New study of gender identity causes

Gender identity continues to be in the news. This study opposes the prevailing mantra that genes directly cause a person to become gay. However, it does say that the evidence shows that some genetic traits may increase the likelihood of a person identifying as gay.  The study also affirms that child sexual abuse remains one of the biggest factors in people identifying as gay.

http://www.christianpost.com/news/no-scientific-evidence-that-people-are-born-gay-or-transgender-johns-hopkins-researchers-say-168263/

 

Sexuality may be more fluid than our culture thinks

My reading of brain research has pointed toward the conclusion that human sexual orientation is more fluid than is culturally believed to be true.  This has been heretical to say.  If you are from a conservative religious perspective as I am, it was considered homophobic to say lest it undermine the gay political arguments.  But also, it is usually not the way we experience our own sexuality as the following author also admits.   The linked article is by a gay author who is arguing for the fluidity of sexual orientation, not just from his personal experience, but from scientific evidence and the conclusions of respected groups as well.    He holds that sexual orientation derives from multiple sources.

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160627-i-am-gay-but-i-wasnt-born-this-way

 

Good news about church marriages and why

Church wedding

Contrary to some reports, a careful review of marriage statistics by a Harvard trained researcher, Shaunti Feldhahn, has good news about church marriages.  It reports that the divorce rate for people who practice Christian faith together regularly may be as low as 15-20%.   For those who also did not co-habit before marriage, the rate may be as low as 5-10%.    It makes a huge difference if we practice our faith together by attending services regularly.   Here’s the link.

http://www.charismanews.com/us/44398-church-divorce-rate-way-lower-than-anyone-thought

Why might this be so?  Here are a few of my ideas.

  1.  Submitting ourselves weekly to God’s Word read and expounded and participation in personal and cooperate prayer gives the Holy Spirit opportunity to whisper in our minds and hearts the little corrections and admonitions that we need to help us to love one another well.  Proper Christian worship combats pride, selfishness and materialism/greed/sensuality.
  2.  The group atmosphere and the teachings affirmed by Christian churches shape our personal values in the direction of solving our marital issues,  valuing our spouse,  learning to say ‘I’m sorry,’ and ‘I love you,’ and other such skills that strengthen relationships.  In short, the Bible teaches us to love.
  3.  Relationships within the community provide friendships, often assist in life’s stressful crises and model marital success.
  4.  Often pastoral care and coaching from church staff or trained lay persons is valuable to individuals or couples going through hard times.
  5.  The marital success stats of Christian couples are more evidence that God lives in and among his people.   God is with us!  God is blessing his people with peace.  The first fruit of the Holy Spirit’s presence is love (Gal. 5:22).

 

Our Hearts are Broken

 

A wreath for grieving for the slain

A Christian singer is gunned down while signing autographs at the end of the concert by a gunman who did not know her and came there specifically to kill. Before the weekend is past another gunman, also driving miles to arrive at the end of the night, enters an Orlando club catering to gay men and opens fire with an assault rifle, killing dozens of patrons.  The shock and sadness of such needless, senseless, and depraved violence is deeply disturbing. And it should be.

We should pray

Our first response, is compassion and prayers for the families of victims and for victims facing months of recovery from their wounds.

O God, the brokenness of our world has evidenced itself again in these terrible acts. We pray for those who are grieving that you would comfort their hearts. We pray for those who are recovering from wounds that you would give them strength and healing. We pray that the Spirit of God would move in all of us in order that good may come out of evil. In the name of Jesus who also suffered unjust death, AMEN.

We should decrease availability of weapons for the mentally impaired

Our second response, as a nation needs to continue to be to seek ways to reduce the possibilities of such violence. As always, we will not agree as to the details, but we must work together to make progress on some solutions.

In the case of the Orlando shooter, it looks like from early reporting that officials had sufficient info to know that this man should not have had access to weapons.  Yet he did.  He was even working as a security guard–scary thought, but not surprising. Employers tell me they cannot find out anything useful from anybody for references.  Everyone is worried about being sued.   So people who should be flagged in that way are not.  His employer probably had no idea he had been investigated twice.  Stronger flagging of those who have shown they are dangerous individuals is needed.

Again, early reporting shows possible mental health issues for the Orlando shooter.   This also should have put restrictions upon his ability to obtain weapons but it did not.   This is the single most important change that we need to make as a country.  It is not without risks to individual liberty, as mental health risk is very difficult to define.  Yet, the evidence from all the mass shootings is piling up and becoming overwhelming.  Most of them are done by people of known impaired mental health who still had access to weapons.

We should increase our fear of God

Third, I repeat my insistence that one component of the problem is a lack of the fear of God in our land.   The Bible clearly teaches that God will judge murderers of this kind.  They are punching their own ticket to hell by their violence against the innocent (Matt. 5:21, 22; 1 John 3:15; Rev. 21:8; 22:15). God values life.  God loves the people in the human family.   Jesus revealed Satan as the one who loves murder, calling him a “murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44).   The lake of fire is a picture John uses to describe Satan’s ultimate punishment (Rev. 20:10, 14).  And it also describes the reward of those who practice Satan’s behavior.  But if there is no fear of God in the land, then potential shooters do not realize that it is not over when they are felled by the SWAT team.  Their accountability has only begun.  Listen to Jesus.

