Saturday, February 13, 2021

Civility And Decency: Soft Skills Now Outdated

Yeah, this old post never saw the light of day but there's a point here. 

2016 Indiana General Assembly Indiana House leaders commit to civility

>>"We will do everything in our power to be certain that no matter how difficult the discussions might get on any issue, that we're respectful of each other, that we talk about ideas and not personalities and that we work together to do what we believe is best for the state of Indiana," Bosma said.<<


Then the 2016 Presidential campaign and the rise of the Trumpocalypse in American politics arose. I was too busy to complete this post and I wondered how long that lasted in Indianapolis that year. I guess I could look it up and see how far the discussions on gay rights and incarceration went.

What we are immediately aware of is that on the national level, the arise of the  Trumpian political movement contributed in 2016 to the through the roof escalation of partisanship in America perhaps for all time. Democrats arose to combat the equally hardened Republican positions in the body politic and a culture war was renewed.

But it wasn't as usual. There's been long something entirely different the past few years. The hardening has moved from stone to tool steel. Civility is now viewed as a soft skill leading to targetting by an army of foul mouthed and feral contrarians who would rather, as the old cigarette commercial puts it, fight than switch.  4 years of scorched earth confrontation became the norm of American politics, not cooperation. America has turned a corner within itself that it's likely we will not be turning back from. Civility and decency are just not in anymore. 

And this year, the Indiana political scene has returned to this new norm most clearly seen in the second impeachment proceedings as acted upon by members of the Indiana congressional delegation:  there Republican Jim Banks, one of the newest and shiniest minted figures of the Republican machine in the Hoosier state just had to post a video where he stated flatly "Right now, I’m headed to the House floor to vote against impeachment. The Democrat party is dividing America when we should be doing everything we can to unite the country." So much for the civility. 

Oh well, that's to be expected, at a time in which the prophet Daniel warned that relationships between people and nations were going to be falling apart. Jesus said that the love of many would cool and dim to reinforce this sobering view of life in our fallen world.

So this old picture saved for this post back in 2016 really says it all. Ignore the Obama seal and things pretty much are the same. 

Monday, February 1, 2021

Quite The Contrary: A Kindler Gentler Pope Does Not A One True Religion Make

Some things never quite change. Some things do.

2013 saw the ascendancy of Argentina's Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio to the throne of the Papacy in the Vatican, as his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI retired. Bergoglio chose his pontifical title as that of Francis to intentionally identify himself with St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of the ancient Franciscan order noted for its focus on simplicity of lifestyle and service to the poor. And during the first several weeks after assuming the post, his personal charisma, lifestyle choices and pronouncements made it clear that Pope Francis would not be doing high church as usual. 

He forsook residency in the official papal palace in Rome, opting for a more modest suite in the Vatican guesthouse. Francis eschewed the usage of the the papacy's opulent vestments, mink stoles and bejeweled accoutrements for simple and plain ones. In his pastoral declarations, he has called for the Roman Catholic ministry to renew its focus upon compassionate service all around it, to even embrace vows of poverty to do so  and to forsake the aloof and often distant relations that are too widely the norm in churches globally. And his warmth and beatific presence radiates a human authenticity impossible to ignore and appreciate.

When you hear that Francis sneaks out of the Vatican anonymously to visit the sick, in the same way he did in Buenos Aires,  delighting the common and the ordinary of his flock with pastoral ministry, how can you fault it?  All of these are clear signs that that the pope is practicing what he preaches, that he prefers a church "
which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security" and that this is the new direction for Catholicism he's chosen. In short, Francis' personal example and passionate inclusiveness seems like a beacon of renewal that thrills a lot of Protestants who persist in believing that the prayer of Jesus is John 17 must inclued a renewed Protestant - Roman Catholic reapproachment. 

Seeing the head of the Catholic Church serve it notice that it is "off mission"  and out of touch with too many around it is refreshing .. and yet ultimately maddening to see. 

For at the same time Pope Francis seeks to reenergize his church with a new focus on grass roots values of sacrifice, compassion and tolerance, his revisioning of Catholic faith has shaken the church in far more profound ways. Already in deep crisis over ongoing pedophile scandals, the decelerating vitality and relevance of the church's influence globally, and it's own ancient factionalism at war with itself , his direction of the church has provoked longstanding resistence and even rebellion among those who would affirm his role as the Vicar of Christ leading the Only True Church, the Church of Rome.  At a time when the church's soul has been rent between liberal and conservative factions, it has become clear that Pope Francis' approach includes affirmations aimed at incorporating far more substantial change than just a call for return to ministry to the downtrodden.

The Pope's endorsement of universalism, a belief that all people, even atheists, are bound for eternal life was one such shot across the Church's bow.  Such a startling assertion, at odds with virtually all Protestant communities, also completely contradicts the Roman Catholic view that only those in full communion with it have any hope of such a thing .. a blow to the claim of it's objective exclusivity that outside the Roman Church, no salvation is possible which has long been the bulwark of Catholicism.

