‘Big Bang’ Racism


Ex nihilo, nihil fit
(Out of nothing, nothing comes)


According to the website space.com, in science, the Big Bang Theory is, “the leading explanation about how the universe began. At its simplest, it says the universe as we know it started with a small singularity, then inflated over the next 13.8 billion years to the cosmos that we know today.”

Similar to the scientific view of the origins of the universe, there are those today who have a ‘Big Bang’ view of racism.

Like the reality of the universe itself, they acknowledge the existence of racism – though the definition of ‘racism’ varies greatly – but that its existence is purely the result of uncaused “singularities” that are external to the individual displaying such a sinfully prejudiced disposition. Consequently, racism, with its myriad definitions and interpretations, is spoken of primarily, though not exclusively, as systemic or global with regard to its origins as opposed to being intrinsic or congenital in nature.

This is important to note as, over the past several decades, the strategies and tactics employed to ‘fight’ racism have largely been directed at the structures which many perceive to be representative of a culture of systemic racism rather than the attitudes that gave rise to those structures to begin with.

But structures are not formed from nothing. Discriminatory policies and practices, whether systemic or otherwise, do not come into existence by virtue of a series of serendipitous or autonomous convergences of ideological and philosophical singularities.

Like many who subscribe to the notion that the universe – with all its intricate and recondite complexities – was formed ex nihilo, adherents of “Big Bang Racism” believe racism to be the result of forces and influences that are external to human nature. In other words, it is the systems and structures themselves that result in people’s racist attitudes and behaviors as opposed to the other way around. Which is why many today place a higher value on transferring monuments than transforming hearts (Rom. 12:2).

The argument I am positing here is often a point of consternation for Christian social justice advocates, many of whom deem it of more missional benefit to protest what is wrong with “the system” than to preach what is wrong with us (Rom. 3:23). But such was also the case during Jesus’ earthly ministry.

There were people then who, convinced that Jesus was the agent of socio-political change for whom they had been waiting – and praying – made the eternal mistake of seeing Him as their king and not their Messiah, never realizing that to whatever extent “the system” under which they lived was corrupt or unjust, it was merely a reflection of the innately sinful individuals who comprised “the system” (Eccl. 5:8-9).

As the 19th-century theologian J.C. Ryle wrote in his classic work Holiness, “If a man does not realize the dangerous nature of his soul’s disease, you cannot wonder if he is content with false and imperfect remedies.”

Ryle wrote those words in 1879. Yet I believe they are just as relevant today, as social justice advocates continue to pursue “false and imperfect remedies” for a spiritual malady whose genesis is quite definitive yet is being treated as an ex nihilo or Big Bang-type of reality. But as pastor and theologian John MacArthur exclaims,

“Nothing we can do for ourselves will free us from the bondage of sin. Adam’s transgression had a catastrophic effect, not only on him and his environment, but also on his progeny, including you and me. And we cannot make sense of our moral plight until we come to grips with where it all began.”Think Biblically: Recovering a Christian Worldview, p. 87

Scottish philosopher and historian David Hume stated, “I never asserted so absurd a proposition as that anything might arise without a cause.” This applies to racism as well. Racism is not an ex nihilo proposition borne out of theoretical Big Bang reasoning. It is the product of a spiritually depraved heart that is innately darkened by the deceitfulness of sin.

In other words, racism is always individual before it is ever institutional.

As Jesus declares in Mk. 7:21-23,

“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”

At the heart of the social justice movement, and its constant calls for putting an ‘end’ to racism, is the misguided idea that humanity can fix itself by simply deconstructing old systems and structures and replacing them with new ones.

But the antecedent question many social justice advocates are failing to consider is: how did humanity become broken in the first place? The answer intrinsically conveys why such logic is misguided to begin with, for everything that exists has both an origin and a cause (Gen. 1:1), including the brokenness of humanity (Gen. 3). Conversely, the answer further communicates that remedying humanity’s brokenness is extrinsic to our nature as human beings.

In biblical terms, there is only justice and injustice.

Scripture never uses qualifiers like ‘social’ as if to suggest there are various ‘kinds’ of justice. To apply God’s precepts equitably to each of His image-bearers is justice; to fail to do so is injustice (Ps. 106:3; Pr. 28:5Isa. 1:17; Mic. 6:8; 1 Jn. 3:4).

Christ understood what many of us do not – that our fundamental problem isn’t the systems or structures under which we live as a society. They are merely symptoms of the problem. Our problem is our soul. Which is why the gospel is so necessary in the first place (Rom. 1:16Eph. 2:1-9).

When all has been said and done, unless and until you and I, as individuals, begin to recognize not only that racism exists but why it exists, we will continue to regard it as an ex nihilo phenomenon produced ‘out there somewhere’, when the problem lies much closer – within us.

Humbly in Christ,

DBH

Image credit: egymbb.sk

Your Marriage Is Designed To Kill You (figuratively speaking, of course)


It is a subject that has been – and continues to be – talked about to infinity and back.

That subject is marriage.

More specifically, how to have a ‘happy marriage’ (with ‘happy’ being open to interpretation).

It is interesting in today’s ever-changing social milieu that marriage, despite its myriad definitions, is still viewed by many as a preferred means of achieving lasting satisfaction and fulfillment in life.

Unfortunately, these pursuits are usually undertaken on the basis of such misguided reasoning as: I consent to add you to my life for reasons that are important to me and, likewise, you consent to add me to your life for reasons that are important to you, and voila! – as if pulling a rabbit out of a hat – marital bliss!

But as elementary as this way of thinking may appear, it is rather ironic that the thing that motivates most people to pursue marriage in the first place – personal happiness – is very often the one thing that contributes to the demise of those relationships.

Namely, the failure by one spouse to live up to the unrealistically nirvanic expectations of the other.

Your Choice: Person or Purpose

With few exceptions, the overwhelming majority of people who contemplate marriage embark on their journey toward “living happily ever-after” by making the mistake of putting the proverbial cart before the horse. They do this by creating for themselves a visage of the kind of person they want to marry, without giving due thought and consideration to the purpose of marriage.

To harbor such an inverted view of marriage, one that values person above purpose is, to say the least, unwise. For in doing so we make marriage a self-centered proposition as opposed to a God-centered one; an attitude that leads only to disappointment in and discouragement with both God and our spouse.

This is not to suggest or imply that one should not have any standards or expectations of the person he or she hopes to marry.

Not at all.

God’s word is clear. As followers of Christ we are not to be unequally yoked in our relationships (2 Cor. 6:14). It is a proscription that applies not only to marriage – though many Christians limit it to that – but to every aspect of a believer’s life. And yet, in many ways, marriage is a yoke that a man and woman volitionally choose to take upon themselves; a burden that they each willingly consent to bear up under (1 Cor. 7:32-34).

Even so, a question remains: whose burden is your spouse taking on?

Yours or God’s (Matt. 11:28-29)?

There is a difference.

God’s Goal: Sanctification Not Satisfaction

The importance of placing purpose above person in marriage is underscored by these words from theologian Douglas Wilson who writes that:

“God is preeminent in all things, including marriage. Our marriages are to glorify God. A mature Christian understands these truths and seeks to live them out. Therefore it is necessary to be a mature Christian in order to be a mature spouse.”  – Reforming Marriage: Gospel Living for Couples

Wilson is right.

Nonetheless, “glorifying God” in marriage, or in life in general, is not easy. The reason it’s not easy is because our nature is such that we have no innate desire to glorify God (Rom. 3:11-12). Ask ten unmarried people what characteristics or qualities are most important to them in a potential marriage partner, and I would venture to guess that “a sensitivity to sin” would not be among the traits mentioned. But as pastor and author Dave Harvey reminds us:

“Marriage is the union of two people who arrive toting the luggage of life. And that luggage always contains sin.” – When Sinners Say “I Do”: Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage

To glorify God in marriage means the desire of our heart (Ps. 37:4) mirrors the desire of the heart of God, namely, to display His purpose for marriage within the bonds of covenant relationship. This desire is demonstrated as husbands and wives mature in their understanding that:

“Marriage is patterned after Christ’s covenant relationship to his redeemed people, the church. And therefore, the highest meaning and the most ultimate purpose of marriage is to put the covenant relationship of Christ and his church on display. That is why marriage exists. If you are married, that is why you are married. If you hope to be, that should be your dream.” – John Piper,  This Momentary Marriage: a Parable of Permanence 

The Bible calls this maturation process sanctification.

And our personal sanctification (Phil. 1:6), the means, methods, and, yes, people God uses to conform us to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29a), has very little to do with our personal satisfaction.

Saying “I Do” Means Saying “I’ll Die”

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard married people say, “Marriage is hard” (as if the institution of marriage is inherently burdensome and oppressive by nature). The truth, however, is to whatever degree marriage seems difficult it is not because marriage itself is hard, but because you and I are (Mk. 7:17-23).

If you are reading this and you are married, or hope to be, my prayer is that you will come to realize that marriage has been designed by God to destroy in you all manner of pride, selfishness, self-centeredness, arrogance, entitlement, and any other sinful attitudes and behaviors that may have led you to believe, at one point or another, that marriage is about you and your personal satisfaction and gratification.

I assure you it is not (Jn. 3:30).

There will be times, perhaps often, when, by God’s grace, you and your spouse will bring joy and happiness to one another. But such moments, regardless how frequent, are ancillary to God’s primary purpose for your marriage which, ultimately, is that you reflect the image of Christ in all aspects of that relationship (word, thought, and deed).

