Friday, December 19, 2014

I got a Christmas Card from my Alma Mater. It wasn't quite what I expected.

I admit that it is catchy as an fundraising campaign. But it really seems to have missed the spirit of Christmas. And at this critical time in BJU's history, with the GRACE report seriously calling out abuse inside the University, this fundraising seems so out of place and unrepentant.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Christian and a Liberal: Chapter 2. The Beginning of Wisdom

Chapter 2. The Beginning of Wisdom

Proverbs 4:7 “The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom;
And with all your acquiring, get understanding.”

A large part of my “salvation” experience was connected with political thought. My family was concerned about the world going to hell. Not individuals, but just civilization in general. Political turmoil, threats of communism, fears of a world government. The European Union was getting a start. It had grown to 10 countries by this time, and preachers were equating the situation to Daniel’s end-time prophesy. The new “World Government” was supposed to be this 10-nation confederacy predicted by Daniel as the toes of iron and clay he saw in his dream of the future.

The two big radio influences were Carl McIntyre’s The Old-Time Gospel Hour and Billy James Hargis’ Christian Crusade. Both emphasized the Christian roots of the United States as a nation. Both denounced Communists in government. Both used events of the world as indications that prophesy was being fulfilled and Jesus Christ was about to Return. 

As I said earlier, it was this vision of Bible Prophesy that convinced my family to turn from the gospel vision of the Church of Christ, with its message of salvation by works, to the gospel message of salvation by grace. The furor over the expected return of Christ was not a Baptist phenomenon, and certainly was not limited to the Plymouth Brethren group my family had become associated with. Carl McIntyre’s association with the Bible Presbyterian Church and Hargis’ less apparent denominationalism made the similarity of their messages all the more impressive. 

One big wave of Second Coming excitement was in 1976. Somehow that this was the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence had captured the imaginations of Christians following this anti-communist fundamentalism. 

And I was in the middle of this exuberance and expectation. Christ was coming again!

Cornelius Vanderbreggen happened to be at our church. Vanderbreggen had been an American soldier in Vietnam. His family was Dutch, and he returned to Holland as a missionary, eventually taking on Dutch citizenship so that he would have more freedom in his ministry. 

I remember him as a very personable man. He paid attention to me, which made me look up to him even more. I still have many of his books in my library. 

I know he preached that service, but I don’t remember the sermon. I do know that the general atmosphere was full of talk of the Lord’s return. And after the service he took me aside to talk. He reminded me that the Scripture warns us against thinking we know when the Lord would return. Yes, people were calculating how long it had been since Israel had become a nation. People were looking at other events. People were saying that prophesy was being fulfilled, or was being readied to be fulfilled. 

But Paul had expected the Lord’s return. “Then WE who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we always be with the Lord” (I Thes. 4:17). 

Vanderbreggen reminded me that it was 1900 years after Paul, but Jesus hadn’t come yet. Why did Jesus *have* to come this year? Maybe it would be this year (1976), or maybe next year, or maybe 40 years, or maybe another 2000. He told me that no matter when the Lord came, I should live so that I was ready for Him to come.

Vanderbreggan’s words went to my heart. I saw 1976 pass, and no Second Coming. We also did not go communist, as Hargis and McIntyre were predicting. The Illuminati, the Big Bankers (the Rockefellers), the Council on Foreign Relations — all wrapped up in a package called the “Conspiracy” — were supposed to have this immense wealth and power and were just aching to turn Americans into godless slaves. But it did not happen. 

Second Coming fever continued to rebound every few years with political events surrounding Israel. And afterward, they would recede. But the same people who had gotten excited about them before continued to get excited afterward. Books were continually rewritten to include the latest events and latest scholarship about Bible Prophesy. 

One major Second Coming excitement was around the year 1984. And yes, somehow it all tied in with George Orwell’s book of the same name! Another was tied around the year 2000 because of the second millennium. Of course, someone noted that since Christ was actually born in 4 BC, that maybe it should have happened in 1996!

In the IFB church I used to attend, a very nice older gentleman was always getting excited about the Lord’s Return, and stirred up the congregation with news articles and clippings from newsletters he would get from ministries that focused on Bible Prophesy.

But since that talk with Cornelius Vanderbreggen, I somehow escaped the ups and downs, the rising hopes and disappointments, the emotional exhaustion of the Return of the Lord. I had learned not to share Vanderbreggen’s message with others because they just did not want to hear it. To the Faithful it sounded like unbelief. But for all the faith that people poured into their hopes, for all the prayers they prayed, the Lord Jesus hasn’t come yet.

It is now 2014. That talk was 38 years ago. I do not expect the Lord to return any time soon. He can if He wants to, of course. That is His business. I won’t be disappointed if He does.

