“We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!”

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I was sitting in a tenth grade history class at West Orange High School in 1970 when I noticed that an African-American friend of mine had a medallion hanging around his neck with Martin Luther King, Jr.’s picture on it. Sib and I had been friends since eighth grade so I felt it was safe to ask, “Why are you wearing that medallion with his picture? It doesn’t make sense to me.” He responded very simply, “That is because you are not black.” (Side note: Forty years later his nephew became a member of our church for a while before he moved to New York for his job. That in itself is a picture of how far we have come since the 1960s.)

He was right. I didn’t understand because I wasn’t black. I think I know better now, although I still don’t pretend to understand all the emotions that African-Americans feel today. Nevertheless, I understand the importance of Dr. King. I don’t agree with the political views that he held since I seem to find myself becoming more and more Libertarian every day. I absolutely don’t agree with his theology since he was a follower of Walter Rauschenbusch who believed that the substitutionary atonement was to use his words, “repugnant to human sensitivity.” But I realize that apart from Dr. King’s sacrifice, Blacks would still be using different restrooms, drinking from different water fountains, and would still be waiting to see Dr. Pearce on his back porch instead of in the front waiting room with the white people. The world is different now. Oh, it’s not perfect, but it has come a long way. I hope that we are getting to closer to what Dr. King said in his “I Have a Dream” speech:

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

On this 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I recognize very clearly his importance to African-Americans, and to be perfectly honest, his importance to all of us. As challenging as racial relations can sometimes be today, as the old Virginia Slims cigarette commercial once said, “You’ve come a long way, baby!” Yes, we have. And, I think Sib would be glad that I understand him a little bit better.

 

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“There is nothing new under the sun…” or Where Has the Time Gone?

I have been retired now for almost three years. I was one of those guys who retired because he needed to, not because he wanted to, but there has been a silver lining to this cloud called retirement: I have more time to read. Granted, I read all the time when I was a pastor, but it was mostly a part of the process of preparing a Bible study, or a sermon, or studying to be able to protect the sheep from predators. Now, I read to learn, grow, and simply enjoy.

I am presently about three-quarters of the way through Theodore H. White’s, “The Making of a President: 1968,” which means that I was in the 7th and 8th grades when all of these events took place, and it has caused “my little gray cells” (Hercule Poirot reference) to come alive. Several thoughts have been bouncing around inside my head.

First of all, I am reminded of what the “Preacher” said in the book of Ecclesiastes, “There is nothing new under the sun.” As I listen to the political vitriol of the left and the right, read about the protests (I don’t watch the news much anymore because my trust level is at a low ebb at the present moment), look at our precarious financial situation ($20 trillion in debt and counting), and hear the cries of “it has never been like this before,” I must snicker. 1968 was no different. The choice for President was between Richard Nixon, Hubert Humphrey, and George Wallace. That’s a choice? In Viet Nam we had grabbed the ears of an angry dog and could neither keep holding on nor let go. That year we witnessed the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Lyndon Johnson could not leave the White House because the Secret Service was afraid that they could not protect him, plus, who wants to hear the chants of “_____ Johnson, _____ Johnson,” when one is trying to give a speech. Watts (the black neighborhood in Los Angeles) was burning as were other black neighborhoods in Cleveland, Detroit, Newark, Miami, etc. and the Democratic Convention in Chicago was marred by what Abraham Ribicoff called “Gestapo police tactics ” in the streets which were provoked by Tom Hayden’s SDS using college students as cannon fodder. Yeah, it was a mess then, also; but, by God’s grace we somehow survived, and if the Lord wills, we will survive the bitterness of the present day.

The thought which really put my mind into overdrive, however, was “that was fifty years ago? It can’t be.” But it was. Where has my life gone? It has gone the way of every man. As Isaac Watts’ hymn, “O God, Our Help in Ages Past” says:

“Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.

I need to live. I do not know how many days that I will remain on this earth, but I need to live every day as full as I can for the glory of God. I must run with endurance the race that is set before [me], fixing [my] eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

 

“It’s time to grow up!”

