Monthly Archives: January 2017

Christian Leaders Address the Refugee Executive Order

Too many Christians let their views on public policy be shaped by talking-head pundits. This is particularly sad when it comes to issues of morality and biblical faithfulness. I always want to hear what Christian leaders have to say–missionaries, ministers, theologians, Christian college presidents, leaders of Christian organizations, etc.

Regarding President Trump’s executive order against refugees, a number of Christian leaders have spoken out. I give their views far more weight that the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Rachel Maddow, Sean Hannity and Chris Matthews–people whose views are shaped by ideology, not by Christian values.

Here is a statement from the leaders of eight Christian organizations, including World Relief and World Vision. These people are on the front lines, ministering to refugees and others devastated by conflict and natural disasters. I highly value their voice, and appreciate them speaking truth to power in the name of Christ.

Dear President Trump and Vice President Pence,

As evangelical Christians, we are guided by the Bible to be particularly concerned for the plight of refugees, individuals who have been forced to flee their countries because of the threat of persecution. Evangelical churches and ministries have long played a key role in welcoming, resettling, and assisting in the integration of refugees from various parts of the world. As such, we are troubled by the recent executive order temporarily halting refugee resettlement and dramatically reducing the number of refugees who could be considered for resettlement to the U.S.

The Bible teaches us that each person — including each refugee, regardless of their country of origin, religious background, or any other qualifier — is made in the Image of God, with inherent dignity and potential. Their lives matter to God, and they matter to us. While the U.S. has in recent years received only a fraction of 1 percent of the world’s refugees annually, we believe the refugee resettlement program provides a lifeline to these uniquely vulnerable individuals and a vital opportunity for our churches to live out the biblical commands to love our neighbors, to make disciples of all nations, and to practice hospitality.

Our faith also compels us to be concerned with the well-being of families. Most of the refugees admitted to the U.S. in recent years are family reunification cases, coming to join a relative already in the country. A temporary moratorium will unnecessarily delay families whose cases already have been screened and approved from being reunited.

We fully affirm the important role of the U.S. government in vetting and screening those considered for resettlement to our country; indeed, it is a God-ordained responsibility of government. However, the U.S. refugee resettlement program’s screening process is already extremely thorough — more intensive, in fact, than the vetting that is required of any other category of visitor or immigrant to our nation — and it has a remarkably strong record. While we are always open to improvements to our government’s screening process, we believe that our nation can continue to be both compassionate and secure.

We would ask that you reconsider these decisions, allowing for resettlement of refugees to resume immediately so that our churches and ministries can continue to live out our faith in this way.

We are praying for you and for all of those in positions of civil authority, that God would continue to grant you wisdom and guidance.

Respectfully,

Chad Hayward
CEO, Accord Network

Shirley V. Hoogstra
President, Council for Christian Colleges and Universities

Hyepin Im
President & CEO, Korean Churches for Community Development

Leith Anderson
President, National Association of Evangelicals

Rev. Dr. Samuel Rodriguez
President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

Rev. Dr. Jo Anne Lyon
Ambassador. The Wesleyan Church

Tim Breene
CEO, World Relief

Richard Stearns
President, World Vision U.S.

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“For the Lord is a God of Justice….”

A turning point of sorts occurred for me in 1980, when I attended an Evangelical Press Association convention in Chicago. The closing speaker, Wes Pippert, referenced biblical teachings about the poor and justice. I remember it distinctly. It was as though God grabbed me by the collar and said, “Pay attention to this! It’s important!”

I grew up under great biblical teaching, but don’t remember ever hearing messages about justice. Four years of Huntington College were similarly silent. So when I heard Wes Pippert, I was pretty much a blank slate. Ignorant. And thus began for me a decades-long journey during which God taught me about issues of poverty and justice. God reshaped my mind, and prepared me for things he had planned for me.

IN MY EXPERIENCE, evangelicals just don’t teach about justice. I’ve sat under some excellent pastors, but only one has preached on the subject (thank you, Tim Hallman). It’s puzzling to me. To an extent, I think white evangelicals (my tribe) view justice as a “black” issue, or as something only “liberals” champion. Beyond that, I can’t figure it out.

