Thursday, December 27, 2018

The Case For School Choice

NOTE: This post was originally a paper I wrote for a political science class back in 2003. Nonetheless, the issues it addresses are as relevant as ever. 

In June of 2002, the push for educational reform by means of private school vouchers scored a major victory as the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a 5-4 ruling which upheld vouchers as Constitutional. In the majority opinion, Cheif Justice William Rehnquist affirmed that:

We believe the program challenged here is a program of true private choice...It is part of a general and multifaceted undertaking by the State of Ohio to provide educational opportunities to the children of a failed school district. (1)


This failure of much of the current public school system is a key, although by no means the only, premise in this very complex issue. As a society which places a high value on freedom, it is understandable that parents would desire maximum freedom in the education of their children. Such freedoms would include parents of all races, persuasions and income levels being able to choose quality schools which are reflective of their moral and religious values and where their children’s risk of drugs and violence is kept to a minimum. Unfortunately, in many cases the capability of public schools to provide these things is simply not there.

First of all, the means of funding public education are grossly inadequate. The businesses whose tax revenue is used for this purpose is often concentrated in wealthy neighborhoods, leaving poor and minority families out in the cold. On the other hand, if a person invests the work, money and resources necessary to start a business, I can certainly understand why they would want their taxes to fund the schools where their children attend. This leaves us with an unfortunate stalemate, forcing us to choose between two unacceptable alternatives. Of the current proposals, I believe that private school voucher are the best way to help remedy this.


Some would object that public funds should not be used for schools with religious orientations. However, I would argue that religion is taught even more strongly in public schools than in many private ones. For example: a biology teacher who uses evolutionary theory to dogmatically claim that there is no God is teaching religion (yes, secular humanism is classified as a religion). This approach is not only hypocritical, it undercuts the very notion of "public" education and replaces it with a dictatorial method of indoctrination.


The spiritual elements of science are a vital, yet often overlooked aspect of education today. In fact, some of the greatest scientists in history, such as Gallileo, Copernicus, Keplar and many others acknowledged the existence of a Creator. Observing the wonders and majesty of the natural world in many cases sparks contemplation of something higher than ourselves. Are we so short sighted as to deny students this privilege? Yet the structure of public education often renders it meaningless.


There are other sides to this debate other than public schools vs. vouchers. A third proposal, advocated by many Libertarians, involves totally abolishing the concept of government run schools, and subsequently privatizing all education. Arguing that the Constitution provides no Federal role in education, advocates of this viewpoint claim that it offers maximum freedom for parents. Parents who want their children to be taught traditional or religious values can simply send them to a school where they are emphasized. Those who desire a more secular or liberal education for their children can also choose accordingly. The Alliance for the Separation of School and State provides an in-depth look at this issue. For more information, see .


Although I do not necessarily agree with this view, it does bring important issues to the table. Schools would have to compete against one another just like department stores and restaurants. This would provide strong initiative to fight problems such as drugs and gangs that are now so prevalent in our public schools. The competition would also serve to keep tuition low. Furthermore, no longer funding public schools would allow for a large tax cut which would also help to undercut tuition costs.


However, a potential weakness in the plan would involve the very poorest of citizens. In some cases, even the cost-saving measures mentioned above would still leave some families "out in the cold." This is why vouchers, while certainly not a cure-all, still offer what I feel is the most common sense approach by offering parents the most options to effectively educate their children.


(1) Frieden, Terry. "Supreme Court affirms school voucher program." 27 June, 2002. CNN. . 19 September, 2003.

#jameshboyd #keepitreal #yourfriendjames 

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

More From James

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQIYTwninJvCGEJ6qGu_DNw


https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChDWwizphmb8i4RmUuGSJqg

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCo-FM5usfs46FKUMT6N_76Q


Evaluating the Legacy of Jerry Falwell

The sudden passing of the Rev. Jerry Falwell in May of 2007 left little room for equivocation regarding the Moral Majority founder‘s place in history. To his supporters, Falwell was a fearless visionary who helped a wayward nation chart its moral course. To his critics, he was a loose cannon who often used sensationalist and mercenary tactics to score political favor. Ultimately, there is a degree of truth in both characterizations.

