Moral Contradictions

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

I'm back (and I've moved)

The time has come - if you so choose, follow me to http://moralcontradictions.org.

Grace and peace,
Nathan

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Jesus was a fatty

This great article, found via Howie Luvzus, is worth five minutes of your time.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Quick Question

As the end of the semester is so close yet so far away, I recently heard a story that troubled me. No this is not for a final nor is this something recent or currently happening as this occurred 10 years ago.

I'm curious as to how you, as a youth minister, would respond if one of your students confided in you that they smoked pot for the first time. This student is fairly active - not as committed as one would like, but at the same time they are there for most activities and Bible studies. The student is facing college and is obviously recognizes that what they did was wrong and is looking for some sort of guidance.

How would you react? What would you tell the student? What is your objective and rationale in its achievement?

I'll post what happened Wednesday afternoon. There is no one right answer but I want to see if there is any consensus or not.

//This is one way to keep this thing going while I'm crazy-busy - have you all do the work while I finish tests!

Update - First of all, thank you Dusty and Mac for your thoughts. I think both situations would work well if done with an obvious dose of love and intention.

What happened: The youth minister's first response was "well, either you tell your parents or I will - which will it be?". The result is that this particular person has not been in church since.

At what point is a youth minister a friend, and at what point are they a parent? Do they need to be a parent? Do parents look for them to act like one because they do not have the time or desire to do so themselves and expect them to be a miracle worker?

Whichever method of handling the situation is chosen, I believe the common foundation is love for the student and respect for them as young adults. Loving and respecting them means that you can counsel to do the right thing, yet recognize that they must make that choice on their own.

Part of the reason I asked this was because I have been struggling with the divisiveness and lack of love within the Christian tradition. The essence of our faith is Christ, and the essence of Christ is love. If we cannot love our own, how can we be an effective representative of Christ to those who do not know that love?

Thanks again for the answers and thoughts. Feel free to blast away at my mini-sermon... :)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Long time no write

So yeah, I'm a slacker. Actually, I kind of wish I could say that. The full brunt of seminary has reared its head in the last few weeks, along with job changes and new business ventures.

I started this blog in an attempt to work out feelings and emotions caused by confusion and frustration regarding everything from Baptist life to national politics and everything in between. Moral Contradictions has allowed me the opportunity to connect with new people, new ideas, and it has challenged me to put words to those feelings.

Seminary has taken that challenged and exponentially increased it, but now I'm lucky if I have words to turn in for an assignment. On top of that is a new website design firm specifically for smaller churches and non-profits, a new part-time job, new friends to hang out with, old friends to catch up with, and a mortgage to pay and cat to feed. :)

So for now, as has been unofficially done for the past couple weeks, Moral Contradictions will not receive the attention it needs. If you need to contact me, email me at na than -At--- njwhite.com. (take out the spaces and dashes and replace "At" with the email at sign).

I reserve the right to occasionally post when so led, but who knows when that will happen. I'll have six weeks off and a vacation at Disney in a couple weeks, so we'll see.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Single issue convention

The Associated Baptist Press reports that North Carolina Baptists have passed the strictest rule against homosexuality and "exclude from convention membership any church thought to affirm homosexual behavior."

Oh nice - "thought" to affirm. That sets a nice precedent to substitute truth for accusations.

A Winston-Salem pastor, Nathan Parrish, notes the irony that the convention moved to narrow the definition of cooperating churches while the Convention met under the theme "Cast a wider net".

What really bothered me was ethics professor Dan Heimbach of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, a member of the recommending committee, "said that although there are many sins, homosexuality is the one challenging the church."

So, does this mean that divorce, adultery, and domestic abuse are not challenging the church, or at the very least not important? Dr. Dan Bagby, professor of marriage and family life at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond wrote that as a frequent speaker in church, he is aware that:

(a) most Baptist pastors offer no premarital care or counseling to their parishioners; (b) very few Baptist churches require any kind of pre-marital counseling; and (c) most parishioners with whom I am acquainted have no interest in receiving pre-marital counseling (I wrote a book on the subject for pastors).

If we are serious about “protecting marriage” as God intended, why doesn’t someone offer an amendment that would prohibit divorce? That would scare a few more people from taking marriage lightly.

Or, perhaps, offer an amendment that prohibits remarriage? Since both of these are “God’s intention,” why are we not espousing them as state laws to be enforced in Virginia?

