Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Does America “Have a Prayer?”

I’m just one among many Americans who are disappointed with the presidential candidates of both parties in Election 2016.  I’m also just one among those who have chosen not to vote early and who are praying for specific evidence that God will move in the hearts of both the American people and the candidates.  I have expressed some thoughts on the election in two previous articles in Oikonomia (See links below.).

Perhaps you are also disappointed and discouraged about the candidates.  It will not be the first time that we’ve had a choice between candidates that have been alleged to have had immoral relationships.  Both John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson come to mind.  Nor will it be the first time that presidential campaigns have conducted unlawful acts to favor their election chances and then lied about it.  Both Richard Nixon and Barack Obama come to mind.  I should hasten to say that the misdeeds of previous presidential candidates is no justification for excusing the character flaws of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.  However, today Abby and I were blessed to attend a rally featuring a political leader who appears to have passed the character quality standards of all who know him well.

Vice Presidential Candidate, Mike Pence, in Ashland, Ohio
Speaking at a campaign rally at Ashland University, Ashland, OH, Indiana’s Governor Mike Pence, Vice Presidential candidate and running mate of Donald Trump, must have observed the expressions of concern and yet of hope on the faces of the over 700 people who had come to hear him speak.  Pence’s words were intended to encourage voters:  I encourage you to have faith. Have faith in the American people.

Then, Pence quoted Donald Trump’s words spoken earlier this week in Gettysburg, PA:  We need to rise above the noise and clutter of our broken politics and embrace the great faith and optimism that has always been central to the American character.

It seems that both Pence and Trump have been thinking much about faith.  But we were especially encouraged when the VP candidate addressed faith with these words:

If you have a mind to, exercise that other kind of faith.  You know, I recognize this is a challenging time in the life of our country.  It seems like we are more divided today than any time in my lifetime.  Seems there are so few great causes that unite us as they once did.  But, in much more challenging times, the American people have gone to a well to draw strength, and I think we ought to be going there again.

After a rousing applause, Pence gave a more personal appeal that seemed to resonate from deep in his own heart of faith:

So, if you are inclined to bow the head and bend the knee now, the next fourteen days is a good time to do it.  I’m grateful that some of the sweetest words I ever hear are when people say, “I’m praying for you.”  And, some of the sweetest words Donald Trump ever hears. 

Then, as if to answer a question in the minds of many in his audience and in the American electorate; namely, “How should we pray?” Mike Pence added:

But let me say, I’m not so much talking about praying for people or praying for an outcome.  I rather like what Abraham Lincoln said so many years ago during his time of trials when he was asked if he thought God was on his side.  He said I’d rather concern myself with whether we’re on God’s side as opposed to whether He is on our side. 

As if he understood another faith question that many Americans have today; namely, “Will our prayers make a difference?”  Pence continued:

So pray for our country, pray for this great nation, this last best hope of Earth [as Lincoln called America].  All the world looks with hope and aspiration to America.

What followed in Pence’s speech explains both his solid character and how his qualities as an American leader are nurtured through a strong faith in God, and in communion with God through prayer and through Scripture:

[And pray] for our strength for this time of decision.  And, when you do, pray with confidence.    Because what has been true for thousands of years is still true today—that if His people who are called by His name will humble themselves and pray, He’ll do like He has always done in much more challenging times, He’ll hear from heaven, and He’ll heal this land--this one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.

Moral issues at stake in Election 2016
In conclusion, Mike Pence’s stump speech was devoted heavily to addressing issues that are crucial to the future direction of America and which demonstrate that Trump-Pence has a very different view of what America ought to become than Clinton-Kaine.  Many of these differences touch issues that are deeply rooted in the moral and ethical foundation of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures as explained by a voter guide prepared by the Ohio Christian Alliance.  

While it is true that both Trump and Clinton have raised questions in our minds as to their qualification for president, it is heartening to know that Governor Mike Pence is a man of solid faith and moral character.  It is also encouraging that both Pence and Trump are aware (perhaps becoming more aware each day) of the importance of faith in our nation’s affairs. And with these facts, we ought to be encouraged that in spite of our moral failings as Americans and as a nation, God is still working in the lives of at least some American leaders that are worthy of our respect, and even our vote in Election 2016.

