Saturday, June 24, 2017

Notes from Dennis Prager’s Omaha Talk

Thursday morning Claire and I joined Pat Osborne, John Malek, Quint & Carol Coppi, Jim & Jeanne Lawson (and another 150 or so conservatives) for a breakfast talk by columnist and radio broadcaster, Dennis Prager.  Sponsored by The Answer Omaha Radio and held at the Hotel RL, the event seemed to be a success on several levels. Kudos to 1420 AM.

Dennis Prager was certainly in fine form Thursday morning and his observations and exhortations regarding the culture wars were enthusiastically received by the audience. Want a few highlights of his talk? Well, I transcribe below some of the notes I took on the back of a bank envelope.

* Prager reminded us that he opposed Donald Trump’s nomination throughout the primaries. However, he supported Trump enthusiastically in the general election although frequently he presented the choice between Clinton and Trump to something like the choice of two doors. Behind one of them, you were guaranteed, was a man-eating lion while, behind the other, there only might be a man-eating lion. People of moral values thus had a clear choice for Donald Trump. That being said, Prager told the audience that he “is amazed at the great job Trump has done” so far.

* "The modern university is a wisdom-free institution."

* The left does not represent liberalism.  Indeed, the modern left is decidedly anti-liberal.  Examples?  Think of the ideals of Harry Truman, John Kennedy, or Henry Jackson (patriotism, optimism, strong national defense, freedom of speech, opposition to big government and government handouts, traditional moral values, etc.) vs. the whining, value-free authoritarianism of Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders and Nancy Pelosi.

* The left is actively, purposefully undermining the ideals of Western civilization.

* America’s historic trinity of ideals?  Liberty.  In God We Trust.  E pluribus unum.

* The left represents the legacy of the French Revolution – godless, intolerant, and violent.  It demands equality by denying liberty and justice.

* The Democrats are now all the same.  Republican candidates (at every level) must run against the Democrat Party and its positions and tactics.

* “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  (Proverbs 9:10)

* The question, not merely to ponder, but to excite action on our part should be, “How American is America going to be?”

* The left is, by valuing everything according to race and class, is proving itself racist and elitist.

* “Hysteria is to the left what oxygen is to biological life.”

* Canada is already lost.  So is Europe.  Are we next to fall, the last great hope on earth for freedom?

* The left does not hate evil.  They hate carbon emissions and pro-life advocates and Israel and conservative speakers on college campuses…but they don’t hate evil.

* “The university, at least for students in the humanities and social sciences, is a fraud.”

* A key problem in America? The grandchildren of Jews and Christians do not know Judaism or Christianity.

* The problem with Congress is democracy -- for voters today are addicted to government handouts.  Today’s Democrats do not, as did JFK, put the interests of the nation before the wants of the individual.  No, they literally pay for votes by promising more and more free benefits to voters.

A Weekend Roundup: News & Commentary You Shouldn't Miss

* “Mueller’s Empire” (Scott Johnson, Power Line)

* “Aftermath Of Alexandria Shooting Showed The Left’s Cultural Bullying At Its Worst” (Mary Katharine Ham, The Federalist)

* “The Double Murder of Otto Warmbier” (Michelle Malkin, Daily Signal)

* “Nonprofit Tracker Smears Dozens of Conservative Organizations as ‘Hate Groups’” (Rachel del Guidice, Daily Signal)

* “Welcoming Persecution?” (Mark Tooley, Juicy Ecumenism)

* “Oh, the Humanities!” The Scrapbook, Weekly Standard)

* “Potemkin Progressivism” (Roger Kimball, American Greatness)

* “Harry Potter and the millennial mind: How J.K. Rowling shaped the political thinking of a generation.” (Lara Prendergast, The Spectator)

* “The Danger of Incrementalism” (Rick Plasterer, Juicy Ecumenism)

* “Finding the Way Back on Immigration Isn’t Going to Be Easy for Democrats” (Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review)

* “Obama’s Feds Tried to Hack Indiana’s Election System While Pence Was Governor” (Richard Pollock, Daily Caller)

Friday, June 23, 2017

Audiences Love "When Swing Was King"

Comments from today’s “When Swing Was King” presentations:

1) “You know, I’m missing a College World Series game to come here. But that’s okay because I sure didn’t want to miss one of your shows.”