God purposely designed your marriage to kill you.

He did this so that, as the 16th century reformer John Calvin implored, “the invisible kingdom of Christ would become visible in our midst.”

Soli Deo Gloria!

Darrell

Image credit: thegospelcoalition.org

A Soteriology of Selfies: Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well

“Come see a man who told me all the things that I have done.”
– John 4:29a (NASB)


Nearly two decades after the advent of the first camera phone, selfies remain a thing.

It seems everyone from former president Barack Obama to Pope Francis has become enamored with the prospect of taking pictures of the themselves and posting them on social media to the admiration and idolization of millions.

Me, My Selfie, and I

Though often innocent and harmless in their intent, selfies can say more about us than we would care to admit.

Selfies appeal to our vanity (Philippians 2:3).

They satiate our desire to be worshiped (Luke 12:16-21).

With the help of an ever-increasing suite of social media platforms, selfies have become the primary means by which we display to others how physically attractive we are, how nice of a car we drive, how happy a marriage we have, and how well-accomplished our children have become (among other self-exalting purposes).

“Examine me, O Lord, and try me; test my mind and my heart.” Psalm 26:2 (NASB)

The beauty of selfies, no pun intended, is they afford us opportunities to formulate narratives about ourselves by picking and choosing how others see us.

Motivated to a large extent by an innate longing for affirmation and approval, selfies advertise our most attractive attributes and qualities, while concealing and disguising those things that are less praiseworthy about us.

But given that selfies are so subjective, is it really a selfie when one can so easily manipulate what others see and don’t see?

True, what other people see of you in a selfie is still you, physically speaking, but what they see is not really you.

Is it?

Seeing is Believing

The New Testament provides what I consider to be a genuine selfie moment, not a mere superficial or manufactured one.

It is a story which, more than likely, you are not unfamiliar.

I’m speaking of the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman in John 4:7-42.

The name of the Samaritan woman is not mentioned in the text. Nor is her age, height, or weight given.

We know nothing about her that would be evident had selfies existed in that day – the color of her eyes, the length of her hair, the whiteness of her smile, or how well-manicured were her fingernails.

What we do know is she was a woman who lived a morally-depraved life; a fact that not even she denied (John 4:19).

“As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects man.” – Proverbs 27:19 (NASB)

The Samaritan woman had been married five times (John 4:18a), and on the occasion of her encounter with Jesus at the well, was living conjugally with a man who was not her husband (John 4:18b).

She went to the well to get water.

The irony of this is that water is transparent; you can see right through it.

But not only that.

Water also acts as a mirror.

It reflects images as they actually are.

Believing is Seeing

In our desire to fulfill the ‘Great Commission’ (Matthew 28:19-20), there are various tactics we Christians will employ to introduce unbelievers to Jesus, most of which are designed to be inoffensive and non-intrusive. Kind of like how selfies display only what is on the surface while concealing our true nature (Mark 7:17-23).

But, you see, that’s neither how Jesus, nor His gospel, works (Hebrews 4:12).

“You will never glory in God until first God has killed your glorifying in yourself.” – C.H. Spurgeon

The gospel of Christ is a gospel that is invasive.

It is that way by design.

Unlike the selfies we like to share with others, the word of God is such that it reveals things about ourselves that we would want no one else to see or know.

Not even God.

To have our sins laid bare to others is the last thing you or I would want for ourselves. (Genesis 3:8-10). But to encounter the perfect holiness of Christ is the ultimate selfie, for it is in that moment that we see ourselves for who we really are (Luke 5:8).

And it is only as we begin to understand the reality of our sinfulness in light of the reality of the holiness of Christ, that authentic spiritual transformation can begin to take place (Romans 12:2).

“Come see a man…”

The Samaritan woman was so utterly transformed by having her sinfulness exposed by Jesus, that her motive for telling others about Jesus was that her sinfulness had been exposed by Jesus (John 4:29). Subsequently, Jesus used the transparency of her testimony to bring many others to faith in Him (John 4:39-41).

The attitude exhibited by the woman at the well is both profound and challenging in its application to us as believers today.

When was the last time you were motivated to tell someone about Jesus because of your sinfulness not theirs?

In posing this question, I am not at all naïve to the fact that such an attitude would be virtually unheard of in the Jesus-meet-my-needs milieu of today’s evangelicalism. Nevertheless, to see ourselves reflected against the living water of Jesus Christ is to see not an image of a selfie but an image of self.

There is a difference.

Just ask the Samaritan woman.

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

Image credit: netloid.com

Related:
Don’t Let Facebook Make You Miserable – NY Times

A Biblical Theology of the Black-White “Wealth Gap”

https://i2.wp.com/i.huffpost.com/gen/2422136/images/o-WEALTH-GAP-facebook.jpg


Much is being said today about the so-called wealth gap that purportedly exists among black households and white households in America.

