Flesh vs the Spirit: An Allegorical Conversation

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16)

Flesh: Listen to your heart. Be true to yourself. Identify yourself with your sexual desires and do not let yourself be denied. Sex with the one you love even outside covenant boundaries shall bring you joy and intimacy. You shall not die but find sensual pleasure, visual delights, and personal fulfillment.

Spirit: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? For from within the hearts of men come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, debauchery, envy, slander, arrogance, and foolishness. All these evils come from within, and these are what defile a man.

Spirit: You say, “Come, let us take our fill of love till morning; let us delight ourselves with love.” With much seductive speech you persuade, and with your smooth talk you compel. Yet listen to wisdom and do not let the heart turn aside to your ways and do not let the heart stray into your path for your house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death.

Flesh: Stop being so paternalistic. Have you not considered that I have been treated as a second-class citizen and that I deserve to be treated as well as those society has long normalized?

Spirit: There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.

Flesh: You say that, but when my desires are denied, I as a person feel denied, and how can that be good for me? So-called conversion therapy is ineffective and/or harmful, and there have been studies that found links to depression, suicidality, anxiety, social isolation and decreased capacity for intimacy. And only one study concluded that sexual orientation change efforts could succeed albeit only in a minority of its participants, and the study has several limitations: its entire sample self-identified as religious and it is based on self-reports, which can be biased and unreliable.

Flesh: You might propose that I depress same-sex arousal through severe techniques but that will not translate into increased heterosexual arousal or ability to sustain a satisfying opposite-sex sexual relationship.
Overall, there is powerful evidence that trying to change a person’s sexual orientation can be extremely harmful. Do you not know that the overwhelming consensus among psychologists and psychiatrists who have studied conversion therapy or treated patients who are struggling with their sexual orientation is that therapeutic intervention cannot change sexual orientation, a position echoed by all major professional organizations in the field, including the American Psychological Association?

Spirit: Remember the words of your Lord Jesus who says, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” Remember also that Jesus says, ” “If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.” It is not enough to simply deny yourself, but you must replace the idol you give up with the true joy of worshiping the One True God in Christ Jesus by the Holy Spirit. The opposite of homosexuality is not heteronormativity but holiness. Find your joy not in heterosexual relationships but in a vibrant abiding relationship with the Lord. It will not do you well to replace one sensual idol with another sensual idol. How can you fight the flesh with the flesh? You must fight by the immaterial Spirit, who points you to Christ Jesus.

Spirit: Consider how even heterosexual couples who live outside the boundaries of a marriage covenant are in the same danger as you and may still find themselves unhappy and unfulfilled. It is a great lie of the prevailing culture that sexual relations must lead to intimacy. Is it not possible to have sex without intimacy and intimacy without sex? If it is possible to have intimacy without sex, it is possible to lead a fulfilling human life without sexual relations.

Spirit: Whether you carry same-sex attraction or heterosexual attraction, you have forsaken God, the fountain of living water, and have dug your own cistern, a broken cistern that cannot hold water.  I would redeem you, but they speak lies against me. You may say because you are an atheistic secular humanist, my words do not apply to you. To whom is God trying to teach? To whom is He explaining His message? To infants just weaned from milk? To babies removed from the breast? For they hear: “Order on order, order on order, line on line, line on line, a little here, a little there.” Indeed, with mocking lips and foreign tongues, He will speak to this people to whom He has said: “This is the place of rest, let the weary rest; this is the place of repose.” But they would not listen.

Spirit: You are dead in the trespasses and sins in which you walk, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience among whom you live in the passions of the flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and are by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. You spurn words that offer you life but this truth still remains and abides: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Flesh: How can I believe in the immaterial? All I see are facts, science, reason, and logic. Your words mean nothing to me.

Spirit: The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” You are corrupt, you do abominable deeds; there is none who does good. You would dare set the body against the soul in such a rebellious idolatrous manner, not knowing your Creator has made the one as well as the other. Do you not know that the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork? Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the LORD has spoken: “Children have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.”

Spirit: The creation gives glory to the Creator, but even though you are made in His image, you do not give God the glory due His name. In prioritizing your body and the material to the neglect of your soul, you imperil your soul. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?  If anyone is ashamed of Jesus and His words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart as in the rebellion.”

Spirit: “Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.

Flesh: Even so, these biblical words are throwing our communities into turmoil by promoting attitudes and ideas that are not helpful for us as a diverse, inclusive, cosmopolitan, egalitarian secular society to adopt or practice.

Spirit: Though people know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. And in this context of stubborn rebellion, Christ comes into the world, saying, “Do not assume that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword,” as he entered into the midst of a world that lies in the power of the evil one.

Spirit: The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. Remember the words of the Lord Jesus: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Spirit: Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? You are a slave of sin, free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit are you getting at this time from the things of which you should be ashamed? For the end of those things is death.

Flesh: No, I shall not die. I shall cast off restraint and pursue all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life. Bend the knee to the secular sexual orthodoxy and residency doors shall open for you and society shall respect you as an equitable, compassionate and caring healthcare provider.

Spirit: Know that the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. Choose to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. Consider the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Vanity Fair, and look to the reward.

Flesh: Again your words have no effect on me, I do not subscribe to the religious context of which you speak and my passions are too strong for me to deny.

Spirit: Is anything too hard for the LORD? Is not He who raised Lazarus from the grave able to raise unrepentant sinners up from their grave of sin into newness of life into Him who for their sake died and was raised? God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loves you, even when you are dead in your trespasses, makes you alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raises you up with him and seats you with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Spirit: Thanks be to God, that you who were once a slave of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you have committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. For when the Lord Jesus says “Repent and believe in the Gospel,” this command carries within it the power to carry out said command. And consider: Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Spirit: Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Flesh: Even so I refuse to submit to the rule of the LORD. I would much rather do things my way, make a covenant with death, and with Sheol I have an agreement, when the overwhelming whip passes through it will not come to me, for I have made lies my refuge, and in falsehood I have taken shelter. I would rather make an idol of my own choosing even though it cannot deliver me and becomes a burden I must bear and carry.

Spirit: Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of hosts: “Because you have spoken this word, behold I am making my words in your mouth a fire, and this person wood, and the fire shall consume you.” But why should you perish? You cry to your idol, yet it does not answer or save you from your trouble. Listen to me, you who are made in my image, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.

Spirit: Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. God will pour his love into your heart through the Holy Spirit who has been given to you. He will make known to you the path of life; in his presence there is fullness of joy; at his right hand are pleasures forevermore.





Moloch

“When the ancient Israelites sacrificed their children to Moloch, did God instruct the priests and kings to create welfare programs to stop their parents from killing their babies?”

A provocative question I found.

The answer is no, but the context was different.

The ancient Israelites willingly entered into a covenant relationship with YHWH.

They agreed to not worship the LORD their God in the way of their pagan neighbors, for every abominable thing that the LORD hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods. (Deuteronomy 12:31)

Yet, the ancient Israelites violated their agreement with God and they sacrificed their children to Moloch in a religious attempt to bring fertility to their land or to themselves instead of looking to and relying upon God to provide.

It would not make sense for God to command the creation of welfare programs in this covenant context. For one thing, trying to gain the favor of fertility gods implies the land of Israel often experienced times of scarcity and famine and so welfare states would not be possible since there is no abundance to make welfare states out of.

Also God’s primary focus on calling out the sin of killing babies for Moloch was judicial. He was well within his rights to punish his covenant people for their blatant violation of the agreement they willingly entered. He often compares this covenant transgression to adultery, as his covenant people were effectively breaking the marriage covenant with other so-called gods.

How God related to his ancient covenant members is one thing. How professing Christians should relate to unrepentant sinners who are outside the covenant of Christ is another.

Ancient Israelites sacrificing their kids to get in favor with fertility gods is one thing. Low income unbelieving parents killing their kids to escape economic hardship is another.

The motivation and context between the two scenarios is different.

The ancient Israelites broke an agreement that they knew about and willingly entered. Perhaps if the land was more fertile, the parents would not have sacrificed their children to Moloch, since the incentive would be removed. Even so in light of their covenant relationship with YHWH, it was expected that the Israelites would look to YHWH to provide for them.

Unbelieving low income parents, on the other hand, do not have a covenant relationship with God in Christ Jesus, so we cannot quite hold them to the same standards and expectations as we do for the ancient Israelites.

Ideally, low income parents would recognize that killing their kids in the womb is wrong and that they should give the child up for adoption or seek assistance from private charities and churches.

But I question to what extent unbelieving parents would understand and agree with biblical ethical standards that they did not enter into of their own accord yet. They often do what seems best to them in an agnostically cold pragmatic manner.

When they fail to recognize their own evil, they must repent and believe in Jesus as the Messiah for the forgiveness of sins, reconciliation to God the Father, and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit.

They would have new hearts with new desires that seeks to bless the child. They would also ideally have access to communities that would help them raise the child up and learn to conform to biblical sexual standards such as saving themselves for marriage instead of engaging in risky sexual behavior.

But in the event that they reject the Gospel, there is hope that the next best thing would be having some welfare programs on hand that address the financial concerns of expecting parents, and rescue babies from those who often cite economic hardship as a reason for obtaining elective abortions.

Perhaps welfare recipients are substantially less likely to turn to abortion than are comparable low-income pregnant women especially in states where abortion policies, access to abortion providers, and public opinion reflect a pro-life orientation.

I personally have a preference for private charities and churches, but there may be room for having taxpayer-sponsored welfare programs provided that they are managed and used appropriately.


SCOTUS Strikes Down Louisiana Abortion Law

Image may contain: 3 people, meme, text that says 'HEDAILY TREVORNOA ANTI-CHOICE PEOPLE ARE NOT TRYING TO STOP ABORTION, THEY ARE το LEGISLATE WHO CAN AND CAN'T HAVE ABORTIONS. BECAUSE, CONSERVATIVE POLITICIANS THEIR THEIR WIVES AND MISTRESSES AND DAUGHTERS WILL ALWAYS ABLE TO GET ΑΝ ABORTION SOMEWHERE. ALL ANTI CHOICE RHETORIC DOES KEEP PEOPLE TRAPPED IN POVERTY FOR GENERATIONS. THAT'S THE GOAL AND IT WASN'T THE GOAL THEY WOULD SPEND THEIR TIME AND MONEY COMPREHENSIVE EDUCATION, FREE BIRTH CONTROL, AND FREE CONTRACEPTION.'

Since people generally have short attention spans, quick sound bites like these pictures are effective marketing. Also the number of logical fallacies I detect in her arguments in this one picture is astounding. I miss nuanced reasoning and I wish I could bring that back into vogue.

Lindy says “Anti-choice people are not trying to stop abortion.” Framing the discussion this way does a great disservice to people who are fighting for the rights of pre-born humans to live.

It is true that people fighting against abortion are trying to legislate who can and can’t have abortions, because that is one way we can reduce the number of abortions that occur: writing laws that restrain or qualify the conditions in which an abortion should occur.

The rightness of fighting abortion does not depend on the character of conservative politicians. This is a red herring.

Are there conservative politicians who have wives, mistresses, and daughters who may get an abortion somewhere? Maybe. Their hypocrisy may undermine their credibility, but the moral rightness of protecting the lives of unborn children still stands.

People generally agree that honesty is a good thing to pursue. But people who promote this virtue may still lie. Does that negate the fact that honesty is a worthwhile virtue to pursue? By no means!

The apostle Paul made a similar argument: “What if some [Jews] were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.””(Romans 3:3-4)

Lindy continues: “All Anti-choice rhetoric does is keep people trapped in poverty for generations. That’s the goal…”

From a purely pragmatic perspective, yes, abortion prevents people from having to pay for childcare, diapers, baby food, milk, cribs, clothes, dental and healthcare, car, and college education.

But we would not counsel low-income families to kill their own children just to save money, and since pre-born humans are just as valuable as children in low-income families, their lives are worth protecting too. That’s the goal.

I vigorously disagree with how Lindy defines what the goal of “pro-lifers” is when she is making a straw-man argument.

Also, to make the goal of protecting viable pre-born humans from being killed through medical procedures contingent on spending time and money on comprehensive sex education, free birth control, and free contraception is terrible.

I basically hear this statement as “We will keep killing babies in the womb so long as we do not get comprehensive sex education, free birth control, and free contraception.”

Contraceptives are fine, birth control methods that are not abortifacient, are fine, but people should really pay for these things on their own if they wish. To make these things “free,” means using taxes, which are ultimately other people’s money. In a sense, we would be forcing other people to pick up the bill for your own sexual decisions.

Abstinence is still a viable option for people. You can say no to sex for any reason ranging from saving yourself for marriage to making a political statement against the patriarchy. We are not slaves to our sexual desires. We can exercise self-control to a degree. We are also not entitled to sex. We can find pleasure in romance and in life in other ways.

As for comprehensive sex education, if by this we mean teaching students basic human anatomy about our genitals, that’s a good start. If we start stretching the definition to include conversations revolving around our gender identity and sexual orientation, that’s a different story. There is a place for talking about them since we do have people who experience gender dysphoria and same-sex attraction, and the least we can do is acknowledge that these realities exist and to do what we can to protect people from experiencing bullying and harassment.

