Monday, February 29, 2016

Why no Christian should be Caught Dead Voting for Donald Trump

"I give this book to all the girls in my strip clubs!"
Let me not puss-foot around in this post. If you vote for Donald Trump for president, you are voting for a man who has proven by his record that he stands against all the central truths of the Christian faith.  Trump has, indeed, acted out some of the most villainous roles in the Bible, in defiance of the Word of God.  You are enabling an abuser of women, a thief, an exploiter of the young, a profligate liar, someone who takes the name of God in vain in the worst way (by waving a Bible he doesn't give a damn about to get the votes of gullible Christians), a pornographer, moral reprobate of the lowest stripe, and a shameless, unrepentent God-hater who considers you to be a fool and surely laughs at you behind your back.  And if you vote for him, he's probably right. 

Here's what you're getting into, in biblical terms. 

(1) The prophet Nathan famously told King David, "You are the man!" when he pointed to David's most terrible sin by telling the story of the rich man who stole a lamb from his poor neighbor to host a visitor. 

Donald Trump is also that man.  He brags about stealing mens' wives from them, in his autobiography.

(2) But don't think, "Ah-hah!  So Trump is like King David, eh?   And wasn't he one of the most successful of Israel's rulers?  So if Trump commits David's sins, perhaps he, too, will be a great ruler?"

Never mind the abysmal logic of that "argument," you have overlooked the word "brags."  David never bragged about stealing Bathsheba from her lawful husband.  Even as king, he hid his crime in shame.  Then when called on it, he repented in tears.

But Donald Trump says he has never asked God for forgiveness.   Observe the smirk that almost never leaves his face: he does not appear to think he needs to repent. 

But you will need to repent, if you knowingly vote for a man like that to lead the United States of America.  Because you will be sharing with Trump the sins he models, and in so  modeling, yet receiving votes from 37% of "evangelical Christian Republicans," in effect tells the rest of the country that God is now OK with those sins.  Clinton taught America's youth new sins, and new defenses of their sins.  Martin Luther King, for all his virtues (which Trump does not share, like forgiveness), probably harmed the black community by offering a secret example of a profligrate sexual life.  Now you're doing the same thing, if you support so shameless and immoral a reprobate to lead the United States of America.  You're telling the country, "Tom-catting, serial marriages, selling sex, these are all no big deal for Christians," never mind that family breakdown is tearing the nation's children apart, and robbing the joy of stable family life from millions of innocent children. 

So by voting for Trump, you are lowering the Gospel, and the notion of family, into the mud, in the eyes of non-Christians.  Why should they take us seriously about sin, after we vote for a man like that?  You'll probably never meet a more shameless and successful sinner than the man you're putting into the White House.   And that's BEFORE he gains ultimate secular power. 

(3) David's kingdom was broken in two as a consequence of his sin, and his children carried on that tradition.  Don't imagine God is now ready to be mocked if we put a far more shameless stealer of mens'  wives into the White House. 

(4) Nor is David the only Old Testament parallel.  Remember Ahab and Jezebel?  They were among the most evil of Israel's rulers. 

Ahab was having a pity-party because his neighbor refused to sell him the vineyard that had been in the family for generations.  Jezebel told him, "Aren't you the king?  Just use eminent domain -- it's not just for bridges and railways, you know -- kill the little SOB, and grab his grapes and build yourself a nice limosine parking lot for your new casino." 

Well, that's what Trump did, only the neighbor was a widow, and he didn't have the actual power to have her killed, just seize his land for a parking lot so rich people could gamble more conveniently. 

Would you have voted for Ahab and Jezebel for president?  Well here's your chance.  Pull the lever and find out what God thinks about the abuse of power to oppress the weak for personal ends when you explain your choice to Him on the Judgment Day. 

Or have we forgotten that God does not smile on the exploitation of the weak?   Do you imagine all that is a joke, which fills the prophetic works of the Old Testament? 

