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Steve Scalise returns to the House of Representatives for the first time since being gunned down

On June 14, Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana was gunned downed during a practice for a charity baseball game. Scalise’s security detail was able to take down the shooter and thereby to save the lives of many other congressmen.

Scalise nearly died as a result of his wounds, and his life hung in the balance through many subsequent surgeries. Today he returned to the House of Representatives for the first time since the shooting. He delivered an emotional speech that is worth your time to watch from start to finish. See above.

Best Pictures of the 2017 Solar Eclipse

We did not witness totality where I live, but we did get 96% of a total eclipse of the sun. It was fantastic, even if not total.

Because I missed totality, I’m soaking-up footage of those who captured it on video or in photos. I am going to post those images here, updating as I come across the really good ones. I’m starting with a stunning compilation from The Washington Post (see above). I will update with more pics and videos below. Continue Reading →

Study suggests link between football violence and degenerative brain disease

There is a new study suggesting a link between football violence and degenerative brain disease. Here is the description from The New York Times.

Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist, has examined the brains of 202 deceased football players. A broad survey of her findings was published on Tuesday in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Of the 202 players, 111 of them played in the N.F.L. — and 110 of those were found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., the degenerative disease believed to be caused by repeated blows to the head.

C.T.E. causes myriad symptoms, including memory loss, confusion, depression and dementia. The problems can arise years after the blows to the head have stopped…

The set of players posthumously tested by Dr. McKee is far from a random sample of N.F.L. retirees. “There’s a tremendous selection bias,” she has cautioned, noting that many families have donated brains specifically because the former player showed symptoms of C.T.E.

But 110 positives remain significant scientific evidence of an N.F.L. player’s risk of developing C.T.E., which can be diagnosed only after death. About 1,300 former players have died since the B.U. group began examining brains. So even if every one of the other 1,200 players would have tested negative — which even the heartiest skeptics would agree could not possibly be the case — the minimum C.T.E. prevalence would be close to 9 percent, vastly higher than in the general population.

The N.F.L.’s top health and safety official has acknowledged a link between football and C.T.E., and the league has begun to steer children away from playing the sport in its regular form, encouraging safer tackling methods and promoting flag football.

Read the rest here.

Eugene Peterson will always exist

Eugene Peterson has revealed that he now embraces homosexuality and gay marriage as consistent with the Christian faith. In an interview with Jonathan Merritt, he writes:

I wouldn’t have said this 20 years ago, but now I know a lot of people who are gay and lesbian and they seem to have as good a spiritual life as I do. I think that kind of debate about lesbians and gays might be over. People who disapprove of it, they’ll probably just go to another church. So we’re in a transition and I think it’s a transition for the best, for the good. I don’t think it’s something that you can parade, but it’s not a right or wrong thing as far as I’m concerned.

To say that Peterson’s justification for same-sex relationships is really thin would be an understatement. His is not an argument based on scripture. Rather, it’s an argument based on sentiment. He says that he’s known some nice gay people, therefore he now discards the moral consensus of the entire 2,000-year history of the Christian church. This is not pastoral wisdom. It’s folly of the first order.

Anyone familiar with Peterson will probably not be surprised by this interview. His denominational affiliation is with the PCUSA, and his views fit right in with that group. Perhaps what is more surprising is that we are only just now finding this out with this level of clarity.

Peterson says that as a pastor he had openly gay church members and even once hired an openly gay music minister. Since Peterson retired from pastoral ministry in 1991, that would suggest that his acceptance of practicing gay church members and clergy goes back at least 26 years. During that time, his writings have had an enormous impact among evangelicals through the nineties and beyond. I had one of his books assigned to me as required reading when I was in seminary. He has been contributing to Christianity Today as recently as this year. It is surprising that this information wasn’t more widely known among evangelicals before now.

Peterson’s greatest legacy is his paraphrase of the Bible titled The Message. This book has had a massive impact worldwide (including famously and recently with Bono). I am not a fan of paraphrases, and so I have not paid a lot of attention to The Message over the years. But I decided to take a look at some of the key passages today in light of the interview.

Merritt points out in the interview that Peterson doesn’t use the words “homosexuality” in The Message. Merritt is right about that, but that is not the most important thing about his rendering of these passages. It turns out that in the three New Testament passages that deal explicitly with homosexuality, Peterson obscures and conceals the Bible’s meaning altogether (see Rom. 1:26-27, 1 Cor. 6:9-11, 1 Tim. 1:10 in The Message). These are renderings that revisionists like Matthew Vines could be quite happy with. Again, perhaps Peterson’s views aren’t so new after all.

People have asked me whether I believe Peterson is a bona fide Christian in light of this revelation. The best way I can answer that is to say what I would do if he were a member of the church where I pastor. We wouldn’t immediately presume that he isn’t a Christian. He would be given the opportunity to repent and to come back to the truth of scripture. If he refused to repent and persisted in this false teaching, we would eventually excommunicate him and treat him as an unbeliever (Matthew 18:17; Titus 3:10). This is what we believe our Lord teaches us to do in dealing with false teachers, so we would do it.

Merritt’s interview with Peterson concludes with an odd question:

One day, as with all of us, Eugene Peterson will not be someone who exists. He will be somebody who did exist once. When that moment comes, how do you hope people will remember Eugene Peterson?

It is true that Peterson will one day die, but it is not true that he will one day cease to exist. Peterson will exist after death and into eternity—just like the rest of us. In eternity, “how people remember Eugene Peterson” will not be the most important question. The preeminent concern in that day will be how God remembers Eugene Peterson. This is the biggest question not only for Peterson but for all of us.

Eugene Peterson is not the first and won’t be the last well-known “Christian” to fall to the wayside over the issue of homosexuality. This is the watershed issue of our time, separating those who will follow the word of Christ from those who will not. No one among us will be able to avoid this question. No one.

Farmer banned from selling produce at market because of his views on marriage

I can hardly believe the report in the video above is true, but it is. Steve Tennes is a farmer who has been selling his produce for the last seven years at the farmer’s market in East Lansing, Michigan. Recently, he was asked on Facebook about his beliefs about marriage. Steven and his family are Roman Catholic, and so he answered with the 2,000-year old teaching of his church.

Somehow, the city of East Lansing got a hold of the Facebook post. As a result, the city decided not to invite him back to participate in the Farmer’s Market. So Tennes reapplied with the city to be included as a vendor. And the city wrote him back and informed him that he would not be allowed to participate in the Farmer’s Markert because of his beliefs about marriage. The rejection had nothing to do with his products or his business but everything to do with his religious beliefs.

If you think recent concerns about religious liberty among evangelicals is much ado about nothing, here’s yet one more piece of mounting evidence that this is much ado about something–something precious that is being lost. Is it really the case that a municipal government can punish citizens and exclude them from public space simply because of their religious beliefs? If so, something is lost indeed–America’s first freedom.

The mistakes Christians make in dismissing biblical teaching on modesty

Katelyn Beaty has written an Op-Ed for The New York Times lamenting “The Mistake Christians Made in Defending Bill O’Reilly.” I agree with her main point that Christians should have no part in defending the indefensible. I think that much should be uncontroversial as the scripture is so clear on this point: “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (Eph. 5:11).

Having said that, I have to take issue with some of the evidence she adduces to establish her point. Beaty links to a 2007 article written by John Piper as evidence of what is wrong in the Christian church. She writes:

In churches, a quick forgiveness for perpetrators often dovetails with strict standards of purity for women. From a young age, many Christian women are taught to dress modestly so as not to cause men to “stumble.” John Piper, a prominent pastor and theologian, has said that “a lot of Christian women are oblivious to the fact that they have some measure of responsibility” in managing men’s lust. The moralizing about dress and behavior can be a setup for victim-blaming wrapped in a spiritual veneer.

What is wrong with Beaty’s citation of Piper’s article? First, Piper’s article does not say that women have to take responsibility for “managing men’s lust.” That is a distortion of what he wrote. His article simply says that women should take responsibility for dressing modestly. I know that idea sounds old-timey and weird to secular ears, but it is pretty basic stuff as far as Christianity is concerned. “Modesty” is a biblical virtue, not an evidence of some sort of toxic “purity culture.” As the apostle Paul writes, “Women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control” (1 Tim. 2:9). I wonder if Beaty would view the apostle Paul’s words as problematic?

Second, Beaty says that “moralizing about dress and behavior can be a setup for victim-blaming wrapped in a spiritual veneer.” Let us agree that men are responsible for their own sin no matter how the women around them are dressed. That is one of many reasons why no victim of abuse should ever be blamed for the evil deeds of abusers. But we can agree to that without dismissing the Bible’s moral instruction about “dress and behavior.” Beaty seems to dismiss such teaching per se as a pretext for some darker purpose. And yet the Bible is replete with moral exhortation about our dress and sexual behavior. Would Beaty say that the Bible’s teaching itself is aimed at “victim-blaming”? Are we to avoid what the scripture teaches us about modesty and sexual behavior in the hopes that it might discourage bad behavior at Fox News? This is absurd.

The Bible’s teaching on these things is aimed squarely at the kind of behavior now being reported at Fox News. The Bible’s “moralizing” on these things exposes such evil for what it is. It doesn’t enable it. The Bible has as much to say—if not more—about the behavior of lecherous men as it does about the modesty of women (e.g. Exod. 20:17; Matt. 5:28). Pastoral silence on such matters would enable the darkness not confront it.

And this is the real problem with Beaty’s citation of Piper’s article. She conflates bad behavior at Fox News with faithful biblical teaching. What Piper wrote about modesty in 2007 is something we would all do well to listen to in 2017. And the reason we need to hear it is because it is the wisdom of scripture. Our sexually broken world needs more biblical wisdom, not less of it. If pastors charged with preaching the whole counsel of God cannot speak to this, then who can?

I agree with Beaty that Christians must not excuse or defend bad behavior. Instead, we must expose it (Eph. 5:11). But our duty to expose evil must not be turned into an excuse for turning away from what the Bible says about modesty. We need to know what the Bible teaches about modesty, and we need to live it. But we are not going to be able to do that if we slander biblical teaching as “victim-blaming.”

When a “mother” fathers a child, who are you to judge?

Perhaps you’ve already seen the new Dove soap commercial featuring a transgender “mom” (see above). Such displays are ubiquitous in pop culture these days, but this one caught my eye. This one stood out because it is not only redefining male and female, but it is also redefining mom and dad.

My question for those who accept transgender identities is this: Are there any limits on who can “identify” as a mom? If being a mom really comes down to how one self-identifies, what is the limiting principle here? Here’s what I mean:

  • Should someone who fathers a child and who looks and dresses like a man self-identify as the “mother” of a child? If not, why not?
  • Should someone self-identify as the mother of a child that they have no legal relationship to (either by birth or by adoption)? If not, why not?
  • Should someone self-identify as a “mother” when there is no child in the picture at all? In other words, should one self-identify as a mother even if he or she has no relationship to any particular child? If not, why not?
  • The Dove commercial says that “you are the only expert in your kid.” But what if a child says that she needs a father? Should her father self-identify as her mother? If not, why not?

If the Dove commercial is correct that we must affirm a father who self-identifies as a mother, then isn’t it possible for anyone to be a “mom”? If the Dove commercial is correct that there really is no one right way to be a mother, then who’s to deny any of the self-identities listed above?

These questions would have been incomprehensible to people even ten years ago. But I do think they are relevant today. The hegemony of self-identities is here, and those promoting them have given us no principle by which they may be limited–even when they are harmful to others. And yet they owe us that explanation, but that explanation is not forthcoming. And it won’t be forthcoming because they don’t have an answer. How long will it take for folks to figure that out? And how much damage will be done to families before they do?

Usage Note on “Re-Accommodate”

By now you have all heard about the United Airlines fiasco involving the violent removal of a ticketed passenger. I won’t rehash the whole story here (although I did get a first person account from my colleague John Klaassen who was seated right in front of the removed passenger; see the guy in the orange shirt here).

After videos of the incident went viral, the CEO of United released a statement claiming that passenger had been “re-accommodated.” This neologism has been widely mocked—especially since video footage of the incident had already been seen by half the world by the time the CEO released his statement. It was as if he was saying, “Don’t you believe your lying eyes. We merely re-accommodated him.” After two days, it’s pretty clear that nobody is buying this glaring euphemism.

But as “re-accommodate” is poised to become the word of the year, I thought it might be useful to make one usage note. Technically speaking, this passenger’s removal would not have been a re-accommodation even if the man had decided to deplane voluntarily and without incident. Why?

While the Urban Dictionary has already updated its lexicon, The American Heritage Dictionary (AHD) still does not have an entry for re-accommodate. However, AHD does have entries for “re-” and for “accommodate.” Entry 3.b under “accommodate” says that the word means “to provide for; supply with something needed.” The prefix “re-“ denotes “again” or “anew.”

Since the accommodation in question is airline passage from Chicago to Louisville, the United CEO’s term re-accommodate would mean to provide passage from Chicago to Louisville again. But this is precisely what did not happen. One cannot re-accommodate unless they have first accommodated, which United of course did not do.

Bottom Line: The CEO’s euphemism would have been inaccurate no matter how the passenger had been deplaned. And I have a hunch that because this incident has become so notorious, the CEO’s intended meaning for this term is likely not going to be the one that makes it into AHD. The meaning reflected in the tweet below is mostly likely the one that will stick.

Santa in a gay marriage in new picture book

HarperCollins will be publishing a new book featuring a gay Santa. Here’s the report from TIME magazine:

A new picture book will depict Santa as a gay man in an interracial relationship, publisher Harper Design confirmed Tuesday.

The book, Santa’s Husband, goes on sale Oct. 10 and tells the story of a black Santa Claus and his white husband who both live in the North Pole. Santa’s spouse frequently fills in for his husband at malls, according to a description of the book Harper Design provided to TIME…

A photo… of the book’s original concept art shows the couple, both wearing Santa suits, looking dreamingly into each other’s eyes.

Harper Design said the book is meant for all ages.

I guess we already knew that no area would be off-limits in the cultural revolution before us, but this one is still quite sad. Santa has long been transformed into a secular symbol of Christmas. But still, he was a symbol for children. This book is but one more indication that purveyors of the new sexual morality are willing to appropriate any and every cultural symbol and transform it into an avatar of the revolution. 

Is the religious left really a “political force”?

Reuters has a report out today about how President Trump has activated the religious left. Here’s the gist of it:

“The election of Trump has been a clarion call to progressives in the Protestant and Catholic churches in America to move out of a place of primarily professing progressive policies to really taking action,” [Reverend Serene Jones] said.

Although not as powerful as the religious right, which has been credited with helping elect Republican presidents and boasts well-known leaders such as Christian Broadcasting Network founder Pat Robertson, the “religious left” is now slowly coming together as a force in U.S. politics.

This disparate group, traditionally seen as lacking clout, has been propelled into political activism by Trump’s policies on immigration, healthcare and social welfare, according to clergy members, activists and academics. A key test will be how well it will be able to translate its mobilization into votes in the 2018 midterm congressional elections.

“It’s one of the dirty little secrets of American politics that there has been a religious left all along and it just hasn’t done a good job of organizing,” said J. Patrick Hornbeck II, chairman of the theology department at Fordham University, a Jesuit school in New York.

“It has taken a crisis, or perceived crisis, like Trump’s election to cause folks on the religious left to really own their religion in the public square,” Hornbeck said.

A couple comments here:

1. Reverend Jones says that the religious left needs to move from merely “professing” progressivism to “really taking action.” But nowhere does she or any other person in the article talk about a need for the religious left to “profess” the faith once for all given to the saints nor to act on the dictates of that faith. Nowhere in this article is Jesus, the cross, the gospel, or God even mentioned. If all I knew about the religious left were this article I’d have to ask in what sense it is “religious” at all. This article describes a very secular movement, if it even is that. And that brings me to my next point.

2. The article contends that the religious left—although not as influential as the religious right—really is beginning to gain some steam. It has been catalyzed, the article claims, by the presidency of Donald Trump. The religious left has been here all along, it just needed better organization. It is this latter point that is highly disputable. The mainline denominations are the cradle of the religious left, and the mainlines have been in a membership freefall for decades. They are declining in influence because they are declining in members. Theological liberalism eviscerates biblical Christianity. It is a form of godliness without its power (1 Timothy 3:5). Of course they are declining. Baptized secularism offers nothing more than unbaptized secularism. It is no surprise that secular people have decided that they don’t need to give up their Sunday mornings in order to have the baptized version. More “organization” is not going to fix the problem at the heart of the religious left—the fact that it is no longer Christian in any meaningful sense.

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