I say purportedly not to deny that such a divide exists – it does – but to highlight that the very term wealth gap is inherently misleading, as it assumes that such imparity is innately unfair – if not immoral – and, as such, should be redressed under the nirvanic pursuit of “income equality”.

The publication The Economist defines income equality as:

the ratio of the share of national income going to the richest 20 percent of households in a country to the share of the poorest 20 percent.

When speaking of the wealth gap strictly in terms of numbers the data are indisputable.

But therein lies the rub.

A study on income inequality conducted by Pew Research found that:

From 2010 to 2013, the median wealth of non-Hispanic white households increased from $138,600 to $141,900, or by 2.4%. Meanwhile, the median wealth of non-Hispanic black households fell 33.7%, from $16,600 in 2010 to $11,000 in 2013. 

On the surface, these numbers appear to paint a rather disadvantageous and inequitable picture in and of themselves. Nevertheless, in today’s politically-correct, hyper-sensitive society, context is more important now than ever.

This is especially true considering that the default milieu in which matters of wealth acquisition and distribution are debated – in terms of race as opposed to socio-economic class – is that any “gaps” that do exist are solely the result of institutional and structural injustices committed by white people against black people.

Notwithstanding the above-referenced data from Pew, the truth is the black-white wealth gap should not be viewed strictly in terms of dollars and cents.

True, there are any number of quantifiable reasons for why such disparities exist, but that they exist does not suffice as a sufficient argument that they should not exist.

In other words, that there is disparity does not necessarily mean there is inequality.

“Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition is gone, pride is gone.” – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

There is a fundamental problem with using “inequality” to describe the income disparity between black and white households.

The word inequality intrinsically conveys that the wealth “gap” is a problem to be remedied simply because there is a gap, and that the acquisition of wealth is the only solution to mitigate that disparity under the subjective premise that income inequality is patently “unfair”.

But to assert that income inequality is somehow unfair is to place oneself in the throes of a philosophical dilemma. For to argue that anything is “unfair” is, by definition, to introduce into the conversation the question of morality.

Consequently, one is forced to consider by what or whose standard of morality should income inequality be deemed unfair. Hence, what began as a circular discourse rooted in subjectivity and ambiguity has morphed into a theological exercise on the level of untying the Gordian Knot.

“When people look at questions of income and the disparity, they’re not looking for causes. They’re looking for blame. And those are not the same things.” – Thomas Sowell, from an interview with World magazine, 12/30/2014

A highly popular television sitcom The Jeffersons ran on the CBS network for 11 seasons (from 1975 to 1985).

The Jeffersons followed the lives of George and Louise Jefferson, an African-American couple who relocated from the poverty of Queens, NY to Manhattan, as a result of the success of George’s dry-cleaning business chain.

The theme song from The Jeffersons was titled Movin’ On Up, the lyrics of which celebrate the fact that the rambunctious George, and his beloved wife Louise, had finally achieved their dream.

In other words, they had conquered the wealth gap.

Well,, we’re movin’ on up (movin’ on up)
To the east side (movin’ on up)
To a deluxe apartment in the sky.
Movin’ on up (movin’ on up)
To the east side (movin’ on up)
We finally got a piece of the pie.

Fish don’t fry in the kitchen;
Beans don’t burn on the grill.
Took a whole lotta’ tryin’
Just to get up that hill.
Now we’re up in the big leagues
Gettin’ our turn at bat.
As long as we live, it’s you and me baby
There ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.

Well, we’re movin’ on up (movin on up)
To the east side (movin on up)
To a deluxe apartment in the sky.
Movin’ on up (movin on up)
To the east side (movin on up)
We finally got a piece of the pie.

“The rich and the poor have a common bond, the Lord is the maker of them all.” – Proverbs 22:2 (NASB)

Please understand that I do not believe there is anything inherently wrong with an individual endeavoring to achieve the “American Dream” and acquiring their own “piece of the pie”.

But when those pursuits are engaged in solely under the pretense of “income inequality”, a philosophy predicated on pitting the haves of the world against the have-nots, then perhaps the time has come for a re-evaluation of motives (James 4:1-3).

“Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, cease from your consideration of it.” – Proverbs 23:4 (NASB)

A major fallacy of the black-white wealth gap is it assumes a cause (e.g. systemic racism) without regard to other factors that might contribute to it.

A case in point is a report published by Demos, progressive public policy organization, which found that:

  • 42 percent of African Americans report using their credit cards for basic living expenses like rent, mortgage payments, groceries, utilities, or insurance because they do not have enough money in their checking or savings accounts.
  • African Americans carry an average credit card balance of $5,784.
  • Just 66% of African American households report having a credit score of 620 or above, compared to 85 percent of white households.  
  • 50 percent of indebted African American households who incurred expenses related to sending a child to college report that it contributed to their current credit card debt.
  • 71 percent of African American middle-income households had been called by bill collectors as a result of their debt, compared to 50 percent of white middle-income households.

