Vive la France: How should Christians react to refugees?


Unless you live under a rock (an increasingly attractive lifestyle option), you have by now seen the horrible news about the terrorists attack in Paris that came on the heels of the mass migration of millions of refugees entering Europe from war-torn regions in the Middle East, such as Syria. We now know at least one of the terrorists had blended into the population of refugees before the attack and that ISIS has said they have many more Jihadi terrorists among the refugees. The attack has caused many Americans to re-examine our immigration and refugee policies.

I have some nagging questions that begin with the premise that the Bible’s instruction that we are not to mistreat the “foreigner/alien/stranger” in our land still holds true today. (See Exodus 22:21, Exodus 23:9, Leviticus 19:33-34, and Deuteronomy 10:18-19.) How can we live this out when terrorists have infiltrated the ranks of foreign refugees in Europe, and may soon do so in America (if they haven’t already)? America has already received Syrian refugees. Should we deport them and/or refuse to accept any more given the violence we saw in Paris last week? Does the Bible imperative to welcome the “foreigner” assume that foreigners mean us no harm? Are we under the same Biblical obligation to Middle East refugees during a time of war, or is the Biblical imperative regarding aliens in our land even more crucial DURING a time of war when emotions are raw and some people might feel tempted to lash out against all Muslims? Does the Biblical imperative only apply to aliens who are in our country, thus releasing us from any obligation to accept more refugees? Do Scriptures about the treatment of aliens in the land only apply to ancient Israel? Is it the Christian thing to accept more refugees from the Middle East even if it puts an unknown number of American lives at risk? Is ISIS a real threat to our nation’s survival if they go unchecked? Should we receive women, children, and elderly refugees and turn away young men of military age if they come from Syria? Could we create safe zones in Syria, run by the United Nations or NATO, to house refugees until the conflict is over? Is our first consideration the safety of our fellow citizens? Or as someone in the Bible once asked: Who is my neighbor in the midst of this mess?

President Obama attempted to take the high road recently by saying that American values do not permit us to refuse refugees based on a religious test. He vows to continue receiving Syrian refugees with the promise that they will be thoroughly investigated before they are allowed entry, though he did not elaborate how the background investigation is to be accomplished on refugees who come from a country on the other side of the planet. He’s asking us to trust him and the federal government. I can’t peer into President Obama’s heart, but his credibility is suspect given that 85 percent of American Muslim voters picked President Obama in the 2012 election. Don’t get me wrong, I know it is quite possible that many republican leaders would pander to Muslim voters if 85 percent voted for the GOP.

So what are we Christians to do? First, we must end our short-term attention spans. The news cycle will eventually move on from the Paris attacks. The hashtags will play out and we’ve already changed our Facebook profile pictures to include the French flag as the background. We made ourselves feel like we accomplished something. But have we?

We will elect a new president in a year, long after the slaughter in Paris is mostly forgotten. We must pay close attention to what the candidates say about how they would deal with terrorists and the threat, if any, posed by refugees coming to America. We should pray for discernment to identify which candidate is looking out for America’s best interest, not just their political party or crony business interests. Mostly we have to pray that the person we choose for our next president is in alignment with God’s will.

On a personal and local level, we are fortunate because most of us will never have to make tough decisions about our national immigration and refugee policies. All the Bible asks us to do is treat our neighbors, including our Muslim neighbors, with the same human dignity with which we would want to be treated. That said, my hope is that all people in America would embrace our national motto of E Pluribus Unum, which means out of many, one. In my lifetime I have witnessed America become a nation of enclaves. We continue to segregate ourselves according to race, nationality, economic status, religion, lifestyle choices, and political ideologies. We do so because we are more comfortable with our own kind of people. And that’s probably ok to some degree, just so long as we all strongly identify as Americans. Perhaps we have entered a season when America should cut back on immigration and only accept the most desperate cases in order for our current immigrants and refugees to assimilate, thereby creating a greater sense of American homogeneity (a dirty word in today’s PC world where we worship multiculturalism as the cure for all that ails us) and loyalty. In any case, I do not believe we are obligated to totally disregard our safety and national security, though God does want us to remember his will is that none should perish.


