Because life is a series of edits

Putting the Mental in Fundamentalist

In Calling, Church, Education, Internet, Politics, Thought, Westminster on September 5, 2009 at 9:01 am

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The hubbub caused by President Obama's planned "Welcome Back" speech to school children on Tuesday is interesting to say the least. For those of you just tuning in to the debate, here's a helpful summary of arguments from all sides concerning the public school arena – not much I could or would add to any of that. However, as I haven't read much from a Christian private school perspective, let me get the conversation started.

On Friday, Westminster received several phone call from parents asking if the school was going to participate in watching the President's speech. The official WCA position for this and other such live presentations is that they are not to take the place of our own academic presentations – those prepared lessons that fit within the planned curriculum for the courses we teach; thus, as guided by our scope and sequence, there is no official planned showing of the President's live presentation in WCA classrooms on Tuesday.

Maybe because we've already had three weeks of school and the idea of a "Welcome Back" speech seems past the expiraton date, I didn't think too much about the email. While I always want to consider whether something like this applies to what we're talking about in Ethics, in light of the fact that my students are gearing up for their first major test next week (and Tuesday finishes up our discussion for that), I figured I'd watch the speech on YouTube and, if anything seemed to apply, bring it in to class afterward.

This idea might get complicated, however, as apparently we had parents (not a lot, but a vocal few) express that if WCA showed the speech, they would keep their kids home from school.

Seriously?

When I got home later in the day, I asked Megan what she had been reading in the blogosphere about President Obama's planned speech, and she told me there were several "sick out" campaigns being organized for Tuesday, mostly by parents whose kids were in public school (though homeschoolers seemed all too eager to jump on the bandwagon as well). When I told her about the phone calls at Westminster, her response was the same as mine.

Seriously?

Am I missing something here? If it's not in the home (and why a homeschooling family would not use this as an opportunity for discussion I have no idea – we are), I would think parents would at least want their kids engaging live presentations like President Obama's in a Christian school, where I as a teacher am going to ask questions like "What can we affirm?" (importance of education, faithful study, etc.) or "What needs to be challenged?" (ideas different from Scriptural truth, etc.). It shouldn't matter who the speaker is – these are the conversations I would think a parent would be PRAYING to take place. Why keep your kids home from them? This logic does not compute; after all, why are they/we here?

At some point, Christians have got to stop putting the mental in fundamentalist and start interacting with the world. Teaching our kids to stick their heads in the sand and ignore anyone they may not totally agree with is, in a word, unChristian. Folks, we can't counter the culture unless we encounter the culture, so let's take off the blinders, read through Acts 17 again, and be some salt and light around here for crying out loud.

Thoughts?

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  1. Brilliant, articulate, quotable and important. Thanks for being a voice of reason.

  2. I am somewhat sympathetic to youe position, but I do think that the appeal is somewhat cliche. There is plenty of popular stuff on tv; should we watch it all just so that we can say that we’re interfacing with the culture? Is there ever a time to purposefully boycott the input from the world? Should the snake-oil salesman always have an audience?
    At the same time, it’s foolish for parents who are attempting to raise a godly seed to not teach them how to do battle with the subtleties of verbal deception that comes from the mouth of Babylon. If I trusted what the teachers at my Christian school were going to say, and/or I would have time to watch the speech too, then I would be in favor of what you’re arguing for here. Nonetheless, I don’t have time for everything. I think your argument needs more nuance. Not every lack of participation in the world’s cultural activities is denouncable. In fact, most times, the opposite is the case. What is needed here is for parents to distinguish between the two situations.

  3. We absolutely agree with you. I had the same reaction – huh? I am not as articulate as you, but I will be pointing folks here for a good summary of what I think. We want our children to impact the world, not hide from it.

  4. Craig – I’m with you on this one. I never understood exactly what people were getting so upset about. Maybe just that the parents wouldn’t be there to listen and interact with the speech at the same time? I don’t know.
    And wow. Some of those comments over at World Magazine – Sheesh. Seem a little too angry. Hope you’re having a good day. Don’t you cheer for Missouri? As of right now, they’re winning!

  5. Just FYI. I work in a public school…I have no idea if we’re planning to watch the speech or not…but it’s not just Christian schools (and homeschoolers) who are not watching this according to a lot of news casts. Public school parents are equally leery of having their kids watch something about which content they really don’t know anything…I would be too.

  6. Rich, I appreciate your sympathy, but I think a distinction needs to be made between “popular stuff on tv” and an address to the younger members of our nation from the President of the United States – two very different things.
    Please don’t hear what I’m not saying – that there is no need for discernment and that everything deserves equal consideration; this is classic relativism and not what I’m advocating. Certainly there is need (Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians come to mind: “Test everything. Hold onto what is good. Avoid every kind of evil.”), but is biblical discernment best understood by way of a call to “boycott the input from the world”? What’s left to test?
    I agree with you that a key issue in all this is whether or not parents trust their teachers and schools, and I would say the majority of our parents at Westminster do; unfortunately (as is true in most things like this), the minority tends to be the louder voice. My hope with this post was to “balance the stereo speakers” a bit, but I’m not sure it’s always possible (my blog doesn’t go to 11). Still, if it stirs some conversation…
    Thanks for your comments, Margaret, Keri, Aubrey (yes, I root for Mizzou – my alma mater), and A (again, my point had to do with Christian private schools, but your observation of public school parents’ concern is interesting). I appreciate the feedback.