How About You?  I welcome your "Comment."  Here are links to earlier articles on Election 2016:

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Unrighteous Indignation in Election 2016

Can we expect any more surprises and craziness from Election 2016 than we’ve seen already?  Most surprising to me recently is the reversal of roles between social conservatives and liberal progressives.  Secular progressives follow an evolution-based humanism in which humankind is steadily evolving to a higher plain of perfection.  As a result, progressives are rejecting the supposed worn-out moral standards from the Judeo-Christian era--restrictions such as abstaining from sex outside of marriage and a social code in which men honor women, and women treat men with respect by dressing like ladies.

GOP Candidates, Mike Pence and Donald Trump
But then Donald Trump appears with a resume marked by disrespectful and immoral treatment of women, a resume that merely reflects the culture that birthed him.  Trump’s alleged immoral behavior is predictably problematic for evangelical Christians.  But the reaction of liberal progressives is most amazing!  They have suddenly become the defenders of Judeo-Christian values as they condemn Donald Trump.  From their high perch, Trump is simply a deplorable, unredeemable reprobate.

Cultural and political commentator, D.C. McAllister, in her October 8 article, “America, You Have No Right to Judge Donald Trump” points out the inconsistency and hypocrisy in the recent tramping of Trump by our secular culture:

The fact of the matter is that Judeo-Christian ethics have been driven from our culture and declared a dinosaur from an ancient past. Right and wrong, virtue, morality, goodness—these have been rejected in pop culture, our education system, the media, and politics. We have been told repeatedly that character doesn't matter because everyone's values are different. All that matters is an ideological agenda and the power that goes with it.

According to McAllister, it logically follows that,
If morality is relative to each individual—a purely subjective experience—by what standard are they judging Trump?  Obviously, in such a secular climate, there can’t even be a “standard.”

Rebecca Teti, in her article entitled “On the Lewdness of Donald Trump,” takes a more direct approach to condemning the hypocrisy of those pointing fingers from within the secular crowd:

I hate this gross culture that demeans women and sex. It makes me feel sick to my stomach when I think about young men steeped in this sick culture going anywhere near my daughter, who is the most beautiful soul on earth—or anyone else’s daughter. For that matter, I hate the idea of my sons being surrounded by people who can’t behold them as persons, but only dissect them for parts.  But I hate even more the even grosser culture of The Lie where someone like Hillary Clinton or people like the editorialists at the Washington Post and the Formerly Grey Lady get to point their fingers and pretend they didn’t create and celebrate the culture in which Trump merely partakes.

Teti also expands on the depiction of immoral behavior and demeaning of women in music and the media, all of which is glorified by influential people on the Left and supported by significant numbers of professing Christians:

Rap lyrics celebrate the assault of women all day long, and our pop stars twerk for the precise purpose of attracting lewd attention, and some of these artists are fêted at the White House and elsewhere as role models for young people. My friends—even some of my pious Christian friends—watch and celebrate Game of Thrones, which if I understand correctly, features graphic depictions of the demeaning of women and everyone else.

 Nor does the Republican Party get a free pass.  McAllister notes that condemnation of Trump’s alleged moral failings is ironic coming from a Republican political elite that has told its religious base that social and moral issues don't matter in politics. "It's all about the economy, stupid. Leave your morals in the church but don't voice them in the public square."

Is Donald Trump a "Changed Man?"
So, while the liberal progressives have taken up the banner of unrighteous indignation traditionally born by conservative evangelicals, many evangelicals are supportive of Donald Trump.  Some evangelicals support Trump in spite of his past misdeeds because they give higher priority to his policies—i.e. promise to appoint conservative Supreme Court justices, support for law and order, commitment to strengthen education, and strong national defense.  Others maintain their support because they believe Trump genuinely has become a “changed man” who has both apologized for and rejected his past speech and behavior.  Trump has stated,

I've traveled the country talking about change for America but my travels have also changed me… I have gotten to know the great people of our country and I've been humbled by the faith they've placed in me…I pledge to be a better man tomorrow and will never ever let you down.

