Stay Tuned for Writing Wednesday!   Leave a comment

Posted September 23, 2014 by Lela Markham in Uncategorized

‘A Deadly Wandering’ takes a sharp look at the fatal consequences of texting and driving   Leave a comment

‘A Deadly Wandering’ takes a sharp look at the fatal consequences of texting and driving.

I agree with the reporter that distracted driving is a very dangerous thing. I avoid doing it. I don’t even talk on the phone hand-free while driving, because I consider it distracted driving.

However, I feel the need to point out that though states did not have specific laws banning texting while driving, they did have negligent driving laws that could have been applied.

Are the new laws specific to texting a better option? No. It is now against the law for me to look at my phone when stuck in the 10-minute-long traffic snarl that forms on my way home every evening. Several times, I’ve had a text come in while I was in that snarl (or before I get to it) and, knowing that I wasn’t going anywhere for several minutes, I’ve looked at it. I have a canned message that requires two buttons to respond “Driving now.” My family knows not to text back, that they’ll hear from me when I can pull over. The alternative to reading that text in the snarl (what Fairbanks has doesn’t really qualify as a traffic jam) is that I receive the message after I get home. Instead of a short detour to pick up milk or medication on my way home, I will now undertake a lengthy gas guzzle to return to the store for that item.

Looking at my phone while at a complete stop is not negligence, but it is treated the same as if I were weaving down the road at full speed.

In the meantime, we do nothing about the nitwits who follow their turn-by-turn navigation across the runway of the Fairbanks International Airport.

That’s negligence, folks! And we really need to recognize that we don’t need specific laws banning a specific activity to get a handle on negligence. We just need to use the laws we already have on the books.

Posted September 23, 2014 by Lela Markham in Administrative State

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Christianity is Not Morality   Leave a comment

Try this experiment. Stop 20 random strangers on the street and ask them to define Christianity.

Some kids from our church’s college class did exactly that during the Midnight Sun Festival here in Fairbanks, they then repeated the experiment at the State Fair. They collected over 200 comments, which varied, but all centered on the idea that Christianity is a religion that imposes a particular morality with specific ethical behavior.

A Christian is one who lives by certain rules and regulations imposed upon him by divine or ecclesiastical authorities. The shalls and the shall nots.” Behavioral conformity to these moral codes of conduct is what the Christian strives to achieve in ordor to please (or appease – addition mine. lela) God

A major television network was filming a documentary on “Christian fundamentalism.” They interviewed a young couple exiting a fundamentalist church and asked, “What do Christian fundamentalists believe?” The conservatively dressed respondent replied, “We believe in the Bible. We don’t believe in drinking, smoking or dancing. We try to be as good as we can to please God.”

Seriously? That’s what they believe? No wonder nobody wants to be a Christian anymore.

I deliberately used the image above and to the right because of its double meaning. To Americans it means “okay”, but to most South Americans it means something vulgar. A very similar gesture in American sign-language means “piss off”. Most of us would use a word starting with an “f” instead. And, yes, I want you to think about that image and its other meaning because it’s important to the end of this post.

I could say that the young fundamentalist couple had fallen prey to a bad marketing strategy, but in reality, I don’t give a fig about marketing strategies – or membership numbers for that matter. I’m looking at the source of the sickness affecting the Christian churches, not the symptoms, and I want a treatment for the disease, not marketing strategy.

Maybe the director edited the comments for his own purposes or maybe the couple really are that caught up in moral code living, but whatever happened, the statements were a tragic misrepresentation of Christianity that is sadly propogated in the name of “Christianity”, often by people claiming to be “Christians”. Is it any wonder that few are interested?

“In the eyes of most of our contemporaries, Christianity is a morality first of all. And have not many epochs of Christian history been characterized by the church’s insistence upon actions and conduct?” (Jacques Ellul, To Will and To Do. Philadelphia: Pilgrim Pr. 1969. pg. 201, Thanks, Alan, for the quotes, lela)
“We have to recognize that Christians themselves have done all they can to create this confusion. God’s revelation has nothing whatever to do with morality.” (Jacques Ellul, The Subversion of Christianity. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Pub. 1986. pg. 69.)

First, we need to talk about morality and ethics a bit. Time to pull out a few dictionaries.

