Bill Maher’s Personal Relationship with God

I’ve never met Bill Maher, so I don’t know what kind of guy he is.  He does say plenty of things that irritate me, and lots of people, but he also says some pretty funny things that make me laugh. On par I’d say he’s probably a good guy with some strong opinions about some things I don’t share.  He hates religion, though, saying religion is a bureaucracy between God and man he doesn’t need.  I’m on his team for that one.  He calls himself an apatheist, saying he doesn’t know what happens when we die and he doesn’t care.  I can’t hang with him there.  When he got on a jag about the Russell Crowe movie Noah Maher said something very interesting about God:

“It’s about a psychotic mass murderer who gets away with it, and his name is God”

He also said that God “drowns babies.”  Now if you can get past the bravado and sarcasm and hear the basic question Maher is asking, it isn’t so easy to answer.  He wants to know how a good God not only allows suffering and pain, but how a good God inflicts suffering and pain.  Maher is not saying there is no God.  He repeatedly says he doesn’t have the answer to that question and is open to there being a God or gods, but that thehqdefault-37-460x260 God of the Old Testament, which is the same God Christians claim as their God, is not a good God.  Maher is saying he doesn’t like the Christian God and he presents his reasoning for not liking Him:  God is a mass murdering baby killer who wipes out everyone because He doesn’t like what a few of us are doing.  Bill Maher’s personal relationship with God (at least the Christian God) is enmity.  He doesn’t want to be friends with this God.

It makes sense to me.  If I thought the Christian God was a crazed baby killer who might go off on me at any moment and kill my family or my whole country because I wasn’t acting the way he wants me to act, I wouldn’t want to be his friend either.  Who needs friends like that?  But I am friends with the Christian God, so I have to take Maher’s accusations seriously and not just be irritated because he said “bad things” about my friend.  Christianity is not for lazy people or squeamish people.  It takes effort to be in a relationship with real people.  They do weird things.  They embarrass us.  Some times they need to be defended against false accusations.  Some times we need to hear an outside opinion of our loved ones because we are too close to see their flaws.

The problem with Bill Maher’s opinion about God is this:  we have no concept of a bad God.  The name “God” is itself derived from the word “good.”  God is simply good writ large.  The highest GOOD we can imagine is God.  When Maher calls God a psychotic murderer, he calls him “not God” = or = he says this God can’t be real; this God doesn’t exist.  So Maher contradicts himself when he says he doesn’t know or care if God or gods are out there and how he might or might not relate to them.  He very much does care about at least one God; the God of the Christians and the Jews, and he definitely doesn’t want to have a relationship with him.  But what about any other God?  How would Bill ever find a God he could agree with?  If the standard he sets for an acceptable level of God-ness is only what Bill Maher calls God or what Bill Maher can understand about God’s actions, how would he ever know he had a real God at all?  That would mean that Bill himself is perfect and judges perfectly any and all actions of the divine being.  It would mean in fact that Bill Maher would have to be that god.  And that is precisely what anyone in his position does have – a god of their own manufacture.  A God who never contradicts us or confounds us, but only agrees with us and acts in the exact way we think they should act is indistinguishable from our self.  A god like that is not worth much when we need help or advice.

I said that relationships with real people are hard, and they are.  The Christian God is a real person.  He does things that embarrass me.  He does things I don’t understand.  He does things that make no sense to me that I wish he didn’t do.  The problem for me is different though.  My problem is that knowing the extent of God’s goodness; his perfect love and wisdom, I can’t lay any fault at his feet for these things.  He is good and he doesn’t do bad things.  He is wise and he doesn’t make mistakes.  The lack of understanding is with me.  The misperception is mine.  This is not because I’m inferior or stupid or unimportant to God.  Its because if I’m going to have a God at all I’m going to have to have a God who is great enough to do things I can’t understand.  The Christian God doesn’t leave me without information, however.  The Christian God gives me plenty of confidence in his essential goodness.  He dies on a cross for me.  He enters into our suffering.  He is touched by my frailty.  In other words the Christian God gives me an overwhelming reason to trust that a God who would go to such lengths to have a real relationship with us would not randomly kill babies.  He is not psychotic.  He is not a mass murderer.  The cross contradicts me when I am angry at him for not acting in a way I find appropriate.  He did not withhold Christ from us; why should I believe he would withhold any good thing when he gave the highest thing so freely?  I don’t know why my God does what he does.  I don’t know why he chose the cross either, but I am sure my God cares and cared about every person ever born more than me or Bill Maher ever did.  And so I trust him.  He is my friend.

Wakeup and Smell the Sin – The Bundy Ranch and the Abuse of Power

How far can a government go before its people push back?  What are the limits of governmental power and how do we keep it in check?  What recourse do we have when government abuses power and refuses to “play by the rules”?  The opening of the American Declaration of Independence recounts the profound nature of these questions saying:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

This was written by a people who were convinced their government was willing to use its power to further its own interests at any time and any way it chose.  They lost faith in their government because it chose to use its power over them randomly and without recourse.  Their government threatened them economically.  They responded through economic sanctions against the government’s interests.  Their government threatened them politically.  They responded by setting up extra-governmental congresses.  Finally their government threatened their very lives and liberty.  They responded by taking up arms and forcibly removing those who abused power.

None of this happened in an instant.  It happened over the course of many years.  When it did come to a crisis it wasn’t just the tea party or the Liberty or Death speech or “the shot heard round the world.”  These are historical contractions; ways to make sense of events after they happened.  Those living in the events didn’t always see how they connected with both the past and the future, nor did they all agree upon what to do about it.  There were loyalists and patriots and at the time each thought the other thoroughly “unpatriotic” one way or another.

It would be a mistake to think that “civil discourse” existed in the time of America’s founding.  To believe our forefathers treated each other better than we do today is to be ignorant of history.  There has never been such a thing as clean politics; not in America, not in any country with any form of government at any time in history.  Politics are messy, and there have always been people willing to do anything to accumulate and exercise power over others.  It is exceedingly rare to find an instance where people on either side of an issue are completely in the right, or completely in the wrong.  Both sides abuse power, or attempt to manipulate circumstances to their greatest advantage using questionable article-2603026-1D12BF1A00000578-37_634x437tactics.  The American revolution wasn’t carried out by perfect people with a perfect claim against England.  The standoff at the Bundy ranch isn’t a case of perfect people against an imperfect government either.  So we have a serious problem:  we need government to live well because without it we are on our own against individuals likely to exercise and abuse power over us, but once we form a government it is made up from those same individuals who are likely to exercise and abuse power over us.

The American form of government is not all that it could be.  There is plenty of room for improvement.  But the thing we’ve gotten right; the thing that led an obscure backwoods colony to become the most influential and powerful nation on earth in less than 200 years, is the dilution of power.  That sounds strange, but its true.  America became more powerful than any other nation because its political system prevents the accumulation of power by the few and spreads it out over the many.  This counterintuitive form of governing created both freedom and restraint in the highest ratio ever seen on the world stage.

While our government has changed and grown, this core of diluting power so that freedom and restraint stay in balance has remained.  But the core of the core is our current problem.  There was a reason our forefathers feared the accumulation of power, and it wasn’t because they hated a particular king exercising it over them.  Our forefathers, and the majority of every generation of Americans until the last one, believed human beings were flawed and couldn’t be trusted with power.  We did not have illusions about our fundamental goodness.  We believed in a thing that sounds very old fashioned now:  sin.  Because sin was a fact and sin infected everyone, we knew instinctively that fewer people with greater power was a recipe for disaster.  This lesson was forcefully driven home to us by two world wars ignited by totalitarian egos, and a cold war driven along by the same thing.  But now we are a half generation removed from the fall of Soviet style communism, and a generation and a half past world war, and we no longer believe in sin.  You can tell by the way our leaders talk.  The Russian invasion of the Crimea elicited this response from our Secretary of State:

“You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on a completely trumped up pre-text.”

