Pat Robertson Has a Point

Boy playing video gameI may cringe at some other things he has been quoted as saying, but…

Admitting that he's never played a video game before, televangelist Pat Robertson said Friday morning that murdering someone online in a video game is no different than committing the act in real life. (From "Pat Robertson: 'Murdering someone in cyberspace' is a 'virtual sin.'")

And he rightly alludes to these words from Jesus:

You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:27-28, English Standard Version).

If anything, I think he was mistaken for backpedalling a bit:

He later clarified that "God won’t send you to hell" for killing people in the virtual world, but that committing the act of violence, real or not, "you lose your sensitivity to God."

I don't thing God sends anyone to hell for any specific acts they do…but I also don’t think that it requires someone to actually murder someone else for there to be an indication he or she is a rebellious sinner separated from the Most High. It's the heart, not the behavior, that matters.

P.S. I did not watch what Pat Robertson actually said…and my initial comment at the beginning of the post wasn’t meant to bus-chuck him. I do think he has said some things that were better left unsaid, but I am not on the anti-Robertson bandwagon.

A Christian’s Letter to Santa

Letter to SantaAfter typing the title to this article, "A Christian's Letter to Santa," it hit me that there are brothers in sisters in the body of Christ who would immediately assert, "A Christian would never write Santa" or even "A Christian would never celebrate Christmas." For instance, after posting a quick "Merry Christmas from the Antrim Church of Christ!" (followed by four applicable scriptures) on our Facebook page, one saint commented:

Is this the true church of Christ who celebrate xmas? Church of Christ does not do such thing.

Although he hasn't taken me up on my offer to discuss it, I do not question that an argument can be made for not celebrating a holiday whose date (and some customs) have pagan connections. Additionally, I do think that certain aspects of the American Santa Claus tradition are problematic…but I'm not going to potentially start any firestorm here. 🙂

Luckily, the Bible allows for differing views on the holiday: [Read more…]

The Gospel for Hair Bands

I'm not entirely sure, but the first time I heard Europe's "Wish I Could Believe" was while listening to the Internet radio station XERS earlier this year. Having an ear for songs that speak to spiritual topics, this portion of the chorus caught my attention:

Cause I, wish I could believe in God
So I can move ahead
I know I can't believe in God
Time to move ahead

Now, I can't say that the rest of the song "fits" the transcendent searching of that refrain, but I think we can all appreciate the longing contained in "I wish I could believe in God."

And we Christians naturally wonder what is preventing the lyricist from believing in our Lord…and what exactly makes him so confident he can't? [Read more…]

Going Gaga Over Christmas

(I wrote this in a particularly snarky frame of mind, so if you aren’t in a good mood or are a Yankees fan, please back away from the computer and save reading this for another time. :-))

A Very Gaga Holiday Album CoverI know I spend way too much money at Amazon MP3…but I’ve been addicted to music since I first started developing my own collection. (Prior to that my tastes were my father’s…basically adult contemporary. It’s still music I enjoy and have great respect for, but at some point…with a 70’s teen…Olivia Newton John and Englebert Humperdink had to give way to Kansas and Journey—after a short detour into The Village People. Come on, you gotta admit “Y.M.C.A” and “Macho Man” are catchy!)

Either way, I check out Amazon MP3 at least once every 24 hours to see what their MP3 Daily Deal is. More often than not it is a genre I have little interest in (it’s often indie coffee-house type stuff), but it does mean that during each visit Amazon’s whizz-bang computer gets a shot at enticing me to buy something else I don’t really need, and it knows from my buying history I’m a pretty big fan of Christmas music. (If you check out my “Christmas Album ‘Must Haves’ (2011 Version)” you’ll see I am a traditionalist…give me the old standards sung by people who could have been my grandparents or great-grandparents.) One recent time when their page refreshed Amazon MP3 shocked me by suggesting “A Very Gaga Holiday” by…well…that’s pretty obvious. 🙂

Why shocked? [Read more…]

Abracadabra, You’re a Fish!

Does anyone else remember, as a child, role-playing as wizards or witches and turning each other into a frog or a cat or…? It was all fun and games until someone chose the wrong animal. "I am not a chicken!!!" "Yes you are!"

