17 October 2007

Church and State

I have decided to jot down some notes pertaining to each of these institutions, in accordance with the vision of these given by the Word of God as best I see it. While I admit that my vision may change or fade over time, I wish to set down my thoughts honestly so that, at the very least, I may see the development of the ideas over the years. But my higher hope is that through writing them, I may share both visions and call men and women around me to something higher, greater, and truer than we yet may have seen.

It amazes me how American culture has today grasped this ideal of “the separation between Church and State,” and I cannot help but wonder if the cause of this desperate plaint is that we have failed our fathers in understanding either Thing. The State now is so much larger and undefined than it once was, while the Church is so much weaker and unspiritual, leaving us little choice but to wish them separate. In reality, however, they now may be impossibly merged—-yes, now more than ever, though most do not realise it, for is it not true that the State has sequestered certain functions which, until the latest generations, had been the sole duty of a charitable Church? I think here of welfare aspects, chiefly: money and assistance to the poor, weak, weary, injured, addicted and unfortunate. At one time these duties belonged to the Church, as a matter of grace extended through faith, but now they have been apprehended by an obtrusive State. Were they rightly taken? The next few pages will argue this out, using both Scriptures and the American foundational decrees (including the U.S. Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and Bill of Rights).

This is no small undertaking, if I am to do it well. But I am thankful for the encouragement of my girl Brooklyn, who has almost since we net urged me toward writing down my thoughts of the Church. Add to this the influence of the life of William Wilberforce, which God has used much in my life this year, and it seems good to me in this season of my life to adjoin these speculations upon the role of Government, or the State. May God be pleased to enlighten me toward both these institutions.

But I will start with the utmost thanks and praise that both of these institutions are, and ever have been, under God. Truly, though neither Church nor State is walking presently in accordance with His purer designs, still naught has happened which was outside His sway or permission. And for this I am very grateful! I pray He would guide me, and guide us, as we raise our thoughts toward a better Day and better Future than the present state of things would offer us. I suspect we shall find these as we hearken unto His Words. Thus I again entreat Him to move me by His counsel, that these words would fall along the lines of Truth.

Sola Gloria Deo.

12 May 2007

Arabi

I finally began my attempt at learning Arabic, as much as possible without living in a foreign land (just yet). The other day I sent about 45 minutes using the Rosetta Stone program for Arabic, and found it extremely difficult as it gave no transliteration for the Arabic words. Left to learn as I could, I was amazed at how well I was beginning to pick out certain symbols in the Arabic words and connecting them to repeated sounds between them. Still, in the end I found a small book at Barnes and Noble to teach me the Arabic alphabet--all 29 letters, including 26 consonants and three vowels, two of which vowels also sometimes act as consonants (smile). The book explained how Arabic uses the consonantal roots to build its words, which has me very excited about learning more...between my analytical side, my love for sounds and words and meanings, and my joy in drawing, this should be a fun adventure...

11 February 2007

It's a pretty day again outside, though still on the cold side. Yet I'm thinking of taking a short walk before church anyhow, and musing on the Psalm I read this morning; 77, I think it was. As I read how the psalmist's voice rose to God in the day of his trouble, and how his soul refused to be comforted, I was struck afresh with how profound it truly is, that even the writers of the Holy Word of God, moved as they were by the Holy Spirit to sing and to pen their words, did not always have their feet set in the concrete of doctrine. They moved, they kicked and screamed (it seems), they fought to understand why God is the way He is, and sometimes they mistook Him.

But the important thing is the Search. I began a new book last night by an author whom I've read before, and whom I respect quite a lot: Walker Percy. He was a Southern writer of a deeply philosophical and spiritual persuasion--not in the Flannery O'Connor vein of spirituality, rather, I would say, more profound and less mystical. I began his first novel, "The Moviegoer," in which the main character early on observes the random times in which he felt "the search." One day he woke up, dressed for work, and began to grab all his usual traveling companions--wallet, watch, pens, etc.--but was struck with a new strangeness as if all these things were not his own. He adopts the methods of a detective, peering at all these objects as if they were clues to a greater, deeper meaning.

Of course, the narrator in the story realises that he may be searching for God, but refuses to say for certain--he says, because everyone else has already answered that question for themselves, and he's afraid of showing his own ignorance in the matter. He remarks (fictitiously, but the point is sound) that they have taken surveys in which 98% of Americans claim that they believe in God, and the remaining 2% are agnostics or atheists--thus leaving not even 1% of us engaging in the search! Rather good point, if you ask me. What is wrong with the search?

