Friday, December 24, 2004

Entitlement Mentality

World: "At the very least we deserve that God should find a way to redeem us, if he is going to say that we are sinful."

God: "Every person has strayed like a lost sheep. Every person has turned to his own way. Even so, I will cause their sin to fall on Christ." [Isaiah 53:6; 2 Corinthians 5:21]

Friday, December 17, 2004

Designer Steriods

Have you noticed the strong reaction in the sports world to the breaking news concerning banned substances and substances that are too "designer" to be banned yet. In case you haven't been keeping up with these stories, one of the problems out there is the use of "designer steriods" which are basically substances that are altered in a laboratory so that they are not detected in a drug test but which essentially still have the same impact/effect on the body as traditional anabolic steriods.

Here's the kicker: while the average American opinion on the matters seems to be that it is wrong, there are lots of people out there saying, "But if you could make millions by doing steriods..." What has amazed me is the number of radio hosts who have endorsed this position, as if to condone the action because of the results that can be attained. While their entire show is basically a joke, The Sonny and Wimp Show broadcast locally on WJOX in Birmingham, AL and surrounding areas can seemingly make no "ethical" judgment about the use of steriods. Sonny Smith, a former Auburn basketball coach, and Wimp Sanderson, a former Alabama basketball coach, seem comfortable with steriod use on a personally level as long as the money is right.

Another that has joked about steriods and the potential to increase one's income from the mediocre to the millions in professional sports is Paul Finebaum who seems similarly to have little doubt that he would take the substances himself afforded the opportunity to increase his own ability and income. Unfortunately, for talk radio hosts, the use of steroids does little to enhance their careers.

Deeper in this problem is the sense in which we live in a society where relativity is king. The average Joe will argue that using steroids is not a good thing to do. But then the average Joe also admits that he would use steroids if faced with the opportunity to increase his contract with the Yankees from a mere $800K to $4-5million a year. Talk about selling your soul...

Would the average sports fan rather have their favorite team clean from using such substances and being a sub-par team, or would the average fan rather see their team being dominant at the expense of using whatever substances were necessary to increase their performance? Given, fans have a tendency to look the other way when their own team is involved. Red Sox fans would accuse all the Yankee players of juicing up but be unable to fathom that any Red Sox players were doing any wrong, and vice versa.

The reason that the U.S. gov't is looking to get involved is because baseball (and one would think football, basketball, and hockey) does not take the problem serious enough to enforce a system that takes care of it. When the players' union is opposed to such testing (and it has been,) we have a problem.

Solutions? Not so easy when a monster has been created that must be fed. In a society that worships its best and most glamorous athletes, taking away their candy will be akin to disarming the Soviet Union.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Death Penalty

With Scott Peterson's trial and sentencing the issue of the death penalty has been thrust to the forefront of our society once again. Never mind the fact that Peterson will likely never be executed due to the system and the number of death row inmates in California that are in waiting.

Is the death penalty an outdated form of punishment that should be abandoned today?

No. In fact, if we pride ourselves on becoming a more civil society, the death penalty has a place today as much as it ever has. Why?

The death penalty is at its core a punishment that reflects the value of human life. Sound contradictory? Only if you do not highly value human life. People are created in the image of God, and God has established that killing one of these who are in his image is a crime punishable by death. One who kills another person is thus subjected to the highest punishment men can face.

What about the life of the one who committed the crime? In this case, Scott Peterson is guilty of killing his wife and unborn son. One of the arguments against his execution is that killing a third person does nothing to make the situation right. Part of the fallacy of such an argument is to what degree it is to be taken. Should Peterson then be allowed to remain free, since incarcerating a man is so detrimental to his life anyway?

What about people who are mistakenly sent to death row? Part of today's argument points to the people who have been dismissed from death row because of new trials involving new evidence. Certainly the system has to work for anyone to be justly sentenced to any amount of time in prison or to the death penalty. Whether or not the death penalty is just has nothing to do, though, with people who are unjustly sentenced.

Personally, the struggle over the death penalty is not an easy one. Chuck Colson has had a strong influence on my personal view of death row inmates and their spiritual condition. However, even Colson has changed his official position on the death penalty.

