Christmas Spirit

Sometimes I think that we’ve really lost perspective on this whole “Christmas season” thing.


Youth Ministry and The Catcher In The Rye

A while back, I finished reading The Catcher In The Rye.

Once the most censored and challenged books in America, The Catcher In The Rye is a common staple in high school English classes, and by today’s standards, is really fairly tame (which I guess is sad, but I digress).

I think the book is pretty good, but not brilliant, and if it hadn’t been so widely censored and criticized, I doubt it would be nearly as popular and well thought of as it is. Nevertheless, I do like the passage in the book that generates the title.

One of the main themes of the book is the loss of innocence, and the main character, Holden Caulfield, is distressed by the idea of children growing up and becoming “phony.”

In one scene, he imagines himself saving them from that:
“Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around—nobody big, I mean—except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff—I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.”
As a youth minister, I can sympathize with his feelings. Part of being a youth minister is encouraging kids to stay away from stuff that’s not good for them, physically and spiritually.

But unfortunately, as Holden realizes, you can’t catch kids before they fall off the cliff. They’re going to be exposed to things you were wish they weren’t and they’re going to fail and make poor decisions.

The key then is to prepare them to be the kind of people who make good decisions more often than not, and to try to “catch” them until then.

That’s good youth ministry, I think.


Abortion, Part 3: How I Vote

This is the third part in a series on abortion, and specifically on why I feel abortion is the single most important issue when it comes to voting. My views on abortion are based on certain philosophies and premises, which you can catch in Part 1 and Part 2.

In this post, I’m going to shift gears a bit and try to explain how I vote in general. It’s been a difficult post to write in a lot of ways, but it’s been good for me to flesh out my thoughts.

Abstaining From Politics

As a quick note, I should mention that there are some who believe that Christians should abstain from politics and voting altogether. After all, our true allegiance is to Christ, not some earthly office or entity, and Christianity is about being salt and light, not about getting others to do what God wants via legislation.

While I respect that view, I also believe that the thinking behind it is flawed—I’m confident that God wants us to use every avenue we have to influence others for good and inject the values of His Kingdom into the world, including our political voice.

Political Parties

On my Facebook profile, my political views are listed as “Inconsistent”. I described them as such not because I consider them to be inconsistent with each other, but because I consider them to be inconsistent with either of the two major parties that dominate our political landscape today.

Generally, I have conservative views on economic issues. As a product of (among other things) Harding University’s Belden Center for Private Enterprise, I believe that capitalism, low taxation, and limited government regulation of business are generally good things.

That being said, those views (some of which are pretty strong) don’t really impact my vote that much because at the end of the day, no matter which party is in control, as Americans, we are among the wealthiest people in the world. If our economic recession lasts longer than expected and cuts deeper than expected, as Americans, we will still be among the wealthiest people in the world.

Instead, the side of politics that matters more to me are the “social” issues, or maybe a better term (which I’ll use for the rest of this post) would be “moral” issues. From a Christian perspective, it’s fundamental that morality is more important than money—how good you are is more important than how rich you are.

And that’s my major problem with the Republican Party—while they may agree with me on many moral issues, when push comes to shove, they just don’t consider those issues to be as important as money. And worse, I think some Republican candidates don’t care about them at all, but just pay lip service to them in order entice me to vote for them.

Of course, on the other hand, you have the Democrats, who I disagree with on a lot of moral issues and disagree with on economic policies.

So here I am, inconsistent with both major political parties, determining my vote based on the issues that I think are most important—the moral ones.

Moral Issues

Christians (and others) who support pro-choice candidates are quick to point out that there are a lot of moral issues besides just abortion—and they’re right. There’s a bunch of them, and I could probably do weeks’ worth of posts covering them all, but instead, I’ll just briefly mention a few in order to illustrate that my views are somewhat scattered across the political spectrum (I won’t mention abortion, since that’s the subject of the next post).

As I’ve mentioned before in a previous post, the teachings of Jesus on the “Least of These” influence my thinking on a lot of these issues:
“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Then He will answer them, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25.41-46.)


God created this world for us to use, and also for us to take care of. This idea of stewardship represents a balance that I think a lot of people miss.

Having said that, I think the case for Global Warming (or, “Global Climate Change” now that statistics show that we’re not warming as originally predicted) is unconvincing, and has become overly politicized, as evidenced by the fact that the significant number of scientists who have refuted global warming have been silenced and ridiculed.