  7. I agree with you. Christians of all people are equipped to listen to the speech with a critical ear. We should encourage our children to think, not to ignore things that we do not like. Someday they will be our leaders, and they had better learn to discern.

  8. I forwarded this to my daughter’s head of school. I hope he found it helpful. Coincidentally, within an hour or so he sent out an email to parents saying that the school would show the speech. He also invited parents to come to school to watch it with their children. But he added that if parents felt that strongly against it, their kids didn’t have to watch it and the school would find an alternate activity for them.
    He wrote: “As a classical Christian school, we will honor this unique request from the office of the president in order for our students to continue to be involved in the ‘Great Conversation.'” We’ll see how it goes.

  9. Craig, let me turn it up to 11.
    From your post it’s obvious that you are obviously clueless and probably faithless. Barack Obama will be single-handedly responsible for the downfall of the American Republic. He is Hitler, Stalin, Pol-Pot and the antichrist all rolled up into one. To suggest we would listen to something he has to say while practicing discernment is to suggest that we listen to him at all. If we were to do that it would be just as if we had signed the dotted line to our soul on a contract made by the infernal one himself. We are Christians and therefore we are only patriotic when someone we like is in office. Duh.
    Okay, sorry for the sarcasm. So I’m not in the country anymore but the above is the exact type of straw-man, ad hominem, rhetorical masculine-bovine-feces that I’m hearing. Just today I was sent a mass email by someone (supposedly Christian) explaining how Obama’s administration is equivalent to the Third Reich. The ugliness being shamelessly displayed by evangelical Christians is chilling in its complete disregard of biblical injunctions. What is being demonstrated is that the conservative “church” in America identifies itself more with conservative American cultural values than with Jesus Christ. Their (our) faith is being exposed as worthless because it has made many idols into the “gospel” and come up with it’s own ethical standards rather than Christ’s.
    Whatever happened to love your enemies and pray for them, bless those who curse you, turn the other cheek, give your tunic to the one who demands, giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s? We’ve turned “Be prepared to give an answer for the hope that you have, yet do it with gentleness and respect” into, “Don’t hesitate to grind your political axe, and make sure you do it with hypocrisy and self-righteous indignation.”
    Um… okay, I’m done. Did I make it to 11?

  10. Pretty close, Travis, but in the words of Nigel Tufnel, “That’s just nitpicking, isn’t it?”
    Not sure if you’ve checked the WORLD comments (40 and counting), but if you haven’t, don’t – it’s not going to help your frustration with the aforementioned “straw-man, ad hominem, rhetorical masculine-bovine-feces.” Enjoyed your thoughts, though.
    MM, thanks for sharing what you (and your head of school) did. Kudos to both of you.

  11. Anybody read this from John Piper? We go together like peas and carrots on this one:
    “I am stunned at the outcry against the President of the United States speaking to the youth of this nation about the importance of education…This speech seems, for me, to be an answer to a prayer that I have prayed for the president repeatedly.”
    Bring it, Pipe-Daddy.

  12. Rich, I appreciate your sympathy, but I think a distinction needs to be made between “popular stuff on tv” and an address to the younger members of our nation from the President of the United States – two very different things.
    So what’s the distinction between The View, Oprah, and Obama’s speeches?
    Also, relativism is not what I’m hearing. However, I am hearing that I ought to really care about what Obama says and look to find something of value in it. I didn’t vote for Obama (voted 3rd party) I’m kind of a fan of George W. (not completely, but so-so). However, I never saw the need to watch (anything but a few of) his speeches. And of course, public-school teachers did not go ga-ga over his speeches either. There will be plenty more opportunities to hear the golden-tongued one.

  13. “I am hearing that I ought to really care about what Obama says and look to find something of value in it.”
    Presidential title/role aside (which would be my answer to your first question, Rich), since I consider Barack Obama a human being made in the image of God, I’m not sure what else I’m called to do. Sorry to disappoint you, but there’s too much shared humanity between him and me to think otherwise.

  14. “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” – Romans 13:1-7
    “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” – 1 Timothy 2:1-4
    “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” – Titus 3:1-2
    “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
    Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” – 1 Peter 2:12-17
    Be subject to, pray for, give thanks for, be submissive and obedient to, speak no evil of, show perfect courtesy to, conduct yourselves honourably toward, and honor those in authority. Why is it that conservative evangelical Christians act as if these words only apply when the guy they happen to like and to have voted for is in office? Peter and Paul wrote these words when Nero was the supreme ruler. No body voted him into office and his policies and practices make Obama look like a saint of highest proportions.
    And what of the rank hypocrisy of the Republicans denouncing, slandering, and assassinating the character of Obama? It seems not that long ago that these same folks were crying foul when their political adversaries denounced, slandered, and assassinated the character of their own Messiah… uh.. I mean chosen president. All the guys who were saying how unpatriotic it was to tear down your president in a time of war are now doing that exact thing. Sore loser has no better definition I think.