Our leaders don’t see that sinful people have always and will always make up pretexts for abusing power.  We are not getting less sinful because we have the internet, the best understanding of science, or the highest educational standards in history.  If anything history shows us that the more we advance technologically the more we will use that technology to abuse and exploit each other.  The ignorance of history and the loss of the language of sin leaves us in danger because it fosters an environment in which our natural suspicion of individuals who accumulate power is stunted.  We can’t believe the President of Russia would actually invade a country because he can and he wants to.  We can’t believe the President of the United States will ignore the Constitution because he can and he wants to.  We can’t believe these leaders are sinners.  There was a time when calling these men “sinners” whose every action deserved our careful scrutiny, would have been nothing more than an agreed upon fact.  We would not want to destroy them because they were sinners, we would just not allow them to act without restraint, without recognizing they were capable both of error and of deliberate abuse of power.  We would know this because when we looked inside ourselves we would see the same flaw. Now we are defenseless against sin because “sin” doesn’t exist; it died along with God.

Not only are we victims of the mythology of a sin-less world, but a godless world too.  We blindly trust government to act in our best interests all the time.  In other words, government now occupies the place of God in our culture.  It is both sinless and all powerful.  Questioning government activity is like questioning church doctrine.  Worshipping other gods above government is increasingly dangerous.  Appealing to another source other than government for freedom and protection is discouraged.

The only kind of people who can provide real and lasting help for the situation facing America today are those who know themselves to be sinners and the whole world to be broken by sinfulness.  These will be the only people with both the awareness and the humility to work together to solve our real practical problems.  These will be the only people with the guts to say no to the accumulation of power by sinful people and the self awareness to keep from grabbing it for themselves.  This is how our forefathers founded our nation; taking power from the powerful but dispersing it among the many.  The cowboys at Bundy had the guts to stand up to sin and the abuse of power.  If they act like Americans of old they will not abuse the victory and they will share power with others like themselves.  If I am not mistaken this kind of courage and restraint are going to become more and more necessary day by day if we are going to remain both a free and a powerful nation which is a force for good in a sinful world.




This Sexual Revolution Thing is Working Out Great… if You’re a Man

“When we examine simple connections between recent and lifetime sexual partnering, frequency of sex, and a variety of emotional-health indicators—including depression scales, self-reported episodic crying, life satisfaction, depression diagnoses, and current use of prescription antidepressants—it quickly becomes apparent that having more numerous sexual partners is associated with poorer emotional states in women,
but not men.”
Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate, and Think about Marrying by Mark Regnerus, Jeremy Uecker)

A good thirty years into the sexual revolution, the throwing off of “traditional” views of sex along with how we view gender roles, is working out great; if you are a man.  Men who used to pay a much higher price in terms of commitment and stability in order to gain access to sex, can now have sex for little or no commitment.  Women, who were encouraged to view their sexual decisions in a “liberated” way (ie to have sex when they wanted with whoever they wanted) are not faring so well by putting that into practice.  In the traditional view of sex, women were the gatekeepers who could demand relational security in exchange for sex, and men were the pursuers exploring the market for the price they had to pay for sex, and trying to have as much of it as they could get for the lowest cost.  As more women adopted these liberal attitudes toward sex, the market slowly started to flood with lower cost sex in terms of commitment to the point where a woman who withholds sex from a man is no longer an obstacle for him – he has plenty of options readily available.  Now men can have sex for next to nothing with many partners – literally a school boy’s dream, and they are doing it with abandon, and, evidently without causing themselves much long term damage.  Women on the other hand, are not faring so well.

Even getting married—deciding to settle down with only one sex partner for good—doesn’t erase the emotional challenges for women who’ve had numerous sex partners in their lifetime. While no association with depressive symptoms is apparent among now-married young women who’ve had up to four sex partners in their lifetime, problems appear among those who’ve had 5–10, and even more among those who’ve had more than 10 partners.  [Such] women display more intense emotional difficulties. Among those who’ve had more than 10 partners, 41 percent report being depressed at least some time in the past seven days. Just over 14 percent are actively taking antidepressants, and only 79 percent say they’re satisfied or very satisfied with their life. So while the security of a marital relationship can diminish sex-related emotional-health problems, it doesn’t often take them away.