(5) Speaking of which, Christians used to see casinos as evil, predatory, showing lack of trust in God.  How many stories did we tell about those who have lost their life savings to this "sin?" 

Those old Christians were right.  Trump made a living out of seducing the gullible and greedy, and peddling lust of the flesh and the pride of shallow, flashy "life." 

(6) Donald Trump calls himself a "strong Christian," and even has the gaul to claim that the IRS has audited him, not because he is a crook (see 8), but because of his "strong Christian faith."

Doesn't that make you gag?   And don't give me that "Only God sees into peoples' hearts" nonsense.  "By their fruit you will know them," said Jesus, and the fruit of this man's life is more than obvious if you open your eyes. 

So what does Trump, a shameless liar, think about Christians who support him?  Does he respect you?  Did he respect all the women he cheated with?  You can know the answer to that question, by considering how long he stayed with them after he had his way.  Unless a tiger can change its stripes (Donald himself admits he's not interested in repentance, though), don't think that you're not being screwed, too. 

(7) C. S. Lewis called pride the "Great Sin."  Have you ever met a man more full of himself than Donald Trump?  Nothing is more obvious, than that Donald Trump is a raging egomaniac.  Like Alexander the Great he calls everything he makes by his own last name -- "Trump Tower," "Trump Air," "Trump University."  Why would you want to willingly, knowingly put a man possessed by the deepest sin, the sin "that made the devil the devil," as Lewis put it, in the White House?  What is going on between your ears?  

No wonder Trump has no time for God -- as proven by the fact that he has never confessed his multitude of sins.  "A man who spends all his time looking down at others has no time to look up." 

(8) Speaking of Trump University, would you use your good name to give ambitious students the shaft, lying fluently to coax them out of their hard-earned money, as Donald Trump did? 

Do you like that in a president? 

(9) Paul advises us, "Whatsoever things are honorable, noble, of good report, think on these things." 

Would that be like, paying women to take their clothes off for money?  Trump sold sex for a living -- strip clubs.  Is that the kind of man eminent Southern Baptist pastors should be supporting?  Or are Trump's "honorable" thoughts more centered on mocking the disabled?  (Yes, he did, don't be gullible.)  Or mocking a war veteran who volunteered for dangerous flight missions, broke his arm and leg being shot down over Hanoi, and refused to be repatriated, accepting torture rather than a life of ease at home for his country?  (While you were getting a deferment for a bone spur -- you forget in which leg?)  ,

Oh, but McCain criticized Trump, so he had it (scurilous lies) coming!  And Megan Kelly asked him tough questions (as she does with everyone), so she deserved to be called a "bimbo!"  And everyone else Trump mocks and spits bile at, all deserved it for they punctured the godhood of this man-child. 

What are you getting out of it when Trump roasts someone he  hates on a verbal grill?  Do you find it "entertaining?"  Are you vicariously glorying in, and enabling, this man's calumny and lies?   

Noble?  Honorable?  Good report?  There is much to be said about many of the men and women who ran for the Republican Party nomination.  But all that has been sucked up and blown away by those who choose to think only evil of anyone who looks at Donald Trump and sees him for the perverse, self-centered little wounded demigod that he is. 

Where are the "fruits of the spirit" in this man's life?  If you can't point to any (and you know you can't), what lie are you telling yourself, to see someone that vile who calls himself a "strong Christian," as anything but the most shameless panderer? 

(10) Amazingly enough, Trump is being promoted as a "straight shooter."  Like many liars who maybe do, after all, feel some covert shame, he covers that shame by pointing the finger at others and calling them "liar."

I am not a great fan of Ted Cruz, at least not as a presidential candidate.  He does seem overly ambitious, and may cut a few corners.  But Donald Trump does not cut corners with the truth, he has been lying like one speaking his native language, for years.   

(11) Aside from crudity, most of Trump's insults are unrelated to truth, or are even designed to protect himself from the truth.  For example, is Megyn Kelly really a "bimbo?"  I know of no evidence for that.  But if "bimbo" means "a person who engages in loose sexual behavior," then Trump himself is the true offender. 

