The Devil’s Dictionary of American Politics

One of the tricky things about our language is that words often have multiple meanings. Take the word dude, for example.

“What’s up, dude?”

Here, dude means fellow or friend.

But the same word can also be an expression of shock or awe.

“Hey, Cheese Puffs aren’t buy one get one free at Kroger anymore.”

“Dude!”

Nowhere is the multiple meaning of our words more clear than in American politics. You’ve probably heard it said before that the Devil is in the details. In his book The Devil’s Dictionary of the Christian Faith, Donald Williams elaborates on that saying. “Remember: the definition is what the Devil wishes were true, period, and which is, in fact, true all too often.”

Here’s how the Devil is getting his wish in the language of American politics.

Affordable (adj.): When the government gives you something that neither you or they can afford by forcing a completely different group of people to pay for it thus making it free. Well, free for them at least.

Anarchist (n.): Any individual or organization that has a problem with the federal government spending trillions of dollars to make sure that your flower bed has the proper ratio of weeds to pine straw.

Bipartisan (adj.): When politicians who represent opposing viewpoints come together to really stick it to the American people.

Cut 1 (v., archaic): To decrease the size and spending of government; 2 (v., current): An act of terrorism that would prevent millions of Americans from being provided with much needed smart phones, Curious George cartoons and ridiculous pieces of art placed inside of funny looking library buildings.

Debt (n.): Money that American politicians borrow from other nations or institutions under the assumption that it will be used to help average American citizens. In the rare event that this money is ever returned, it will be at the expense of those same average American citizens. And their children. And their children’s children.

Democrat (n.): A member or supporter of the most compassionate and caring political party that has ever existed.

Extremism (n.): The belief that one should be able to say what he wishes, worship where he wishes, own a firearm and put as much pine straw in his flower garden as he so desires.

Freedom (n.): A citizen’s privilege to choose whether his rights will be taken away by a republican or a democrat.

Gun-Control (n.): The belief that government should use its own evil weapons to take away evil weapons from citizens that is grounded in the assumption that only government agents and American funded international drug lords have enough inherent goodness to overcome the evil of such weapons.

Politician (n.): A person elected to represent a group of citizens by acquiring as much money and power as possible, all for the good of those citizens, of course.

Republican (n.): A derivative from Latin meaning to sell one’s soul and cave in at the last minute.

Sacrifice (n.): A citizen’s patriotic duty of either voluntarily or involuntarily giving up rights so that government can protect him from himself.

Terrorist (n.): A Christian mother of five who drives a mini-van, loves her husband and kids, pays for her own groceries and voted for Ron Paul. Not to be confused with people who use anything at their disposal to do as much harm as possible to the American republic while benefiting themselves. See politician.

Tragedy (n.): A really awesome opportunity for politicians to acquire more power for themselves and take away more rights from citizens by appealing to the emotions or fears of those citizens.

War (n.): The political strategy of making a bad situation worse by talking about it more, “getting tough” on it and spending trillions of dollars on it. Examples include but are not limited to the War on Drugs, the War on Terror and the War on Poverty.

So now, the next time you turn on the news and hear about a bipartisan effort to bring about gun control, you can turn to your friend and say, “Dude! This ain’t good, dude.”

Here I Go Again

“How was school?”

“Good.”

“What about lunch?”

“Good.”

“Recess? Was recess good?”

There was a delay. I always ask my son these questions when I pick him up from school. He always says the same thing.

“Good.”

I have to interrogate for more details. But whenever there is a delay, I know that it’s not good.  On this day, apparently recess wasn’t good.

“It was just okay.”

The interrogation began. Answers came slowly. There was a girl involved.

My son was playing with his friend when the alleged female perpetrator walked up and gave her demand to my son.

“You can’t play with us. Leave.”

I asked him what he did.

“I just left and played something by myself.”

“Did you cry?”

“No.”

“Were you sad?”

“Yes.”

My heart broke. I know that there are lessons to be learned from this but it’s still no fun seeing your son with a crushed spirit. So I tried to lift him up. I told him how this kind of thing will happen to him from time to time. I reminded him that Jesus loves him and that his mom and dad do too. I told him that growing up and being a leader means that there will always be people who criticize you or are mean to you.

He waited politely for me to finish my speech.

“Can you turn it up?”

He wasn’t telling me to talk louder.

“Huh?”

“Can you turn it up?”

He was talking about the radio.

It was playing Whitesnake.

Here I Go Again.

Sometimes a boy just needs some Whitesnake to help him deal with the pain of a broken heart.

But that’s never enough.

Most of the time he’s going to need a dad. An annoying dad. A dad that keeps asking questions.

It is those questions and the conversations that they lead to that help to shape him. Without those talks, boys are likely to grow up with bitter, hard hearts towards all girls, always afraid of getting hurt. Even worse, there is the chance of a boy growing up to treat girls as objects. Objects that exist for nothing more than his personal satisfaction. No matter the cost.

Here I Go Again was an appropriate song for my son to hear that day. He’s going to face that kind of rejection again. But it’s my job to guide him through it. It’s my job to remind him that nothing can separate him from the love of Christ. And it’s my job to teach him how to treat girls. Even the ones that reject him.

