Saturday, October 20, 2018

Abortion Violence No Solution

Originally published in the <a href="" target="_blank"><b>Daily Beacon</a></b> April 16, 2007<p>
"While the other side is out bombing clinics, we'll be electing candidates!" This quote, from the late California senator Alan Cranston, reflects a very destructive trend in the abortion wars. All too frequently, the attempt is made to generalize the entire pro life movement as being a group of far-right fanatics bent on using violence and coercion to enforce their agenda. Of course, such fallacious logic ignores two important facts:
1. These tactics are thoroughly denounced by 99.9% of the pro life community, and<p>
2. Violence and extremism occur on the pro choice side as well. </ul>

Between 1994 and 1998, when abortion related violence was at its peak, there were seven reported murders performed by self styled anti-abortion militants (I will not call these criminals "pro life"). While this is certainly seven too many, there have been far fewer abortion providers killed on the job than in many other professions. It is also noteworthy that when pro life President George W. Bush was elected, the numbers dropped even more dramatically. Nonetheless, in every case, the true pro life movement forcefully and universally condemned these heinous acts. In the words of pro life liberal Jim Trageser:
“I have vehemently condemned these attacks for the exact same reason I condemn abortion -- we do not have the right to take another's life…To suggest I am guilty or share the blame for these abominable attacks is to stretch the meaning of personal responsibility beyond all reasonable recognition. By this logic, Martin Luther King Jr. was responsible for the Black Panthers because both sought equality for blacks. Extend this argument to its logical conclusion, and Abraham Lincoln shares the guilt for John Brown's terrorism because both opposed slavery…Any effort to stigmatize the entire pro-life movement because of what a few terrorists claim as their motive is nothing more than emotional blackmail.”
Furthermore, pro lifers are often the very ones involved in bringing the perpetrators to justice. When a Birmingham, Alabama abortion clinic was bombed, it was a chapter of Feminists for Life who offered a reward for the guilty person’s arrest. Similarly, Priests for Life, under the leadership of Fr. Frank Pavone, has also offered substantial rewards for fugitives in clinic violence cases.<p>

We must also note that violent extremism is certainly not exclusive to the pro life side. There have also been many criminal acts performed by pro choice radicals. In fact, Human Life International ( has documented over 7000 incidents of criminal activity by pro choice extremists. They include 880 homicides and other killings, 86 attempted murders, 23 arsons and bombings, 787 assaults, 1,798 sex crimes (including 169 rapes), 59 kidnappings, 420 cases of vandalism, 270 drug-related crimes and .1,577 medical crimes. Some examples:
In 1993, pro choice activist Eileen Ornstein Janezik shot and killed Jerry Simon, who was a minister, radio host and pro life activist. Janezik then continued to hold police at bay for six more hours. <p>
In 1994, abortion provider Alicia Ruiz Hanna was convicted of murdering her patient, Angela Sanchez after Sanchez died at her clinic. Hanna then attempted to stuff Sanchez's body into the trunk of her car, as Sanchez's four children looked on.<p>

in 1998, pro choice activist Alfred E. Smith was convicted of murdering his ex girlfriend, Deena Moody, specifically because she refused to have an abortion.</ul>

Regardless of which side of the abortion debate you happen to be on, we should all be horrified by these sort of tactics. How we view the abortion issue largely reflects how we view life, sex, religion and many other "hot button" topics. While meaningful dialog and debate are to be encouraged, we should all find common ground in denouncing violence and extremism wherever it is found. No matter how noble one may perceive their cause to be, violence is never a justifiable way to promote it. To do so is the very definition of terrorism.<p>