Those who knew Falwell personally, both friends and enemies, describe him as a thoughtful, generous man with a disarming sense of humor. Even  pornographer Larry Flynt, who crossed swords with Falwell many times, said that “My mother always told me that no matter how much you dislike a person, when you meet them face to face you will find characteristics about them that you like. Jerry Falwell was a perfect example of that. I hated everything he stood for, but after meeting him in person, (he) and I became good friends.”

Falwell’s rise to power is a fascinating study in the shifting paradigms of twentieth century politics. The year was 1980, and the administration of incumbent Democratic President Jimmy Carter was coming apart at the seams. A horrendous economy, soaring gas prices and American hostages in Iran left Americans loudly crying out for change. In addition, many conservative Christian voters who actively supported Carter (a devout Southern Baptist) felt very betrayed when the President’s liberal leanings began to show. Enter Jerry Falwell.

On the Republican side, Ronald Reagan was preaching a revival of Barry Goldwater inspired conservativism. Although Goldwater’s far-right crusade had failed miserably sixteen years earlier, Reagan mixed it with a warm optimism and a Christian-based social conscience on issues such as abortion and school prayer. With Falwell’s help, Reagan rallied the disenfranchised faithful, crushed Carter and became one of the most influential presidents of modern times. For better or worse, the new alliance between Evangelical Christians and the Republican Party was set.

Obviously, we cannot view these sort of events uncritically. Did the Republican Party suddenly undergo a religious revival in 1980? We may hope so, but remember, we are talking about politicians here. It is also noteworthy that Barry Goldwater himself was never comfortable with this new partnership, famously stating that “Every good Christian ought to kick Falwell right in the a**”.

Consequentially, some have questioned the validity of Falwell’s activism on legal grounds. Did the Reverend promote an illegitimate union between Church and State? I would answer a qualified no. Contrary to what some may claim, being a member of the clergy does not take away a person’s free speech rights. The law only prohibits ministers from endorsing candidates from the pulpit or from using church funds to support political campaigns. On their “own time,” they are perfectly free to speak at rallies, knock on doors and support their candidates of choice in whatever way the see fit.

At the same time, while Falwell’s right-wing crusades may have been legal, the question remains, were they wise? Although people of faith certainly have vital roles to play in the public arena, was all of the “Wrap the Flag Around the Cross” bravado really the best way to get the point across? The fruits of these efforts, at best, were mixed. Conservative pundit Cal Thomas, a former associate of Falwell’s, rightly points out that:

“The flaw in the movement was the perception that the church had become an appendage to the Republican Party and one more special interest group to be pampered. If one examines the results of the Moral Majority's agenda, little was accomplished in the political arena and much was lost in the spiritual realm, as many came to believe that to be a Christian meant you also must be ‘converted’ to the Republican Party and adopt the GOP agenda and its tactics.”

Over a decade after his death, Falwell remains a controversial figure. His legacy lives on through his family, through the  church and university he founded and through the on going debate on the issues he helped bring to the forefront. Whether we agree with all of his methods or not, his influence will be felt for decades to come.

Keep It Real,
James

#jameshboyd #keepitreal #yourfriendjames

Non-Traditionals May Hold Pro Life Future

A problem with our modern political discourse is the tendency to rely on bumper-sticker logic as a substitute for substantive reason. Nowhere is this more evident than in the eternal war over the ethics of abortion. The clichés are all too common: “Don’t force your morality on me,” “Keep your rosaries off of my ovaries” or more recently, “Keep your religion out of my uterus, and I’ll keep my foot out of your ...”

In order to make any real progress on this debate, we must do away with a few of the popular stereotypes, most specifically that the pro life cause is inherently a religious and/or a conservative political issue. Although many pro life advocates, myself included, do fall into these two categories, many of us also feel the debate has become far too myopic and politicized. The anti-abortion movement itself is much larger and more diverse than that. Consider this short list of “non-traditional” pro lifers: Theodore Roosevelt (our first “Progressive” president), Susan B. Anthony (and most other feminist founders), the Dalai Lama, liberal actor Martin Sheen and revered poet Maya Angelou.

There are anti-abortion wings within all major U.S. political parties, including the Republican National Coalition for Life, Democrats for Life of America and Libertarians for Life. The grounds for their beliefs may be, among other things, scientific (the fact that prenatal medical technology has made it virtually impossible to assert that an unborn child is not alive) or legal (the fact that Roe v. Wade is based on very spurious Constitutional scholarship, a fact that is even acknowledged by some pro choice advocates). At any rate, their convictions are certainly not always based on religion.