I am not saying that homosexuality should not be ignored - rather, I contend that it serves as a smokescreen preventing the church from recognizing true threats to marriage. Another school of thought, to which I agree, argues that a sin is a sin is a sin. Just as Dr. Bagby posits, why shouldn't we start codifying into law decrees against divorce or force all couples into pre-marital counseling?

I don't have any answers to this complex issue, but I'm ready for someone to put forth ideas that don't wreak of hypocrisy and blame passing.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Due Criticism

I often criticize those from the right about misrepresenting Christianity, but Brian Kaylor over at For God's Sake Shutup! points out an outrage from the left: the Church of England calling for killing severely disabled babies at birth.

No.

No.

No.

*sigh*

No.

Real Family Values

Ethics Daily has an article about a Baptist in North Carolina who ran an improbable campaign against the incumbent Republican. Larry Kissell of Biscoe, NC, was not offered any national Democratic money, yet the race is still undecided.

I admire his definition of family values, especially after 12 years of Republicans only relegating their family values to election time.

"Our families deserve more than empty moral posturing from an incumbent that votes to reduce efforts to collect child support for struggling families, makes it more difficult to obtain student loans and goes out of his way to vote for torture," he said. "The hard working families of the 8th District and our nation deserve a commitment to education, economic opportunity, civil rights, personal freedoms and the safe, clean environment that we all want for our families.

"We've had enough of the nonsense from the incumbent aristocracy in D.C. that has proven they'd rather wedge us apart than bring us together. It's time for an honest debate on real family values."


Yes, family values such as protecting unborn babies is critical, but the definition of pro-life does not stop there. The goal of simply protecting life is unfulfilled when these children do not have health insurance, grow up in abusive homes, do not have access to adequate public schools, and are not educated about how to become productive members of society.

If the government is charged with protecting life, then it should be allowed to protect those who are born. We need more candidates like Kissell in both parties who live in the real world.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Wolves 1, Sheeps 0

"Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves." Matthew 10:16.

I didn't think the wolves would be fellow Christians.

Via Raw Story and Time, David Kuo has some excellent thoughts which bear honest consideration:

"At the end of the day, this comes down to bringing Jesus into politics," he says. "Right now, it's not Ted Haggard on trial. It's Jesus. This is about the God he represents. When you make yourself a public figure and you fall, you bring the perception of your God with you."

"Jim Dobson's response was particularly telling," Kuo says of leading evangelical James Dobson. "He basically blamed the controversy on gays and Democrats. When evangelical leaders can't see beyond Tuesday on any question, what on earth is happening?"

What's happening is the perversion of the gospel by those who become consumed with themselves, their quest for power, their cultural values, and seem to believe that their interpretation of the Constitution was left out of their Bible.

Apparently a sin is not a sin if it hurts politically. Kinda sucks to compromise your faith simply because you put God in your own box, right?

Actually, it sucks for me because instead of telling others about the Gospel I have to explain the lies and dispel the deception and hypocrisy spread by these folks. Thank you, Dr. Dobson, for making our job that much harder.

Luckily, God is bigger than all of us, and He will prevail when it's all said and done. Why can't we all be happy just working for God's will instead of trying to dictate it to Him?

Response to letter writer

I would send this to the Religious Herald, but it won't be printed in time for the election. Read what prompted me to write this response.

Dear Mr. Coburn,

You are most certainly entitled to your opinion, however I must disagree with your narrow definition of biblical standards. Certainly abortion and homosexuality are important issues in which Christians must engage, but I would be slower than you to assign God and His Holy Word to a specific party.

When I read the Bible, some standards that stand out in addition to the two you identified are:
  • Working against Poverty (Blessed are the meek)
  • Working for justice (Jeremiah, Micah, Gospels, etc)
  • Ending corruption of power (early Israelite Kings...)
  • Preaching against the love of materialism (Gospels)
  • Working for good stewardship of the Earth (Genesis)
Those are just some that quickly come to mind. Issues that face voters Tuesday of which Christians must engage are:
  • Rampant governmental corruption
  • The deficit and its ramifications for our children
  • Hypocrisy by religious leaders
  • Thousands of deaths in an unjust and dubious war
  • The growing gap of the richer getting richer while the poor are, well, in relation, getting poorer
  • Off-shoring off millions of American jobs overseas
  • Lack of health insurance and education opportunities for millions of Americans
  • AIDS and other health issues throughout the world
  • People in our own country unable to pay for energy bills or food
We Christians have a tremendous opportunity to speak to a wide host of issues and work not only for two moral issues, but for a wide range of issues that include deep moral and ethical questions.

