live where they can see the Milky Way.”

Natural patterns of darkness are as important as the light of day to the functioning of ecosystems. With at least 30 percent of all vertebrates and more than 60 percent of all invertebrates worldwide nocturnal, and with many of the rest crepuscular (active at twilight), the implications are enormous. While most of us are inside and asleep, outside the night world is wide awake with matings, pollinations, and feeding–in short, the basic happenings that keep world biodiversity alive. Light pollution threatens this biodiversity.

I’ll be chatting with Paul about the search for natural darkness in an age of artificial light and will be posting an article on this site about this critically important book. I’ll also let you know when this On the Road with Mac and Molly episode is available for listening on Pet Life Radio (www.petliferadio.com).

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Forcing Conformity While Calling It Tolerance

I am a staunch advocate for free speech and the free exercise of religion and am appalled at the steady erosion of these long-in-place and long-cherished rights in the United States.  

Phil Robertson, of Duck Dynasty, recently responded to a question about sin, paraphrasing–what he believes to be–the Word of God. He has been threatened with the loss of his job on the A&E network because he did so.

Companies like Hobby Lobby are being threatened with millions of dollars in crippling fines and, thus, ultimate expulsion from the marketplace because they are refusing to provide government-mandated employee health insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs and related counseling. To go against their deeply-held pro-life beliefs would violate their Christian principles. This case is going all the way to the Supreme Court.

The marginalization of Christians in this country is a frightening trend and one that should alarm every American.

In the article below to which I link, is found this:

“Speaking on the issue of tolerance, mega-church pastor and bestselling author Rick Warren observed: ‘Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear them or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.’ Tolerance is not the same thing as acceptance, and acceptance is not the same thing as an endorsement. The message A&E’s decision sends is that the network will not tolerate someone who conscientiously objects to homosexuality on religious grounds. The implication of that message is that 45 percent of Americans [who are striving to live by biblical standards] should, in principle, be prepared either to sacrifice their jobs or recant their beliefs and endorse a lifestyle to which they are opposed, conscience be damned. To the extent that we embrace that implication, in television and in other American industries, we’re also embracing an identity as a nation that forces conformity while calling it tolerance.”

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/12/the-genuine-conflict-being-ignored-in-the-i-duck-dynasty-i-debate/282587/#!

Eugenics and Extropic Transhumanism: “Perfection” at What Cost?

Logo of the Second International Congress of Eugenics, 1921.
Logo of the Second International Congress of Eugenics, 1921.

Today, when we think of eugenics, our thoughts most likely turn to mid-twentieth century Germany and Nazi efforts to create a “pure race” by eliminating those considered unworthy of contributing to the chain of heredity.

What many may not know, however, is that the eugenics movement was well established in the United States before it spread to Germany. In fact, the Rockefeller and Carnegie families helped develop and fund the German eugenics programs including the one in which the notorious Josef Mengele was employed before being assigned to Auschwitz.

While the Nazis force-sterilized some 400,000 individuals deemed to be feeble-minded, degenerate, dissident or, in some other way, unfit to continue the line, beginning in the early 1900s and continuing for decades past World War II, more than 60,000 Americans were sterilized, against their will, as part of a eugenics movement aimed at “improving” the human race by eliminating “defectives” from the gene pool.

The world has never had a problem producing plenty of people who consider themselves more valuable than others based on education, social status, age, race, country of origin, physical and mental abilities, and other factors. “Eugenics,” the term that informs some our discussion of this kind of thinking today, was coined in 1869 by British scientist Sir Francis Galton. The movement, sparked by the concept, was fueled by Social Darwinism, and popularized by publications such as 1910’s Eugenics: The Science of Human Improvement by Better Breeding by C.B. Davenport. As eugenics originated in a time when decency and morality as well as promiscuity and criminality were considered hereditary, two tracks were laid: “positive eugenics,” that encourages the “genetically superior” to breed, and “negative eugenics” that works to prevent the “genetically inferior” from reproducing.

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. at his desk, 1921.
Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. at his desk, 1924.

I’ve never recovered from the horror I felt when I read Buck v. Bell (1927) in a Civil Liberties class in college. In the U.S. Supreme Court’s Buck decision, written by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., the court ruled that a state statute permitting compulsory sterilization of the “feeble-minded” and “socially inadequate” for the protection and health of the state did not violate the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Etched deeply in my mind is the line that concluded Holmes’ argument: “three generations of imbeciles is enough.” The Buck decision, which tested the validity of a Virginia law allowing eugenical sterilization, was largely seen as an endorsement of the practice and it paved the road for the tens of thousands of operations that were subsequently performed. In my estimation, this SCOTUS decision ranks with Roe v. Wade (1973) and Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) as among the most heinous ever handed down by the court.

In 1924 Carrie Buck—involuntarily institutionalized by the State of Virginia after she was raped and impregnated—challenged the state’s plan to sterilize her. Having already judged her mentally deficient, Virginia wanted to make Buck the first person sterilized under a new law designed to prevent hereditarily “defective” people from reproducing.