What is wrong with the search, when even the psalmists of the Bible itself were searching for this God of promises? Sometimes even for us, it will require a search to discover Him beneath the trappings of a wounding friend, a natural devastation, an ordinary flower or a candle burning low. Sometimes we must have a hard look to discern Him within the wrath and the grace and the peace and the trouble in which He is often wrapped. "To have found Him and still be looking for Him is the soul's paradox of love."

But the enemy of the search may just be the ordinary everyday. So what will you do with that?

29 January 2007

Abortion as Racism?

In my current employment, I deal frequently with issues concerning sexual activity and its consequences, including teenage pregnancy. Hence, John Piper's recent sermon entitled "When Is Abortion Racism?" caught my eye especially. A few of the statistics raised in the article include the following:

1. Since 1973, black mothers have undergone approximately 13 million abortions.
2. Black women comprise 13% of the female population of the United States, but account for nearly 36% of abortions. Latino-Hispanic women make up another 13% of the femal population, and account for another 20% of all aboritons received in the United States.
3. Planned Parenthood is the leading provider of abortions in the United States, and nearly 80% of Planned parenthood clinics have been located (or relocated) to minority communities.

Piper's sermon clearly presents the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that forgiveness and love are God's way extended unto all people, for which I am very thankful. But I appreciate Piper's clear statement:

My aim is that those who abhor racism will abhor abortion—“Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good” (Romans 12:9). My aim is that abortion would be as culturally taboo as racism is. My aim is to hasten the day when being publicly pro-choice will be as reprehensible as being publicly racist. My aim is to hasten the day when declaring yourself pro-choice would be like declaring yourself a white supremacist.

My aim is that just as once even though the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott case of 1857 held that Black slaves were property without rights as free persons, yet today we view that as unthinkable; so also even though the Supreme Court in the Roe v. Wade case of 1973 did not give the unborn the rights of free persons, nevertheless the day may come when that too is viewed as unthinkable. Racism might—and often did—result in the killing of innocent humans; in our history, it often did. But abortion always results in the killing of innocent humans. Between 1882 and 1968, 3,446 Black people were lynched in America. Today more Black babies are killed by white abortionists every three days than all who were lynched in those years (Life Education and Resource Network).

In talking with my co-worker Linda, who has worked for many years with the local crisis pregnancy center, I understand that the situation has been very similar locally as well. What shall we do, brothers, to stem this and end this awful way? And sisters, how shall we love people to the truth in this?

A Tiny Friend or Foe

I know, I still haven't written of Colombia. Well, I could share much...but for right now, all I'll mention is that we made a new friend in Colombia. He came back with us, and probably liked the airline food better than we did (no offense, Delta). He's one of those guests who overstays his welcome, sadly, and is always with you like a shadow on your day. Still, we try to be hospitable. His name is Phil, and here is his photo, so you can be sure to give him a big smile of welcome if you should happen to run into him.



p.s. Ten bonus points for anyone who can come up with Phil's more scientific name...

22 January 2007

There, and Back Again

Well, I'm back. The illnesses and joyful meetings of my Colombian experience I will not yet share with you. But I still have a card in my passport wallet which reads "Be sure to drink the water"...I think it was given me by you, Kristen, wasn't it? Maybe before my trip to Mexico senior year?

But as to my query from before, I think you both are right--there is a balance, and that balance must be the fullest reality of both. I have been reading Lewis' "Pilgrim's Regress" recently, which I'd never read before, and on the plane today came upon young John's discussion with Old Man History. Really good though not perfect, but in the allegory there are Shepherds who know the Landlord's Rules, and there are Pagans who only know these Images which the Landlord has given them--Images enough to drive them toward desire of Him and His goodness, it seems. In the story, both are part of the same reality, and History tells how the Shepherds (who are not necessarily Christian pastors, only virtue-loving men who know the right actions their Maker demands) and Pagans are both half-men of a whole: the whole man has both desire and intensity in his experiences and also the full knowledge of His ways and commands. I thought it interesting.

I sleep now. (I hope.)

12 January 2007

Query

Is the American Church too dependent upon experiences and too ignorant in orthodoxy? And are these two elements where a balance must be enjoyed? I wonder sometimes...

Oh, by the way--next week I'm traveling to Bogota, Colombia. Pray for me! And having just received an email from a friend of mine in Malaysia, I thought I'd share his photo of the two towers at night: