Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Lab Rats Are Dead

Lab rats.  We all know what they are.  They are those unfortunate creatures experimented upon for the benefit of saving human lives.  Their purpose is to test whether treatments for diseases and injuries will be safe for humans.  If these animals suffer adverse reactions to these treatments, then these treatments do not make it out of the laboratory.

There are other kinds of lab rats.  Some have described the states as laboratories for possible Federal government policies.  Take New Jersey, for instance.  Governor Chris Christie managed to balance the state budget ahead of schedule in a heavily Democrat state. (See previous post.)  This accomplishment will embolden many Conservatives to do the same in Washington D.C.  But the Health Care system in the state of Massachusettes is another story.  More people signed up than anticipated when the health care plan was enacted in 2007.  This has caused the plan to be over budget since its inception.  State approved health care providers, all not-for-profits, responded by increasing premiums to cover the rising costs.  The state enacted cost containment measures, price controls, to keep premiums from rising.  This has resulted in the insurance providers refusing to insure any more patients at the rates the state is demanding.  All the while, those who are enrolled in the plan are mandated to deal only with state sanctioned insurance providers, so they are prohibited from switching to other insurance providers who cover less and thus charge less.

Yet the MS plan is the model touted by the Obama administration as to how the Federal Government should deal with health care.  The problems the MS plan has produced will be super-sized by the Obama health care plan.  James C. Capretta writes: " The risk of cost overruns is even higher at the federal level than in Massachusetts. The Congressional Budget Office projects just 17 million people will be getting subsidized insurance through the state-based exchanges in 2016. But the population with incomes between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty line--roughly the group targeted for subsidized coverage--is more like 130 million people. CBO assumes the vast majority of low- and moderate-wage families will stay in job-based plans with no additional federal help. But what if they are wrong? Employers are already looking for ways to shed as much of their health care bill as they possibly can onto taxpayers. If 30 or even 50 million Americans end up in the exchanges, federal costs will soar." (From Kaiser Health News, via The Christian Science Monitor.)

As Capretta points out, the conduct of Obama's team indicates that they plan to deal with this nation wide in the same way MS is dealing with its plan's cost overruns: by putting caps on costs.  The result nation wide will be the same as it has been in MS.  Insurers will refuse to provide coverage which will in the end make access to treatment more restricted for Americans whom Obama wants to force to buy health insurance.  All in the name of costs.  (Mitt Romney's defense of the MS plan, enacted while he was governor of MS, should be reason enough not to support his Presidential run in 2012.)

Another model for Obama Care has been the British health care system. In Britain, only those of the higher income brackets have access to the private health care plans they choose.  The rest of the population have no choice but to put their lives in the hands of the government bureaucracy.  Recently, the British health care system has sought to cut patient access to medical care.  Here is a partial list of these cuts as outlined an an article on the British news website Daily Telegraph, via Gene Veith's blog:

* Restrictions on some of the most basic and common operations, including hip and knee replacements, cataract surgery and orthodontic procedures.
* Plans to cut hundreds of thousands of pounds from budgets for the terminally ill, with dying cancer patients to be told to manage their own symptoms if their condition worsens at evenings or weekends.
* The closure of nursing homes for the elderly.
* A reduction in acute hospital beds, including those for the mentally ill, with targets to discourage GPs from sending patients to hospitals and reduce the number of people using accident and emergency departments.
* Tighter rationing of NHS funding for IVF treatment, and for surgery for obesity.
* Thousands of job losses at NHS hospitals, including 500 staff to go at a trust where cancer patients recently suffered delays in diagnosis and treatment because of staff shortages.
* Cost-cutting programmes in paediatric and maternity services, care of the elderly and services that provide respite breaks to long-term carers.

The article states later: "As well as sending more patients home to die...the savings would be made by admitting fewer terminally ill cancer patients to hospital because they were struggling to cope with symptoms such as pain. Instead, more patients would be given advice on 'self management' of their condition"

In America, the phrase for these savings is " cost cutting. "  In Britain, the phrase is "efficiency savings." In any language, this means more people being denied the care that would be available in a market-based system.  In any language, this means the state will determine who lives and who dies.

Animal Rights activists, such as PETA, equate all creatures as having equal worth as human beings.  Sometimes they will sabotage laboratories to "rescue" the lab animals from being experimented upon.  I hope that the newly elected conservatives will act as a sort of political-PETA, not only sabotaging but overturning Obama's health care "experiment."  Because in Obama's health care experiment, THE LAB RATS R US.  But the difference between Obama's experiment and actual laboratory experiments is that in Obama's experiment, when the lab rats die, the experiment is deemed a success!

