Choose Life

choose life
Found at the Stanton Healthcare website.

The other day at the church I take my elderly Mom to, the Pastor talked about something called the Stanton Healthcare Baby Bottle Drive. Apparently it’s a fundraiser for our local Stanton Healthcare, but I’ve discovered that they have locations in multiple cities.

One of the arguments the pro-abortion folks use against Christians and pro-life people is that if a woman doesn’t have an abortion to get rid of an unwanted baby, the woman is “stuck” with the child without any resources whatsoever.

That’s apparently not true, because Stanton specifically provides resources for such woman to give birth to and raise their children.

The baby bottle drive videos, one of which the Pastor showed in church the other Sunday, are particularly heartwarming and sometimes heartrending, but worth the watch.

I also hear a lot from the pro-abortion set how abortion is “healthcare” and is a “right.” Well, arguably it might be considered a medical procedure but what about the baby’s right to live? A pregnancy isn’t just a bunch of random cells in a woman’s body and an abortion is not like having your appendix removed. Your appendix can’t grow into a fully realized human being and neither can “random” cells.

All I’m saying is that there are options. Abortion isn’t a virtue. Obviously, I can’t make decisions for another person as to what they do or don’t do, but I can suggest that if a woman becomes unintentionally pregnant, abortion isn’t the only choice. Don’t let anyone sell you that lie.

Read Stanton’s about us page. It says in part:

The mission of Stanton Healthcare is to offer life-affirming solutions and resources to women experiencing an unexpected pregnancy; provide hope to those struggling from the pain of a past abortion; and share the message of sexual integrity in a confidential and professional environment that promotes physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness.

Yes, they help women who have had abortions and require medical services because of it. I really encourage people to check them out.

Choose life.

Broken People and Tipping Sacred Cows

cowtipping

See my Addendum below since there’s more to the story

This is the third Sunday in a row I’ve been able to take my Mom to church. The Pastor’s sermon was based on the passage from 1 John 1:1 to 2:2 and titled “Honest to God.” You can take a moment to click the link and keep that portion of scripture handy.

Actually, it’s not just his sermon I’m writing about but we’ll get to that.

Pastor pointed the dualities listed by John:

Light and Dark
Truth and Lie
Righteousness and Sin

As believers we should solidly embrace the concepts on the left, but being humans we don’t always do that because of our ignorance, weakness, or willfulness.

I won’t go through all of his points, but he did say that forgiveness should be the church’s main message and that the church is or should be a safe haven for everyone in their brokenness.

Now from an outside point of view, is Christianity seen that way? Generally not. Secular and progressive people see Christians are judgmental and hypocrites.

Can Christians actually be judgmental and hypocrites? Certainly. See above about how, while we should be in the light, we many times can walk in the darkness of our own damaged humanity.

Pastor said the focus here is not only should we be humble before God, but before each other. In fact, if we did display such humility in each of our churches, if we had loving and trustworthy fellowship with other believers, the church’s outside appearance would indeed transform into that safe and forgiving place. After all, 1 John 2:2 says that “…and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

As an aside, I feel I should also provide Bible Gateway’s definition of “propitiation” since it’s one of those words I don’t come across very often: “means of reconciliation with God by atoning for sins; or sin-offering.”

That means reconciliation with God isn’t just available to the church, Jesus carried out his propitiation for sins so it is available to everyone.

Those of you who experience me on social media or even this or my other blogs know I’m not always on that side of the light in my opinions and attitudes and I do freely admit that. I also concede that Pastor is right that I, we, all of us should continuously work forward toward presenting Christianity as offering the forgiveness of our Savior and safety for the broken, the lost, and the suffering.

I could offer a number of traditional examples of when we don’t, but here’s something I found in the Campus Reform article Theology prof: ‘Dear God, please help me to hate White people’. Caught me a little off guard.

This article describes seminary professor Chanequa Walker-Barnes, found on twitter at @DrChanequa, and describes her as “an associate professor of practical theology at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, which claims a Baptist identity. Her oration was published in A Rhythm of Prayer: A Collection of Meditations for Renewal.

Yes, that book is a New York Times best seller and Dr. Walker-Barnes did somewhat qualify what she means by “hate white people.”

Quoting from the article:

“Dear God, Please help me to hate White people,” opens the prayer. “Or at least to want to hate them. At least, I want to stop caring about them, individually and collectively.”

“I want to stop caring about their misguided, racist souls, to stop believing that they can be better, that they can stop being racist,” she continues.

