Protecting Life 2 – The Ethics of Euthanasia

Rockwell 4 Life

Do you know what euthanasia is?

The first I remember hearing the term was in a cartoon. It depicted two cute children in stereotypical oriental garb. It said, “Youth in Asia! What’s the big deal?”

Well, euthanasia is a big deal. It was a big deal when Hitler pushed his Kinder-Euthanasie, the systematic killing of several thousand mentally and physically handicapped German children because they were perceived to be a drain on the nation‘s resources. (And on the inevitable slippery ethical slope, that kind of thinking made it just a short sub-human step to executing undesireables like the Jews because their financial prowess was draining the nation’s resources.)

That was then. And euthanasia is still a very big deal now. Most proponents are genuinely trying to be compassionate. They usually have very kind-hearted explanations for ending a life to alleviate pain and suffering. (After all, who wants people to suffer?) Usually the laws start only with euthanasia as an option for only those who are end-end-stages terminally ill. But euthanasia is always a slippery slope, practically and morally.

In countries who are “ahead” of the United States in “compassionate end-of-life legislation,” the noble-sounding “right-to-die” gradually and inevitably begins to morph into a utilitarian “responsibility-to-die.” “Why should your family have to bear the financial and emotional toll of taking care of your prolonged death?” And “is it good to stewardship for your country to continually invest a fortune in the care of you, a dying or disabled individual, when those funds could help so many living people – like the poor?“ Look at that last argument? How different is it than Kinder-Euthanasie? Do you see the slippery slope? (If you’re unaware of the steadily progressing policies and pressure in countries like Belgium, the Netherlands, and more lately Canada, go to BreakPoint.org and search for the topic “euthanasia.“)

Now, many contend that euthanasia isn’t much different than palliative care – think “hospice.“ Hospice focuses on helping dying people die with dignity. Euthanasia advocates generally make the same claim, asking, “Isn’t it compassionate to allow a person seeking personal relief from the inevitable pain and suffering of their illness to choose the timing of their death – even if it’s a potentially prolonged period before the end is truly near. Who could argue with that, right? Aren’t both just surrendering, in one way or another, to a terminal illness? The differences may sound subtle but are actually significant: palliative care gracefully allows nature to take its course in the final stages of a terminal disease; physician assisted suicide, though, proactively advances what may (or may not) be inevitable.

And what about euthanasia’s cousin, physician assisted suicide? Again, it can be spun to sound kind-hearted. Laws supporting this usually begin with just allowing a suffering person to relieve the anguish of their own terminal illness at their own time and choosing. But the bar for what is allowed usually devolves steadily. The standard of “truly terminal” inevitably becomes alleviating the “impossible to bear.” Some maladies like severe handicaps, unabating pain, and unending depression increasingly become acceptable reasons for physician assisted suicide.

Such policies have collateral damage on a culture. For example, medical professionals and families are placed in precarious ethical and legal positions. Doctors in some places are increasingly required to facilitate the ending of lives that clearly aren’t yet ending. In other places, courts and governments require the removal of life support from people who aren’t making “adequate progress,“ forcing families to fight for the lives of their loved ones. Furthemore, as governments are normalizing suicide in terms of physician assisted suicide, all forms of suicide rise. The value of life across culture is unintentionally being cheapened.

It truly is a slippery slope. But while most arguments for “graceful endings“ can sound compassionate on the surface, ultimately euthanasia and physician assisted suicide are a usurpation of the authority of God. God creates life. God sustains life. All our days are in his hands (see Ps 31:15). And “No man has … authority over the day of death” (Eccl 8:8).

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who importantly

distinguishes between

euthanasia and removing

life-support from a family

member who is brain-dead

or whose heart or lungs

have ceased all function.