As of this writing, Donald Trump still has the support of key evangelical leaders such as Jerry Falwell, Jr., James Dobson, and Eric MetaxesFranklin Graham supports Trump’s condemnation of President Obama’s failed policies in the Middle East but has not formally endorsed Trump’s candidacy. 
Franklin Graham and Donald Trump
Evangelical leaders risk having their credibility for Christ tarnished by Election2016.  After all, even the moral relativism of the secular world accepts the absolute truth that “to whom more is given, more is expected (e.g. James 3:1).”  Election2016 has upped the stakes for evangelicals to avoid diminishing the credibility of their Christian witness, or compromising the clear message of the Gospel and misrepresenting the role of the Church in politics.  We regret, perhaps to our shame that evangelicals may now be reaping the unfortunate harvest of having refused to vote for several morally solid candidates in the primary season.  Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, and Marco Rubio come to mind.

Although WORLD Magazine does not endorse political candidates, the editorial staff of WORLD has called for Donald Trump to step aside.  These editors reason that, to be consistent, they must apply the same moral standards to the candidacy of Donald Trump in 2016 that they did  when calling for Bill Clinton’s resignation, in 1998.

And so, Campaign 2016 continues to be crazy.  Both supporters of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have enough reasons to wish for a more moral and upright candidate.  The Republican establishment is stuck with a candidate who has brought many into the party with his strong stand for fiscal responsibility and foreign relations.  But now the GOP leadership aligns with many of the very social conservatives they formerly disdained in order to condemn Trump’s alleged immoral behavior.  And liberal progressives who have championed women’s rights must turn a blind eye to Hillary’s past abuse of women who were involved with her husband’s White House escapades.  They must also dismiss her cozying up to Islamic nations where women are oppressed and even brutalized.

So, it seems that the mudslinging has brought splatters onto all of our faces, making it all the more essential that America awaken to its utter need of repentance and revival.   Proverbs 14: 34 states, Righteousness exalts a nation, But sin is a disgrace to any people.  While many Americans of all stripes are evaluating Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, several things are certain.  First, Donald Trump has appointed several godly people that are having a positive spiritual impact upon him.  Christians need to pray for Trump’s spiritual transformation in response to the Gospel which hopefully being presented to him in word and in deed.

Second, it is likely that God is already bringing a refiner’s fire upon America as His nostrils fill with the stench of moral and political corruption at every level, the rejection and distortion of objective truth, and the degradation of His creation including the disruption of the human family, churches, schools, and even precious human life in the mother’s womb.  Regardless of who wins the presidential election, Americans need to prepare for life in a culture that is increasingly hostile toward individual freedom, morality, decency, and the expression of Christian virtues in the public square.

WORLD Magazine’s conclusion to their article calling for Mr. Trump’s resignation provides a fitting conclusion here:

We don’t know if God will rescue our nation from the pit into which our politics have fallen.  We don’t know if He will rescue WORLD from the ire some Trump supporters will feel.  We hope and pray that He will—but if He doesn’t, He is still God, holding the future of individuals and nations in His hands. May His name be praised forever and ever.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Tim Kaine Offers Trump a Key to Victory

While most vice-presidential debates have made little more than a small ripple among raging waves of a presidential election year, history may record that last night’s debate between Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Governor Mike Pence (R-IN) was a major exception.  Most of the 90-minute match produced the typical bantering back and forth involving punches and counterpunches aimed at the qualifications of their presidential running mates—Hillary Clinton (D) and Donald Trump (R).
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Gov.  Mike Pence (R-IN)
Governor Pence pointed to the lack of candidate Clinton’s qualifications based on her failed policies as Secretary of State under President Obama regarding Syria, Libya, Iran, and Russia; and the fact that she was handling classified information on an e-mail server housed in a basement while using the Clinton Foundation in a “pay for play” with influential world leaders.   Senator Kaine countered with accusations that Trump must be hiding fraudulent tax returns and would conduct his presidency discriminating against Muslims whom he views as evil without exception, against ethnic minorities whom he views as lawbreakers, rapists, etc., and against women who apparently Trump doesn’t trust to make decisions about their bodies.