In fact, in looking at the history of American abortion policy, author and activist Vasu Murti observes: “The U.S. statutes against abortion have a nonsectarian history. They were put on the books when Catholics were a politically insignificant minority. Even the Protestant clergy were not a major factor in these laws. Rather, the laws were the achievement of the American Medical Association. ... One could argue, therefore, apart from religion, that recognizing the rights of the unborn, like the rights of blacks, women, lesbians and gays, children, animals and the environment, is a sign of secular social progress.”

This is reflected in the philosophies of many modern pro-life organizations. For example, the Atheist and Agnostic Pro-Life League is based on the premise that “... life is all there is and all that matters, and abortion destroys the life of an innocent human being.” Similarly, the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians states that “Human rights start when human life begins.” The popular but now defunct site LeftOut: A Haven for Progressive Pro-Lifers further explores how “... progressive pro-lifers tend to feel ‘left out’ of both liberal and pro-life groups.”

Recent political trends seem to indicate that these “Left Out” voters may be a more formidable voice than many have realized. An example would be the 2006 race for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania. The incumbent Republican, Rick Santorum, was a hero to religious Conservatives since he was first elected in the “Republican Revolution” of 1994. He was also reelected by a comfortable margin in 2000. However, in 2006, the Democrats coyly nominated pro-life State Treasurer Bob Casey Jr. With the contentious abortion issue off of the table, these voters finally had a viable option, sweeping Casey to a double-digit victory.

Democratic icon Hubert Humphrey summed it up well: “It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those that are in the dawn of life — the children, those who are in the twilight of life — the elderly, and those who are in the shadows of life — the sick, the needy and the handicapped.” It is this sort of compassionate approach that motivates the majority of pro-lifers, many of whom would be quite willing to consider the Democratic Party if they were offered more viable options.

Keep It Real,
James

#jameshboyd #keepitreal #yourfriendjames

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Christians Must Denounce Anti-Semitism

"His blood be on us, and on our children.”

These chilling words are well known from the account of Jesus’ trial recorded in Matthew 27:25. Throughout history, they have been used (completely out of context) to justify horrendous persecution of Jews all around the world. In spite of the fact that an angry mob can hardly claim the authority to call down a curse upon an entire race of people, this gross distortion of the Scriptures has resulted in unspeakable atrocities which have cast a black shadow over the history of Christianity.

To say that “THE Jews killed Jesus” is comparable to saying that “THE Caucasians killed Martin Luther King, Jr.” While it is true that Jesus’ crucifixion was the result of His conflict with the Jewish leadership of the day, the fact remains that Gentiles were just as much involved in Jesus’ death as were Jews. Keep in mind that the actual death sentence was passed down by a cowardly Roman governor, and carried out at the hands of Roman soldiers.

Furthermore, we must never lose sight of the fact that Jesus Himself was Jewish, as were all of His original disciples. Both the Old and New Testaments (with the possible exception of Luke), were written by Jewish believers. In fact, for the first 70 years of its existence, Christianity was seen as a sect of Judaism known as "The Way." It was only after the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans that the two faiths separated.

The tensions grew as Christianity spread through Europe. Gradually, the impression of Jesus evolved from that of a Jewish figure to that of a Greco-Roman figure. The image of a rugged, Mediterranean carpenter was replaced by one of an effeminate blue-eyed blond. Consequentially, this new, Eurocentric Jesus was seen as having little regard for His own people, and His professed followers were happy to do likewise.

Perhaps the most infamous examples of this are the venomous tirades of Martin Luther, who denounced Jewish people as “…(a) base, whoring people, that is, no people of God, and their boast of lineage, circumcision, and law must be accounted as filth."

It is also a matter of historic record that, in spite of his atrocities, Adolf Hitler was never formally excommunicated from the Catholic Church of his day. Even the universally revered Billy Graham was not above indulging in Jew-baiting, famously agreeing with then-president Richard Nixon’s conspiracies about Jews controlling the media.

