Stop Singing: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Abortion and the Church Today

•August 11, 2009 • 2 Comments

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a pastor and theologian who lived and worked in Nazi Germany. Bonhoeffer lived a courageous life, and is considered one of the most influential Christians of the 20th century, even though there are sadly many Christians who know nothing or very little about him.

Bonhoeffer was one of the Christians brave enough to speak out against the holocaust, when the general German Christian response at the time was apathy or even complicity. Bonhoeffer had a rare boldness, a fiery courage that only God can give. He spoke sternly against the church’s apathy concerning the holocaust. Perhaps one Bonhoeffer’s most controversial statements was something he said to a group of seminary students he was teaching. He remarked that “Only those who cry out for the Jews may also sing Gregorian chant.” Only those who cried out on behalf of the oppressed could sing in church. This concept is reminiscent to the daring words of Amos the prophet, speaking on God’s behalf:

Amos 5:23-24
“Take away from me the noise of your songs;
to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing
stream.”

To not speak out on behalf of the oppressed was hypocrisy, and God made it clear that all our worship means nothing to Him if we do not speak His truth and share His love. We are as those who honor Him with our lips, but worship other gods with the rest of our bodies. We may praise Him with our song, but deny Him by our silence.

Bonhoeffer also had strong words about abortion. In one of his most important works, Ethics, he writes:

“Destruction of the embryo in the mother’s womb is a violation of the right to live which God has bestowed upon this nascent life. To raise the question whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue. The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of his life. And that is nothing but murder.”

Far be it from me to presume to know what Bonhoeffer would say to us in our day, but looking at these two aspects of Bonhoeffer’s beliefs sure makes one wonder if he would tell us something similar about our approach to the issue of abortion, as he told the German Christians about the plight of the Jews. Maybe he would tell us to listen to the plight of the unborn more than the sound of our own praise.

Would Bonhoeffer be so bold as to say that only those who speak out on behalf of the unborn may sing hymns and praise songs? It makes us uncomfortable to consider that he might say something so bold. But, we must realize, his words to the German Christians were just as bold and controversial in his own time. Maybe he would say such a thing to us. Maybe he is.

When the prophet Isaiah was speaking out against the sin and rebellion of the Lord’s precious, but wayward, Israel, many Israelites were taking part in idol worship. These idols did not merely require emotional and spiritual allegiance, but a whole new way of living. The way we live is a form of worship. Following God’s law is a form of worshiping Him. These false gods required, among other things, the sacrifice of unborn babies. They required ways of living contrary to God’s law.

Isaiah 1:3-17

Bring no more vain offerings;
incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—
I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.

Your new moons and your appointed feasts
my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.

When you spread out your hands,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
I will not listen;
your hands are full of blood.

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;

remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;

cease to do evil,

learn to do good;
seek justice,
correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless,
plead the widow’s cause.

God’s anger against Israel was not just concerning their spiritual allegiance, but the way they lived and acted. Even for the Israelites who did not engage in the unjust activities, the weight of the sin fell upon all who failed to speak out against what was wrong. Bonhoeffer tried to bring attention to the same concept. When we fail to speak out on behalf of the oppressed, we are complicit in their demise, and the blood is on our hands. We would do well to listen to what Bonhoeffer has to tell us today.

Proverbs 24:11-12

Rescue those who are being taken away to death;
hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.
12If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,”
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it,
and will he not repay man according to his work?

To say that we did not know what happened, as many German Christians tried to say about the holocaust, is no excuse. God knows how much we know, and He will hold us responsible. He will repay us according to our work. May we be renewed by the blood of Christ, and seek justice on behalf of his glorious, unending, kingdom.

