Thursday, October 17, 2019

Abortion: A Once Private Decision that Became a Celebrated National Demand

This is Part II in my blog series. Click on these titles to read previous posts:

In my last post, I wrote about racial division being used to engineer a civil war. I noted that racism today encompasses not only race, but social and political views. Perhaps the topic generating the loudest pseudo-racist response is abortion. To stand against it drops the opposer into the bigotry camp. A pro-life supporter disparages women’s rights and wants to interfere with their health care. The law is on the side of the abortionist. The women demanding their rights long ago achieved those goals. And yet, the protests continue as the law creeps forward, stretching the proverbial inch into a mile.

In response to the late-term leniency approved by some states, other states have pushed back, outlawing abortion past a certain point. And pro-lifers have celebrated that in some places ending the life of the unborn can only happen up to a point. A decade ago, I can’t imagine the pro-life team applauding any law upholding the right to any abortion. But something more brutal was introduced, and the thought of killing a full-term baby overshadowed the reality that some 2,500 early-term abortions are performed in the U.S.A. every day. 

On the pro-choice side, as well, the outlook has changed. Abortion was once a private matter, an unspoken event. Now, for some, it’s an accomplishment to be touted like a badge on a girl scout’s sash. Women march in protest, fearing the reversal of what is now neatly woven into the fabric of our law. Christians and others who stand for the rights of the unborn may attempt to bring change, but at this point in history, it’s not likely that the law will give.

So, is there any solution? Crippling the abortion industry can only come with a change in culture. This is where the battle must be fought. There are some ways the church can help curb the number of abortions. First, come alongside young women who may be turned away from abortion as an option. This, of course, is being done effectively by many organizations, but perhaps greater effort is needed from the Christian community as a whole in seeding pro-life groups with prayer, finances, and enthusiasm. Second, some people’s behavior is not going to change, but education, along with correct and consistent use of birth control, will go a long way in cutting profits for the abortion industry. So, maybe we shouldn’t have a problem with that type of education.

Third, an honest assessment of how the message is presented may be needed. Not all, but most pro-life ads on social media and on billboards portray happy, well-tended, predominately white babies. I’m not calling abortion a racial issue, but as with the underlying causes of racism, the political agenda may be more about population control than we realize. A pro-choice politician recently made the racially charged statement that the unborn headed for a life of poverty and crime can die now or die later. With that mindset working against us, the church’s appeal to choose life shouldn’t contain even a hint of racial or economic bias.

As with any outcry of civil unrest, public opinion plays a major role in pumping up the opposing sides. What a good American should think about reproductive rights has been settled by the media and Hollywood.1 Anyone not buying into their program is an enemy of the state. Some religious organizations have side-stepped over to the other team. A recent article2 reported the unified stance of a group of Kentucky church leaders in support of abortion.

Opposers leaving the fight might lessen the severity of the war, but a large number of Christians and others who call a baby a baby still exists. So too exists a battlefield of women (and men), politicians, news anchors, celebrities, and abortion industry moguls who consider a baby a disposable non-person. The battlefront has quieted a bit with the introduction of a few state laws meant to soften the shock of the late-term abortion. And it’s been a while since the last women’s march brought tens of thousands of protesters employing lewd props and hateful speech in demand of the rights they’ve already secured. But there is no resolution, nor can there be, so long as our national perception of personhood remains vehemently unfocused.

1 Planned Parenthood Admits It Controls Hollywood, Gets TV Shows and Movies to Promote Abortion 

2 Baptist,Presbyterian Pastors Claim Christians Can Support Killing Babies in Abortions

For a great organization helping women and babies around the world, 

In two weeks:
Part III: Potusphobia: Fear, Hate, and the President

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Racism: The Church, the Media, and the New Definition of Racist

Last time at Unchained, I introduced a blog series entitled, “Another Civil War in America?” Here is part one. It may be the longest of these posts, and the subject may bleed into subsequent posts. That’s because racism, in its post-modern description, filters into every other subject I’ll address in this series.


I grew up in the South. Well, in Central Florida, which is where I still abide. In my growing-up years, our little corner of the U.S.A. became a melting pot of culture and ethnicity. People from other states and from other countries settled here. This is definitely not the Deep South, but at one time it abounded with Southern ideology. That brought with it a line of thinking rooted in segregation. 

Blending cultures was probably as difficult here as it was anywhere in the South. I never quite latched onto the idea that it was my privilege as a white person to think less of a person of color, or to avoid such a person, or to consider that person a lesser creation of the God I was taught created us all. Fortunately, I didn’t get it.