#jameshboyd #keepitreal #yourfriendjames

Christians No Foes To Progress

Originally published in <a href="" target="_blank"><b>The Daily Beacon</a></b>, Monday, February 19, 2007<p>
Adolf Hitler once remarked that "Once the enemy has been identified, all proof becomes automatic." When society looks for scapegoats, religious groups have always been an easy target. In today’s world, one of the more common pariahs has been the so-called "Christian Right." However, as we will see, this term is often more caricature than reality. Of course, the movement does have its visible spokespersons (Falwell, Robertson, Dobson, Bauer, etc), but when it comes to individual, everyday citizens, the question becomes a bit more complex: Exactly what makes one a part of the "Christian Right?"<p>
Since the majority of Americans profess to be Christian, few would ridicule a person following that faith in their personal lives. On the other hand, many would argue that "It’s OK to be a Christian, just stay out of politics." Of course, if we followed this logic, we would have to repeal both the anti-slavery movement and the civil rights movement, as they were spearheaded by Christian ministers. Still other would argue that the problem is “legislating morality,” but all civil laws, even the speed limit, legislate morality to some degree. <p>
Martin Luther King wisely observed that "The church is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state." Contrary to popular belief, the goal is not to establish a Christian Theocracy in America (a few "Kingdom Now" reconstructionist groups aside). Rather, the conscience Dr. King spoke of is alive and well in the hearts of Christian citizens who desire to follow Jesus’ command to be light to a dark world. Of course, this involves challenging the "status quo," and often it involves being misunderstood and misrepresented. <p>
For example, if simply opposing abortion is such a "fringe" position, then that fringe would include the very founders of the feminist movement. Pioneers such as Susan B. Anthony, Matilda Gage and Elizabeth Cady-Stanton all saw abortion as an act which devalues human life and in doing so, hinders the progress of women. <p>
The pro-life movement is made up of people from every belief system, including some with no religious belief at all. The underlying concern is that the demeaning of human life is a very dangerous thing. Given the advances in prenatal medical technology, we can detect an unborn child's heartbeat as early as three weeks. Why, then, is it so "extreme" to acknowledge that child's personhood?<p>
Another hot-button issue for Christian conservatives is the "Intelligent Design" debate. It is unfortunate that such a false dichotomy is so often drawn between the worlds of science and faith. Copernicus, Newton, Keplar, Pascal, Mendel, Pasteur and countless other scientific luminaries were Christians.  They would no doubt be appalled at the way their beliefs are being ridiculed by supposedly "enlightened" secularists.<p>
Philosophical and theological enquiries are necessary to any discussion about the origin of life. If we take them away, then our only alternative is to define the universe in totally materialistic terms. Again, it is not only Christians who are uncomfortable with this. Consider the following: "The products of pure chance in the random combination of genes is an invitation to nihilism and spiritual poverty...the view that all aspects of reality can be reduced to matter and its various particles is . . . as much a metaphysical position as the view that an organizing intelligence created and controls reality." Interestingly, this quote comes, not from the podium of a Creation Science rally, but rather from a man named Tenzin Gyatso, otherwise known as the 14th Dalai Lama!  Do these concerns make him a part of this “radical Christian Right?” Hardly!<p>
Many other issues could be addressed, but these sorts of questions are not going away. Religious faith should not disqualify a person from offering answers to them.

#jameshboyd #keepitreal #yourfriendjames


Friday, October 12, 2018

The Christian Enigma of Donald Trump

So, what is an Evangelical Christian to make of the President? Here is my current perspective, subject to change.

I didn't vote for Trump because of concerns about his moral character and his latecomer status to the conservative cause. I still have concerns about the former, but have been pleasantly surprised at the latter.

For the most part he has been very consistent in supporting issues of concern to Christians. Even the great Goliath of Roe v Wade may finally be in the crosshairs.

Is he a "baby Christian" himself as some have suggested? I don't know, but at the very least he knows who "brought him to the dance."

But on the downside, critics on the left are quick to point out the hypocrisy of crying "character counts" during the Clinton scandals then giving someone like Trump a pass. They do have a point.

The GOP may have forever forfeited its voice for  values and morality. Whatever good Trump may do, I hope it doesn't prove to be a Faustian bargain down the road.

Keep It Real,

#jameshboyd #keepitreal #yourfriendjames

Friday, July 6, 2018

"The Church Needs To..." Misconceptions About Faith Based Charity

A number of years ago I was talking with an old friend who had not been to church in a while. One of the reasons he gave was that he did not feel that churches were doing enough to help people in need. While I ceded that there was always room for improvement , I also told him about a number of outreaches my church at the time was involved in. He responded, rather curtly  "Do you train them for jobs?" When I acknowledged that we didn't do that, the conversation completely shut down. He wouldn't listen to anything else I had to say.

Certainly,  this does serve as a sobering  reminder to believers not to neglect our duty in these areas. Caring for those in need is the single most frequently repeated command in the entire Bible. As we attempt to live this out, albeit imperfectly, there are some who are quick to criticize the church for it's shortcomings. Often the criticism is valid, other times it
 is based on faulty and even unbiblical reasoning.

 This is embodied in  some of the popular Memes circulating on social media, which I will address as we go along.  Before we proceed, I will remind you of three things that I hope we can all agree on:
  • Are there churches that neglect God's command to care for the needy? Unfortunately, yes.
  • Are the "megachurches" that misuse their privileges and resources? Yes, but that is not typical of most churches.
  • In all areas, is there room for improvement? Absolutely! 
So with that in mind, let's look at meme number one:

First of all, having a nice place to worship is not at odds with Biblical charity. Simply look at God's instructions to build the Tabernacle (Exodus 26) and later the Temple (1 Chronicles 28). Many years later Jesus Himself would worship in a similar temple, and while He certainly did challenge its corrupt leadership, He still acknowledged it as God's house 
(Matthew 21:12-13). 

In all likelihood, these homeless shelters, missions etc. are operated and funded by many of these same churches. Those volunteering on any given day may very well be members of these churches. Who is to say that the people in the SUV may not volunteer there on other days? 

Also, keep in mind that a church's activities in these areas may not always be immediately visible. Churches vary widely in terms of facilities, finances and human resources. In addition, different churches have different callings and giftings, so the methods they use may also vary. Just because you may not see the work directly on the church grounds does not necessarily mean that the church is not engaged.

