Category Archives: virtue

The Fourth of July: A Time to Rejoice…and Repent

July 4, 1776: Only John Hancock signed the Declaration that day – others would add their names on August 2 and beyond. John Adams, a rather dour fellow at times, was effusive that Independence be celebrated with great fanfare.

Here is my 4th of July tribute as a dual citizen of God’s Kingdom and our nation.

Rejoicing and Repenting

I rejoice in the greatest experiment in virtue-based liberty and I repent for past enslavement and oppression.

I rejoice in freedom of conscience and religion, with a free market of faiths and ideas and I repent for misguided and unjust actions in the name of any religion.

I rejoice in equality and opportunity and repent that we squander these privileges with momentary pleasures.

I rejoice that citizens have a say in their nation’s destiny and I repent from my apathy that forfeits this honor.

I rejoice in the many nations that make up our one nation (E Pluribus Unum) and I repent that the First Nations (Native Americans) were oppressed instead of embraced.

I rejoice in brave soldiers defending freedom and I repent that they often serve poor leaders and policies.

I rejoice in our compassion for the needy at home and abroad and repent for the destruction of life in the womb.

I rejoice in our Constitution and I repent that so few know it well.

I rejoice that God has blessed America and I repent of my lack of gratitude for so much mercy.

A Republic will only be as free as its citizens are virtuous. May we renew the covenants: first with Christ and then the Constitution. May we remember that governments exist to protect, not bestow God-given rights. 
May God bless America…and every nation – for God loves unconditionally and judges without partiality.

Eros is not a Civil Right

Today the Supreme Court repudiated the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) signed by President Clinton in 1996. This ruling means that gay and lesbian marriages from states permitting such unions must be recognized by federal agencies. The decision appears to keep in place the Constitutional decisions of 30 states to define marriage as a monogamous heterosexual union and the 12 states that allow for non-traditional unions. California’s Proposition 8, twice affirmed by the voters of the state, was struck down on a technicality, with its proponents not having proper “standing.” Add to these decisions adjustments to the Voting Rights Act that upset progressives and you are left with confusion and consternation instead of clarity about our Constitution.

The LGBTQ community is celebrating America’s social progress and civil rights for all. Traditionalists are concerned that an activist court has overstepped its authority and ignored the foundations of a free, just and prosperous society.

What is missing in all the celebrating and commiserating is clear thinking about the nature of “rights” and the place of government. Our founders understood that government exists to protect natural, God-given rights, not bestow them. Rights are inherent in our humanity and good governments protect our dignity and protect us from depravity. When the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King pressed for Civil Rights and the original Voting Rights Act in the 1950s and 1960s, he appealed to universal moral precepts and the intent of our founders. He also understood that race was not a choice, but part of our nature from conception. The promises of Washington and Lincoln were finally realized for millions and our nation is better for such steps.

LGBT identity is completely different from the gender and race we are born with. There is no irrefutable evidence of any genetic link to gay or lesbian identity. In addition to the lack of empirical evidence, we have the activists themselves arguing for “fluid” definitions that allow subjective declarations at any stage of life to trump clear observation and natural intention. If John “discovers” he is bisexual, gay, or he wants a transgender procedure, it is fine for him to leave his traditional marriage and pursue his happiness. But if John has lived as a bi or gay man and decides to opt for traditional marriage, then he has been brainwashed and/or deceived. Woe to any caring person that suggests that someone with same-sex attraction can change!

Eros is not a right. Sexual happiness is not a right. Fulfilling any and every desire is not a right. These may be the happy consequences of liberty, but they are not government guarantees. All forms of adult cohabitation outside of heterosexual, monogamous marriage, while permitted, are not the best for partners, children and our social future. These alternative lifestyles are morally unacceptable to billions of caring people in all cultures. A free society must prohibit deleterious behaviors, promote good choices and permit maximal liberty that still keeps the rule of law in place and social cohesion possible.

