America and Americanism

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Why Have Some Political Conservatives So Radically Missed the Pope’s Message?

I confess that when I saw this clip I was stunned. It amazes me what some “talking heads” will say in trying to figure out Pope Francis. This one has to “take the cake.”

 

The Killing That Stunned America: April 14, 1865

assassination1One hundred-and-fifty years ago on this day America was emerging from its long nightmare, a war between the states that we call the American Civil War. More Americans died in this four-plus year conflict than in all other military operations in our entire history put together. During this great ordeal brother killed brother and entire families were torn apart. Towns and cities were devastated across the South. Though slavery was formally and legally ended what followed was another one-hundred plus years of “virtual” (economic and social) slavery that created major problems we are still unable to solve as a free people. We have, if I read present events correctly, never fully recovered from this time. We are defined by race (itself an artificial and unscientific distinction) as much as any modern and free society in the world.

As a son-of-the-South I can tell you that the memory of this Civil War abided in my own family heritage as something that we understood as deeply life-changing. (I can still remember hearing the War referred to as: “The Way of Northern Aggression.” If you think

John Hagee: Reflections on My Facebook Post (Part 4 of 4)

486525_10151146516347518_322558031_nWhen I previously wrote about John Hagee I defended my link and comment by saying that Hagee is misleading multitudes. I believe this is apparent once you read the biblical texts above and then read what Hagee is saying. Then follow his actions on behalf of the state of Israel. (Have you ever seen photographs of his studio/auditorium where his services take place? His platform is surrounded by the flags of both the U.S. and Israel. And have you ever followed the money trail of his Christians United for Israel mission and asked where does Hagee send significant funds to support a nation, not a mission? And have you heard what he says about the gospel and the need for the Jews to believe in Jesus as the Messiah?) To suggest that I should read the entire Four Blood Moons book before I comment on his teaching is nothing short of preposterous. For beginners I have read all of John Hagee that I care to read. His exegesis is terrible, his theology is worse and his public

John Hagee: Reflections on My Facebook Post (Part 3 of 4)

B166PIn the case of John Hagee very few people within the larger culture are paying attention to his prophecies. Last week I scanned a copy of John Hagee’s book, Can America Survive?: 10 Prophetic Signs That We Are The Terminal Generation (Howard Books, 2010), in a Half-Price Bookstore near home. The copy I looked at was called an “Updated Edition.” (I love how these books have to be updated. I wonder why? This is humor dear reader!) The subtitle on this newer edition reads: “Startling Revelations and Promises of Hope.” The cover speaks of “special updates” on: the death of the dollar, a nuclear Iran, the reaction of Israel, and hope for a troubled nation. Hagee writes of the following:

  1. The impending nuclear war in the Middle East
  2. The coming death of the U. S. dollar
  3. The consequences of rejecting Israel
  4. The absolute accuracy of biblical prophecy
  5. The coming Fourth Reich

The dust jacket of this same book says, “As a candid conservative Christian leader . . . this bestselling author courageously sounds an alarm to awaken the American nation from the slumber

John Hagee: Reflections on My Facebook Post (Part 2 of 4)

So what did Jesus teach about his coming again and the End?

UnknownWe read the words of Jesus in Mark 13:32-37. These are often read as words about this age and his coming again:

“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

Most of you know that these various biblical texts referring to Jesus’ return are in the three synoptic Gospels. Parallel to Mark’s Gospel we thus read in Matthew 24:29-31:

“Immediately after the suffering of those days

John Hagee: Reflections on My Facebook Post (Part 1 of 4)

Several days ago I posted a comment about John Hagee on my Facebook wall. Hagee is a New York Times best-selling author and pastor from San Antonio, Texas. In this comment I posted a link to a site that was critical of Hagee about his growing predictions of “the end of the world.”

PastorJohnHagee_resizedJohn Hagee is the founder and senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, a non-denominational evangelical church with more than 19,000 active members. He is the founder and chairman of Christians United for Israel. (Note this as I will reference it again later.) He is also the president and C.E.O. of John Hagee Ministries, which telecasts his national radio and television ministry throughout America and can be seen weekly in 99 million homes and in more than 200 nations worldwide.