Let me explain …

I’ve been in many hospital rooms when life support, like a ventilator, was removed. Though occasionally the person lives – for an hour, a day, a week, or many years – usually the person passes in short order. They no longer have the capacity for life on their own. And I help people say a prayer …

I adapt our traditional Lutheran stewardship prayer. When the church brings forward the day’s collected offering, the church prays: Merciful Father, we offer with joy and thanksgiving what you have first given us – our selves, our time, and our possessions, signs of your gracious love. Receive them for the sake of him who offered himself for us, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

We adapt that at a terminal bedside, praying, “Merciful Father, we offer with joy and thanksgiving what you have first given us – our mother, our sister, and our friend – a sign to us of your gracious love. Receive her for the sake of him who offered himself for us, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

I said this recently at the bedside of my father-in-law. Grief filled the room as his ventilator was removed. But hope also filled the room of this man of faith. We miss him, but with thanksgiving we gave him back into the hand of his Father and creator. 

 

Protecting Life 1 – The Ethics of War

Rockwell 4 Life

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. – 1 Corinthians 3:16-17

  • Humans – particularly believers – are God’s temple.
  • Therefore, human life is holy. Sacred.
  • Therefore, it is a sin – an “abomination” (Prov 6:16-19) – to destroy human life.
  • There’s a profound consequence to destroying life – our own destruction. As it say in today’s verse, “if anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him.”

For the last few days, I’ve been asking why the above portrait has traditionally been viewed as the most poignant of Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms. It’s because we know instinctively that human life is sacred … especially the lives of innocent children.

As the father in the picture tucks his children into bed, the newspaper in his hand reveals the first of four very real issues of taking human life: warfare. With a headline reading “Bombings Ki … Horror Hit,” Rockwell was referencing (and grieving} the German Luftwaffe’s bombings of our British Allies. In London, for example, one million homes were destroyed in a fifty-seven-day period of air raids. Over forty thousand civilians were killed.

Just War theory – which traces back to St. Augustine – says, among other things, that it is unjust to take innocent and civilian life. Thus, it’s easy to blame the evil Nazis for their launching of an unjust war (not to mention the horrors of the Holocaust). So the good guys – the Allies – were good, right? Well, not always. The Germans bombed Allied civilians, and we, in turn, bombed German civilians. Americans chanted, “Remember Pearl Harbor.” Innocent, unsuspecting life was claimed that day, right? America rightly defended herself, and yet were we purely innocent? No, we dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing about one hundred and fifty thousand innocent civilians.

For the first years of my ministry, I served as pastor in Los Alamos, New Mexico, the town where “the bomb” was developed. On the fiftieth anniversary of these bombings, I preached a sermon grieving the brokenness of the world that leads to war. After talking to lots of World War II era survivors, I said that I could absolutely “understand” America’s actions. Why? Because an invasion of Japan was being planned. Our soldiers, sailors, and Marines were being told to expect a million American casualties (not to mention a million Japanese casualties). What American president wouldn’t try to trade 75,000 “enemy lives” for a million American lives (and then try another bombing when the enemy didn’t surrender after the first bombing)? Pragmatically, I get it. But let’s not pretend it’s good! War is a violently tragic symptom of broken world.

So what would you say to soldiers and sailors who shoot weapons at the enemy? I’ve had to counsel several who’ve taken life. Most did so justly, defending (not a country usually, but mainly) their own life or the lives in their platoon; nevertheless, the taking of human life still haunts them. And it should. Human life is sacred.

Most of these warriors can intellectually rationalize the taking of life – it was kill or be killed; we were defending ourselves and others; we were fighting for a good cause; we were the good guys, fighting against an evil; etc. – but intellectual rationalization only goes so far. Deep down the soul still hurts … and hurts … and hurts … until we go crazy, make peace, or go numb.

In our verse of today, the Apostle Paul tells us that …

  • Humans – particularly believers – are God’s temple.
  • Therefore, human life is holy. Sacred.
  • Thus, it is a sin – an “abomination” (Prov 6:16-19) – to destroy human life.
  • And make no mistake: There’s a profound consequence to destroying life – our own destruction. As it say in today’s verse, “if anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him.”