I was well into adulthood when I saw the change I had longed for since childhood. The church, at least in my experience, became multi-ethnic and multi-cultural. And we, at least in my congregation, like it that way. We are united in Christ. This was an outcome of societal change, which as it turns out, isn’t all bad. Of course, it was more so the direction of God and good leaders in the church who brought about the blessing. This is where I find a little bit of Heaven on Earth. The melding of race and culture within the church exudes grace. I don’t mean to preach to the choir here, so to speak, but if your experience in church doesn’t lead you to this conclusion, consider encouraging a change. Racism is not Christian. It never was. It was social pressure that marred decades of our history with wrong thinking, and some of it came out of the church, from ordinary people who got a hooked on an bad idea.

But who started it? A pattern of bigotry has always existed. In our country, perhaps that pattern was woven into our fabric, but blame can’t be assigned to any one group. Historically, the role of Christians in ending slavery has been allowed to devolve into the notion that it was the church goers who fought to maintain their way of life in the South. Of course, some people, fearing change, held on. But anyone understanding the Word of God had to adjust their mindset in support of freedom for all. 

In the generations that followed, public valuation, fear, and more than a little political rhetoric clouded the judgment of some. But poor judgment gave way to better ideas, proper laws, and cultural change.

I know, I’m a white woman living a dream within the safe walls of my church, where we all get along. Your world might be very different, and certainly the walls of the church no longer offer safe haven. I’m aware of the dangers we all face in any public arena. Americans have been set against each other. A war mentality is already taking root. But how did it happen? And why? 

To a degree, slanted reporting and political contention must be blamed. Joe Biden blasted the president for his racist views, accusing him of encouraging white supremacy and therefore being at least partially responsible for the mass shooting in El Paso. During his speech, Biden insinuated that poor kids can be just as smart as white kids. What? Does he believe white kids are not poor, and poor kids are not white? Doesn’t that make him a racist? Of course, the situation was tense, and the presidential candidate might have misspoken. Maybe he just inadvertently said something stupid. But the blunder won’t be forgotten. Not by me, and probably not by the people affected by the tragedy.

 While denying citizenship to foreigners is not acceptable, or Biblical for that matter, keeping the process under control is paramount. Immigration has been an issue for a while, as previous presidents have noted and met with potential solutions. Solutions not unlike the ones supported by our current president. Donald Trump didn’t start this. And he won’t end it, hard as he may try. For now, maintaining the sovereignty and security of this nation is President Trump’s duty. That doesn’t make him a white supremacist, as some have proclaimed. Such unfounded accusations sprout racism anew where it’s long been rooted out.

Studies don’t give a clear answer as to how many white supremacists live in America, but they’re probably not as numerous as some would have us believe. The level of intelligence, and the needed finance, wouldn’t likely come from within their ranks to win a war, or even start one. It’s the media stirring that cauldron. If a few organized racists find themselves at war, the brains and money will have come from the outside. But who are these undercover anti-racist/racist benefactors?

Theories abound as to why anyone would want to start a race war: The government wants a good excuse to instill martial law. An elite group—the one that really runs the world— is bent on population control. Some of our elected officials want a good reason to…I don’t know what they want…but socialism, in their view, might be just what America needs.

What is racism, or, what did it used to be? Here’s the definition: prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against a person or people on the basis of their membership in a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalized.

Today, the boundaries of racism have extended to include not only race, but life choices, sexual and gender identity, patriotism, political affiliation, environmentalism, immigration, and religious ideals. Everybody’s got a self-righteous reason to start a riot. But this kind of social upheaval is nothing new, and it can only get worse.

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,  without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good,  treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. 2Timothy 3:1

Now, somebody will call me a bigot for quoting the Bible. Somebody will assume I’m maligning a particular group, categorizing acceptable people who’ve done nothing wrong. Go ahead and make your judgment about that. It’s not my desire to do so. As for having nothing to do with such people, first of all, keep in mind that “the last days” began with Jesus, and that the letter writer, Paul, was addressing Timothy, a young preacher of the gospel stationed in a pagan culture not so different from our world today. Did Paul mean keep your distance, or did he mean you live holy? Living holy is the greater challenge, but that’s my choice. I won’t demonstrate hate, but I will follow Christ. And so, I’ll have nothing to do with what some people do.

That’s not racist. In fact, it has nothing to do with race. It’s not refusal to dwell in community with anyone who’s different. It’s not swinging to the Left or to the Right. It’s just me trying to live holy. I realize that if a race war is waged, I may be categorized as a probable war starter—white, Southern, Christian. But don’t buy it. True believers can do nothing but stand against the evil lies of racism.

Next time: Abortion: A Once Private Decision that Became a Celebrated National Demand

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Another Civil War in America?