 “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.  But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him” (Luke 12:4-5 NIV 2011). 

Good news for CT homeless

Homelessness declining due to agencies’ collective hard work

Amid all the bad news of the current political campaign and the CT state budget crisis, here is one piece of good news.  People of sensitive conscience have been very concerned for years about the plight of the homeless, especially those whose mental or emotional health makes keeping work difficult including veterans affected by PTSD.   This article reports that in the state of CT, we are making progress at housing the homeless.   Surveys of homelessness indicate that agencies working together have achieved a 13% decline since 2007 and a 4% decline in the past year.   Many people with these kinds of needs were left on the streets when institutions they formerly called home closed.   Now new options are being found to help.   Christian charity demands that we do no less!   Kudos to all those who are working hard to make this happen.   This is the kind of thing the politicians should be talking about.   I pray this effort faces zero or minimal cuts in the current necessary round of budget cutting.

http://digitaledition.courant.com/tribune/article_popover.aspx?guid=47aa170f-ad32-4c2f-82e1-3648535f4b54

 

 

The Sad State of Republican Politics

elephant slipping

My least favorite candidates are winning

At the start of the political process leading up to the primaries, I ranked the candidates according to my own ideas about who was the best qualified and most preferable for me.   Unfortunately, and from news reports I am far from alone,  the two people who were at the bottom of my original list are at this point the likely candidates of the two major parties.  And Trump who was at the absolute bottom of the list is the presumed candidate of the party of which I am a registered voter.  Yuck, ten times ugly yuck, gag and puke.  Can you tell yet that I am not a fan of his slander sideshow?

Neither Clinton nor Trump are the person I think should be President

I greatly dislike Clinton’s positions and there are ethical shadows following her too.  Am I alone in such opinions?  Absolutely not.   “Clinton is rich, and morally and ethically corrupt. So is Trump,” writes Jonah Goldberg (http://digitaledition.courant.com/launch.aspx?pbid=e1bdb9a0-d9e0-4569-842b-54331efd8091).

As for Trump, I like Jeb Bush’s reported comment.  Is Trump the kind of person who should be President?    “Donald Trump has not demonstrated that temperament or strength of character,” Jeb Bush said. “And, he is not a consistent conservative. These are all reasons why I cannot support his candidacy” (http://www.bbc.com/news/election-us-2016-36234318).   I totally agree.  Trump says what he finds convenient at the moment and has no principles about sticking to his word.

How did we elect Trump to represent Republicans?

I have been reflecting on this.  How does it happen that the grand old party is set to nominate someone that has the highest negative ratings in history, someone with no qualifications for the office, and someone who does not fit the mold of previous candidates morally or culturally in any way?

  1. The primary system was skewed by Trump’s media sideshow.  Stats show that from the beginning, Trump received way more mentions on media that any other candidate of either party did.  He has received interview privileges that even the President does not get.  In the Sunday edition of the Hartford Courant that I referenced, Bill Press on the left and Jonah Goldberg on the right come at the same idea from different angles; the media loves Trump for the show and the attention it gets the media and the public like something exciting and out of the ordinary.  If memory serves, John Kasich in the first debate opined something like, “Come on people, we need someone who knows how to run a government.”  It was what I was thinking as I watched.  Such a common-sense idea was too levelheaded for the media so they quickly dismissed Kasich as petulant and uninteresting.    Never mind that he was right.  Duh!
  2. Americans have been taught in recent years to base their opinions on performance first, rather than character first.  Many years ago colleges washed their hands of any responsibility for the moral and spiritual welfare of their students and focused only on subjects.  One result is we have many graduates with great skills who crash on the job because of ethical failures.   In hiring, interviewers are forbidden to ask questions that might get to the issue of character so companies widely use probational employment periods to see whether an employee  is honest, shows up for work regularly, etc.   The upshot of this downplaying of character is that we apparently now evaluate our political candidates sans character, I guess.  It would be sad if it weren’t actually dangerous.
  3. Many voters are fed up with Congress and career politicians.  The inability of Congress to get things done, the lack of viable compromise, the perpetual national budget mess, and the low moral tone in DC all have led to voters looking toward outsiders like Trump and Carson.  The last Congress had one of the lowest confidence ratings on record.   Part of Sander’s appeal is also his perceived greater independence from the Washington circle.    When career politicians are found to be morally or ethically corrupt, it reduces respect for others, even those who have integrity.
  4. Trump channeled the fear and anger of people in our country in true demagogue style.  Even people who are not racist are worried about the sheer numbers of immigrants.   Since 9/11 Americans find it hard not to be a little suspicious of Muslims.  So Trump’s tactic is working big-time.  But a true leader has an inner moral framework and a long view of history that guide how they approach subjects that divide people like discussions about the US southern border or racism in our country, subjects that evoke fear like immigration from Syria.    I have observed no evidence of such a framework in what Trump says, only a crass trading on the fears and distrusts of the populace for his own benefit.   He shows no long historical view, for example, no sense of the impression of the Republican Party that he is leaving for the future; he seems only to look out for his immediate political windfall.    Never mind that the country is fast becoming a much more multi-cultural place and that the birth rates of immigrants will probably only accelerate that trend.   So if the Republican Party wants to remain viable, it cannot be primarily a party of angry white males and must learn to appeal to the people he is alienating.