Wait, read that last line again: “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him.” Does that mean that every soldier who’s pulled a trigger is doomed to eternal destruction? I have two answers …

First, no. Joshua and David, for example, were warriors who were sanctioned by God. The Lord chose them and used them to fight for his purposes – Joshua was claiming the Promised Land, David was defending and expanding the kingdom. But doesn’t every warring king throughout history generally make the same claim? Some claim, “We need to defend our country!” (Generally that’s just.) Other’s cry, however, “We need expand our territory for the good of our people.” (“For the good of our people” is usually a sham, and these aggressions are generally unjust.) But what do you say to the poor soldier who’s a pawn in a greater battle? Maybe he’s been pressed into service (with the threat of jail or execution if he doesn’t serve), if he destroys a life will God destroy him? Or maybe he’s just trying to support king and country, trusting in the leadership (or rhetoric) of his “superiors”, if he destroys a life will God destroy him? Or maybe he’s just simply trying to survive another day at a time on a bloody battlefield, if he destroys a life will God destroy him?  –Let me answer that with a second observation …

Is every soldier who’s pulled a trigger deserve the fate of “destruction”? Yes! Let me explain by again turning to the example of King David … and to Saul (who eventually became the Apostle Paul). Both David and Paul took innocent life. David arranged the death of his mistress’s husband, Uriah. Saul prompted the persecution and death of the first Christian martyr, Stephen. Now, we’ve heard the warning: If you destroy a life (kill), God will destroy you. So what was the fate of these two “heroes of the faith”? They were both destroyed … but not in the way you might expect. Saul had to die to his old life (proud, self-righteous Pharisee), and rise to serve the true purposes of God. Paul put it like this – 2 Corinthians 5:17 – “Whoever is a believer in Christ is a new creation. The old way of living has been put to death, and a new way of living has come into existence.”

David had to do the essentially the same thing. For him it was confession. Repentance! He humbled himself before God, crying,  “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight. Cast me not away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:3,4,11,10). “Whoever [confesses, repents, believes God instead of himself] is a new creation. The old way of living has been put to death, and a new way of living has come into existence.”

And that’s the same fate for all of us. We may not be mass murderers or have pulled the trigger in war, but Jesus says that we’re all murders in a sense. In the Sermon on the Mount he says, “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment” (Matthew 5:21-22). We’ve all been angry. We’ve all hurt others. Therefore, we’re all murderers. Meaning, like David or Saul or any trigger-pulling soldier, unless we humble ourselves and submit to God’s rule (a voluntary destruction of the old self), we’re destined for “judgment” and even “destruction.” In other words, we must come to God to live.

“Thou shalt not kill”! That’s the first of four reflections on this theme of the sacredness of life.

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who likes to jokingly

(and yet seriously) say,

“Don’t make me pray

that God humbles you.”

(The point:

“Humble thyself

in the sight of the Lord.”

“Deny yourself, take up your

cross, and follow Jesus.”

“Make the only death

you’re ever part of be the

death of your old self!”)

 

Protecting Our Children 2

Freedom-from-Fear_web

Freedom from Fear

PROTECTING OUR CHILDREN

Part 2

Yesterday, I celebrated the holiness of protecting children … and lamented that today’s culture is often harming them. I ended what became part one with this sentence …

Anxiety and depression are absolutely

swallowing this generation of children.

The statistics are becoming epidemic.

The devotion continues …

My sense of why anxiety and depression are growing is, in part, because of technology. For one, it links children too thoroughly to the pressure of social media and the lies of culture. It is undermining their foundation. Secondly, I don’t think our brains were intended to operate at the speed of technology. Brains are overloaded; psyches are shutting down. Too be honest, few of us adults want to get rid of our smartphones! Worse, most of us are immersing our children into the perils of technology earlier and earlier. One destructive result: Children are increasingly more comfortable with devices than real people. We’re increasingly isolated, addicted, and alone.