(Mr. Guthrie has a pre-existing condition called type 2 diabetes.  Yet he is unwilling for the country to be forced to pay for his treatment.  Nor is he willing to empower a bureaucrat to, in the name of "cost cutting" or "efficiency savings", to strategerize his untimely demise.)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Change Of Course

Some readers of this blog know that I am politically conservative.  Last year I made the decision to reduce the amount of politcal posts here.  This year, only two short political posts, both concerning Sarah Palin, have appeared on this blog. (I am thinking of creating a seperate blog to write on politics and culture.)  However, with less than a week before the election, this blog will feature a number of posts relating to the choices we as voters have before us.  Here are some links to articles concerning the size and scope of government:

This article on Gov. Chris Christie of NJ includes a must see interview of him.  Despite the fact that NJ is a Democrat state, Christie has balanced the state's budget ahead of schedule.  His success will embolden other Conservative Republican governors to save their states from economic collapse.  He is definitely a future Presidential possibility.  (From the blog The Reformed Broker, via The Christian Science Monitor.) Britain's Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron is proposing sweeping changes to reduce the national government and empower individuals and localities.  (From The Washington Post, via Gene Veith.) Germany's Conservative government defied its socialist neighbors and our socialist President in its response to the financial crises.  It resisted advice to spend government money and increase regulation of businesses.  Germany's economy is now booming. (From the New York Times, via Veith.)  In fact, Big Government has been a failure since the New Deal; the Hoover Dam being a case in point. (From the Ludwig von Mises Institute, via the Christian Science Monitor.)

Gene Veith describes why American Christians switched from Democrat to Republican over the past 40 years.

Science is supposed to be an unbiased discipline.  Here is an article on how members of the scientific community, and their liberal patrons in government, play politics with stem cell research; how they promote embryonic stem cell research, which has showed little promise, while hiding the successes of adult stem cell research. (From The American Thinker, via the Family Research Council.)

Here is an article that should make Christian Consevatives wary of Libertarian influence in Conservative Circles. (From the Christian Science Monitor.)

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is ignoring Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega's abuses of power.  (From the Christian Science Monitor.)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Monday Morning Devotions

Ps. 12: 3-4 "May the Lord cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaks proud things, who have said "With our tongue we will prevail; our lips are our own; who is lord over us?"

"Our lips are our own..."  Those who speak thus, according to David, speak deceit.  They flatter their neigbors (v. 2) and boast about themselves. (v. 3)  "They speak idly everyone with his neighbor..." (v. 2); the words they speak serve no useful purpose.  Those who speak such things, and those who allow themselves to listen, waste valueable time.  Such talk ends in oppressing the vulnerable (v. 5) and the Lord will bring judgement upon those who engage in it. (v. 5)

In this day we value our personal autonomy.  Our very dignity as persons is tied to our supposed authority to decide our own destiny.  We Americans fought a revolution on the principles of "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."  Yet sinful men and women say, "My lips are my own."  If God's Word tells us this is what the sinful think, then the truth must be the opposite.  Our lips are not our own.  We are not to speak deceit or flattery, to curse anyone made in the image of God. (James 3: 9-12)  Instead of flattery, we are to speak words that build up, edify, that warn against sinful conduct and ungodly thinking. (Gal. 6: 1-2, IThess. 5:11, Jude 22-23)  Yes, the Lord has given us the freedom to decide what we speak.  But we are not free to exercise this freedom free from acountability to a holy God. Our words will bring upon ourselves either blessing or curses. 

If our lips are not our own, does it not logically follow that our thoughts are not our own?  Christ said, "...what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man...But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man.  For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adultries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies." (Mt. 15: 11, 18-19) If we are not free to speak what we like without being accountable to a holy God, and if what we speak is the result of what we think, then our own thought life is not our own either.  The carnal person responds: "This threatens my very self identity, my very individuality, my dignity and worth as a person."  The Christian must respond with a resounding "No!"  In salvation and sanctification, we become more like our savior.  As we spend time in Christ's presence, Christ transforms us into the person He wants us to be.  We begin to think His thoughts and desire what He desires.  We are then able to see our neighbor as Christ sees them so we no longer use our lips to flatter and deceive but to bless them.  Our thought life is freed to think about God, Man and ourselves as God truly created us to do.  We are free to produce fruit that pleases God and confirms to ourselves and others that we are indeed redeemed.  You see, none of us are really free.  We are slaves, either to God or to sin.  (Rom. 6: 15-23)  The only freedom we have is to choose our masters: the master of our lips, our thoughts, our very being.        