What do we do now?

  1. As a Christian, the first thing I am doing is praying for my country.   We believe in the sovereignty of God who rules and overrules, who puts rulers in place and removes them.   So I am praying for my country in this election cycle as never before.
  2. As a voter I am among those who cannot see themselves voting with a clear conscience for either Trump or Clinton.  And I really don’t see that opinion being altered by vice-presidential picks either.
  3. Yet I believe that as a citizen I need to use my vote to express myself.   I, along with others who feel as I do, will be exploring ways to do this.

 

 

A philosophy of helping others to consider

This city pastor has a great perspective on the way to approach helping people in city neighborhoods.   Granby area clergy are currently considering an initiative that would fit with his philosophy.   The initiative being considered involves helping resource the choice program through which some city students attend Granby schools.

 

Mudslinging and the Golden Rule

A low in mudslinging

 

A contrast between a message on love and the political fracas

The Sunday message today was about expressing love in action.   In our small church, we sometimes have a Questions and Comments time following the message and one of the younger parishioners asked about the incongruity between the current campaign process and the golden rule.  What a great question.

Mudslinging is not new to American politics by any means. But, as news outlets have observed, this year’s level of slander and dirty tricks by Republicans may be setting new low standards.

http://time.com/4230200/south-carolina-republican-primary-trump-cruz-rubio-carson-bush/

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/rubio-cruz-intensify-political-mudslinging-in-lead-up-to-s-c-primary/

I observe that now Trump has officially dragged Rubio down to his level of verbal sadism.  At this point the rhetoric has reached a plane where one does not know whether the actors are really serious or actually intending to be stand-up comedians.  One thing is certain.  What is being said is in no way loving.  Nor is it in keeping with the Golden Rule.

 

The Golden Rule

Speaking of the Golden Rule, I have seen it misquoted in media sources twice in the past couple weeks, and misquoted in a way that totally perverts the intentions of Jesus.    Both tragic misquotes said something like “Do unto others as they have done to you.”   This completely defeats the high ethical guideline that Jesus was giving.  In fact, the Bible expressly forbids harboring that sentiment.

“Do not say, “I will do to others as they have done to me; I will pay them back for what they have done.”  Proverbs 24:29 NRSV

Here is the proper reading of the Golden Rule as Jesus taught it.

“In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.” Matt 7:12 NIV 2011

That is a much higher loving challenge.

A churning question

The unspoken question in church and in many minds including mine is why the initiator of the mud, Donald Trump, is leading?    Why is he supported by many Christians when his lifestyle and language have been so far from a Christian norm?   Why are many believers either not discerning or willing to overlook so much?

 

An inadequate process

Many other Christians including myself are completely disgusted and disappointed with this year’s political process.  It shows that media debates made for Trump style TV theater have little or nothing to do with how to determine who would make a good President.   They are not a good way to show a candidate’s credentials.  The person is forced to brag about themselves.  Those who are best at bragging are not the best leaders according to Jim Collins in Good to Great.  The highest and best leaders are humble servants of others.   Among their highest characteristics are passion for their job and for the people who work with them.  They are confident and forward looking without being arrogant.   TV debates are not good at revealing those kind of leaders.    On screen, self-promoters look better.

 

Voters not practiced in discerning character

Another issue that is resulting in the results we are seeing is that many voters are ill-equipped to discern character.  Here are my suggestions as to some of the possible reasons for this phenomenon.

  1. Americans increasingly get their practice in character watching from screens.  They view personal character from the illusion of character given by reality TV, movies, and music video.    In that world, brash and arrogant and attitude works and even comes to be admired because the camera never has to show the emotional and relational wreckage produced by such pride.
  2. Character education has only recently been returning to education. It still has not made it back to most colleges. For years, schools at all levels taught only academic subjects.   Now it is being recognized that skilled people with poor character do not make good employees.  News flash—they don’t make good neighbors, spouses, carpenters, policepersons, or Presidents either.
  3. Much of the public is ignorant of Biblical values such as the Golden rule. The misquoting of it that I mentioned only underlines this fact.  Statistically, unfortunately, church attendance decreases yearly in America and that is only part of the story.  Not only does the number of people who attend church decline but the frequency of attendance by church people declines as well.   The other part is the decrease in Christian education in the church itself.   In some quarters, sermons use little Scripture.  In other parts of Christendom, graying congregations are closing Sunday Schools for lack of students.  The result is a populace with little knowledge of the Golden Rule.