WELCOME TO THE MAD HATTER’S TEA PARTY

Andrée Seu Peterson, commenting in the April 30 edition of World Magazine on the Strange Sympathies of voters who supported Donald Trump over Ted Cruz because Cruz was “pompous,” wrote, “If Cruz is rejected and Trump accepted on the grounds of pompousness, then we are truly living at the Mad Hatter’s tea party.”

Well, welcome to the Mad Hatter’s. Cruz is out, Trump is in, and there is no one left to keep him from winning the Republican presidential nomination.

No one predicted this, and no one can predict the outcome of the November elections, but some veteran reporters are beginning to believe that Trump can, in spite of polls to the contrary, beat Clinton in a national referendum. Ben Carson believes that 2016 is, “the year of the outsider,” and if the anger in the electorate over healthcare, immigration, the economy, homeland security, and the political status quo is what I think it is he, and they, are right.

I’ve been carefully watching, and actively participating in our nation’s politics for thirty-six years, and I’ve never been so disappointed with our options. But they tell us more about ourselves than anything else. We have repeatedly chosen style over substance, corruption over character, provocation over peacemaking, and the tyranny of the few over the freedom of the many. We have become a nation so obsessed with sexual license that we rip up religious freedom with spiritual fervor, and snooze through sales of aborted baby parts. We are such committed materialists that we care not about national bankruptcy as long as cheap dollars keep coming.

We used to be a Christian culture. We are a Casino culture now.

How are Christ’s followers to respond? I’m not about to suggest who you should vote for, but I will remind you of one thing: all politics is downstream of culture. If we want to improve our political leadership we have to improve ourselves. No earthly king can achieve through policy or force what Christ can accomplish in the hearts of men and women if his people will obey him. He is our King and his agenda has always been the same: “Love your neighbor as yourself and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

American culture has been in an historic slide ever since I was born. We were never perfect. There will never be a perfect culture outside of Eden. But if we measure ourselves by the stability of two-parent families, by educational achievement, by economic opportunity, by crime rates and imprisonment, by drug abuse and sexually transmitted disease, by the number of children born to unwed mothers, and by many other metrics, we are a culture in decline.

Some of us have been politically opposing that slide for 30-40 years. It hasn’t helped. But we’ve learned something. Oppose the dominant culture, criticize and critique it, and you may be crushed. You certainly won’t fix anything. Build a better culture and, “the world will beat a path to your door.”

It is time for the followers of Christ to stop complaining and start building. We need to concentrate on being the Church, the pillar and support of the truth, in the world, and on creating good culture.

Rx for Anxiety

ANXIETY, I am not immune to it. I doubt you are either. Yet something Jesus said just before his crucifixion reminds me that we have a choice about our anxieties.

The Apostle John describes the scene for us in chapters thirteen and fourteen of his gospel. Jesus, already in Jerusalem for the Passover feast, is in the upper room with his closest followers, his twelve, hand-picked men. There is a price on his head. He washes their feet, shares the bread and the cup, and most notably, predicts his betrayal. All are aghast. All are frightened. They are well aware of the threat they are under, the risks they are running by being in Jerusalem. It is a time of great anxiety.

Into this fractious moment Jesus speaks some his most familiar words, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” (John 14:1). I’ve read those words hundreds of times, often at funerals. But this week the first three words stood out from the rest in a way they haven’t before because I realized Jesus repeated them near the end of his talk, just before they left the upper room, saying, “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27).

The first three words of each line tell us something about ourselves that can be hard to believe: We have a choice about our anxieties. Jesus’ two “Do not let(s)…” make an emphatic statement about our ability to select worry and its gut-wrenching results, or trust and the peace that accompanies it.

The fact, the physiological fact, is that we can worry ourselves sick. Psychiatrists have reliable evidence that the more we worry, the more we fixate on some fearful thing over which we have no control, the more likely we are to push our brain chemistry out of balance. Once the neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and others get off-kilter it can be very difficult to return them to an even keel. In some cases medications are necessary to help restore the balance. But for most of us medication is a temporary fix. If we don’t address the underlying habit of fear in the first place the imbalance is likely to reoccur.

Jesus has a prescription for preventing such brain disorders in the first place. “Do not let” it happen. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust God (instead). Trust me (instead).” Do not choose worry and it cannot enslave your mind. Choose to trust God and he will set it free.