  15. Travis, that’s a very good (and commendable) citation of Scripture. Then you read your own meaning into the verses.
    For example, what does it mean to “speak evil of” the President or any other government leader. Are they beyond criticism?
    And since you object to slander, why do you so freely do so yourself? How about quoting a prominent Christian who has said something false about Obama? Or quote a Christian who treated Bush in a fashion that even remotely resembles a “Messiah” (as we have definitely seen with Obama worship)? Provide a link to an article, YouTube, something.
    Is your own argument an example of honorable conduct…or is it lazy argumentation by someone who likes to name-call (“sore loser”)?

  16. Mr. Dunham, due to your advice, I just re-read Acts 17. I believe you need to provide further commentary on exactly what Paul did and said…and how that relates to the rest of your post.
    I understand that, for you, Obama’s speech may provide (to use his pet phrase) a “teachable moment.” Still, the comments I see here from other readers are that (1) they don’t trust teachers, even ‘christian’ teachers, to handle this event critically and (2) they don’t believe that Christians are obligated to counter every worldly notion in order to carry out the Great Commission.
    What does Scripture tell us? For example, what is Paul’s point in 1 Cor 2 (particularly verses 2-8)? It would be good to get your perspective, as a christian educator…

  17. Happy to do so, Scott, but I’m “laboring” on some other things at the moment. Check back later today and I’ll try to have something for you (and please, call me Craig).
    In the meantime, here are the President’s prepared remarks for tomorrow.

  18. Send the kids or don’t send them…either way, they will find out what was said…with the media and people talking, it will get out…

  19. Scott,
    My argumentation may be lazy, this is a blog after all. If my words seem to sharp then I do apologize. However, on the basis of 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 I do actually have the right and responsibility to judge those inside the church. Jesus’ harshest words were reserved for Pharisiacal hypocrisy.
    In regards to speaking evil, I’d say calling Obama a new Hitler and comparing his regime to the Third Reich or Stalinist Russia qualifies. As for the rest I’m not saying that prominent Christians are out slandering Obama, I’m saying the tone of the evangelical community has in many ways been influenced more by conservative republicanism than by biblical ethic. Is my evidence anectdotal? I concede. Does that mean I’m completely wrong? I don’t think so and trust me, I wish I had better anecdotes.
    This is getting off track though since the situation which prompted this post was Craig’s personal experience of the reaction of Christian parents. I know the school Craig works at. I have been involved in the lives of many of it’s students and their parents and I know what the atmosphere is there. This is what I was responding to.
    I don’t believe Craig or I said you should never critique the President. We never said Christians should be naive. Quite the contrary, we are challenging the conservative naivete that masquerades as Christian orthodoxy. I didn’t vote for Obama. I don’t agree with many of his policies. However, I’m biblically commanded to love, honour, and pray for him. My original challenge is that from what I’m hearing and seeing from people I know they reflect the attitude of Bill O’Reilly, Shawn Hannity, and Glenn Beck towards our President more than they reflect the attitude of Jesus.
    As far as the Bush Messiah complex, it simply looked different. It was marked by loyalty and claims of patriotism. It was marked by emphasizing his Christian beliefs (even though he is a universalist: http://www.stateofthemedia.org/2007/narrative_cabletv_audience.asp?cat=2&media=6). How many church parking lots were filled with cars bearing the big W bumperstickers? Lots from what I saw. In following George W. Bush many Christians allowed their ethics to all of the sudden include torturing people. Again, I’m not saying that everything Bush did was wrong. What I was saying above is that there is hypocrisy in those who liken Obama to a demagogue and then act is if they didn’t have their own demagogue in Bush.
    Finally Scott, you have accused me of eisegesis when in fact I didn’t engage in any sort of “gesis.” I simply listed several verses which are pertinent to the conversation and asked some questions (which may have been to sharp and for which I’ve apologized for). This was in response to Rich’s comment which seemed to indicate he didn’t feel a need to care about the President because he didn’t vote for him, which is the sentiment that I’ve been reacting to.
    Since I’ve actually made no statements concerning how those passages should be read and yet you deem my interpretation of them to be eisegistic please provide your own explanation of how those passages apply to the situation at hand.

  20. A point I forgot to make by way of a question:
    How can we love, honour, and pray for someone we refuse to even listen to what he has to say?
    This gets at what the post was originally dealing with.

