Category Archives: Persuasion

Religious Right or Wrong?

It is the turn of the year and I don’t know about you but I’ve already got a gut full of politics.  I have just about “had it up to here.”  The most disturbing aspect of all this is the antics of the so-called Christian “leaders.”  The “Religious Right” is in grave danger of becoming the “religious wrong.”  Along with the disgusting concentration on pre-election politics is the equally disgusting lack of concentration on what really matters: following Christ.

I have to believe that Jesus really meant it when He said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting…but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm” (John 18:36).  His life, ministry and teaching were decidedly “not of this realm.”  His emphasis was the Kingdom of God, eternal life and preparation for it.

Yes, He was deeply concerned with justice, mercy and love for neighbors and enemies.  When it came to earthly kingdoms and their governments, however, he was decidedly silent.  Can you imagine Him endorsing a candidate — even in our time?  Yet we read stuff like this:

“The Rev. Donald E. Wildmon is making an urgent plea to Christian voters in Iowa to vote for Newt Gingrich in their caucuses on Tuesday in what he describes as the “most critical” election in American history” (Newsmax.com, December 31, 2011).

This, in spite of repeated warnings by the Holy Spirit not to put our hope in human beings (Psalm 118:8-9; Proverbs 20:6; Jeremiah 17:5).

The only thing that can change this world for the better is the spread of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ and the values of His Kingdom.  Earthly kingdoms, empires, nations and governments can never approach the power for good resident in the Kingdom of God.  Faith, hope and love are not the results of the legislative, judicial or administrative processes.  So, why are our leaders seeking to manipulate earthly politics?  Could it be because they have lost faith the Kingdom and its King?

It is the right of all citizens of all democracies to participate in the government of the people, by the people and for the people.  As Christians, we should consider the issues and the candidates and vote according to our Christian consciences.  At the same time, we must beware of placing undue trust or emphasis upon or in this process.

Our emphasis must be upon Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  We must seek to influence our cultures by trying to live, look, love and smell like Him (2 Corinthians 2:14).  To put our trust in politicians is to risk stinking like them and, considering our present congress, behold, the stench thereof rises to high heaven.

You shepherds of your flocks, put your hope and trust in Jesus, the only one who can change hearts and minds and thus change our world for the better.  Proclaim Him.  Emulate Him.  Gather disciples to Him.  Don’t place your trust in some flawed human being.  Only Christ can turn this capsized world right side up.

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Filed under Change Agent, Christlikeness, Culture Wars, Current Events, discipleship, Eternal Life, Faith, Good & Evil, Holy Spirit, Ignorance, Incompetence, Infidelity, Integrity, Jesus Christ, Kingdom Growth, Love, morality, Persuasion, Politics, Religion, Salvation, Scripture, Trust

Bandwagons

I’m not referring to actual wagons hauling actual band members. I’m talking about groups of people who have decided to think the same way without due consideration of all the information. Humans have a natural tendency to conform (fashions, fads, etc.) The few real non-conformists get the label “eccentric,” and summarily dismissed. That label applied to my father who always thought for himself. He was a curmudgeon with few friends, but he called it as he saw it (even if the way he saw it was screwed up). His main fault was making up his mind so solidly that it took a charge of dynamite to loosen him up to alternative thinking.

I especially notice the bandwagon effect expressed in blogs. For example, there are blogs where independent thinkers can express their independent thinking to other independent thinkers (bandwagons) and, in the process, lose their independence. Members of Political parties often confine themselves to party lines (bandwagons) instead of opening themselves up to other points of view. Members of certain religious groups are very often willing victims of “groupthink” (bandwagons) with their own special jargon. Atheists tend to stick together and parrot the current atheistic cant (bandwagons).

Bandwagons, I am thinking, come into being because people want to believe certain things and behave in particular ways rather than basing their personal philosophies and resulting actions on something substantial. Or, in the absence of substance, reserving their conclusions until they find it (it is, after all, okay not to have an opinion on everything).