But over the years, seeing “Bible Prophesy” ministries go at it over and over again and always get it wrong, it has made me rethink the whole notion of Bible Prophesy. I will talk more about it later, I promise. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Christian and a Liberal - Chapter 1 Part 2

I was 16. I was a Christian. I was Saved. I was zealous. The preacher saw potential for me to become a preacher someday. And since my parents were homeschooling me (as other parents in that group did with their children!), it wasn't too hard to feed me books and books and more books.

Along with the themes of the Faith came themes of Politics. The group was very fond of Carl McIntyre and Billy James Hargis. They preached against sex, drugs, rock and roll, communism, liberalism, mainline churches, evolution, welfare and every side item where they saw a Conspiracy to Enslave America. This was 40 years ago, mind you. 

My mom subscribed to lots and lots of conservative and religious papers, got lots of pamphlets, and insisted that we kids (me and my two younger sisters, but particularly me) devour them as well. My aunt joined the John Birch Society, and we got lots of their books. 

My dad retired from the military and Spokane was our permanent home. We found a small house in which to live. Dad got a job as a security guard. We attended Church. We were homeschooling. Except for church we didn’t get out too much.

Virgil was an important man in the church. I can’t remember if he was married. I think he wasn’t. If he was, his wife so faded into the background as to not be noticeable. He took a liking to me. My dad liked him.

But Virgil *was* active in politics, an active participant in the local Republican Party. He had associated side interests as well -- particularly the Militia movement, also known as the Posse Commitatus. 

Eastern Washington State and Western Idaho has long been a hotbed of white supremacists. One way they reinforce and pass along their ideology is through their fervent devotion to guns, arming themselves against the day when they believe the Federal Government will come to enslave them.

They *do* believe that day is coming. It has pretty much always been immanent, just around the corner as it were. Their conspiracy theories postulate that the Federal Government has plans to completely take over every aspect of their lives, remove their weapons, and leave them as powerless slaves. Mix that belief with the Apocalyptic Vision of the Great Tribulation, the Mark of the Beast, the Rapture, and Christ coming back to establish His Kingdom, and you have a potent anti-world view. 

Virgil arranged to take me to one of the rallies the Posse Commitatus in Idaho was having. People carried and displayed their guns proudly. Books were sold. Teaser pamphlets were given away. The Time was Coming.

The only real, Constitutional law was the Sheriff. The Posse Commitatus was supposed to be the true law enforcement mechanism in each county. The Federal Government was illegal. The Declaration of Independence was more important than the Constitution. Certain Constitutional Amendments, such as the one allowing the Income Tax were "proven" to have been illegally ratified and thus had no force of law. Books were sold on how to not pay income taxes, providing legal documents one could submit to a court should the IRS attempt to charge you with tax evasion. 

I was suitably impressed. But somehow, other than getting my dad's help to buy a gun and learn how to shoot, I never went much further with the Posse. 

Virgil was, though, in all respects a dedicated activist. The first time I was invited to his house, he showed me a taped-up light switch to the front porch. He strictly commanded me not to touch it. He had filled the light bulb on the porch with gasoline in the event that the Feds came to his house. One flick of the switch, and a firebomb would engulf the hapless agent of evil and give him a chance to escape.

If you recall, there was a standoff with a militia group in Montana in 1994. A group calling themselves the Freemen had established a local government they claimed was independent of the Federal government. They issued their own money, committed bank fraud as they stockpiled an arsenal. The standoff took several weeks to resolve, and the intervention of the Federal Government to restore lawful order is still claimed to have been abusive and unwarranted.

I wondered at the time whether or not I had met any of the Freemen involved in the conflict. Certainly I understood their arguments. I knew their hatred. There are lots of people who carry their attitudes even today.  

I don’t know if Virgil ever got in trouble with the law, the Federal Government, or anyone else. A lot of people play these Patriot Games, but somehow never cross any dangerous lines. I was mostly preoccupied with my job and my friends. Soon enough I would be going to college.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Christian and a Liberal Chapter 1 Part 1

Chapter 1. A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far Far Away

Well, at least to hear Katie tell it. I'm Old, she teases. 

In some ways I still feel like a child. In many ways I never grew up. 

I was born into a military family. My dad was overseas for half my childhood (at least!). It wasn't all at once. It was a six-month tour over somewhere, so we had to move off base. When he returned, he would usually have a new assignment, so we would have to move. Then a year and a half over somewhere else (we would have to move off base again). 

My mom was a single parent for half my childhood. Life was tough. I never finished a school year in the same school I started in. I made friends, but they were all pretty much short-term ones. 

So my mom took strength in being religious. She and my dad were very conservative. Very. VERY. But more about that in a bit. 