(12) Not only to God, but to others as well, Donald Trump seems unable to say, "I was wrong" in the sense of "I sinned."  That is what Jesus accused the Pharisees of -- they "claimed to see" which is what made them truly blind. 

This is not merely a moral failing, it is dangerous character flaw, especially in a leader. 

(13) And Trump does, indeed, seem to be surrounded by syncophants and yes-men. 

No doubt Trump, as a successful businessman, has learned to listen to some experts, to engineers and bankers, for instance.  But he does not seem able to say when he was rebuked and admitted his error.  When David was confronted by Nathan, he listened, if too late to escape dire consequences for Israel and himself.  Abraham Lincoln was a strong president, but he was also one who listened even to his harshesh critics, and seemed to recognize his faults. 

Evil sometimes hides in cracks and crevices, seeking darkness for its cover.  At other times, it glories in the light of day.  The Aztecs built their pyramids like Trump built his towers, in the central squares of their cities, to sacrifice the innocent (if there were any, in such a civilization) before gods that gloried in murder, depredation, and cruelty.  They mocked God openly, until He sent a cruel tribe from a distant peninsula, covered in armor and loaded with plagues, to strike that nation down in a few  shortmonths.

If you vote for this man, you are voting for lies, calumny, sexual perversion of the lowest order, and the state of mind that makes man out to be a god, that builds Towers of Babel to heaven, to be erected in the central temple of the American civil religion - the White House. 

A vote for Donald Trump may not be a vote for the anti-Christ, but it is a vote to place the anti-Christ state of mind, at the heart of American culture. 

And no, he won't build the damn wall and make Mexico pay for it -- as if that silly and impossible lie (sell your birthright and you don't even get the stew!) were worth the soul of American Christianity. 

(That's all I have time for today, folks.  I may add more tomorrow -- the list of this man's villainies seems inexaustible.  The Christian sociologist George Yancey has been chronicling many of them over the past few weeks, and I haven't even gotten to his links, yet.) 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Are the Gospels Trustworthy? 47 errors at Academic Atheism

I'm writing a book now that, among other things, rebuts bold claims that Bart Ehrman, Richard Carrier, and Matthew Ferguson have made about the historical Jesus.  Ferguson is not nearly as well-known as Ehrman or Carrier, but he seems to be growing in popularity.  As you may know, I've already dedicated several posts here to rebutting some of his arguments, as for instance his notion that the Gospels much resemble an ancient book called The Contest of Hesiod and Homer.  (Follow "Matthew Ferguson" label to link.) 

Today my attention was drawn to an article at "Academic Atheism" that leans almost exclusively on the work of these three skeptics to argue that Jesus was nothing like what the Gospels say, and probably never lived. 

The author does not seem a deep or original thinker.  Such arguments seem to be catching on, though, so perhaps they are worth rebutting.  Certainly they provide an object lesson for how not to think about the Gospels or history in general. 

I'll quote what I find the more interesting parts of the article below, and detail close to four dozen errors which come of uncritically following untrustworthy guides to history. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Gospel According to John (Marshall)

The plastic donut days of yore: three generations
I returned to China a few days ago, and finished reading my first biography of Alexander the Great.  Despite all the innocent people he murdered, and a few delusions of grandeur that crept up on him (pretty understandably), I have to say I like him better than Donald Trump.  (Who also likes to name things after himself.)  Mainly he just had a bug to travel, fight, fight, and WIN!  Alexander was like a big puppy dog, who might bite your leg off if he's in the mood for a scrap -- which he always was -- but might well lick your hand afterwards. 
After finishing that book, I happened to notice another,much shorter biography lying around.  It was my only biography so far, which I wrote three years ago.  It told of a  man who was not great in the normal sense of word, who didn't conquer or name any cities, who was happy with one wife, and whose construction projects were of more modest proportions.  In most ways, he was a simple, ordinary man.  But  having known him, I have no doubt that he was a better man than either headline Alpha Males.  This is the little biography I wrote of Dad  just after he passed away, and distributed a few copies to family and friends.  But the font in the printed booklet is small, and reading it over this afternoon, I think some others who did not receive copies, might be interested. 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Hector Avalos and the Laziness of the New Atheism.