  21. Scott, with regard to Acts 17 and our responsibility to interact with a pluralistic culture (which is/was the context of my original exhortation), let me try to break it down to seven ideas (note: these are not original with me (read Jerram Barrs’ helpful book The Heart of Evangelism for a more thorough understanding), but they represent my training/thinking in the area of cultural interaction):
    1) Show respect and affirmation – Paul affirmed the Athenian pursuit of religion, even though (biblically speaking) it was incredibly non-Christian (Acts 17:22-23).
    2) Understand what others believe – Paul had been in Athens for a while (see Acts 17:16-17) and had taken the opportunity to interact with the people not just in the synagogues but also in the marketplace. In the midst of his preaching, he had taken the time to learn what they believed (as evidenced by Acts 17:28 and his quoting of their own poets).
    3) Use relevant language – Paul did not put on his Old Testament hat in telling the story of Christ; rather, he spoke philosophically to a crowd used to talking that way (Acts 17:19-21)
    4) Build a relational bridge – Again, Paul had already done this in his time in Athens, and his speech at the Areopagus was as personal as it was prophetic in tone.
    5) Reason with persuasion – Paul was the master of this, but again, hear the tone of how he reasoned with them; one usually doesn’t get asked back – as Paul did in Acts 17:32 – with an over-the-top offensive message.
    6) Clarify the truth – Certainly Paul does this in the heart of his message (Acts 17:24-28), but again, it’s HOW he does it with consideration of his audience that impresses (for contrast, see how Paul’s presentation changes by looking at Acts 13).
    7) Challenge their faith – In verses Acts 17:29-31, Paul lays out a call for repentance – and some respond, some do not. Paul is not recorded as being angry or upset, nor does he shake the dust from his sandals at their mixed response; rather, “he simply goes out from their midst.” Who knows if he took them up on their offer to hear him again, but the fact that they invited him back speaks volumes.
    As to your question regarding 1 Corinthians 2:2-8, Paul avoids the Greek rhetoric, true, but this is because his message is a flashback of sorts to when he first related to them. The reason he speaks of not using “lofty speech or wisdom” but of “knowing nothing but Christ crucified” is because he’s having to deal with a different issue than apologetics, namely one of disunity as the Corinthian church was divided into four groups, behind four personalities (see 1:12). Paul is preaching Christ as the one they are ALL following (and are to follow); if he’s here prescribing how all evangelism MUST be done, he’s not following his own prescription in Acts 17, which seems problematic and suggests there’s something deeper going on.

  22. Craig,
    There is a lot of shared humanity between me and Saul Alinsky as well. My point is about the practiced art of double-speak. Not everyone deserves a hearing all the time. Simplistic answers are not sufficient. Of course, based on Travis’s posts here, pure emotion is standard for the course. Travis has surmised that my argument that I don’t need to listen to everything Obama says means I am a Pharisee, torture-supporter, Bush-devotee, who doesn’t obey the laws, pray for his president. Solid scriptural argumentation there. Herod was king too, but it was not okay to say, “The voice of a god, and not a man.” In fact, the point of attendance to Herod’s oratory was to worship him. Is this not something we should ever consider? Again, not that I would necessarily be against a disciplined hearing (as we should do with anyone). It’s just that I’m not so sure that parents are wrong to keep their CHILDREN from listening sometimes.
    And the presidential office matters. So does the queen of the media, Oprah. Why do I always need to listen? I’ve listened plenty. I will listen some more, but my ears are not always at the beck and call of my earthly President.
    The president loves death and is an ardent advocate for child-murder. His first act in office was to fund international child-murders. His words hide these facts. It would be fine for us to, among other things, learn the subtleties of double-speak from him, so that we can be on our guard. I am sure he will say some true and good things as well. I am just not desperate to hear it. And I’m tired of being numbed to his sort of language.

  23. Well, people are certainly showing their hands in these comments. I bet if you put all of us in a room together we would look very homogeneous, but when you bring up topics like these our true passions/bents/prejudices/backgrounds/who we’ve read and haven’t/who we listen to and don’t listen to/what we’ve seen of the world and haven’t seen of the world really comes shining through. I’m totally with you on the Obama thing, but what is more facinating to me is why people are or are not with you. I also like being friends with such a controversial person like you! :) Great post!

  24. For the record, I just finished watching Obama’s education speech and thought it was great despite the pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps rhetoric. Of course, we in America like that independent kind of talk (though I was surprised how strong it was – like something out of the 1950s). Anyway, good job, Mr. President – now let’s figure out health care.

