The Cross and Political Correctness

In the last few weeks the national news has been focusing on the legislation in Indiana and Arkansas dealing with protecting religious liberty. We are in the midst of a collision of biblical and non-biblical values. Before dealing with the contemporary events I would like to go back to the Roman Empire and its use of crucifixion.

The Romans were not inventive. They were innovative. They had the practice of using other cultures’ ideas and improving them. Crucifixion was used by the Persians and the Macedonians, but the Romans took the practice to a new level. Crucifixion was not about killing the victim. There were much more efficient means of execution, and the Romans loved efficiency. The main purpose of crucifixion was silencing opposition. If a non-citizen was determined a threat to Roman rule he was crucified. You may have been unhappy under Roman rule, but you kept your thoughts to yourself, because the cross was always looming. Crassus crucified 6,000 slaves after crushing their uprising. That was the last revolt by the slaves. Crucifixion silenced the opposition.

We do not literally crucify people today. We are more civilized in silencing opposition than that. The Indiana Freedom of Religion bill was in line with federal legislation signed by President Bill Clinton. The purpose was to support the First Amendment protections for Indiana residents. The news media “carried the water” for the homosexual community portraying the law as promoting businesses who wish to discriminate against homosexuals. Like numerous other recent events, the facts of the case were never presented. America has become a society that does not desire truth. Our culture does not want an exchange of ideas. Instead of presenting the various positions in the public arena and trusting that the truth and the superior position will win the day, divergent positions are silenced by “crucifixion”, that horrible death.

Crucifixion was designed to humiliate and intimidate. The victim was scourged with lashes tipped with metal and bone. They were disfigured with pieces of flesh hanging from the open wounds exposing bones. They were stripped of their clothes. They were hung along the public roadways. They were made less than human. American “crucifixion” involves a social media blitz bombarding the enemy with hate mail and threats. The guilty party’s livelihood or business is threatened. The person’s integrity, character, and morals are maligned. In some cases the federal government becomes involved with threats of IRS audits or justice department investigations. The message to the observing masses is clear, do not express your views, especially do not take a stand for a biblical worldview, go with the flow. It is not surprising that our politicians run for cover, who wants that kind of attention. But, we are not politicians. We are followers of Christ.

As His followers, we are to love all people while standing on His word. As Americans we have a unique place in history. As an army officer, I took an oath to uphold and protect the Constitution. We have been given a priceless gift of the First Amendment. The freedom of religion is the foundational right. When it falls, all others will follow. As a Christian, I am a bondservant of Christ. I am to be faithful to my Lord even if it conflicts with the government. We have a moral obligation to protect our constitutional rights for future generations. In the recent collisions of values there is a clearly stated constitutional right, the freedom of religion, versus a lifestyle choice. Christianity is not a religion of coercion. You must come to Christ of your own free will. Whether you come or not, you are to be loved as a human being. The sanctity of human life is true for all. I reject all lifestyles that do not conform to God’s word, but respect the person’s right to choose their own life. In turn, I expect others to respect my choice. Do not try to force me affirm yours. The homosexual social agenda is the affirmation of their worldview while stripping all others of theirs, and one of their most powerful tools is “crucifying” anyone brave, or foolish, enough to speak in opposition. Christians and others can hold their private views, but cannot express those views as others do. We are being forced out of the public arena. Christian businesses daily serve people of other faiths and lifestyles, but that is not enough. Now those businesses must participate in practices contrary to Christian beliefs. There is a difference between others practicing their lifestyles (i.e., homosexual marriages) and being required to approve of the practice by catering the event, or providing flowers. You know it is political correctness when a Muslim business does not have to serve me pork barbeque, or the equivalent for businesses of a liberal viewpoint.

The Jewish religious leaders and the Roman government thought they had silenced the teacher from Nazareth. By all appearances they had won. The followers of Jesus were scattered, in hiding, and terrified. That was the usual effect of crucifixion. But, they were wrong. The Resurrection changed everything. The world was “turned right side up” by His followers. (Remember, it was the lost who said the disciples were turning the world upside down.) The Holy Spirit transformed the disciples into men who were more in awe of God than afraid of the cross. Tradition tells us that the disciples died for the faith. Thousands of Christians died under Roman persecution and the Church’s response to the hate was love.