But while these options Lindy proposes are something to consider, the goal of protecting pre-born humans from being murdered in their mothers’ wombs in arbitrary fashion remains important independently of those options.

Jesus says, ““When evening comes, you say, ‘The weather will be fair, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but not the signs of the times.” (Matthew 16:2-3)

He spoke to the Pharisees and Sadducees as if they have the capacity to understand His words as thinking, reasonable people, but that they do not apply their reasoning skills consistently.

That is what I am trying to do here.

People who are dead in their sins still have a moral compass, but they apply it inconsistently. More often than not, they call evil good and good evil. They know God’s righteous decree that those who kill humans in the womb deserve to die, but they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

From where I stand, both the left and the right would benefit from repenting and believing in the gospel. To get out of your respective echo chambers, see things with God-given grace-enabled Spirit-empowered eyes, and come closer to a common middle ground together as both sides stand united in Christ.

Gnostic Evangelicalism

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I feel in response to the agnostic Marxism that BLM represents, some people in American evangelicalism are pushing towards the other extreme, functionally Gnostic Christianity where faith is untouched by political debates.

But I find this position very untenable and inconsistent in so far as people in evangelicalism are also pushing to defund Planned Parenthood.

So the fact of the matter is, whether we are religious or secular, we almost inevitably engage in arguments and debate. The least we can do is be honest about this engagement and be honest about the convictions that we come from.

We are to pray for our leaders. This is true. Yet, from where I stand, whether you come from the right or the left, people can and will look to our political leaders to save our country, or change the course of history.

We have the great privilege of becoming educated in what our current laws codify, and participating in the decision-making process concerning them. If Americans never participated in the lawmaking process as some professing Christians seem to advocate, we may have never gotten rid of slavery as an institution, outlaw child labor, institute the FDA, fought in World War II, or institute seatbelt laws.

While political activism is not spoken of in the Bible, this relative silence should not mean Christianity is against political activism. Paul was a tentmaker, a Roman citizen, and a former Pharisee. Peter and John were fishermen. Their area of focus was to address the concerns of the local churches as they transitioned from Judaism to a Gentile-friendly Christianity. Paul’s letters helped establish rules for the churches to follow with regards to baptism, the Lord’s Supper, ordaining elders and deacons, etc. In some ways, the apostles’ battle against Judaizers, false apostles, false prophets, and false disciples looks similar to political activism.

“Sola Scriptura” is a good conservative Reformed principle to follow. But the norms that we find in Scripture should not mean avoiding everything that Scripture does not explicitly or implicitly mention. It just means we need to appeal to biblically informed wisdom on things that Scripture seems silent about.

After all, Scripture does not mention stem cell research, vaccination, marijuana, or domestic abuse, but that does not mean we ourselves should have no opinion at all on these important topics. It just means we need to exercise humility and wisdom in how we approach topics that are outside the purview of Scripture.

I strongly dislike professing believers who cast the debate as a “either-or” dichotomy. Those who say “Either we tell people the Gospel or we fight and debate them.” No.

We can do both.

Now granted, the two positions have different priorities. The soul needs to be saved from the wrath of God in Christ alone by the Spirit of God through the preaching of the Gospel. The Gospel being that God the Son became the Spirit-conceived, virgin born, perfectly obedient, crucified, risen, ascended, and glorified Lord and Savior of all mankind. Jesus gives the Holy Spirit to all those who come to Him by faith alone. The Spirit gives a new heart with new desires so that they learn to see the world through different lens.

Yet even sinners who are dead in their sins can come to some true conclusions by the common grace of God. Sinners and saints can look to common principles and seek reform, revolutions, and government to make life better for everyone. Even though these measures leave people in spiritual death without the Gospel, that does not mean we should avoid making use of them since we should do what we can to take care of the body as well.

The body and the soul are different entities. Biblically, the soul takes priority, but not so much that we end up treating the body as nothing or even immoral as the Gnostics of old did.

Making use of our privilege as American citizens to participate in the workings of government is not “putting more hope in man than God,” it’s putting checks on evil and reining in bad leaders when needed.

Everyone has sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Everyone needs to be reined in.

The President, Vice President, Speaker of the House, Majority Leader, Minority Leader, Senators, House Reps, Supreme Court Justices, State governors, State judges, Public health officials, City Mayors, major news outlets, Twitter, Facebook, Google, public teacher unions, police officer unions, employers, employees, the general public, Republicans, and Democrats can all use their authority or autonomy in ways that violate the command to “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

All of us are capable of calling evil good and good evil. No matter what side of the aisle you find yourself on, we are all guilty of inconsistencies, name calling, straw man arguments, guilt by association, red herrings, and slippery slope arguments. Special interest groups distort American politics. Republicans generally protect gun industries and cops. Democrats generally protect teachers and minorities. Sometimes this protection goes so far that they excuse the bad and immoral behavior of bad cops or bad teachers by resisting reforms that would better promote transparency and accountability.