  25. Rich,
    Your own words suggested not that that you were choosing to not listen to this one speech but rather that you didn’t care what he had to say at all because you didn’t vote for him. My comments were directed at that. My other words (Pharisaical hypocrisy, torture-supporting, Bush devotees) were not directed at you but were responses to Scott’s comments. My point still stands though that the demagogue/messianic nature that people are ascribing to Obama is really not much different from what I heard coming out of Conservative circles in regards to Bush when he was in office.
    Maybe my words have been harsh, but I think this interestingly shows some of what I’m getting at. You and Scott have both cried foul because my words seem presumptive and overly critical without giving you the benefit of the doubt. Yet isn’t this what is happening towards Obama? When we judge the value of a speech before he even makes it is that not presumptuous? Nothing Craig or I have said indicates that we think we (or anyone else) should believe and swallow everything the President says, but that we should learn to be discerning by listening and that we should teach our children to listen. There is a difference between listening to someone with discernment and wisdom or listening to someone with suspicion and cynicism. What I hear in your comments and Scott’s are the latter two.
    It might be important to remind you as well that Craig teaches at a high school and not a kindergarten. If the teen years aren’t a good time to expose our children to different viewpoints to encourage critical thinking and listening skills and to foster discernment, when is?
    In regards to Obama being pro-abortion. Yes he is, and this is one of the reasons that I could not in good conscience vote for him. Two things come to mind though. First, just because Bush was theoretically anti-abortion doesn’t make him truly pro-life. He had his own political double-speak in this area and I think when you take all of his policies and actions while in office into consideration you would be hard pressed to label him “pro-life” in any comprehensive manner. Second, I refer back to the passages listed above. Paul and Peter didn’t say, “Honour, pray for, and submit to your authorities unless their pro-choice.” They were writing what they were writing when Nero was in charge. Do a little reading and find out what kind of person he was and what kind of policies he enacted and supported. He was literally pro-death in a multitude of ways including child murder (abortion is no new invention, read Rodney Stark’s “Rise of Christianity” for an interesting perspective on the Roman situation and the early Christian response).
    Anyway, I think I should stop typing now.

  26. Travis,
    My words said that I didn’t care all that much about what Bush said, even though I voted for him.
    I never heard any demigod talk about Bush. Maybe you run in different circles than I do.
    Indeed I listen to known and unrepentant liars and murderers with suspicion rather than an open mind. This is called wisdom.
    Your last paragraph is again insulting and irrelevant. I have read plenty about Nero and other Roman emperors, plus church history. Your arguments are not following from your pre-suppositions. Does it follow that if Christians had had the option (not under duress) of having their children listen to Nero and Herod’s oratories, then they definitely would have done so? B/c of the office? B/c of human empathy? This is silly. It doesn’t follow.
    On the whole, your emotional reaction to those who disagree with you (or in Scott’s case, are considering whether they disagree with you) about Obama is what is telling here.

  27. The full text of President Obama’s speech has been available for a couple of days. Besides maybe being a little humanistic, is there anything indoctrinating it it? If this same speech had been given by President Reagan, what would have been Conservative Christian response? I believe it would have been “Amen”. What is the difference?
    We are not a monarchy. However, in our country, the office and title of “President” has historically carried with it a great amount of honor and respect. More often than not, in the direct presence of the President, he is addressed as “Mr. President” and not by his given name, pointing to the honor that is carried, not by the person per se, but by the office.
    I fear that our culture in America today has lost that respect of the office. In the more recent couple of decades, this respect was there with President Reagan, obliterated by President Clinton through what became public infidelity, and then was starting to be rebuilt through President Bush and President Obama. However, this respect is under attack, by among others, many Christians who have lost the ability to have respect for those with whom they disagree, much less the ruler of the land.
    I fear we have forgotten how to do the 2nd part of I Peter 3:15, “always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence“. If we don’t know how to respect the leader we can see (and disagree with), how can we respect the Leader we can not see (and our sinful hearts sometimes secretly disagrees with)? How can we teach our children to respect authority, when our own actions show that we only need to respect authority that we agree with?

  28. Rich,
    Apparently I misunderstood your statement. To be fair it was poorly worded which is why Craig misunderstood it as well. I apologize for drawing the wrong conclusion from your statement.
    I don’t know where you were the first six and a half years of the Bush Administration but if you didn’t hear similar things then fair enough, nothing I can say to that. We don’t need an “I heard” “Well, I didn’t” back and forth.
    However, you seem to accuse me of reading my own presuppositions into other people’s words while actually doing it yourself. I never said anything about listening with an “open mind” and all the negative stereotypes that go with that phrase. I specifically said listening with discernment and wisdom.
    As far as whether my last paragraph in the previous comment was insulting; I struggle to see how it was. Whatever the case though, insult wasn’t intended, so again I apologize. As far as whether it was irrelevant; I don’t think so. Again, I think you seem to be reading just as much into my words as you’re accusing me of doing to others. For the record, I don’t see this as a disagreement about President Obama. My guess is we fundamentally have the same position regarding his position. The important disagreement I see is over how we speak of and submit to such a President.
    I’ve reread my comments and I struggle to see how they are an “emotional reaction.” They may be forceful. They may be direct. They even may be, dare I as Presbyterian say, impassioned. But emotional? I don’t see how they are more emotional than anything you’ve written. I’ve asked questions, which you haven’t answered. I’ve conceded points to Scott when his assessment was accurate. I’ve also re-clarified my position several times. What exactly about all of that falls under the category of “emotional reaction”, by which I can only assume you mean, “not worthy of response”? On second thought, don’t answer that. It doesn’t really matter and I don’t have anymore time to put into this conversation. I think the last comment by Tim sums up the whole conversation for me quite nicely (thanks Tim).
    Rich, I wish you well.
    Craig, thanks for hosting an interesting discussion.