John Hagee graduated from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, then earned his Masters Degree from North Texas University. He received his Theological Studies from Southwestern Assemblies of God University and an Honorary Doctorates from Oral Roberts University, Canada Christian College, and from Netanya Academic

Two Modern Films That Define Us as Americans, Part Two

11181470_oriIn complete contrast with American Sniper the new film McFarland USA is a Disney movie. It is also based on a true story. It is an against-all-odds story of the 1987 McFarland high school cross country team in an economically challenged community in the central valley of California. Some reviewers think the film is “corny” and hopelessly romanticized. I found it pure, unadulterated inspiration. Kevin Costner plays the lead role as a high school teacher and coach who is stuck in a small town with a largely Hispanic population of poor immigrant farm workers. (The issue of documented or undocumented people never arises in the movie but reality says both kinds of immigrants are in the story!) The story revolves around a family of four moving to this small California farm town of McFarland, which really is the name of the town. (McFarland is about ten miles from where one of my best friends lives, Rev. David Moorhead. David a Reformed Church in America church-planting pastor in Shafter.) Costner’s character takes a job as a science and physical

Two Modern Films That Define Us as Americans, Part One

11180834_oriI have not reviewed a movie here for many months, maybe for a year or more. I am not sure why this is true. I simply lost interest in film reviews I suppose. I’ve also seen some fairly bad movies in the last year. I think the Academy nominees for this year included some of the weakest films and performances in years. But I have not lost my interest in film.

In the first few months of 2015 I have seen several films that I enjoyed. Today I’d like to compare and contrast two films that capture something of the spirit of America. One is being deeply debated, American Sniper. The other film, McFarland USA, is not so well known but should be. (I will give the compare and contrast part of my blog in tomorrow’s post.)

American Sniper is a critically acclaimed movie that is debated left and right. It features Clint Eastwood’s sure-handed direction and has a gripping central performance from Bradley Cooper, who plays the lead role as a sniper in Iraq. It is tense, violent,

Nature’s God: The Origins of the American Republic and Why It Matters (Part Two)

Unknown-4Matthew Stewart’s Nature’s God: The Heretical Origins of the American Republic is, at least to my mind, one of the most interesting, readable and important books I have read in 2014. I could hardly put it down. It reads easily and demonstrates quite convincingly most, though not all, of the author’s claims.

Stewart argues that the ideas which directly shaped the American revolution were largely ancient, pagan and continental (i.e., European not English). The Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius, and the natural divinity of the Dutch Jewish heretic Benedict de Spinoza (photo at right), largely shaped the views of most of our American founders.Unknown-5

Stewart draws deeply from a study of European philosophy, without becoming bogged down in ideas that you cannot comprehend. He shows how the philosophical ideas of the founders were shaped by thinkers that were anathema to the clergy of the time. These American revolutionaries hated the idea of God’s law and rejected supernatural revelation.

When you read the Declaration of Independence you should ask questions: “What is

Nature’s God: The Origins of the American Republic and Why It Matters (Part One)

Unknown-3The American patriots who were directly responsible for the founding of our nation were considered, by almost all orthodox Christian ministers at the time, to be “radicals” and “atheists.” So goes the essential claim of philosopher/author Matthew Stewart in his exciting new book, Nature’s God: The Heretical Origins of the American Republic (W.W. Norton, New York, 2014). His claim is, at least to my historical mind, beyond reasonable doubt. What is more intriguing to me is why and how we have lost our collective awareness of the real philosophical and religious origins of our nation.

The standard narrative goes something like the following as I understand it:

American was founded by deeply religious men. Some of these men were deists but even these deists respected Christianity. For this reason they favored it, at least in terms of the dialogue about the nation’s political and religious future. Most of the framers and founders were members of churches and most all of them were honest, Bible-believing, orthodox Christian men. Yes, they used ideas they borrowed from men like John Locke but even

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