The word “morality” comes from Roman “moralis” or mos referring to custom, tradition, or habit, and alis refering to people. Moralis is the “customs of the people – conformity or compliance with the societal concept of good or right behavior. Oh-oh, I perceive a problem.

The word “ethics” comes from the Greek word “ethos”. In first century koine Greek it refers to social custom or habit. In mordern English, ethics and morality are basically the same meaning – to determine what is good or right and social approval or disapproval of such activities. Yeah, there’s that problem again.

“Ethos” does appear in the Bible three times.

In Acts 16:21. Paul and Silas were in Philippi. Paul cast out demons from a young girl who was being used by some men for a fortunetelling venture. The men complained to the magistrates saying, “These men (Paul and Silas)…are proclaiming customs which it is not lawful to accept or observe, being Romans.” It is a false accusation that they bring, for Paul was not teaching ethics or morals or customs contrary to Roman law. He was simply proclaiming Jesus Christ.

Acts 26:3. Paul was on trial before King Agrippa at Caeserea. In his defense Paul said, “you (King Agrippa) are an expert in all customs and questions among the Jews…” King Agrippa was indeed supposed to be knowledgable of the customs and ethics of the Jewish religion. Paul knew that he was not violating God’s revelation to the Jews, and was therefore being falsely accused.

1Corinthians 15:33. In the midst of his discussion on the resurrection from the dead, Paul quoted a Greek dramatist, Menander, who had written the motto: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” Paul’s usage of the quotation was to make the point that sinful behavior will affect what happens in our resurrection from the dead.

The three usages of ethos in the New Testament are made by: (1) pandering pimps exploiting a young girl and making a false accusation against Paul; (2) the apostle Paul in a correct observation about Jewish religion; and (3) a pagan playwright as an observation about social associations. Not a one of these indicates that Christianity has anything to do with morality or ethics.

There is one other verse to what is often translated “moral excellence” in some English translations, but I would note the NET Bible translates 2Peter 1:5 as “…for this reason, make every effort to add to your faith excellence, to excellence knowledge, to knowledge self control, to self-control perseverence, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly affection, to brotherly affection unselfish love.”  The Greek word is arete, meaning virtuous or honorable behaivoral expression. The Biblical writers were careful in their word use and they wrote in a language that allows for great precision. Arete does not mean morality or ethics. It is an entirely different word and an entirely different meaning. It could be thought of as an admonition to allow for a consistent behavioral outworking of our faith, but that is not the same as morality or ethics as we define those words today.

Why?

Because morality and ethics are human defined words used for the evaluation of human activities. It is humans deciding what activities are socially acceptable or unacceptable, approved or disapprove, right or wrong, good or bad, relative to the intentions and desires of the prevailing human powers and authorities.

The morality of human beings is merely a collective attempt to control human behavior and to get the God stamp on it.

Morality is idolatry and, Christians, we are guilty as charged.

There’s Gold in Them Hills   Leave a comment

There’s Gold in Them Hills.

Posted September 23, 2014 by Lela Markham in Writing

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Read fun books to help animals – A busy woman’s website   Leave a comment

Read fun books to help animals – A busy woman’s website.

Posted September 22, 2014 by Lela Markham in Uncategorized

Getting Back to Fundamentals   Leave a comment

Liberal mainline churches protest that church attendance and religiosity is on the decline across the board, so you can’t blame their precipitious membership losses on the embrace of homosexuality.

Except –

The Assemblies of God has consistently and rapidly grown for more than 40 years WHILE opposing homosexuality. My own denomination – we call ourselves Great Commission Baptists now, but you know us as the Southern Baptist Convention – we are declining, but much later and less dramatically than the liberal denominations and those declines appear to be slowing since we called a truce in the Baptist Battles (suggesting our problems lay there, not with our conservative values). We’ve declined by less than 1% annually for a total of only 3% since 2007 and we’ve actually added congregations.

 

The vast majority of conservative churches are non-denominational and independent churches, many of them Baptists whose membership numbers are not easy to track, but  I suspect you’d find similar statistics.

Remember what I said about sexuality being the symptom, not the cause?

I don’t think that conservative churches’ commitment to opposition to gay marriage and homosexuality is why they aren’t suffering huge membership losses.

