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Political issues

In general, I am a big fan of Christians being motivated by our faith to be involved in protecting the liberty via the political system.

I think it is vital that we understand how and why things work – even if they are not directly connected to scriptural issues – like raising or lowering taxes or gun control.

This conversation about the Johnson Amendment is an example of that, not a departure from it.  I think there are many excellent reasons for us to have an overt discussion on issues of freedom of speech from the pulpit and how that is matched with the protections offered by being a “non-profit.”

Non-profits and donations

Religious non-profits and churches in particular have a few advantages offered them over regular businesses.   The main one is that when people donate to a nonprofit (of almost any kind), the donor does not pay taxes on the money that they give away to a non-profit.

However, that also means that the person CANNOT delegate a specific person or political cause that the church should use that money for, nor can the donor receive any product or service directly for that money.

A person can donate to church and not pay taxes on that money they donated.  However, if a person pays for their kids going to youth camp, they do still have to pay taxes on that money (as income), since they are receiving a service directly for that money.

Sometimes it is a fine line, and the responsibility to manage these funds legally and morally are a big deal in churches.  A lot of energy goes to getting it right, so that those who give are able to avoid paying taxes on the money they earn that they then donate.

As most of you know, I am the Lead Pastor of a Baptist Church in the city that must be the little diamond on the rodeo cowboy on the buckle of the Bible belt.  It may seem odd that I would choose to write an article expressing my concerns, alongside many secular groups about repealing the Johnson Amendment.

As a Christian Pastor and someone who passionately holds to reasonable faith in Christ, I obviously disagree with nearly every aspect of the agenda of the secular organizations.   It isn’t my intent to strengthen those agendas on the whole.

In general, I am encouraged by that influence of Christianity in the USA, not concerned. I am a little concerned the direction that some Christian leaders are taking this issue.

The Johnson Amendment

When LBJ was a Senator, the amendment was passed on the US tax code prohibiting all non-profit (501(c)(3)) organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates.  Specifically, it adds to the definition of such groups the phrases:  “…and which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”

I am under the impression that it didn’t draw much controversy at the time of its creation, and that does not surprise me.  The value of that addition to pastors is evident to me.

I am more surprised at the attention it has gotten recently.

Last year at about this time, Trump signed an executive order calling for the Treasury to be lenient in enforcing this amendment.  It is a law and the president cannot overturn a law by himself, but like Obama did with many laws, he has ordered the executive branch not to enforce a law – or at least to be lenient – or at least not to prioritize this amendment.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on legal matters, and I am not an expert on the Johnson Amendment, but I have never been troubled by it.

I have always assumed this rule was pushed into place by pastors and leaders of non-profits, so imagine my surprise when I see other pastors fighting to have it overturned.

We wrap up with Part 2 next week.

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Here in Tyler, Texas, we have a school named “Robert E. Lee Highschool”.

It is really a pretty good public high school.  Like all public High Schools, it has its share of kids from all kinds of backgrounds, issues, ethnicities, social levels, etc.  Like most public High Schools, this is one of its great strengths.

For the Christian family who chooses public school, any school is a mission field.  Christians are first and foremost, ministers.  We minister in our marriages, with our kids, our friends, workplaces and schools.  This is true of any school – homeschool, Co-ops, Private schools and public.  Any of these can be the right choice for a family, so long as the ethic of ministry is kept forefront.

As Christians here in Tyler, we are now facing a question that we might should have seen coming years ago.   The question, on the whole isn’t new.

The school was named in the late 1950’s – during the early days of the de-segregation movement.

At one point, the Rebel was the school’s mascot and a claim to fame was the giant (second largest in the world) Confederate Battle Flag (incorrectly identified as the “Confederate Flag” on Wikipedia) that the football team ran onto the field under.

In the early 70’s, some African American students were unwilling to run in under the flag and it was retired.  At about the same time, the “Rebel” name and confederate paraphernalia was dropped.