Gay Marriage

God defined marriage as being between one man and one woman, and as Christians, I think we should do what we can to support that definition. To me, that certainly includes opposing gay marriage, but at the same time acknowledging that, with the divorce rates we have, American heterosexual couples are doing a good enough job of destroying marriage without help from anyone else. Let’s protect marriage, but let’s also admit that homosexuals aren’t the only ones who are bringing damage upon it.


The Bible is pretty clear as to how we are to treat the foreigner—with hospitality. Because of this, I have very little patience with the general position of the Right on immigration.

I realize that we have a lot of illegal immigrants in this country, but I’m also virtually certain that the vast majority of them would choose to become legal if it were easier for them to do so. That’s what I call the iTunes Effect: when the iTunes store gave people an affordable, legal alternative to stealing music, many, many people immediately took advantage of it. I may be naive, but I think immigration would work in much the same way.

Furthermore the U.S. has always been a country of immigrants. It’s how we got our beginning, and it’s what gives us our identity. The Statue of Liberty actually says, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free…” but all too many people seem to want to add an “unless they’re from Mexico” clause to the end. I think that’s ridiculous. And sad. And not biblical.


I feel convinced in my own mind that ideally, it should be the job of the Church, not government, to take care of the poor, but considering that Christendom as a whole hasn’t done a very good job of that, government helping out might not be a bad idea.

I question whether or not the typical policies of the Democratic Party really help out the poor that much, but at least, in theory, their heart is in the right place. And to those with more conservative views who think that taxation basically amounts to stealing (a view I’m sensitive to), I think it’s important to remember that Jesus didn’t say, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s—unless he asks for more than you want to give him.”

At the same time, I see a lot of inconsistency regarding political views on poverty. If poverty was such a big deal to the Left, you would think they would also oppose things like state lotteries (which statistics have shown feed off of the poor) and alternative fuel sources such as ethanol, which take food (corn) and turn it into fuel when thousands of people around the world starve every day. It makes me wonder if poverty is the Left’s lip service issue just as abortion is the Right’s.


I know that this is a major issue with some people, so I may not do it justice in my brief comments, but I’ll try.

I’m not a pacifist. I think war is a terrible thing, and should be avoided when possible, but I also think it can be justified. I think that’s a Biblical view, although I respect the opinions of those who disagree.

Regarding our current war, I know it’s very unpopular, but if we’re honest, I think we’d acknowledge two things. First, back when war was declared, the vast majority of politicians (although our President-Elect is a notable exception) and the vast majority of American citizens were in favor of it. I think too many people are trying to deny responsibility for that. Secondly, having made the decision to go to war, it’s incredibly irresponsible to just pack up and leave in the middle when all indications are that things will get worse if you do. That might be the case now, and it certainly was the case back when the Left first started demanding a pullout.

Having said that, if all the Iraq War accomplished or all it was about was removing a dictator from power who had committed genocide on his own people, then I think it was justified. Similarly, if Hitler had decided not to invade every country in Europe but had still gassed every Jew he could get his hands on, I think war would have been justified in that situation as well.


Once again, my point in bringing up all these issues is not so much to convince anyone on any particular subject, but rather to illustrate what I believe is a consistency among my views on different moral subjects, but an inconsistency between the moral views I hold and the views generally held by either major political party.

So what does that leave me with? Since there are clearly a lot of moral issues, and my views on these issues don’t all line up neatly with a specific party, how can I ever choose to vote for one candidate or another?

Well, if all issues were created equal (you can see where I’m going with this), I wouldn’t be able to—I’d be locked in a stalemate of conscience. But that’s not the case. Sometimes, the magnitude of a particular issue can make it so important that it should take preeminence over all others.

Slavery was such an issue, and abortion is another.


Preacher Roe (1915-2008)

I discovered yesterday that Preacher Roe had passed away on Sunday at the age of 92.

Roe was a left-handed pitcher who played in the Major Leagues in the 1940s and 50s, making five All-Star teams, leading the league in strikeouts once, and had a personal best record of 22-3 in 1951 with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

For his career, Roe accumulated 127 wins against 84 losses, a good record that likely would have been more impressive had he not missed time for service in World War II.

But the reason I know about Preacher Roe and the reason I thought all of this would be interesting to the majority of my readership is that Preacher Roe is the only Harding student to play in the Major Leagues. When I was at Harding, his old Dodgers jersey was on display in the Ganus Athletic Center, and I bet it’s still there.

Roe seems to have been an interesting character.

Born Elwin Charles Roe, he got his lifelong nickname at the age of 3 when his uncle returned from the first World War and asked his little nephew what his name was. Roe responded that his name was “Preacher” (apparently because he liked the local preacher who would take him on horse and buggy rides), and the nickname stuck.