Now, I’m surely not blaming parents. There have always been good parents and bad parents in every generation. In fact, we need to celebrate that most parents have always wanted the best for their kids and are simply doing the best they know how. But modern parents are overwhelmed, over-busy, and over-tired. They’re victims themselves of the cultural disease, and are too often passing it along. Sadly, many modern parents didn’t have had great role models with too many coming from broken families and they’re just trying to figure it out as they go. Further, they’re products of the same culture and lies that we’d wish to sway our children from. And all of this makes modern parents too prone to cater to the wants and feeling of their kids. Wanting to be liked, too many don’t stand up when children push back even a little. We let them watch what they want to watch (and what the world is enticing them to consume). We take the kid’s word over the teacher’s word. We’re failing to teach our children obedience, character, humbleness, and gratitude.

I’ve gone on longer than I should in a devotion. (That’s what I wrote originally and which is why I broke it into two parts.) But the reason that today’s Norman Rockwell picture is so poignant is that while bombs were falling across Europe in World War II, two innocent children were being lovingly tucked into their beds. And we instinctively know that that’s the way things are supposed to be. Protecting children is holy. Harming children is evil. And so I get verbose when it’s too easy to look around our world today and find that too many children are our culture’s pawns.

I didn’t intend to write this precisely as our new family and youth minister, Scott Elliott, begins at Spirit of Joy, but care of children, youth, and families ought to be paramount in any church’s call. (And I think we need to celebrate how many of you – who don’t even have kids at home anymore – are volunteering to bless our kids in ministry at Spirit of Joy!!) And parents, if you’re reading this, your kids are the ones who are blessed. None of us in perfect, but I thank God that you’re continually seeking something higher that will transform your own heart … and thereby influence your children.

To close … I heard something on a podcast a few days ago that may help:

At one point, the commentators essentially said that our world today teaches us to label our kids – “You’re the pretty one,” “You’re the athlete,” “You’re the scholar.” They said, essentially, that this makes a child’s identity based on performance, and if they ever stumble, they doubt whether you’ll still love them. No! Teach them that “You’re my child, and I love you because you’re you. God made you you! That’s the greatest gift and greatest identity you could ever have. You’re God’s child, and you’re my child, and I love you because I’ll always love you.” (Interested in the podcast? Start at 15 minutes as Eric Metaxas begins his interview with Dr. Meg Meeker, author of many books including her most recent, Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture.)

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who celebrates

Christian parents

and wants to help

 

 

Protecting Our Children 1

Freedom-from-Fear_web

Freedom from Fear

PROTECTING OUR CHILDREN

Part 1

As we visit this painting again, I want to ask why this painting was viewed as the most poignant of Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms.

Why? Because in the midst of bombs falling across Europe in World War II, two innocent children were being lovingly tucked into their beds. That’s the way things are supposed to be. And the threat of harm being done to innocent children tugs at every parent’s heart. Tugs at every sane person’s heart.

Protecting children is holy. Harming children is evil. We all know that. Instinctively.

And yet look around our world today and you’ll find that too many children are pawns.

I was a child in the midst of the “Me Generation.” Self-fulfillment and free sex were celebrated in culture. But pull those pillars out from a society’s moral foundation, and what falls? Marriages first, and then the kids. As an era of parents championed personal fulfillment – instead of personal responsibility – the divorce rate spiked for the first major time in history. And who were the victims? Again, it was the kids. There are many heroic single parents and some marriages are truly untenable, but with the dissolving of the family – which is supposed to be the key place of security and identity – I’ve watched my generation (and the subsequent generations) become increasingly untrusting of deep relationships and commitment. And again, the kids are the victims … and kids carry their wounds into the next generation.

