Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Starbucks and Free Speech For All

Last week, in the wake of race-related current events, the CEO of Starbucks announced that their baristas were newly instructed to label customers’ cups with “#racetogether” in order to spark discussions in stores about racism. Given the leftist/activist agendas of previous statements from their CEO, this too was likely bent towards an ill-founded means rather than a race-unifying end. However, a week later, the CEO announced the termination of this initiative due to various reasons, not the least of which was likely customer dissatisfaction.

Before this initiative was terminated, however, the leftists were rigorously defending Starbucks and their CEO primarily on the grounds of freedom of speech. In other words, Starbucks and its CEO were both recognized for enjoying free speech under the Constitution. And, here is where we should all agree. Yes, the CEO and Starbucks both have the freedom of speech under the Constitution to launch this initiative in every store. But, since that is the case, what did the leftists just admit, and thereby hypocritically refuse to admit?

Before we answer that question, there are some good reasons why this initiative by Starbucks and its CEO might be offensive to many. After all, the conclusive facts are now known for all of the race-related current events that served as the inspiration for their initiative. And, the facts clearly support that in each case, the bitter accusations of racism were completely false. The entire narrative that inspired “#racetogether” is based upon nothing but insidious lies designed to aid criminals. We do need a discussion on race, but not for the agenda that deceives us. We don’t need a discussion on race in this country because "cops are systematically exterminating black people" (a lie). We don’t need a discussion on race in this country because "blacks don’t have equal protection" (a lie). We need a discussion on race because our governments and their propagandist radicals are inflaming racial division for political gain. And, we need a discussion on race in order to unite that which our governments (and their community organizers) are dividing. We need a discussion on race until we see every race the way God does – “beautifully and wonderfully made.” If there must be a unifying discussion, then God must be a party to it. And, that leads us to answer the question raised earlier.

By defending Starbucks’ free speech, what did the leftists just admit and hypocritically refuse to admit? They admitted what the courts in our country (including the Supreme Court) have held since our Founding - Corporations are organizations that represent people, which therefore are extended the rights of the individuals that they represent. In other words, corporations have Constitutional rights. And, what did these same leftists also hypocritically refuse to admit? They refused to admit that these same freedoms apply to all corporations. If Starbucks has these Constitutional rights, then why did the defenders of Starbucks vehemently seek to deny these rights to Hobby Lobby? Why did they oppose Chick-Fil-A? Why are they now opposing Christian bakers, florists and photographers? Don’t these corporations and individuals have the same Constitutional rights as Starbucks and its CEO? Well, therein lies the rub. If you admit that Starbucks has these rights, you have no other choice but to admit that all corporations do. And, that is the correct conclusion. Starbucks does have these rights. And, so does everyone else, including and not limited to Christians and their businesses. If you seek to defend Starbucks' rights but deny Christians' rights, you are part of the bigger problem. And, that problem should be addressed in what we should be discussing. If freedom of speech is not for all, then it is not freedom after all.

In fact, Starbucks as well, is part of the problem. While Starbucks flexes its rights, it aggressively opposes the rights of Christians and gun-owners – who share the same Constitutional rights as Starbucks. If Starbucks wishes to facilitate genuine conversations regarding the protection of rights under the Constitution, they need to stop opposing the clear Constitutional rights of others. And, if anyone else advocates to have these same rights, they need to defend the rights of everyone else in the process. If you don’t, then you are just as guilty of the worst form of hypocrisy as recently exhibited by Starbucks. And, that would make you part of the problem, not part of the solution. By the way, your freedoms will be threatened next.

While Starbucks is actually part of the problem, we Christians should still avoid advocating for public boycotts in retaliation. It is perfectly acceptable for an individual Christian to react in a manner that takes their wallet to other purveyors of coffee. But, we as Christians should not seek to publicly organize in order to punish those who hold opposing views. It is one thing for an individual to make a personal buying decision on moral grounds. It is yet a darker thing to launch a public boycott in the name of Jesus (who never modeled or called us to such action). The first is a personal and private decision that honors God. The second is an effort to punish and take God's place in the public light. Christian, we must never covet the punishment of others, especially not by our own hands. That is for God and God alone. Romans 12:19 clearly repeats the Old Testament by saying, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’” Could this be more clear?