In the next several months, decisions will be made that will alter our country’s abortion policy. The new healthcare bill will have some very frightening consequences. It will allow for the government healthcare plan to pay for abortions. Since the healthcare program will of course be funded by our tax dollars, this program will then be setting up a system for tax-funded abortions across the country. In other words, YOU will be paying for abortions with your tax dollars. A coalition of pro-life advocates have joined together to combat this provision. You can learn more about them, and get involved, at http://www.stoptheabortionmandate.com

This bill takes our national abortion policies to a whole new level, not just so that abortion is a private choice, but where it is a sanctioned aspect of our policy and everyone is required to take part in it. It is no longer just an issue of a woman’s private, individual, choice, it will be supported (whether you like it or not) and provided for by the whole country. The blood will be on our hands not just for failing to stop abortion, but now because our own pocketbooks will provide for it. For those of us who believe abortion is wrong, and an injustice in the sight of God and man, how can we stand for a bill that will force us to pay for it to happen?

Will we speak out on behalf of the voiceless? Or will we shrink and hide behind praise and worship melodies?

May the Lord give us all the strength to do the former.

“But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child – a direct killing of the innocent child – murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? How do we persuade a woman not to have an abortion? As always, we must persuade her with love, and we remind ourselves that love means to be willing to give until it hurts. Jesus gave even his life to love us. So the mother who is thinking of abortion, should be helped to love – that is, to give until it hurts her plans, or her free time, to respect the life of her child.” -Mother Theresa

May His unending and boundless love heal our people and our land. He offers grace and forgiveness, no matter what we have done. May we, with haste, return to Him. He longs for us, us broken, murderous, and wayward, people.


Daily Express: SIN BINS FOR WORST FAMILIES

•August 5, 2009 • Leave a Comment

SIN BINS FOR WORST FAMILIES
Thursday July 23,2009
By Alison Little

http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/115736/Sin-bins-for-worst-families

THOUSANDS of the worst families in England are to be put in “sin bins” in a bid to change their bad behaviour, Ed Balls announced yesterday.

The Children’s Secretary set out £400million plans to put 20,000 problem families under 24-hour CCTV super-vision in their own homes.

They will be monitored to ensure that children attend school, go to bed on time and eat proper meals.

Private security guards will also be sent round to carry out home checks, while parents will be given help to combat drug and alcohol addiction.

Around 2,000 families have gone through these Family Intervention Projects so far.
But ministers want to target 20,000 more in the next two years, with each costing between £5,000 and £20,000 – a potential total bill of £400million.

Ministers hope the move will reduce the number of youngsters who get drawn into crime because of their chaotic family lives, as portrayed in Channel 4 comedy drama Shameless.
Sin bin projects operate in half of council areas already but Mr Balls wants every local authority to fund them.

He said: “This is pretty tough and non-negotiable support for families to get to the root of the problem. There should be Family Intervention Projects in every local authority area because every area has families that need support.”

But Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling said: “This is all much too little, much too late.
“This Government has been in power for more than a decade during which time anti-social behaviour, family breakdown and problems like alcohol abuse and truancy have just got worse and worse.”

Mr Balls also said responsible parents who make sure their children behave in school will get new rights to complain about those who allow their children to disrupt lessons.

Pupils and their families will have to sign behaviour contracts known as Home School Agreements before the start of every year, which will set out parents’ duties to ensure children behave and do their homework.

The updated Youth Crime Action Plan also called for a crackdown on violent girl gangs as well as drug and alcohol abuse among young women.

But a decision to give ministers new powers to intervene with failing local authority Youth Offending Teams was criticised by council leaders.

Les Lawrence, of the Local Government Association, said they did “crucial” work and such intervention was “completely unnecessary”.

10 Surprising Facts about American Health Care

•August 4, 2009 • Leave a Comment

See full article here, with footnotes: http://www.ncpa.org/pub/ba649

10 Surprising Facts about American Health Care
Brief Analysis | Health

No. 649
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
by Scott Atlas
Medical care in the United States is derided as miserable compared to health care systems in the rest of the developed world. Economists, government officials, insurers and academics alike are beating the drum for a far larger government rôle in health care. Much of the public assumes their arguments are sound because the calls for change are so ubiquitous and the topic so complex. However, before turning to government as the solution, some unheralded facts about America’s health care system should be considered.