Remembering those humorous amusements (even when they went awry) brings a smile to my face. The reason this youthful activity came to mind is because I was perusing United Airline's Hemispheres magazine on the way to Nashville this week. It included an article titled "The Lizard King" about George Cera, who is paid by Boca Grande, Florida to rid them of as many spiny-tailed black iguanas as he can at $20 per head. If you are a PETA member, that might sound like an evil job, but those omnivorous lizards are an invasive species that (until Cera's intervention) were reeking havoc on native plants and animals. [Read more…]

No, We Aren’t the Center of the Universe…

One of the advantages to working for Dartmouth College for a couple years was that I could attend one course free per quarter. I did not avail myself enough of that benefit, but I did take one class that reviewed motion picture portrayals of Native Americans. As you can probably imagine, much of the curriculum's focus was on negative depictions of America's indigenous population including "white savior" plot lines. If you are unfamiliar with the term "white savior," have you seen "Dances With Wolves"? Kevin Costner (as John Dunbar) is a white savior. How about "Avatar"? Sure, that movie isn't a western and the Na'vi aren't Native Americans, but Sam Worthington (as Jake Sully) is a white savior. Regardless of whether some of these films are positive in that they represent indigenous people as having more wisdom (or greater spirituality or better character) than the evil racist white man ("Dances With Wolves") or the nefarious greedy corporation ("Avatar"), a pale-skinned male of European descent ends up saving the day.

The reason this comes to mind is because today my son Mikey, his friend Chris, and I attended "The Green Lantern." If you aren't familiar with that comic book hero, one important tidbit is that the Lantern's ring chooses the wearer, not visa versa. After some initial "introduction to key characters" scenes, the three of us saw how the imminent death of another alien Green Lantern led to Ryan Reynolds (as ace pilot Hal Jordan) being selected for the honor…and responsibility…of bearing the ring. The soul-seeing piece of jewelry detected something in Jordan that even Jordan didn't know he had.
[Read more…]

What You Need

Battle of the Bands

This week I had a singer named Aloe Blacc playing on my iPod…probably because Augie really likes one of his songs and asked for it earlier. The title is "I Need a Dollar"…but Augie refers to it as the "Hey Hey Song" since he likes doing that phrase in the song with me:

I need a Dollar
A dollar is what I need
Hey, Hey

I like that song quite a bit myself, especially when Augie is accompanying it. 🙂

But that wasn't the tune that inspired this sermon, instead it is one named "Miss Fortune," where Miss Fortune's dad is discussing her with a suitor…and admitting he has messed her up by spoiling her just as he did her mom. This line in the song jumped out at me:

But the problem with having everything you want
Is you never really know what you need1

[ Repeat a second time ]

Now, I'd played that song before…but I have a habit of really only listening to the music…not the words…although I'll often pay some attention to the chorus. I'm glad this time I was actually aware of what he was singing…there seemed a lot of wisdom in such a simple statement (and in the tune itself…where the suitor doesn't listen to his soon-to-be father-in-law and sure enough, daughter turns out like mother).

[Read more…]

Trick or Treat?

Glowing Jack-O'-LanternShould Christians celebrate Halloween? Travis Allen, Internet Ministry Manager for Grace to You, has an informative and thoughtful answer to that question in his article, “Christians and Halloween.” Although his punch line is that “ultimately, Christian participation in Halloween is a matter of conscience before God,” the article also shares some fairly surprising origins for some of our Halloween traditions (for instance, did you know that “bobbing for apples was one practice the pagans used to divine the spiritual world’s ‘blessings’ on a couple’s romance”?)

Personally, I tend to agree with Travis’ advice on the holiday, both in the “punch line” I shared above (see Romans 14:5, 23) and this:

There’s another option open to Christians: limited, non-compromising participation in Halloween. There’s nothing inherently evil about candy, costumes, or trick-or-treating in the neighborhood. In fact, all of that can provide a unique gospel opportunity with neighbors. Even handing out candy to neighborhood children–provided you’re not stingy–can improve your reputation among the kids. As long as the costumes are innocent and the behavior does not dishonor Christ, trick-or-treating can be used to further gospel interests.

What do you think…”trick or treat” or “avoid like the plague”?

P.S. In case you are interested, my sermon this past Sunday, “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir,” was about how Christians should view ghosts…