Further, God is also crystal clear on racial unity. Malachi 2:10 says, “Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers?” Acts 10:34-35 says, “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” And, Revelation 7:9-10 sums it up regarding our destiny in Heaven, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” God is painting a beautiful masterpiece - a Bride - that is comprised of every race.

The truth is that there can be no beneficial discussion on race unless God’s opinion is central. Yet, imagine with me what would happen if God’s words were spoken in the midst of such discussions. Actually, in light of current events, imagination is sadly unnecessary. God's children sharing God's words are no longer afforded the same rights in the same venues as those who oppose Him are afforded? And, that is the worst form of unconstitutional inequality.

In conclusion, we are not called by God to carry out His vengeance. We are called to love and share the amazing Gospel of Jesus Christ to all races. After all, it is the Gospel and the Gospel alone, in which all races will be united. The greatest thing we can do as humans to establish true and lasting racial unity and equality is to surrender our views and our wills to the Creator of every race - who is also the One who died to save them all.

You can purchase the book "Reason If You Will - How To Answer Questions Regarding Faith" by clicking HERE. You can also follow @ReasonIfYouWill on Twitter.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Punish Those Who Disagree?

In the first few years of our marriage, my wife and I had the benefit of wonderful Christian mentors in our Church in Miami, Florida. One concept that they taught us young couples to use in creatively resolving marital conflict was to learn how to “Agree to disagree.” This is tolerance in its truest and most noble form. Agreeing to disagree realizes that you can have differences of opinion without resorting to silencing, or worse, punishing each other. But, tolerance like this only works when tolerance itself is not distorted into something that is anything but tolerance. When "tolerance" is redefined to where only one type of opinion is tolerated, it actually devolves into the worst form of intolerance. In fact, it morphs into an intolerance that actively seeks to punish those who disagree. Allow me to illustrate. Unfortunately, this is the type of intolerance we are witnessing on the world stage where ISIS is actively exterminating Christians and any marker of their faith. Even this week, ISIS is destroying and removing all physical signs of Christianity from the villages that they are subjugating. ISIS is even resorting to destroying historical landmarks that are thousands of years old because they bear the marks of Christ's church. And, before America calls the ISIS “kettle” black, it may want to examine its own darkening color.

I have lost count of the cases regarding Christian florists, bakers and photographers who have been harassed, sued and financially ruined simply because they exercised their Constitutional freedom of religion to boycott working for a particular “gay wedding.” One of the recent high profile cases is Barronelle Stutzman. All she did was lovingly inform a gay couple that her religious views do not allow her to service their ceremony. Barronelle knew they were gay and had served them many times before and happily so. But, when the couple asked her to service a “gay wedding,” she lovingly declined. As a result, the Attorney General of her state (not the couple) is taking her to court for all she is worth. This elderly lady has given numerous interviews where it is clear to see that she is a very soft-spoken and grandmotherly type. Although she is meek, she is also bold. In one interview she made the truthful declaration, “A government that forces any American to create a message contrary to her own convictions and surrender her livelihood is a government every American should fear.” So, you might conclude from this display of our society’s values that boycotts like Barronelle boycotting “gay weddings” are a bad thing that discriminate against people. And, seeing that discrimination is actually protected explicitly for religion, you might assume that boycotts against people with views aligned with religious conviction would also be out of line. I’m afraid not.

For example, take the case of the famous Italian designers, Dolce & Gabbana. In a recent interview, among other statements, these two Italian men stated, “The only family is the traditional one.” That is a statement that is innocent enough except that it opposed “gay adoption.” Therefore, since the gods of “gay marriage” were profaned, of course such blasphemy must be punished. The calls for boycotting Dolce & Gabbana started to mount including the likes of Sir Elton John, Ricky Martin, Victoria Beckham, Sharon Stone, Courtney Love, Martina Navratilova, and even Al Roker. But, wait, I thought it was not okay to boycott, especially based upon a religious view? Well, apparently, boycotting is only acceptable for one side of our perverted culture’s coin. Apparently, it is okay to boycott certain people based on their beliefs and not others based on the same. Does that sound equal to anyone?