Political correctness is effective as long as people are intimidated. As American Christians we have the right to hold our moral positions and exercise them in the political process. That said, our greatest concern is not the political ramifications of our silence. Our faith is not lived out in isolation.  We cannot be not salt and light in selected arenas. If we are followers of Christ, He is Lord of all the arenas of our lives.  We must speak truth in love and with boldness. Where would we be if the first century disciples were silenced by the political correctness of their time? Where will our grandchildren be if we are not faithful? No one wants to be vilified, but Jesus was not excited about his looming crucifixion.

 

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Spring and preparing for the harvest.

I love this time of year. This past winter has been cool and wet enough that it was hard to get enthused about riding my bike enough to stay in shape. Winter is a time of tarped boats and occasional rides. When I lived in Alaska it was a time to ski and ice climb. This part of North Carolina is too cold for summer sports and too warm for winter sports. So, winter is a time to rest a bit and recharge. Then comes spring. When I commercial fished in Alaska spring was filled with cleaning and rigging the boat, checking and tying new gear, and counting down the days until the king salmon showed up in numbers. Spring was a time of anticipation, and preparation.

We need times of refreshing. Ecclesiastes 3 declares there is a season for everything. There are times for sabbaticals, but a never ending sabbatical is called laziness. I have found it hard to shift from resting  to activity. After sitting in neutral it is just hard for me to shift back into high gear. You may have the same problem. If so, then perhaps, the following motivational tools I use could benefit you.

Set a goal with a “price”. During the winter I ride a couple of times a week if the weather is good. It is hard to shift into a daily ride mode,  which I desperately need to shed my winter weight gain. In January I register (and pay) to participate in a major ride. Usually I ride a century (100 miles in one day) at the end of April. This year I am riding a 75 mile ride from Emerald Isle to Harker’s Island and back. These rides are fun, but require preparation. I know it will be agony to ride the mileage if I have not prepared, and I won’t back out because I paid to enter. I have a ten week training program which adds mileage each week. At the end of February my lazy side does not want to go for a ride, but I know the “price” of not going. I have a goal with a timeline that will not change. On May 5 I will either enjoy a great ride with a friend, or I will suffer for five hours, or forfeit the fee.

Find a partner. Last spring my middle son committed to riding a century with me the end of April. He was living in Macon so we could not train together, but we would often compare training rides using a smartphone app. This year a former colleague, John, approached me about “Ride the Bank.” John and I were professors together a few years ago. At that time neither of us rode. Since then John began doing triathlons and I started riding centuries. John wanted to try his hand at longer rides (he is used to 18-20 milers), and had heard I was riding. So John and I meet two or three times a week to train together. We have busy schedules so we can’t ride everyday at the same time. We are riding on our own, but the common training sessions help us stay accountable. For a couple of old guys we are doing pretty good.

Related to both of the above is the motivation of making it public. Before my first long ride I made sure my family knew, so I could not back out. (It was nice to hear the grand-kids express their pride when I completed it.) Recently, I used this tool in my small group. For several years I have done little scripture memorization work. In the past I memorized Colossians and Titus, but then stopped. I took a sabbatical from memorizing new material. It was comfortable just repeating those books on a regular basis. Some days I would not quote any scriptures. Last month, two of our small group members talked about the book of James. Their comments were not about memorization, just about how James blessed them. I was convicted that I could have memorized the book if I had not taken a “sabbatical” from memorization. Actually, sabbatical is just a term to make me feel better. I had become lazy in regards to committing God’s word to memory. I was satisfied with maintaining the status quo. That night I made a public commitment to memorize James. Now, I am making a commitment to  not stop with James. The days I start to skip my memory work I think of my small group members and my commitment to them.

I enjoy cycling. There is a sense of accomplishment when I finish a hard ride. I started riding as a means of exercising. I cannot stand working out in a gym or running. Riding a bike is like being a kid again. I determined that I want to be active when I am in my eighties. I also realized for that to happen, I could not wait until I am eighty to begin exercising. I am investing now for a goal years away. In the same fashion, I want to be a godly man who knows God’s word. I have always admired those elderly saints that exude God’s love and have His word hidden in their hearts. That will not take place unless I prepare now.

God rested on the seventh day to demonstrate our need for rest. God did not create everything in one day, though He could have, and then take six days of rest. We will have times that we need to take a break, but then we need to return to work. Jesus looked upon the multitude and encouraged his disciples to pray to the Lord of the Harvest to send forth laborers into the harvest. (Matt 9:37-38)  Winter is over. Spring is here. Summer is coming, and then the harvest. Will we be ready? Set the goal. Pay a price. Make it public. Find that yoke fellow who will challenge you and hold you accountable. Everything we invest now will come back as a blessing when we stand before the Lord of the Harvest. The fields are white unto harvest.