What no one is talking about concerning the black-white wealth divide is the role human behavior plays in helping facilitate that gap.

It is a universal truth that when, in our self-centered efforts to “move on up” in life, we choose to violate the principles of God’s Word, we should expect certain outcomes as a result.

Scripture is clear on matters of:

This is not to suggest or infer that the black-white wealth gap is attributable solely to a collective disregard for biblical principles on the part of black Americans.

Not at all.

I am not naive to the reality that not all black Americans – nor Americans in general – are believers in Jesus Christ and submit their lives to the spiritual disciplines set forth in His Word.

To be sure, not even we who are believers in consistently abide by His precepts (Luke 6:46).

Nevertheless, the reality is personal responsibility is a major factor in the black-white wealth gap being what it is. It would be disingenuous, to say the least, to suggest that socio-economic factors alone (e.g. unemployment, racism) are at fault in creating this imbalance.

“The measure of our success cannot be defined by what we accomplish here on earth; it has already been defined by the fact that we are in Christ.” – Dr. Ian Duguid, from the January 2017 issue of TableTalk Magazine, p.13

It may not be politically correct to say this, but the truth is not everyone is destined to achieve the American Dream.

The sovereignty of God is such that, ultimately, it is He who determines to what degree we experience success in this world, whether material or otherwise (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 20:4; 118:23-25;  Deuteronomy 8:18; Romans 9:14-16). With this (God’s sovereignty) in mind, as followers of Christ, contentment should be our goal not closing the wealth gap (1 Timothy 6:6-8).

This is not to suggest that one should not aspire to improve their socio-economic station, but that they should do so with the larger picture in mind – eternity.

For, indeed, what does it profit a person to gain the whole world, and forfeit their soul (Mark 8:36)?

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

Image credit:
huffingtonpost.com

Related:
Thomas Sowell on the Root Causes of Income Equality – World

The ‘Hidden’ Theology of ‘Hidden Figures’


“Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Your name give glory, because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth.” – Psalm 115:1 (NASB)

The critically-acclaimed 20th Century Fox film Hidden Figures tells the story of the gifted mathematician Katherine Johnson who, along with Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson, played key roles (to say the least) in NASA‘s endeavor to launch astronaut John Glenn into space.

As someone who has had an interest in history since my earliest childhood, I can appreciate the significance of films like Hidden Figures in that they help to educate and inform us about aspects of American history that were previously unknown (or little known) to the masses.

A case in point is yours truly, who readily admits to having absolutely no idea who Katherine Johnson was prior seeing the movie trailer for Hidden Figures while watching television one weekend afternoon.

And though I now count myself among the millions of Americans who, by virtue of the Hidden Figures film, have come to greatly admire Katherine Johnson for her invaluable contributions – to America and the world – particularly considering the degree of racial and gender animus she was required to endure, my esteem for her, and her colleagues, is not based solely in the fact that they accomplished what they did as women who are black.

Having said that, I am not at all naive to the likelihood that the ethnicity of these women served as a primary impetus for why the film Hidden Figures was made or the book written.

Given the cultural and societal implications of what these women accomplished in the Jim Crow 1960s, when racial segregation was openly practiced at workplaces like NASA, it is both logical and natural that ethnicity and gender would be considerations when reflecting on what is unarguably an incredibly unique story.

NASA’s own website provides a glimpse into the kind of work environment the women of Hidden Figures would have encountered:

The first African-American “computers” did the same work as their white counterparts, but in a period when segregation was policy across the South and in the U.S. armed services, they also encountered segregated dining and bathroom facilities, along with barriers to other professional jobs. One woman, for example, recounted being hired to work in the chemistry division, but ended up reassigned to the West Computers because African-Americans were not employed for her original position. Computing sections became more integrated after the first several years. Katherine Johnson, who joined the West Computers in 1953, only spent a few weeks there. Then assigned to work with Henry Pearson in the Flight Research Division, Johnson went on to join the Space Task Force in 1958 where she calculated trajectories for Alan Shepherd and John Glenn’s space flights. 

So, yes, I fully comprehend the racial, social, and cultural ramifications of what Johnson, Vaughn, and Jackson accomplished.

I get that.

In fact, I have no doubt that the film Hidden Figures will serve – and is already serving – to encourage and inspire many young people, regardless of ethnicity or gender, to pursue their own dreams of a STEM-related career (perhaps even at NASA).

But to whatever extent the film Hidden Figures may serve as a catalyst for such admirable pursuits – be it to one person or one million – the impetus for such desires should not be that these gifted individuals are black and female.