The new mascot was the “Red Raider” (I cannot find adequate background on what a “Red Raider” actually is meant to be, but I still wonder as to the close connection to several confederate groups that were called “raiders” – usually attached to a leader’s name.  (some seem to think there is a Native American connection, but I can find even less evidence of that).

I think like most conversations about things that matter, this topic needs and deserves more than the 2 minutes generally authorized in the town hall meetings and certainly MUCH more than memes and short FB and twitter posts allow for.  Real people are and were complex.  Even political issues are and were more complex than a meme allows for.

Consider the distinction between remembering something (or someone)

The in-depth discussion this topic deserves, at least my side of it,  at the local and national level begins here.

 

https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/what-is-it-like-to-be-a-black-student-at-robert-e-lee-high-school

https://tylerpaper.com/news/local/robert-e-lee-high-school-s-history-reveals-complicated-past/article_5b539cf7-385f-534a-85cf-f75c7e9f2042.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_E._Lee_High_School_(Tyler,_Texas)

What is meant by “nature” or “essence”?

I am not a trained philosopher, so any input on here for this topic from a philosopher is appreciated. However, I like to take challenging concepts and explain them so that almost anyone can understand them.

In order to do that, I often find that foundational concepts have to be explained first.

This idea of essential traits and accidental traits is one of those foundations.

In the most basic sense, an essential trait can be said of something that if that trait were to change, would change what that something is.  An accidental trait is one that can change without changing what something is.

To illustrate:

I can draw an object.

What is this?  A circle.

 

 

But what if I draw one on the other side of the page?  Now what is it?

Still a circle, because LOCATION is an accidental trait of a circle.  Its location can change without changing that it is a circle.

 

Now I draw a blue one.

Now what is it?

Still a circle. Why?  Because COLOR is not an essential trait of a circle.  COLOR is an accidental trait.  Changing color does not change what it is.

 

 

Circles can have a lot of different accidental traits.

Now, I am going to draw one more circle.  This time I am going to draw it with four corners.

 

Now what do I have?

A circle with corners?

No.  Now we have a square.  Why?

Because ROUND is an essential trait of a circle.  If you change it’s ROUNDNESS, you change what a you have when you are dealing with circles.

There are other things for which shape does NOT change what they are, so shape is not an essential trait.

This is a circle.  One of the simplest concept we can tackle.

Imagine if we decided to discuss the essential traits of a chair, or a world or humankind or an individual person, or even God?

 

The compiled traits of essential traits is correctly called that thing’s “Essence” or “Nature”. Something’s “nature” is the compilation of traits that are “essential” to it.  “Nature” is another word for this concept.

 

Any of us could debate for hours the essence of God, or even something as simple as a chair.  We could also debate where essence comes from. These are questions that divide the metaphysical views of philosophy, like “postmodernism”.

 

It should be apparent that many of the conversations that we think are political are actually conversations about essence.  Is a fetus a living human being with the rights that come with being human?  What is a male or female?  What are the essential traits of “marriage”?  What is the definition of “consent”?

In theological articles, this has importance… does God even have accidental traits?  Could The Trinity have been “broken” when Jesus was on the cross?  What does it mean that “God is Love?”  Think about how this concept is vital for conversations about the nature of suffering!

I except that many of my other articles will reference back to this one.

 

http://cathykrafve.com/life-hacks-for-fathers/

My friend hosted me on her podcast this week.  It was time that went by shockingly quickly!  I think there is some fun stuff there!

So,

Actual Final Words

Again, in this case, I am not arguing against pacifism at the “personal conviction” level.  Of course, any human might determine that it is wrong for them to engage in almost kind of activity; examples might include sex, gambling, drinking alcohol, smoking, reading certain books, etc – that may be completely permitted (or at least not condemned) scripturally, but that a Christian might decide to refrain from for personal conviction…

Or even things that are otherwise considered to be blessings biblically, like marriage, can be eschewed based on personal conviction – consider the Apostle Paul and Jesus both in that regard.

Naturally, it is likely that violence is another of these. Anyone who believes that they, personally, should not engage in anything violent, is probably able to justify that decision scripturally.  As I mentioned, someday, I may see if I can make an argument against that, but this is not that time.