2) After assuring one woman that we would be back next month, she replied. “Oh, you can’t come back soon enough for us. You could come every week as far as we’re concerned. And you could show the same program too. We just love it!”

3) First lady: “I’m glad we got here early and got some good seats.”
Second lady: “But they never get very many people in here [the theater] for a program.”
First lady: “Maybe normally. But trust me, for THIS show the place will be packed.”

4) Fellow: “Oh, this is that big band thing. I hear it’s a pretty good show.”
First Lady: “Oh, you haven’t been to one of these yet? You’re in for a treat!”
Second lady: “Yes, of all the programs they bring in, this is the best.”

5) “Don’t mind me crying a little. It only is because your program is so beautiful that it makes me cry. The music, oh my. How wonderful it is to hear it again. And the pictures are wonderful too. And all the work in finding the history behind all those songs. It is just great that you do this for us. Thank you so much.”

6) “I never want your show to end.”

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A Wild & Wooly Midweek Roundup

* “If a Trump Supporter Had Shot a Democratic Congressman” (Dennis Prager, Town Hall)

* “Chicago records 300th homicide over Father's Day weekend — just like last year” (Elyssa Cherney, Chicago Tribune)

* “The Army's New Shower Policy: Bare with Us” (Tony Perkins’ Washington Update)

* “Otto Warmbier, Moral Perversion, and the Social Justice Left” (Noah Rothman, Commentary)

* “Is being a Christian a sackable offence in UK politics now?” (Michael Kirke, Mercator)

* “Katy Perry Talks About Evil — Why Sentimentality Is No Response to Terrorism” (John Stonestreet & G. Shane Morris, Breakpoint)

* “Why Believing Atrocity Stories About Israel Is Stupid, Even When They’re on CNN” (Liel Leibovitz, The Tablet)

* “Exposing the EPA’s Gold King Mine Cover-Up” (Rob Gordon, Daily Signal)

* “Transgender laws threaten to erase women” (Women's Liberation Front and Family Policy Alliance, Mercator)

* “Perpetual Adolescence: When Coming of Age Doesn’t Come” (John Horvat II, The Stream)

* “Christian author destroys leftism after sons booted from Boy Scout troop over ‘anti-Muslim remark’” (Dave Urbanski, The Blaze)

The Images That Break Your Heart

The video clips play on the television and you are strongly tempted to turn away because the topic is so tragic and the images so wrenchingly disturbing. But you watch and your heart is touched, your conscience informed and challenged. You are seeing into the eyes of the victims - innocent victims of man’s indifference, neglect, and even cruelty. The narrator urges you to take a good look at those in need and she then urges you to personally, immediately intervene to deliver them from further suffering, even from being destroyed out of a false sense of compassion.

The voice of the narrator, by the way, is a pleasant one for it belongs to a Hollywood celebrity. The sense of moral authority she portrays underscores for you how right and important it is to act in behalf of the innocent, to rescue them from danger.  You are told that you can make a huge difference, that you can be a hero and a lifesaver, and that your action will enrich and ennoble your soul.  The video clip is a powerful piece and you are not surprised that the television station plays it often, unafraid of any charges of controversy, offense, or political bias. After all, the message is a critically necessary one; it is a message that the whole culture must heed if it truly aspires to be moral and kind and compassionate.

The video clips I’m talking about, as you might not have guessed, are those created by the Society for the Protection of Animals, the Humane Society, and so on.  They are run free of charge by television stations under the banners of public service and charity.  They are applauded by progressives of all sorts.