One of the defining traits of the New Atheism is that it turns every debate about truth into personal attacks even more quickly than is the norm in the Internet Era.  After The Truth Behind the New Atheism came out, I have been subject to numerous attacks.  What has struck me more than anything is not only that few of my harshest atheist critics bothered to read my books before attacking them, but how utterly divorced their attacks were from who I am.  I have plenty of vices, but instead of calling me on them, the critics attack me for strange and wonderful crimes, things that had never entered my head, and generally the polar opposite of what less-fevered observers recognize.  That is because the purpose of the criticism is not to "speak truth to power," but to distract people from the facts, to which they have no answers, and which, as a class, I have come to feel that they care little about. 

Iowa State Religious Studies professor Hector Avalos is a prime exemplar of this fundamentally lazy drive to turn substantive discussions into personal attacks.  In most of his debates, at least those I have observed, Avalos turns eagerly from facts and interpretation, to the lamentable credentials of his opponents: their poor linguistic skills, inferior education or teaching positions, their alleged failure to read as much and as deeply as himself.  Another of Avalos' favorite tricks is to micro-focus on some extremely petty  point, or point within a point, and over-awe his fans with an irrelevant display of erudition on that point, wildly at tangent to any relevant issue.  For example, when I cited numerous scholars who recognize a surprising awareness of God in cultures around the world, Avalos latched on to just one -- Emile Durkheim -- and then spent many pages critiquing, not my general thesis, nor even Durkheim's general observation about God in Australia, but on just one of the 20 or so sources Durkheim quoted.  His discussion of that one source, on which he wielded all his scholarly apparatus, was obscure to the nth degree and of almost no relevance to my thesis -- but proved impressive as all get-out to his fans. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

100 Lies by Donald Trump (1-30)

"Clowns to the left of me -- jokers to the right!' 
We are often told, usually by Donald Trump himself, that Trump is a "straight-shooter," a uniquely honest man wading through a cesspool of political hacks, interest groups, and liars.  In fact, in the recent Republican debate, Trump called several people liars, including both junior Bushes and Ted Cruz.

I think, though, of all the present candidates for president, no one has such difficulty telling the truth as Donald Trump -- with the exception of Hillary Clinton.  If you want a straight-shooter, Donald Trump is one of the last people you should choose.  

Here I plan to give 30 examples.  Since Trump himself made his standards for what constitutes a lie clear in that debate -- item #1 -- I will not need to justify my own occasionally strict criteria.  

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

My Interview with Donald Trump

I continue my election-year coverage with a series of interviews with leading candidates for president.  The first person to drop by -- hey, Don! -- is the winner of yesterday's Republican primary in New Hampshire.  

Congratulations on your victory yesterday!  

Yeah, wasn't that fantastic?  That was the greatest victory EVER.  No one has ever won such a huge victory, anywhere!

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Marco Rubio makes me feel good -- and bad.

I can sympathize with Rubio's brain freeze under Chris Christie's relentless questioning during the Republican debate last night.  It's happened to me a few times in debates, too.  I remember during my debate with Richard Carrier, leaving my notes about the Problem of Pain on the table, and then nothing better coming to mind, in front of hundreds of spectators, to rebut Carrier's arguments on that subject.  But Rubio was speaking to millions, he was being challenged precisely on his over-scripted speeches, and for the life of him, he couldn't come up with anything off-script to reply!

So that makes me feel good, knowing so professional and "scripted" a speaker could mess up that badly.