How many of us know that children in today’s culture are vulnerable – indeed, more vulnerable than most of us were when we were kids? One of my favorite axioms is:

Bad ideas have consequences.

And terrible ideas have victims.

Our culture constantly lies to our kids. You can probably name the trials facing our kids as well as I can. Let me start you with a few examples …

  • We tell our kids that drugs are bad … but then we increasingly legalize them. (More and more states are reveling in the huge tax benefits, while more and more teens are becoming victims.)
  • Our culture constantly trumpets sexuality as the key to our identity … and mocks any worldview that says that the soul (and its moral integrity) is the key to our identity.
  • We lie to our kids, saying, feelings matter more than facts … advocating for sex changes for children as young as preschoolers.
  • For a generation, we shame our kids over the shape of their bodies … and as that thankfully wanes, materialism takes back over (which our youth tell me is the current situation). Billion dollar celebrities are essentially telling kids that they’re only as valuable as their clothes.
  • Too much technology is isolating kids. Too many are more comfortable alone with their technology than present with other people.
  • Unchecked technology is also a window into the darkness in the world. If my generation wanted to be titalated, we had to seek out pornography; now our kids have to fight to avoid it. A generation ago, fringe views were isolated to the fringe; today a few clicks can take you to terrible extremism.

You can probably argue with one or two of these, and/or you might be able to list six dozen more. But please understand, I’m not denigrating our kids. In fact, we need to celebrate our youth. They are infinitely stronger than we had to be! (And for kids of faith, they are substantially deeper than most of us ever were!)

I read somewhere that the rate of children engaging in “risky behaviors” – think things like teen sex and drug use – really hasn’t changed since I was a kid. Indeed, in some ways, today’s kids are more responsible … with one exception: When my generation refrained from something like sex, people would say, “You’re a better person than I am. I’m not that strong.” Today if young people refrain, they’re judged as prudish and intolerant. Meaning? The world is shaming integrity and aiming for the heart of our children. And so I say it again: We need to celebrate our youth. They are infinitely stronger than we had to be! (And for kids of faith, they are substantially deeper than most of us ever were!)

And yet, anxiety and depression are absolutely swallowing this young generation. The statistics are becoming epidemic.

End of Part 1

Tune in tomorrow to find further diagnosis of

a cultural problem, and perhaps a fix or two.

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who kept writing

and writing and

figured, I better

make this two parts,

because I obviously

think it’s important

 

Freedom from Fear

Freedom-from-Fear_web

Freedom from Fear

What is the stereotypical message from heaven? Whenever God’s messengers show up – the angels – their first word is usually, “Fear Not!”

Fear is not God’s plan. As Scripture says, “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline” (2 Tim 1:7).

So if fear is not from God, where does it come from? Ultimately, fear is the result of our rebellion against God … and of Satan’s rebellion against God. Jesus said that Satan is “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). Listen to some of the lies that Satan, the world, and even our own guilty consciences tell us – “I can’t,” “God won’t,” “Nobody cares,” “I don’t matter,” and “It’s too late.” These lies keep us in bondage to doubt, sadness, and despair. These lies leave us helpless, fearful, and alone. Guilt and shame seek to control us. But the message of heaven is, “Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

Think about fear. What are we ultimately afraid of? Death. We don’t like spiders and snakes. Why? Because we might get bit and we might … die. We don’t don’t like heights. Why? Because we might fall and we might … die. We don’t like speaking in front of crowds. Why? Because we might be embarrassed and we might … die one of those thousand little deaths.

As Christians, we, of course, shouldn’t fear death. Through faith, we know that God has a remedy to even the worst the world can throw at us.

But … in a practical sense, we’re only human. We grieve loss mightily and we can’t imagine death coming for our children. That’s the theme of today’s poignant painting from Norman Rockwell. Mom and dad tucking in their children peacefully into their beds at night is absolutely the way things are supposed to be. A peaceful night – and freedom from fear – is the way things are supposed to be. Children should be able to rest their heads, free from the worries of the adult world.