Conditions Are Right: Transcending Busyness


The HVAC system was not working when I arrived at work this morning. I find it difficult to work under such barbaric conditions where the mercury is expected to dip to an icy 55 degrees. Come to think of it, I find it difficult to work under ANY conditions these days. In any case, certain conditions in life come whether we’re ready for them or not. The Bible refers to such conditions as seasons.

In his book If You Didn’t Bring Jerky, What Did I Just Eat, author Bill Heavey pauses for a serious moment and describes his encounters with men who have survived extended combat: “Such men tend to be low-key to the point of self-effacement. They have transcended any need for the approval—or even the attention—of others. Any questions about their identity, or worth, or place in life have already been settled. They know that each breath is a gift.”

I never experienced military combat, but I will be sixty next year, plus I’ve been married for over 25 years . . . which in a just world would qualify me for a Purple Heart (just kidding, sort of). At this age, many of my questions about life have been answered. The desire for the approval of others and the insatiable drive to carve out a place and identity in life has turned out to be, well, satiable. When you’re no longer committing all your energy to prove yourself or impress God, it becomes much easier to love.

There was a time in my life when, vocationally, I was on top of my game. My work was golden and recognized by my peers. Empathy came easy, but deep love and concern for others often took a backseat to career aspirations. Those career agendas are fading in this soon-to-be latter season of life. Lately I find myself engaging in the futile attempt to recapture the magic of youthful experiences. Still, there is hope that the future has some special moments to look forward to as time becomes more precious. I see this change in others, as well.

We take my mother-in-law to family functions and out to dinner now and then. She’s in her eighties and quite frail. During these excursions I’ve noticed an interesting phenomena: elderly people (total strangers) will often stop and hug my-mother-in-law while engaging in small talk. It’s as if the elderly (the wise ones) know that they are in a season of days and hours, unlike the young who live in a season of months and years. The elderly take time to connect because they know all too well that time is a finite gift from heaven. They are not quick to cut off a conversation because they have other things to do. I caught myself getting impatient the other day when we left a restaurant and my mother-in-law stopped to chat with an elderly lady at the door of the eatery. I had “important” things to do at home. After a while, the two embraced and I was eventually able to go about my “important” business.

In an instant, in the blink of an eye we all enter that season where my mother-in-law currently lives. I can feel the inevitability of it coming. I hope my kids are patient with me in that season where the shadows grow long.

Dang those spooky Druids

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Well, another Halloween has come and gone. Thank goodness no virgins were sacrificed to a Druid god in my neighborhood; which either says something about the quality of my neighbors or the shortage of virgins in this part of town. In any case, some of my fellow Christians can now turn on their porch lights and come out of hiding from deep within the bowels of their own homes where they hid last night to avoid supporting this pagan holiday by refusing to pass out candy to little children. Sigh! This debate in the church about whether or not to participate in Halloween has been going on for as long as I can remember. It’s the choice between a celebration of life or celebrating death. And the Bible is very clear about things like astrology, divination, witchcraft, sorcery, and other occult practices—Christians ARE NOT supposed to participate in these things. I get it.

Still, I wonder if we separate ourselves too much from the same world we are supposed to reach by refusing to participate in the levity of passing out treats to small children knocking at our door. Do we know the difference between children going trick-or-treating and adults participating in a séance to talk to dear old Uncle Joe who passed away twenty years ago? I hope so. And yes I know that by ignoring Halloween’s pagan history and treating modern Halloween as a harmless children’s activity we possibly send the perilous message to our youth that the occult is a harmless pursuit. But by hiding in our darkened homes on Halloween night I suspect we are not endearing ourselves to our neighbors. We become those religious kooks who live down the street.

I work for a Christian organization where we have a harvest celebration instead of a Halloween party. Imagine my surprise when one of my co-workers stated that she would not participate in the harvest celebration because it was just renaming the pagan practice of Halloween. She took the day off rather than have anything to do with this “pagan” celebration at a stalwart Christian organization. I admire her zealotry, misguided as it might be. I could be wrong on this issue, but I have yet to feel led by God to stop passing out candy on Halloween/Harvest eve. Hundreds of years ago the Pope attempted to reclaim the Druid pagan celebration that has become Halloween by giving it a Christian identity. Today we can actually participate in reclaiming the pagan holiday and making it a Christian event we call a harvest celebration (what could be more Christian than harvest?), or at least give the world an option of choosing between the two. Fall is a beautiful season. Let’s not give it up so easily to Satan’s domain. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m late for my astrology reading. (Got ya!)