Fact No. 1: Americans have better survival rates than Europeans for common cancers.[1] Breast cancer mortality is 52 percent higher in Germany than in the United States, and 88 percent higher in the United Kingdom. Prostate cancer mortality is 604 percent higher in the U.K. and 457 percent higher in Norway. The mortality rate for colorectal cancer among British men and women is about 40 percent higher.

Fact No. 2: Americans have lower cancer mortality rates than Canadians.[2] Breast cancer mortality is 9 percent higher, prostate cancer is 184 percent higher and colon cancer mortality among men is about 10 percent higher than in the United States.

Fact No. 3: Americans have better access to treatment for chronic diseases than patients in other developed countries.[3] Some 56 percent of Americans who could benefit are taking statins, which reduce cholesterol and protect against heart disease. By comparison, of those patients who could benefit from these drugs, only 36 percent of the Dutch, 29 percent of the Swiss, 26 percent of Germans, 23 percent of Britons and 17 percent of Italians receive them.

Fact No. 4: Americans have better access to preventive cancer screening than Canadians.[4] Take the proportion of the appropriate-age population groups who have received recommended tests for breast, cervical, prostate and colon cancer:

Nine of 10 middle-aged American women (89 percent) have had a mammogram, compared to less than three-fourths of Canadians (72 percent).
Nearly all American women (96 percent) have had a pap smear, compared to less than 90 percent of Canadians.
More than half of American men (54 percent) have had a PSA test, compared to less than 1 in 6 Canadians (16 percent).
Nearly one-third of Americans (30 percent) have had a colonoscopy, compared with less than 1 in 20 Canadians (5 percent).
Fact No. 5: Lower income Americans are in better health than comparable Canadians. Twice as many American seniors with below-median incomes self-report “excellent” health compared to Canadian seniors (11.7 percent versus 5.8 percent). Conversely, white Canadian young adults with below-median incomes are 20 percent more likely than lower income Americans to describe their health as “fair or poor.”[5]

Fact No. 6: Americans spend less time waiting for care than patients in Canada and the U.K. Canadian and British patients wait about twice as long – sometimes more than a year – to see a specialist, to have elective surgery like hip replacements or to get radiation treatment for cancer.[6] All told, 827,429 people are waiting for some type of procedure in Canada.[7] In England, nearly 1.8 million people are waiting for a hospital admission or outpatient treatment.[8]

Fact No. 7: People in countries with more government control of health care are highly dissatisfied and believe reform is needed. More than 70 percent of German, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and British adults say their health system needs either “fundamental change” or “complete rebuilding.”[9]

Fact No. 8: Americans are more satisfied with the care they receive than Canadians. When asked about their own health care instead of the “health care system,” more than half of Americans (51.3 percent) are very satisfied with their health care services, compared to only 41.5 percent of Canadians; a lower proportion of Americans are dissatisfied (6.8 percent) than Canadians (8.5 percent).[10]

Fact No. 9: Americans have much better access to important new technologies like medical imaging than patients in Canada or the U.K. Maligned as a waste by economists and policymakers naïve to actual medical practice, an overwhelming majority of leading American physicians identified computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as the most important medical innovations for improving patient care during the previous decade.[11] [See the table.] The United States has 34 CT scanners per million Americans, compared to 12 in Canada and eight in Britain. The United States has nearly 27 MRI machines per million compared to about 6 per million in Canada and Britain.[12]

Fact No. 10: Americans are responsible for the vast majority of all health care innovations.[13] The top five U.S. hospitals conduct more clinical trials than all the hospitals in any other single developed country.[14] Since the mid-1970s, the Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology has gone to American residents more often than recipients from all other countries combined.[15] In only five of the past 34 years did a scientist living in America not win or share in the prize. Most important recent medical innovations were developed in the United States.[16] [See the table.]