I’ve never given serious consideration to the possibility until now. There could never be a war like it. Never another crisis as overwhelming as the one that led to the Civil War. Never again could there be such a blight on our good land. A war raged because right and wrong became less important than building a nation. Commerce was never meant to be more valuable than liberty. Law was never meant to be an instrument of oppression. Correcting the balance put us at war, even war with ourselves. Now, we tear down statues that remind us of that desperate time. We want to forget. But forgetting doesn’t change history. It only makes us vulnerable to repeat it. Could we be so blind as to let civil unrest break us again?

Recent assessment indicates we may be headed for such discord, even bloodshed, within our own borders. Over the next few months, I’d like to address five problematic war-starters brewing in the minds of our citizens, stirring our communities, and being presented by the media as unavoidable conduits of change in our country. Some may see that change as good, as necessary for our survival as a nation. Others view the same change as the very thing that will destroy America. As Christians, we must not adopt the mindset that has overtaken our society. The boundaries of right and wrong are not as subjective as we’d sometimes prefer. The standard of truth doesn’t waver based on opinion. Truth is true because it’s always been true. It’s a lie to believe we can conjure up our own truth, and the end of the lie is destruction.

I pray widespread malevolence doesn’t lead to war, to a social divide posing no option but to kill the enemy. Truth is, I’m taught to love my enemies. I’m not looking for a fight. But if it happens, the War may come about because of one, some, or all of these  unsettling issues:
                   1. Racism
                   2. Abortion
                   3. Potusphobia 
                   4. Theophobia
                   5. National Narcissism 

I’ll address these one at a time on my blog, every other week:
Next time: Racism: The Church, the Media, and the New Definition of Racist.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Storms, Books, and Blogging

Here begins another season of blogging after another blogless summer. What did I do during my blog break? Finish my novel in progress? Nope. Go over the galley for my upcoming novel, Our Town Atheist? Haven’t gotten that yet. Write several blog posts for the upcoming months? Yes, I did! Read a few good books? Well, one book took me several weeks to read.

The Right Side of History by Ben Shapiro is one of the most mind opening books I’ve ever read. But it was one of those books that had me reading some paragraphs twice. And while I never cared to study every philosophical view there ever was, I now see how the great thinkers of the past, whether intentionally or not, led us to our current state of affairs. I strongly recommend this book to everyone, especially college students and young professionals, of which I am neither. But I will read it again. Soon.

When I finished that book, I needed a couple of easy reads. I’m working my way into novel number two. I’m sort of glad the first one is behind me. Enough said.

So, how is my summer winding down? Like always—with the peak of hurricane season. I live about twenty miles off the east coast of Florida. I never pray for a hurricane to hit somewhere else, because I know that someone, somewhere else, is praying the same thing. And for them, I’m somewhere else. I might pray for the storm to go out to sea and not hit anybody. But if I do, it’s with full realization that only God controls the wind and waves. I don’t pray like presidential candidate Marianne Williamson, who believes a little positive mind control can move a hurricane.1 I guess she didn’t visualize the Bahamas when she did her meditation thing. Perhaps she should’ve thought a little longer about the Carolina coasts, too.

If God is to be thanked for sparing my part of the map from hurricane Dorian, is He to be blamed for leveling the Bahamas? To some, it might seem that way. But it’s the brokenness of this world that throws us all into the eye of one type of storm or another. When the storm is over, we can shake our heads at God, or we can help restore what’s been destroyed. God is there in the midst of what appears to be irredeemable. And He will use the ones who were spared to comfort and help the ones who were not.

Easy for me to say, right? I’ve lived in the path of hurricanes all my life. I’ve lost power for weeks at a time. I’ve suffered property damage. I’ve had to move my family into a hotel or stay with relatives. But I’ve never been left with nothing. Still, my heart aches and the Spirit calls me to prayer for the ones now devastated by Dorian.

And peak season is here, again, and my windows will stay boarded up for a couple weeks. If the next one is the Big One for me and mine, I will take comfort in God. He calms the storms, and I know He cares for me.

Speaking of storms, our country is being tossed about by several issues that may, in the view of some, lead to civil war. The angry, dark clouds are on the horizon. But could it really happen? My next post will give introduction to the topic I’ve been writing about this summer.

In two weeks: Another Civil War in America?


Thursday, May 16, 2019

A Baptist and and Seventh-day Adventist Walk into a Hotel...

Recently, I met a man at a hotel. Well, let me rephrase that. My husband and I were at a hotel. He was in a conference room for a meeting. I was in the empty breakfast room reading a book on my Kindle. 
A man walked in, not noticing me at first, and fixed himself a cup of coffee. He led a service dog on a leash. When he turned around and instructed his dog to sit, he caught me watching from the table a few feet away. He apologized for disturbing me and asked if I minded the dog. I assured him that I wasn’t disturbed and that the dog was welcome. Then then man asked me a strange question:

“Are you a Seventh-day Adventist?”

