Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Neglect Is A Form Of Abuse

In an earlier blog post, I wrote about my vision for a Christian ministry which would help numerous Christians and Christian ministries to more effectively communicate with other Christians, without being hindered by denominational or geographical boundaries. At the beginning of the article, I made it clear that I believed that such a ministry would help Christians to more effectively obey "the law of Christ" by bearing one another's burdens.

It seems to me that there is a special need for such a ministry in this time of extreme economic uncertainty and stress, from which many believers and unbelievers alike are suffering. I believe that we Christians have the resources to collectively meet such needs, especially here in America. However, it does very little good for us to have the necessary material resources, if we do not implement a means by which people in need can easily make connections with other people who are willing and able to help.

If I thought that the current methods of meeting such needs were adequate, I never would have made such a proposal in the first place. However, I believe that our current methods, while better than nothing, fall short of what is needed. My intention in making such a proposal was not to impugn good men and women of God. Rather, my intention was to do everything I could do to address the needs which were not being met, in a manner which would not only help me personally, but which would also help numerous other Christians.

One would think that godly leaders would be thrilled to learn that Christians such as myself wanted to launch new ministries which would help them to more effectively minister to hurting people. But that assumes that the leaders in our churches have a genuine desire to minister to such needs, and it assumes that the meeting of such needs takes precedence over the preservation of protocol in the minds of those leaders.

Unfortunately, the gap between the inspiring rhetoric often heard from our pulpits and the actual day-to-day realities in our local churches is sometimes wider than a four lane interstate highway. Like many of the religious leaders in Jesus' day, many of today's church leaders feel threatened by initiatives which are designed to empower ordinary Christians to be all that they can be. Perhaps such leaders erroneously feel that if Christians realized how much ministry could be accomplished without the direct involvement of their pastors, people would somehow feel as if their pastors were no longer necessary.

I find that incredibly sad. Such insecurity speaks poorly for the maturity level of such so-called leaders. The purpose of Christian ministry is to exhalt the name of Christ, not to exhalt the names of specific Christian leaders at the expense of other Christians. What's important is not who does the job. What's important is that the job gets done!

Please don't misunderstand the preceding statement. Obviously, it's important for ministries of all types to be led by people of good moral character. However, it's erroneous to assume that professional clergy are the only people who fit that description. In fact, based on an observation of the numerous scandals which have involved Christian pastors and leaders in recent years, it seems to me that our pastors and professional leaders might be well advised to collectively get their own acts together before they presume that they are uniquely qualified to do God's will. Misquotations of scriptures pertaining to "submission to authority" only serve to insure that such scandals will continue, by insulating such leaders from internal criticism in such a manner which insures that abuses of power are tolerated far longer than they ought to be tolerated.

People tend to think about blatant forms of active abuse (such as sexual molestation or adultery) when they hear about spiritual abuse, but neglect is also a form of abuse.

Jesus did not tell St. Peter to bully his sheep, nor did he tell Peter to neglect or ignore his sheep. He told Peter to feed his sheep. And who (other than God) is in a better position than the sheep to know whether or not they are being adequately fed?

Whose sheep were they? Peter's? No! They were (and are) Christ's sheep. The people of God are a stewardship from God. Pastors will be held accountable on Judgment Day for the manner in which they have dealt with the human resources entrusted by God to them.

Each and every member of the Body of Christ has an important role to play, just as it says in the book of I Corinthians. A church in which the majority of the people are passive spectators rather than being active contributors is an impotent church which deserves to recede into cultural insignificance. That isn't the way the early Christian church operated.

There is a need for clergy, and I am not by any means trying to undermine such leaders or to diminish the respect which is due to such leaders. But only Christ is entitled to receive our unqualified devotion and submission.

Furthermore, as I see it, "professional Christians" such as pastors have a moral responsibility to use all of the human resources at their disposal, by offering real opportunities to all of the Christians within their midst to actively serve God. It is not the proper role of a pastor to force each person who wishes to engage in ministry to "run the gauntlet" in order to demonstrate his or her worthiness to serve. Instead of automatically assuming that people who wish to engage in certain types of ministries need to prove their worthiness, such people should be given the benefit of the doubt (thereby treating them in accordance with the principles of the Golden Rule) unless there is solid evidence to suggest that they as individuals are unworthy. And even then, such people deserve the right to defend themselves against what may very well be false accusations. That, after all, is the way each one of us would wish to be treated.

Only when there are legitimate, scripturally defensible reasons for barring people from ministry (as in the case of people who promote heresies or live ungodly lifestyles) should pastors exercise such restrictive authority. Otherwise it's just a raw and self-centered demonstration of power, not a demonstration of the "servant leadership" exemplified and taught by Jesus Christ.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Grass Withers

Here's a design I created in Photoshop, using a "four square collage" featuring four of my floral photos, plus an appropriate Bible verse. I actually have created TIF files which would enable me to make prints in a wide range of sizes, from 4x6 to 24x36.

I'm hoping to sell fine art prints of this design, in order to raise funds for the Christian Arts Initiative, and also to help tide me over financially until I get a more steady source of income. (And of course, the supplementary income from such print sales will always be welcome!)

When displayed on a thumbnail image, the script text font is a bit more difficult to read than a standard sans serif font would be! But even at this size, it is still legible --- and of course, the text will be much more legible when the design is enlarged significantly in order to make big prints. I also think that the script font contributes greatly to the aesthetic appeal of the product.

The text says:

The grass withers, and the flower fades, but the word of the Lord remains forever.