While reading in the blogosphere, I notice that people who believe a certain way tend to read the blogs of others who believe the same way and merely applaud, cheer and conform to the thinking of the group. For them, “hopping on the bandwagon” becomes a convenient way to avoid thinking for themselves. Hats off to those brave and hardy souls who dare to disagree, challenge and debate those with whom they differ. We need to jump off our bandwagons and consider what others are saying. We might agree, disagree, challenge, debate, correct, suggest, applaud or, most important of all…learn.

My blogs:
Whitticisms: dwhitsett.wordpress.com
In the Charamon Garden: charamongarden.wordpress.com
Whitsett Carving: whitcarv.wordpress.com
Mission South Pacific: missionsouthpacific.wordpress.com

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Filed under Apologetics, Atheism/Theism, Discernment, Discussion, Faith, Ignorance, independence, Intelligence, Mind, Persuasion, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Skepticism, Theism, Thinking

The Universe: Two Perspectives

My wife and I enjoy reading and watching mysteries – you know, Agatha Christie, etc.  I like to watch the television versions with her because I often get lost in the details and she doesn’t.  I have to have things spelled-out in simple terms. “Okay, was it the long-lost cousin who showed up from Kenya who took the papers from the study in the dark of night or was it the daughter who stood to lose her inheritance?”  “Who done it,” is easy for her (and Miss Marple), difficult for me.  I have noticed I have to do this with most things.

I can’t claim to have always been a solid theist.  In my university days, I followed in the footsteps of my father and began my studies as an agnostic.  My professors reinforced that position since most of them were either atheist, agnostic or ambivalent on the matter of belief.  Thanks to a teacher who helped me to see there are two sides to the question of belief, I came down on the side of faith in a Creator.  It just seemed much more reasonable.  Still does.

In my life-long attempt to get things straight, I have looked long and hard at the ongoing debate between theists and atheists. I have begun to see that whether to believe or not believe is largely a matter of perspective. We are part of an amazing, spectacular, unfathomable, intricate universe.  Before we even consider our microscopic little blue planet, there are the stars orbited by uncountable planets, gathered into galaxies numbering in the multiplied millions.  Then there is our tiny island with the only life we are presently aware of.  Intricate complexity and design is increasingly evident as we delve into the subatomic realms. Are the complexity, intricacy, design and order we see the results of accidental, random yet unobservable processes?  Is life the outcome of chemical processes that we don’t yet understand? How do we account for all this?

As for me, this is how it all boils down: The theist looks at the universe and concludes there is no way this complexity, intricacy, design and order could happen by itself.  The atheist looks at all the complexity, intricacy, design and order and concludes that it did indeed happen by itself. Two perspectives – which one makes more sense to you?

My blogs:
Whitticisms: dwhitsett.wordpress.com
In the Charamon Garden: charamongarden.wordpress.com
Whitsett Carving: whitcarv.wordpress.com
Mission South Pacific: missionsouthpacific.wordpress.com

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Filed under Apologetics, Atheism/Theism, Attributes of God, Culture Wars, Discussion, Faith, Persuasion, Religion, Science, Skepticism, Supernatural, Theism

Judgmentalism

I sometimes get criticized (judged) for being judgmental, do you?  This accusation usually arises when I have made a negative comment with which someone disagrees.  I submit, however, that we are ALL judgmental.  Last night, for example, I found a dead mouse in the pantry, no doubt a result of my efforts to poison him and his family who have taken up residence in my house.  I judge their presence to be harmful in several ways:

1.       They eat our stuff.  Little holes in the rice bag, nibbles in the butternut squash, obvious nipping at the bread we accidentally left out, etc.

2.       They are nasty little spreaders of various diseases.

3.       They scare the dickens out of the wife as they scurry about.

4.       They make noises in the voids in the walls and ceilings they inhabit.

5.       Their droppings are unsightly.

It is my judgment that they must go and my further judgment that traps and poisons are effective in this regard.

On the other hand, we also share living space with some little geckos.  I judge their presence to be good.  They eat various pests such as cockroaches, spiders and other unwanted critters while doing no harm otherwise. They can stay. So, am I being “judgmental” when I “judge” something to be right and good?

Furthermore, in this democracy, we cherish the freedom to express our opinions.  By definition an opinion is (for our purposes) “a belief or judgment (notice that word) that rests on grounds insufficient to produce complete certainty, a personal view, attitude, or appraisal.” Everyone has a right to their opinions. Is my opinion “judgmental” only when it happens to disagree with yours?