Pacifism proclaimed as morally right for everyone, or even any certain population (Christians in this era) is a different matter.  My conclusion at this point is that it must be attached to a more ultimate standard.  For the Christian, that standard is the will of God as revealed in Holy Scripture.  I do not see that the Christian pacifist is able to bear the burdens I have listed in these articles scripturally, in order to call for all Christ-followers to be completely non-violent.

That being said, I want to ask for blessings on those in Christian history who have been willing to push back against cultures defined by their violence!   Blessing on those who refused for fight for and swear to other gods.  Thank God for Christians who have pushed against the gates of Hell when it meant pushing against the cultural norms.

Thanks to Christians who have been willing to die for peace.  I mean to honor them by engaging with these passages with a sincere heart.  I pray that I am interpreting these passages in a way that honors Jesus Christ whose they are.  I am well aware that I could be wrong about this.  I don’t think so, obviously, but as always, I rely on God’s Spirit to enlighten us to Truth and on the Grace of God to restore whatever I do mess up here.

 

I appreciate your feedback, positive or negative.

Working Towards Final Words

Matt 5:39-42

39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

The ethic of scripture is one of the willingness to suffer for what is right.

The model is Jesus and of scripture in general is one of patience, longsuffering, and gentleness.

Let’s look at gentleness a little.

I have thought for many years that gentleness is best defined as “to use the least force necessary.”

Imagine a nurse setting a bone.

To use too much force is brutal and unnecessarily painful.  You may damage this person.

To use too little force is weak and cruel.  You may cripple this person.

We correctly understand God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as gentle.

He is willing to create pain in us if it is what we need. He disciplines.  He prunes.  He casts down.

In the same way, causing pain in others is a part of doing good in their lives and in the lives of others (even a fool can learn from the punishment of the scoffer (Prov 19:25, 21:11)).

In this passage, is Jesus intending to indicate that the ONLY way Christians can respond to any form of aggression is with non-violence, no matter what the action is?

Does He intend to say that a father should allow his daughter to be raped?  Does He intend to say that we should he offer his other daughter too?  Does that pattern apply to every behavior?

Or (as I think is the case) is He referencing the more specific behaviors that He lists here?  Is this passage about having no boundaries with others about their abuse of us or is He talking about us going generously above and beyond the normal bounds that what is required?

The law requires you to do what is legally required, but also to be more generous than that.   I cannot see how He mean to teach us that it is always wrong to cause harm in response to the condition or behavior of another.

Again, being gentle is exceptional in any culture. Being sacrificial is always exceptional. Helping others, even if it is through a painful process.  Can Christians be in roles that create pain or discomfort?

Can Christians be surgeons?  They definitely harm to protect.  Can Christians be parents?  The child will feel mistreated in the parent’s efforts to grow them.  Can a Christian be a policeman?  Can a Christian be a soldier?  Obviously creating harm cannot be the ethical line, so is there one?

Can someone who may take life follow the Christian ethic? Fortunately, a powerful Christian leader taught a little bit on that.

In Luke 3, crowds and then a tax collector and then a soldier ask John The Baptist about how to live an ethical life.  John answers the soldier:

Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”(Luke 3:14)

John has a perfect opportunity here to make it clear that it is unethical to be a soldier.  But he doesn’t.  Instead, John tells them to make ethical corrections within their career as soldiers.  He points them to unrighteous behavior that a soldier could commit.

It would be wrong for a soldier to extort money.  Why didn’t John say “Don’t be a soldier.” or even “Yeah, don’t commit violence.”?

Don’t reference that John would have been intimidated.  John wasn’t afraid to say what he believed was right; it got him killed.  Why not tell these soldiers?

What is a culture like when, by definition, there are no Christian police officers – not even ones that have a Christian ethic at all? What happens to a culture when soldiers, security guards, and others who might have to cause harm and take life, are not allowed to have an ethic that sees life as treasure & something to be honored?

I want anyone with the authority to take life – judges, police, soldiers, senators, presidents, or who just have regular decisions about life and death, to be Christ followers and God fearers!