Another of his saucily proclaimed assertions was Francis' recent approval for same sex unions has been well established with his famously eye opening refusal to judge homosexuality as the grave and mortal sin that his predecessors have.  This total break from two millenia of Roman tradition holding to homosexuality as a grave and mortal sin sent even further shockwaves through the church. It has caused no end of feral debate among gay Roman Catholics and those of their brethren who would assert they are in sin, a state of affairs not lost upon the LGBTQ movement as it seeks to establish itself as a normative institution. 

Still another was the earthshaking willingness expressed by Francis in one of his "Apostolic Exhorations" a few years back to extend privileges in the Roman Mass to Roman Catholic divorcees who remarry and do not obtain formal release by church annulment from their past marriages. This has  caused a massive firestorm of debate among church leadership globally to the point that Francis has been officially approached by Roman bishops to clarify what he meant .. and he has refused to answer.

I could go on with more of this, but suffice it to say that this review of the example of Pope Francis shows us one thing very clearly.

For all of its historic posturing as the One True Holy Roman Catholic Church, as the One True Faith, the Roman Catholic church's very human dimension of its leadership has become a clearly established reality. Behind the pomp and prestige of its position, we are seeing once again how it is one filled with the contradiction of pragmatic idealism colliding with factionalism and cultural accommodation, set in the high stakes game of the control of the Church and its future in a world that is increasingly hostile and indifferent to this ancient institution.

Francis is a product of his times whose leadership has caused no end of controversy and division within his own church even as those outside it reckon him to be a really cool guy who's just like them, to the deep consternation of the Roman faithful. He's doing what he thinks he should to lead his church to the same kind of inclusive tolerance he has fostered .. and is finding himself under resistence by his own flock to the point that his name has now become a flashpoint among Catholics inspiring division and controversy, in a church where pride and faith in its being free from error and being unified is seen for what it is - the vain hope of the indoctrinated not understanding what kind of slaves to human tradition they have become. 

In 2000, one of his predecessors, the late John Paul II agonized over the "sins of the church" in a public act of repentance over many of the Roman Catholic church's historical failures. Many lauded the Papacy for its "moral courage" but there was absolutely nothing said about it's greatest sin. He and no other Roman pontiff has dared to repent over the foundational sin of Romanism - that good works must be trusted in to save since faith is not enough, that the Roman Mass must replicate the sacrifice of Christ to give those good works something to be built upon and that all who would disagree with Roman tradition are under the curse of God.

If the Papacy is ever to be really trusted, and that's a proposition this ex-Catholic gave up over 40 years ago, its repentance from these dead works of religious tradition would be a great start. Giving up on its pronounced curses on those outside the Church who affirm faith alone in Christ would be swell too. I hope someone has a hot mike on when they find Francis in a Starbucks somewhere and ask them about these things. It would make for another interesting interview for a pope who likes to depart from his planned remarks. 

Read more about the unbiblical nature of the Roman church at our collection of the late Keith Green's articles called the Catholic Chronicles here

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Where Are We Going? Listen to our new podcast!

A big leg that people have used to stand on involves the expectation that as difficult things may be that they are in some manner predictible and one can expect such bad times to finally pass back to some level of normalcy.

However, for the past several years, it's finally dawning on our awareness that these are not normal times. Given that we are facing absolutely volcanic times of trial, sorrow, violence and deceit we've seen arise in the world, the new normal seems to be the abnormal, the new stability is actually instability at so many levels.

So more and more, we are asking the question .. "where are we going?"

We've been wanting to launch a blog to address this on a weekly basis for a lonnnng time. At last, it's here! We release our blog every Saturday to hear Biblical commentary on current events and other hot button issues that directly relate to Spiritwatch Ministries' most foundational presupposition: that we live in the end times and that that last day of the last days is finally upon us with the prophetically foretold panorama  of judgement and woe ready to dawn upon us.

Click on the image to go straight to our home page for our podcast to hear more. You can peruse the rest of our blog articles going back years and that will be our operative principle upon which our observations are offered to help you discern the times and "take heed that no man deceive you." Our website and Facebook page will have the same links. Spread the word and let others know! Find out where we actually are going. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Works Still Works : How Earning Heaven Is A Way of Human Life

One powerful inner spiritual prompting among people is one they are scarcely aware of and that is the compulsion to perform, to live out one's path in life by self-achieval, by one's drive to work, to do something to better themselves. 

That is the lot of life this side of Eden, on these rocky roads after the fall of man. Humanity is driven by the deeply personal conviction that we must earn our way through life, that we owe a debt of a tangible nature of almost any sort to someone, some entity or some institution to make progress in the world. Everyone, it seems, comes to believe that they need to pay their dues in someway to someone or something else to in order to "make it" in life. 

Even in the jaded and amoral life of the Millenials,  whose sense of entitlement helps them live a self-centered life reckoning themselves at the center of the upwardly mobile food chain,  there yet remains an inner core where this indebtedness, this owing something to someone stubbornly abides. A recent survey brought light upon a new social phenomenon known as "vacation shaming" as evidence of this. Millenials are more likely than any other generation to experience guilt when taking scheduled vacation, feeling quite literally shamed into staying on the job by an intense conviction that they should not let their managers down. They literally feel they owe their employers and coworkers their time so intensely, they will even forego it. This is just one part of the social pressures that they now face and even seek therapy for  , which has become a real burden that COVID-19's coming has contributed to.
To address this inner imbalance or the felt need to do something .. people will do what they need to do.