But do you see the paper in the father’s hand? Adults do have adult worries. We see just a glimpse of the headline on the paper: “Bombings Ki … Horror Hit.” These are likely American parents tucking their children in at night, and American families fortunately never faced the daily blitzkriegs and bombings over the cities on our continental shores. But our English allies did. And so did worried parents of our German foes.

Thus, “Freedom from Fear” was aspirational. In 1943, Rockwell’s The Four Freedoms were the centerpiece of a traveling exposition around the nation. They helped raise over $130 million in war bonds. They became commemorative stamps. Americans understood the cost of freedom, and this painting, especially, inspired a needful longing to protect our families, and it reflects a deep yearning for the day when passages like Isaiah 2:4 will come true, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who was thankful

that he was always able

to tuck his kids in

without the fear of war;

and a father who prays

for fathers and mother

in our world, even

today, who don’t have

that luxury

Freedom from Want

Rockwell Want

Freedom from Want

Norman Rockwell painted a nostalgic version of America. One of those pictures – painted in the midst of World War II – was an Americana Thanksgiving scene, labeled “Freedom from Want.”

As I said, it’s nostalgic.

It’s a heart-stirring slice of “Americana.”

And it was a surely reality that didn’t fully exist in 1943.

Why?

Too many young men at the table.

In 1943, virtually every able bodied young man was overseas wearing a uniform of war. Based on St. Augustine’s Just War Doctrine, World War II was perhaps the last great just war. America was fighting a true evil – Adolph Hitler and his Nazi Holocaust. The “boys” who were away were heroes. Nevertheless, too many Thanksgiving tables had too many empty chairs (some of which would never be filled again).

Freedom from Want, according to Rockwell, includes a table that is filled with the best food. This is an aspirational hope. We know that we live in a world that is always drowning too much hunger – in fact, even one hungry person represents way too much hunger. Surely Rockwell (and Churchill and Roosevelt who championed this term) yearned for perpetual tables of feasting, rather than nations torn by war and hunger. That’s a practical “hunger” for people living in a broken world.

Spiritually, we have a deeper hunger? It’s an eschatological yearning, really. Only when we’re enjoying the new heaven and the new earth will we fully enjoy the blessing of no more mourning or crying or pain and the unending feast that is to come. Indeed, only when we’re enjoying the new heaven and the new earth might every chair at every family table be filled again. In this broken world, death keeps claiming those we love. Through God’s gracious redemption, we are promised that those who believe in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Therefore, this painting of Thanksgiving and Freedom from Want is nostalgic (an idealized past) … and eschatological (a promised future).

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who celebrates

that our gracious God

desires eternal feasting

and freedom from want

Freedom of Speech

rockwell speech

Freedom of Speech

The man in this painting is Jim Edgerton, painter Norman Rockwell’s neighbor. When contemplating how to present the Four Freedoms, Rockwell recalls going to a town meeting. He said, “My next door neighbor, Jim Edgerton, had stood up at Town Meeting and said something that everybody else disagreed with. But they let him have his say. No one had shouted him down. My God, I thought, that’s it! There it is. Freedom of Speech.”

Freedom of Speech is a democratic ideal dating back to the ancient Greeks. It is the right to express thoughts and opinions without government restraint. Like Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Speech is enshrined in our American founding principles (within the First Amendment to the Constitution).

Throughout our country’s history, Americans have been free to express very popular and very unpopular opinions. Some opinions have been blatantly hateful. Some, indeed, have been designed to provoke oppression and unrest. Others have expressed opinions that are wildly unpopular in their day and age … but in the long run have provoked the nation to serious reflection and necessary change. The Civil Rights Movement is an example of this. Without the Freedom of Speech, the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr., could have silenced – which some surely did try to do.