As laudable as their accomplishments are, what Mss. Johnson, Vaughn, and Jackson achieved should resonate with us not as beacons to highlight what those who are of a particular ethnicity or gender are capable of in and of themselves, but to shine a light upon a sovereign God who created us with the unique biological and physical attributes we each possess and, likewise, endows us with the various talents and gifts we employ in our daily lives (James 1:17).

“God is actively involved in bringing about the worldly success of His people and leveraging that success for His purposes.” – Nate Shurden, “Worldly Success”, as published in the January 2017 issue of TableTalk Magazine, p. 7

In titling this blog post The ‘Hidden’ Theology of Hidden Figures, I am in no way suggesting that there exists an underlying Davinci Code-type message to be deciphered by watching the film, but to proffer that our accomplishments in this life, however significant or insignificant, should point us always to God and never to ourselves.

Notwithstanding the well-intentioned and much-appreciated objective of films like Hidden Figures in raising our awareness of the achievements of women like Katherine Johnson – if for no other reason than that her accomplishments are so incredibly unique – the greater story is of the God who created Katherine Johnson to possess her unique talents, and who foreordained that she would employ them in making the monumental impact on the world that she did.

“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me, you can do nothing.” – John 15:5

As we appreciate women like Katherine Johnson, and the encumbrances she, and others along with her, were forced to endure and overcome, namely racism and sexism, obstacles that are inherently anathema to the biblical doctrine of imago Dei, we must not lose sight of the fact that the discernible characteristics that make us who we are as human beings – such as ethnicity, sex, gifts, and talents – are determined and imparted by a sovereign God for the purpose of bringing glory to Himself (1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:23-24).

It is not that Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn, and Mary Jackson accomplished what they did as black women “computers” at NASA that makes Hidden Figures story so noteworthy, but that God, who created them black and female (Acts 17:26) chose, in His sovereign grace, to imbue them with the requisite talents and gifts which He, in His divine omniscience, knew they each would need for such a time as theirs.

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

Image credits:
pressenza.com
spaceflightinsider.com
kuow.org

Socialized Medicine and the Sovereignty of God


I recently came across the story of Anita and Wolf Gottschalk, an elderly Canadian couple who are being forced to live in separate care facilities due to a backlog in the Canada healthcare system.

The Gottschalks, who are in their 80s, have been married 62 years.

The situation in which the Gottschalks find themselves is regrettable to say the least.

After more than six decades of marriage, that this couple should have to live even one day of what remains of their earthly lives under such circumstances, is a devastating commentary on what can happen when government gets involved in the business of providing healthcare services, particularly to those who are the most vulnerable among us.

But that is what socialized medicine does.

It decimates people’s lives by putting them at the mercy of subjective decisions made by government bureaucrats; men and women who have no vested interest in the individuals being adversely impacted by their decisions. And yet government-sponsored “universal healthcare” is exactly what many in the United States want for themselves.

Or so they think.

The American equivalent of the Canada Health Act, the law that governs health insurance programs in Canada, is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (more commonly referred to as Obamacare).

I distinctly recall President Barack Obama commenting on the glorious benefits of government-sponsored universal healthcare. It was during a speech in Strongsville, Ohio in 2010, that the President boastfully declared:

…for Americans who get their insurance through the workplace…a lot of those folks…your employer, it’s estimated, will see premiums fall by as much as 3,000 percent, which means they can give you a raise.

Needless to say, such lofty prognostications have yet to come to fruition – and most likely never will.

Why?

Because that’s not how socialized medicine is designed to work.

The irony of so-called “universal” healthcare is that it is the nature for anything based in socialism to benefit only the privileged few, not the disadvantaged many.

History is replete with examples of this.

But we are still beguiled by this other fairy tale: that a large group of liberal-minded reformers, not pretending to be a class, not seizing the power but creeping into it, not smashing the state but bending it to their will, can take charge of the economy and approximate a free and equal society. – Max Eastman, Reflections on the Failures of Socialism, as published by The Mises Institute, March 1955

As insurance premiums continue to skyrocket – the exact opposite of what President Obama promised would happen – individual choice continues to decline as more insurance providers make the business decision to withdraw from the unprofitable program.

Playing on the fears of people being unable to financially withstand a worst-case healthcare scenario, Obamacare was peddled to America’s citizens under the guise that it could do what only God alone can: keep us and our loved ones ones healthy and alive.

See now that I, I am He, and there is no god besides Me; it is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, and there is no one who can deliver from My hand. – Deuteronomy 32:39 (NASB)

It has been six years since President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law; and many Americans are just now beginning to realize it is not the panacea it was made out to be.

The only reward most Obamacare enrollees have to show for their misplaced hopes is higher premiums and deductibles, less freedom of choice, and – Surprise! – a Form 1095-A from their friendly IRS informing them of the ‘shared responsibility’ payment they now owe.