  29. I am definitely guilty of not making my case with gentleness. I am sorry about that.
    I know that Obama had many good things to say (not that anyone couldn’t have said these things). Obviously, his speech and he serve a different god than we do. I have heard him say many decent things in the past. I have agreed with him at times. However, I am not chomping at the bit to affirm him. A bad king is nonetheless put here by God. Therefore, he is owed my respect. However, I will not bow down to him or his gods, nor will I place my young children at his feet (which is what he wants). He is an evil king, though he is my king. My respect for him is within bounds. I am still called to tell the truth and exercise wisdom. Other commands do not get overruled by the call to respect, honor, and pray for the emperor.
    I am sure that we are all guilty of disobeying the command to honor our civil authorities. I am not sure that a lack of willingness to attend (or send our children to) all of his public oratories is what makes us so. Nor is this “mental”.

  30. Tim,
    You may be right about what conservative reactions would have been if the presidential situation were reversed.
    As you said, the speech was humanistic, though I would say that it was thoroughly so, rather than merely a little. (That’s not to say that Bush’s speech would have been any different in that regard, but I was never told that I had to put my children at Bush’s feet.) Additionally, I don’t doubt that the speech is intended to distract from other political issues and is intended to create a positive image for the president. I find it very ironic that this speech was made to children who only a few years ago were under the prospect of the guillotine of abortion. I don’t think we’re supposed to think about that. Let’s think about common ground.

  31. Craig and Travis, thank you both for addressing my concerns. Please excuse me for not checking back sooner, Awana just started and I’m the “commander.” But since I’ve survived our opening night, I have some free time.
    I’ve tried repeatedly to post some comments tonight and I keep getting an error message (“Sorry, we cannot accept this data). I’ll try again tomorrow (Thursday) and just hope I haven’t posted the same comments again-and-again!

  32. Travis, you conceded that your accusations about Christians slandering the President and excessively honoring Bush are anecdotal, mostly second-hand, and about unidentified persons. I’m not saying you’re totally wrong, but it’s weak to broad-brush Christians on this basis. Further, I believe your opinion regarding Bush stickers is just that, your opinion. My opinion is hopefully Biblical: that we have been granted political rights and should try to use them, lawfully, for “good.” Just as Paul appealed to Caesar, one would hope Christians would vote for and be more enthusiastic about candidates whose views are more “Biblical.” Obviously, we can disagree regarding “social justice” and other notions of how a Christian should regard governmental action, but I have no problem in asserting that Bush compares well to his predecessor Mr. Clinton, or Gore or Kerry. Lawful behavior, including protest, is just that — lawful. I believe active political involvement conforms with the Biblical texts you cited.
    That said, I personally do not have anything more than a Fish (Icthus) on my car and take great pains to point out that Christianity is not a political movement. For non-believers, this takes some talking, because they engage in projection. Whether they are atheists or religious, they chose it because it was convenient or appealing…the same methodology that is used for their politics. They find it hard to believe that I trust the Bible even when I might be uncomfortable conceptually with certain passages, and have even greater trouble “living it out” — yet still assert that what it says is right and good.
    Tragically, within “churchianity” we have many people who like the Bible only because it agrees with their personal preferences/politics. I agree wholeheartedly that we need to pull such aside and ask them whether they have “faith” because because the Bible agrees with them, or whether their faith is an act of God. I, too, am suspicious of christians who seem to equate political action with spiritual warfare. These spheres are very different and spiritual warfare is our #1 calling. Travis, if that’s your point, I’m with you 100%.