Where you lead . . . I don’t want to go!

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Admitting you are not a leader and have no aspirations to become a leader in the world of Christianity is like admitting you hog two parking spaces at the grocery store on senior citizen discount day . . . and you don’t care if they ARE handicap spaces. Apparently it’s considered bad mojo to follow rather than lead in church culture. But the attitude that every Christian should aspire to leadership belies one obvious flaw: Who will follow if everyone thinks they are a leader?

In my almost three score years on the planet, I’ve come to the profound conclusion that I am not a leader. Sure, I can manage people. A manager recruits people, writes schedules, assigns projects and keeps workers on task through a variety of practical mechanisms (think progressive discipline . . . or my favorite management technique of stomping your foot and throwing a tantrum when subordinates ignore you). A leader, on the other hand, must inspire people to make personal sacrifices and go above and beyond expectations. Few people possess the magic formula required for leadership (probably because personality is a large portion of the formula). If the leadership formula could be bottled and sold, it would fetch millions. Unfortunately, the world is full of people who think they are leaders, but they do not possess the complete formula. Faux leaders encounter much frustration because people do not cooperate under their leadership. This can lead to dissatisfaction, bitterness, anger and hurts felt by all parties involved.

You see, people with the gift of leadership possess the almost superhuman ability to demand high productivity from subordinates while at the same time caring deeply about their subordinates. In other words, people with innate leadership skills have the backs of their staff. They offer praise and reward abundantly, and criticize sparingly . . . and even then in a constructive way.

From my humble position as an armchair observer, quite a few people occupy leadership roles because they believe they don’t have it in their DNA to take orders from others. Newsflash: Just because a person loathes following the orders of other people does not necessarily mean they have the juice required for leadership. The corporate landscape is littered with the wreckage of failed businesses and ministries run into the ground by people who wanted to be the boss, but lacked the leadership mojo to make it work.

Here’s the thing: It’s okay to be something other than a leader. There are plenty of alternative roles in the church and in your community that are equally fulfilling, as long as we correctly identify our skills and gifts. The church, and American culture in general, idolizes leadership to the point of pathosis. Leaders, as much as we admire them, can’t do diddly squat without support from the rest of us using our God-given gifts. Don’t fear the un-leader within you.

Sweet and Sour Grapes: The dangers rationalization


What happens when you break your own moral code? (No, you don’t become a Democrat or a Republican.) Answer: It depends on the strength of your defense mechanisms. We all build defense mechanisms to protect us from unpleasant psychological consequences (such as feelings of guilt and shame) when we do something wrong and even when we merely think we did something wrong. Unfortunately our defense mechanisms turn against us when we convince ourselves we did nothing wrong when in fact we did do something wrong. Confused?

It is easier to understand if we look at an example such as Aesop’s fable The Fox and the Grapes:

“One hot summer’s day a Fox was strolling through an orchard till he came to a bunch of Grapes just ripening on a vine which had been trained over a lofty branch. ‘Just the thing to quench my thirst’, quoth he. Drawing back a few paces, he took a run and a jump, and just missed the branch. Turning round with a One, Two, Three, he jumped up, but with no greater success. Again and again he tried after the tempting morsel, but at last had to give it up, and walked away with his nose in the air, saying: ‘I am sure they are sour.’”

Dr. Neel Burton says this of the fox in his Psychology Today article titled Self-Deception I: Rationalization:

“In the case of Aesop’s fox, the cognitive dissonance arises from the cognitions ‘I am an agile and nimble fox’ and ‘I can’t reach the grapes on the branch’, and the rationalization, which is a form of sour grapes, is ‘I am sure the grapes are sour.’”

We, like the fox, rationalize in order to construct a defense mechanism to protect our pride, our integrity, our reputation, our inflated sense of ability, or, in some cases, to shield us from the deep sense of shame and guilt when we behave poorly towards others or after we have violated our own moral code in some way. If a person has no shame or guilt after behaving poorly towards others, he or she may have elements of psychopathy in their personality. If most of my friends and family say I messed up and hurt people, but I can’t see it, the odds are something is wrong in my world. If the fox rationalizes that he did jump high enough to eat the grapes even though everyone watching saw him fail, the fox has a serious problem—he has become delusional.