This video of a young and disillusioned anti war activist from the movie "The Experiment" shows this all too well. 

But millenials are hardly alone in dealing with the compulsions of demands made upon their lives by things they can't control, as we have said. All of us face an indebtedness of sorts in our daily lives that we do much to escape from in all manner of ways when the pursuit to achieve is too great. A rabbi's deft analysis of the ongoing American infatuation with British royalty  includes this observation:

The underlying attraction to royalty is the human desire for an effortless life, where all things are magical and where all beauty is innate. A meritocracy has its own rewards. It allows ordinary people to become extraordinary, but it always involves hard work: the entrepreneur who must burn the midnight oil to build his business. The rising politician who must travel around the country begging rich people for money to make his candidacy viable. Even human attraction involves such hard work. It means dieting and giving up the foods we love. It means exercising, running and weight lifting. But then there are people who are all those things—rich, beautiful, wonderful—without any effort at all. They are angels who live among us. They are magical. 

Such "angels" are those who seem to have "made" it and whom we want to be. They become the poster children for perfection, the pinnacle of our aspiration that appeals to us. And that's a tough path to follow, a bricked road painted bright yellow upon which we're to travel, following the many pied pipers calling us to join their quest. Legions of bright eyed, fast talking men and women who seem like they have it all together constantly look for new recruits for their programs of personal development creating armies of work gangs across America and the world. 

In short, Rabbi Boteach says, life is work for which we will do what it takes to achieve a respite from, which is why leisure activities - for which we often feel guilty for taking - are so sought after:

In giving us things like “Enchanted forests” and “Never Never Land” where no boys grow old, Disney tapped into our sense of tiredness and weariness at the constant struggle that life demands, the never-ending battles to make something of ourselves. The battle to feed our families. The struggle to be happily married. The demands of raising purposeful children. The struggle to sustain healthy self-esteem.After all that exertion, we need an escape, a place to which we can retreat where everything is wonderful without having to try. And royalty is fantasy in the flesh. An impossible, effortless, wealthy, magical existence that seemingly requires no effort or struggle.

The chase after life involves a longing for arriving. And if we can find a place where we can find refuge, we'll give it a shot. We'll listen. We'll consider. We'll mull over it. And when it comes to spirituality, millenials are no different from other age groups - whether younger or older - in exploring it in search of that freedom. Like all of humanity, they'll engage in it - as needed, in perfectly consumerist mindset - in the quest to come to grips with the struggles of life just as all people have in the past.

The ideal that one can strive, apply and gainfully labor in effort to achieve a self-understanding or mastery over your failings is a powerful one. It's a human quest that religion seeks to address .. and for which cultism and abusive religion claim to have found the answer. If there is any common thread among the bewildering diversity of spirituality's market share, it is this: that to seek God's favor, blessing and reality in your life, you've got to do something to earn His attention. There's work to do to gain grace from God. And in so doing, that universal weight of guilt and shame over your moral failures can be atoned for. You can bury that hatchet if you follow the rules, do the coursework, login for X amount of hours, put in that time, be accountable.. 

Works still works. Earning heaven by the sweat of your brow is something we can take to the bank. We get it. That resonates with the guilt driven and the work orientation humanity has brought to its tables globally throughout history.  Religion seems to demand lot of spiritual busy work, philosophy an application of mental disciplines and reflection, social scenes drop hints that you should fake it until you make it. Etc. etc. 

Yet the Bible makes clear that our personal deliverance doesn't rely upon anything we can do ourselves. Scripture makes no appeal to that human vanity whatsoever. For there is nothing, it reveals, that anyone can do to address what is surely the main problem of mankind - our need of a Savior to rescue us from the inner evil and squalor called sin, which weighs us all down. Man's problem isn't more stuff, or fame, or means but our need of freedom from our evil and who can loose us from those debts?

The Bible shows that as he died upon the cross of Calvary over two millenia ago, Jesus laid his life down to pay that very price in the one greatest work any man could achieve, but one only God Himself could pay,  the price for the literal salvation of man. And the three greatest words for work-wearied people despairing over the costs of a life spent in those personal debts are what he declared there with his last breath:

So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit. 
John 19:30 

This wasn't the gasp of a dying man giving up to his mortality, but the judgment of a Savior whose life He declared was a work that ended for all time the struggle of mankind. He'd been saying so all of His life as He preached in ancient Israel:

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:15

And the Gospel of Jesus always points back to what He did and how His completed work changes life:

For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. Romans 10:4

This is too amazing to be believed: that all we have to do is repent and believe on Jesus to get off the maddening treadmills we all run on. 

But it's that simple. Cults, false religions and human effort can't handle it. But that is the truth. Are you still working out, putting in your sweat, running after something that you'll never catch? Turn to Christ alone by faith alone now!