Sadly, evangelical Christians are as much to blame as anyone that Obamacare is now the law of the land, having bought into the fallacy that it is the role of government to ensure that all of our needs, and even most of our wants, are met. But nowhere in the Scriptures does God transfer the responsibility of caring for one another from the Church to the State (Deuteronomy 15:7-11; Leviticus 19:33-34; James 1:27).

Christians must be discerning enough to understand that the State always takes more than it gives – always.

That the State gives anything to any of us is not because it is inherently benevolent, but because it is empowered to take by force from one individual to benefit another. There is nothing the State gives without demanding something of equal or greater sacrifice in return; and that something is usually to accede to it more of our individual freedoms.

Unfortunately, the Gottschalks are learning this the hard way (as will many Americans, I’m afraid).

As Christians we should never exchange our God-given freedoms for the mirage of government-sponsored security. We must remember that though government does exist “as a minister of God for our good” (Romans 13:4a), it is God alone who is sovereign over the affairs of our lives.

But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases. – Psalm 115:3 (NASB)

Though it may be the prudent thing to do for most of us, still the reality is having health insurance is not efficacious in extending our existence in this world.

That you have head-to-toe coverage with Aetna or Humana or Cigna, or any other insurer for that matter, is not what is keeping your heart beating as you read this blog post.

My father died of a massive heart attack at the age of 64 as he was sitting on the toilet in the master bathroom of his home. My mother came home from work and found his lifeless body slumped over the bathtub.

My father had health insurance coverage.

My point is that even in matters of life and death, the trust we place in a promissory government must never exceed the confidence we place in a providential God (Psalm 146:3-4).

Never.

For it is the God who keeps His promises who also keeps you and me (Matthew 6:31-34).

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

Reflections on the 4th of July From a Black Christian Conservative

https://i1.wp.com/www.famlii.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/African-American-Siblings-Hugging-at-fourth-of-july.jpgImage credit: famili.com


“…and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation.”
Acts 17:26 (NASB)

I distinctly remember celebrating Independence Day as a young boy growing up in the Dixie Hills housing projects on the west side of Atlanta. For black families in the 1970s, especially children, the 4th of July was, in many ways, a lot like Christmas.

It was a celebration not only of the birth of America as a nation, but also of family, friends, and God, whom we always credited with providing us the opportunity to live in such a free nation as the United States.

Poor But Proud

Despite the material poverty experienced by the majority of black families in the Dixie Hills community, and others like it, we never lost sight of the significance of having the God-ordained privilege of living in a nation where people are free.

Though my family’s economic station – the measure by which most Americans seem to define a “fair society” – may not have been on par with others we knew, it never negatively influenced or impacted the high view of America that had been imparted to us by our hard-working parents, each of whom had only a high school education.

The elation of celebrating Independence Day was a constant reality for me and my two siblings, as my mom, whose birthday happened to be the 4th of July, would accompany us on the Number 3 bus (we didn’t own a car) to the West End Mall where she would let us shop for new red-white-and-blue “patriotic” clothes to wear that day.

Poor as we were, to us, Independence Day wasn’t just another “holiday” that afforded us a day out of school or our parents a day off from work. It was an occasion that everyone celebrated because we were all Americans who were proud of America. Whatever apparel her spare few dollars could afford – be it a new t-shirt, a pair of jeans, a new pair of Converse®  hi-top sneakers – my mother would buy for us.

And then there were the picnics at Washington Park.

Ribs, chicken, potato salad, baked beans, macaroni and cheese, and all the Big-K (Kroger® grocery store brand) soda you could consume. Not to mention the requisite Soul Train line dance that would ultimately – and hilariously – break out after everyone had had their fill of food.

Indeed, the 4th of July truly was a celebration for most black families back then. The level of excitement my brother, sister, and I had in celebrating Independence Day was as high as that of any child on Christmas Eve night.

But, as I said, that was then.

The Inevitable Assertion

These days it seems there is hardly anything of any redemptive value about America. It is as if all anyone wants to do today is complain about how oppressive it is to live here. Depending on who you ask, everything that was once celebratory about America now wreaks of racism (or any other “ism” you might care to invent).

Think about it.

In 2017 America it is now considered “racist” to: fly the American flag, support the military, cite the United States Constitution, quote any of the Founding Fathers (“because they were all racist slaveholders”), claim to be a Christian or attend a Christian church, pray at any public event, and recite the Pledge of Allegiance to name only a few.

All of the above are things I was not only encouraged as a child to do, but was expected to do as an American citizen.

Inevitably, there will be those who will read this post who, instead of taking the time to digest my comments in context, will instead resort to such knee-jerk responses as, “But racism still exists!” (as if I don’t already know that).