And yet, these same progressives, these same public service committees, these same television stations categorically refuse any announcement that would apply the same methods, the same reasoning, or the same emotional triggers towards action that might save human boys and girls from the wicked cruelty of abortion. Does it make sense?  No.  Is it fair?  No.  Do the so-called progressives not see the horrible irony of treating the plight of animals in shelters to be a greater moral responsibility than the fate of human children scheduled to be torn to pieces or poisoned by abortionists? Sadly, the answer is again, no.

And thus goes the terrible devolution of American culture.

(Postscript -- I have no problems with appeals for kindness to animals. Indeed, men and women are presented with a biblical responsibility to show wisdom and compassion as they serve as God's stewards over all of creation. Remember, for instance, the Sabbath rest that God commanded extended to animals as well as men. My point is a simple but profound one; namely, that Western culture has got its priorities completely turned round. Our refusal to protect preborn children, while yet posing as kind-hearted, is irrational, ugly, and evil.)

An Apology from Aristides (and a Few Vital Signs Ministries Notes)

First of all, I’d like to pass along a striking testimony concerning the early Christians, a testimony that creates an important perspective on our ministry, our times, and the upward call of believers throughout the ages. I will quote from a document written by Aristides of Athens, the early 2nd Century philosopher who converted to Christianity and penned a critically important description of the early Church.  

Most scholars believe that Aristides dedicated his Apology to Hadrian, the Emperor of Rome, who though a non-Christian was nevertheless interested in history, culture, and humanistic values. It is sad that this remarkable document is so little known, even in the Church, for it is a bold yet winsome argument that everyone (even unbelievers) would do well to honestly consider. 

The section of the Apology I print below describes the lifestyle of early Christians as it regards the search for truth, virtues devoutly practiced, the attractiveness that a love of God produces, practical egalitarianism, deeds of mercy, and a confidence in a glorious life to come.

(The Aristides Apology and the rest of this month's Vital Signs Ministries letter can be read right here.)

Monday, June 12, 2017

A Striking Testimony About Those Early Christians

It is believed by many scholars that Aristides of Athens, the early 2nd Century philosopher who converted to Christianity and penned a striking description/apology of the Faith, dedicated that document to Hadrian, the Emperor of Rome, who though a non-Christian was nevertheless interested in history, culture, and humanistic values.

But whoever were his intended readers, Aristides presented a bold yet winsome argument that everyone (believer or not) would do well to honestly consider.

I print below a small section of the Apology, one that describes the lifestyle of early Christians as it regards the search for truth, virtues devoutly practiced, the attractiveness that a love of God produces, practical egalitarianism, deeds of mercy, and a confidence in a glorious life to come. Check it out.

XV. But the Christians, O King, while they went about and made search, have found the truth; and as we learned from their writings, they have come nearer to truth and genuine knowledge than the rest of the nations. For they know and trust in God, the Creator of heaven and of earth, in whom and from whom are all things, to whom there is no other god as companion, from whom they received commandments which they engraved upon their minds and observe in hope and expectation of the world which is to come. 

Wherefore they do not commit adultery nor fornication, nor bear false witness, nor embezzle what is held in pledge, nor covet what is not theirs. They honor father and mother, and show kindness to those near to them; and whenever they are judges, they judge uprightly. They do not worship idols (made) in the image of man; and whatsoever they would not that others should do unto them, they do not to others; and of the food which is consecrated to idols they do not eat, for they are pure. 

And their oppressors they appease (lit: comfort) and make them their friends; they do good to their enemies; and their women, O King, are pure as virgins, and their daughters are modest; and their men keep themselves from every unlawful union and from all uncleanness, in the hope of a recompense to come in the other world. Further, if one or other of them have bondmen and bondwomen or children, through love towards them they persuade them to become Christians, and when they have done so, they call them brethren without distinction. 

They do not worship strange gods, and they go their way in all modesty and cheerfulness. Falsehood is not found among them; and they love one another, and from widows they do not turn away their esteem; and they deliver the orphan from him who treats him harshly. And he, who has, gives to him who has not, without boasting. And when they see a stranger, they take him in to their homes and rejoice over him as a very brother; for they do not call them brethren after the flesh, but brethren after the spirit and in God. 