I believe it’s much more fundamental than that. Churches that oppose gay marriage and homosexuality tend to also preach a fundamental gospel message:

Jesus Christ is God stepped down into humankind to experience our temptations. He was crucified on the cross for our sins and rose on the third day to wash away our sin. Believe in Him and what He did and confess that to others and you are saved today, in the future and for all eternity.

Many years ago, a friend who God has given the gift of prophesy told a church I was attending that as long as we continued to do what God required of us as a congregation, He would provide for the church. It was a small, but very blessed church. For a long time, we did what we knew was right before the Lord. And, then we stopped. We had seemingly valid excuses for why we stopped, but that wasn’t God’s leading and so God stopped supporting that church.

We need to stop thinking of church as a popularity contest and get back to preaching the gospel. Churches that do that may not grow like gangbusters, but I guarantee they will be blessed of the Lord and still around at the end of this century.

Posted September 22, 2014 by Lela Markham in Christianity

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A New Marketing Strategy   Leave a comment

The Christian church universal is in trouble in America (and western Europe).

What’s the solution? It would appear that the church needs a new marketing strategy. Which is what the modern-day equivalent of Madison Avenue says is the ticket. Downplay sin and repentance, quit talking about sexual immorality and start talking about what God can do for us. The logic is simple – more and more Americans are embracing homosexuality, same sex-marriage and alternative heterosexual relationships. So long as churches remain the face of opposition to gay marriage, those churches will shrink into irrelevancy when gay marriage is inevitably accepted throughout the culture.

There’s two problems with that strategy, however.

God didn’t approve the ad campaign. And, that’s really the biggest one. Second …

Every major American denomination that has taken steps toward liberalization on sexual issues has seen a sharp decline in membership. The evidence so far seems to indicate that affirming homosexuality is a fast track to turning out the lights.

In 2003, Gene Robinson became the first openly gay, noncelibate man to be consecrated as a bishop of the Episcopal Church. At least one dioceses here in Alaska severed ties with the Episcopal Church, part of a trend that eventually created the Anglican Church of North America. Despite that, the Episcopal Church continues to liberalize its sexual teachings. In 2002, there were 2.32 million baptized US members. By 2012, there were only 1.89 million. That’s a decline of 18%. Attendance has fallen even more sharply, by about 24% while baptisms have fallen 40% and marriage have fallen 50%.

Well, people are bailing on churches all over, right? What’s the big deal? The Anglican Church of North America, created in rejection to liberalization in the Episcopal Church, has seen its membership RISE by 13%. Its Sunday attendance is up by 16% in the past five years. Since 2009, the ACNA planted 488 new congregations while the Episcopal Church planted four.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) formed in 1987. For most of its history, gay men and women were permitted as pastors so long as they remained celibate. In 2009, ordination was extended to gays in “committed monogamous relationships” and churches were allowed to “recognize, support and hold publicly accountable life-long, monogamous, same-gender relationships.”

From 1987 to 2009, the average decrease in membership was only .062%. Since 2009, membership has declined 5% annually, for a loss of more than 12% of its members in three years. More than 600 congregations have abandoned the denomination, with almost two-thirds joining CONSERVATIVE Lutheran denominations like the North American Lutheran Church and Lutheran Churches in Ministry for Christ.

The United Church of Christ (UCC) has a reputation for unfettered liberalism. The largest UCC congregation in 2008 was pastored by Rev. Jeremiah Wright. It was the first US mainline Protestant denomination to support same-sex marriage (2005). UCC had been bleeding members for decades, but it rapidly declined after the gay marriage vote, seeing a 20.5% decline in membership since then. From 1990 to 2004, an average of 39 congregations left UCC annually, but more than 350 congregations departed the denomination from 2004 to 2008.

The Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) was flirting with loosening its sexual standards as early as 2006. By 2010, it had done it. In 2006, there were 2.2 million members of PCUSA. That dropped 22.4%  by 2013. In 2011, A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians had been created as an alternative denomination. Over 100,000 members left PCUSA in 2012 alone.

Grim statistics. Things are tough all over in the churches.

Right?

Not exactly. It’s only some churches that are limping. Can you guess which ones?

margaret eleanor leigh

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