Two weeks before I was born, King stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and said, “I have a dream …” Here was a Christian pastor proclaiming Christian truth, and a largely “Christian nation” eventually responded. Yes, our nation was way too slow to respond, including way too many hard-hearted Christians, but there was a powerful fruit to allowing people to speak freely! (I like to call this event – timed with my birth – as the last hurrah of Christendom in America. It’s not that Christians haven’t still held measures of influence, but by the late sixties, the era of free love took hold in America, bringing a new cultural orthodoxy which many view as unquestionable today.)

Freedom of Speech is the foundation of all freedoms. It is, indeed, the foundation of Democracy. Silence a people’s voices and it’s the first step toward tyranny.

The question is, do we still have the freedom, like Norman Rockwell’s neighbor, to say something unpopular and trust that people will not attempt to silence us? Sadly, this freedom is waning across Western cultures. Students report to me that modern American universities, once bastions of free speech, are often in the business nowadays of silencing speech if it doesn’t agree with the new cultural orthodoxy. (That’s anecdotal, see however more documented reports from the New York Times and the ACLU.) Nowadays, it’s often the comedians (like Adam Carolla, Jerry Sienfeld, and Dave Chapelle ) who speak first about modern culture’s hypersensitivity and the silencing of free speech. Essentially, they’re saying, “No one can take a joke anymore.” Yes, some jokes are truly offensive, but as folks like Seinfeld say, it’s “the [silencing] climate that’s [more] concerning … I hear a lot of people tell me don’t go near colleges – they’re so PC (politically correct).”

Not all that long ago, Martin Luther King, Jr., stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and said something that was very unpopular in some quarters … but was transformatively true!

And not too long before that, Norman Rockwell said, “My next door neighbor, Jim Edgerton, had stood up at Town Meeting and said something that everybody else disagreed with. But they let him have his say. No one had shouted him down. My God, I thought, that’s it! There it is. Freedom of Speech.”

For those accustomed to more spiritual, biblical devotions, why am I talking about the likes of Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Speech? I told you a day or two ago that one of my favorite sites that reflects on Christianity and the World is BreakPoint.org. Recently, lead commentator John Stonestreet cited a “very nice” and very popular cultural figure who was (intentionally or unintentionally) misquoting Scripture. Stonestreet absolutely does not want to silence this person. (He knows if we silence even one, then we might be next.) Rather, his passion is equipping Christians to understand false statements from the Bible.

He says, “What makes [this famous person’s] misapplication of Scripture to cultural issues so troubling and so effective is the incredible void left when many pastors won’t apply Scripture to cultural issues.” He said, “[This person’s misapplications are simply] filling a void that’s been left by pastors who only teach the Bible as a personal, private self-help book, in order to help us find our purpose, improve our lives, and feel closer to God.

Stonestreet wisely says, “A Christianity that is never directly and broadly applied to the cultural moment we live in is one that is eventually reduced down to emotive sentimentalism.” Too many Christians,” he says, “are left with the impression that Christianity is about being ‘nice’ and happy. [This culture figure seems] is ‘nice’ and happy. [This person seems to] appl[y pieces of the] Bible to cultural issues [and because] too many Christians never hear the Bible applied to cultural issues, [too many] pastors [are] leav[ing] their flocks cripplingly vulnerable when [nice people in culture] twist the Bible to their own ends.”

“There’s a scene in “Remember the Titans” in which Denzel Washington’s character tells his white assistant coach to stop coddling the team’s black players. He knows the racist hatred these young men will face. ‘You’re not preparing them for the real world,’ he says. ‘You’re crippling them for life.’”

Part of being a pastor is equipping you (and me) for the world. Thus, here are a few devotions that are more practical spirituality rather than just emotion and spirituality. Bear with me for a few days! I think it will be worth it.

In Christ’s Love,

a pastor who doesn’t want

to just be a pastor, as

John Stonestreet says, who

just “coddle(s) our emotions.”