In Paul Lombardo’s book, Three Generations, No Imbeciles: Eugenics, the Supreme Court and Buck v. Bell, the author demonstrates that neither Buck nor her mother and daughter were the “imbeciles” condemned in the Holmes opinion. Lombardo insists the cards were stacked against Buck before she even stepped into the courtroom and the state of Virginia had her sterilized shortly after the 1927 decision.

The Buck decision was cited at the Nuremberg trials in defense of Nazi sterilization experiments; it has never been overturned.

Indiana was the first of 32 states that passed laws allowing authorities to order sterilization. Some states limited sterilization to inmates and institutionalized patients but others, including North Carolina, went further, allowing individuals within a community – often social workers – to petition the state to have a person sterilized.

On July 24, North Carolina adopted a budget that includes $10 million to compensate victims who were forced to undergo this procedure. It’s believed that 1,110 men and 6,418 women were sterilized in the state from 1929 to 1974. The amount paid out will depend on how many individuals step forward; it’s estimated the number surviving today is about 2,900. A state task force has been charged with making a recommendation on compensation: $20,000 per person has been suggested.

Elaine Riddick, one of the state’s most vocal victims of forced sterilization, said (in a report published by the BBC), that in 1968 she was raped by a neighbor who had threatened to kill her if she revealed what he had done. “She was 13,” the BBC reports, and “the daughter of violent and abusive parents in the desperately poor country town of Winfall [North Carolina] . . . While she was in the hospital giving birth, the state violated her a second time, she says. A social worker who had deemed her ‘feeble-minded,’ petitioned the state Eugenics Board to have her sterilised. Officials coerced her illiterate grandmother into signing an ‘x’ on an authorisation form. After performing a Caesarean section, doctors sterilised her ‘just like cutting a hog,’ she says. ‘They killed my kids . . . They killed mine before they got to me.’”

Official eugenics programs in the United States ended in 1979 but now The Sacramento Bee is reporting that, from 2006 to 2010, nearly 150 female inmates in California may have been sterilized and without required state approvals.

According to the Bee: “At least 148 women received tubal ligations in violation of prison rules during those five years—and there are perhaps 100 more dating back to the late 1990s . . . Former inmates and prisoner advocates maintain that prison medical staff coerced the women, targeting those deemed likely to return to prison in the future . . . The allegations echo those made nearly a half-century ago, when forced sterilizations of prisoners, the mentally ill and the poor were commonplace in California. [California was a leader in the eugenics movement, responsible for a third of all sterilizations nationwide.] State lawmakers officially banned such practices in 1979.”

The Sacramento Bee reports that the OB-GYN who worked at one of the correctional facilities has denied pressuring anyone. Instead, he insists he: “offered tubal ligations only to pregnant inmates with a history of at least three C-sections” for whom additional pregnancies could pose a danger.

Transhumanism H+ symbol, 2010, by Antonu.
Transhumanism H+ symbol, 2010, by Antonu.

More and more commentators are raising the alarm about the continuing force of eugenics but no discussion of this practice can really be broached today without touching upon the international, interdisciplinary transhumanism movement (H+) that has as its goal the fundamental transformation of human beings beyond their current physical and mental limitations. It is the next step in the drive towards engineering perfection.

In an article by Kevin Roeten that posted today on the Capitol Hill Outsider (http://capitolhilloutsider.com/re-emergence-of-eugenics/), the writer argues that, under Obama’s administration, eugenic methods that breach moral ethics are on the rise. Roeten also cites the number killed because of the Roe v. Wade decision and, in that context quotes Justice Ruth Ginsberg who, in recently stating her belief about abortions, said: “Frankly I had thought that, at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of.” And, yes, Roeten asserts, she was directly referring to eugenics.

Geoffrey Miller, on the Edge.org (http://edge.org/responses/q2013), says, “China has been running the world’s largest and most successful eugenics program for more than thirty years, driving China’s ever-faster rise as the global superpower. With the 1995 Maternal and Infant Health Law (known as the Eugenic Law until Western opposition forced a name change), China forbade people carrying heritable mental or physical disorders from marrying, and promoted mass prenatal ultrasound testing for birth defects. Deng [Xiaoping] also encouraged assortative mating through promoting urbanization and higher education, so bright, hard-working young people could meet each other more easily, increasing the proportion of children who would be at the upper extremes of intelligence and conscientiousness.

“Chinese biopower has ancient roots in the concept of ‘yousheng’ (‘good birth’—which has the same literal meaning as ‘eugenics’). For a thousand years, China has been ruled by a cognitive meritocracy selected through the highly competitive imperial exams. The brightest young men became the scholar-officials who ruled the masses, amassed wealth, attracted multiple wives, and had more children. Chinese eugenics will quickly become even more effective, given its massive investment in genomic research on human mental and physical traits. BGI-Shenzhen employs more than 4,000 researchers. It has far more ‘next-generation’ DNA sequencers that anywhere else in the world, and is sequencing more than 50,000 genomes per year.”