And whenever one of their poor passes from the world, each one of them according to his ability gives heed to him and carefully sees to his burial. And if they hear that one of their number is imprisoned or afflicted on account of the name of their Messiah, all of them anxiously minister to his necessity, and if it is possible to redeem him they set him free. And if there is among them any that is poor and needy, and if they have no spare food, they fast two or three days in order to supply to the needy their lack of food. 

They observe the precepts of their Messiah with much care, living justly and soberly as the Lord their God commanded them. Every morning and every hour they give thanks and praise to God for His loving-kindnesses toward them; and for their food and their drink they offer thanksgiving to Him. 

And if any righteous man among them passes from the world, they rejoice and offer thanks to God; and they escort his body as if he were setting out from one place to another near. And when a child has been born to one of them, they give thanks to God; and if moreover it happen to die in childhood, they give thanks to God the more, as for one who has passed through the world without sins. And further if they see that any one of them dies in his ungodliness or in his sins, for him they grieve bitterly, and sorrow as for one who goes to meet his doom.

High ideals? Most certainly.

But ideals that are clearly taught in Holy Scripture as eminently do-able when the believer denies his baser passions and attitudes and instead yields his heart to the control of the Holy Spirit.

So, let’s make sure we’re aiming at those ideals. Yes, confessing to God and others when we sin and fail, but getting back in the Spirit and moving on.

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16, NASB)

Saturday, June 10, 2017

A Weekend Roundup from the Culture Wars

* “A Quick And Easy Guide To The Planned Parenthood Videos” (Mollie Hemingway, The Federalist)

* “Ex-Communist Nations Confront European Union Diktat” (John Zimriak, The Stream)

* “The Ugly Racism of Karl Marx” (Walter E. Williams, Daily Signal)

* “Most Pro-Life Laws are Based on Sound Science” (Michael New, National Review)

* “What Happens When We Don’t Raise Kids to Become Adults” (Sen. Ben Sasse, Daily Signal)

* “Do Christian Kids Really Understand the Gospel?” (Sean McDowell, The Stream)

* “Bernie Sanders Shows How Religious Ignorance Breeds Progressive Intolerance” (David French, National Review)

* “A transgender military is a weaker, compromised military” (Peter Sprigg, The Hill)

* “Ted Cruz Lays Out 4 Priorities for a Blockbuster Year for Conservatives” (Christine Roe , Daily Signal)

Not Too Loud, Please (Or Too Emotional, or Manipulative, or Hip Either)

When the volume is turned up too loud, the message is in danger of being
misunderstood, ignored, even rejected. This is the case every bit as much as if the volume was turned down too low. In fact, the frustration created in the listener because of ineffective volume control can easily be linked to whatever he actually may pick up from the message. This is why you should avoid placing concertgoers right next to the speaker, or raising your voice in an argument with your spouse, or shouting out during your sermon in an attempt to convey importance or to spark emotional response. I fear that unnecessarily loud or flamboyant preachers betray their lack of confidence in the message itself; that is, they don’t really trust their argument, their preparation, their communicative skills, and worse yet, the moving of the Holy Spirit, to be sufficient to communicate.

But it’s not just volume that I warn against. I would suggest that the frequent overuse of histrionics, emotional manipulation, visual gimmicks, innumerable pop culture references, dependence on dramatic lighting, the ubiquitous tinkling of the piano and other things to to create a suitable ambience, reveals how far removed modern preachers are from carefully studying the Word of God, developing over time a sound and comprehensive theology, respecting the true needs of their congregations for solid teaching, and depending upon the power of the Holy Spirit to make the Bible truths come alive in each listener’s life.

Oh, for a radical reformation in our pulpits, one which would have preachers spend more time studying the Bible and preparing thoughtful, profound, and cogent expositions of the texts of Scripture, so that the star of the church service would once again be the Word of God for it alone holds the promise to transform lives…and culture.