I swallowed a chuckle. “No. But I’m a Baptist.” 

“Oh, that’s about the same,” he said.

I didn’t argue. To most people, it is, indeed, about the same. But I was curious. “Why would you think I’m a Seventh-day Adventist?”

He took a seat at the next table and faced me. “Because you’re at peace.”

Um, okay, it’s true, I am at peace. It’s not a denominational thing. I’m at peace because I’m redeemed. “Are you a Seventh-day Adventist?” I asked.

“Oh, yes. I have been for several years. I try to observe the Sabbath. Sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.” He sighed and crumpled his brow. It was about four o’clock on a Saturday afternoon.

I wondered about his disability, and I looked at the dog that had stretched out on the floor. The harness read: Emotional Support Animal.

My conversation with the man lasted forty minutes or so. He’d lived in Turkey and had visited all the sites of the seven churches named in the book of the Revelation. He had some fascinating stories to share, but it seemed he was quite alone. He told me he had no one but his dog. And the Lord, of course. He expressed interest in what I was reading, and that trail led to talk of my own writing, and of our somewhat diverging worldviews. More importantly, of the only hope for the world. He said he didn’t understand how we got so messed up, why people had given up on faith. On God.

“The gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing,” I told him. Perhaps our doctrinal conclusions didn’t quite align, what with him being a Seventh-day Adventist and me being a Baptist, but on this point, we agreed.

My husband emerged from the conference room and joined us. He’d been in that room for nine hours and he was ready to go. We both shared a few more words with the stranger, and I told the man we were headed home.

“Good,” he said. “This is a dark place.”

I don’t recall my last words to the man. His last words to me are all I remember. I don’t know if he was referring to the hotel, which was very nice, or the South Florida city, which was a little more cram-packed than my own small town in Central Florida. Or if he meant to say that he was broken and lonely and not at peace. 

Maybe our talk ended too soon. Maybe I didn’t say the right things. Or maybe God used the encounter to stir up the man’s conviction about what it really means to follow Christ. Or…maybe God sent the man to remind me of the same thing.

God being who He is, I’ve no doubt it was just the right amount of conversation, at the right time, in the right place. For both of us.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. I Corinthians 1:18

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Book Sale and Giveaway!

My publisher is promoting several books during the Springtastic e-book giveaway and 99₵ sale. Wake the Dead, book one in my trilogy is FREE! Books two, Killswitch, and three, Transfusion, are 99₵. As this sale got underway, I was thrilled to notice Wake the Dead jumped to number one in Amazon’s ranking of free Kindle reads in the category of Christian futuristic fiction. It positioned in the top ten in the category of religious science fiction and fantasy. Almost two weeks into the sale, it has remained at a high rank, although sometimes it slips to number two in the first category, and into the top 15 in the second. Hey, I’ll take that! This sale end May 12th, so if you’d like to read the WtD trilogy, there couldn’t be a better time!

And check out the other great reads in this sale. I’ve finished Flowers from Afghanistan by Suzy Parish. It’s a great story of a man on the run from grief and guilt. He travels to a war zone but can’t escape the deep loss that has swallowed him, or the steadfast love of his wife back home. I recommend this heartwarming novel.

Now, I’m reading Orb by David Arp. I’m not too far into the story, but I’ve already been surprised, intrigued, and thoroughly captivated. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

So…go find the book for you! It might be 99₵, or it might be free! There are also some great prizes to be won!

Click on any of the titles above to link to those books. For the rest of the books that are either free or 99₵ in this amazing sale, click here: Springtastic book sale and giveaway.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, March 28, 2019

The Command of the Gospel

A verse well-known and repeated often by Christians is Romans 6:23:

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Considering this, we might conclude it’s all about the gift, and accepting the gift is all about choice. We can take it or leave it.

While an element of truth exists in the “take or leave it” approach, the gift is not a choice. It’s given to the redeemed, who do not consider the offer or ponder refusal. The choice was already made—it was God’s choice to give the redeemed eternal life. The choice of the redeemed is to follow Christ. And yet, even that is really no choice at all.

Scripture doesn't offer a choice. Jesus didn't give permission to determine our own method of salvation. A back-up plan doesn’t exist. Yet the clear command gets turned into something resembling a choice.

What does the Bible tell us about making a choice? Another verse remembered—and revised—by Christians goes something like this: Choose this day whom you will serve, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

Here’s the whole passage from Joshua 24:

14 “Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

Joshua gave the tribes of Israel a message from God. And then he told them what to do. If they didn’t want to, Joshua said, then they could choose something different. Something that hadn’t worked in the past. Something that would lead to death. The command was to serve God. The alternative was death.