Were the above accusations and rebuttals the entire substance of this vice-presidential debate, I think nothing historic will have come from it.   However, the Kaine-Pence debate was unique in that each candidate chose to invoke the authority of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures on at least one occasion to question the ethics and character of their opponent’s running mate.

Governor Pence challenged the American electorate to consider what kind of nation we have become when we continue to refuse the right of unborn babies to live.  Pence questioned how Senator Kaine who is pro-life could compromise his own stand against abortion by agreeing to run on the ticket with Secretary Clinton.  Clinton supports late-term abortion up until the time when birth is imminent.  Her campaign also calls for repeal of the Hyde Amendment that respects the moral conscience of those who defend the unborn.  Hyde opposes the use of taxpayer funds for abortion services.  In his opposition to abortion, Pence criticized the Democrat party’s pro-abortion platform by appealing to the authority of the Bible which teaches that unborn babies are already persons with rights.  He stated:

I would tell you that for me the sanctity of life proceeds out of the belief that -- that ancient principle that -- where God says, ‘before you were formed in the womb, I knew you,’ and so from my first time in public life, I sought to stand with great compassion for the sanctity of life. Pence added:  Society will be judged by how it defends its most vulnerable – the aged, the infirm, the disabled, and the unborn.

Sen. Kaine countered that Gov. Pence and Donald Trump have no regard for women’s right to choose, and that they would reinstate laws that would punish women who seek abortion.  However, Pence denied this charge by saying,

The state of Indiana has also sought to make sure that we expand alternatives in health care counseling for women, non-abortion alternatives. I'm also very pleased at the fact we're well on our way in Indiana to becoming the most pro-adoption state in America. I think if you're going to be pro-life, you should -- you should be pro- adoption.

Senator Tim Kaine, who considers himself a devout Catholic, also appealed to the Scriptures when he questioned the character of Donald Trump.  Kaine’s criticism of Trump’s character came following repeated quotations of derogatory statements Trump has made toward women including Hillary Clinton, and toward Muslims, Hispanics, and individuals who Trump deems unworthy of his respect.  Kaine said, there is “a great line from the gospel of Matthew. From the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks.  By referring to this tiny quote from Matthew 12: 34, in my estimation, Tim Kaine earned the prize for one of the greatest zingers of any presidential debate in American history.

The Judeo-Christian Scriptures reinforce in many passages this principle that our mouth reveals the nature of our hearts, or our character.  Proverbs 23:7 states, For as he thinks within himself, so he is.  Luke 6: 45 expands on Matthew 12: 34 quoted by Tim Kaine,  The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.  Matthew 7: 16-17 records a claim of Jesus followed by His question, and then an application in regard to the character of false prophets:

You will know them by their fruits.
Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?

So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.

Donald Trump and Mike Pence
Whether or not candidate Kaine understood the power of his use of the Scriptures in last night’s vice-presidential debate, I believe he placed his finger on the key to the success (or failure) of the man, Donald Trump, in his bid for the presidency of the United States.  I believe Donald Trump’s greatest opponent both in years past and during the entire 2016 presidential race has been none other than himself.  Trump’s biography is laced with rude and downright immoral expressions that are indefensible.  Even while his running mate was defending many of Trump’s utterances last night, Trump himself was busily tweeting additional words that do not represent him well as a presidential candidate.

But, the truth is that you will know a person by his or her fruit.  The real problem is not Trump’s tongue.  It is his heart.  Nor can any of us be expected to “bear grapes” if our DNA matches that of a “thorn bush” (Matthew 7:16).   None of us can bring forth good treasures with our tongues if our hearts are plagued by evil.

