Monthly Archives: June 2008

Can Somone Really Be UnBiased?

When I was in college studying journalism, my professors loved to talk about being unbiased in reporting and the importance of giving all sides a fair opportunity. That sounds great until you realize that not all sides of an issue are credible. Should those who deny that the Holocaust ever happened be given the same weight as victims of Nazi brutality?  Does a child rapist deserve the same credibility as a police officer or scientific expert? 

In college, I challenged the notion of true objectivity then because I didn’t believe it was humanly possible. And I still hold to that belief today years after working as a reporter and publisher. It can be almost impossible to recognize our own biases.

I believe people can be somewhat fair. And that requires hard work because it is difficult to truly listen when we disagree with what someone is saying. I think listening is the most important skill a journalist needs to develop. I am always suspicious of people who claim to have held their biases in check. Can we really ever know how much our biases are impacting our thoughts and actions in our subconscious mind?

News reports love to paint one group as biased while other people have pure motives. One of the more recent examples involves news coverage of environmental issues, especially global warming. I don’t know what I think yet about that issue. But I do know that those who question the science behind it are vilified and lampooned. It seems that the eco groups can do no wrong. But are their motives completely pure?

Don’t scientists have egos? Don’t researchers need a crisis to ensure funding? Don’t eco groups need an enemy to convince people to give them money? I believe that all sides to the climate debate have financial and personal reasons to fight for their beliefs. Some may also have noble, ideological reasons as well. It just bothers me when reporters contrast two sides and portray one as completely pure when that is far from accurate.

For those who are willing to listen to a different view than Al Gore’s documentary on global warming, consider the following film. I don’t know which one to believe. They both make good points.

Your thoughts…

 http://www.rightalk.com/asx/ggws.asx

 

 

Only 5-4?

As a handgun owner, I was surprised when I heard today that the Supreme Court upheld individual gun rights by only a 5-4 margin. I believe it should have been an unanimous decision. This causes concern for the future of gun rights in this country. All it would have taken was one justice to have sided with the pro-ban crowd for a dire situation to have occurred.

Even though the NRA is celebrating tonight, I was scared by the result. What does it say when four justices are so out of touch with the American people, the platform of both major parties, both major presidential candidates, the sitting president and a majority of state governments? This shows just how liberal some of the justices are.

I believe this makes the next election even more important because one more liberal and the outcome likely would have been different. Even though Barack Obama supports the individual right of a person to bear arms, he is more likely to appoint someone who would have sided with the dissenters in this case. That scars me.

While I understand some of the claims by the anti-gun crowd, I believe the U.S. Constitution should be interpreted with a strict bias toward individual rights. When there is every a clear reason to debate or a question about the original intentions of the framers, decisions should favor the rights of the individual over government restrictions. The problem is once we give away individual rights; they are generally gone for good. It is hard to ever get rights back because that would require government leaders to relinquish some power.

What do you think? Does the Constitution only give the right to bear arms as part of a militia? Or is this an individual right? Read the decisions at http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/07pdf/07-290.pdf

Ridiculous Disclaimers

Have you ever wondered about the ridiculous disclaimers that people attach to the bottom of e-mail messages? I wonder if some corporate lawyer really things these make much of a difference. Does a disclaimer actually change the open nature of the Internet? No! Does the message really do much other than make people think first before pressing the send button? I don’t even know if it does that in most cases.

A few friends and I were discussing what would be a really good humorous message to attach to all of our business posts. This is a compilation of their two best ideas. Thanks Kevin and Luke.  

Notice: This email is intended for the use of the addressee only, all other use is prohibited. This message was passed among countless computers on its way to you. There’s no telling where it’s been all day. I recommend you run a virus scan before you even finish reading this. Then go wash your hands with soap and warm water. This email may or may not contain any of its original information, and the content may be displayed in a format other than intended. That’s because the countless computer servers that palmed, groped, held, pocketed, and then pushed this message along its way each took the liberty of modifying the message as they saw fit. Besides, you are probably using different software than the party who sent the message, and you probably don’t have the font they used. It doesn’t matter anyway, because all that you will remember in the end is the two weeks of down-time caused by the virus attached to this message, because you didn’t run the scan fast enough. Warning” This email was processed in a facility that also processes peanuts.

Or how about?

IMPORTANT: This email is intended for the use of the individual addressee(s) named above and may contain information that is confidential, privileged or unsuitable for overly sensitive persons with low self-esteem, no sense of humor or irrational religious beliefs. If you are not the intended recipient, any dissemination, distribution or copying of this email is not authorized (either explicitly or implicitly) and constitutes an irritating social faux pas. Unless the word absquatulation has been used in its correct context somewhere other than in this warning, it does not have any legal or no grammatical use and may be ignored. No animals were harmed in the transmission of this email. Those of you with an overwhelming fear of the unknown will be gratified to learn that there is no hidden message revealed by reading this warning backwards, so just ignore that Alert Notice from your antivirus software. However, by pouring a complete circle of salt around yourself and your computer you can ensure that no harm befalls you or your machine. If you have received this email in error, please add some nutmeg and egg whites, whisk and place in a warm oven for 40 minutes.