Eleven years ago, long before I had that conversation with my son, I had another conversation. A conversation with the girl who would one day be his mother. On a Halloween night on the banks of the Mississippi River in New Orleans, I pulled a ring from my pocket and asked her to marry me. There was no rejection. She said yes.

Two months before, I didn’t even know her. A day after I met her I knew that God sent a good thing my way. I pray that he does the same thing for my boys. And I pray that when he does, my boys are ready.

But right now, as young as they are, they are in the preparation phase. They are being shaped. Developed.

Shaped and developed on the way home from school and in a host of other scenarios.

By their father.

With just a little help from Whitesnake.

Jason Collins and the Dangerous Arguments of Time and Love

When Jason Collins went public with his homosexuality earlier this week, it didn’t surprise me. Not because I had some insider information or I always had my doubts about his sexuality. It’s just that anyone with any idea whatsoever about what is going on in our culture knows that an announcement like this was bound to happen. And it’s only a matter of time before more prominent athletes will be making similar announcements.

But what did surprise me was the response to the Collins announcement. It probably shouldn’t have but it did.

In examining the fallout of Jason Collins’ public statement and the controversy surrounding Chris Broussard’s response it seems as though everyone in the media began to fall all over themselves just to prove that the dreaded homophobe label didn’t belong anywhere near them.

In doing so they used two basic defenses. The first one is based on time and the second is based on emotion.

The time argument says, “I have no problem with what goes on in your bedroom. After all, it is 2013.”

This is a very dangerous argument but it is one that is to be expected when we have abandoned established truths like we find in the Bible and replaced them with fluid or relative propositions. It is dangerous because anything that is divorced from a set standard has a way of regressing. What may initially look like freedom turns out to be quite the opposite. Sort of like the kite that has worked its way free from that annoying string.

Human sexuality is no different. Today, with it being 2013 and all, homosexuality is completely acceptable. But in a little while, say maybe five or six years from now, don’t be surprised when you are expected to be tolerant of grown men who are sexually attracted to 12-year-olds. “After all,” we’re sure to be told, “it is 2018.”

The second defense, the emotional one, is equally as dangerous because it arrives at the same point. It says something like, “As long as two people love each other, why should they be kept apart?”

More often than not, love in our culture is synonymous with sex. Do a quick survey of the songs on the radio or ask the average guy on the street to define love and this is where you will end up. Christians with a basic understanding of the Bible see love as self-sacrifice that delights in the good of another. The best example of this is the cross (Romans 5:6-11). A culture, no matter how sincere, that has rejected the cross cannot fully understand or practice love.

And that’s why the love argument, taken to its next logical step, is a dangerous one. The man who really, really loves twelve-year-olds isn’t concerned with self-sacrifice that delights in the good of another. All he wants is sex. And for our culture that’s good enough to be considered love. And who are we to stand in the way of two people who really love each other?

To be clear, Jason Collins is not a pedophile. By all accounts he is a very well-educated and hard working individual who has achieved a level of success that few will ever know. But, as is usually the case, the story is bigger than the headline. Jason Collins is the headline. Our culture’s response is the real story.

And we should all be concerned.

Concerned, not just for what may happen to our nation or the family structure as we know it but for the souls who hang in the balance.

Sadly, for many Christians, their concern has only led them to proclaim that homosexuality is a sin. This is a true statement (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). But it is not the full story.

After listing examples of unrighteous behavior that will keep people from inheriting the kingdom of God, of which homosexuality is one, Paul gives a very clear picture of genuine grace.

And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:11

Homosexuality is a sin but it is not a sin that is beyond the reach of a loving and forgiving God. Christians do violence to the gospel when they only announce the sin and leave off the opportunity of forgiveness.

As a Church, may we not get too caught up in the media’s response and agenda. Yes, it is dangerous and it is important for us to know how to respond. But we must remember that Jason Collins and others like him are not agendas. They are not news stories. They are people.

And yes, they are sinners.

But that’s exactly who Jesus came to earth and died to set free.

And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them,“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:16-17 (ESV)

Not So Friendly

The dog at the end of my street is friendly.  Well, at least that’s what some kid told me.

I have my doubts.

While the kid was telling me all about animal friendliness, that dog had a look on his face sort of like a young Ozzy Osbourne might have while gazing at a winged creature.  My kid was standing next to me, scared to death.  I told him not to worry because the dog wouldn’t bother him.

Judging by the look on my kid’s face, he had his doubts.

A few days later, my morning run took me by that house.  You know, the one with the friendly dog.  As I ran by, he came out to tell me good morning.  Nice and loud.  He was even kind enough to chase me a little.  On the way back, he wanted to say hello again.  This time he showed me his teeth while saying it with a growl.  But this time, I had a stick.  A really nice stick.  An Old Testament stick.  It helped to keep the dog from being so, well, friendly.

People have a way of hiding the ugly truth.  No one ever says that their dog is an annoying nuisance to society that would be better off if it were shipped to some glue factory.

And the same is true of the human heart.

It’s like we are in a never ending theatrical performance where our job is to convince others, ourselves and even Jesus that we really are just fine.