“I am not talking about the White antiracist allies who have taken up this struggle against racism with their whole lives,” Walker-Barnes clarifies for the Creator of the universe. “No, those aren’t the people I want to hate.”

This is a seminary professor. Let’s assume there are some white people who she is justified in hating. But to pray to God for that?

For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but so that the world might be saved through Him. –John 3:17

And

[But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”] And they cast lots, dividing His garments among themselves. –Luke 23:24

So which white people does Dr. Walker-Barnes need the Almighty’s assistance in hating?

Walker-Barnes says that she has no interest in hating “strident segregationists who mow down nonviolent antiracist protesters, who open fire on Black churchgoers, or who plot acts of racism terrorism hoping to start a race war,” as such people are “already in hell.” Instead, she desires the strength of God to hate “the nice ones” — specifically, the “Fox News-loving, Trump-supporting voters who ‘don’t see color’ but who make thinly veiled racist comments about ‘those people.’”

She adds that such White people “welcome Black people in their churches and small groups but brand us as heretics if we suggest that Christianity is concerned with the poor and the oppressed” and “politely tell us that we can leave when we call out the racial microaggressions we experience in their ministries.”

Apparently her published prayer as garnered her many new twitter followers and her commentary, an image of which I post here, is her response. People love her.

dr chanequa
Screenshot from twitter

I get that in the history of at least American slavery, certain portions of the Bible and Christianity as a whole was misused as a tool to continue that heinous institution. On the other hand when I compare her quotes to what Pastor had to say about being Christians, I don’t see that one looks anything like the other.

Christ and especially the Apostle Paul reached out to the whole world and as Pastor said, that’s still the church’s mission. In that sense, I can sort of agree with a few of Dr. Walker-Barnes’ points. We are called to not be Xenophobic, as one of the tweets declares. Also, Paul could also have an attitude in his letters, but he called out other believers, those he had taught, had a relationship with, and established in their communities.

Would he have sounded like this person if social media existed in his time? For both Jesus and Paul, it wasn’t about “I engage when I want and I block when I want.” Especially for Paul, he wasn’t interested in “calling out” the corruption of the Roman Empire as much as speaking truth to anyone who would listen. He wanted to go to Rome not to “chew out” the Emperor, but, if at all possible, to convince him of the good news of forgiveness and reconciliation through Christ.

I know especially now, it can be hard to separate party politics, identity politics, and faith. I often stir a similar pot myself (and I could be accused of doing that now). But every time I do, I diminish that message of the church as the nucleus of forgiveness and the protective haven, or for that matter, that we’re all broken.

I don’t doubt that Dr. Walker-Barnes’ rather outspoken comments ultimately come from her brokenness. After all, the New York Times “blurb” describes the book that contains her prayer as:

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • For the weary, the angry, the anxious, and the hopeful, this collection of moving, tender prayers offers rest, joyful resistance, and a call to act, written by Barbara Brown Taylor, Amena Brown, Nadia Bolz-Weber, and other artists and thinkers, curated by the author Glennon Doyle calls “my favorite faith writer.”

But from her position of influence and power (I’ve got to wonder about some of these other “artists and thinkers”), I would urge Walker-Barnes to listen to a few sermons from small town preachers whose only motivation is to teach humility by mirroring it such as we find in Micah 6:8.

micah-6-8The article concludes:

“This thread isn’t for the critics,” she adds. “They’re so wrapped in white supremacist Christianity that only God and maybe some cult deprogramming can help them.”

While I agree that some portions of Christianity are still very much misused today and do not reflect the Gospel of Jesus, I wonder if it would ever occur to her that she’s doing the same thing in replacing the meaning and intent of scripture with her feelings?


Addendum 4-12-2021: Something wouldn’t let me let go of the issues surrounding Dr. Walker-Barnes prayer. I went back to her twitter account a few times and saw what I thought I’d see. I saw her defending herself, stating both that she has “white friends” and that her prayer is Biblically consistent because many Psalms have been written asking God to “smite enemies.”

walkerbarnes
Chanequa Walker-Barnes, image taken from her Faculty page at theology.mercer.edu

Admittedly, those sound pretty lame. Then there were the scores of defenders that said if her critics knew Dr. Walker-Barnes, they would know she doesn’t hate white people. Again, this was really predictable, so I was prepared to set it all aside and move on. Then I saw that she wrote a blog post called Prayer of a Weary Black Woman.