Thankfully, recent decades have seen much vital progress in Jewish-Christian relations. In 1965, the Second Vatican Council declared that “The Church decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone." This principle was seen in action during Pope Benedict XVI’s 2008 visit to New York City, where he became the first Pope in history to visit an American synagogue.

Furthermore, Martin Luther’s modern followers have taken great care to distance themselves from their founder’s dark side. To this end, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod has issued the following statement: “(W)hile, on the one hand, we are deeply indebted to Luther for his rediscovery and enunciation of the Gospel, on the other hand, we deplore and disassociate ourselves from Luther's negative statements about the Jewish people…"

This is echoed by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, whose statement reads: “(W)e who bear (Luther’s) name and heritage must with pain acknowledge also Luther's anti-Judaic diatribes and the violent recommendations of his later writings against the Jews…We recognize in anti-Semitism a contradiction and an affront to the Gospel, a violation of our hope and calling, and we pledge this church to oppose the deadly working of such bigotry.”

Philosopher Blaise Pascal was once asked by King Louis XIV about the primary evidence for the existence of God. Pascal’s response? “The Jews, your Majesty.“

Those of us who are Christians are called to honor the Jewish people as those “first entrusted with the Oracles of God" (Romans 3:2). To those of you who are Jewish, please forgive us for our failure to life up to this ideal.

#jameshboyd #yourfriendjames #keepitreal

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Abortion Violence No Solution

"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

    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.

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 (www.hli.org) 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.

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.

#jameshboyd #keepitreal #yourfriendjames

Christians No Foes To Progress

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

<p>

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,
James

#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 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

"Cussing Christians" and "Swearing Saints"

A certain well-known minister once shocked his audience by stating that "...millions of people are starving to death, and most of you don't give a ----!" He went on to rebuke them by saying that "The sad thing is, most of you are more upset at my using that word than you are about people starving!" Was this the best way to make his point? That is open to debate, but it does challenge us in how we are going to define "bad words."

As much as we might want it to, the Bible does not give us a list of "forbidden words" (and, as we shall see, uses some rather "earthy" language itself in places). So there are admittedly some "grey areas" when it comes to where the line needs to be drawn. 

Often, the word "profanity" is used to describe any and all forms of off-color language, but that goes beyond its actual meaning. The word "profanity" means "outside the Temple" and refers specifically to blasphemous or sacriligious terms. Of course, this should not be part of any Christians vocabulary (Exodus 20:7). Nor should immoral sexual talk (Ephesians 5:4) or racist or otherwise degrading language (Matthew 5:22). These principles are summed up in the following Biblical guidelines:

"No foul language should come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear.”- Ephesians 5:4

"But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips."-Colossians 3:8, NIV

"Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone."-Colossians 4:6, NIV


But again, outside of these common sense perimeters, we are given few concrete examples of exactly what constitutes "corrupt communication." More often than not, the definition of "bad words" is culturally determined rather than biblically mandated, and is therefore subject to change over time. 

For example, the word "gay" is now almost universally recognized as referring to homosexuality. Yet originally, it meant to be happy or light hearted. Similarly, to "have an affair" once meant to throw a dinner party or other social gathering. Now it means to commit adultery. "Grass" used to be something people mowed, now it is something people smoke! 

This is noteworthy because the Bible itself even uses rather crude language on occasion. Although it is sometimes obscured by our flowery King James English, there is an inherant "earthiness" to the Scriptures that is often overlooked. Here are some examples:

Isaiah 64:6 states that man's righteousness is as "filthy rags." Literally translated, this is referring to a bloody menstruel cloth.

Matthew 15:17- Jesus illustrates a point by referring to a bowel movement.

Matthew 23:33- Jesus calls the religious leaders a "generation of vipers," or "sons of snakes." Referring to someone as the offspring of an animal remains a common and forceful means of denunciation. The modern equivilent would be "son of a (not-nice word for a female dog)."

Galatians 5:11-12- Paul wishes that the false teachers in the church would castrate themselves.

Phillipians 3:8- Paul compares his pre-Christian life to fesces.

So am I trying to justify bad language? Not at all. I am simply saying that we should define our terminology by the Bible itself, not simply letting cultural norms dictate to us what does and does not constitute improper language. God is not as prudish as we may have been led to believe. Just because a word might be considered to be in poor taste in certain settings, that doesn't necessarily make it offensive to God. 


Keep It Real, 

James 


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