All Scripture quotations from the NKJV

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Monday Morning Devotions

2Cor. 1: 11- " also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf, for the gift granted to us through many."

It is right to refer to Paul as a giant of the Faith.  Unfortunately, he is often portrayed as superhuman in his obedience to the Gospel, that he was so disciplined in his own strength to follow Christ that we could never repeat his example.  This portrait of Paul is false.  To gain an understanding of Paul and his life as a disciple, the first step is to know who it was who lived within Paul: Jesus Christ. Yes, Paul was a unique individual, but so am I and so are you.  And in my case, and in yours, if you are a true believer in Christ, when we first believed, Christ took up residence in our hearts through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. (Eph. 1:13)  It was not Paul that lived the Christian life in his own strength, but Christ living in Paul (Gal. 2:20) empowered Paul.  This empowering was made possible by Paul's obedience to the Holy Spirit dwelling within him.  And just as Christ lived on earth and conducted His earthly ministry in the power of the Spirit (Mk. 1: 9-11, Heb 9:14, Acts 1:2), so did Paul.

While both Christ and Paul operated in the power of the Holy Spirit, neither wanted to live and minister on earth without the prayer support of the disciples.  Jesus desired that His disciples tarry with Him in the Garden of Gethsemene (Mt. 26:40).  Paul was the same way.  He and his fellow laborers were putting their lives on the line and at times it appeared that they would die for the sake of the Gospel (2Cor. 1: 8-9).  God had brought them to this point so that Paul and his companions would not rely on their own strength but on "God who raises the dead..." (v. 9).  God delivered them from death.  And by God's sovereign grace, God included the prayers of the Church as a means of saving Paul and his company.

You and I suffer in our Christian walk when we fail to pray for each other.  God can still deliver us from crises, but if brothers and sisters in Christ fail to pray for each other, will we always emerge with the full character change God wanted to work in us by placing us in these situations?  Is it too much to claim that we will never be the persons God wants us to be without the prayer support of our brothers and sisters?  Will those who fail to intercede for their bretheren also suffer loss?  The answer to this last question is definitely yes.  Paul told the Corinthians that his deliverance resulting from their prayers was an occasion for thanksgiving on the part of the Corinthians. (v. 11)  They could thank God that Paul and his fellow workers were delivered from death.  They could thank God that the Church and the world had living examples of men who trusted in God's grace rather than in worldly wisdom. (v. 12)  All disciples are called to give an account of their faith to an unbelieving world. (1Pet. 3:15)  Because the Corinthians were obedient, they could point to God's deliverance of Paul and his companions as irrefutable evidence that God is real and God delivers those who trust in Him. 

The Corinthians also had the example of Paul's deliverance by God as a bulwark against doubt when they themselves might have gone through trials similiar to Paul's.  But the Corinthians had these blessings because they prayed for Paul.  When we fail to intercede for each other during our trials, we deny ourselves the blessing of witnessing deliverances by God that strengthen our faith.  And so failure by the Church to intercede for those in need of prayer diminishes the strength of all who belong to Christ's body.  But obedience in this matter blesses all, strengthening the weak so that they may stand, that the foundation of their faith may withstand trials.

Will you be obedient in this matter?  If you are, not only will those specifically prayed for will be strengthened, but yourself and the whole body of Christ will be blessed.

Scripture quotations from the NKJV.    

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Friday Night Frozen Dinner And An Intellectual: Edward Gilbreath's "Reconciliation Blog"

(For an explanation of the title, "Friday Night Frozen Dinner and an Intellectual," see here.)

Over the past couple of Friday evenings I have been reading past articles from the "Reconciliation Blog" which is written by Edward Gilbreath, a former editor at Christianity Today.  The reconciliation in "Reconciliation Blog" refers to the reconciliation of the races.  Much Evangelical Christian writing on race and its relation to culture and politics has been pretty abysmal.  Yet Gilbreath's posts on this blog are outstanding.  Very few writers are able to step into the shoes of others and understand them as well as Gilbreath.  Gilbreath writes with the intention not to argue a position, but to promote understanding among people seperated not only by racism, but by perceptions of each other which perpetuates misunderstanding.  From a 1/30/09 post , Gilbreath, who is African American, writes, "...there are many systemic issues related to the 'race' problem...Indeed, often times, the racial divide is a matter of perception, not racism." Now, when an African American writes that racism is not the only culprit that is responsible for the plight of black Americans, and that white Americans are not the only party in the racial divide who need to examine themselves, a white person such as myself is of course is appreciative.  Yet, Gilbreath writes some things concerning how whites view race relations that need to be heeded if true racial reconciliation is to take place.