Easier said than done? Yes, certainly. But it can be done. Let me offer a couple of practical steps to help. Call it Rx for Anxiety.
First, it may be necessary to confess that we’ve allowed the source of our worry, in our minds at least, to become more powerful than God, more important to our wellbeing than Christ. That’s actually idolatry and it requires confession and repentance. “Father, thing A or thing B is occupying front and center in my life. That’s your place. I now repent of that and confess that you are God and nothing else. I confess that I am not in control.”

Second, remembering that physical expressions of worship often help us deal with difficult emotions, take a step of faith. Take that thing over which you have no control (which includes most of life, does it not?), write it down on a piece of paper, and in an act of worship offer it up to God. Then set it on fire.

Some things are more difficult to offer up like this than others. Some may require a daily offering for a while. But make it a habit with all of your worries and peace will become your companion.

We have a choice about our anxieties. As you think about all that Christ accomplished for us during his Passion this week, choose trust.

THE MOLECH / PLANNED PARENTHOOD PARADIGM

Everything had to be carefully prepared. The attendants laid fuel for the fire in the rearward facing hearth of the hollow, life-sized bronze figure.  The musicians began softly, building intensity and volume as the fire grew hotter and the statue began to glow. The worshippers, having already made lesser offerings in the first six chapels, entered the seventh chamber to the mind-numbing thunder of pounding drums and clashing cymbals and a now red-hot bronze of a man with the head of a bull, seated on a throne with blazing arms outstretched to receive their infant sacrifice. Welcome to the 15th century B.C. worship of Molech, where the cries of the victims were swallowed up by the cacophony of the celebration.

I paint that ancient picture to remind you that no one should be surprised by what we are seeing in the video expose´ of Planned Parenthood’s baby-parts-for-dollars enterprise. In the first place, syndicated columnist Mona Charen reported on this practice as far back as 1999.  But more importantly, human nature has not changed.

Molech, mentioned in Leviticus 18:20, was one of the gods of the people who occupied the land before Israel came in. From an ancient, near eastern perspective the local deities “held the franchise” on prosperity. If you lived in Egypt you needed to know the Egyptian gods. Ditto in Babylon. But in Canaan you needed to know the Canaanite gods. They held the keys – if you were inclined to forget the real God – to your prosperity, your physical health and wellbeing. When you come right down to it, idolatry was economically driven.

Now, put yourself in the 21st century shoes of a young, unmarried woman. She lives in a culture that prides itself on sexual freedom and expression. Her culture also increasingly frowns on traditional families and motherhood and urges women to find fulfillment in a professional career, in having money, and things, and freedom. Then she finds herself unexpectedly pregnant. She learns that the father of the child isn’t interested in being a father. She will bear the parenting burden alone. Perhaps her parents won’t help. She will bear the financial burden alone. She can afford to go to college or raise a child, but not both, her economic chances are being constrained. Or perhaps she is already in a professional career, one that will not make room for a child. What are her options?

Meanwhile the High Priestesses of Choice chant, “It’s about your freedom! Your body! Your rights!” And the drums of fear thunder louder in her ears, and the “clinicians” cymbals clash ‘it’s only tissue’, ‘a simple procedure’, ‘over in a moment’, adding to her confusion, drowning out the silent screams of the baby in her womb.

The arms of Molech wait in Planned Parenthood clinics all over America. The only difference is that they’ve figured out it’s more financially advantageous not to incinerate “the product,” but to sell it.

The question for us is: Can this situation change? Pro-life leaders in Congress are proposing legislation to defund Planned Parenthood, and I hope they succeed. Only when hearts change, however, will we stop the abortion holocaust. We must work upstream of politics with the message of hope in Jesus Christ. He alone can open the eyes and secure the hearts of women in fear. He alone can free us from the greed that drives the abortion industry.

If you are a woman who has undergone an abortion and you feel the brokenness and the guilt of it, there is hope. If you are a person who has worked in the industry and now regret it, there is hope. The guilt you feel has been born by another. The defilement you feel as a human being can be washed away. Jesus Christ, born of a woman, born under the law, was sacrificed as our penalty for sin and was raised so that we could be free. He has poured out his Spirit on us so that we can be cleansed. I urge you to invite him in to your life, to be your Lord and savior today.