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Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner: It ain’t Sidney Poitier

Rachel Dolezal

Rachel Dolezal

If Caitlyn Jenner married Rachel Dolezal, would it be an interracial same-sex marriage? For those of you living under a rock (I’m seriously thinking about joining you), Rachel Dolezal is the white lady and former leader of the Spokane NAACP who made the news recently because she self-identifies as black. Egad, just when I thought identity-bending couldn’t get any more confusing. It was bad enough when Bruce Jenner switched teams. Back in the day I had a man crush on Jenner when I was in high school because he was a cool jock. But the recent story about Dolezal choosing to be black made me wonder what the hades is going on in American society? Well, when humanity throws me for a loop, I check out the Bible for answers.

Going way back in history, the Bible says God cautioned humanity that those who did not know God or believe in God would eventually find themselves confused and off track about a variety of things in daily life. For instance, Deuteronomy 22:5 says that a man must not wear a woman’s clothes and a woman must not wear man’s clothing because such behavior is detestable in God’s opinion. The inclusion of this warning in the ancient text of the Bible tells me that Bruce-Caitlyn Jenner and the transgender community today are not breaking new ground. There has always been a demographic with a strong inclination to change their gender identity, whether society approved or not. Apparently that fact has now expanded to race, as well. Is the desire to switch teams and become a different gender or race something natural and healthy due to a genetic hiccup in the womb, or does it indicate mental illness? Is it a disability, a lapse in judgment, or a breakdown in character?

Isaiah 5:20 says, “What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter.” I find it curious that a significant segment of our population today believes that radical self-transformations like those of Jenner and Dolezal are admirable, brave, and healthy. They say it is a good thing and anyone who disagrees is evil or hateful. They are saying bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter. A growing segment of our population is losing the ability to discern the difference between good and evil as well as the difference between healthy and unhealthy.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” These two verses are at the root of many of our problems. We do not ask God about the way we live. That said, allow me to change direction here. What if Jenner’s decision to change gender was indeed the result of years of mental torment because he felt feminine in a masculine body? What if Jenner tried to find healing through every traditional clinical approach without success? What if Jenner asked God for help, but received none? (Yes I know it changes the dynamic if Jenner does not know God, but bear with me.) If that is the case, it is understandable why Jenner would take such drastic action as to change his gender. Given enough pain, EVERY person will try almost anything to make the pain stop. This is true of severe physical as well as mental pain. I know what some of you are thinking: God answers prayer and heals those in pain. I’m sorry, but sometimes God does not answer our every prayer and heal our body and/or mind of every ailment? The reality is that there are times when we are compelled to do whatever it takes to function without pain pushing us to the brink of jumping off a bridge.

I admit that I do not understand why God sometimes allows people to go through severe pain, and I try not to blame God. But in such situations, well, grace becomes priceless. Jenner needs our grace. As for Dolezal, I’m suspicious that her decision to change race was political or influenced by cultural forces, but ultimately I do not know her heart. Don’t get me wrong; I do not believe society should treat the decisions of Jenner and Dolezal with reckless admiration as if they are somehow leading us into a brave new world of utopian tolerance. However, extending grace and compassion to Jenner and Dolezal feels like the right thing to do.

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House of Cards: Hard to look away

Kevin Spacey / Steve Jurvetson

Kevin Spacey / Steve Jurvetson

House of Cards, a Netflix miniseries, pulled me in like a book you can’t put down. The main character is Frank Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey. Underwood is a shrewd U.S. congressman with a perverse moral compass. He worships no god other than himself and his almost-as-ruthless wife, Claire. Frank and Claire have strong feelings for each other, though their marriage is atypical in that it is a marriage for political advantage and selfish ambition. Season two, which recently came out, has a darker tone than season one.