First of all, at the bottom of her blog post, she posted the full text of her prayer as PDF pages, photos of the book the prayer appeared in. Unfortunately, two full pages of the five were distorted and unreadable. Still, it did illustrate that what she was ultimately trying to say to God and then to other people was more than the cherry picked text I saw quoted. She also related her personal history to give context and that she’d written that prayer impulsively in response to a white person she thought was her friend using the “N-word” to her in casual conversation.

Even after writing her blog, many people who read it weren’t really convinced. Yes, she wrote the prayer in haste, and given a good enough reason, we can all (proverbially) go off half-cocked. However, being a published author of both information technology textbooks, and of short stories published in anthologies, I know she had plenty of time to decide if that prayer, as written, should have been shared with the general public. She had plenty of time to decide what it would say about her “witness for Christ.” She has plenty of time to decide if she were a psalmist like King David, or a Biblical prophet of old.

The reason a lot of people are expressing anger toward her, in my opinion, has little or nothing to say about her hating at least some white people. Hate is a personal decision and given her experiences, I have no doubt that she may harbor hate in her heart for some folks. The problem is that she asked God to harden her heart for people she already felt compassion for, i.e. her “enemies.” What does that say to the rest of us when we are wronged by someone, especially someone who we are in fellowship with in Jesus? Yes, dropping an “N-bomb” can and should be called out, but that’s not the issue, is it?

I’ve always asked God to make me a better person, a kinder, more generous person, a person who had a better heart, especially for people who aren’t like me. I’m not saying this because I’m angry at Dr. Walker-Barnes. I was when I first read her words, but that passed rather quickly. Whether we intend to or not, as Christians, the minute we decide to go off the rails and use God and the Bible to invoke hate, even if there’s justification for it, what are we saying to all other Christians everywhere? Worse, what are we saying to an unbelieving world that God is still trying to reach?

Given everything I’ve read up until this moment, I most seriously doubt Dr. Walker-Barnes wants to hear from me, so I won’t attempt to engage her. Earlier today (as I write this) I did “tag” her on twitter when I posted a link to this blog post, but that’s the extent of it. She’s done what she’s done and there’s no taking it back (especially since she’s encouraging people to buy the book in which her prayer is printed). You and I will never know the full consequences of her actions and how it has affected the attitudes of so many toward God.

But if you’re a believer at all, you know that someday we will all face the Almighty and have to give an accounting for everything we’ve done in this life. I’m really glad I don’t have the audience and influence that Dr. Walker-Barnes has, and we know that teachers will be held to a higher standard. If anything, this should be a good lesson for the rest of us. What we say and do matters. Even the least of us will never know if a word or an action on our part will gently push someone to Christ or drive them away.

Easter this year face to face

policeMy elderly Mom lives in an independent home and of course, their restrictions for the residents has been rather tight. It meant, among other things, that I couldn’t take her to church every Sunday. In fact, she hadn’t been to church for a year.

Suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and macular degeneration, she can’t use a computer to attend services online. She can’t even read the Bible. About the best she could do was to find a Christian music television station and listen to hymns.

However, recently her facility eased up, and now I can take her out and bring her back without them putting her under quarantine. I got online and saw the church I take her to was holding in-person Palm Sunday services. I couldn’t get through to the church office by phone to confirm but made plans to take her anyway.

Mom was thrilled.

When we got there, only a few cars were in the parking lot. I thought I’d misunderstood the service time or sometime.

As it turned out, this was the very first time the church opened their doors for in-person services in months and I think a lot folks were hesitant to show up. Up until that Sunday, the Pastor had been recording sermons on his computer for the parishioners to access. More people started to filter in as the service began, but the crowd that day was still a bit thin.

It was even more exciting that they said masks were optional. So Mom and I “opted.” It was very liberating. That might freak a few of you out, but it felt really nice to have a choice.

They didn’t have the typical “shake your neighbor’s hand,” which was fine with me since, as a life long introvert, I can do without the “meet and greet.” Also, they just put a plate on a stool in front and anyone who wanted to donate could go up at any time during service and do so.

I have a love/hate relationship with Easter for a lot of reasons. All things considered, I’d rather celebrate Passover over Easter. On the other hand, it is the height of the Christian religious calendar, so I don’t support throwing Easter under a bus either. Especially when I know how much going to church means to Mom.

Mom wasn’t the only one looking forward to the Christian holiday season. Churches all over my little corner of Idaho have suffered for not being able to hold in-person services. Last Easter, our state’s governor issued a “stay at home” order right before Easter, so all services were virtual.

This year, all these same churches pulled out the stops in their planning to provide an in-person Easter.

