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THE POLITICAL SCENE

happy-independence-day-1000x617by Steve Dunn

Today is July 4th, the day we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence separating us from the rule of England and its mad King George.  Never mind that John Adams that July 2nd would be Independence Day and that declaration was not actually signed until July xx.  July 4th was the Day we formally declared our independence.

Never mind the historical proof-texting because far more important is the principle. The Declaration reads:

In Congress, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

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.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

This was a momentous action—and its core values—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness have shaped our people and inspired other peoples and nations.  We have sometimes had trouble defining those three words and have certainly made mistakes along the ways—but the end product is so powerful that for more than two centuries people have immigrated to our shores seeking to find those truths to be a reality in their lives.

Compared to so much of the rest of the world, we have rich and meaningful lives, paralleled freedom, and countless opportunities to choose happiness.  Today is a day to get past the debates over walls and immigration, athletes who stand or kneel, trade agreements and foreign influence in our politics.  For just today, can we pause, reflect our blessings, celebrate our freedom, and give thanks to our Maker.

© 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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Barbara Bush will be celebrating her 90th birthday
BY STEVE DUNN

Saturday morning in St. Martin’s Episcopal Cathedral in Houston, America celebrated the life of Barbara Bush. I was amused by a news reporter’s comment that her faith and friends were very important to her, but most important to her was her family.  Mrs. Bush’s quote on the subject earlier in her life was in a different order saying the most important things were faith, family and friends.  In a 2013 interview for a C-Span series on First Ladies, she made that clear: “I’m a huge believer in a loving God,” she said. “And I don’t have a fear of death for my precious George or for myself because I know that there is a great God.”  A lady of great Christian dignity, Cleve R. Wootson, Jr. of the Washington Post added.Even in the 2013 interview she took pains not to sound too sanctimonious. ‘That sounds so arrogant,” she said, turning away from the interviewer. I’m a big shot. I have a faith in God. I do have a faith in God. And I don’t question it. I have no fear of death. And I think that’s very comforting.”  SOURCE: The Oklahoman -News OK website-April 18th, 2018.Cleve R. Wootson Jr. The Washington Post

Her values informed her ideas and thoughts and words.  Here are some of those definitely worth remembering.

To the Wellesley College graduating class: “At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a friend, a children, or a parent.”

“Never lose sight of the fact that the most important yardstick of your success will be how you treat other people — your family, friends, and coworkers, and even strangers you meet along the way.”

“When you come to a roadblock, take a detour.”

“I hate the fact that people think ‘compromise’ is a dirty word.”

“Don’t cry over things that were or things that aren’t. Enjoy what you have now to the fullest.”

“Bias has to be taught. If you hear your parents downgrading women or people of different backgrounds, why, you are going to do that.”

 “You have to love your children unselfishly. That is hard. But it is the only way.”

“You have two choices in life; you can either like what you do or dislike what you do. I have chosen to like what I do.”

“Libraries have always seemed like the richest places in the world to me, and I’ve done some of my best learning and thinking thanks to them.”

“Giving frees us from the familiar territory of our own needs by opening our mind to the unexplained worlds occupied by the needs of others.”

“I’m a liberal when it comes to human rights, the poor; so’s George Bush. . . . But Liberal and Conservative don’t mean much to me anymore. Does that mean we care about people and are interested and want to help? And if that makes you a Liberal, so be it.”

” If human beings are perceived as potentials rather than problems, as possessing strengths instead of weaknesses, as unlimited rather that dull and unresponsive, then they thrive and grow to their capabilities.”

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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

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 

wapo_1

BY STEVE DUNN

       In America today there is much furor, debate, and suspicion of press coverage–especially coverage by the mainstream media of the President of the United States.  Mr. Trump is constantly rebutting what is said about him with the with the dismissive of “fake news.”  And many others in America dismiss the news outlets supporting the President as creating “fake news.”  We now know there is even a growing industry that proudly claims that it creates fake news (the reason for which defies me).  Many people simply embrace the concept that the best news is negative news and others embrace the idea that unless the news is positive about their side–it should not be reported at all.

The Washington Post carries this banner “Democracy Dies in Darkness” which I understand goes back to the days when Woodward and Bernstein exposed the darkside of President Nixon.  I know my quoting this banner will cause some to dismiss what I say declaring that I have a bias.

I do have a bias. I have a bias–it is a bias towards the light.  In a democracy, especially the democracy that makes me thankful to be an American and causes me to pray God’s blessing on this nation; darkness–hiddenness–secrets–manipulation of the truth–outright lies are the enemies of democracy.  And whoever would want to hide the truth from the American people, especially for their own political purposes undermines our democracy.

My bias, however, does not come from a political position. It comes from my faith and from the Word of God.  Let me quote just a few verses that inform my bias:

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. – John 3.19
 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” –  John 8.12

“You are the light of the world (meaning Jesus’ disciples). A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  – Matthew 5.14-16

May we always embrace the light and drive back the darkness.
men-love-darkness
© 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