Some Thoughts on the New Year

Each year, I try to set goals for the new year. It’s a good practice, and when I set those goals prayerfully I have that extra assurance and motivation that those goals should and can be achieved. Without being intentional, we become subject to all the random forces around us. Our lives become a crap shoot.

But even when we are intentional, the randomness of life can overtake us to the point we feel like the ship being driven by the wind and waves while we hold on for dear life. 2021 was such a year for me.

I travelled repeatedly across the country to help my parents move out of their home of twenty years into an assisted living facility, while my father was slowing slipping out of this world into the next. When he passed away in July, and I was planning his funeral, and dealing with the grief, I was diagnosed with a health problem of my own. Then in September, while on vacation–our first in two years because of the pandemic–I developed another unrelated health problem, that led to new tests, concerns, and more doctor appointments.

We looked forward to a good holiday season and had scheduled hip replacement surgery for my 86 year old mother with the hope she would be able to walk again, but two days before she was to travel here for the surgery, the results of a cardiology test showed a heart problem which required a catheterization procedure and postponement of the hip replacement.

About the same time we were learning about my mother, my brother was hospitalized with COVID-19. A few days later, he was moved into the ICU, and it wasn’t clear if he would survive. Fortunately, by the mercy of God, he turned the corner on Christmas Day, and while he is still in the hospital he appears to be on the road to recovery.

Then, my cousin died of lymphoma on December 30, 2021. He had not told anyone but immediate family about his illness, so we were shocked when we heard he had died.

All the events I just described largely defined my year, and yet, I had nothing to do with their occurrence. All, I could do was respond to them, while at the same time continuing to seek God, doing my work, discipling others, and pursuing the goals He gave me at the beginning of the year.

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Why Evangelicals are Partial to Conspiracy Theories

I don’t think there has ever been a time in my life when I have been more embarrassed for my Evangelical brothers and sisters. I’m referring specifically to those who refuse to get vaccinated or wear masks, believe conspiracy theories about the CDC, Anthony Fauci, and Bill Gates, and that the last presidential election was stolen. I’ve addressed some of these incredulous beliefs in other posts.

I’m no stranger to Evangelical naïveté and gullibility. I was an elder in a church where many in the congregation had been convinced the key to their health could be found in an examination of their excrement by a naturopath, who was a member of the church. People were securing their scat in ziplocks for him to examine…seriously. I remember asking the pastor, “So tell me this again. They did what?” 

Then there was Y2K. Five years before 1-1-2000, there was some credibility in the alarm. Fortunately, by the time the problem became public, companies had already begun the necessary remediation. However, people in my church became convinced Y2K would be the end of society as we knew it. They bought generators and stock piles of food and water. Recognizing there was indeed a problem, but rejecting the incredible and conspiratorial, I bought stock in Cisco, a leader in Y2K remediation. My doomsday brothers and sisters who believed the crazy prognosticators, got stuck with generators they never used and food they never ate. My wife and I got stuck with a nice profit from the sale of our stock.

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Faith in the Pandemic

I’ve wearied of hearing believers complain about the pandemic, spin conspiracy theories to pretend it doesn’t exist, embrace flaky click-bait inspired ideas about the CDC, Fauci, and COVID-19, and then wrap themselves in the flag of faith to justify it all.

It’s worrisome because Christians are called to be the light of the world, not the butt of jokes. We are to lead people to life, not destruction. The sources of Christians’ current confusion are ignorance, fear, an unbiblical view of faith, and pride.

Ignorance: Historical context for the pandemic. We are ignorant of history. There is nothing historically unusual about plagues and pandemics, and the serious ones typically last longer than two years. The plague of Cyprian lasted from 249 A.D. to 262 A.D, the plague of Justinian from 541 A.D. to 549 A.D., and the Black Death in Europe from 1346 to 1353. Yet, Christians complain because this pandemic has dragged on for nearly two years, and we still have to wear masks to church. We should set a better example.

Fear: On conspiracy theories. It is well-settled that people embrace conspiracy theories when they are unable or unwilling to accept the scary, unpleasant truths of reality. If Christians are going to be the light of the world, they need to lead in facing ugly realities and showing the world the path to Jesus, not pimping crazy-town theories about Bill Gates trying to implant chips in our arms through COVID vaccines. Such beliefs are motivated by fear, not faith. 

Unbiblical faith and real faith. The idea that getting vaccinated or wearing a mask shows a lack of faith is both naive and unbiblical. It’s like crossing a busy street and refusing to look both ways because you are “trusting God.” That is testing God, not trusting Him, and it brings God’s judgment, not His approval. It’s forcing God to act on your behalf. It’s what Satan asked Jesus to do when he suggested Jesus parachute off the top of the temple without a parachute. See Matthew 4:5-7. God will not be manipulated by our misguided view of faith.

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Movie Review: Red Notice

The Wife and I watched the movie, Red Notice, tonight. It’s not going to win any Academy Awards, but within the genre of brain candy, it was entertaining enough. What inspired this post was not the movie per se but a scene that is representative of a trend becoming more apparent in movies today. It’s a trend too silly to take seriously but not too insignificant to ignore.

The movie stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, and Gal Gadot as . . . (spoiler alert) . . . three art thieves in search of a 2,000 year-old decorative egg that Marc Antony (the Roman not the singer) gave Cleopatra and was later was lost to history. I long ago grew bored with thinly veiled plots designed to support two-hour chase scenes. But this movie’s action scenes, twists, and turns, succeeded in holding my interest, even if it didn’t engage my intellect.

What I found most interesting though was one scene in which Gadot physically defeats the 6′ 5″ 260 lb Johnson and 6′ 2″ 190 lb Reynolds in a knock-down drag-out. Now, of course, Hollywood tried to made it all look realistic enough so viewers don’t call “B—S—“. But I am more interested in the message than the creative sleight-of-hand.

I get that most of the chase scenes and stunts portrayed in movies aren’t really possible. They stretch the possible while trying not to break it, knowing that excitement camps out on the border between reality and our imagination. Got it. But there was an obvious message in this scene, and it’s the effort to eradicate gender inequality by suggesting this woman could physically overpower these two men.

As I said, it’s silly. And when it’s exposed for what it is, even the most progressive, gender sensitive, post-modern will admit it’s silly. It is significant though because it shows where the gender-confusion of our generation is headed. In short, if we fail to recognize gender differences, we will be led into the land of make-believe, and we will all become fools.

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Colonial Slaveholders, Nazi Lutherans, and Modern Evangelicals

The church has made some terrible choices throughout history for which it has paid dearly. American Christians choosing economics (slavery) over human rights, and the German Lutheran church choosing to elevate nationalism (Hitler) over the Word of God are two examples.

To us, in retrospect, it borders on the ridiculous. How could anyone who calls themselves a Christian support enslaving human beings on the basis of their race? How could anyone who claimed to be a follower of Jesus agree to adopt the Aryan Paragraph, prohibiting anyone of Jewish descent from serving as a pastor of a church?

These choices were not without cost historically, even apart from the obvious and immediate suffering of the victims of such policies. In Germany the church is still paying the price for its poor choice with its loss of credibility, and in America, we are still grappling with the curse of racism 150 years after the end of slavery. A curse does not alight without a cause (Proverbs 26:2), and when the group that is supposed to be the moral light for a nation and in communion with God endorses the systematic dehumanization and enslavement of an entire race of people, there is no shortage of cause for curse.

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