There is also a growing number of people who take “live and let live” to the nth degree.  For these folks, nothing is wrong unless it harms another person (not at all easy to determine). All is relative and there is no absolute truth. Your truth may not be my truth. You have a right to believe what you believe but keep it to yourself. Under these rules, it is improper to make judgment about good and bad, wise and foolish, right and wrong. These folks are highly intolerant of intolerance. They have a negative opinion of those who express their opinions.  Their truth is that there is no truth.  It is their judgment that judgment is…well…wrong.

I think what many folks mean by “judgment” is “condemnation.” I do not have the power or prerogative to condemn anyone for anything…that’s God’s business. There is a big difference between judging or discerning between right and wrong and pronouncing eternal damnation. Christians have access to criteria for making decisions about what is right and what is wrong in the teachings of Jesus and the apostles (messengers).  Using these standards and principles I can confidently say, “It is wrong to steal.” In fact, our whole society agrees having codified it into law.  But, if I dare to make that judgment, I had better be sure that I, myself, am not a thief. We must judge ourselves before we dare to pass judgment on others.  If I am honest enough for self-examination I will judge that it is wrong for me or anyone else to steal.

The other day at the coffee shop a man began making trouble for the young woman at the cash register.  He was loudly complaining because they refused to give him something for free. Becoming increasingly obnoxious, he kept at it, holding up the line and causing the staff a good deal of distress. Filled with negative judgmentalism, I got up from my table and began to interfere, politely suggesting that he basically shut up and shove off.  This emboldened the staff who threatened to call the police.  He did leave and I went back to my table and resumed writing and drinking my coffee.  As I left the shop, the manager profusely thanked me for my judgmental intervention.  It may have been foolhardy, but was it wrong?  You be the judge. Oops!

For those who would like to have a look at relevant Bible passages: John 7:24; Romans 2:1; Romans 14; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 5:12-13; James 4:10-12

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Filed under Condemnation, Culture Wars, Discernment, Good & Evil, Judge, Judgment, Judgmental, morality, Persuasion

A Healthy Skepticism

Will Rogers, with tongue firmly in cheek, once said, “All I know is what I read in the papers.” In the 21st Century, we need to include television and the internet. For all the multi-faults of the multimedia, where else can we get current misinformation? Given those limitations, it is wise, if you ask me (you didn’t but I’ll tell you anyway), to take it all with a grain of salt (euphemism for skepticism).  Cousin Will also said, “It isn’t what we don’t know that gives us trouble, it’s what we know that ain’t so.”

My point: it is dangerous to base our conclusions on questionable data from questionable sources.  On the other hand, if the source has been consistently right, we can place a quantum of faith in what he, she or it reports.  So, how do we decide which sources to place our faith in?  Here are some thoughts:

1.       What is the background of the source?  For example, is the source is a solid member of some strange religious group founded on balderdash?  Then his or her conclusions may have the same foundation.

2.       Has the source been shown to frequently report “facts” that later prove to be fiction? Then we would be wise to withhold final judgment.

3.       Has the source has proven to be consistently accurate in facts that can be confirmed? If so, we can most likely assume accuracy in un-confirmable areas (I think I have just defined “faith.”)

4.       Is the source speaking from a biased point of view and more interested in party-lines and platforms than logical, open-minded consideration of the facts?  Then we can also expect the reporting to be positional rather than factual.

5.       Is the source a known conspiracy theorist?  I think you know where I’m going here.

Swagger, slide presentations and blackboards are not enough to produce confidence. Take a cup of media, crack the sources, carefully separating the yokels from the trustworthy reporters, add a tablespoon of skeptical salt, stir well,  pour into an unbiased pan, put in the oven and cook until it is not half-baked. I believe this is a good recipe for a measured response. I could be wrong but I don’t think so.