So it is with the Gospel. The gift of Romans 6:23 is not the Gospel. It is the after-effect of the Gospel. The Gospel is not an offer to be accepted or refused depending on who you are or where you came from. It’s not a choice that will help you get to know God or define your role as a Christian. It is a command to live.

Acts 17:30:
"Truly these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent."

The “times of ignorance” when people chose to stick with their foreign gods are done. Now, at the time of the proclamation of God’s command, all people are called to turn from their old ways and serve the risen King. It’s not a chance to make it up to God for being bad. Not a way to get yourself straightened out. It’s a command to repent or die. Turn from your idols and false gods to the one true God. Or else.

It sounds like a choice, right? It feels like a choice. I can put away what I thought would fix me, cleanse me, and save me. Or I can keep doing it my way and die trying. But if I’m convinced that’s how my efforts will end, is there really any choice but to obey the command? God isn’t asking me to choose. I’m covered by furious waves and He’s telling me to cling to Him or drown. And so I…choose…to cling and not to drown.

It’s one of those sweet mysteries that settles into the hearts of the redeemed. He commands. He offers freely. I choose. I have no choice. In fact, I am unable to choose. Perhaps that’s why He made it a command. An offer implies acceptance, and so gives us the impression that we’ve made a choice. But a command requires the unfailing power of the One who declares it, and demands nothing from my drowning soul except to live.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Jesus Laughing

"Did Jesus have a sense of humor?" The question sent me searching for examples that should have come to mind easily. Like most Christians, I typically study the Bible with a solemn mindset, earnest in my quest for the knowledge of God. Of course, I often read a passage that lightens the darkness of this world and makes me smile. I sometimes chuckle in prayer, mostly over my own clumsiness in praying as I ought. But this question led me to search for a proper answer.

I knew right away the answer had to be yes, of course, He did. He does. The first few verses of the book of John teach us that Jesus created all things.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made, and without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:1-5

Jesus created the world. The weird and wonderful oddities. The funny things. He created the smile and the laugh. We’re made in God’s image. In that representation is joy, and a sense of humor. Because of the Fall, humor was sullied just like all good things made by God. Not all that we find funny is funny to God.

But some of the sayings of Jesus, which we might take as stern, or don’t understand in full, were funny to the people who heard the Creator speak with audible words. Think about a camel passing through the eye of a needle. Consider removing a log from your own eye. These teachings exhort us, but to the people in the Jesus’ circle of listeners, they must have brought a laugh. Then there was the nickname Jesus gave to the brothers, James and John. He called them “sons of thunder.” The name could also mean “sons of commotion.” The two may have been a bit overenthusiastic. So Jesus put sarcasm to use.

Other examples in the gospels indicate Jesus was not opposed to a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor. He heard the question, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” He answered, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Well, maybe we don’t quite get the humor in this, but the Jews there that day understood the sarcastic response. And when the Gentile woman interrupted dinner and asked Jesus to cast a demon from her daughter, He told her it wasn’t right to take food from the children and give it to the dogs.

Was He toying with her, teaching her something? The Israelites called the Gentiles dogs, but Jesus came for the Gentiles, too. He knew the woman would offer a quick comeback. And she did. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs under the table.” Jesus told her to go home—the demon had been cast out. The whole scene seems insulting to the woman, perhaps disrespectful. But the woman understood Jesus’ sense of humor. And the people around the dinner table probably got it too.

That inborn humor is part of the human experience, and Jesus shared our experience. He lived a man’s life, only without sin. His humor never turned ugly. In the modern world, humor certainly has taken a turn. But as Christians, we can follow our Lord’s example and appreciate the humorous moments. We can laugh because He laughed.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

The Evening News, Brought to You by AI

I vaguely remember Walter Cronkite reporting the news as the quiet evenings of my childhood slipped into a time less innocent. I don’t recall much of what he said, or how he said it. My parents paid attention, I’m sure, but all I can picture is the man. A reliable, respectable human being. He reported in line with the standards of objective journalism. He was an upright news anchor, and we could believe him. At least, that’s the way I remember him. But maybe I only remember what the adults around me believed. And maybe they only believed what the powers behind the evening news wanted them to believe.

In any case, news coverage is not be what it once was. Now, reporting the facts is less important, perhaps, than supporting the agenda. We may wonder if our media here in America has fallen under a spell of sorts, but we get the gist of daily events from men and women who are not under any real coercion to tell us lies. They may cloud the truth. They might hope to sway us. But at least they’re not being programmed. Yet.