Thankfully, there is hope for Donald Trump just as there is hope for all who, according to Romans 3: 23, …have sinned and fall short of the glory of GodThere is none righteous, no not one, Romans 3: 10 adds.  But, God has not ceased in His pursuit of us.   Centuries before God sent His Son, full of grace and truth (John 1:14) to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10), He spoke through the prophet that He would send a Savior.  In Ezekiel 36:26, God promised He would change our hearts so that we can personally know Him and bear the fruit of His righteousness, and not the bad fruit of our own self-righteousness. 

Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

Ezekiel is speaking of the transformation that is possible thanks to the incarnation, sinless life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ Who opened the way for salvation from sin and the new birth of Christ’s life within.  Romans 10: 17 states, So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ, and verses 9 and 10, just prior, explain that if you

confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

Although we are all concerned about Election 2016, and many wonder which candidate is most qualified, there is a more important “election” that all of us must consider.  Not by our own righteousness, but by putting aside our pride and looking to the cross of Christ where God gave His very life to redeem us from the slavery of sin and death (separation from God). 

And so, we ought to pray for our nation, and pray for the candidates.  For reasons I have written
elsewhere, I am leaning toward voting for Donald Trump.  But, more importantly, I am now praying that he will grasp onto the “key truth from Scripture” quoted by Senator Kaine.  I pray that Trump will take to heart his need to surrender in repentance to God and receive the gift of a new heart and…a new spirit.  From such a heart, godly character can grow, and it is such character that America now needs in leadership like never before.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Did LeBron Miss a Critical Shot?

In his recent endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president, LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers basketball superstar wrote:

LeBron James uses his success for the benefit of others.
As a kid, I didn't have much money. It was just my mom and me, and things were rough at times. But I had basketball. That gave me a family, a community, and an education. That’s more than a lot of children in Akron can say. There are a lot of people who want to tell kids who grew up like me and looked like me that they just don’t have anything to look forward to.

I respect LeBron James for his character and generous commitment to helping disadvantaged children through the LeBron James Family Foundation.  But, with all due respect, I wonder if will disappointed by Mrs. Clinton and her Democrat party if she is elected.  Although it may sound very partisan of me, the statistics are very clear--major US cities that have fallen into corruption, loss of jobs, failing schools, and (most recently) undermining of law and order have been managed by Democrat mayors for decades.

My hat is off to LeBron and many formerly disadvantaged people like him who nonetheless succeeded in spite of having grown up in many cases in a single-parent family in a ravaged inner city.  However, LeBron credits his success to the support from family and his local community, and not from Washington politicians.

What is needed from Washington is not more failed policies or neglect.  Instead, what is needed is competent local leadership in support of inner city communities so that children can live safely, find quality education through school choice, and live in homes with parents who are employed in adequately paying jobs.  In many cities, there will need to be a deliberate effort to rebuild the infrastructure of family and community, including transportation, education, and social services that respect the dignity of mankind.  Perhaps Mrs. Clinton can accomplish these if given the presidency, but I have yet to learn of a significant positive accomplishment by her as either US Senator or Sec. of State.  On the other hand, candidate Trump promises safety for inner cities through wise enforcement of law and order, education through school choice, better employment opportunities, lower taxes, better health care, and better child care for working parents.

As I have written earlier in Oikonomia, I am disappointed that America doesn't have a better choice of candidate for president. However, I believe a President Trump would be superior in defending the Constitution, providing sound Supreme Court nominees, protecting America globally, protecting our borders without which America will cease to be a nation, lifting the federal government out of the basement of inefficiency and corruption, improving American education through school choice and teacher accountability, and promoting economic growth through wise investment in infrastructure and appropriate technology.

I cannot vote today; and for that I am glad.  But for now, I am praying that Mr. Trump, Mrs. Clinton, and all of our elected officials will realize that unless they come to believe, speak out boldly, and make decisions from a strong moral foundation, America will not be able to address the forces from abroad and within our borders that threaten to undermine our nation.