The fundamental error of our nation is thinking that “happiness” means the fulfillment of all desires, including current erotic orientations. This is actually dehumanizing, as we reduce persons made in the image of God to merely superior creatures with particular sexual proclivities. When I meet a man or a woman, my first questions is NOT about their personal passions. My first thought is how I might love and respect her or him and encourage them in their vocation. Everyone I encounter is first a human person, then a man or a woman with a calling. After this they may choose to share their orientation and partnership situation and I must respect them even if I disagree with their choices. The LGBTQ folks are diminishing their humanity when they reduce their identity to orientation.

Affirming biblical marriage (Genesis 1 and 2 and The Gospel of Matthew, chapter 19) also means helping prevent divorce, receiving children as a gift and choosing selfless service over selfish oppression of another person. Affirmation of Christian faith also rejects covetousness and lust in all forms and urges adult women and men  to marry before enjoying sexual intimacy. The fact that much of humankind fail at these ideals in thought, word and/or does not nullify their eternal nature, authority and legitimacy for a flourishing society.

What now? Much prayer and personal humility, persuasive personal conversations and active political engagement are all needed. As we debate, let’s love and respect every person we encounter and make sure that the 2×4 is out of our own eye before we become sawdust inspectors of others.

Humility, Please

As President Obama begins his second term, we celebrate the peaceful transitions of power that make the USA the most stable expression of representative government in history. Even in our most contested elections, no militias have seized power and no parties have outlawed dissent and no dictators have risen to eradicate our experiment in self-governance and shared power.

Today is also the commemoration of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s life and legacy – a life cut short by a racist’s bullet, but a legacy of compassion and justice we still aspire to as a nation.

With these celebrations undergirding our souls, we must not deceive ourselves that all is well and that life will continue on as it always has. Ominous economic, moral, spiritual and social realities cannot be completely obscured by distracting hot-button issues like gun control (reasonable controls are fine, but assault weapons account for less than 1% of all murders) or more federal largess to ravenously dependent constituencies.

We have to face the debt and deficits. We must recognize our foreign policy weaknesses and shore up our relationships with allies like Israel and Poland. Will we confront family implosion with moral and spiritual solutions, not more programs doomed to fail because children desperately need a daddy and mommy? We must stop ruminating about “de-industializing” America as the rest of the world charges past us in the global economic race. We must cease deceiving ourselves that we can spend our way out of recessions and talk our way to peace with totalitarians.

Mr. President, there is one key to a great second term. You cannot control all events, from nature’s fury to foolish decisions made in other nations. You cannot make a speech and heal the economy or the planet. There is one character trait that will unlock the door to a brighter future for all Americans. What is this key?

Humility. The humility to learn from those outside your ideological bubble. Humble people learn from mistakes, increase accountability change habits. Humility opens hearts and minds among adversaries and increases the chance of successful negotiations. Humility thinks of the good of all for the foreseeable future instead of one’s personal image or legacy. Humility opens the door to divine favor and reconciliation among warring factions. Humility is more powerful than intimidation, because it compels thoughtfulness instead of polemics. Humility knows when to compromise on some practical matters.

Humility is courage wisely managed and power carefully exercised. Humility liberates from the destructiveness of narcissism. Humility opens the door to heretofore undiscovered answers to baffling problems. A humble heart will show respect for all people, thereby garnering openness for new ideas.

Mr. President, allow God’s love to remove the barely concealed contempt you have for your political adversaries. The athletic competitiveness of your youth and the radical fervor of your win-at-all-costs young adulthood community organizing needs tempering as you realize that Paul Ryan is just as smart as you are. If you listen and negotiate with him, you will go down in history as one of a few Presidents with a great second term. In our century, Eisenhower, Reagan and Clinton fostered trust, forged compromises and made the world a better place by swallowing their pride and working with opponents.

The “one thing needed” (paraphrasing Jesus of Nazareth in Luke’s Gospel, chapter 10) for progress is also the most difficult virtue because it requires dismantling of defenses and  construction of character on a foundation of reverence and for God and respect for all people. Humility liberates us from self-imposed demands of personal omniscience and the pressures of perfectionism.

Humility, please, Mr. President.