When I first heard of China’s AI news anchors I thought, why build a robot to read the evening news? Why not create a friendly teller who could never be tempted to steal money from the bank? Or a nice waiter who doesn’t require a tip? In my books about the world’s first transhuman, I wrote about the convergence of politics and entertainment, about the use of the media to set the pulse of the nation, so I get it. A trustworthy face at the end of the day to spin the bad news with compassion, and praise certain leaders with a confident nod, is a better use of AI technology.

China’s first AI anchor was introduced a few months ago, and recently joined by a female counterpart. The male anchor is handsome, perfectly groomed. The female, modeled after a real reporter, appears impeccable, right down to her pearl earrings. The political slant of these two is not an issue, since they’re not real. They have no agenda. No opinion. Their standards are unquestionable. They are just as safe, as welcoming, as quaintly familiar as Walter Cronkite with his gray mustache. And people will believe whatever they say, welcoming their calming voices at the end of the day. But an AI anchor has no voice. Not really.

China leads the way in AI. How long until that country’s friendly couple are replicated with American features, maybe a slight Midwest accent? Would AI anchors in the U.S.A. grow a new level of trust between the people and the media? Would their programming encourage adherence to the old standards of objective journalism? If not, maybe nobody would notice. 

Maybe no one will notice at all when the robots bring us the evening news.

Click here to see China's AI news anchors in action:

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Abortion and the Conquest of Man

I’ve been reading C.S. Lewis. Not the fun stuff, but the philosophical. Not absorbing every word but rereading the brilliance until at least a sentence or two blows my simple mind. I thought at one point that I might need a C.S. Lewis for Dummies. Surprise, there is one, though I’m not sure it addresses The Abolition of Man, the little book keeping me gloriously stupefied. I haven’t finished the book, but I can see the journey laid out before me. One I’m not sure I want to take, but I can’t stop now.

Other readings of late, that is, the headlines, have brought something of a different sort of wonderment, one leaving me stupefied on the level of repugnance. A gruesome realization that I live in a world quickly falling into the Biblical foresight of right becoming wrong and wrong becoming right. It’s then that I go back to Lewis, and squint and ponder words like these, which make the headlines seem like a follow-up:

Man’s conquest of Nature, if the dreams of some scientific planners are realized, means the rule of a few hundreds of men over billions upon billions of men. There neither is nor can be any simple increase of power on Man’s side. Each new power won by man is a power over man as well . . . I am only making clear what Man’s conquest of Nature really means and especially that final stage in the conquest, which, perhaps, is not far off. The final stage is come when Man by eugenics, by pre-natal conditioning, and by an education and propaganda based on a perfect applied psychology, has obtained full control over himself. Human nature will be the last part of Nature to surrender to Man . . . The battle will indeed be won. But who, precisely, will have won it?

Lewis may have seen it coming—the great promise, and potential calamity, of modern technology and medical advancements. He hints at the intention of science, genetic modification, at the treatment of the unborn. In another passage, he rightfully fears what may happen to humanity when human instinct becomes nonessential:

As we pass from mother love to rational planning for the future we are passing away from the realm of instinct into that of choice and reflection: and if instinct is the source of value, planning for the future ought to be less respectable and less obligatory…

This is a hard contemplation for me, one wrapped in societal acceptance. Most women today take for granted their perfectly legal, morally tolerable right to use contraception. But not too far back in our nation’s history, the use of birth control was illegal, considered to be lewd behavior. Once it became good medicine, most women, including most Christians, including me, embraced the practice. I won’t argue the ramifications of contraception, either good or bad. But Lewis did.

Now his words rail against the headlines. The omen of what may taint our future is now here. Birth control became the norm. No longer taboo. No longer sinful. The conditioning of our minds and lifestyles to accept something that proved to be a good thing led to a thing that is not good at all. The use of birth control before conception led to the expulsion of a pregnancy after conception, and now to the death of a baby right up to the point of delivery. But surely a woman won't carry a baby for nine months, and then decide to abort.Will she?

Some governing bodies are removing all limits, while others attempt to pull back on what’s legal. We Christians rage at the thought of a baby being killed on his delivery date, but now we seem to breath a little easier, to almost celebrate a state government pushing to outlaw abortion if the baby has a heartbeat. Did we not once insist life begins at conception? Has our protest against any and all abortion now shrunk at the passing of a worse law?

Are we being conditioned to accept the practice of abortion to a point? When it’s all settled, the full-term abortion law might fade away as the pre-heartbeat law becomes the standard. A moral shift of society. No longer opposed. Is this push for full-term abortion an act of the power of Man, as Lewis calls it, to alter our concept of morality? Time will tell. The signs are there that we, as billions of people, will change our opinion of right and wrong as we are conditioned by the thousands of men.