Most Christians have heard that King David was a man close to God’s own heart. Even when David committed adultery and murder, he remained close to God’s heart. How can this be? There are many reasons why God had a special place in his heart for David, but I have a theory as to what made David different from most of us and why this trait endeared him to God. David did not construct elaborate self-defense mechanisms nor did he try to rationalize his actions when confronted with the truth. This is such a rare quality in the human race that David stood out in God’s eyes. You see, rationalizing is a form of lying. We lie to ourselves and we lie to others, we even blame others in a futile effort to keep our sacrosanct defense mechanism from crumbling. It started in The Garden when Eve rationalized her epic fail by saying “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” Adam rationalized his cowardly fail by attempting to pass the buck when he said “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Apparently we have not changed since The Garden.

Here’s the thing: I believe with all my heart that God wants to help us break through our rationalizations and defense mechanisms so that we can experience the relief found in his healing and restoration, but we have to sincerely ask for his help. And the key word is “sincerely.” Of course this requires that we . . . (wait for it) . . . humble ourselves.

Remember For Today: Huh?

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Last summer Hollywood tapped into our love of nostalgia (yet again) by taking us Boomers down memory lane with movies like Mad Max: Fury Road, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. What’s next, Pac Man: Centipede Road? Don’t get me wrong, I love nostalgia. It often seems more appealing to go back in time to relive the magic than try to create magic today. A couple years ago my wife and I stumbled upon an old console game of Pac Man. You know what I mean—a glass-top Pac Man table where two opponents sit across from each other and manipulate joy sticks. Funny how a “joy” stick can cause intense aggravation. In those days it cost .25 cents a game, so we had a significant financial incentive to stretch out the play time as long as possible. I recall that I usually played better after a few beers, or perhaps I only played better in my pickled head. In any case, a strange thing happened when Cindy and I sat down a couple years ago to play Pac Man—I lost interest after one game. It was fun to reminisce about our past experiences hunkered over a Pac Man table with a Coors buzz swirling through our noggins, but the actual magic of playing the game when Cindy and I were first getting together as a couple had faded into the glorious past. And that’s the beauty of nostalgia—it gives us a warm, albeit short, feeling, but it can also inspire us to appreciate the magic in moments we would otherwise overlook today. Or at least it can if we pay attention and are not under a self-imposed tyranny of busyness.

Fall is, in my opinion, the best time of year. It’s not too hot and not too cold (which means I save money on my home energy expense). Perfect weather for spending more time outdoors. How many of you went outside a few nights ago to look at the blood moon and the eclipse? It was spectacular, and it didn’t cost anything for admission . . . not even .25 cents. Sometimes those moments that create fond memories just happen, and sometimes we have to get off our butts and make them happen before old age and Alzheimer’s overtakes us. Just sayin’.

Apply Your Christian Faith Safely

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If the title of this post caught your attention, you may be thinking “I didn’t know there was an unsafe way to apply my faith.” The answer is yes, there is an unsafe way to apply your faith, and it can be lethal. More accurately I should say that immersing oneself with reckless abandon in certain teachings or practices of the church (which can look like a zealous faith) can be hazardous to your health. Allow me to elaborate with two examples:

A good friend of mine became a Christian as a young adult after years of indulging sinful enticements and unorthodox spiritual pursuits. His conversion was so radical, miraculous and complete that the church and all things Christian and biblical completely consumed him. He became and uber-believer in Christ and in the healing power of Christ. He believed it with ALL his heart and mind. He had good reason to believe it because he witnessed firsthand examples of God healing illness and other issues in the lives of people in the church. But many years later my friend was diagnosed with a potentially deadly illness. He lived in denial for years, but eventually he accepted the diagnosis with the unshakable conviction that God would heal him. He waited, and waited, but no divine healing came. Eventually he began medical treatment and has been relatively stable, though his health paid a price for his procrastination.