As Gilbreath himself understands, this country has made great progress in how African Americans are perceived and treated.  Yet when whites are confronted with continuing hostility from the African American community, whites often respond with this attitude: "Things have improved so much for people of color in the U.S.  The Civil Rights movement has ended discrimination and there is now so much more opportunity for people of all races.  We know that whites oppressed other races in the past; why can't they get over it.  Things have changed."  Yes, things have changed.  But white Americans are often unaware of the racism that African Americans still have to contend with.  Why is it that banks are more likely to approve a loan to a white couple than to a black couple?  The same goes for loans made to white owned businesses verses those made to black owned businesses.  The 1/30/09 post linked to above refers to racial conflict in Paris, Texas.  Blacks and whites met together to air their grievences in an open meeting.  One issue concerned a white judge who had given a black teenager a long prison sentance for pushing someone.  A few months before, the same judge had given a white teenager a very light sentance for arson.  The judge, who attended the meeting denied that racism had a role in the plight of African Americans: "I think the black community in this town is suffering a great deal from poverty, broken homes, drugs...Because a large percentage of the black population is caught up in that, in their anguish they are perceiving they are the victims of discrimination.  But white people are not the enemy.  Poverty, illiteracy, drugs, absentee fathers-that is the enemy.  Thats not racism.  Thats the breakdown of a community." (From the post linked to above.)  Gilbreath agrees that the judge's words contain a lot of truth.  But then he immediately points out the systemic issues related to race that whites often ignore which I quoted above.  In a 3/9/09 post, Gilbreath reminds us that "Though we've long since repudiated and attempted to move forward from our nations biggest failures on the matter of race, a lot of the residue of our failures continue to inform our personal and constitutional relationships today.  To ignore that fact only hinders our efforts toward true progress and reconciliation." In another post, from 4/21/09, Gilbreath writes about how the progress we have made in race relations has led to new and even bigger boundries between black and white.  He links to this article concerning white college students who put a noose in their window so African American students could see it.  In the comment section of the article, white students write that they cannot see why the African American students should be upset.

Is it realistic for whites to expect that blacks should have completely gotten over past bitterness?  In the article about Paris, Texas linked to above, another sore spot in race relations was the honoring of the Confederacy at local government buildings.  A white person may say "Hey, slavery has been extinct for almost 150 years.  Its time to move on."  When I lived in the South, some of the same white people who expressed such sentiments spoke with emotion concerning the land their families lost when it was seized by the Federal government during Reconstruction.  Bitterness and hatred can take generations, centuries to heal.  Only in the past couple of decades has the hatred between Catholics and Protestants begun to abate.  Still, not everyone from either side is willing to let go of their anger over how one side tortured those on the other side.  How many years will it take for some Armenians to move past their hatred for all Turkish people because of the genocide commited by Turkey against the Armenians in the early 20th century?  How long will it take for the Chinese to forgive Japan for its barbarism when it invaded China in the 1930's?  Some Africans still hate Europeans because of how Europe brutalized Africans during Africa's colonial days.  My own mother is 82.  One of her grandfathers, whom she knew, was a teenager living near Gettysburg, Pa. when the battle of Gettysburg was fought there.  If my mother knew her grandfather who lived during the Civil War, how many African Americans the same age as my mother actually looked into the eyes of their relatives who had been slaves and heared them relate what had been done to them?  Memories die hard.  To expect the entire black community to "just get over it" is a bit unrealistic.  Especially when more recent memories of Jim Crow and lynching are taken into acount.  When whites, even within the Church, take this into account, this will make actual reconciliation more of a reality. 

One surprise for me was Gilbreath's take on the notion of a color blind society.  In a 4/7/09 post, he notes that non-whites are more productive in work environments that acknowledge differences than in work places that stress a color blind environment.  In a color blind work place, whites expect non-whites to assimilate into the white world.  They have no clue how this creates identity crises for non whites.  Non whites see more bias in environments that strive for color blindness than in businesses that acknowledge differences.  This post is a must read.  I wanted to quote from it but I think it needs to be read in it's entirety.  It made me think of the issue of all black student groups on college campuses.  These groups have been criticized as a regression from the progress made concerning race over the past few decades.  Yet I have read that students in these groups perform better academically than their counterparts who are more "assimilated."  How should this affect thinking on reconciliation?