Though he became a Christian, perhaps his pre-redemption atheism gave C.S. Lewis the right voice to speak to a world bent on straying off the path of survival. The Abolition of Man encompasses a code of morality, reason, instinct, and posterity. It’s not a guide so much for the Christian, but for the human race.

Seventy-six years after the book was written, we continue on a path that may lead to our destruction. Along that path, the abortion issue is not one simply to be opposed by Christians, but to be cautiously weighed by all women, and men, and governments. Of course, that’s not the way it will work out. The question is, will Christians accept the death of an embryo if the government will only abolish the threat of death to a full-term baby? Again, time will tell.

Or maybe time is running out. Lewis may have let his faith shine for a moment in the above quote when he wrote of that final stage in the conquest, which, perhaps, is not far off. He spoke of extinction, but he waited, as I wait still, for the Redeemer. That day will come. Perhaps not far off.

Lewis, C. S.. The Abolition of Man (Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis)  HarperOne 2009

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Are You a Practical Atheist?

Stephen Charnock, a clergyman who lived in the 1600s, said this: “Men may have atheistic hearts without atheistic heads.”

In other words, a man who only believes in his mind that there is a God may not agree in his heart.

An overt atheist, one fully committed to his unbelief, might indulge in moments of speculation, even though in his head he knows better. I once knew an atheist who asked me to pray for him. In his head, he was an atheist, and in his heart, too. But moments of despair or fear, even enlightenment or amazement, may have led him to consider the prospect of God.

I’ve also known a few who’ve asked for prayer, not expecting that it will be done, or if it is done that it won’t accomplish much. The request from this sort of person is not so much a longing for God, but a grasp at pity. No answer is needed, only acknowledgement that the person’s life is not the way he wants it to be. He’s been cosmically cheated out of what he thought was due him.

In his head, he believes. He assumes God is there, or at least he hopes it. He follows certain rules, but others he ignores because they aren’t easy for him. Maybe he goes to church. He gives something of his money and time and attention. In his mind, he finds the notion of God necessary. But in his heart, God is unknown.

A fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” Psalm 14:1

The overt atheist denies God because he sees no option. Nothing proves God’s existence to him. In both heart and mind, God is absent. But an atheist in practice—a practical atheist—finds it hard to let go of what God has become to him. The head belief may be built on tradition. It might come from a childhood acceptance of a religious order. Or it could just be fear of the proverbial zap by a lightning bolt for admitting doubt. The practical atheist says there is a God, but he has no desire, or ability for that matter, to love Him or live for Him. He may call on divine rescue from time to time, but he’s practically noncommittal about the ultimate rescue, even if he says otherwise.

Who’s to blame for the practical atheist’s predicament? Did he attend a church which did not fervently preach the gospel? Was he wrongly led to believe that God would grant him a life of good wishes and happy endings? Perhaps he clings to God in his head because deep in his heart he wants God to be true, but he has never experienced God’s truth. So he goes on living as if there is no God, and what a fool he is for it. He lives as he pleases, not caring for God or others. Not abiding in God’s word, even though he says he agrees with it. Not filled with gratitude, but with self-indulgence.

If he keeps up his act within the church, he might be spotted by a discerning brother. He might be outed by a gospel-centered body of believers. He might be called by God. If so, God will win him, and his practical atheism will let him go.

The overt atheist who asks me for prayer will get prayer. Whether or not his request is genuine, I don’t know. The practical atheist who asks for prayer will get it too. Whether or not his request is genuine, I don’t know. God knows, and God is able to rescue heads and hearts from both atheist camps. From the one that declares there is no God, and from the one that presumes there is a God.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Do the Ten Commandments Still Matter?

An articleI read last week told how prominent pastor Andy Stanley declared that churches should no longer erect monuments of the Ten Commandments because the old covenant does not apply to Christians. After reading the article, and many of the heated comments that followed, I considered my own feelings when the Ten Commandments were removed from the sanctuary at the church I attend.

The lovely banners—five commandments on one and five on another—were handsewn by some of the older ladies in the congregation. The monuments were erected over the side doors near the front of our large sanctuary. They hung there for years. Then one day they were gone, replaced by modern wall décor reading on one side: LOVE GOD You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind. Matthew 22:37. On the other side: LOVE OTHERS Love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 22:39.

I smiled at the change, considering it good to remove the old banners and replace them with the simple, two-part New Testament command of Christ. Afterall, we are a church built on the gospel, not the law. We know we can’t keep the law, that our only hope is in the One who came to fulfill the law. We know that living by this new covenant command will guide us to keep the Big Ten: (Yes, I’m paraphrasing.) Don’t accept any gods other than God, don’t establish idols, don’t use God’s name in vain, set aside a day for rest and worship (Yes, I go to church on Sunday.), honor your parents, don’t murder, don’t cheat on your spouse, don’t steal, don’t tell lies about people, don’t yearn for other people’s stuff, privileges, talents, or blessings.

