Author Archive

There Is No Such Thing As Part-Time Christianity

April 12, 2010

Recently, the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships issued recommendations to President Obama concerning the faith-based initiative.  In response, Barry Lynn has critiqued this report in two ways that show a fundamental misunderstanding of religion. 

First, Barry argues that faith-based organizations that have received government funds need to be closely monitored because they, according him, are misspending the monies.  As proof, he said “some faith-based ministries take public funding for ‘secular’ efforts while proudly proclaiming on their internet sites that they are Christ-focused 24/7.” 

In other words, a religious organization that is focused on Christ all of the time cannot accomplish secular things.  What kind of useless religion does Barry believe in?  The religion I adhere to commands us to feed the hungry, give a drink to the thirsty, welcome strangers, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and those in prison.

But according to the religion Barry apparently promotes, if you are focused on Christ, you cannot feed the hungry or provide medical treatment for the sick.  According to this warped religion, if you love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, then you are precluded from building a shelter for the homeless.

What this is essentially saying is that Christians can only be Christian some of the time – that there must be times in our life where we can discard our religious beliefs.  While there are some out there who would like it if they could dispose their religious beliefs when it impedes their sinning ways, this is not our calling as Christians.  Our true calling is a full-time job.  We are Christians 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  And Barry’s assertion that a faith-based organization cannot be accomplishing secular good just because it is focused on Christ all the time is simply wrong.

Thankfully, Barry’s radical view of an impotent religion is not mainstream.  To the contrary, throughout our nation’s history, Christian men and women have lead the way in charitable work, including the building of hospitals, universities, homeless shelters, youth programs, rehabilitation programs, prison ministries, adoption agencies, and the list goes on and on.

One such ministry is Heart to Heart International.  This incredible organization, founded in 1992 by Dr. Gary Morsch, brings much needed medical help to needy people all over the world.  But according to its website, this vitally needed service they are providing is not the result of some secular mindset to do good.  Rather, they “believe that each person is uniquely gifted by God to help those in need—and that acting on this belief has the power to create a healthier world.”

You see Barry, it is wrong to think that you cannot do real social good in the world if you are focused on Christ 24/7.  Quite to the contrary, you are compelled to meet the real tangible needs of others when you are focused on Christ all the time.

Next week, I will focus on Barry’s crusade to force faith-based organizations to rid themselves of their faith-based make-up.

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City zoning officials to churches: “Show me the money!”

April 2, 2010

In the 1996 hit movie Jerry Mcguire, Cuba Gooding, Jr.’s character, Rod Tidwell, demanded that Jerry Mcguire, his sports agent played by Tom Cruise, shout the infamous phrase, “Show me the money!”  

This is what city zoning officials across America are shouting to churches who come before them seeking permission to be located within the city.  “You want to be located in our town?  Then show me the money!  Show me the revenue stream.  Show me the tax base that will be generated.  Show me the development that will ensue.  In short, show me the money!”

In Yuma, Arizona, city officials denied Centro Familiar Cristiano a permit to operate a church in a building it had purchased on Main Street.  The reason for the denial?  According to the city, a downtown church was inconsistent with the economic development the city was trying to obtain in that area. 

Yuma is not alone.  Churches across America have been harassed by city officials for no other reason than city officials do not see the economic value of having a church located within the town. 

My, how times have changed.  In years gone by, churches were valued members of society.  Cities recognized the valuable role that churches played in protecting and developing public morality.  But in today’s world where big brother government is trying to take over the role of the church, city zoning officials are seeing churches as impediments to growth rather than a foundation for growth.   

Fortunately for churches, all is not lost.  Just like a broken clock is right twice a day, Congress got it right in 2000 when it passed the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Person’s Act.  This law protects churches from overzealous city officials seeking to thwart church growth in pursuit of the almighty dollar.  In addition, the House of Representatives just passed HB 2596 that will prohibit cities from prohibiting churches from locating in certain neighborhoods.

It should not be all about the money.  City officials would learn an important lesson in 1 Timnothy 6:20 – that the love of money is the root of all evil.

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Christian preacher jailed for praying. Here’s the rest of the story …

March 26, 2010

In front of his crying children and wife, Julian Raven was sentenced to nine days in jail for praying.  Was this in communist China?  A story from the old Soviet Union?  Was he trying to pray in a Muslim country where Christianity is outlawed?  Not even close.

Julian Raven was sentenced to jail in Elmira, New York.  Here.  In the United States of America.  How can it be that in a country that was built on religious freedom, we get to the point where a man was handcuffed and led by armed police to a locked cell for merely praying?

But wait.  Surely there was something else going on.  You just don’t hear something this outrageous without thinking that there is another side to the story.  If the  person on the other end of the phone is offering a free vacation, then you just know there is a high-pressure time-share sales talk somewhere down the line.  With respects to Paul Harvey, what is the rest of the story?

While there is a rest of the story, it is not found in the facts.  No, the facts surrounding his arrest and conviction will not alleviate your shock of seeing a preacher being jailed for his prayer.  In 2007, Julian and 6 others went to a public event in a public park in Elmira.  This event was a city wide celebration of homosexual behavior.  Hot dogs were gulped down.  Bands were rocking.  Politicians were kissing babies.  There was even a drag show going on to boot!  Make no mistake about it – there was a party going on in Elmira that day, and everyone was invited.

Everyone, that is, but the Christians.

But surely Julian and his friends went into this event and were shouting hateful, spiteful speech, right?  No, in fact, Julian and his friends walked into the park silently, without saying a word, and with heads bowed.  They came in quietly, laid on the ground and prayed.  If Julian was trying to pick a fight from this fetal position, then he was sure to get whupped.  At trial, even the city’s own witnesses stated that Julian and his group were acting very peacefully.  Julian and his group were so peaceful that some people enjoyed a nice picnic lunch right next to his group, as this picture demonstrates.

So why was Julian arrested?  The technical reason for the arrest was disorderly conduct.  That’s right.  Go ahead and laugh.  In the middle of a loud festival with all kinds of commotion, including a drag show, the people silently praying were the ones acting disorderly.  What’s next, arresting Mother Teresa for hate speech?  This is like my son complaining to me that his brother’s face hit his hand.  Surely we live in a wacky, backward world when the people who  are silently praying are the ones acting disorderly.

Julian was arrested because the Christian message he was trying to deliver by his actions was not welcomed at the event.  Through his silent actions, he was communicating that there is hope in Jesus.  In fact, on his shirt were the words, Liberated by the blood of Jesus.   Julian wanted to communicate that while we are all sinners, Christ died for us and liberated us from sin through his death and resurrection.

But there is a rest of the story and it’s this –  if a preacher can be arrested for praying in a public park, how many generations away are we from pastors being arrested in their own pulpit?  How safe is the pulpit from government censorship when people can be arrested in a public park, not because their actions were in any way violent, but because others did not like the message?  How much longer will churches be allowed to freely address immorality in our world, call sin sin, and call this nation to righteousness?  And that, my friends, could be the rest of the story.

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