There is also an ugly version of hypocrisy here, in my opinion.

I grew up in the 1980’s and tape-burning events were pretty popular.  About once a year, a youth group in town, or a camp would host an event in which a speaker would encourage us to get the inappropriate music out of our collections. For some speakers, it was anything with a drum or rhythm (not kidding).  However, when students were inspired to follow through, there was sometimes a time for burning the items.  What I also remember is that some kids decided that the money invested was too much to lose, so they sold the tapes.

They decided that it was wrong to have and listen to these songs, but then sold them to other people.

I think that is similar to the hypocrisy of the pacifist view. In this case, I am not talking about those who say pacifism is merely their own personal conviction, but those who say that all Christians should be.

It reminds me of the liberal gun-control activists who hire armed security guards to defend them… this is extreme hypocrisy.

It is not right to ask others to sin in an effort to keep you from sinning.  If you do not think any violence can be right or if you think that it is morally wrong to kill, then you had better not call the police when someone breaks into your house.

You had better not hide behind anyone else’s gun.

In a speech in 1945, entitled “Notes on Nationalism,” George Orwell said that a thought that pacifists cannot accept even in their own thoughts is that  “Those who abjure violence can do so only because others are committing violence on their behalf…”

Final part next – actual final words

Give Gifts

“The supreme happiness of life is the conviction of being loved for yourself, or, more correctly, being loved in spite of yourself.”

                Victor Hugo

 I am not writing this because I think I am God’s gift to women.  I have just done hundreds of hours of counseling with women and I hear how they see things.  Then, I interpret them for the men out there so you can know too.

Consider this insider trading or something – but the legal kind.  By making good use of these hints, I have been able to express the love, appreciation and affection I feel for my wife and daughters in ways that are clear to their ears.

There are Four main things to remember when giving a gift to a woman.

What every gift (including dates, by the way – anything you pay for is a gift, but more on dates later) must say can be summed in the statement:  “I know my wife and I am thinking about her even when she isn’t around.”  Or to put it more succinctly, “I know my wife and I remember her.”

1.  Know your wife –This is a major key!  The more that a gift communicates intimate knowledge of her – things that only you can know – the better the gift is.

See, for men and women (but. I think women in particular) it actually is the amount of thought and preparation that counts.

In therapy, I often hear about dates and gifts that husbands thought were huge flops, but the wife was overjoyed with!  The thought and effort is what made it so good.

Once when I challenged a husband to take his wife on a special date.  So, he remembered that she had always wanted to visit a restaurant just outside of town and there was a concert he knew she would enjoy.  When he came in after the date he was crushed – they drove way out to the restaurant only to find weeds growing in the parking lot.  It had been closed for months!  Now they had to rush back to town and ended up eating fast food.  They got to the concert to discover it nearly sold out and they hadclosed to get seats not next to each other, if I remember correctly.  They ended up sitting at a coffee shop to discuss their individual experiences of the concert!

He was almost too embarrassed to tell me about it.

She came in a few days later and described the same date as one of the best events of their marriage!  She loved it and gushed about him taking her to the restaurant she had mentioned long ago – and never mentioned to me that it was closed!  Then she was so impressed that he had researched the concert and she loved it, and she loved debriefing everything after the coffee shop too!

Why was their experience so different?  Because their definition of what made a good date was completely different.

His was: did it go as planned?  Was it a date he could brag to others about it?

For her, it was:  “Does he know me well, and was he thinking about me when he planned it?”

So, how do I learn about her?

Imagine that I decided to buy some flowers for my wife.  Now, say I wasn’t sure what kind of flowers to get her, so I gathered together a bunch of my buddies for ideas.  One says “roses”  another says “daisies” and another says “carnations.”  Whose input is best?  None of them are any better than another.  However, this is one person in the world who can tell me exactly what kind of flowers my wife would prefer (and I don’t mean her best girl friend, though I will mention her later in gift giving).  Answer?

My wife.  (incidentally, this analogy works well for explaining why all religions aren’t equal either.)