But if we’re no longer obligated to keep the Ten as our code of conduct, does that mean we can forget our history? Are we to denounce the validity and lasting measure of the entire work of the Holy Scripture? The words newly poised in our sanctuary were all we needed to obey the ten laws that used to hang above us. But should those old laws be forgotten, stowed away like an out-of-fashion historical document?

I’m not sure that’s what was suggested in the article I read, or that I was able to grasp Andy Stanley’s full intent in what he had to say about the Ten Commandments. I’m quite sure others who read the piece were left with a blurred perspective. To put it in biblical terms, the article sowed discord among the brethren.

The pastor’s suggestions, whether good or bad, were directed at the church. For decades, the Ten Commandment have been forcefully removed from public view in court houses, schools, and other places. I’d rather see them removed from a gospel-centered church than a courtroom. Whether Jew or Christian, citizen or foreigner, these ten laws God handed down through the ancient Hebrews formed a foundation of civility and order, rightness in community, and respect for proper governing. Our country was built on such laws, and they benefit any civilization wise enough to adopt them. Even the atheist, who may choose to omit the first four commandments for lack of acceptance, will find a better life by obeying the last six. The unbeliever must realize that to break one of these outdated commands will, even today, bring detrimental consequences.

As a New Testament Christian, I’m not required to live by the old law or even know it in its entirety. I won’t attempt to recall every rule pertaining to meat, or fabric, or what course of offering amends what type of sin. But it seems living by the Big Ten should be easy enough for a Christian. Well, maybe not. Maybe we don’t live in a polytheistic culture, but we still put other things ahead of God. Maybe we don’t erect golden idols, but we stare into the glow of our TVs and PCs and smart phones. What about the Sabbath? It’s a source of contention for some believers. Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath. Enough said.

My offenses and misperceptions are covered by the righteousness of Christ. Even so, I’ll strive to follow Him, which means some things are just wrong, no matter what covenant you’re under. I should hope that any church building void of a display of the Ten Commandments is filled with members who have etched those ancient decrees on their hearts.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Happily Newly Yearly

As a writer I know better than to use too many “ly” words. I'll gladly explain to fervently studious yet naively ambitious writers that eliminating those tritely placed and descriptively unneeded extras will get rid of the superfluously posed content we often unnecessarily pen when attempting to make our writing more beautifully meaningful. Of course, what I advise others not to do, I sometimes do myself. Everybody needs an editor.

As in writing, we often see the mistakes and poor decisions others make, but seldom notice the same foibles in our own lives. Sometimes we don’t know any better. It hasn’t been that long since more experienced writers were gracious enough to educate me. But most of the time it’s just easier to inventory the faults of others than to catalog our own shortcomings.

Except for this time of year. This is when we think about how to better ourselves. We will self-improve. Auto-correct. We’ll make a plan and it will happen. We’ll lose weight. We’ll be kinder. Save more money. Give more money. Read all the way through one of those Bible-in-a-year plans. Serve at church more. Pray more. Share our faith more. We’ll be resolute. Not cowardly and inexpressively passive in proclaiming the passionately devoted and victoriously committed hope to which we seriously cling in answering the call of Christ to reach the world with the gospel.

But next week, well, you know how it will go down. Maybe you’ll eat right. You’ll keep your mouth shut when someone does you wrong. You’ll read your daily Bible chapters. You’ll talk to your neighbor about how you can’t believe another year has gone by. Maybe you’ll invite him to church. Then you’ll go inside and wonder if you should have asked him what he knows about Jesus. But surely if he wanted to know more, he’d ask. So you put it out of your mind and go eat another carrot stick. Maybe with a little onion dip on it.                                                                         
Oh, wait, I’m considering my own life here. And I’m going to be truthful about it. I will try. But I will fail. I need an editor. Not just when I write, but when I breath. When I walk out my front door. When I plan my next move. When I come up with strategically thought-out but persistently unreliable motivationally inept schemes to improve myself.

This is my life. The one I laid down since Christ gave up His life to free me from death. I’m raised to walk in newness of life with Him. I might not get it all right in this lifetime. This time next year, I’ll plan all over again. But The Editor is patient and forgiving. He knows I’m not too bright. And I know he’ll clean up this overly red-inked habitually erred manuscript I recklessly tear through page after page, year after year. Maybe by my release date, I’ll learn something. God knew all along he’d have to correct every stroke of my pen.

Happy New Year. I hope you keep your resolutions. As for me and mine, I’m not holding my trembly breath. But God willing, 2019 will carry me nearer to His flawless plan.