The Bible speaks to much more than abortion and homosexuality. Those two issues may seem the most critical to you, but I daresay they are not that important to those who work two jobs to pay for food or health insurance, or those who pray their kids don't get sick so they won't miss work and risk getting fired, or to those who just moved out of homelessness and cannot afford furniture for their new apartment in the projects.

We are called to have the faith of a child, but even a child can see homeless people on the side of the road needing a representative of God to send a loving word and some help.

Ditto

I have to agree with Mike...

The American church is apostate - it's sold out to power, consumerism, unchecked capitalism, and ignores injustice. Oh yeah, it's also latched arms with a corrupt government.

I'm a Christian and I'm a an American, and I'm ashamed of not only what's been done, but not done, under those labels.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Wealth Redistribution

On earlier posts I've been accused of advocating wealth distribution even though I was not, in fact, saying that nor insinuating it. However, Bill Moyers connected a few dots in my head in that he says that wealth redistribution is already occurring. It's just that the wealth is concentrating more at the top as opposed to the bottom, and intentional steps have been enacted to make it so.

Over the past few years I've experienced folks who live in their own reality. They make over six figures, drive whatever car they want, go to whatever school they want, live wherever they want, and vacation where they want. They cannot fathom that others simply do not have those choices and how that affects them. They operate in a world within a world and thus develop a blind spot to those less fortunate than them. Government is not just a nuisance, but a must to survive. Should it be that way? No.

If the GOP is truly concerned with family values, then they should move away from defining them in terms of protecting children from sex education, the "homosexual agenda", and start defining them in assuring adequate education for all.

If the GOP is truly concerned with family values, then they should move away from defining them in terms of protecting marriage by 'stopping the gays' to defining them in protecting them from the effects of no health insurance, higher living costs, lower wages, and a crumbling infrastructure.

What good is our country if abortion, stem-cell research, and homosexuality is stopped and middle class families cannot afford to go to the doctor? Can't afford to visit Grandma in Tennessee because of high gas prices or can't take time off for fearing of being fired and replaced? Can't afford to not have both parents work and have one home after school? (It's well known in my hometown that most of the immoral debauchery decried by parents occurs in the 2-3 hours after school before the parents get home.)

I was ashamed the lack of concern for those without as my wife and I moved up through the middle class to upper-middle class. Having everything I wanted jaded me, I hate to admit, and I don't ever want that to happen again. I can understand how many people who have never gone without what they wanted or needed can simply not see the systematic problems our country is facing today. Our country is breaking, and something must be done, or we will face a day of reckoning. And no, we cannot assume Jesus Christ is coming tomorrow, so yes, we must work on a solution.

Does this sound shrill and alarmist? Probably. However, we as Christians, in good conscience, cannot just wink at the status quo and ignore the injustice all around us. However we address it, individually, through churches, or through government, we should not be afraid to challenge the excesses of runaway capitalism. Remember, we live in a democracy first, where all are created equally.

I could go on and on and on. Thanks to Bruce at Mainstream Baptist, Bill Moyers can write a much more erudite essay expressing my feelings. It's long, but it's a great read. I'm still critically chewing on it, but still, I can readily agree with the gist of it. We must open our eyes to what's going on, and until we do, nothing will be solved about the income distribution that's already happening.

When you're done, take a gander through the book of Jeremiah and see what happens to an unjust society. For those who like the read the Bible in apocalyptic terms, find anything interesting about the fact that the Babylonians are the ones conquering the country? :)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

I'm not the only one

Via Raw Story,

According to the Allen camp's logic, God would be a pedophile, too. After all, we Christians believe God inspired the Bible. And God-the-author chose to include the "sleazy" story about Lot offering to send out his young virgin daughters to be raped by the men of Sodom

The Bible has masturbation scenes, rape, pedophilia and God's favorite man – King David – warming himself with a young virgin in his old age. He's the same man God tells us committed murder after he indulged his peeping Tom fantasies.

Lucky for God-the-author that He's not running against George Allen.


The rest of the opinion column relates a story of another fed up Christian who identified with the Republican party for years, but finally threw in the towel after George Allen's latest shameless and desperate smear.

I'm at the point where I'd vote for a rock instead of George Allen.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A little bit of my perspective

I was 12 years old in 1994. I remember Bill Clinton being sworn in 2 years earlier. The word Democrat was a bad word in my house as my parents were God-fearing Southern Baptists who voted Republican every time. Or at least I perceived that as so. I remember an excitement building among my parents and my church as the low of a Democrat in the White House started rising to a high with Republicans having a chance at taking the House. The three words that kept being repeated over and over everywhere were "Contract with America".