Yeah, I mean you!
In retrospect, here's what I would have said in Rubio's place:

"Chris, your audiences and your staff know perfectly well that you repeat yourself relentlessly, as well.  Everyone knows that you're a former prosecutor.  We've all heard about how you saved New Jersey after a hurricane -- Jeb Bush is unimpressed, Florida gets one of those about as often as Hillary Clinton sends out national security secrets through her private server.  

"You're a straight-talking man, no doubt about it.  And you're good at press conferences.  Is that what America most needs in a president?  If it is, then it's between you and Donald Trump.

"But why are you attacking me?  Why don't you go after the front-runner?  Are you afraid to challenge Donald Trump?  Or could it be because your handlers have told you that I have the best chance to beat Hillary Clinton, and keep her from setting up a private server in the White House?  And that's true.  Polls show that I have the best chance of winning, among all those on the stage.  Trump and Cruz are wildly unpopular among the electorate at large.  So aren't you harming the Republican field, and the future of America, by attacking me?

"Maybe rather than going for the Republican with the best chance of winning, you should ask yourself why you haven't caught on in our party.  Maybe your bluster and straight-talking wear thin, when it turns out your claims aren't exactly accurate?  (Do you want examples?)  Or maybe some Republicans -- elephants have long memories -- remember that when Mitt Romney needed your help, you pouted and slobbered all over Barack Obama, helping him into the White House four years ago?"

Honestly, I rather like Chris Christie, despite (and partly because) of his bombast.  But I think he had a response something like that coming.

But given what Rubio said later in the debate about women being drafted, I think he also has something coming -- maybe, losing the election.  Possibly, losing my support.

And that makes me feel bad, because I think either he or Christi, or probably most of the others but Trump, would make a good president.

Here's what I would like to tell Marco Rubio:

You should have kept your mouth closed!
"For thousands of years, real men have defended women.  It's programmed into our genes.  It's the core military tradition of all civilized peoples.  Read the ancient Greeks: it's all men.  Read the Chinese: it's all men.  You might get an occasional rumor about Amazons, or an occasional Hua Mulan, but those have been rare exceptions to the norm in civilized nations: women run risks in childbirth, and are given by God the duty and instinct to take care of our young ones.  Men are endowed by nature with a protective instinct, and with the physical strength and psychological makeup to fight in combat.  That's why most gang murders are committed by young men.  It's also why mountains are climbed, continents explored, and football played and watched, far more often by men than women.  

"Sorry if you don't care for human nature, but that's part of what we are.

"Now you want to toss all that away on the whim of some politically-correct new fad?  You didn't fall for the 'gay marriage' fad, why do you have to fall for this one?

"The idea of sending young women to face ISIS or the Iranian army on the battlefield, is noxious.  You ought to have your head examined.  If captured, they will be raped.  If serving, sexual relations will happen, and degrade the army services.  

"A conservative shouldn't be so quick to toss human history and human nature so quickly.  I am now officially rethinking my support of your candidacy, and hope someone will talk some sense into you."

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

"Wealth, Women, and God" + "The Gospel Hidden in Chinese Characters"

In the past few days a couple books came in the mail for which I wrote a blurb and a forward, respectively.  If you're interested in the Gospel around the world, you may like to take a look.  

Yesterday arrived Wealth, Women & God, by Miriam Adeney and Sadiri Joy Tira.  Miriam, an anthropologist who teaches at Seattle Pacific University, has in the past been kind enough not only to write a generous blurb for my How Jesus Passes the Outsider Test, she also wrote a wonderful chapter for Faith Seeking Understanding, a deeply personal account of how the Gospel relates to other religious traditions.  So I was happy for the chance to read her book, and to recommend it to you.  (It should also come in handy on my next writing project, on How Jesus Liberates Women.):

"'Come, see a man who told me everything I did.  Can this be the Christ?'  An unnamed woman in the First Century asked that question.  Miriam Adeney and Sadiri Joy Tira show, through a series of deceptively simple stories, how women in the Middle East today are meeting Christ, then introducing him to others, just like that First Century seeker did.  To marginalized women Christ still offers living water, especially guest workers from the Philippines, Africa, and India.  This is happening in an improbable place: the wealthy, orthodox Muslim Arabian Peninsula.  Told with characteristic grace and understated insight, these accounts exude the warmth of testimonies shared around a fire on the last night of camp."  