Politics, Obama and Jesus

James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family and a major evangelical leader, has criticized Sen. Barack Obama of distorting the Bible and taking a “fruitcake interpretation” of the U.S. Constitution. Dobson made these comments on his radio show. He focused on a speech that Obama gave in June to a liberal Christian organization.

Obama said it would be impractical to govern based solely on the Bible. He suggested that many of the people who tout the Bible have not read it or only pick and choose certain parts that support their ideology. I agree with Obama that Biblical illiteracy is a problem in this country, including many evangelicals. I also believe that leaders use the Bible to push their own agendas. This includes McCain, Obama, both political parties, Christian leaders, atheists, gurus, parents, TV personalities, authors, civic leaders, pastors, stand-up comedians, etc. 

“Which passages of scripture should guide our public policy?” Obama asked in the speech. “Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is OK and that eating shellfish is an abomination? Or we could go with Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount?”

Dobson criticized Obama for referencing antiquated dietary codes and passages from the Old Testament that are no longer relevant to the teachings of the New Testament. 

“I think he’s deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own world view, his own confused theology,” Dobson said. While I do not personally agree with everything that Dobson says, he makes a good point about Obama taking things out of context. I believe that Obama in this speech does exactly what he accuses fundamentalists of doing. The Bible needs to be studied in context and totality. You have to understand that the Bible is the story of God and mankind as their relationship with each other is in flux. You have to ask what moment in redemptive history is being described in that passage in order to understand its present day implications.

Obama responded, “I do make the argument that it’s important for folks like myself, who think faith is important, that we try to translate some of our concerns into universal language so we can have open and vigorous debate rather than having religion divide us.”

I am all for universal language as long as the core truths are not lost in translation. Division seems to be something that has accompanied the true preaching of the Christian Gospel throughout time. Wherever the apostle Paul went, there was either a revolution or a riot. Jesus said that we should be willing to forsake all, including family for the Gospel. Jesus spoke about dividing families. He used harsh language and was more than willing to offend the religious leaders and politicians of the day. Avoiding divisive speech was not something that Jesus seemed too concerned with in His ministry. When it comes to division and culture, God was the one who confused the languages according to Genesis. He seems perfectly willing to let people become divided if pride leads them to elevate their will above His divine plan.

While I applaud Obama’s efforts to be a bridge builder, I don’t think you can effectively create a dialogue on religion and politics if you deny the importance of the Bible in shaping our culture, laws and history. Our laws and political system must have some basis. If the Bible is not a shaping force for those discussions, what should be the basis? Looking honestly at history, what were those shaping forces? Merely public opinion and consensus standards? Are there things that are universally wrong? Who defines those?

Many of the worst actions done by humans were somewhat popular at the time they occurred. At the very least, those atrocities were accepted by the masses to some degree. What does that say about merely basing laws on the reason of the age?

Laws change throughout time and are a mirror of societal values. Some of the greatest social changes came about because people took a stand based on their private faith. This includes Dr. Martin Luther King and William Wilberforce. 

In the United States, our laws are built on legal precedent as well as the pioneering effort by lawmakers and judges to advance necessary reforms. These changes adapt existing laws to an evolving political and social landscape. Would many of these changes have taken place if people refused to lead beyond the comfort levels of public opinion? Does the thought of God-given rights make necessary political change possible? These are important questions that need to be asked before we simply explain away the importance of the Bible with poor exegesis.   

Obama clarified to reporters, “I do suggest that the separation of church and state is important. But there’s no, no theological work being done in that speech in terms of the Bible.” You can’t pull out parts of Scripture to make your point and then claim you are not making a theological argument when someone calls you on its implications. I agree that a separation of church and state remains important to the preservation of each entity. At the same time, I think completely divorcing them goes too far and can easily become a serious suppression of religious freedom. 

Dobson criticized Obama for suggesting that religion in politics should be relegated to only things that can be embraced by the overwhelming majority of citizens. Obama’s view seems to elevate public opinion and reflect a belief in the overall decency of humanity. Scripture is quite clear that the human heart is wicked and capable of incredible evil. I think Obama’s argument puts too much faith in man and not enough in God. 

“Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal rather than religion-specific values,” Obama said. “It requires their proposals be subject to argument and amenable to reason.”  Obama makes a good point here. Religious beliefs should be able to be defended by reason and logic. I am all for that process. We need to have more intellectual, thorough discussions and fewer sound bite reactions. I applaud Obama’s efforts to avoid rhetoric while I denounce his mischaracterization of fundamentalists at the same time. I believe he has effectively done both in his public comments.

Dobson said the suggestion is an attempt to lead by the “lowest common denominator of morality.” He asked, “Am I required in a democracy to conform my efforts in the political arena to his bloody notion of what is right with regard to the lives of tiny babies?”