Ideally, everyone would repent and believe in Jesus and then bear fruit in keeping with repentance. We are naturally selfish and we naturally protect people who enrich us, whether they be the voters who keep us in office or whatnot. We can all benefit from seeking reforms and we need to seek these reforms through the proper channels and if we find this task difficult, it would be because we need the grace of God in Christ Jesus to overcome the indwelling resistance to die to our selves, take up the cross, and follow Jesus.

Living with neighbors

I recently read a New York Times opinion article by Dr. Russell Moore: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/18/opinion/supreme-court-religious-freedom.html?fbclid=IwAR28o6dLh13KCBimIvQBbiN-YO_yKc_P1-FEsalInoF46jduHigMG-WzJ28

The Supreme Court recently decided that the 1964 Civil Rights Act covers sexual orientation and gender identity. Outcome-wise, our neighbors are free to seek federal protections from being fired from a job for identifying as lesbian, gay, or transgender. But means-wise, I do wish our Supreme Court justices kept to originalism per their jobs as guardian and interpreters of the Constitution.

Not all interpretations are created equal, and interpreting the word ‘sex’ to mean things outside the original scope of the legislation creates a useful but dangerous basis for legislation. If Supreme Court justices feel free to use their judicial authority to stretch the meaning of a word to satisfy the prevailing cultural opinion, this freedom carries the danger of rendering existing law almost meaningless. For the sake of rule of law, originalism is the best, conservative option for Supreme Court justices to adopt. Otherwise they act as teachers who suit the passions of people who do not endure sound teaching, but have itching ears (2 Tim 4:3).

Through a textualist lens, Supreme Court justices act as pseudo-legislators, passing a law through an unauthorized back-door instead of the established Constitutional means of passing a bill through both houses of Congress and having the POTUS sign the bill into law. It is through this latter authorized means that I wish our neighbors would have sought federal protections.

The court did not rule on religious institutions and their First Amendment freedoms. But I do hope the distinction can stay. The United States is a country of both sinners and saints. The books and letters of the New Testament establishes the church and the world as two distinct spheres of influence although they occupy the same space both temporally and spatially. Christian colleges and universities, faith-based nonprofits and other religious organizations seeking to serve their communities should be able to do so in accordance with their beliefs. They should be able to establish who gets to serve on their leadership teams and how they should best serve their communities in accordance with scriptural norms.

In similar manner, the world is free to serve their interests as they see fit. But they should learn to draw the line when it comes to using the force and power of government from federal to local to require religious institutions to abandon their views from wedding cakes to requirements for nuns to provide contraception.

On one hand, there is nothing new under the sun. In the city of Ephesus in the 1st century Roman Empire, there was a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, who brought no little business to the craftsmen. These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.” (Acts 19:24-27)

In our 21st century context, the rainbow flag and pride parades are meant to convince society that there is nothing wrong with being gay, nothing to be ashamed of. The issue is now so deeply tied to identity that it can feel like we are rejecting our friends and neighbors when we hold to our traditional biblical views.

Yet, with respect to marriage and sexuality, the government should stay out either way. We are not the Byzantine empire and we are not Oceania. We do not compel outsiders to come to the faith, and neither should outsiders compel believers to abandon their faith because they conflict with the fluctuating norms of secular sexual orthodoxy. Given that the issues involved are not as severe temporally as the issue of abortion is, the government should generally stay out. Instead of using the raw power of whoever has more votes at the moment, we need to engage in arguments and conversation with one another.

As Moore stated, “We need to argue about such matters in the arena of persuasion, not state coercion. Yes, sometimes those debates will spill into legislatures and court rooms. But it would be tragic if secularists believed that they can somehow “win” through blunt political force untethered from the American principles of religious freedom and liberty of conscience.”

On other related issues such as transgender bathrooms and participation in athletics, we should seek healthy nuanced dialogue with one another, instead of resorting to the power of law to bulldoze over one another’s convictions.

More than that, people need to hear and understand the gospel. All of us can be guilty of idolizing our sexuality, wrapping our hopes and identities up in our sexual freedom and we all need to repent of this sin. We have to find our identity in Jesus. All the approval, fame, and recognition of this world is nothing, less than nothing, compared to knowing Christ. The gain is this relationship with God through Christ. Eternal life.