After a couple decades along this journey, I reluctantly accepted that the Republican Party TENDS to work at odds with bringing justice in society. They care about justice for the unborn, but that’s about it. When I talk or write about justice, I sense people’s eyes glazing over. They think I’m just trying to spiritualize what they view as anti-God liberalism. I get that a lot.

Anyway, I don’t talk about justice because, as people sometimes mistakenly assume, I’m a raging liberal. I talk about it because God stabbed me through the heart with the issue way back in 1980, and has patiently shown me how much he cares about justice. Justice for the poor, for prisoners, for aliens, for the marginalized, for racial minorities, for women, for workers, for children, for the oppressed.

These SHOULD be concerns for all Christians.

So no, I won’t shut up about it.

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Alternative Sports Facts

Green-Bay-Packers-shoot-for-first-win-in-BuffaloIt was great seeing the Packers make it to yet another Super Bowl. Don’t believe the liberal media, with their fake news, which says the Falcons won. The Packers won, period. I look forward to them defeating the Steelers in the Super Bowl.

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The Gold Pitch

You’ve seen those alarmist commercials, often on cable news, which want you to invest in gold. They tell you about a coming global economic collapse which will make your money worthless. But if you have gold, you’ll be okay.

SO, they urge you to send them your money–which, of course, will become worthless–and they will send you their valuable gold. What am I missing here? Why do they want your worthless money? What do they intend to buy with it–platinum?

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Trump: Hitting the Ground Running with the Economy

After 30+ years at the United Brethren national office, I’ve seen (from the sidelines) hundreds of pastoral transitions occur in our churches. It’s always nice when a church is all primed to move forward–problems have been dealt with, the congregation is unified, finances are doing well, good leadership is in place. You know that the next pastor will be able to hit the ground running.

I kind of view the Trump presidency that way, at least when it comes to the economy. I like what he did with Carrier, and that most corporations are going to think twice about relocating operations overseas. That’s a great way to use the famed Bully Pulpit. I think the economy in general is primed for him to move forward in job creation, revitalizing the middle class, and other areas.

It was reported this week that in December, the economy added jobs for the 75th month in a row, which is a record. The inflation rate has been very low for many years now (1.6% or lower for the past three years), stocks are up, exports are up, domestic oil production up, gas prices down. The auto industry, once on the brink of collapse, is now humming along nicely.

Of course, a great deal remains to be done. I don’t want to paint a totally rosy picture. Many people are unemployed and under-employed, or are working at very low-income jobs. But nothing ominous, economy-wise, faces the incoming president. It really does remind me of a church which is ready to move forward.

President-elect Trump should be able to take office and hit the ground running. No impending economic meltdown to address, no major industry facing collapse. Problems will arise, obviously, but Trump won’t be hit with them on Day One. He can lay out a path and move the economy forward. I hope that is what happens.

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Why Not Celebrate New Year’s Day in March?

Why does the New Year start in January? Why not a nicer, more optimistic month, like March? Well, it used to start in March. Which explained why the last four months of the year were named after numbers. September (septem) was the 7th month, October (octo) the 8th, November (novem) the ninth, and December (decem) the 10th.

But then along came Julius Caesar. He thought January would be more appropriate, since it was named after Janus, the god of doors and gates. That started in 45 B.C. So when Jesus came along, January had already been imposed across the Roman Empire.

The 5th month used to be called Quintilis (quint=5), but Caesar changed it to Julius to honor himself. The next emperor, Augustus, did likewise with the sixth month, which had been Sextilis. All the previous months were already named after gods–Janus, Februus, Mars, Aphrodite, Maia, Juno.

After the Roman Empire went away, January fell out of favor. Countries did their own thing. March became popular. But in 1582, Pope Gregory created the Gregorian calendar, which restored January 1 as New Year’s Day.

The British Empire didn’t adopt the Gregorian calendar until 1752, which means the Founding Fathers grew up celebrating the New Year in March. Russia held off until after the Revolution in 1917. So godless communists also preferred the Pope’s calendar, apparently.

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