Here’s a quote from that news article:

“I anticipate it will be a pretty emotional day tomorrow,” he [Reverend Duane Anders] said. “I’m a pretty emotional guy myself, I will probably cry through the whole service, just gathering, hearing people sing even with their masks on.”

For Foothills Christian Church in Garden City, however, in-person services never went away.

“I think that in-person services are critically important because it’s who we are as human beings,” Pastor Doug Peake said.

Unfortunately, not all Christians have the same sort of freedom. In the story Police break up Good Friday church service over apparent Covid rule breaches, police in south London broke up a Good Friday service over “apparent breaches of Covid-19 regulations.”

The video shows an officer telling the congregation that they could be fined £200 or arrested for the potential rule-breaking. He said: “This gathering is unfortunately unlawful under the coronavirus regulations we have currently. I suggest, ladies and gentlemen, that though it is Good Friday, and I appreciate you would like to worship, that this gathering is unlawful, so please may you leave the building now. Thank you.”

A statement posted on the church’s website on Saturday said that they complied with the order to close the service and for people to go home, but insisted it had met all government requirements. It claimed the Met officers had misunderstood regulations on church services during the pandemic.

Fortunately, it looks like the church is going to formally complain because they believe they complied with all of the stated regulations.

And things in Ireland seem even more heavy handed.

I realize there’s a certain risk in meeting in person, especially if you’re part of the older population. In Mom’s church, masks were optional and some people wore them while others didn’t. The Pastor wore his when he was near people but took it off to deliver his sermon. On Palm Sunday, only a single singer/guitar player provided music, but today the choir and small band did so. None of them wore masks.

Worshiping together, as Pastor Peake stated, is very human. It’s not a license to be stupid or to ignore either medical evidence or common sense, but at some point, something’s got to give. If that London Catholic church wasn’t able to have a Good Friday service, I certainly hope they still got a face-to-face Easter.

At the end of the day, our relationship with God is personal, just between each of us and Him. But we are commanded to worship together, to support one another, to visit the sick, feed the hungry, support the lonely and grieving. At some point, we have to come together to do that.

Repeat: “New Map Reveals Truth About ‘Occupation’ in the Land of Israel”

I’m storing this hear as another example of why Israel isn’t “occupying” Arab land. It helps to gather all of this evidence together to counter the heinous lies being told about the Jewish state and the Jewish people. Here’s a quote:

The media, and even academic publications, are replete with claims that Israel is “occupying” what they refer to as “historic Palestine,” meaning Israel, Gaza, and Judea and Samaria (or, in their terms, the West Bank). It is ineffective to try to engage in long discussions of history and facts showing that it is the Jews who are indigenous to the land. We all know that feelings speak louder than facts, and pro-Palestinian propagandists use emotion in a way that has so far stymied Israeli attempts to set the record straight.

We also know that one picture is worth a thousand words.

And now we have that picture – it is a map, in fact. A map of approximately 700 ancient Israelite settlements and holy sites all across the entire historic Land of Israel. Two hundred additional sites that have been discovered by archaeologists but not yet identified will also be added to the map.

For the full story, go to the United With Israel story New Map Reveals Truth About ‘Occupation’ in the Land of Israel.

Love Thy Enemy

ruth ginsburg
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — here in her chambers during a 2019 interview with NPR’s Nina Totenberg — died on Friday at the age of 87.
Shuran Huang/NPR

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. –Matthew 5:43-48 (NASB)

I’m sure most people reading this know by now that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Baden Ginsburg is dead. What you probably also know, if you follow social media, is that this event has erupted into a major emotional storm, depending on your politic, and as it turns out, religious views.

Here’s what I said on Facebook after I ran head first into one:

Oh wow. Someone, purportedly a Christian, posted a meme (I won’t repeat it here) celebrating the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I pointed out why disagreeing with her legal opinions didn’t mean we should have wanted her to die, and also pointed out how even the Almighty did not celebrate the death of the Egyptians after Moses led the Israelites through the Red Sea. I woke up this morning and saw many notices from that conversation basically condemning both me and Ginsburg, including a pretty rough statement from another supposed Christian on how he would defile Ginsburg’s grave by urinating on it. This is the difference between studying the Bible and pondering its wisdom vs. reading it and then letting some less than kind or informed religious leader tell you what it all means. Please do not paint all believers with the same broad brush. We aren’t all the same, and some of us are pretty far apart from others.