You might say this inequality is isolated? Well, then allow me to name a couple more from just the last couple weeks. This week at the South by Southwest Festival, featured speaker and former Vice President of the United States, Al Gore, focused on the need to “punish climate-change deniers.” He further concluded that “politicians should pay a price for rejecting ‘accepted science.’” Put aside for a moment that “climate-change” (a.k.a. Global Warming) is not accepted science, and let’s assume that it is. According to Al Gore and those who agree with him (which are many), anyone who disagrees with science should be punished. Well, that means we should punish every famous scientist that we have ever known, including Isaac Newton, Galileo, Einstein, and even Stephen Hawking, all of whom disagreed with previously accepted science. Stephen Hawking, for example, even opposed his own accepted science. But, no, once again, what Gore really means is punish only those who inconveniently oppose the particular “science” that has padded his bank account to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. In other words, anyone who opposes science that lines Gore’s pockets should be punished. Does this sound reasonable to anyone? Sadly, to many in America it does.

Here is another example. Earlier this month, Sarah Mbuyi, a Christian nursery worker who expressed her opinion on marriage, was notified that Christian views on marriage should not be expressed in the workplace (that is unless they are views in favor of “gay marriage” – then you can express whatever you want). Last year she was terminated from Newpark Childcare in Shepherd’s Bush after a colleague filed a complaint against her. Ironically, Sarah’s views were requested to be shared by the colleague who made the complaint. You see, the colleague is an outspoken lesbian and informed Sarah that she might consider Christianity only when she and her partner could get married in church and if they thought God would approve. This was not a rhetorical statement by Sarah’s colleague, but an invitation to discuss the topic inviting a diversity of views. Therefore, Sarah shared her Christian views. As a result, Sarah was investigated and immediately terminated for “gross misconduct,” a penalty typically reserved for theft and fighting at work. In other words it is not misconduct to express your views in favor of “gay marriage” and even solicit a Christian’s views on the subject. It is only worthy of punishment if the Christian responds honestly to the trap.

It is one thing to not tolerate something. Intolerance can take passive, even silent forms. But, it is horribly wrong to actively punish people just because they disagree with you. So much for “live and let live.” So much for “coexist.” So much for “to each his own.” So much for … reason. Critical thinking is in a serious drought while rampant emotionalism reigns and dangerously so. 

Christian, you might be reading this while getting angry. That is okay as long as your anger is not towards people but towards our true enemy which is not flesh and blood. And, keep in mind that all of this was prophesied to happen by Jesus Himself. Remember what he said in Mark 13:9-13, “But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. And you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” So, be the one that endures. Be the Christian that tolerates even while being persecuted. Let’s not lose our noble form of tolerance in the face of the worst brand of hypocrisy. We are called to tolerate such persecutors.

For example, there are many verses that tell us what to do regarding those who persecute us regarding Jesus. My favorite is from Jesus’ first sermon as recorded in Matthew 6:22-23, “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.” In fact in keeping with last week’s post, Jesus even went on to say in Matthew 5:44, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” This is true tolerance. Who can reasonably disagree?

America and her perverted culture are exhibiting behavior increasingly more like the behavior they condemn in ISIS. America is setting up a cultural intolerance that will drive Christianity underground. In the name of tolerance, America’s society will actively seek to punish those who disagree with political correctness, and specifically Christians. In response, love your enemies and pray for them. For that is what Jesus did for those who nailed Him naked to a cross.