It makes you wonder who’s idea the sexual revolution was in the first place, and what were they hoping to accomplish.  One name above all others attaches itself to this: Hugh Hefner.  Hefner is the living image of the beginning and shriveling up of the sexual revolution; a man of small physical and moral stature who lacks the generally valued masculine qualities which would attract and hold the attentions of a real woman.  A man who has everything to gain by tearing down the traditional sexual structures in order to gain access to what he wants.  It was all couched in such inclusive terms from the start – why shouldn’t we all stop feeling guilty about sex and relax?  Why shouldn’t women be able to have as much sex as men are having?  The truth was (and still is) that men were not having more sex than women; that single men always had (and still have) less and less satisfying sex than their married friends, and that women enjoyed sex much more when they had a greater power over the sexual market place by rejecting casual sex and waiting for sex in an emotionally stable relationship. What will happen in the next 30 years?  Given what I know about women’s character and ability, I predict they will tell their daughters and sons what a disaster the “sexual revolution” has been, and begin to teach them to reject it.  The generation raised by the victims of the sexual wars will raise a generation who will reassert sane and workable sexual practices that work for both genders.  When they do, many will be surprised at how “traditional” it looks.  I won’t, because to me it isn’t tradition, it is truth written into the fabric of the universe by our Creator, and rejecting it always wreaks havoc.  Maybe we can help get things started by putting posters of the original Playboy in every dorm room of America…


I Didn’t Ask to Be Rescued…

Man set to sue first responders who rescued him from his submerged car – that is a real headline from today’s news.  Not a joke or a parody of this scene from The Incredibles:

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Watching the interview of the man with his lawyer made me want to punch somebody in the neck – mainly the lawyer.  Some of his facial expressions are so… so… so… smug and condescending.  Now, now, don’t blame me for taking full advantage of any opportunity I find to exploit the system – that’s what his face screams.  Neck punch.  We are living at an amazing time.  We live in a land of laws with no connection to their source.  It shouldn’t come as a surprise that when laws and rights are elevated to the status of absolutes, we should find ourselves barraged by legal actions that defy belief.  A NJ teenager suing her parents for the cost of college tuition after she left home or was thrown out – an executive branch of government that selectively enforces laws or rewrites laws completely outside of its legal authority – these things are to be expected.  Law doesn’t work if it is not a given thing.  That sounds strange, but it is true.  If grace = a gift, then law cannot work without grace.  It also sounds strange but the reason we are becoming more and more lawless is that law has become more important, not less important to us.  These yahoos running around suing people who saved their lives value law over grace.  They fail to see anything as a gift.  Everything has a price tag and the people who are going to thrive and survive are going to be the ones who figure out how to charge a price for anything they can.  If law is disconnected from grace – in other words if law is not given to us from some place or some where or some one other than us, then it is completely negotiable every day, every way, every circumstance.  You could say that this guy who got rescued is ungrateful.  Right.  Exactly.  He is an ingrate.  He apparently believes it was his right to be rescued and rescued on time.  No such thing as gratitude.  No such thing as grace.

Since we are raising kids to believe there is no God and increasingly our politicians act as if God is the most unwelcome entity in our legal, social, or political processes, then the law is what we have and it is nothing.  The law is useless.  If we make it up for ourselves, the law is a power play.  Whoever has the most power now gets to make or break the laws at will.  Why shouldn’t they?  Law is constructed by people if God didn’t make it and if that is the case why should the last set of people to make up laws keep telling us what to do?  Dump it.  Rewrite it.  Ignore it.  Sue your rescuers.  The Bible says the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.  The opposite is true too:  the ignorance of God is the beginning of stupidity.  We are in a slide down into idiocy.  But as hard as it is to take, we don’t have to take it and we don’t have to go nuts looking for solutions that are so hard to reach or enact.  Just believe.  Start believing.  Look at the evidence this world presents for a moral framework we all believe in although we struggle to know why.  Big turns come in little increments.  If this story ticks you off, maybe it could be the thing that gets you thinking about what kind of world you’re living in and what you can do to change it.



Why Marriage is Better than College

“Most traditional college students are emerging adults—they have adult-style freedoms but lack some or all of the typical adult responsibilities: work, marriage, and children. They can put off those responsibilities for years, never committing, changing jobs and relationships. Some exhibit little interest in stability. That’s why it’s difficult to put age brackets around emerging adulthood; it resists being tied down, because its inhabitants resist settling down.”
(from Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate, and Think about Marrying by Mark Regnerus, Jeremy Uecker

What would you tell your emerging adult child about getting married at age 19 – 23?  Is that too young for marriage?  Old enough to drive, old enough to vote, old enough to drink, old enough to join the military.  Marriage?  Maybe you should wait.  Wait for what?  Stability?  The current cultural script in the West is not one that promotes stability for our children emerging into adulthood; it promotes delayed adolescence.  The pattern set for emerging adults is living in a bubble of irresponsibility funded by “free money” (college loans or parent’s) which allows them to live without engaging the truth of personal fiscal responsibility, and encourages them to practice relationships without regard for responsibility other than reproductive health.  Spending 3-5 years in the responsibility vacuum stunts our growth.  It doesn’t make us better at making choices, it makes us worse.  It doesn’t make us more ready for grown up life, it makes us less ready.  It doesn’t make us more relationally stable, it makes us more prone to relational instability.  This script we lay out for emerging adults means they often reach thirty years of age with habits and beliefs predisposing them to quitting anything that gets hard whether its a dream, or a job, or a marriage.IMG_0027

So we got married young.  I was in my second year of college.  We had a baby during our second year of marriage, and she was born with health issues requiring several corrective surgeries from the time she was 18 months old.  How does that look to the odds makers and pundits today?  A recipe for disaster and failure.  The distraction and pressure of marriage probably meant my grades would suffer.  My wife’s choice to marry early and have children would keep her from reaching her potential.  Our children would be neglected.  Actually my grades began improving from the time we got married to the point that I made the dean’s list my last three semesters whereas I had almost failed out during my first three.  My wife did not pursue a college education but she went into business for herself and built a successful one doing what she loves to do and was a stay at home mom at the same time, which she loved even more.  Both our kids were raised in a two parent home and both graduated from college themselves.  Both are good kids and better people.

Our cultural script is contributing to cultural rot and we could use a rewrite.  If we look at what our colleges produce versus what 5 years of marriage produces there is no comparison in value added.  Marriage is an education in itself.  Marriage teaches lessons no college teaches.  Marriage 101 is what every employer in the nation looks for in any job candidate:  show up every day ready to work.  Communication?  I took my little family to my speech class at Old Dominion U and demonstrated live for them what it takes to communicate in the most important environment they would ever see; not a board room but a living room.  (I got an A on that speech).  Cooperation and Teamwork?  Bring a baby home from the hospital and figure out that no one but you and your spouse are there to get it to stop crying.  A marriage degree is worth much more than any degree offered by any college.  We should stop discouraging our young people about marrying young because “they need to go to college and figure out what they are going to do with their life.”  We should get people ready to marry earlier.  We should tell them the truth about one of the most important things to them:  that if they want to have a lot of very satisfying sex for the longest period of time they should get married because married people all have more and better sex than non-married people (the “marriage kills sex” myth is something to take on in another blog post another day).  We should tell them that getting married creates stability from which they can strive together for their dreams.  We should tell them that being responsible for children and a spouse makes being responsible to a job look easy and makes them more employable.  We should stop valuing education above relationship and financial stability above human community.  I know this isn’t what we hear from our culture.  It is counter-cultural, but when you look at our culture do you want your children to be conformed to it?  Does it look healthy?  What kinds of things are elevated and celebrated?

Marriage is a good thing.  It is better than college and it is more effective than college at producing a better community.  I’m not suggesting we all run out and begin setting up arranged marriages for our kids.  I am saying we should spend more time helping our kids study for marriage than studying for the SAT.

So What if Men Use Porn? (as long as it’s not my man)

As the use of pornography continues to grow I’ve heard more and more women say things like this:  It doesn’t bother me if my (man) uses porn, as long as he’s true to me and treats me good – OR – my (man) told me he used to look at a lot of porn, but he doesn’t anymore, so it doesn’t make any difference to me if men use porn.

I put “man” in parenthesis here in place of relationship status, such as son, boyfriend, fiance’, or husband because it is at the point of relationship with a man that women mosthidden-agendas often begin to consider whether a man’s use of pornography affects them.  The truth is that men’s use of pornography is affecting every relationship women have with any man.  Even if “your man” never viewed/used pornography, men using pornography affected him, and it affects you.

Women and men live in the sexual marketplace, like it or not, and sexual economics affects all our relationships, intimate or business or family.  Sexual economics is not a description of john’s, pimps and prostitutes, but a recognition of a basic truth about how commodities are valued and traded.  Sex is a commodity most people want.  When there is a steady supply of a relatively high quality commodity the market is flooded and the cost of that commodity goes down.  Think about it like this: if you lived in a place where every one had an orange tree in their back yard that produced great oranges, the price of oranges would be very low.  In the case of pornography the effect on the marketplace is radical because porn is an instantly available substitute for sex with a incomparably low price as compared to the real thing.

When a majority of men use a cheap substitute for sex, the value of real sex plummets towards the value of pornography.  Think about that.  When you see things in the media that are increasingly sexually explicit and when you see and hear people expressing increasingly casual attitudes about their sex lives, it is not just the results of the sexual revolution that set us free from our hangups about sex,  it is sexual economics playing out in the marketplace.  In the early 80’s cocaine was the drug of choice for only the very wealthy due to its high price.  Around 1984 a cheap substitute, easily made from over the counter ingredients hit the American market.  It was called crack cocaine, and suddenly anyone could get a cocaine high for next to nothing.  Now crack is used in epidemic proportions.  Pornography is sexual crack cocaine.

The sexual marketplace of today is flooded with virtual women with impossibly perfect bodies performing any fantastic act a man could want, and they do it on demand.  When men enter the sexual market their expectations for what kind of sex they can have with what type of woman and at what cost are shaped by their use of porn.  When real women don’t look or perform the way these men want them to, and/ when those women ask a higher price for sex than they want to pay (like three dates instead of one), men can choose sexual crack instead.

Women who are on the market for a man find themselves compared to cheap fantasies with which they can’t compete.  Those who “hold out for a good man” or who have convictions about participating in sex that present a high cost to a potential partner (like agreeing to a life long commitment in marriage) are not just swimming against the current, they are swimming against a tsunami of women who are underselling them, giving away sex at pornographic prices because they believe they can’t compete in the sexual marketplace if they don’t.  Men who “hold out for a good woman” or who have convictions about sex face the same marketplace pressure. Relatively inexpensive sex and very inexpensive porn are available, and the majority of their peers obtain one or the other or both. It is very difficult to keep valuing sex at levels so far above the market.

Before any woman considers how porn use affects her specific relationships, men using porn on the scale they are using it has already made a difference.  We’ve already touched on the most talked about affect of porn upon man/woman relationships: comparison of real women to porn-plastic women.  Comparison is no doubt a huge issue, but the biggest difference widespread use of porn makes is in the objectification of women and men.  Sometimes we joke about men or women being nothing more than “sex objects,”  but no one wants to be reduced to a bodily function; only good for having sex with and not much else.  Porn is the ultimate tool in reducing women to sexual objects, turned on and off at the whim of their digital master. This would be damaging enough if it stayed in the bedroom, but it cannot. (further reading on this in another article here) We are sexual beings all the time; in the boardroom and the bedroom and the bakery. We are sexual beings whether we have sex or not.  Enough men spending enough time using porn creates a critical mass of men habitually objectifying women.  These men begin treating all women like objects, no matter where in life they encounter them. Women begin accepting their objectification as normal, and start acting like objects.  Men and women who never use porn are drawn into this cycle of playing by porn’s rules because they interact with those who are playing on the pornographically objectified playing field.  We are all touched.  We are all reduced.

The next time you are tempted to accept the thought that porn only matters if it happens in your relationships, remember this:  It is happening in your relationships when it happens in your community, your country, your culture. Don’t accept it as “normal” or “liberated” or “victim-less.”  Even if you don’t feel abused by it, you are, and your friends and family are.  People are not healthy when we are reduced to mere bodily functions.  We were made to love and be loved radically, regardless of our functionality.  We are not just useful; we are beautiful.  All of us.  The gospel released us from the need to perform. It says loudly and clearly that we are not useful to God, we are beautiful to God.  That is a high opinion and it is either true or it isn’t.  If it is true, Jesus provides us with a powerful tool to fight the tyranny of pornographic reduction; he gives us irrevocable love beyond function or performance.

Why Phil Robertson is Indefensible

Phil Roberstson, aka patriarch of the Duck Dynasty Robertsons talked about a lot of things in an interview for an upcoming GQ article.  The A & E network placed him on permanent leave from the images (1)show after bits and pieces of his comments “leaked.”  The internet is on fire with these things today.  You probably already noticed.  Depending on your FB friends list you are either being flooded with “I support Duck Dynasty/Phil” posts or “Phil and Duck Dynasty are evil idiots” posts.  Hopefully you have some of both (if not, you may be a little too isolated in your own little world, and that isn’t healthy).

So what’s the buzz?  It is Phil’s comments on homosexuality, right?  Depending upon your feed it is either Phil as Apostle Paul or Phil as Adolph Hitler.  If you haven’t done so, it would make sense for you to read the actual article and see for yourself what he said.  This is merely being intellectually honest on the one hand and can save you from being a pawn in someone’s publicity war on the other.  Internet fires are almost always set by people who have something to gain, and there is nothing so volatile as a spark of controversy thrown into a pile of dry ignorance.

Now I’ve taken the time to read the article, and I think its a well written piece.  I’ve also seen and read some other things about Duck Dynasty and Phil Robertson, and so I feel very comfortable giving you this opinion:  Phil Robertson is indefensible.  Not just what he says, but who he is.  His entire person is not defensible.  He is unworthy of defense.  What’s more, his whole family is the same thing.  Unworthy.  Indefensible.  I am not going to waste one word giving you a case for continuing to watch Duck Dynasty or to buy Duck Commander Duck calls or to write A & E in protest of firing one of their stars.  It is an utter waste of time.  And I guarantee you this:  Phil and his gang would agree with all of that.

The whole point of Christianity is that we are indefensible and there is nothing to be done about it.  That we are unworthy and there is nothing to be done about it.  Phil may or may not be a homophobic jerk – read the article for yourself to see if he comes across as a hater – but the truth is that even if he is hateful against a particular group of people, that isn’t the half of how bad he really is.  He is much worse than homophobic.  He is much more broken and ugly and marred than even he imagines.  It is so bad that if you or I were to see the real Phil Robertson as his essence really is and his past really attests, none of us would try to defend him, and none would bother to condemn him.  The filth would be so obvious that it wouldn’t be worth pointing out the truth.  I don’t want to defend Phil Robertson and I don’t want to condemn him.  Its a waste of time for me.

But Christ chose to defend the indefensible and to befriend the unworthy.  This is gospel.  This is the gospel.  It isn’t the start of the gospel or the end of the gospel, it is the whole gospel and it continues to be the gospel.  Jesus, the only person ever to live a life worthy of God’s commendation – in other words a life that did not need defense; he did not need a lawyer to get him off for something stupid he said or did in an unguarded moment – this Jesus gives that perfect record to people who don’t deserve it, can’t earn it and won’t live up to it.

The Christian gospel is God taking up our case even though it is a losing case; an indefensible case.  Here is an interesting thing about the current Duck Dynasty flap: everyone on both sides would never want to be judged every day by their own standards.  None of them.  None of us.  We are failures by our own standards.  We may be righteous and loving in defending someone today; gay, straight, believers, atheists, but this afternoon our intolerance for the high school drop out in the McDonald’s drive-through who messes up and forgets our fries proves how loveless and unrighteous we are. You know it and I know it.  If I am the only judge of me, I am losing my case.  If there is a Judge, I can’t hope to win my case.  Christianity is hopeful not because it contains no judgment or Judge, it is hopeful because even in its judgments, the gospel offers a final verdict in our favor – in spite of every bit of evidence to the contrary.  For those of us with no Judge, you have no choice but to keep trying your case endlessly before an empty bench, and in the end this is nothing but despair.  I’ll tell you something about having a favorable judgment from The Judge, though; if you’ve really received it and know what it cost and how you could not possibly get it without Jesus’s help, you don’t get real upset about lesser judgments against you for too long and you don’t feel the need to rush off and defend the indefensible.

Why Hating the Haters Doesn’t Work

Calvin must drink a lot of water.  He shows up everywhere peeing on something.  Jeff Gordon, Chevy, Ford, Cowboys, Redskins, Bin Laden.  That dude can pee on anything.  I saw an ad that showed Calvin and his stream falling on a “place your text here” sign.  One that caught my eye recently had Calvin peeing on the word “haters.”  Everyone agrees with that, right?  Peeing on haters is right.  It is righteous.  If anyone deserves the Calvin treatment, it is haters.

But honestly, isn’t peeing on someone a hateful thing to do?  If we are going to be consistent, shouldn’t there be a stream of urine falling on Calvin’s head too?  Make anything in this world into the “hated object” – the thing we are allowed to hate – and the way you treat it will be hateful.  You will become a hater.  Fine, you say, some things are worthy of hatred; Its ok to be a hater of “those things.”  Everybody knows that (fill in the blank) is despicable, but its not true.  And it isn’t just innocuous things like NASCAR drivers, NFL teams, or the makes of cars.  The Bin Ladens of this world are not universally hated. In fact many of the things we hate are beloved by others.  It turns out that hating the haters isn’t so easy.  It makes us into haters and it divides us in ways we can’t account for or reconcile.  It makes for a world full of Calvins peeing on Calvins who then feel justified in peeing on some other Calvin.  Everyone feels like they are gettingdownload urinated on by someone and so they return the favor.  Sound like a good world to live in?

The story of the world according to Christianity is that we live in a good world gone bad.  Everything in creation was created good and retains the essence of that goodness AND everything is fallen and is marred by that fall.  In this story of the world, the source of the fall; the thing that scars us, is not from within the world, but comes from without.  This thing is worthy of hatred, and what it does to everything is worthy of hatred, but no object in the world is worthy of hatred on its own.  The power of the gospel is that it frees us from being victimized by The Hater and from becoming haters who perpetuate the cycle of hatred he introduced to the world.  Actually the gospel is that Jesus, the only one of us to live a life of pure love (zero hatred), has all the hatred of all the ages poured out on him, and instead of standing up and pouring it back out on the heads of the haters, he quenches the fire.  He puts it out.  No hateful thing ever done goes unnoticed.  No hater ever gets away with their hateful ways.  Jesus took all of it, and because of him and in him, Love has the final say.  Love reigns.  If hatred reigns in your heart it may be time to get a new heart; a heart so beloved it never feels the desire to pour out hatred on anyone or anything; a heart so complete it can’t be taken from you by a little boy peeing on it.

What to do about Breaking Bad Withdrawals

Breaking Bad is done, but if you want to have great insights into where a show like it came from, read Brett Martin’s book Difficult Men.  It is a history of what is being called the third golden age of television.  An age ushered in by shows like Oz, The Wire, The Sopranos, and continued by Mad Men and Breaking Bad.  I listened to the audio version and drove out of my way some days so I could hear an extra 15 (2)