Analysis of communication

I miss the days when disagreement was not treated as evil. Many in Twitter and on the left attribute the worst motives to those who disagree with them on complex issues.

The Trump administration rolls back Obama era transgender health care protections. Section 1557 of the ACA “prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability in certain health programs and activities.” A rule enacted in 2016 interpreted the ban on sex discrimination to include discrimination on the basis of gender identity, building on similar interpretations in other federal civil rights laws and court rulings, and termination of pregnancy.

But the US Department of HHS said in a statement Friday that it was eliminating “certain provisions of the 2016 Rule that exceeded the scope of the authority delegated by Congress in Section 1557. HHS will enforce Section 1557 by returning to the government’s interpretation of sex discrimination according to the plain meaning of the word ‘sex’ as male or female and as determined by biology.”

Jesus says, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” (Mt. 12:36)

There is definitely a place for reining in bad interpretative principles. There is a right and wrong way for providing health care protections for our neighbors. Stretching or redefining the meaning of a word from its authors’ original intent would be wrong. This method is part of what exceeding the scope of authority delegated by Congress in Section 1557 looks like.

If we want to provide healthcare protections for our neighbors, we have to do it the right way: draft a bill with the explicit words involved, pass it through both parts of Congress and have the president sign it.

As for the Juneteenth controversy, senior Trump campaign adviser Katrina Pierson said in a statement Thursday, “as the party of Lincoln, Republicans are proud of the history of Juneteenth.” I wish people would assume innocence until proven guilty, and not be so quick to assume malice in the intentions of our political leaders. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2020/06/12/president-donald-trump-tulsa-oklahoma-rally-juneteenth/3181145001/

We should hold everyone accountable for their words. If I see contrary opinions on the same subject with respect to intentions, the burden of proof is generally on the people assuming malice. Sure political leaders can feign innocence in their words, intentions, and actions, but critics can also be guilty of assuming the guilt of someone with poor, little to no evidence available.

Yet in our right desire for justice, we should also recognize our need for grace, forgiveness, and repentance.

If God lived by “eye for an eye,” He could have ended the story of humanity with our original parents after they committed divine treason against Him.
Instead, He has been restraining His righteous anger against us out of great love for us.

For He so loved a world that hated and rejected Him that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

Systems vs Personal Responsibility

I’ve been seeing posts like “Racism isn’t a bad habit. It isn’t a mistake. It is sin. The answer is not sociology, it’s theology.”

This quote is true. The gospel is the only way that the evil in all of our hearts gets destroyed by the Spirit who is given to all those who receive Jesus as the Spirit-conceived, virgin-born, perfectly obedient, crucified, risen, ascended, and glorified Lord and Savior.

Both Democrats and Republicans take a systems-based approach to things:
-Environmental justice; regulating oil companies, gas tax
-Regulating abortion, defunding Planned Parenthood
-Taxpayer funded access to contraceptives
-Gun control/gun safety
-Border control/immigration/ICE
-Police use of excessive force/war on drugs
-Government lockdown/infectious disease/economy
-Same sex marriage/wedding and private businesses

People in the black community who say they are victims of racial disparities are right and others in the same community say they can overcome the victimhood mentality and rise above their circumstances are also right.

There will always be a place to call people to repent and believe in the gospel, to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.

But there is also a place to fight bad laws. William Wilberforce fought against the slave trade in the UK. Activists fought against institutionalized slavery, against child labor, against poor business practices in the meat industry which led to the FDA, and against lack of seatbelts in cars.

If Christians always said to “live quietly and preach the gospel,” virtually none of these legislation would have been passed unless people, whether a professing Christian or not, fought for them.

We need to balance the fatalism that says people will always sin and abuse their power with the realization that there are tangible steps we can take to better take care of the material needs of our neighbors, even through legislation, always efforts towards abolition were meaningless.

We have to balance the soul with the body.

We also need to balance the optimism of pragmatism that says we can eliminate systemic violence with better laws with the fact that there is evil in our hearts that no law can reach, but only the Spirit when one repents and believes in the gospel of Christ.

We have to balance the body with the soul.

We are embodied souls, so let us take care of both.

Profiling

Terrible.