Recently, a family member of mine was not as fortunate. She was a devout Godly woman who embraced the Pentecostal tradition of the church. So when she was diagnosed with cancer, she automatically assumed God would heal her. And why not? All her life she felt the movement of the Holy Spirit and witnessed the Spirit’s healing power in the lives of fellow believers. But like my friend, she delayed treatment, opting for a miraculous healing. She eventually sought medical treatment that worked for a while. But when the cancer returned, other Christians (who felt they had “a word from the Lord”) tried to support her by telling her that they felt in their spirit that the Lord was not finished with her yet and that she still had work to do, especially within her family. She passed away about a week ago. Her death left me feeling sad, and angry. It also left me with a nagging question: Would her life have been prolonged had she sought medical treatment instead of thinking that God would miraculously heal her? Certainly she bears some responsibility for her own decisions, but I also lay part of the blame at the foot of the church. How so? The church may be harming people by the way it teaches about miraculous healing and the way it projects healing in the church. The church tries too hard to have a positive attitude about miraculous healing (and just about every type of miracle), often leaving the flock with the impression that if we just have a positive attitude and strong faith, God will heal.

A well-intentioned pastor I know has for years taught about hearing God’s voice. He has built an entire teaching based largely on one passage found in John 10:27 where it says: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” The pastor teaches young and old that we can hear God’s voice since God’s spirit is constantly communicating with our spirit because God’s spirit lives within us. The pastor’s specialty is teaching Christians how to discern the difference between God’s voice and our own internal dialogue. It is a fascinating teaching, and there is some truth to it. I myself have experienced God’s voice on rare occasions (no, it is not an audible voice) communicating with my spirit. Most of the time striving to hear God’s voice is a harmless endeavor. In fact, it can help us grow spiritually. But it can be a dangerous endeavor because if you get it wrong, it can lead you to make bad decisions about things like your health, which can reduce your survivability when faced with serious illness. Your see, despite our conversion to new life in Christ, we remain flawed beings who live in a damaged imperfect world. With flawed minds we are easily seduced into hearing what we want to hear when seeking to communicate with God. Even young Samuel had trouble discerning the voice of God in 1 Samuel chapter 3.

After decades of witnessing what goes on in a variety of churches, I feel confident saying that many of my brothers and sisters in the faith have a distorted perception of how and how often God speaks to us as well as how often God intervenes to heal medical afflictions. For instance, a large church in Northern California has regular healing services where the sick are invited to seek miraculous healing. If a hundred people show up but only ten get healed, the church responds with raucous celebration over God healing the ten. Little, if any, is said about the ninety who did not receive healing. Don’t get me wrong, giving God all the praise for healing is definitely the right thing to do. But by ignoring the real numbers we perpetuate the false perception that God always heals, or that he heals Godly men and women who have walked faithfully in the ways of the Lord for decades. We can’t apply a healing or speaking formula to God. Those with seniority in the faith do not always get healed and brand new Christians sometimes get healed despite their rookie status.

In some ways, the church is a lot like a Norman Vincen Peale seminar on positive thinking. When praying or seeking a word from the Lord, any negative thought, suggestion or attitude is shunned. Yet some of the most beneficial things I ever heard from God, well, let’s just say Mr. Peale would not have approved of their real-world tone. My wife experienced a negative-sounding word from God. It happened during an altar call where people were invited up front to be prayed over for physical healing, my wife prayed for a well-known Godly man in a wheelchair who was struggling with a potentially deadly illness. He had sought healing on numerous occasions. My wife felt God was telling her to tell the man that he should simply rest in the Lord (in other words, there would be no miraculous healing from God). She prayed what God was telling her, and the man received it with humility. Such stories do not get all the hoopla in the church as the miraculous healings.

The church must tell it like it really is instead of presenting an overly positive, yet illusory, projection of how often miraculous healings and dialogue with God occurs. Sometimes we commit to our faith so wholeheartedly—which is admirable in many ways—that we live in an inaccurate world of faith. Yet even stout Christians sometimes think “If I only had more faith, I would get healed.” Here’s the thing: At some point it is not possible to have MORE faith. You either believe that Christ is the Son of God, that he died for your sins and rose from the grave, or you don’t. You believe Christ has the power to heal, or you don’t. Beyond that, we only need commitment to the long haul, without assuming so intensely that God will perform a miracle for us that it becomes a presumption (which is dangerously close to a demand).

Yes, the Bible tells us to have faith like a child. It also tells us to be as shrewd as snakes. If we only have faith like a child, we will get hurt. If we only have faith like a shrewd snake, eventually we won’t have ANY faith. A healthy faith requires both.

