Archive

CULTURE

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.

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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?

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 BY STEVE DUNN

Dianne and I were shopping today at Walmart.  As we started pulling out of our parking space, a Walmart Nascar Wannabee came racing up the lane, easily exceeding the speed limit.  Only Dianne’s alertness prevented an accident. (The rapid braking action however gave me a near concussion as my head rocked back against the head rest.) Made me think of a post  wrote six summers ago for my devotional blog THRIVING IN CHRIST.  I share it again while it is still “ringing” in my mind.-Steve

 
Came close the other day to going home to be with Jesus – as in heavenly home – for eternity. I don’t know if it was the appointed time in God’s will but the opportunity was definitely there for me to be yanked home to meet my Maker. That intersection of grace and free will (someone else’s) was coming together to make this a real possibility. If it had happened, the launch point would have been the Walmart parking lot on Fruitville Pike in Lancaster PA.

I had just finished making my purchases and had returned to my Saturn. I was backing up slowly and cautiously because, of course, I was surrounded on either side by two monster trucks designed to obscure any view for at least a mile.  As I attempted to back, I had not yet reached the stage of cautiously inching my rear end into traffic when a vehicle raced by at a speed that would have earned a ticket on the interstate.  Then I took almost another full minute to back up stopping with great frequency, i.e., I lost count, as more vehicles backed out into the space I was trying to occupy.

When I finally made it “out”, my vehicle was accosted by the rear ends of at least three other vehicles who seemed to have simply kicked it into reverse and pushed the gas pedal before even beginning to think that there might be someone else out there.  Once this exercise in “dodgem” was over, I still had to navigate a parking lot where people were making wide turns or occupying the center of the lane because they were talking on their doggone cell phones. (Actually, I had another expletive/adjective in mind but this is a religious blog site. Forgive me, Lord, for allowing that to even be in my vocabulary’s secret vault.)

After about six minutes of near-death experiences (it seemed like sixty), I made it into the safety of actual traffic where God spared my life so I could be home to be with my lovely wife instead of my Maker.

Did you ever notice how dangerous life can be? Even for those people who try to insulate their lives by taking no risks, eating bland foods, staying out of traffic, avoiding their neighbors, keeping their heads down and mouths shut, life comes at you fast and you really have a lot less control than you’d like.  And at times it can scare the socks off of us.

That’s why wise people like David teach us that we need to put our lives into the hands of the Lord.  “Even though I must walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.”  To do business as a human being requires us to venture into the Walmart parking lots and human intersections where another person’s freedom can rob us of our peace and attack our joy. Where damage can be done that then we will have to deal with.

But we can live with confidence because “nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35)  It’s that confidence that removes my fear and allows me to live with confidence even in the Walmart parking lots of the planet.  I may suffer a fender-bender, or I may actually meet with a fatal “accident”, but I cannot be separated from God.

© 2010, 2016 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

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Memorial Day Weekend has arrived.  For the first time in years I have had no pastoral responsibilities during this time and basically unlimited freedom to relax, to follow my own agenda, and to refresh mind, body, and spirit.  An old friend of mine, Kenneth Hall referred to this as “freescence.”

Saturday morning when I arose (early as usual) I drove around hitting some garage sales and doing some grocery shopping.  I noticed how many of the homes had people out early diligently doing yard work or garage doors open to reveal people working on some home improvement project.  It seemed to me that they were getting things out of the way so they could enjoy Sunday and Monday more fully. I wondered how many barbecues or picnics were scheduled.  Or having lived in northwest Indiana for a long time, how many were headed to lake houses or lakes or parks or beaches for recreation and relaxation

But then I found my thoughts directed towards cemeteries or town squares that tomorrow will be the site of memorial observances for those who have fallen in the cause of freedom.  One of my strongest childhood memories growing up in a small town in Ohio where that morning began with a parade, a service in the park, prayers and a honor guard that would issue a 21-gun salute followed by the solemn playing of “Taps.”  The place would be full regardless of what would happen the rest of the day–and this would occur rain or shine.

I wonder how many people will take the time tomorrow morning to join such an observance, or even pause to say a prayer of thanksgiving for these honored dead and express words of encouragement to those who grieve on Memorial Day, not barbecue.

I plan on being one of those.  There are too many men and women who have paid the ultimate price for my freedom to not do so.

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© 2016 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

Last week Chris Mercer walked onto the campus of Umpqua Community College in Oregon killing 10 persons and wounding at least nine others.  At this point, he appeared to actually be targeting Christians–for what reason we are still trying to unwrap.  It was the fourth mass shooting on a college campus in recent years.  It was the 45th reported school shooting this year in the United States.
 
I am about to make some friends angry.  They are persons who are avid sportsmen and passionate political conservatives. They own guns and are in fact, highly responsible gun owners.  For this reason and others, they believe that their ownership of guns are an inalienable right tied fundamentally to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  They believe that people kill people–guns don’t kill people.  Some of them are also convince that our government is fundamentally untrustworthy and that must retain their arms to keep from being victimized and tyrannized by that same government.  Others believe that their police forces our inept and ultimately it is up to them to protect their property and the lives of loved ones.
See how complicated this has become personally?
Nonetheless, I have reached the point that I must declare ENOUGH!!!!!!!!!
I cannot listen one more self-serving declaration from the NRA that instead of proposing realistic solutions chooses to stonewall with arguments that have become less and less tenable.  I am tired of politicians of both sides of the aisle politicizing this issue, including those on the left who utter no outcry when babies are killed in the name of reproductive rights.
What about the inalienable right to life?
 