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Filed under Bigotry, Culture Wars, Current Events, Discussion, Humor, Ignorance, Middle East, Persuasion, Politics, Quotations, Rubbish, Skepticism, Thinking, Trust

FAILURE TO PROCLAIM

What a tragedy if we should ever lose the freedom to speak freely!  One of the great things about America and some other Western cultures is the “market place of ideas.”  No matter how weird or wonderful, if you have some concept, some idea, some philosophy…you can talk about it freely.  And, you can freely pursue your philosophy provided it does not intrude upon or injure your fellow-citizen.  It seems that no matter how strange, one can persuade a few others to join in one’s weirdness.

Of course, the results of such freedom are not always comfortable or pretty.  It provides forums for televangelist money-grubbers, cultists, communists, socialists, atheists, republicans, tea-party persons, liberals and anyone else with something to say, advocate, enjoin, advise, recommend or decry, expose, denigrate, criticize, denounce…whatever.

The Tragedy of Silence

But the real tragedy is when Christians fail to take advantage of these freedoms and remain silent.  What if we were as determined to proclaim Christ as Julian Assange is to spill the state beans?  Not even jail could bar us from speaking about Christ.  Gag orders would not gag us.  No magistrate could muzzle us.  We would not be reticent in the face of ridicule.  To all this, we must give the ancient answer: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19,20).

We have, after all, been saved to save others.  We have been liberated to liberate.  We believe, therefor we speak (2 Corinthians 4:13).  We have been made complete in Christ to see every person complete in Him (Colossians 1:28).  We have been chosen to proclaim (1 Peter 2:9).  Silence is not an option.

Find Your Marketplace

It is time for Christians to find their marketplaces and forums and speak of Christ and The Way.  What is your forum brother?  Where is your marketplace sister?  Maybe it is the dinner table, coffee klatch, sewing circle, barbershop, pulpit, blog, letter to the editor, call-in talk show, golf course, coffee shop, ad infinitum.  Maybe it is a neighborhood Bible study.  You say, “No one will listen”?  Then follow Jesus and, while you proclaim, heal, comfort, ease, assist, support, aid, encourage, give and befriend.  Then they will listen.  They listened to Jesus.

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Filed under Blogs & Blogging, church, Community, discipleship, Discussion, Evangelism, Faith, Jesus Christ, Kingdom Growth, Missions/Evangelism, Persuasion, Philosophy, Preaching/Teaching, Religion, Ridicule, Salvation, Scripture

Everything Changed

Like it or not, it is December and we are hurtling forward into the Christmas Holidays when much of the world celebrates the incarnation of God’s Christ into the physical and finite realm of humanity.  Christians believe that God Himself became flesh and blood to live among His creation.  We believe that Jesus was “God with us.”  But if we are going to think about God becoming flesh and walking and working among men, there’s obviously much more to it than baby Jesus in a manger.

For about thirty-three years after His birth, the world continued as it was.  But when, as a man, he began his short ministry the world was never the same again. Everything changed.

It is hard to think of a world without Jesus Christ because, particularly in the Western world (but certainly not limited to it), Jesus Christ is central…especially at this time of year.  Even if you use the increasingly popular “BCE” and “CE” (“Before the Common Era” and “Common Era”) to measure time, it is simply because BC (before Christ) and AD (“Anno Domini” or “Year of our Lord”) have for centuries been the way history is dated.  Deity becoming human was so explosive it became the turning point of history.

The impact of the advent of Jesus into the world is immeasurable.  What the world would have been without Him is imperceptible.  What the world can become with Christ is yet unrealized.

Today Christians and the way of Christ face expanding challenges.  The “New Atheists” are becoming combative.  Islam once again rattles the scimitars of violent conquest.  How will followers of the Prince of Peace respond?  So far, our reaction is a mixture of rattling our own sabers and stupid, provocative acts like Quran-burning and shouting-matches.

If these challenges are successfully met, it will not be with violence, book-burnings and placard-waving demonstrations.  They will be countered as they always must: by exalting Christ.  It will be done by reconciling humans to each other and to their Creator.  Then, and only then, will the hopeful song of angels be realized: peace on earth among men with whom God is pleased.

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Filed under Atheism/Theism, Christlikeness, Christmas, Culture Wars, Current Events, Good & Evil, Islam, Jesus Christ, Missions/Evangelism, Peace, Persuasion, Politics, Preaching/Teaching, Theism