  33. Craig, while you definitely referenced your comments and responded directly to mine, I’m not a fan of your summary from the book “The Heart of Evangelism.” You definitely qualified the list by saying that one should read the book “…for a more thorough understanding” but even with that caveat in mind, I’m a bit leary.
    A point-by-point rebuttal in ALL CAPS (sorry, but it’s easier to follow that way) follows:
    1) Show respect and affirmation. PAUL ‘RESPECTED’ AND ‘AFFIRMED’ THAT WHICH WAS COMMENDABLE, ONLY.
    2) Understand what others believe. PAUL’S LEVEL OF “UNDERSTANDING” IS UNKNOWN HERE. VERSE 16 SAYS “THE CITY WAS FULL OF IDOLS.” HOW DEEP WAS PAUL’S UNDERSTANDING OF THESE IDOLS…ESPECIALLY CONSIDERING THAT ‘DOCTRINE’ CONCERNING EACH WOULD DEPEND ON WHOM HE TALKED TO AND THE DIFFICULTY OF “UNDERSTANDING” COULD THEREFORE MULTIPLY EXPONENTIALLY? I’M NOT MAKING AN ARGUMENT FOR TOTAL IGNORANCE HERE, BUT THE BOTTOM LINE IS THAT CHRISTIANITY HAS A SAVIOR AND ALL OTHER RELIGIONS AND SCHEMES FOR HUMAN IMPROVEMENT DO NOT. PAUL USED THE “UNKNOWN GOD” IDOL AS A LAUNCHING POINT TO QUICKLY GET TO THE SUBJECT OF THE ONE TRUE GOD, AND ONLY CITED THEIR “POETS” IN PASSING. HE DID NOT PROFESS NOR MANIFEST A BROAD UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT “OTHERS BELIEVE.”
    3) Use relevant language. AGREED, TO BE UNDERSTOOD BY YOUR AUDIENCE YOU NEED TO USE THEIR LANGUAGE OR CAREFULLY DEFINE YOUR TERMS.
    4) Build a relational bridge. “RELATIONAL BRIDGE” IS NEBULOUS, I DEFINITELY NEED ENLIGHTENMENT HERE. I’M HOPING THIS POINT REFERS TO THE CONTENT OF PAUL’S SPEECH, AS IN “RELATING” TO THE BELIEFS OF HIS AUDIENCE. BUT IT BEARS REPEATING THAT HE DOESN’T SPEND MUCH TIME (AS FAR AS WE CAN TELL FROM THE TEXT) REITERATING THEIR BELIEFS. HE QUICKLY MOVES ON TO TALK ABOUT GOD. I’M HOPING “RELATIONAL BRIDGE” DOES NOT REFER TO A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH HIS AUDIENCE BECAUSE VERSE 18 INDICATES NO BROAD KNOWLEDGE OF PAUL, NOR HIS ROLE IN COMING TO THE CITY. THE BASIS FOR LISTENING TO PAUL IS PROVIDED IN VERSE 20: NOVELTY. ACTUALLY, IT WAS HIS LACK OF “RELATIONALITY” (IF I CAN MAKE UP THE WORD) THAT MADE HIM WORTH A LISTEN TO THE ATHENIANS BECAUSE HE ONLY RELATED A LITTLE BIT AND THEN MOVED ON TO “NEW” NOTIONS. IF BY “RELATIONAL” YOU ARE REFERRING TO 2 LINES FROM THEIR POETRY (LIKE THE “OFFSPRING” COMMENT), THEN FINE, PAUL RELATES — BUT IT’S A VERY SMALL “BRIDGE.”
    5) Reason with persuasion. ISN’T THIS REDUNDANT? CAN ONE REASON WITHOUT PERSUASION? THE CONCEPT ELUDES ME. SO THIS POINT IS, IN A SENSE, NONSENSE. IF YOU’RE SAYING ‘MIND YOUR MANNERS’ THAT’S FINE, BUT PAUL OFTEN INSULTED OTHERS (THAT IS, HE LET THE GOSPEL OFFEND) AND HAD THE SCARS TO PROVE IT. HIS REASONING WAS NOT PERSUASIVE TO THOSE WHO MOCKED IN 17:32, AND HE OFTEN USED HARSH TERMS ELSEWHERE IN ACTS WHEN ADDRESSING THE JEWS. I REPEAT MY POINT FROM 2 DAYS AGO THAT WE CAN LEARN MORE FROM 1 CORINTHIANS. INSTEAD OF CHAPTER 2, LOOK AT THE FINAL VERSES OF CHAPTER 1. WE SHOULD EXPECT THE GOSPEL TO BE “A STUMBLING BLOCK TO THE JEWS AND FOOLISHNESS TO THE GREEKS.” BY THE WAY, YOUR ASSERTION THAT 1 COR CHAPTERS 1 AND 2 IS ABOUT “A DIFFERENT ISSUE THAN APOLOGETICS” IS WRONG UNLESS YOU ARE CONTENT TO STOP AT 1 COR 1:17. LOOK AT 18-31. PAUL IS PLAINLY ATTACKING THE “REASON” OF THE WORLD AND RELATING HOW HE CALLED THEM TO CHRIST. YES, I ASSERT THAT IN 1 CORINTHIANS HE IS SHOWING US HOW EVANGELISM SHOULD BE DONE — AND HE DOES NOT VIOLATE THIS IN ACTS 17. IT ONLY APPEARS SO WHEN (AS STATED ABOVE) YOU EXAGGERATE THE “UNDERSTANDING” AND “RELATIONAL” ASPECTS OF HIS SPEECH. PAUL MADE SURE “THAT YOUR FAITH MIGHT NOT REST IN THE WISDOM OF MEN BUT IN THE POWER OF GOD.”(1 COR 2:5) I’M HONESTLY NOT TRYING TO BE CONTRARY HERE JUST TO BE A SMART GUY…THE WHOLE “REASON WITH PERSUASION” POINT NEEDS ELABORATION.
    6) Clarify the truth, YEP, NO DOUBT. BUT TO ASSERT THAT PAUL’S MESSAGE DIFFERS GREATLY BETWEEN ACTS 13 AND ACTS 17 IS A STRETCH. FIRST OFF, WHAT PART OF ACTS 13 (HIS WITNESS TO THE JEWS AT THE BEGINNING OF THE CHAPTER, OR GREEKS AT THE END) ARE YOU REFERRING TO? IF TO THE JEWS, THIS ONLY REINFORCES THE CONTRAST HE MENTIONS IN 1 CORINTHIANS BETWEEN JEWS AND GREEKS. THEY HAVE RADICALLY DIFFERENT RELIGIOUS BACKGROUNDS, WITH EITHER AUDIENCE HE AFFIRMS THAT WHICH IS TRUE BUT THEN PREACHES THE GOSPEL. IF YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT HIS WITNESS TO THE GREEKS, ACTS 13 PROVIDES VERY LITTLE CONTENT REGARDING HIS PRESENTATION. FINALLY, TAKE A GANDER AT VERSE 46 WHERE (TO THE JEWS) “Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, ‘It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.'” THIS CONTRADICTS WHAT YOU SAID IN POINT #5 ABOUT “TONE.”
    7) Challenge their faith. AGREED…UH, EXCEPT FOR THE PART ABOUT ACTS 17:33. AT BEST YOU MAKE AN ARGUMENT FROM SILENCE. THE ESV VERSION IS “So Paul went out from their midst.” TO INSERT THE WORD “SIMPLY” HERE IS TO ASSERT A VIEWPOINT..DID YOU DO THIS OR ARE YOU CITING A DIFFERENT TRANSLATION? WHEN GOD ‘LEAVES THE MIDST’ OF HIS PEOPLE, OR CONVERSELY, THE SCAPEGOAT IS KICKED ‘OUT OF THE MIDST’ OF ISRAEL, THIS IS AN ACT OF JUDGMENT. I’M NOT SO BOLD AS TO ASSERT THAT PAUL WAS ANGRILY ACTING IN JUDGMENT HERE, HOWEVER, I WOULD NOT ASSERT THE OPPOSITE (THAT HE WAS A MELLOW FELLOW) AS YOU DO.
    SO ends my slicing & dicing of what you wrote Craig. Again, I recognize that you were providing a quick summary of evangelizing concepts from someone else’s book. And what I really truly want to express is my gratitude to you for (1) taking the time to respond to me, (2) getting me into the texts, and (3) challenging Christians to question whether their reaction to the Obama speech was/is justified. If you’re challenging your students to think in this same manner, then you are without-a-doubt an admirable educator.