Often, area churches will work together in parachurch ministries and consequentially can help many more people than they could individually. In the east Tennessee region where I live, examples would include .Knox Area Rescue MinistriesThe Knoxville Dream Center and The Compassion Coalition,

So if you have questions regarding a certain church, why not actually contact the church and ask for yourself instead of jumping to conclusions? You might be surprised! 

I do not deny this is a problem. I have personally left churches in the past over what I felt were inappropriate financial practices and will certainly never defend a church that participates in it. That being said, it is important that we don't take things to the opposite extreme as some do. 
There is nothing unethical about a minister being paid a decent salary. Jesus said the laborer is worthy of his hire (Luke 10:7, also see Matthew 10:10; Luke 10:7; Galatians 6:6, 1 Timothy 5:17-18 and Hebrews 7 1-11). 

However, if a person has the leadership skills necessary to be a successful pastor, he is likely earning significantly less than he could working a secular job. Many pastors are grossly overworked, often being on call around the clock. Pastors generally also have to purchase their own insurance and pay their own Social Security premiums, both of which can be very costly. If your goal is simply to get rich, then ministry is certainly not the profession for you! 

Nonetheless, the point is well taken. Especially in times like ours, it is more important than ever that churches and ministries handle their finances with the utmost integrity. I would encourage every ministry leader to meditate regularly on the following Scriptures:
  • We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited (2 Corinthians 6:3, NIV, emphasis added).
  • We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man. (2 Corinthians 8:19-20, emphasis added).
  • But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people (Ephesians 5:3, NIV, emphasis added).
As for taxing churches, the problem with that is that it would be punishing all churches for the sins of the few. For each ministry that does these sort of things, there are countless others who are faithfully doing the work. They may be smaller and less visible, but they are out there.

If churches were taxed, the ones hardest hit would be the smaller churches who are operating on shoestring budgets. The aforementioned faith based charities these churches fund would suffer greatly. In the meantime the big money ministries the meme refers to would still find ways around it. They could simply write off their private jets and other extravagances as business expenses, for instance.

Tax exemption for houses of worship has a scriptural foundation (Genesis 47:26; Ezra 7:24). Is it sometimes abused? Of course, but it is there for good reason and doing away with it would do much more harm than good. .

And finally, a favorite of many politicians:

Not exactly. In fact, misconceptions in this very issue led up to one of the first attempts to kill Jesus! In Luke 4:25-29,  Jesus boldly proclaimed His mission to bring good news to the poor. Interestingly, though, this same discourse reveals a somewhat surprising overview of how this operates. 

In verses. 26-27, Jesus referred to a time when a horrible famine was in the nation of Israel, but how many people actually received God's help? Only one, a widow who fed the prophet (1 Kings 17:9). Another time, there were many in the land who suffered from leprosy, yet God's healing power only came to one person, a man named Naaman, who likewise heeded the Divine directions given to him (2 Kings 5:1-14). The people who heard these words were so angry with Jesus the tried to throw Him over a cliff! 

The point He was making is that God's provision is not unconditional. In carrying out His mission today, it is not at all unreasonable to expect proper accountability from those who receive the aid.  Churches and ministries have limited resources which come almost exclusively from voluntary contributions (which the contributors have already payed taxes on. This is why the churches and other non-profit organizations  don't pay taxes on the money again). 

I once had a part-time job as a security guard for a church. When I first started the job and the pastor was going over the various responsibilities, he made it a point to tell me about people who came by the church seeking financial help. As he explained, there was a procedure they had to follow. For example, they would call other churches in the area to see if the people in question had been there first. The reason was that some people made their entire living panhandling from churches. While it is sad that this is the case, these people can quickly drain all of the resources from a benevolence ministry if proper precautions are not taken.

Interestingly, we see similar issues discussed by the Apostle Paul in his letter to his protégé', the young Pastor Timothy. In this Epistle, we learn that Timothy's church is establishing a program to care for its widows, which is certainly a noble effort. However, Paul gives some advice to his close friend which would seem surprising by today's standards. He tells Timothy that those widows receiving the aid must meet rigid requirements regarding age (1 Timothy 5:9), and they must have no family or other means of support (1 Timothy 5:3-16). They must also have a proven reputation for pure lives and service to the church (1 Timothy 5:10). Paul even goes as far as to say refuse the aid to younger widows, as they would abuse the privilege (1 Timothy 5:11-12).  The same compassion that inspires the church's charity should also inspire proper stewardship of its resources to see that they do the maximum good. 

I will conclude with a challenge. It is very easy to criticize from the sidelines. If you see something you feel is not being done, have you considered that God may be giving you a vision to help do something about it? If you have never surrendered your life to Christ, that is where it starts. Then, find a good Gospel centered church to partner with and see what God does from there! 

Keep It Real, 
James  H Boyd 

#jameshboyd #keepitreal #yourfriendjames 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

"Repairing the Breach" What We Can Learn From the Methodists

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#jameshboyd #keepitreal