I can feel for what this guy went through: https://www.facebook.com/SarahMarie31/videos/10219523383808549/?__xts__[0]=68.ARCJySlW-aPahifDiAecW_xCsvYrBMqTEWO1GH-MvXWxvJDVxRkbePP4L6N2k5ClFbrJdiIgDz67Qgx-nM-sChfeOGLNnMo_UWHQgCv1jlB7YFoRRqN11Lc2aawo0Y-qc1TZmUkitm21w3-r0W1bGC1FDPx1mdpK8VAa_jTxfK1L_7eaOWdug4qadr22rsPa_ngsuVdabQhGtcCp24cqtzW9OneqEg&__tn__=H-R

Being stopped by police officers late at night will be terrifying and tense.
It was nice the city police sergeant apologized, but it would have been nice if the two officers were present as well.

The racial profiling debate is a Gordian Knot.

The ACLU defines racial profiling as “any police-initiated action that relies on the race, ethnicity, or national origin” of a person rather than on their behavior or “on information that leads the police to an individual who has been identified as being, or having been, engaged in criminal activity.”

When an officer uses race-based profiling, he or she is considering the potential suspect’s race or ethnicity to establish reasonable suspicion or probable cause to initiate police action.

Race should never be the sole basis for probable cause or reasonable suspicion of an officer.

Race-based profiling is ineffective because when an officer uses race or ethnicity as an indicator of one’s behavior to commit a crime, it hinders the officer’s ability to rely on his training and experience, assess the situation and make the best decision possible about his or her actions. The color of someone’s skin or his or her appearance has no relationship as a prediction of his or her behavior.

While we have seen the dangers and ineffectiveness of racial profiling, not all law enforcement actions and decisions related to a person’s race is illegal.

Legally, law enforcement officers and agencies engage in profiling, which is “an investigative tool to identify suspects of a crime which include [a] description of the suspect and analyzing patterns that help predict future crimes or victims.”

Most scholars agree that suspect description, which includes race or ethnicity, and reliance on that description to investigate or apprehend a subject, is legal and allowed under the 14th Amendment. This is because the practice of providing suspect descriptions that include race or ethnicity are not discriminatory and other factors are considered.

Another factor of criminal profiling is recognizing that crime has demographics. Officers are trained and experienced in the neighborhoods they serve to notice certain factors that are present in most of the crimes, suspects and areas they patrol and investigate.

Also, officers use a large bank of information in making investigations, stop, and arrests. As a result, the officer’s training and experience goes a long way in regard to his or her behavior with a suspect.

Racial profiling is a definite concern and criminal profiling can be helpful in reaching law enforcement goals of apprehending a suspect of a crime, preventing crime and protecting future victims.

See article for reference: https://inpublicsafety.com/…/racial-profiling-versus-crimi…/

My commentary: I’ve always struggled how to approach the profiling debate. Racial profiling is wrong because it uses race as the sole basis for probable cause or reasonable suspicion of an officer, but criminal profiling identifies suspects of a crime which include [a] description of the suspect and analyzing patterns that help predict future crimes or victims. One is wrong because it solely looks through the lens of race alone, while the other considers race in the context of the law of probability.

We need to do a better job making a clear distinction between racial profiling and criminal profiling.

But this is admittedly difficult because the two overlap with race as a common factor.

Officers need to be able to do their job in being proactive in protecting the peace, but many times this proactiveness leads to false positives so citizens like Terrell Paci face undue stress.

There’s also the possibility that profiling even based on demographics can act as a self-fulfilling prophecy and a catch-22.

Officers may question black Americans because there is a racial disparity in crime rates.

But there may be a racial disparity in reported crime rates because there is racial disparity in questioning, arrests, and incarcerations that are not fully warranted.

But it may also be true that there is racial disparity in crimes because many black Americans grow up without a father to guide them on the straight and narrow since we have a welfare system that disincentivizes two-parent households.

Criminal justice reform and welfare reform to encourage a return of black fathers are not mutually exclusive. We can and should do both.

Police Reform

19,495 cities. 17,985 US police agencies. 900,000 law enforcement officers.
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Reform has always been tricky.
We will get pushback from people whether we tighten or loosen regulations/restrictions.
Seatbelt laws added another burden for automakers but they were necessary to protect drivers.
I personally feel health care providers are overregulated when it comes to controlled substances, but that’s a story for another day.
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Some of my peers advocate police reforms in response to the Minneapolis disaster.

The officer who killed George Floyd in cold blood had 18 complaints about him prior to him killing Floyd. Perhaps he should have been suspended, fired, or even charged before this incident.

I have one brother say a complaint system is tricky.
Many bitter criminals can make complaints about officers who arrest them all the time.
Incidents like Rodney King has made a system to allow these complaints to slow down the promotion of the accused officers.
If new reforms allow more weight on these complaints, we may make policing more difficult and less effective, which may then result in weakening of protection of law abiding citizens.