  34. Scott, thanks for your comments here (and sorry for the posting problems – not sure what that was). It looks like you were up late.
    I appreciate your efforts in responding, as well as your allowance of the reality that my comments were indeed a quick summary. If there are any misleading assumptions in my exegesis, know that they are mine and not Jerram’s (he is a solid scholar and his writing is well-worth our study). I fear I have not done him justice to you, so if you would email me your address, I’d like to send you a copy of his book for a fuller (and I’m sure better) apologetic of Acts 17. My email: cmdunham [at] gmail.com.
    Thanks for your labors with the kids in Awana, as well as your complimentary thoughts here. Take care.

  35. I can get the book on Ebay for $6.25. So no need to burden yourself in that regard. I’m in 2 book groups right now so can’t say I’ll read it soon. Still, the Great Commission is our greatest calling (even in Awana we need to present the Gospel to the little savages!) so I’ll get to it eventually. It’ll join 2 other books I’ve read on the subject. May God bless your efforts to equip your students. Sincerely, Scott

  36. Scott,
    Out of all the comments that come to mind I think I’ll just share two:
    1. I said my evidence was primarily anecdotal. I never said it was mostly secondhand.
    2. Thank you for your opinion.

  37. Just came across this today due to helping out at a my (private Christian) middle school’s retreat.
    Last week I received a message from my head of school that was quite similar to what you received. We were not going to air the speech as it detracted from time on task in the classroom. I was thankful for that as classroom time is often easy to lose. This was also after she had received numerous messages from concerned parents.
    My thoughts are completely based on my observations with people in my various social circles and they are similar to what has already been shared (which frightens me a tad) but I have also noted the free pass many Christians in my tiny sample for my completely unscientific observational study give former President Bush and the cold shoulder they give President Obama. It’s distressing.
    My take on what happens within the public discourse between what is Republican and Democrat is that people are misusing the law of noncontradiction. Essentially this law is the idea that if one thing is true the other is false.
    The problem I see is that people are deeming their preferred political party as true and deeming, according to the principle, the other as false. Therefore if I’m a Republican (which many Christians in my small convenience sample are) then the supposed opposite, the Democrats, must be false. And who needs anything false if they know the truth.

  38. Travis, you’re right, you didn’t explicitly say your anecdotal evidence was second-hand. So, other than the bumper-sticker story, which of your anecdotes were first-hand?

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