Conclusion. Despite serious challenges, such as escalating costs and the uninsured, the U.S. health care system compares favorably to those in other developed countries.

Scott W. Atlas, M.D., is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a professor at the Stanford University Medical Center. A version of this article appeared previously in the February 18, 2009, Washington Times.

Heroes of the Month (be sure to watch the video)

•August 3, 2009 • Leave a Comment

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/08/03/audience-shouts-sebelius-specter-health-care-town-hall-philadelphia/

Audience Shouts Down Sebelius, Specter at Health Care Town Hall in Philadelphia

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Sen. Arlen Specter got a preview Sunday of the tough sell lawmakers will face over health care reforms.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Sen. Arlen Specter got a preview Sunday of the tough sell lawmakers will face over health care as audience members booed and jeered them during a town hall meeting in Philadelphia.

Among those at odds with the officials touting the $1 trillion, 10-year plan was a woman who earned loud applause when she said she doesn’t want Washington interfering with her health care choices.

“I look at this health care plan and I see nothing that is about health or about care. What I see is a bureaucratic nightmare, senator. Medicaid is broke, Medicare is broke, Social Security is broke and you want us to believe that a government that can’t even run a cash for clunkers program is going to run one-seventh of our U.S. economy? No sir, no,” she said.

Click here to see the video of the town hall meeting.

While supporters offered courteous applause to the officials, Sebelius didn’t earn any fans when she said that if lawmakers say they don’t understand the legislation voters should urge them to go back and read it.

Specter was shouted down when he said that lawmakers divide up the bills into sections and have their staffs read portions because, “We have to make judgments very fast.”

He then said he will have read the Senate bill before he votes on it, which Sebelius pointed out hasn’t been written yet.

“The Senate bill isn’t written so don’t boo the senator for not reading a bill that isn’t written,” she said.

That explanation, which undermined an earlier failed argument that the legislation should be passed quickly, didn’t satisfy many of the more than 400 people estimated in attendance.

Dozens in the back shouted at Sebelius when she said the bill would stop the system of rationing that insurance companies use. Sebelius then scolded the audience who jeered her, saying she would take questions if people could stop shouting at each other.

The anger is just a sample of the reaction lawmakers are bracing for as they try to sell the massive plan wending its way through Congress. The House Energy and Commerce Committee passed its version — one of five in Congress – late Friday before the House broke for the August recess.

They are using that month’s time to sell the plan to voters. For those Democrats who haven’t read the 1,000 pages of legislation, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has handed out cards with talking points to address constituents’ concerns.

The card, labeled “health insurance reform to hold insurance companies accountable” drives home two points — one, that the health care bill is good for consumers, and two, that Congress will hold the insurance industry accountable.

But while insurance companies are low on voter opinion polls, Congress is viewed even less favorably. And Republicans are seeking to capitalize on the intense scrutiny President Obama is facing over his top priority, issuing a new ad out Monday that tries to make light of the situation.

“Like the old joke goes, President Obama isn’t a doctor, but he plays one on TV,” said House Minority Leader John Boehner, calling the ad lighthearted but pinpointing a serious issue.

“Americans want lower health care costs — not a trillion-dollar government takeover of health care that increases costs and lets Washington bureaucrats make decisions that should be made by doctors and patients.”

Click here to see the GOP ad.

Click here for more FOXNews.com coverage of health care.

When One Party Keeps Another From Talking to its Constituents, We Have a Problem

•July 23, 2009 • Leave a Comment

http://www.rollcall.com/issues/55_12/news/37125-1.html?type=printer_friendly

Democrats Block GOP Health Care Mailing

July 23, 2009 
By Jackie Kucinich
Roll Call Staff




Democrats are preventing Republican House Members from sending their constituents a mailing that is critical of the majority’s health care reform plan, blocking the mailing by alleging that it is inaccurate.