We went to the Church of Christ. One of their teachings is that you have to be water-baptized by immersion to be saved. At the age of 8 I was scared stiff at the thought of hell. I knew I was a bad boy -- my parents spanked me (paddle, belt, board, what have you) often enough. And I persuaded my parents that I really, really wanted to be saved so I wouldn't go to hell. One of the most frequent sermon themes at the Church of Christ was If You Aren't Baptized You Are Going To Hell. Another was, If You ARE Baptized, But You Sin Before You Die, You Are Going To Hell Anyway. But you didn’t have a change to escape Hell if you weren’t Baptized, no matter how good you were. 

The family changed from the Church of Christ after an introduction to Premillennial teachings through Hal Lindsey's The Late, Great Planet Earth

My mom and dad saw that premillennialism was a huge shift from the a-millennial position of the Church of Christ.  They read through every prophetic book in the Scripture. Our home Bible Studies were based on this. Finally they were convinced.

And since being premillennial in an a-millennial church is rather awkward, we accepted an invitation to a "home church," a small group of people who identified themselves as "Plymouth Brethren."

After a few Sundays, my mom "got saved." The Church of Christ was a works-salvation church. The Plymouth Brethren believed salvation was by faith, accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior. Once you were saved, you were always saved. You could not be "lost."

It took me several more weeks before I accepted Jesus as my Savior. I argued with myself that I had done that when I got baptized. But no, I was told that I couldn't come to Jesus with any works to be saved, so one night I asked Him to save me. 

I remember it well. At the home church one evening, about two months or so after we had started attending, a girl I liked (Jeanne) asked me how long I had been saved.

Heh. The question was one I could have easily answered in the Church of Christ. I was saved when I got baptized at the age of 8. But now I knew I couldn’t be saved by my good works. I just hadn’t actually asked Jesus to be my Savior, yet. I was a proud and arrogant young man. I was a “good boy.” I didn’t swear. I was a conservative. I obeyed my parents. I tried to do the right thing, to be courteous to others whether they deserved it or not. I didn’t really think I had much of anything to be saved from.

But Jeanne’s question nagged at me. I answered it with, “I don’t know, but it hasn’t been long.” At the time I said it, I knew I was lying. I wasn’t “saved.” I was still trying to save myself.

So in my bedroom that Sunday night, I got down beside my bed on my knees and told God that I was sorry. I gave up trying to be saved by good works. I asked Jesus to save me from my sins. 

That was a real conversion moment. I knew what I had done, and why. I had asked Jesus to save me, and on the reassurance of the Word of God, He had saved me. I no longer had to doubt. I was trusting Christ for my salvation, nothing else. 

And yes, I told Jeanne the truth the next time I saw her. I told everyone that I had gotten saved. It was a powerful moment that has never left me. The memory of it has never dimmed. The emotions, the tears and the relief I felt I still feel when I remember that night.

A Christian and a Liberal - Preface

A Christian and a Liberal


A WHAT? You saw the title. 

That's right. A Christian AND a Liberal. Here I am. A lot of people have said it can't be done. But I am a Christian. I am a Liberal. I have my reasons.

I would like to share them with you. I won't bore you with a complete autobiography (the life story of a car?). Sorry for the pun. Well, not really. I just can't help it sometimes!

But what I want to do is share with you the ideas, perspectives and events that changed me from a borne, bred, baptized and (drat! I can't think of another b-word at the moment!) fundamentalist to a Liberal who retains faith in God. 

There will be vignettes, small pictures of events that gave me a different point of view. Usually they were very small, but sometimes they were earthshaking. 

There will be musings. There will even be discussions about theology (gasp!). I promise to warn you about these. 

The first few chapters will be autobiographical in nature. You need to know where I have been so you can see that there have been real changes in my life over the years. What you see now is not what I have always been. 

I am dedicating this book to the daughters in my family -- yes, Katie, Kara, and Crystal. Katie, you were growing up as I was making the transition. I know it has confused you. Kara and Crystal, you married my sons. I think you deserve to understand who your father-in-law is. 

And I would especially like to thank my Tracey, who stuck with me through the conversion, and who loved me through the changes. I know you have been bewildered, too, at times. I am grateful you have accompanied me on my strange journey of faith. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Three Years

Three Years

Yes, three years. Three years since I posted here last.

In that time I have been busy teaching, dealing with diabetes, and generally living life as fast as it came at me. My daughter has gone from 11 to 14, nearly 15. Wow! Time flies.

And I have now begun to take up writing again.

Hopefully the stream of consciousness will not be dry from now on. Life still begs to be lived. But I need to write, to slow down enough to hear my own thoughts.

Thank you.