He suffered a major setback early in his career when he was still with the Pittsburgh Pirates. In the 1945 off-season, while coaching a high school basketball game (baseball players didn’t make as much then as they do now), he suffered a skull fracture after getting into a fight with the referee. He struggled through the next few seasons.

He turned his career around in Brooklyn, however, where he began throwing the (illegal) spitball as his signature pitch, and played alongside Jackie Robinson.

In an interview later in life, Roe expressed his pride in getting to play with Robinson: “I just felt if Jackie hit a home run while I was pitching, it counted just as much for me as if Pee Wee Reese hit it or some of the other guys that were white...I’d say, ‘You never have seen a good ballplayer until you’ve seen him.’ He was that good.”

If you look closely at the picture below, the setting might be familiar to some of you…it was taken at Camp Tahkodah.


A Quick Note

So I’ve been somewhat surprised by the amount of comments I got after the last abortion post.

I felt like it led to some good discussion, and I thought everyone kept it civil, so I appreciate that. I guess the only downside was that it caused me to spend more time focusing on that particular post than I had originally planned, and prevented me from moving on in the series.

Unfortunately, that brings me to this week, which will be a busy one for me. I have to preach on Sunday, and whenever I have to preach, that basically dominates all of my activities for the week. On top of that, I have a devotional to prepare for on Saturday night, and we have a new secretary at the church who I will be helping to train this week.

All of those excuses to say, I’m not entirely sure when the next abortion piece will be. I’ll work on it as I have time, but I’d rather delay posting that post an unfinished product on what I consider to be such an important issue.

So I apologize for that in advance, but don’t give up on me. It’s coming.


The New President

I’m getting pretty tired of political posts—hopefully after I get the series on abortion finished up we can talk about more pleasant things for a while.

But first, even though I’m not a supporter of Barack Obama, I would be remiss if I didn’t say something about last night’s historic election.

It’s pretty amazing that just 40 years removed from segregation and lynchings, the American people have chosen an African-American as the next President of the United States, and the fact that he’s not my ideal candidate for the first black President does nothing to change that.

I disagree with many of Obama’s positions, but I don’t think that his election is the end of the world. I tend to think that many of the fears that people have concerning an Obama presidency won’t come to pass. I certainly hope that’s the case.

The ideas of change and hope have been a big part of Obama’s campaign. For my part, I hope that it is more than just political rhetoric, and that he works to bring about the unity and lasting peace that he talked about so much.


Abortion, Part 2: What Is It?

It is my firm belief that human life begins at conception. I’ll explain why I believe that in this post, but it’s on that premise that I oppose the practice of abortion.

After all, if that premise is not true, then the abortion debate is much ado about nothing. But if it is true, then abortion is nothing less than government-sanctioned, premeditated murder. To put it bluntly, abortion is either the equivalent of brushing off skin cells, or it is the equivalent of shooting your next door neighbor.

There’s a big difference there, so figuring out exactly when human life begins is important.

The Scriptural Argument

As I mentioned in the introductory post to this series, I’m a Christian, and that influences my views on abortion. I think Scripture clearly teaches that life begins at conception, and frankly, that alone would be enough for me (though I think there are other arguments as well).

There are a lot of verses that I could reference and a lot of points that could be made, but I’ll narrow it down to just a couple.

First, the same Greek word, BREPHOS, is used in the New Testament to describe an adolescent child (2 Timothy 3.15), a newborn child (Luke 2.2), and an unborn child (Luke 1.44). New Testament writers didn’t seem to make a distinction between children before and after birth.

Like the Greek of the New Testament, the Hebrew of the Old Testament makes no distinction between an “infant” and a “fetus.” The Hebrew word, GEHEVER, is used over 60 times in the Old Testament, usually to refer to an adult male (Psalm 34.8, Job 3.23, Psalm 125.7). But in Job 3.3, this same word is used to refer to an unborn child at the moment of his conception.

I think an even stronger argument concerning the beginning of life comes from the incarnation of Jesus. Concerning the incarnation, the Bible teaches that the Son of God emptied Himself, became flesh, and dwelt among us (Philippians 2.5-8, John 1.1-14).

The question then arises, “at what point did the Son of God become flesh, and begin His life as a human?” There’s only one answer that makes sense: Jesus didn’t begin His humanity on the night He was born in Bethlehem; the Messiah of the Jews and Savior of the World became flesh at the point that the Holy Spirit caused Mary to become pregnant! (Luke 1.35)

The Scientific Argument

Science is certainly not my area of expertise, and I won’t pretend otherwise. Certainly there are scientists and doctors who would argue that life doesn’t begin at conception, but many of them argue that it does.