Sex-selective abortion is worsening sex ratios in countries such as India and China (where males are preferred to females) and one wonders how many females are not being brought to term in the U.S. because parents in this country, as well, would prefer to have males. In May of this year, the American Civil Liberties Union announced it would be filing suit against Arizona’s law (passed in 2011) that bans abortions based on gender preference or race. The Arizona law is the only state law in the nation that bans race-based abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks U.S. abortion laws. Three other states, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma, ban sex-based abortions. North Dakota and Kansas enacted sex-based abortion bans this year, but they’re not yet in force. The North Dakota law also bans abortions because the fetus has a birth defect. Today, it is estimated that 91-93 percent of pregnancies in Europe with a diagnosis of Down Syndrome are terminated; in the U.S., termination rates have been estimated at between 87 to 95 percent.

USA Today’s editorial board voiced their objection to Texas’ new anti-abortion law arguing that it will make it difficult for people to abort babies with Down Syndrome. “While some genetic conditions, such as Down syndrome, can be detected with amniocentesis at 16 to 22 weeks, even then it can take two weeks to get results,” they write. 
”Add specialists, research and time to reflect, and a 20-week ban forces women and couples to make heart-rending decisions against a ticking clock.” Never mind that the child in the womb can feel pain at this age and, as Roeten notes, are killed with the most barbaric of methods: “instruments/substances for dismemberment, disembowelment, decapitation, and poisoning and/or burning a developing baby to death.”

This, in my opinion, is institutionalized murder and it brings to my mind the quote from George Orwell’s Animal Farm: “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal that others.” The privileged, the powerful, the elite “some” have used the tools of sterilization and abortion to eliminate those they deem unworthy of life. Now the privileged, the powerful, the elite “some” have the tools to engineer what they believe will be a perfect human race. Science fiction often presages science fact and movies like Gattaca and Elysium may be providing us with previews of the dystopian worlds the powerful may impose upon the not so powerful underclasses.

A vision of the Posthuman. The Zodiac Attack, handmade scissor and glue collage, 2009, by Joana Coccarelli.
A vision of the Posthuman. The Zodiac Attack, handmade scissor and glue collage, 2009, by Joana Coccarelli.

What is perfection? What would constitute a perfect life? A perfect person? A perfect society? A perfect world?

Would we be better off with recalibrated pleasure centers designed to ensure lifelong emotional “well-being”? Would personality pills instill in our spirits love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? Would uploading our minds into machines—a process that is predicated on the belief that there is no immaterial soul (we are only our biological wiring)—make us happy?

It’s hard to argue against gene therapy that could eliminate disease, replacing “bad genes” with “good genes,” and I imagine there are loads of folks who would love to have their inner RNA codes reset for slimness and longevity. People are already benefiting from cybernetics with cyborg upgrades enhancing hearing and vision. And, I have to admit, it might be quite a hoot to have retractable wings. But what will it take to reach the transhumanist ideal of perfection? What will it cost us?

Religion is viewed by some transhumanist philosophers as entropic, dangerous, irrational, and a barrier to progress. Max More, for example, specifically speaks of the “Christian notion of salvation by the act of Jesus, rather than through our own restitution for wrongs and our own self-transformation” as resulting in “moral hazard.” He sees an “urgency” in replacing religions with other types of “meaning-fostering” systems. His choice: the “dynamic optimism” of “extropic transhumanism.”

“God,” he concludes, “was a primitive notion invented by primitive people, people only just beginning to step out of ignorance and unconsciousness. God was an oppressive concept, a more powerful being than we, but made in the image of our crude self-conceptions. Our own process of endless expansion into higher forms should and will replace this religious idea. As extropians pursuing and promoting transcendent expansion we are the vanguard of evolution. Humanity is a temporary stage along the evolutionary pathway. We are not the zenith of nature’s development. It is time for us to consciously take charge of ourselves and to accelerate our progress. No more gods, no more faith, no more timid holding back. Let us blast out of our old forms, our ignorance, our weakness, and our mortality. The future is ours.”

Again, I must say I do wonder how extropians might pursue their ideal. How might they be working, even now, to remove that which they deem impediments  to their ideal? Will they, in the pursuit of “perfection”—in the pursuit of racial purity, in the drive to drive out religion—attempt to exterminate those whose genetic stock or whose faith in the Other does not fit their ne plus ultra? Your thoughts?

READ MORE:

Philanthropy Roundtable – Philanthropy’s Shame: http://www.philanthropyroundtable.org/site/print/philanthropys_shame

BBC News – Sterilisation: North Carolina grapples with legacy: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-13700490

The Sacramento Bee – Female inmates sterilized in California prison without approval: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/07/07/5549696/female-inmates-sterilized-in-california.html

Transhumanism: Towards a Futurist Philosophy: http://www.maxmore.com/transhum.htm