I don't remember specific conversations or articles or whatever - I was 12 after all. The feeling that stayed with me was the perception that Republicans were orders of magnitude morally higher than Democrats. If they were elected, this country would be so much better than it was.

My best friend's parents were Democrats and I just did not understand how. I mean, they were good people - nice people - so why didn't they vote Republican? Hadn't they heard just how bad the Democrats were? Why weren't they voting for the Republicans?

My most critical and formative years were between 1994 and 2000, between 12 and 18. During those years I took a Civics class in 8th grade when all my friends began their language. I got a 99 in AP US History and a 5 on that test, as well as an A in AP US Government and Comparative Government, taught in the same year and same class period, and got a 5 on both tests. I read the newspaper as much as I could. I was somewhat of a politics junkie.

I was immensely proud that the current Speaker of the House of Delegates in Virginia attended my church. I would brag about it at school, as if anyone cared. I would follow the news out of Richmond as well as DC. Being in the Washington television area, national news was local news, and the shock and appall surrounding Monica-gate absorbed me and my family. Everything around me exuded Christian-right, Republican politics and beliefs. Everything.

Until those three words "Contract with America" started creeping back in my awareness around the time I started college. Republicans gained the White House and a couple years later gained the Senate as well, solidifying control of DC. My childhood experiences told me this was a good thing, especially in the wake of 9/11.

As we've seen in the past few years, with the ill-planning and questionable means used for war in Iraq, lack of response during Katrina, sex scandal cover-ups in Congress, Enron and other companies collapsing, Big Oil taking in the biggest profits ever, gas prices increasing as housing costs go up, ethics committees neutered as corruption abounded, issues that are supposed to be engaged through faith rather than culture or discrimination, on and on and on and on...

...I've had enough.

TWICE Republicans have beat their chests and said 'we are morally righteous and so much better than those Democrats", once in 1994 after 40 years of one-party rule, and once in 2000 following the aftermath of the Lewinsky affair. TWICE I bought into it. TWICE I believed that they really were the party that represented my beliefs and of upstanding moral values.

TWICE now I've been let down. I've had enough.

A post over at Crooks and Liars prompted me to read through the 1994 Contract With America. Read it for yourself and compare it with how Republicans are acting now.

Please do not read this as cynicism - I'm talking about the atmosphere in which I grew up. This is just my perspective, which I believe is as valid as any others' perspective.

Are all Republicans bad? No. Are all Democrats bad? No. Will I ever fully trust a political party to do what it says and "buy into" their platform as morally superior than another? No. I have to try hard to not repeat the same mistakes with Democrats now than I did with Republicans in 1994. I hope they will make changes, and I think they will. Am I getting my hopes up? No. Something tells me I'm destined to be a freaky Independent who votes for the opposite party every 4-8 years.

To conclude, who says history is useless? Let's go back to September 27, 1994, when 367 GOP House candidates signed this Contract on the steps of the US Capitol at the unveiling of their promise to America should they win the House.

They pledged: "If we break this Contract, throw us out".

Do what they told us to do.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A quote

I came across a quote in one of my classes pulled from the October 16, 2006 edition of Time. Karen Tumulty, in the article "The End of a Revolution" says that:

Every revolution begins with the power of an idea and ends when clinging to power is the only idea left.


I could not help but think of the long view of the history of Baptists in the South. United with the fantastic idea of taking the Gospel to others beyond our borders, the largest incarnation of that group is sacrificing members by narrowing parameters for cooperation to cling to the idea of power.

I'm currently writing here as an excuse not to work on my 20 page paper for Christian Tradition. The point our textbook's author pounds is that Christ must remain at the center of the church. One essence, many forms. My understanding of how to practice my faith varies with other Christians, and that's okay, as long as Christ is the focus.

The day we succumb to temptation and put ourselves in the center is the day we are in trouble.

It's their fault

Republicans are upset at leaks concerning Justice Department probes into alleged corruption because they could threaten their majority.

As the age-old maxim goes (also a Biblical one), power corrupts. Unchecked power vested in one party, yet again, has resulted in the quagmire of morality that is Washington DC. Only this time it didn't take a impressionable intern.

I don't see what the anger is about concerning the Justice Department's investigations - if nothing was done wrong and there isn't anything to hide, then Republicans shouldn't worry, should they?

(Via Raw Story)