Freeway Miracle or Old-Man Driving Habits?


Driving on California freeways is like a dyslexic playing Russian roulette—where the gun has one empty chamber instead of five. Yep, the odds are stacked against you on the Golden State’s pristine avenues of death and dismemberment. I was reminded of this a week ago when traveling eastbound on a local stretch of freeway. Traffic was thick and moving at a brisk pace, which is to say everyone was breaking the speed limit with reckless abandon. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a flicker of red brake lights far ahead of the cars in front of me. Either instinct or an angel’s suggestion prompted me to take my foot off the accelerator. No sooner had I done this when instantly all the brake lights of the cars in front of me came on. I hit the brakes while the three cars directly in front of me plowed into each other in an explosive crash that deployed air bags and sent car parts rocketing in all directions. I screeched to a stop inches behind the last car in the pile up. (Where is my GoPro when I need it?) Car enthusiasts brag about vehicles that can go from 0 to 60 mph in mere seconds. Let me tell you, it is way more important to go from 75 to 0 mph in mere seconds.

Was my near miss on the freeway a miracle? If you are a Pentecostal, you’d probably say yes. If you are a Baptist, no. If you are a Lutheran, maybe. Joking aside, I don’t know for certain if it was a miracle. But when I consider my age and declining reflexes, I think it must have been a miracle. On the other hand, I drive like an old coot that rarely tailgates. Perhaps my curmudgeonly driving habits finally paid off. If it was a miracle, I give God all the credit.

After thinking about the almost crash for a few days, I was reminded of James 1:17 where we are told that every good and perfect gift comes to us from God in heaven. We have a tendency in the West to think of gifts as material things. But maybe heavenly gifts are more often as simple as God intervening to keep us from plowing into an accident on the freeway. For that I am very, very grateful. It also came to me that the miracle might not have been for me, it might have been for the lady in the car in front of me. In any case, it should give us goosebumps to think that the God of the universe cares enough to personally intervene in the course of daily life to keep us safe. He does not always intervene, but not because he does not love us. Though it can make us uncomfortable, his ways are mysterious to mortals. And for an instant on the freeway last week, I stepped into that mystery.

By the way, no one was seriously injured in the accident.

“Dear Fat People” A.K.A. Gastronome Shaming

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Another video went viral last week. I hope scientists find a vaccine soon before the next contagion. Anyhow, this latest video is titled Dear Fat People by comedian Nicole Arbour. You won’t find a link here because of Arbour’s prolific utilization of F-bombs, which I personally find tiresome, especially when used gratuitously. In other words, the prolific F-bombs do not lend any creativity to her act. But it wasn’t the F-bombs that caused the brouhaha and hate directed at Arbour. Nope, it was her derisive (mocking) tone plus her encouragement of shaming directed at fat people that landed her in hot water. In her defense, Arbour makes it clear (halfway through her act) that she is not referring to people with a medical condition beyond their control. She is talking about the millions of Americans who are overweight because they do not control their eating while living a sedentary life. She says the shaming she uses should come from friends and family of the obese to prevent their overweight loved ones from an early demise where everyone stands around the grave and cries about them being taken too soon.

As a Christian and compassionate person I am conflicted about Arbour’s fat shaming. I found much of her content to be funny, but it also felt cruel. Weight is a sensitive, even raw, subject these days, especially among females of our species. Almost everyone with a fully functioning brain knows we have what experts call an epidemic of obesity in America. Yet the billions we’ve spent on education, laws, medicine, and weight loss programs seems to have done little to abate the epidemic. Is our society too soft on the overweight? Too hard? Do we help or make the problem worse when we use euphemisms such as “body image issues?” Arbour cleverly points out that hashtags won’t fix this problem. Does Arbour deserve the hate? In my humble opinion, maybe a little. But I also remember great comedians like Don Rickles, Dean Martin (yes, he was also a comedian), Foster Brooks, Sammy Davis Junior, and Carroll O’ Connor. Those guys used racial, behavioral, and sexual stereotypes to makes us laugh at ourselves, and by doing so they quietly made us aware that many of our stereotypes were an immoral lie. They chipped away at our collective conscience. Naturally, this angered many people with strong beliefs that the stereotypes were real (they were called bigots). Perhaps Arbour is on to something similar with her Dear Fat People video. Lord knows nothing else seems to be working at tackling the extremely expensive problem of obesity in America. The thing about the older generation of comedians was that they also knew how to make fun of themselves. Arbour does this a little in her video, but she should probably do it more often.