When it comes to abortion, I believe it comes down to your view on the sanctity of life and the beginning of life. If you believe that abortion is murder, I don’t understand how you could ever condone it except for the cases where you are talking about exchanging a life for a life. This has nothing to do with public or private morality if you hold my view on the issue. Others may have a different view. But that doesn’t negate the value of what I have to say. 

Dobson summed up the implications of Obama’s position. He said, “What Obama is trying to say here is, unless everybody agrees, we have no right to fight for what we believe.”

While I have no doubt of Obama’s sincerity and his personal claims to be a Christian, I do have concerns that his statements reflect a worldview that would make it difficult for Christians to have a fair say in the legislative process. And I believe he would appoint judges that would further limit the influence of the Bible at a time when we could use a little more Sermon on the Mount thinking.

Public Weighs In on God

A recent Pew survey survey on religion in America discovered that nearly three-quarters of respondents believe that faiths besides their own can lead to salvation. An overwhelming percentage of Americans (92%) believe in God or universal spirit. This survey shows that America remains a very religious nation even though we are becoming much more accepting of different faiths.

I believe this is the Oprahization of society. I define this as a state where we are hesitant to claim the superiority of any one particular religion or worldview. Some view this as progress. Others believe it undermines the strength that each faith gives to its followers.

What bothers me is that tolerance has been redefined. It has now become the acceptance of all things so that nobody feels slighted or opposed. The only real enemy to this worldview are the fundamentalists  – those who believe their religion has the monopoly on the truth.  That is why in the recent survey so many Americans hold beliefs that might contradict the doctrines of their professed faiths. I believe this either results from ignorance or the peer pressure to be “tolerant.” Do we fear public perception more than God?

According to the survey, 57% of American evangelicals agreed with the statement that many religions can lead to eternal life. These people claim to be devout followers even though they are open to the legitimacy of other faiths.

This make me wonder, “If you claim to accept everything, do you really believe anything?”

Read more about the survey from the following news stories. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/24/us/24religion.html?hp

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/politics/la-me-faith24-2008jun24,0,4300244.story

It Is Finished

Oswald Chambers wrote in My Utmost for His Highest, ” A pitiful, sickly, and self-centered kind of prayer and a determined effort and selfish desire to be right with God are never found in the New Testament. The fact that I am trying to be right with God is actually a sign that I am rebelling against the atonement by the Cross of Christ…  I cannot make myself right with God; I cannot make my life perfect. I can only be right with God if I accept the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ as an absolute gift. Am I humble enough to accept it?”

“There is a great deal of prayer that comes from actual disbelief in the atonement. Jesus is not just beginning to save us— He has already saved us completely. It is an accomplished fact, and it is an insult to Him for us to ask Him to do what He has already done.”

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I find Chambers’ words an indictment to many of the prayers that I have prayed in my life. Why do I pray for things that God has already done? Why don’t I take hold of these spiritual realities by faith? It can be real easy to thing we are being very spiritual when our petitions before God ring of faithlessness and a lack of godly understanding.

When Jesus said on the cross, “It is finished,” He meant it. These are some of the most profound words ever uttered. The implications change human history. Jesus has already obtained our salvation, freedom and future.

The only barrier we find to these greatest gifts is not God’s willingness to provide them because the real work is already done. The difficult part is accepting the full implications of the cross by faith.

We have to come to the end of ourselves and realize the futility of our works. We have to understand the amazing quality of God’s grace and the fullness of its power to impart reconciliation and transformation. When I come to the reality of what I can’t do on my own, I start to realize the power in what Christ has already done for me.

The Two Words That Can Save Your Ministry

There are two words that can make all the difference in your ministry relationships. Those words are very simple, yet they are quite profound. These words can heal and create a sense of trust. They can let others know our sincerity as well as our approachability.

These words are… “I’m sorry.”

Why is it so hard to apologize and admit our weaknesses, mistakes and even sins in ministry? Is it pride? Is it the sense that admitting any wrong doing will jeopardize our ministry or public reputation? I know that I don’t like to admit when I am wrong. And I certainly don’t like to apologize if I feel that I am not really responsible for whatever “wrong” was done. Should we apologize just because we know that another person has perceived an injustice even if we are not primarily responsible for the outcome? I believe the answer is frequently “Yes.”

We can disarm situations by taking responsibility for our part. Also, we can let the other person know that we wanted a different outcome than what occurred. We can recognize their pain and express our desire to move forward in a new direction. We can create a bridge that will allow a restoration of our relationship.

Of course, there are some things that leaders should never apologize for because it would do more harm than good. We don’t need to apologize for loving God or fearing Him more than any person. We don’t need to apologize for obeying divine direction or speaking the truth in love. It requires divine direction to know what is appropriate and helpful for each situation.

Are you willing to be proactive in seeking reconciliation? Sometimes it takes a big person to say that you’re sorry.