Take a look if the topic interests you!

A week or two ago, a very different but equally fascinating book showed up in the post office across the road from our house.  This one was by Tim Boyle, whom I have never met personally, but corresponded with for some years.  The book is entitled The Gospel Hidden in Chinese Characters.  My forward explains what's inside, and why it's important: 

Product Details"According to the Book of Ecclesiastes, there is both a time to "cast away," and a time to "gather."   Indeed, science teaches us to seek truth not just by cutting up fact and discarding bad theories, but also by synthesizing converging truths.  Thus James Thrower, a scholar of religions, argues that one of the key tests of religious truth must be whether a given spiritual or secular model of how religions fit together, manages to explain, include, or even anticipate what is true in "rival" traditions or philosophies.  
"Since 635, when the Nestorian Christian Alopen arrived in the Chinese capital of modern Xian and was welcomed by the great Li Shimin, co-founded of the glorious Tang Dynasty (who wrote a "blurb" for the Christian books he brought), Christians in China have tried to meet this challenge by relating Christianity to Chinese tradition.  The "Nestorian stele" inscribed in 781, which tells Alopen's story, in fact touches on some of the very concepts you will find in this book.  A millennium later, French Jesuits and Chinese Christians noticed that Chinese characters themselves often carry theological connotations that fit remarkably well with the message of the Bible.  The Kang Xi emperor, educated in part by the Jesuits and equal to Li Shimin in greatness, listened with some exasperation to a Jesuit who found Christ throughout Chinese culture, and told him, in effect, "Your great learning is driving you mad."  
"Tim Boyle is not a madman.  Neither do I think is he engaged in a frivolous ink-blot type exercise in free association.  He has, I think, written the best modern book on how Christianity relates to Chinese characters -- more restrained, and based on more credible premises, than alternatives.  Of course the specifics can be questioned: Tim does not claim to be a professional linguist, and many interpretations are admittedly subjective.  Still, pour over the details, and prepare to be startled.  It appears as if the ancient Chinese culture that produced the very language shared today by one and a half billion people of the "Far East," cut off by tradition beliefs as well as by vast deserts and mountains, fits the biblical account rather like a hand in glove.  
"What is the proper explanation?  Did the ancient Chinese deliberately inscribe truths from Genesis, or else parallel traditions that they somehow preserved?  Or, as seems more likely to me, did God prepare the hearts of the Chinese from within their own culture, as Christians from St. Matthew to Augustine to Pascal to Plantinga have said He prepared the hearts of the Jews through the sacred scriptures of the Old Testament?  Or do these numerous, often detailed, parallels somehow reflect similar stages of two societies, both God-haunted, ancient peoples to whom truth was somehow manifest through creation?  
"Whichever theory you subscribe to, or even if you prefer to believe this is all a subjective figment of the imagination -- and Tim's argument is strongly suggestive, not compulsive -- I think most readers will find room for amazement here.   Symbols that Chinese and Japanese use every day, sacred for centuries also in Korea and Vietnam, stand up and point pretty clearly to Christ.  It is as if an American were to look at a quarter for the first time, and be surprised to find the words "In God we trust" on them.  Only the currency of these words is vastly more ancient, and arises in a "pagan" society that had never heard of the Bible.  Thus truth in far-removed cultures gathers together, East and West, to call us to praise God.  In the light of Christ, as Clement of Alexandria put it, broken fragments of truth, scattered within different 'pagan' schools, are joined and brought to life.  However you understand that process, here, surely, we can collect many of those fragments."

Dr. David Marshall, author, True Son of Heaven: How Jesus Fulfills the Chinese Culture; How Jesus Passes the Outsider Test: The Inside Story