Gilbreath and I do not agree on everything.  He voted for Obama; I did not.  Yet there is no condemnation in his tone for those who he doesn't see eye to eye with. I wish the same could be said of other bloggers who write on the issue of race, and when I write this, I am referring almost exclusively to white bloggers on the left. Just today he posted an article on a book entitled "Divided By Faith" which states that Evangelical theology actually makes racial reconciliation more difficult.  I have not read this book, nor have I read Gilbreath's own book on the subject, "Reconiliation Blues."  This opinion concerning Evangelical theology certainly causes me to defend it as a first response.  I am sure I would take issue with some arguements from either work.  Yet after becoming more familiar with Gilbreath's work, I know there is a possibility that some of my assumptions may have to change.  I have been intending to read "Reconciliation Blues."  Hopefully I will get to it next year.  (I do not feel justified in buying more books until I have read some I already have, especially those I bought while in seminary.)

The "Reconciliation Blog" is not updated often.  Gilbreath is focused upon his other blog, "Urban Faith," which will be explored on this blog in a future post.            

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Monday Morning Devotions

Is. 1:18- " 'Come now, and let us reason together,' says the Lord, 'Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.' "

This is a much quoted verse in imploring lost souls to repent and be saved.  Some take the first portion of it, "Come now, and let us reason together," interpreting it to mean that God and sinners work out a contract between each other. But, of course, God is the one who alone who sets the terms of salvation: "...For the mouth of the Lord has spoken." Is. 1:20.  Man is to be willing and obedient if he is to be blessed.  Is. 1:18-20 can be seen as a warning against individual inward impurity, the evil desires harbored secretly until acted out before all to see.

 Yet what are the sins Isaiah is refering to here?  Isaiah is speaking for the Lord in rebuking the oppression of the defenseless, the poor, the fatherless, the widow in the land of Israel.  Isaiah charges that though worship of the Lord in Israel still takes place, the worshippers' hands are full of blood. (Is. 1:15) Isaiah commands that Israelites cleanse themselves of impurity.  This cleansing is to have certain specified salutory effects on their behavior to society's weakest: " Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before my eyes.  Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow." (Is. 1:16-17) God, speaking through Isaiah, told the Israelites that these sins rendered their worship false and detestable in God's eyes. (Is. 10-15)  And God, speaking through Isaiah, warned Israel that without repentance, destruction would surely come. (Is. 1:20)

Today, this warning can legitimately be applied by individual believers to their lives.  Not to be involved in ministry to the vulnerable indicates a heart not fully in tune with a holy God.  One of the meanings of the word "charity" in Greek is "to suffer along side of."  Giving money to needs is not adequate; we must be involved in individual's lives, seeking not only the releif of immediate needs, but the transformation of individuals into disciples of Christ.

The Church can also employ the standard spoken of by Isaiah to call society into account.  The Church, at least part of it in America, campaigned against slavery.  The Church, at least part of it, struggled to make the indigent able to care for themselves.  The Church, at least part of it, fought against the abuses of industry.  Today the Church, at least part of it, defends the unborn and the disabled.  Recently, the Church has pioneered the fight against sex-trafficing and forced prostitution in the U.S. and around the world.  And the Church, at least part of it, continues to show God's love to the poor.  We need to examine ourselves individually to see if our hearts are aligned with God on these issues.  We must train disciples to engage in what Wesley called "Social holiness."  Wesley's ministry in England prevented that country from experiencing a revolution like France's.  Even secular historians acknowledge this.  In this day, we have let the government take over the Church's role of helping the weak, with the result that the weak become further ensnared in what brought about their weak state to begin with.  This has resulted in the Church losing much of its prophetic voice in the 20th century.  This is a major reason the Church appears impotent and irrelevant today.  And it up to today's disciples of Christ to recover this prophetic voice.  Not to do so is sin indeed.    

Friday, October 1, 2010

To Those Evangelicals Who Oppose Sarah Palin, This Post Is For You

Did you know that there are seventeen female members of the U.S. Senate and that all of them, including the four Republicans, support the decision in Roe v. Wade? That figure may change as at least four of the women running for the Senate this year as Republicans are pro-life.  That these women were nominated is due in large part to Sarah Palin.  Yet there are many who label themselves evangelicals who wish Palin had never appeared on the public scene, who thinks she is an embarrassment, who opposes everything she stands for.  This post is for you.  If Palin is able to reverse the institutional support for abortion on demand by supporting pro-life candidates and possibly as President, don't you think that outcome outweighs any objection you have to her positions on issues and her person?  Are your objections so great that they would in your mind outweigh her influence on a party and government policy toward a pro-life mindset?  Talk to me.