Archives For America

Supreme CourtOf course, there has been but one thing that we have all been talking about over the last several days.

There are the people who support the Supreme Court decision. There are people who celebrate it…

And then there are the people, apparently about 40% of us, who do not celebrate, do not support the new law of the land in regards to marriage.

Over the last couple of years, I have heard it said over and over that state and now federal government is “redefining” marriage; the premise being that marriage has some transcendent and immutable qualities that the court just overturned.

I always found this argument to be somewhat odd, and now that the inevitable has happened, I finally figured out why. If you think the Supreme Court redefined marriage last Friday, my gut instinct is that you should probably take it up with King Henry the Eighth.

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This coming weekend is the Fourth of July, a time when we Americans will swell with “patriotic” pride.

What does it mean to be “patriotic” anyway?

If you asked your average person on the street, they’d say they love their country. They’d say they were celebrating “freedom.” Or maybe some of them know some servicemen and women and they’d be remembering them.

Okay, so what does it mean to “love your country”…besides eating meat and blowing up stuff? What do we love about this country?

I can safely say that there seems to be a good chunk of people who have conflated their Christian identity with their American identity. “Patriotism” is a part of their Christian worldview. If that describes you, I just want to gently encourage you to examine that part of yourself. It’s a popular way to think, no doubt.

And just like we easily confuse our love of God with our love of country, it seems to me that we Americans are more confused than ever about what it means to love our country.

What do we love about it? The institutions? The principles? The government? The land? The people?

Maybe patriotism at one time meant all of these things. But it seems to me that loving America today does not include loving Americans.

We spend a lot of energy not loving other Americans. We actually spend quite a bit of energy hating other Americans.

We are being trained by cable news to view vast parts of the country as “the enemy.”

We get revved up when politicians promise to “take back” our country on our behalf. From whom? An outside invader? No, other Americans. Other Americans who, ostensibly, do not love America as much as we do. Other Americans, who we are told are wrecking the country, or are backwards or narrow-minded, or whatever label your side of the aisle uses. We are not having a civil war, but it is as if we are waging a war on ourselves. We are a people at war with each other, hating each other with no less venom than if we were shooting bullets at one another. It seems to me that we are far more concerned, afraid and angry at each other than we are at a group like ISIS.

We as a people have completely lost our ability to empathize. We have lost our ability to look at situations with context. We no longer have the ability to think rationally and slowly, preferring to react quickly and vehemently. We are easily distracted by politicians who capitalize on this. We have lost our ability to stop labeling ourselves and one another, even though we ourselves do not always know what the labels mean anymore. And that creates a people at war with itself.

There are a lot of things that I wish were not so here in America. There are a lot of people with influence who I wish did not. The government does many things that frustrate me endlessly.

But I simply do not have the energy to spend on hating my neighbor, much less doing so and then puffing myself up with pride and calling my hate “patriotism.”

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If your celebrations this weekend are tinged with prayer for America, be careful. First, be careful that you are not pledging allegiance to something that is not God.

Second, think about what you are asking God to do in your prayers. Are you asking Him to protect America from its enemies, when God has already told you what to do to your enemies?

We Americans enjoy celebrating a lot of stuff.

There are literally millions of images like this on a Google search.

There are literally millions of images like this on a Google search.

Those of us who consider ourselves Christians like to talk about and celebrate God. That goes without saying.

We like to celebrate family too.

Some of us like to celebrate freedom.

Or even America itself. Many of us will celebrate America in just a couple of weeks…on Flag Day, the most important and widely celebrated holiday of national patriotism. Well, maybe not. Most of us will celebrate a lot of “American” stuff a couple of weeks after that. I don’t really know what Flag Day is for.

Here’s what’s happening though, and it might be something to think about the next time we come to a holiday or other celebration.

People can celebrate anything they want. Americans celebrate a lot of diverse values. But those of us who celebrate God, had better be extra careful.

Because God is sharing space with a lot of other things that seem to get equal billing.

Here’s what I mean.

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Did you know that there are people who make a living by cuddling strangers?download

Yes, professional cuddlers.  People who snuggle with perfect strangers for money.  It’s like a massage or a therapy session.

Or maybe it’s like prostitution, except, you know…platonic.

Yes, I know this sounds almost unbelievable, but the Sunday Morning Show ran a story last weekend about just such a phenomenon.  I would not have believed it if I had not seen it.  You can check it out for yourself if you do not believe me.  People spend up to 120 dollars for an hour or so of snuggling.  It might start with a standing hug.  Then a hug lingers into an embrace.  Then it moves to the couch or a bed.  But nothing sexual.  Just prolonged human touch.  Even Mo Rocca who was doing the report seemed incredulous.

And by the laws of supply and demand, since there is a supply of professional cuddlers, then there is some contingent of customers demanding professional cuddling.

And on this day, just before the national celebration of love, what does it say about us that professional snuggling is a thing in today’s America?

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It makes the world go around…offering

It makes empires rise and fall…

It is becoming a perennial topic of discussion within the American church…

It’s money.  Specifically, tithing.

Tithing is kind of a funny thing.  Formerly a non-negotiable for every church-going Christian, it’s gotten a bad rap lately.  Every so often, I’ll read another blog post or Facebook update about the old-fashioned practice of tithing isn’t Biblical, isn’t necessary, isn’t even good.  And the studies show that, whether we say it publicly or not, we just don’t tithe anymore.  Very very few of us still set aside the traditional ten percent of our income for Jesus.

I’m not going to tell you that you must tithe or go to hell.  But I do think the discussion has somehow veered into the weeds and we’ve, once again, missed the point all along.  What if we’ve just been tithing wrong all this time?

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3443916566_28395e9463_z“We hold these truths to be self-evident.”

Tomorrow is a day of celebration – of food and family, parades, bands and fireworks.  Maybe some of you even had a “patriotic” themed church service on Sunday, with an American flag cake afterward.

I am an avid student of American history.  It’s just unendingly fascinating, in all of its contradictions.  Our society was founded by flawed heroes.  And among the most flawed and the most heroic is the author of our national “scripture,” Thomas Jefferson.  The man who helped give birth to our society with the words “We hold these truths to be self-evident.”

Self evident.  These truths don’t need explaining or evidence.  They are plainly obvious and indisputable.

The problem is that the man was writing ideals.  And while the truth of the words may have been self-evident, they weren’t always evident in the life of Thomas Jefferson, or any other American since then.

Jesus spoke in truths, but for 2000 years, his followers have had mixed results with actually making the truth evident in their lives.

Maybe as we celebrate this Independence Day, we can resolve to make a few of these truths, which we hold to be self-evident, more evident in ourselves…

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