And consider: the day before an infant is born and the day after an infant is born, the infant is almost identical in terms of development. The significant difference is in terms of environment (out in the world as opposed to inside the womb).

A few years ago, I had to write a paper on Embryonic Stem Cell Research for an Ethics class, and I came across this article which suggests that we can more clearly determine when life begins by comparing it to when life ends. I would suggest that you take the time to read the article, but the author, who is a professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy at the University of Utah, points out that:
“Death occurs when the body ceases to act in a coordinated manner to support the continued healthy function of all bodily organs. Cellular life may continue for some time following the loss of integrated bodily function, but once the ability to act in a coordinated manner has been lost, “life” cannot be restored to a corpse-no matter how “alive” the cells composing the body may yet be.”
Applying that same definition of life, it’s clear when life begins:
“From the earliest stages of development, human embryos clearly function as organisms. Embryos are not merely collections of human cells, but living creatures with all the properties that define any organism as distinct from a group of cells; embryos are capable of growing, maturing, maintaining a physiologic balance between various organ systems, adapting to changing circumstances, and repairing injury. Mere groups of human cells do nothing like this under any circumstances.”

The Common Sense Argument

If life doesn’t begin at conception, then when does it begin? Other “starting lines” seem arbitrary:

Is life determined by viability? An infant isn’t a person until it can survive outside the womb? That’s problematic, because with advances in medicine, that date continues to change. For that matter, if humanity is determined by how well someone can survive, a lot of toddlers, people in nursing homes and paraplegics are in trouble—are they less human than the rest of us?

Does life begin at birth? That seems like more of a concrete dividing line, but if that’s the case, why are there restrictions on late-term abortions? And why does Barack Obama not support the lives of infants who survive abortion attempts and emerge from the womb living (For the record, I’ve pointed out before that at least Obama is consistent on this issue—if it’s okay to abort an infant right before birth, it should also be okay to let the infant die immediately afterwards.)?

It seems that our gut tells us that humanity begins prior to birth. Consider the following example. When a couple who is pro-choice and has no problem with the practice of abortion decides to start a family and conceives, their view of the unborn changes dramatically. No longer is a fetus just a bundle of cells; instead, it is an unborn infant. It is considered to be a member of the family and the parents plan for it accordingly. They get excited when it moves and are concerned about its health. They don’t wait for the moment of birth to bestow personhood upon it!

So what do we make of this inconsistency? Is life determined by the feelings of the parents? Is an unborn infant a human only if the parents consider it to be so, only if it is wanted? This is the most ludicrous position of all, but it’s the position where many end up.


There’s much more to be said, but the point of this post was to put forth reasons why I believe human life begins at conception, and why, therefore, the issue is an important one. There are more arguments that could be made, but I think I’ve said plenty.

At this point, I’m still laying the foundation for later posts and not really anticipating a lot of disagreement from most of my readers, but if you do take issue with something I’ve said, let me know.


Abortion, Part 1: Introduction And Disclaimer

In the comment section of a previous post, I was asked, “What makes abortion a deal breaker as opposed to the other moral issues?”

It’s a good question, and a fair one, because abortion is a deal breaker for me—it’s certainly not the only issue I care about, but I do care about it more than any other issue.

As I began to answer the question, I realized that I really couldn’t do it justice in one post—it’s just too important—so this will be part one of a multi-part series on abortion. I originally hoped to have all this posted prior to Election Day, but there’s just no way I’ll be able to. That’s okay though—unfortunately, abortion is an issue that will continue to be with us after November 4.

I don’t expect to get many comments on these posts, because I rarely do when I write about the more serious side of life. But that’s okay—these will likely be some of the more important posts that I ever write.

First, a disclaimer, of sorts:

I’m a Christian, and that’s why I feel the way I do about abortion—I’m trying to live out what Jesus said was important. If you’re reading this and you’re not a Christian, I hope you’ll keep reading, but I want you to be aware of the perspective that I’m coming from.

But if you are a Christian, I’m writing this especially for you.

I’m aware of a surprisingly large number of Christians (some of whom I respect a great deal) who will vote or have voted for Obama in 2008, seemingly without regard for the fact that he is the most abortion-friendly candidate we have ever seen from a major party (I’ve linked to this article before, but if you haven’t read it yet, you owe it to yourself).

I hope you’ll weigh and consider the next few posts, and of course, your feedback (negative too) is always welcomed.

The Doc File © 2006-2012 by Luke Dockery

  © Blogger template 'Fly Away' by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP