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CULTURE

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BY STEVE DUNN

We live in a time of cultural warfare. The radical left often seems bent on eradicating Christian witness from the public square and detaching the nation from biblical values. The “church” is perceived as the enemy of politically correct definition of tolerance. Many in the church, especially the fundamentalist right, are vehemently attacking those efforts-and at times demonizing those who choose to even be moderates or to voice the idea that there is some element of truth outside the Christian faith. Both extremes tragically are not serving our nation, simply throwing gasoline on a fire that further damages the well-being of the American people.

I cannot speak for the radical left—nor would even consider doing so. The contempt for even basic Judaeo-Christian values and the worship of every man’s right to do what their heart desires without accountability for its impact are antithetical to my faith and values.

But I can speak to my fellow Christians. The political rhetoric, the judgmental intransigence over every issue facing us as a free people defy the words of the Lord through Isaiah—words not spoken to society in general but to the people of God:

Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. – Isaiah 1.16-18

We need to take the plank out of our own eyes. We need to remember the words and example of Jesus.

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” – Matthew 5:44-48

We have become very adept at turning over the tables. But I wonder greatly if tactics that so much resemble the world’s way of doing things don’t deaden us to the vital truth that the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ must guide our opinions and actions towards others—especially those who we perceive or who declare themselves to be enemies.

The New Testament records only ONE incident of Jesus overturning the tables—and countless examples of the love and graciousness and forgiveness of Jesus.

Please think about this—prayerfully, honestly and apolitically.

© 2018 by Stephen L. Dunn. You have permission to reprint this provided it is unchanged, proper authorship is cited, it is in a publication not for sale, and a link is provided to this site or to http://www.drstevedunn.com. For all other uses, contact Steve at sdunnpastor@gmail.com

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salt-and-light

BY STEVE DUNN

   Valentine’s Day saw another horrific event in our nation.  Seventeen people were killed in a high school in Florida by a gunman with an alarmingly troubled past.  After that the debate over gun control was once again pushed to the forefront, the cries for better mental health were amped up, and predictably the recriminations and accusations over responsibility began to flow.  All the responses were predictable (including some of mine).  Unfortunately, more and more people are throwing up their hands, saying that there is nothing we can do.

Dear Church, throwing up our hands is not an option.  If we do so, the spiral of violence will continue and the collateral damage inflicted on innocent human beings will multiply.  Someone posted this week on Facebook that expecting Washington to do something is lunacy. Actually, I pray Washington WILL do something, but I suspect given the division in this nation and its extremes, what Washington will do will not begin to be enough.

More and more I am convicted that only Jesus is the answer. Not the politicized or trivialized Jesus that too many embrace; but the real Jesus.  The Jesus that transforms peoples’ hearts and minds.  The Jesus that challenges the church to stop its inward focus where it is only concerned with maintenance of its traditions and satisfying its own members consumeristic desires.  The Jesus that bids us to look to our own hearts and see where the culture of violence has infected us, the followers of the Prince of Peace.  To honestly and courageously be willing to change the things in our lives that contribute to this culture.

The Jesus who commands, “Go!” being salt and light and making disciples.  The Jesus who calls us to welcome the least, the last, and the lost into our midst where they can find the love of Christ that can heal hearts and minds.

I truly wish we would stop being so automatically demanding of our rights that we are not prepared to do the right thing as God reveals it to us.

For God calls us to DO SOMETHING.  And it starts with prayer for the wisdom to know what that something is.

© 2018  by Stephen L. Dunn.  You have permission to reprint this provided it is unchanged, proper authorship is cited, it is in a publication not for sale, and a link is provided to this site or to www.drstevedunn.com. For all other uses, contact Steve at sdunnpastor@gmail.com 

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BY STEVE DUNN

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, a special day for many Christians around the world. It marks the beginning of the season of Lent, a time for reflection and repentance as we prepare to remember Christ’s death on the Cross to free us from sin and death’s sting.  It will be followed by Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection and the beginning of life as God intended as we are restored to a right relationship with Him and empowered to live that new life to the full.

This Ash Wednesday was marred by the fatal shooting of 17 persons in a high school in Florida.  It was the 29th instance of gun-related violence in our schools in the first 45 days of the new year.  I am sure that there are some of my readers, especially those who believe in their unfettered right to possess weapons, who will consider the picture I have posted as emotionalism.

There indeed is some emotion in it.  My heart breaks for the innocent victims of such violence.  My soul grieves that so many in our society have allowed themselves to be detached from the suffering and loss of their fellow citizens.  My spirit is aroused by the reality that our nation’s leadership can spend so much time and energy and attention on wiretaps and walls and shutdowns and scandals but do not see as a priority the need for intelligent and decisive action to deal constructively with the issue of growing gun violence–a problem that is as dangerous to the moral fabric of this nation as any we have faced.

Christians believe that we have been delivered from the power and the penalty of sin because of what Christ has done on the Cross.  But we still live in the presence of sin.  That reality does not excuse us from dealing with the present effects of that sin and doing our best to combat sin where we see it.  It does not absolve our doing what truly loves and protects our neighbor, sitting on our hands,waiting for Jesus to come with our tickets punched for heaven.

It begins with prayer-prayer for the victims, prayer for the perpetrators, prayer for our leaders,and prayer for the callousness of our own hearts.

And then prayer needs to be matched with action, to work with the mind of Christ and the heart of Christ to help bring about the changes at all levels–our homes, our neighborhood, and our nation that will combat this violence and its effects on our society and its people.

© 2018  by Stephen L. Dunn.  You have permission to reprint this provided it is unchanged, proper authorship is cited, it is in a publication not for sale, and a link is provided to this site or to www.drstevedunn.com. For all other uses, contact Steve at sdunnpastor@gmail.com 

BY STEVE DUNN

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Last Sunday, the worst mass shooting in Texas history occurred at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland TX as 28 people were brutally murdered by a gunman.  This was not the first time this happened; in fact, in the past two years “houses of worship” have become soft targets for this type of criminal.

It was ironic that many people who are absolutely obsessed with fighting the terrorist threat from radical Islam were not even using the word “terror” in this instance.  Christopher Kline, a friend of mine from Virginia, posted this comment on Facebook:

“Why is it that following a mass shooting of innocent people we hear from elected officials that we should not politicize what occurred with a discussion regarding gun policy but within hours of a terrorist attack on innocent people we hear about the need for increased vetting, the need to end visa programs, etc.? Why is it okay to politicize the death of innocent Americans in one situation and not another? This applies to elected officials at all levels!”

I suspect that Chris has hit the nail right on the head.  Americans — far too many — so dearly love their right to own guns that I suspect they fear letting any discussion follow a line that might lead to questioning that right in the extremes with which it is defended. In fact, one person responded to Chris with the comment “Guns are not the issue.”

No, they are not the ONLY issue – but the access to assault weapons and automatic ones ARE part of the overall issue.  The violence in America, promoted in our entertainment, video games, and political diatribes are part of the issue.  The failure for the government both nationally and locally to invest in mental health that could identify and keep guns away from those who are mentally disturbed is part of the issue.  Yes, people kill people. Mentally ill and untreated people kill people with guns.

If the NRA and other pro-gun citizens would invest even half of the dollars that they invest in fighting gun control, marketing weapons and ammunition of increasingly deadly force, and other things that add to the gun culture–if they would invest these dollars in mental health, then we might begin to turn the tide on mass shootings like Texas, Charleston, Virginia Tech, Newtown, and Colorado Walmarts.

At the very least they might begin to convince some of us who are increasingly fed up with this nation’s out-of-control gun violence to be more open to their “right to bear arms.”  If this doesn’t stop, you will find more and more people who will even want to take guns away from sportsmen (a position with which I disagree).  (Although the question still lingers in my mind–why does a sportsman need a weapon with which he could wage war to kill a deer or a rabbit for food?)

Some of you will insist on responding to me in a predictable manner and sadly, your responses will too often simply repeat the gun lobby line or question my patriotism.  And this will mean that too many will not even bother to mention the merits of my suggestion that we must get serious about mental healthcare instead of living with the increasing insanity of our out-of-control gun violence.  But I post this in hopes that some of you will enter into that dialogue about mental healthcare and now to fund it.

 

© 2017 by Stephen L. Dunn.  You have permission to reprint this provided it is unchanged, proper authorship is cited, it is in a publication not for sale, and a link is provided to this site or to www.drstevedunn.com.  For all other uses, contact Steve at sdunnpastor@gmail.com

 

BY STEVE DUNN

I am thankful to be an American. I live in perhaps the most prosperous nation on earth. I enjoy freedom and security still unequaled around the globe. My neighbors are by and large good people seeking to live at peace with one another. I believe that my nation, despite its flaws and inconsistencies, has done more good for our world than most other countries and has often carried a load for the larger population of this planet far beyond our fair share—and have done so generously and sacrificially. I dislike when others bash our nation because we are a convenient whipping boy while at the same time aspiring to come to our land to find fulfillment, safety, and some measure of prosperity.

As a Christian, committed to living by the truth and facing the consequences of that truth. I am deeply troubled by fellow Americans who would deny the truth because it inconveniences or offends them.   And I am offended by fellow Americans who attack people who simply tell the truth because they do not do it in a politically correct way. (Note: The Left does not have a monopoly on “political correctness.” The Right has its own version and just as resolutely promote and enforce it).

But more than anything, my heart grieves when Christians make earthly political positions and man-made symbols more important than Biblical integrity in their words and behaviors. And I am sure that God is grieved when our words and actions, Facebook posts and Tweets, and other public pronouncements ignore the Second Commandment, “Love thy neighbor as Thyself.” Ignore is not too strong a word.

Although you may be offended by taking a knee during the national anthem, have you bothered to try and understand the motivation behind such exercises of free speech? (Many of those athletes are devout evangelical Christians). You may not agree with them, but have you sought to understand them?

And when several million of our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico have had their lives devastated by two hurricanes, why is all of our attention on sports stadiums and what occurs there instead of getting help to our brothers and sisters in need?

For those who would honestly want to think about the current NFL and MLB protests, you might find this helpful reading.

© 2017 by Stephen L. Dunn. You have permission to reprint this provided it is unchanged, proper authorship is cited, it is in a publication not for sale, and a link is provided to this site or to www.drstevedunn.com . For all other uses, contact Steve at sdunnpastor@gmail.com

By Steve Dunn

Watching the news lately, I have grown tired, very tired. I am tired of ….

Politicians who demonize people and political positions with which they disagree.

Politicians who spin or even ignore the truth that is inconvenient to them but who insist on

accountability and even punishment for others who do the same.

Politicians who believe that they are above the need for civility and respect towards others.

Politicians who demand absolute conformity and support from people who work for them even

when they are wrong.

Politicians who put their mouth in motion before their mind is in gear.

Politicians who don’t know when to simply keep their thoughts to themselves

Politicians who worship political correctness but who believe people who do not agree with

their definition should ostracized.

Politicians who believe that character is a private matter.

Politicians who do not know how to choose their battles.

Politicians who believe people should never question their motives or integrity.

Politicians who believe they are always right.

Political supporters who support these “leaders” unquestioningly and pounce on those who dare to question their pet politician.

Political supporters who always assume the other side is lying.

Political supporters who justify these actions by saying the other side does it, too.

Neither these political leaders nor their uncritical supporters do our nation a service.

Dr. Michael Cheatham, chief surgeon of the Orlando Health Regional Medical Center hospital, addresses reporters during a news conference after a shooting involving multiple fatalities at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016. Watching are Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, second from right, and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.                           (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
 by Steve Dunn

A horrible tragedy occurred this past weekend in Orlando.  At a night club popular with gays and lesbians,an attack was unleashed by a man with suspected ties of Islamic terrorism.  At least 50 people were killed and 53 more injured in what is the worst mass shooting in US history.

A year ago another group of people were shocked and saddened as a young man murdered people in a Bible study in Charleston SC. 9 people including the senior pastor and the gunman died when the young man opened fire in a Bible study at the Emmanuel AME  Church.

In between those two of high profile events there have been hundreds of such incidents–often unexpected, mostly inexplicable, filled with fatality and tragedy.  Sadly, such events are almost daily in this country.

I could launch here into an emotional plea for gun control (which I do support) or some theologically judgemental pronouncement about the lifestyle of the victims in Orlando. I could rail against terrorists-Islamic and otherwise.  There are a wealth of responses and comments that can be made and will be made.

But my immediate and daily response was articulated quite well by Southern Baptist ethicist Russell who following the Orlando incident,  tweeted “Christian, your gay or lesbian neighbor is probably really scared right now. Whatever our genuine disagreements, let’s love and pray.”

Why do I say this?  Because this is what the Bible tells me is the appropriate fist response:

“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” – Psalm 34:18
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” – Romans 12.15
He heals (God) the broken-hearted and binds up their wound”- Psalm 147.3
Would you join me in this prayer not only for this incident but for our American culture and its people?