Disturbing is the fact that there were crowds outside the courthouse who cheered at the sentencing of Peterson. There is certainly nothing to rejoice about when a man is sentenced to death. Even in supporting the death penalty, there should be a weighty sobriety involved in the matter.

As one who has been on a jury for a murder trial, the sentencing of the people involved is a tough matter to deal with. In my personal experience, my jury convicted a 19-yr old of 2nd degree murder and 4 convictions of assault. He was sentenced by the judge to 49 years in prison. While our decision was the correct one, I am still sobered by the thought that this young man is to spend what will probably amount to over half his life in prison.

To an even greater degree, the Scott Peterson jury (and any jury that must make the death penalty decision) did not bring the sentence with any celebration. Rather, in their interviews they appeared very burdened by the crime and the punishment that they had to deal with.

There are problems on both sides of the arguments. Many who are arguing for Peteron's death point to the drastic nature of his crimes. But no matter how brutal his crime, Peterson killed another person. Now matter how significant or insignificant the person was in our society and/or in Peterson's life, his action would merit death. Even if he had killed an unknown homeless person, the sentence should be the same (given that the criteria for 1st degree murder were met.)

On the other side, the problems with many arguments against Peteron's execution are merely emotional pleas. They fall short of being consistent in arguing that he should not be executed (though all agree that he should at least have life in prison.)

In the end, I support the death penalty although I cannot imagine being a juror or a judge in the sentencing. Additionally, no matter how strongly I support the death penalty, I do not think I could be the person to actually administer the execution.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Church: Open or Closed?

The United Church of Christ is marketing itself as accepting of all in a new ad campaign which clearly portrays the worship services of more conservative churches as closed gatherings. Interestingly, NBC, CBS, and ABC have rejected the ads for television citing that they are too controversial and one-sided. Dr. Albert Mohler comments on the current place of the United Church of Christ and the extremely liberal theology that now pervades the church.

According to this article the ad contains two bouncers at the entrance to a church who decide which people can enter and which ones cannot.

"No, step aside, please," he tells two men holding hands. "I don’t think so," he
says to a young black girl while blocking her entrance. A Hispanic man and a
person in a wheelchair also are denied entry.
The scene fades to black and a
message: "Jesus didn’t turn people away. Neither do we."

While the piece is certainly intended to make a point about churches that take a stance on homosexuality, the overall picture is completely inaccurate. In addition, the inclusion of racial and physical attributes as reasons why people may or may not be admitted is ludicrous. While there have been failings historically in the church concerning the treatment of other races, to relate today's stance on homosexuality is unbiblical and unfounded.

Let's move toward setting the record straight:

1. Conservative churches should be categorized as those who hold to an objective standard of truth, adhering to the Bible as the word of God. Some churches believe nothing and hold to nothing. If you have no truth, why bother?

2. Churches should not turn people away from their worship services. Maybe there are some extreme examples hidden deep in the middle of nowhere that stand guard at the door turning away minorities and handicapped people, but these would be the extreme and would not be biblically-based churches.

3. Biblically, churches must be exclusive...exclusively Christian, that is.

4. Formerly sinners. The church is made up of people who are saved from their sins by grace. See Ephesians 2:1-22. No person deserves in himself/herself to be a part of the church which is the body of Christ. Every single person who becomes a part of the church does so by the life-changing grace of God through Jesus Christ.

5. The Bible identifies homosexuality as a sinful lifestyle (Romans 1:26-27.) A Christian cannot continue in a sinful lifestyle (1st John 1:5-2:6.)

Are Christians to accept homosexuals? Yes, just as much as we accept (or should accept) every person in our world today.

Is the church to admit homosexuals as members? No. Continuing in the lifestyle of homosexuality is wholly inconsistent with living the Christian life. However, there is absolutely no reason that a church should not admit a person who has come out of a homosexual lifestyle and is now professing Christ and abandoning their former ways. Churches such as the United Church of Christ are not helping anyone by claiming that their doors are open to all if there is no truth being proclaimed inside.

Should churches allow homosexuals to attend their worship services? Certainly. Hearing the gospel is an open experience for all people. Part of our worship is the proclamation of the gospel, and we want all people to hear the message of grace and life in Jesus Christ.