Only my wife knows what kind of flowers she likes best, right?  But how uncool would it be for me to call her from the store, “Hey, honey, what kind of flowers do you like?”  If you don’t know, then you might need to do exactly that, by the way, because it is much cooler than not getting any or getting something she hates, but there is a better way.

Listen and learn.

Earn a PhD in your wife – become the world’s expert on her!  It might happen this way… you get her a rose and bring it home.  She loves it, but mentions that tulips are her favorites.

Don’t be offended (“see, I get her flowers and she still criticizes me.”)  Grow up, and take note.

Hmmm.  tulips.  Got it.  She is just helping you be great at what you are obviously trying to do – love her – so don’t be offended.  Maybe she says “Roses are my favorite – especially the yellow ones.”

Good job with roses. Next time, remember, yellow, like a Vogon Warship, or a bulldozer is yellow.christmas-gift-ideas-for-wife

Women will generally make comments about their favorites all the time.  Watching TV, commenting on other women’s things, (BIG HINT) when she shops for other people’s gifts or sees other people opening gifts!!!

Also, make it a habit to shop with them and listen.  Stop whining, and don’t sit in the middle of the mall in one of those husband benches – go with her and begin to understand what she likes best.  Here are some areas where any great husband must know her favorites:

Know her favorites, and weave them into the gifts.  Here are some examples of favorites you must know:

Colors

Animal (real and stuffed)

Candy and/or chocolate bar (avoid any large amounts of sweets if she is seriously dieting, but a tiny reminder might express that you love her just the way she is)

Board game

Flower (still more on flowers later)

Soft drink

Restaurants (and meals at those restaurants)

Movies

Books

Jewelry (favorites stones, metals, and symbols)

Magazines

Personal feature (and least favorite)

Wine

Least favorite chore

2.  Listenand don’t wait.  When she notes something that catches her eye – go back and get it asap if you think it is something that will be meaningful to her.  I am telling you that this is one of the most important skills for getting good, meaningful gifts (for anyone).  Do not wait until it is near an important date to get a gift.  If you are out and spot something that she might like, go ahead and get it.  You won’t regret it.

Give yourself plenty of time to purchase gifts – if you have done #1 – it should not be a problem.  Be sneaky about things – know her better than she even knows herself if you can get away with it.  The best is when she had mentioned something to you and then forgotten it herself!

Also, I am sure you would never forgot a birthday, anniversary or other special occasion, but if you did, having a small stash of gifts hidden in your closet that is a good gift rather than a lame gas station gift or (cringe) the old “hey, I gotta run a quick errand uhhh suddenly today…”  Put all important events on your calendar, your work calendar, your phone, and anywhere else you can put it.  Make sure your friends have them on their calendars too, and that they remind you!  Remember, we are all in it together!

3.  Know what each gift means to her – if the thought counts, then it is not the gift, but the message it sends that is valuable to her.  Do flowers say “I have screwed up again, please forgive me?”  or do they say “I was thinking of you and wanted you to know how special you are to me.”  (if it is the former, then you have taught her that meaning and you need to begin to give them to her randomly when nothing is wrong, or you lose flowers as a gift)

Know what meaning she attaches to different things and communicate the right thing.

Remember – no strings attached, or it only communicates “he wants something from me” and then you have shot yourself in the foot.

Let me reiterate this – if a gift is merely meant to put her in your debt, or to put things out of balance so that she has to work to bring things back into balance, then at some level she is going to feel that you are trying to prostitute her to something.

4.  A gift should communicate “He thinks about me when I am not around”.    This is why her favorite drink that you pick up at a gas station on the way home is worth as much as a big gift in her heart!

Even when filling the car with gas, he thinks about me.

When you are on a trip, you typically should bring something back for her that communicates well on items 1, 2, 3, and therefore will communicate #4.  I was thinking about you when I was on my trip.  See?

Often, bringing a gift for a child can encourage a wife as well, by the way.

So, listen so that you can know.  Use that knowledge to tell her you love her all of the time.

Here are some ideas that have been gathered over time!