The aforementioned text is from I Peter 1:24-26, which in turn is a quotation from Isaiah 40:48.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Since When Is The Word "Pimp" Respectable?

Theodore Dalrymple is the author of the book "Our Culture, What's Left of It". The book is an analysis and critique of cultural decline in countries such as England and the United States, particularly in relation to the connection between barbarous behavior and socialism. (That makes the book "must reading" for anyone stupid enough to think that Barack Obama, who has ushered in a new era of socialism in the United States, is the new messiah.)

I'm reminded of Dalrymple's book when I contemplate the manner in which the word "pimp" (which has always referred to a male person who exploits prostitutes for profit, and which has often been used, as well, to refer to a despicable person) is now being used as if the word is a positive thing --- as in the television show "Pimp My Ride". Apparently, the "positive" use of the word is a derivation of "hip-hop culture" (which is an oxymoron if ever I heard one).

People who think that being a pimp is a good thing are undoubtedly the same morons who think that it's appropriate to regularly and casually use words which rhyme with the phrase "brother trucker" and which refer to people who commit incest with their maternal parents. But who knows? Maybe where they come from, incest is an accepted part of normal everyday life, and people who exploit and abuse prostitutes are deemed worthy of their respect. That is certainly the conclusion a rational person would draw, based on the way that such people talk.

For people who think that the aforementioned comments are "racist," I would point out that there are numerous respectable African-Americans (e.g., Thomas Sowell, Alan Keyes, Bill Cosby, etc.) who have rejected the thug mentality which seems to dominate large sectors of the black community today (and which has slowly seeped, like pungently raw sewage, into the vocabularies of people from other sectors of society as well). I thank the Lord for that! But I fear that our "nonjudgmental" attitude towards people with no class and no morals is leading to a situation in which people such as Sowell, Keyes and Cosby will soon be viewed as irrelevant anachronisms in mainstream society, or in what passes for society.

Closer to the Abyss

This article speaks for itself, I think.

However, regarding the title of this blog post, I should specify (since there are multiple possible definitions of the word "abyss") that I'm using the following definition (from the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition):

"The abode of evil spirits; hell."
abyss. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. (accessed: March 19, 2009).

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Consistency and the Value of Human Life

Today's issue of the Chicago Sun-Times (3/4/2009) has an article about the murder of Rhoni Reuter in October 2007. Reuter was the girlfriend of former Chicago Bears player Shaun Gayle.
In his statement, Gayle said he is still struggling to accept the loss of Reuter and their unborn daughter. "We were both so looking forward to meeting our daughter, Skylar, who was due on Dec. 18. I cannot express how painful it has been to lose both of them." (Emphasis mine.)
Notice that the unborn child already had a name (Skylar Reyne), which is pretty interesting in light of the fact that leaders in the "pro-choice" movement once described unborn children as mere "blobs of tissue". It somehow seems odd that people would feel compelled to give human names to blobs of tissue. When was the last time you heard of anyone giving a name to an appendix, a liver or a gall bladder?

I see such news stories as ongoing evidence of America's disturbing cognitive dissonance when it comes to the question of whether or not unborn children are human beings.

When unborn children are wanted, then they are treated in every respect as if they are human beings, just as newborn children would be treated. Women who miscarry their unborn children mourn the loss of those children. People who commit murders against pregnant women are generally treated as if they have murdered two people, not just one. Murdering anyone is a horrible thing to do, but most people consider that the act of murder is particularly heinous when the victim happens to be carrying an unborn child in her womb.

Yet, paradoxically, if pregnant women wish to kill their own unborn children, they are treated as if they are merely exercising their constitutional "rights" --- as if their unborn children are not human beings at all.

Frankly, that makes no sense to me whatsoever. Is an unborn child a human being with inalienable rights, or not? As a society, we can't seem to make up our minds. Our assessment of the issue therefore seems to be guided more by sentimentality than by logic or by principles.

If indeed the value of a human being varies from one moment to the next, depending on whether or not that human being is wanted by his or her mother, then why shouldn't that principle also be applicable to human beings who have already been born? If that's the case, doesn't that value system jeopardize the right of every human being on the face of the earth to be protected from murder?

In fact, that was exactly how the Nazis viewed human life at the beginning of the era which would culminate in the Holocaust. In their view, human beings had no innate value derived from the mere fact that they were human beings. According to the Nazi world view, certain human lives were "worth living" and others were not. In their view, the Nazis were gifted with the ability to declare the difference between the two categories of humanity, and they were ostensibly endowed with the right and the wisdom to terminate the lives of those (such as mentally or physically handicapped people or the political enemies of the state) deemed undesirable. We all know where that type of thinking eventually led.

We Americans were raised according to a different set of principles. We were taught by our "founding fathers" that all human beings were and are created equal, being endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, including the most fundamental right of all, the right to life. To say that a right is "inalienable" is to say that no other human being (not even a person's mother) is entitled to ignore that right or take it away.

Sadly, we seem to have developed a case of national amnesia with regard to our founding principles. The result is an incoherent patchwork of nonsensical self-contradictions.

If we as a nation ever hope to regain the moral high ground which would entitle us to argue that the American system of democratic government represents the best hope for mankind, we need to return to the principled value system upon which our nation was founded. We need to gently but firmly reject any attempt to deprive any category of human beings of their divinely endowed rights.

When we have deviated from our principles, as in the case of our acceptance of the oppressive institution of slavery, it has harmed our credibility throughout the world. When we have accepted the challenge of causing our laws to consistently conform to the principles we have espoused, we have brought nobility to the American experiment of self-government.