My friends and neighbors, the collateral damage has become simply unacceptable.  Reducing school children dead and terrorized at the hand of a gunman to the callous categorization of collateral damage is absolutely offensive to one who believes in the sanctity of life–and I suspect to God, who is Life. My anti-gun control friends–the destruction of a human life in a womb is no less offensive than shooting that life in a classroom.
The passionate opposition to gun control when at the same time stripping the providers of mental health care of resources to bring some form of life management or even healing those with mental illnesses is selfish and self-serving.
The time has come to provide realistic control to the spread of arms in this land.  The time has come to identify those prone to violence in their mental illness and get them help that reduces the likelihood of their becoming mass murderers–and again institutionalizing those who cannot be helped.
The time has come to end our insane flirtation with violence in this society and the worship of the tools of that violence–video games, automatic weapons to name a few.
The time has come.
 
ENOUGH !!!!!!

BY STEVE DUNN

On June 26, 2015 the Supreme Court made a decision that is the equivalent of a moral earthquake.  They declared by a 5-4 vote that same sex marriage was a right protected by the Constitution of the United States.  It is an event that to many is a disastrous event for which our nation will further erode the already tenuous moral fabric of America.  But to many it is a moral victory affirming a way of life that they consider both healthy and desirable. I stand on the side of those who consider this decision to be a sign of our moral failure. The fact that the decision had the slimmest of majorities should give us a clue as to how unwise and potentially dangerous this decision may prove to be.

Most of us who pay careful attention to the moral character of our nation saw this one coming.  We also knew that there was nothing that we could do to stop it.  We are already praying for the impact of what we believe will be ultimately prove to be unwise.  Marriage, already an endangered institution, will not be strengthened.  I believe that many people and families and our nation itself will be hurt by this decision. I agree with Russell Moore, writing in The Washington Post: “The Court now has disregarded thousands of years of definition of the most foundational unit of society, and the cultural changes here will be broad and deep.”

I will not elaborate on all my reasons.  I suspect they would simply fuel what will become an even more nasty cultural debate.  For now it is the law of the land.  As a minister, nothing in the decision compels me to unite same sex couples.  Marriage in the US is still a civil matter as the law goes, and I would give up my professional right to preside over those unions rather to participate in a legal process that deprived me of the right to act in a manner consistent with my biblically-informed conscience.

In the meantime, I will continue to love my neighbor regardless of their sexual orientation.  I will treat them with gentleness and respect–which God commands me to do.  But I will continue to affirm that I believe that marriage is intended to be between a man and a  woman–and that to be healthy we must live by God’s design for this institution.  And I will continue to teach that marriage is so sacred that it should involve the mutual submission under the love of Christ that makes such things as spousal abuse or abandonment or no-fault divorce something to be rejected in all ideas of marriage.

I will not engage in the falsehood of affirming a lifestyle that I believe to be contrary to God’s design because loving and respecting someone does not mean that I agree and approve with everyone’s personal decisions and values.  That’s a destructive lie that political correctness would impose on all of us–a lie that often proves destructive to anyone that the guardians of political correctness deems to have less rights than the rest of the citizenry.

But let me repeat–I will not treat a lost battle in the culture war as an excuse to stop showing the unconditional love of the One who loves me conditionally to any person–straight or otherwise.

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photo-karl merton ferron, Baltimore Sun

BY STEPHEN DUNN

This photo grabbed my attention this week. It was of a protestor in Baltimore responding the persons of the 300 Man March movement that had come to the city to try to be a “neutral force” in helping the anger and violence of Baltimore to subside. It was a sentiment shared by the citizens of that city that had been victimized by the riots on the wake of Freddie Gray’s death, apparently at the hands of officers of the Baltimore Police Force. It was shared by the black mayor of Baltimore who invoked a rigid curfew to control the violence. It was shared by the families of the 100 police officers who been attacked and injured while trying to protect the citizenry.

It was not shared, I suspect, by those of many races, who will continue to use this tragic event to further divide us and to use the misfortune of this city to advance their hateful and self-serving aims.

That Freddie Gray had died because of the criminal conduct of some officers seems pretty certain at this time. And if everything is proven in a court of law, these men in blue will become men in orange as they enter prison. But we should not forget that Freddie Gray’s criminal record reveals him to be a societal predator that undermines the well-being of any city. Still, he did not deserve to die as he did. He is hardly, however a martyr.

I believe that this man’s shirt should be our first goal. To stop murdering one another, stop preying on one another, stop hating one another because of our personal philosophies and prejudices. To stop trying hold onto the past as an excuse for despising our brothers.

I know that the issues are complicated, but resorting to violence unleashes hatred not healing–and we all suffer.

Long ago the Prophet Isaiah gave us wise counsel: …”Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow. “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, – Isaiah 1:17-18 And the end game of that effort: forgiveness and healing.