House Republicans are crying foul and claiming that the Democrats are using their majority to prevent GOP Members from communicating with their constituents.

The dispute centers on a chart created by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Republican staff of the Joint Economic Committee to illustrate the organization of the Democratic health care plan.

At first glance, Brady’s chart resembles a board game: a colorful collection of shapes and images with a web of lines connecting them.

But a closer look at the image reveals a complicated menagerie of government offices and programs that Republicans say will be created if the leading Democratic health care plan becomes law.

In a memo sent Monday to Republicans on the House franking commission, Democrats argue that sending the chart to constituents as official mail would violate House rules because the information is misleading.

In their eight-point memo, which was obtained by Roll Call, Democrats identify a litany of areas where they believe the chart is incorrect.

For example, Democrats argue that the chart depicts a “Health Insurance Exchange Trust Fund” that is “simply a recipient of IRS funds, with no outflow. … This is false.”

The chart’s illustration of low-income subsidies is also “misleading and false,” Democrats argue.

Congressional rules for franked mail bar Members from using taxpayer-funded mail for newsletters that use “partisan, politicized or personalized” comments to criticize legislation or policy.

The dispute over Brady’s chart is being reviewed by the franking commission, which must approve any mail before it can be sent. No decision had been made on the matter by press time.

Brady adamantly denied that the chart was misleading and said Democrats are simply threatened by the content of the graphic.

“I think their review was laughable,” Brady said. “It’s … downright false in most of the cases. The chart depicts their health care plan as their committees developed it.”

“The chart reveals how their health care bureaucracy works, and people are frightened by it,” he added. “So this is their effort to try and discredit” the chart.

Republican Members have made 20 requests to mail a version of the chart to their constituents and have been told that the requests are being delayed while the commission reviews allegations that the chart is misleading.

“Hiding the truth about wildly unpopular policies is a Democrat specialty,” said one GOP aide. “I’d like to see the flow chart on how Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi plans on implementing the open and transparent government she keeps promising everyone.”

“We have initiated discussions with the minority to try and resolve current differences and are operating in good faith to achieve that goal,” said Kyle Anderson, a spokesman for House Administration Chairman Robert Brady (D-Pa.). The committee has oversight of the commission.

Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.), ranking member of the committee and a member of the franking commission, said through a spokeswoman that he is also aware of the situation and is working with the members of the franking commission to resolve the differences, but he added that he believed Democrats on the commission were overreaching.

“He strongly believes that the franking commission does not have the authority to deny Member communications based on partisan differences of pending legislation,” said Salley Collins, a spokeswoman for Lungren.

The franking commission is made up of three Democrats and three Republicans.

Republicans quickly embraced Brady’s chart, and over the past week about 50 Members have posted it on their Congressional Web sites or used it in a floor speech. It has also been posted on the home page of the Republican National Committee. 

A Wonderful Story

•July 19, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Bible and the Schools

•July 19, 2009 • 1 Comment

My college recently made some changes in its curriculum, and one of the changes was to remove one of the two Bible requirments for the core curriculum. Previously, students were required to take an intro to Bible course, as well as choose one of several upper-level Bible classes on a specific topic. The topics included varied from topical or book studies of the Bible. Now, only the intro course is required.

I found, and still find, this a bit troubling. The most specific reason, being the fact that the church is already biblically illiterate. Here are some examples of this illiteracy at its worst based upon a study conducted at Wheaton college, a leading Christian university. The study included incoming Freshmen:

One-third could not put the following in order: Abraham, the Old Testament prophets, the death of Christ, and Pentecost.
Half could not sequence the following: Moses in Egypt, Isaac’s birth, Saul’s death, and Judah’s exile.
One-third could not identify Matthew as an apostle from a list of New Testament names.
When asked to locate the biblical book supplying a given story, one-third could not find Paul’s travels in Acts, half did not know that the Christmas story was in Matthew, half did not know that the Passover story was in Exodus

(Gary M. Burge, as cited here )