Though this blog post is not about whether or not racism “still exists” in America, my response to that statement is this: of course racism exists in America – Duh?! – and in every other nation on the face of the globe. I am not oblivious to that. In fact, during my lifetime I’ve probably read more on the subject of slavery, particularly in America, than on any other subject with the exception of theology.

Why?

Because there is a direct relationship between our innate condition as sinful human beings, and the enslavement of one person who is created in the image of God by another person who, likewise, is created in the image of God.

Racism exists because sin exists.

And since all people are sinners (Genesis 8:21; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:23), it stands to reason that all racists are sinners (though not all sinners are racist).

It is time we realize that racism will continue to be a reality in America, and in the world, as long as sin continues to be a reality in the hearts of people like you and me. In that regard America is no different than any other country on earth, because every nation is populated by sinners.

Why so many today want to isolate America as if it were a uniquely racist nation is beyond me. Take a census of any nation’s population and that is exactly the number of sinners you will find.

The only remedy for racism in America – or any nation for that matter – is the gospel of Jesus Christ. For only the supernatural power of the gospel can transform the hearts of those who espouse such God-dishonoring attitudes (Exodus 22:21; Ezekiel 36:26-27; Romans 1:16: 1 John 3:16-17; 1 John 4:7, 20).

I’m Not (Yet) Home

America has a tarnished history. Absolutely, it does. You will get no argument from me there.

Then, again, we should expect nothing less than that America would have such a tarnished history considering how the people who made that history were themselves tarnished by sin (Ephesians 2:1-3).

As Christians in America, we must be ever-mindful that our identity is found only in Jesus Christ, not in our nationality, and that America is not our home (Galatians 3:27-28; 2 Peter 3:13). With this reality in mind, any displays or expressions of national patriotism must be tempered by the understanding that our true home is in heaven.

“And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of the Lord has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” – Revelation 21:23-27 (NASB)

That said, notwithstanding its history of slavery and other civil and human rights abuses that have occurred – and continue to occur (e.g. abortion) – I consider myself blessed by God to live in this nation called America.

As imperfect as it is, and as imperfect as it undoubtedly will remain, to have been born and raised in America – despite the material possessions my family never had or the opportunities to which we were never exposed – is nothing short of an act of grace on the part of a sovereign God who, in His divine wisdom and omniscience, could have chosen otherwise for me.

Examine Yourself

If I had to do it all over again, there is nothing about my experience as a black American that I would change.

Not.

One.

Thing.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, who recognizes that my primary loyalty is to Him, I realize that I am to live in this nation as an alien and stranger (1 Peter 2:11-12). And it is against the background of those spiritual realities that I understand and accept that this temporal nation owes me absolutely nothing.

Contrary to what the mainstream media predictably and stereotypically portrays, I am not some “angry black man looking under every nook and cranny for evidence of racism by white people so I can hold them hostage to my own subjective social justice agenda.”

When considering the devastating effects of the fall of mankind into sin (Genesis 3), it stands to reason that instances of injustice, unfairness, and inequality will occur in a world and nation that continues to be populated by sinners. And yet, there are significantly more instances when justice, fairness, and equality win out than do not.

“Be glad that you are free. Free to change your mind. Free to go most anywhere, anytime. Be glad that your are free. There’s many a man who’s not. Be glad for what you have, baby, what you got. Be glad for what you got.” – Prince, ‘Free, from the album ‘1999′.

So, yes, I will continue to fly the American flag, support our nation’s military, cite the Constitution, quote the Founding Fathers, boldly declare that I am a Christian, attend church on a regular basis, pray at public school events, and proudly recite the Pledge of Allegiance when appropriate.

All of this with the full understanding that I am looking forward to a far better country than this (2 Peter 3:13), where I will be free to celebrate the greatest independence of all – freedom from sin – and to enjoy forever the bountiful and unfathomable wonders of eternal life that have been graciously and undeservedly granted to me through the atoning work of my Savior, Jesus Christ, by His sacrificial death in my place on the cross (Romans 5:6-8).

Looking back on my childhood, there are undoubtedly many who would say that America did not afford me much in terms of material prosperity and opportunity. But, I’m okay with that because, you see, the Dixie Hills housing projects is only where I was born. It is in Christ that I was reborn.

Which makes heaven, not America, my home now.

Is it yours?

Soli Deo Gloria!

Darrell

Related:

Should Christians Be Patriotic? – Interview with John Piper (Desiring God)
The Home of the Brave – Jon Bloom (Desiring God)
Citizens of Heaven – Keith Mathison (Ligonier Ministries)
Thoughts on Christian Patriotism – Reformation 21
What Is True Liberty? – Gene Edward Veith (Ligonier Ministries)
Be Thankful For America, But Do Not Rest Your Hope In Her – Fred Greco