On investigation committees: some of them are going to be representatives of the people. One third of African American males have felony records, which are plead down to misdemeanors in LA county. They may elect a representative that is unfair and skewed against police officers.

These are valid concerns. But it is also true we have a few cities like Minneapolis and Ferguson with terrible histories of long resisted reforms, unchecked racism, etc.
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A NYT article: https://www.nytimes.com/…/us/derek-chauvin-george-floyd.html, states, “it remains notoriously difficult in the United States to hold officers accountable, in part because of the political clout of police unions, the reluctance of investigators, prosecutors and juries to second-guess an officer’s split-second decision and the wide latitude the law gives police officers to use force.”

Police departments themselves have often resisted civilian review or dragged their feet when it comes to overhauling officer disciplinary practices. And even change-oriented police chiefs in cities like Baltimore and Philadelphia — which over the last few years have been the sites of high-profile deaths of black men by white officers — have struggled to punish or remove bad actors.

Even when officers are dismissed, public employees can appeal their dismissals — and in scores of cases across the country, the officers often win.

Across the country, civilian review boards — generally composed of members of the public — have been notoriously weak. They gather accounts, but cannot enforce any recommendations.

Locals in Minneapolis feel some of the officers think they don’t have to abide by their own training and rules when dealing with the public.

The head of the police union, Lt. Bob Kroll, once said to Teresa Nelson, legal director for ACLU of Minnesota, that he views community complaints like fouls in basketball.

A former police chief, Janee Harteau, said she took many steps to reform the department, including training officers on implicit bias and mandating the use of body cameras. But the police union, she said, fought her at every turn.
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The Department of Justice looked into the Ferguson PD and on March 4, 2015 reported that officers in Ferguson routinely violated the constitutional rights of the city’s residents, by discriminating against African Americans and applying racial stereotypes, in a “pattern or practice of unlawful conduct within the Ferguson Police Department that violates the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and federal statutory law” https://www.justice.gov/…/ferguson_police_department_report…
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Justice is tricky.

Police unions and juries may be too lenient or even abuse their influence and ability to excuse police officers, even the bad ones, and so they acquit the guilty.
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Civilian review boards may be overzealous or indiscriminate in persecuting police officers for apparent bad behavior and so they condemn the innocent.

Certainly, preaching the gospel and getting people to repent of their sins and trusting in Jesus as Lord and Savior for the forgiveness of their sins and to receive the Holy Spirit will do much in ameliorating these problems. In Christ, civilians learn to trust more in the justice of God and police officers learn to use their authority in more self sacrificial ways.

Still, on the practical side of things, we seem to have a problem in America, and we have to start somewhere and look at steps we can change on a case by case, city by city basis.

Mental Images

No photo description available.

If this graphic is true, this would lend further support to my statements that each State of our country should be treated on a case by case basis instead of a “one-size-fits-all” approach.

According to this graphic, parts of Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania are hit hardest by COVID.

This post also raises an important point. Everyone, whether they’re formally aware of it or not, carries an operative mental image of what’s happening with our country. For some, like those in California and New York, I can easily imagine they would mistakenly but falsely see our country covered in yellow and red, especially since that’s how media like NowThis, OccupyDemocrats, CNN, or MSNBC, etc would paint the picture and so they would see Missouri’s reopening as foolish.

Our neighbors in other States would probably see our country more like this mostly green one.

If we experience tension or conflicts in relationships, one of the causes is because we have different competing and often mutually exclusive images of the same situation, and thus we make attitudes, actions, and value judgments that contradict.

So it would help if we all adopt a humble and honest posture and recognize that we often make mental images of our situation that are incomplete, biased towards our personal desire for public health or personal freedom, and prone to being outdated quickly because the situation changes.

Even when both sides disagree, there’s no need to demonize one another. It does not help matters that news like CNN or Fox often focus on the outliers for their news cycle, but even so, we do not have to follow their example and stereotype one another in such animosity.

If you asked me what I would like to see, I would say “Follow the data.” I’m still hoping our elected officials are truly following the data that’s happening on the ground, and looking at death and hospitalization rates from COVID-19 and drafting their public policies accordingly.

If New York or California need to stay under lockdown longer than other states, then let them do so. If other states and their respective citizens feel they’re at a place where the risk is low enough for now before a second wave of COVID-19 hits to reopen their economy, let them do so, even when isolated cases like an outbreak at a barber shop happen.