Albert Mohler writes,

Fewer than half of all adults can name the four gospels. Many Christians cannot identify more than two or three of the disciples. According to data from the Barna Research Group, 60 percent of Americans can’t name even five of the Ten Commandments. “No wonder people break the Ten Commandments all the time. They don’t know what they are,” said George Barna, president of the firm. The bottom line? “Increasingly, America is biblically illiterate.” [see Barna Group's web site]

Multiple surveys reveal the problem in stark terms. According to 82 percent of Americans, “God helps those who help themselves,” is a Bible verse. Those identified as born-again Christians did better–by one percent. A majority of adults think the Bible teaches that the most important purpose in life is taking care of one’s family.

Some of the statistics are enough to perplex even those aware of the problem. A Barna poll indicated that at least 12 percent of adults believe that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. Another survey of graduating high school seniors revealed that over 50 percent thought that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife. A considerable number of respondents to one poll indicated that the Sermon on the Mount was preached by Billy Graham. We are in big trouble.

George Lindbeck, a theologian from Yale University observed, “When I first arrived at Yale, even those who came from nonreligious backgrounds knew the Bible better than most of those now who come from churchgoing families” (as cited here)

The dangers of this trend should be obvious. It should be specifically pointed out, and argued, that curbing Biblical illiteracy should be a key role of the Christian university. The word ‘disciple’ means a learner. The disciple of Christ is a learner, he is learning how to be an agent of God’s grace in this world. This is not merely a spiritual knowledge that is desired, but all sorts of knowledge. The Word of God is a source of absolute truths, and therefore is foundational to the way we should think about every other field of study. The teachings of the Bible should effect our every human endeavor. Noah Webster (yes, the dictionary man) said that the Bible is “the best book for regulating the temporal [secular] concerns of men.

Benjamin Rush, one of America’s founding fathers, wrote:


“We err, not only in human affairs but in religion likewise, only because we do not “know the Scriptures” and obey their instructions. Immense truths, I believe, are concealed in them. The time, I have no doubt, will come when posterity will view and pity our ignorance of these truths as much as we do the ignorance sometimes manifested by the disciples of our Saviour, who knew nothing of the meaning of those plain passages in the Old Testament which were daily fulfilling before their eyes.”

“But further, we err, not only in religion but in philosophy likewise, because we “do not know or believe the Scriptures.” The sciences have been compared to a circle, of which religion composes a part. To understand any one of them perfectly, it is necessary to have some knowledge of them all. Bacon, Boyle, and Newton included the Scriptures in the inquiries to which their universal geniuses disposed them, and their philosophy was aided by their knowledge in them. A striking agreement has been lately discovered between the history of certain events recorded in the Bible and some of the operations and productions of nature, particularly those which are related in Whitehurst’s observation on the deluge, in Smith’s account of the origin of the variety of color in the human species, and in Bruce’s travels. It remains yet to be shown how many other events related in the Bible accord with some late important discoveries in the principles of medicine. The events and the principles alluded to mutually establish the truth of each other.”

Many of the original American universities featured insignia that showed all bodies of knowledge united and founded in knowledge of God. “He who shall introduce into public affairs the principles of Christianity shall change the face of the world” -Benjamin Franklin

No information is neutral and information changes the way we live. If we are to live as Christ, all information, thoughts, and ideas should be tested against scripture and made “obedient to Christ”.  With scripture as our foundation as we approach the world, the Word of God guides us in knowing how to live in the world, to be an agent of truth (both in word and in deed) in the world, just as Christ came to be in the world. The Christian scholar should have a firm knowledge of the Bible, in order to discern truth in all his studies. When one does not have the Bible as the basis of his thinking, he can not discern between the ways and thoughts of the world, from the truth of God.  In that case, our very lives are living for and in consistency with a lie.

“The world cannot hate us, we are too much like its own. Oh that God would make us dangerous!” -Jim Elliot

“My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6)

 
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