What prompt my response? This image, well, the video it represents:

fb
Screenshot from Facebook

I was the first to reply to this person who is my “friend” on Facebook:

[All names and other identifiers have been removed from these comments except for my name]

James Pyles: No, I won’t do it and this is why. After the Israelites crossed the Red Sea and the Egyptians drowned, according to Jewish legend, God refused to let even the angels celebrate. He said “they are my children, too.” While I may have disagreed with Ginsburg on a good many things, I will not celebrate her death (Yasser Arafat’s yes, but that’s a completely different story). She was and is a child of God and someday we will all have to stand before our Judge. I’m no better than the next person.

The author responded to me, and then many others did as well:

M: James Pyles I am no better than than the next person, and I am worse than many. But I am glad the protector of Roe V. Wade can no longer bring about millions and tens of millions of deaths through abortion.

James Pyles I understand what you’re staying, but moral decisions and consequences are complicated and painful. You know this better than most. No matter what she said and believed, if I am to consider myself even a poor disciple of Jesus, then I cannot do what I know he wouldn’t.

LJ: James Pyles Exodus 15 — a song of Moses giving glory to God for the drowning of the Egyptian army. Good is also a judge.

T: If she was not in Christ, she was not God’s child.

Je: Then let us pray that somehow she has been given grace, even while we rejoice that she can no longer do harm.

James Pyles I have long since stopped presuming to know exactly how God will judge. I have my own life in my hands and my own sins. God will take care of the rest. I need to be accountable to what I have done and who I am. I don’t have time to pull a splinter out of someone else’s eye when I’ve got a log in mine.

Another M: “If she was not in Christ, she was not God’s child.”
THIS

S: James Pyles He kicked the moneychangers out of the Temple.
Look. She did much evil, and was a blatantly racist eugenics (“some groups shouldn’t have kids”). Her decisions in cases to try and her lack of support for involuntary treatment of the mentall…See More

B: James Pyles
I think this is M’s page. She has a right to her interpretation of whats just & saying something again will not move her will – everyday she trys to save lives Everyone speaking well of RBG should have held her accountable while living
She never cared about any babies of God

GF: James Pyles then go do you elsewhere. You’re not anyone’s moral teacher and I for one would dance on the witch’s grave before relieving myself on it.

That last comment is when I decided to stop reading. Oh, I’ve truncated the list for reading time, plus there’s only so much of this I want to take.

fb witch
Screenshot from Facebook

It’s embarrassing as a believer to have to defend against such vitriol, especially on social media where the many atheists liken Christians to everything that is evil. When we behave down to the lowest levels of those expectations, then how do we uphold the cause of Christ?

Having said all that, I’ve been just as guilty as anyone else as mixing up my faith with my politics. Oh, but it gets worse.

It seems that while many Christians are celebrating Ginsburg’s death with more than just a little antisemitism (she couldn’t be a child of God because she wasn’t a Christian), not too many years ago, the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia elicited a tremendous amount of “unkindness” from those who opposed him politically, probably the same people who mourn Ginsburg today.

Oh, people even make fun of that too:

meme
Screenshot of a Facebook meme

But as disciples of King Messiah, I mean if we really are disciples, shouldn’t we live that out? How else will anyone really believe we live the lives we lecture and sermonize about? They’re the same folks who think we believe this

meme
Screenshot of a Facebook meme

The horrible thing is that they may be right, at least about some, perhaps a great many of us.

What do you think? More importantly, what do you believe and how do you live that out?

For more, read about my friend Kat’s Mini Rant.

A Little High Holidays Study

photo
© James Pyles

Being intermarried can be an interesting experience. My wife is Jewish and I’m a Christian. There are things we have tacitly agreed never to talk about and, for the most part, I thought we’d reached a nice balancing point. I read my Bible, both the Tanakh and Apostolic Scriptures, when I can be alone and she does what she does.

Working from home, there is plenty of times when I’m by myself. I was taking a break and walking around the living room and saw the books in the image above. I kind of thought we’d put this one to bed a long time ago, but something must still linger.

It’s not like she doesn’t have the right to believe as she wills, and it’s not like I’m “evangelizing” her, but something must be happening.

This year Rosh Hashanah extends from September 18 – 20 and Yom Kippur from September 27 and 28. Every year I think that perhaps I will observe the High Holidays in some manner or fashion, but then again, stuff like this comes up.

It reminds me that in the end, as a covenantless Goy, one who doesn’t fit in either within the church or the synagogue, all I have is God.

Oh, here’s what you can find out about these study guides on Amazon.

"When you awake in the morning, learn something to inspire you and mediate upon it, then plunge forward full of light with which to illuminate the darkness." -Rabbi Tzvi Freeman