The acting is very good though there are few redeeming qualities about Frank and Claire. The series prompted some uncomfortable questions for this viewer, such as: What is the allure of watching the schemes of someone in high office who makes immoral decisions solely for the sake of selfish ambition? Perhaps the allure is the open display of crossing boundaries of decency that society has traditionally held in high regard. Maybe it is simply that we are fascinated by people who appear good yet are utterly pernicious. I started out liking Underwood because I thought he was a flawed person who would eventually do something noble. But like a classic tragedy, his character digs himself into an ever deeper hole while leaving a growing pile of human wreckage behind. I don’t know if I can bear to watch any more episodes. Hopefully our real-life elected officials do not rise to the level of evil personified by Underwood, but some probably come close.

Perhaps the series provides viewers with an addictive feeling of moral superiority (if so, Underwood is terrible benchmark) or confirmation that what we have occasionally suspected about some of our leaders might contain grains of tantalizing truth. The latter is a disturbing thought. Whatever the allure, House of Cards will not improve the public’s perception of our real political leaders.

All stories have just a few possible outcomes, such as: Evil prevails, good prevails, evil partially prevails, good things happen despite the evil, or a greater evil overcomes the evil. I wonder which outcome the writers for House of Cards will choose.

If you are thinking about watching House of Cards, be aware that it contains rough language and strong sexual content. Maybe I will skip to the last episode to find out if good prevails. Or maybe it is better not to know.

Guns or the Jesus Way

There was a predictable spike in gun sales after the Aurora Colorado shootings. While perusing the news, I stumbled upon an interesting article on this subject in a Christian publication. The writer of the article favored gun ownership as the last line of self-defense when other options have been unsuccessful. The comments about the article generally fell into two camps: (1) Those who believe it is acceptable for Christians to own a gun for self-defense and to protect the weak. (2) Those who detest guns, or fear guns, and see no place for the them in the life of any Christian who follows the instructions of Christ that we are not to resist evil people (the turn-the-other-cheek doctrine). This debate has been going on for a long time.

In Matthew 26:51-52 Jesus is being arrested in the garden when one of his followers pulls a sword and hacks off the ear of a servant of the high priest. (That had to hurt.) Anyhow, Jesus immediately tells his followers to stand down. This is where Jesus utters those famous words that whoever lives by the sword will die by the sword.

But hop over to the same story in Luke 22 and check out something that can be easily overlooked in this scene. In Luke 22:36, a short time before Jesus was arrested, he was talking to his disciples about the travel supplies they would need on their journeys to spread the gospel. He told them to pack a sword.

A team of theologians could write an exhaustive commentary on the apparent conflict between Jesus advising his disciples to take a sword on their journeys and, almost in the same breath, telling them that those who live by the sword will perish by the sword. Permit me to throw in my two cents worth. I notice in Luke 22 that Jesus is trying to tell his disciples deep truths about himself and the fulfillment of Scriptures. His ministry is almost over and his disciples, after years of instruction, do not fully comprehend all that Jesus has taught them. When he tells them to take a sword as part of their travel supplies, they quickly and enthusiastically respond that they already have two swords. Jesus tells them that’s enough swords. I can almost hear Jesus’ sigh of exasperation. His disciples understand the purpose of taking swords on their journey but they don’t seem to understand what Jesus is about to do on the cross for humanity.

Christ knows that his followers live in a dangerous, often lethal, and irrational world. Self-defense against criminals and defending the weak are not the same as enduring persecution for following Christ. However, relying too much on the sword (i.e. the gun) for protection in this life puts us in even greater danger because the gun can lure us into a false feeling of security, or exacerbate our fears. In other words, genuine peace of mind must first come from God.

In the interest of full disclosure, I own a gun. But the gun doesn’t give me as much peace when I put my head on the pillow at night as verses like Psalm 3:5: “I lay down and slept, yet I woke up in safety, for the Lord was watching over me.”

Here’s my point: The gun is a tool that deals with symptoms, not the cause of evil. If we want to impact the root cause of humanity’s ills, we need to apply the majority of our efforts at wielding tools like the word of God and living a genuine Christian life. Ultimately, it’s Christ who transforms hearts from evil to good.