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How Could Tyranny Destroy Our Democracy?

Political scientists and historians are increasingly expressing profound concerns about the future of democracy in the West. I have been asking, as an amateur historian of America, “How and why do democracies die?”

The study of democratic backsliding, though around for a long time, is becoming more urgent as we watch events unfold so rapidly it creates deep concern in many of us. In the mid-2000s, the global spread of democracy, after 200 years of expansion, clearly began to stall. Perhaps it was the Iraq War and the events in the Middle East but however we understand what happened since 9/11 populist movements in the West began to arise and grow in number. This new form of Western populism, joined with a growing passion for nationalism and a seriously distorted form of exceptionalism, are now impacting America on a daily basis. This feels a lot like something we’ve seen before, in other places, but I do not think mosts of us are paying attention.

This new expression of Western populism bears more than a passing resemblance to Latin American populist waves that turned authoritarian very quickly. (Perhaps this

Pondering the Syrian Context on the Day After Our Nation Launched Fifty Tomahawk Missiles

Late late night I read the first news reports of our president’s authorization of the launch of fifty missiles on Syrian air bases. (He warned the Russians in advance so their soldiers would leave, wanting to avoid a direct conflict with Russia.) It appears this morning that we hit military targets and human casualties will be small, perhaps even none. The reason for this attack was the outrage felt by our nation, and our president, upon seeing the helpless children who had died at the hands of President Assad through the use of chemical weapons. (Of course, Assad is denying he was behind this and blames the rebellion for the use of such weapons.)

I am deeply troubled by these events. Let me explain why.

Is this strike a one-time military action? If not, what is our strategy going forward? If there is “no red line” that Assad can cross to lead us into a “hot war” with him (which Mr. Trump promised for months he would not do) then why did these photos of dead children prompt this response and why now? Is there a policy for

Do Not Confuse Your Plans with God’s

One of the most persistent problems I face, as both a Christian thinker and leader, is to confuse my plans with God’s plans. I seek God, I pray, and I read widely and study a great deal. I often see a clear way forward, at least sometimes. I sometimes feel quite sure I know what God wants. But my plans are not God’s plans. I have learned this again and again over nearly seven decades of life. But I still fall into the trap even as I watch others do the same in large numbers.

The hope of humanity is Jesus Christ. This hope is clearly being challenged today. It is challenged by politicians. It is challenged by social engineers. It is challenged by entrepreneurs. And it is challenged by ministers as well. Dr. Ralphael Gamaliel Warnock, pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta since 2005, rightly says, “It takes a tough mind and a tender heart to hold on to hope.” It sure does.

I have found holding on to hope very difficult over the last twelve months. I personally came through a quintuple heart

Michael Lindsay: Do We All Have to Agree?

I cannot tell you how impressed I am by the leadership, courage and clarity of President Michael Lindsay of Gordon College. This is, in my view, the kind of leadership we need in Christian higher education. I will be watching and praying for Michael Lindsay with great hope and joy for Christ and his kingdom, which happens to be the motto of my college, Wheaton.

Chicago’s Archbishop Cupich’s Response to the Supreme Court’s Ruling

bioIn my post yesterday I referenced the response of some conservative Christian ministers and leaders to the Supreme Court ruling on marriage announced last week. A Chicago news report noted that Archbishop Blasé J. Cupich, on Sunday, July 5, urged Chicago’s Catholics to adopt “mature and serene reflections as we move forward together.” Cupich noted that the Court’s decision had “redefined civil marriage.” He also said that the Catholic Church has “an abiding concern for the dignity of gay persons.” But, he added, “It is also important to stress that the Supreme Court’s redefinition of civil marriage has no bearing on the Catholic Sacrament of Matrimony in which the marriage of man and woman is a sign of the union of Christ and the Church. In upholding our traditional concept of marriage, we are called to support those who have entered into this sacred and loving bond with God and each other.”

Can you not see the striking difference in both wording and tone in the archbishop’s response and that of stridently conservative evangelicals and Catholics in other parts

What You Can Do About the Kenya Massacre: Choose to Love

Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe

IMG_9498Once again the senseless massacre of almost 150 students in Kenya has demonstrated the fallenness and depravity of humanity. It is impossible to comprehend the depth of brutality that human beings can perpetrate against others, particularly children and young people. Lives filled with so much hope and potential were snuffed out by the barbarity of those who seemingly will stop at nothing to promote their twisted ideology and beliefs.

What should be responses to such acts of cruelty? We have already seen swift military action by the Kenyan government in retaliation for the atrocities committed. Yet what should your response be, and the response of every individual Christian before God? The natural inclination is anger, to lash back, to punish the perpetrators. Yes, justice demands we respond and hold accountable the killers. But is that all we can do and will it bring an end to these senseless attacks?

It is a primary responsibility of governments to protect its citizens. However, given the fact the growing threat of terrorists is not contained within a specific geographic border,

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

What Conservatives Do with Government

imagesLiberals and conservatives are waging, it seems to me to the bitter end, a constant debate about the role of government. Conservatives generally do not trust government and want to see it decreased. Such conservatives often call the other side a bunch of socialists while Liberals say the conservatives are heartless and greedy business owners. “Conservatives do not care about the poor or the well-being of society,” they tell us.

Last year I heard a noteworthy conservative say that the problem with most conservatives is they end up turning modern government into a “private sector bidding war.” The result, he added, was that they gave us: “Government by entrepreneurship.” That was one of the most honest reflections on the dangers of conservative views of modern government that I’ve heard. One can hope that both sides would learn to see their own weaknesses and then learn how to work for the common good. So far I’ve not seen much of this since the 1970s. I’m not holding my breath but I am hoping for better leadership, eventually.

By |March 13th, 2015|Categories: Ideology, Politics|

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

When Christians Defend Jesus Why Do They Lop Off Ears?

My good friend Tom Tollet is an elder in a Baptist church in Memphis (TN). He is a faithful Bible teacher who became one of the best friends my late mom and dad had in their final years in Tennessee. He served for many years with FedEx and now operates his own family business. The following reflection was sent to me some time ago and I now use it with permission.

As I prepare to teach from Tim Keller’s “The Reason for God” I meditate on how the Lord was a friend of sinners while preaching an uncompromising Sermon on the Mount. How do I do that today? I suspect it won’t exactly look like August 1st.

I understand the call to defend marriage and oppose the power plays of certain city mayors, but doesn’t it seem like we simply respond in kind to the opposition ….power for power, rhetoric for rhetoric, manipulation for manipulation? In other words: did August 1st have the aroma of Christ? I’m sure Mike Huckabee would say: don’t be a disciple of mine but of Christ. But do we recognize the difference that makes in attitude

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