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As I peruse Facebook and the network news I am mystified by the idiocy that I see played out before me: People breaking windows (not their own, mind you), attacking others, burning cars, and various and sundry other acts of stupidity, and I might add, evil; all because of the results of a Presidential election. This just doesn’t make sense to me.

I have two sisters, and I don’t know for sure (my Dad was really big on that whole “secret ballot” principle), but my guess is that the three of us all voted for a different candidate in this election. And, guess what: We haven’t unfriended each other on Facebook, we still love each other (and even like each other), we haven’t called each other names, they haven’t thrown a brick threw my window, I didn’t yank one of their grand-kids out of a car and beat him senseless, etc. We just went on with our lives. Just the way we did four years ago, and eight years ago, and 12 years ago,…well, you get my drift.

America, it is time to grow up.

Common Sense

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Merriam-Webster tells us that common sense is “the ability to think and behave in a reasonable way and to make good decisions.” I look around me in this world in which I live and it seems that this particular character trait has gone the way of the dinosaur and the bag phone. The latest evidence of this obvious lack of mental prowess is to be found in the Plano High School hierarchy. The powers-that-be of that fine educational institution north of Dallas, Texas, has decided not to allow the National Honor Society students to wear their NHS stoles at graduation because as one report stated, “it is not inclusive of all students.” (See http://www.wfaa.com/news/local/collin-county/no-national-honor-society-honors-for-plano-senior-high-students/225169092)  Of course it isn’t inclusive of all students because all of the students did not earn the recognition. I suppose that they also will not give out diplomas this year, because that is not inclusive of all students; because not all of the students finished their course work, or passed their tests, or turned in their homework, or came out on top in their STAAR exams.

Well, I suppose when one lives in a country that can’t even seem to figure out which public restroom to use, this is to be expected.

“What God has joined together, let no man separate”

As if we needed another reason to ignore people who claim to have received visions and special revelations from God, this article adds yet another: Pat Robertson Says Alzheimer’s Makes Divorce OK. When a viewer asked Pat Robertson what advice he should give a friend who had started seeing another woman because his wife has Alzheimer’s, he responded: “I know it sounds cruel, but if he’s going to do something, he should divorce her and start all over again, but make sure she has custodial care and somebody looking after her.”

When I married Dixie, I made vows to her and to God that I would take her as my lawfully wedded wife, “to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance.” Did that mean that our time together would always be trouble free? Of course not. The very vows taken are a reminder that along with the better is the worse, along with the richer is the poorer, along with the health is the sickness, etc. Christian marriage is an “until death do us part” commitment that a man and a woman make depending upon the grace of God to leave family, cleave to one another, and become one flesh.

As a son who watched his father care for his mother as her mind began to slip away, I realize that such care is draining and difficult, but I also realize that such care is one of the reasons why two people marry in the first place: to be there when they are needed most. I often read Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 at a wedding. It is not specifically about marriage, but the principle is very true for a husband and a wife: “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him – a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

One should always turn to God’s Word when asking such questions about divorce. God is very specific when it comes to divorce, and the Westminster Confession of Faith lays out clearly the Biblical position in Chapter XXIV: “Although the corruption of man be such as is apt to study arguments unduly to put asunder those whom God hath joined together in marriage: yet, nothing but adultery, or such willful desertion as can no way be remedied by the church, or civil magistrate, is cause sufficient of dissolving the bond of marriage.” As Jesus commanded: “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate,” (Matthew 19:6) no matter what Pat Robertson says.

Good News about Said Musa!

For my readers who have been praying for Said Musa there is some good news to report: “International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Said Musa, an Afghan Christian who was arrested in May and threatened with execution for his conversion to Christianity, was released from prison last week after aggressive international diplomacy engaged Afghanistan’s government.”

We are grateful to God for the mercy He has shown to Musa and his family throughout this ordeal.

To read the entire news release go here.

HT: Tom Ascol