The Bible doesn’t say much about overeating and obesity, but what is does say is strict. For instance, Proverbs 23:2 says “Place a knife at your throat to control your appetite.” This does not mean we should kill ourselves if we can’t control our eating, though I occasionally feel suicidal after a break in character that leads me to dine at McDonald’s. This particular Scripture tells us via symbolism to undertake extreme measures, if need be, to get our appetites under control. In other words, the control of our appetite has serious physical and spiritual ramifications. It’s like God is saying “Pay attention to this, it is not a minor problem you can ignore and expect to have a fulfilling relationship with me!”

In conclusion, Arbour’s video comes off as overly harsh, but we’ve also become too soft as a society. In the golden age of comedy, comedians offended a lot of people, and in doing so they participated in bringing about positive social change. If nothing else, perhaps Arbour’s video has made us aware that there is such a thing as being too accommodating of poor choices.

Anger: The gateway drug


Another tragedy savaged the American conscience when reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward of WDBJ-TV were fatally shot during a live interview on Wednesday, August 26, in Moneta, Virginia. Authorities identified the suspect as former journalist (and ne’er-do-well) Vester Lee Flanagan II. Like so many of these cases, Flanagan died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Who knows what went through his mind before he put that gun to his head and stepped into the presence of a just God? In any case, it doesn’t take a genius to reach the conclusion that something has gone horribly wrong in America when a killer like Flanagan records his murders and posts it on social media for the world to witness the outcome of a pathological mind determined to get even with the world for his delusional woes.

Since the killing of Parker and Ward, the news media has uncovered enough dirt on Flanagan to paint an ugly picture of a man filled with rage at others over his career failures as a journalist. Apparently he was a man devoid of any capacity to examine himself. In other words, he was one of those individuals we have all encountered—the paranoid guy or gal who blames other people for their lot in life. This is not to say that other people never do bad things that affect our lives. But when a person bounces from one negative situation to another with eerie similarities between them, chances are the problem is not other people. Constantly blaming others is not a God-approved way of life for Christians. In Psalms 139:23-24 we see that the psalmist knew he needed God to examine him:

“Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.”

One emotion (if you can call it that . . . it’s more like a malevolent presence) that blocks our ability to see ourselves accurately is anger. It also inhibits God’s ability to work in our life. Mr. Flanagan could be the poster child for anger and bitterness. He convinced himself that the world was out to get him because he was black and gay. He kept a long record of wrongs. By embracing anger and nurturing it, he opened wide the door for Satan to enter his heart and direct his actions. Anger is like heroin or crack cocaine, it feels soooo good to indulge it. Anger puffs up our feeling of moral superiority and feeds the monster of victimhood lurking in our soul. Unfortunately many people in America do not know that anger is a gateway to sin. Yep, check out Ephesians 4:26-27 (ERV):

“When you are angry, don’t let that anger make you sin, and don’t stay angry all day. Don’t give the devil a way to defeat you.”

Get the picture? Anger is a dangerous substance. Indulge it often or too long, and Satan will use it against you. That said, allow me to address a political issue surrounding this tragedy—gun control. Every time these types of tragedies occur, those who embrace the “progressive” ideology for our society zero in on guns so intently it makes me wonder if they associate the gun as the actual source of the evil that killed Parker and Ward. Granted, easy access to guns makes it easier for an evil person to destroy the lives of others, but the gun itself is not innately evil. The source of the evil (baring evidence of mental illness) is the human heart. As Christians, we have an obligation to urge the world to avoid the trap of embracing solutions that do not address the root problem. Sure, if a new law or administrative process can keep firearms out of the hands of unstable people while protecting the rights of law-abiding citizens, we have an obligation to embrace it out of love for our neighbors. But more important than that, we can show the world how we examine our own lives and rely on God’s intervention to help us change dangerous attitudes in our heart. It’s called personal responsibility, and personal responsibility is the best gun control. Maybe it’s time for more Christian Americans to move beyond soaking up the good vibe of God’s love on Sunday morning to the difficult, and courageous, work of self-examination and change.