You can purchase the book "Reason If You Will - How To Answer Questions Regarding Faith" by clicking HERE. You can also follow @ReasonIfYouWill on Twitter. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

What Christians Should Do In These Final Days

In chapter 6 of the book of Daniel we read the famous story of Daniel in the lions’ den. This story is interesting for us to study today because Daniel both prophesied about the days we are living in, and he also modeled how to succeed through such massive political upheaval the likes of which we are enduring. Daniel was not only kidnapped into captivity by Babylon (modern day Iraq), but he (as a Hebrew) proceeded to rise to the number two position in command of three successive Pagan kings spanning across Babylon and Persia (modern day Iran). Such a feat had never been achieved before nor since. And, it is the story of the lions’ den that demonstrates the power through which Daniel achieved all of the above. Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den because he refused to quit praying to God three times a day in spite of the king’s dictate to cease by threat of becoming lions' food. In fact, he knew the lion’s den punishment every time he prayed. Daniel knew full well the cost of his prayers and how the reward far exceeded that cost. Regardless of the persecution he faced, Daniel was faithful to communing with God as if his life depended upon it. And, after being thrown in the lion’s den, he demonstrated just how much his life actually did depend upon prayer. Even in the face of starving, ravenous lions, Daniel faithfully prayed, was delivered and awarded the place of prominence in yet another Pagan kingdom as a result. Daniel is our best model for times such as these.

Ironically today, Christians face incessant persecution both abroad and in the West. Christians are being judged, silenced, terminated, imprisoned, beaten, raped, and killed for their faith. In fact, the number of Christian martyrs will approach 200,000 just in this year alone. And, while this happens abroad we watch even in America as Islam is defended, lauded, protected and glorified in spite of horrific acts against Christians in her name. For example, in the past several days in the Oklahoma State Capitol, Muslims were invited to pray in the Capitol building. A “Christian” protestor interrupted the prayers to loudly recite The Lord’s Prayer. She was immediately escorted out of the building by police. We should not defend disturbing the peace or rude protests. However, notice the less than subtle dynamic at play here. Muslims are invited to pray in a state Capitol, with little to zero outrage by atheists, the ACLU, liberals, or anyone who commonly decries “separation of Church and State!” Instead, Muslims are permitted to pray on government property, by government sanction and with government protection from offense. This is not a new development. For years, near mosques in major cities all over America, several times a day, Muslims are permitted to empty into busy streets, kneel on prayer mats, block cars, and face Mecca to pray, while the police stop traffic and provide for their protection. Apparently those who cry “separation of Church and State” take no issue with the mingling of Islam and State. The new definition appears to be separation of Jesus and State, and certainly not separation of Mosque and State.

What is vividly clear today is that there is a global war at hand. And, it is a religious war. And, contrary to liberal epithets, Christianity is not the global threat. Christians are not advancing militarily…anywhere in the world. Christians are not killing nonbelievers in mass anywhere in the world. Christians are not brutally oppressing homosexuals and women anywhere in the world. But, a certain religious stripe is doing all of the above with brutal, deadly force. In fact, it is Christian tolerance that established religious freedoms for all religions in America. And, that same tolerance is being denied by those who hate the Christian Church while they accuse her of being hateful.

The other not so subtle trend to notice is that Muslims are praying, Muslims are advancing, and Muslims are unashamedly faithful. At least these Muslims are praying several times a day without fail. Are you? Christians, it is high time that we show the world what true faith in the one true God looks like. It is time that we model Daniel in a foreign land. It is time to pray like never before. Can faith in God exist without prayer? In 2 Chronicles 7:14, God gave us this promise, “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” This is a promise from God. Notice that the healing does not depend upon the actions of the unbelievers, but the believers. So Christian, be humble. Christian, pray and seek God’s face. Christian, turn from your wicked ways. This will be the only way that God will heal the lands in which we dwell. After all, prayer is the only means we have to invoke all of the power and authority of God through His Holy Spirit. Therefore, pray! Pray for God’s Kingdom to peacefully advance through His gospel. Pray for blessings and protection upon Israel. Pray for the martyrs and their families. Pray for our nation and her leaders. Pray for our enemies to repent. Pray! Pray! Pray!

Like Daniel, will you pray with more faithfulness than Muslims? Like Daniel, will you pray no matter if it costs your life? Like Daniel, will you defy the force of government in favor of our God? Like Daniel, will you then be delivered and see the coming of our King? Prayer is the only means that we have and every means that we have. So, like Daniel, pray as if your life depends upon it, because it does.

You can purchase the book "Reason If You Will - How To Answer Questions Regarding Faith" by clicking HERE. You can also follow @ReasonIfYouWill on Twitter.