But Jesus sees through the performance.

One day he sat down with a lady from the wrong side of the tracks.  A lady with a past.  A lady that wanted to keep that past a secret.  A genuine performance artist.

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.”  The woman answered him, “I have no husband.”

“I’m just fine, Jesus!  Nothing to see here.  How about some water?”

Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands and the one you now have is not your husband.  What you have said is true.”  John 4:16-18 (ESV)

Jesus could have ended the conversation with that gotcha moment and continued on his way.  In fact, he could have avoided the conversation all together.  But instead he kept talking.

The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ).  When he comes, he will tell us all things.”  Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”  John 4:25-26 (ESV)

And then something happened to the woman.  Her theatrical performance had come to an end.

So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did.  Can this be the Christ?”  John 4:28-29 (ESV)

The woman that wanted to hide everything was now celebrating the fact that a man cared enough to look beyond her act.

The beauty of the gospel is that Jesus sees through our performance to the very core of our heart.  Warts and all, as they say.  And he has every right to simply walk away.  But instead, he showed his love for us by laying down his life for our sins.

We never truly appreciate the love of Christ until we grasp the depth of our sin.

People like to say things like, “We are all God’s children” or “God is a friend of us all.”  But nothing could be further from the truth.  These are just lines from the theatrical performance.

Apart from Christ, we are not friendly with God.  We are children of wrath who fight against him.

But in Christ, we are no longer enemies with God.

In Christ, we are God’s children.

In Christ, warts and all, God calls us his friends.

You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.  John 15:14-15 (ESV)

Throwing Up and the Afterlife

Throwing up has a way of making you think that you’re going to die in the next three to seven minutes.

I think that’s why my son wanted to talk to me about heaven yesterday.

He woke up crying in the middle of the night.  I’ll never get used to waking up to that sound.  Nor will I ever get used to seeing my son laying face down in his own vomit like some 1970s rock star.

He was fine.  In fact he was laughing.  But he spent the rest of the day feeling weak and scared that he was going to throw up again.  When I got home from work we played Legos but he couldn’t handle it.  He still didn’t have his strength so he laid on the couch while I played Legos.  That’s normal, right?  Okay, good.

That’s when the questions started coming.

One son was asking questions about monster trucks while my nauseous son was asking questions about heaven.

“Will we wear clothes in heaven?”

“Are monster trucks loud?”

“Do babies go to heaven?”

“Why are monster trucks loud?”

“Who will we see in heaven?”

“Will there be monster trucks in heaven?”

I think that I needed that conversation just as much as my kids did.  Earlier in the day I was thinking about the best way to educate my two sons.  Most of my options involved monthly payments of $4578.23.  I thought about getting a second job as a monster truck driver but changed my mind when I found out that I’d have to grow another mullet.

When we think about the role of a father we typically only think about the responsibility to provide (1 Timothy 5:8).  But this is only part of the job.  Along with providing, fathers are also charged with instructing (Ephesians 6:4).  I once heard a father who did very well on the providing aspect of his job but neglected his role as an instructor make a chilling statement about his rebellious daughter.

“I don’t know where I went wrong.  I gave her everything she ever wanted.”

I think that’s where he went wrong.

It’s easy for fathers to hide in their work, constantly convincing themselves that they are providing for the family.  But the real work of fatherhood is not done in the office, as important as that is.

The real work of fatherhood is done in the living room floor surrounded by Legos and trying to answer theology questions.  It is there that my children learn what it means to live in awe of the glory of God.

And in their own way, that’s a lesson that they are also teaching me.

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Deuteronomy 6:6-9 (ESV)

Church Drama

I met a pastor’s kid last weekend.  Whenever I meet a pastor’s kid, I always pay careful attention to what he has to say seeing as how there are two pastor’s kids living in my home.

The pastor’s kid that I met wasn’t a kid anymore.  He’s all grown up now and to the best of my knowledge he is no longer involved in a church.  That really got my attention.

The now grown pastor’s kid told me that he moved something like 50 times before he got out of his teenage years.  His father had a special calling.  He would look for churches that were either dead or quickly dying and come in to try to lead them in healing and restoration.

I was shocked.

“Man, I’ll bet that you’ve seen your share of church drama.”

The look on his face told me all that I needed to know.  It also explained why he’s not in church now.

I spend a lot of time wondering why it has to be this way.  Why does it have to be a curse for a kid to grow up in a pastor’s home?  There are a lot of answers to that question.  Some pastors neglect their families in pursuit of ministry goals and some pastors place heavy burdens on their children.  But another contributing factor has to be the church drama that the child of a pastor has to witness.  Simply put, sometimes a pastor’s kid can get caught in the crossfire between people who claim to love Jesus but just can’t seem to get along with each other.

In Acts 1, Luke takes the time to list the disciples by name who were gathering in the upper room waiting for the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised.  Among those names are two brothers whom Jesus nicknamed Sons of Thunder.  This is another way of saying that James and John were two tightly wound men who were probably hard to get along with.  There was also Peter who liked to talk a big game about himself.

But the two men on this list who really stick out are Matthew and Simon the Zealot.

Matthew was a tax collector.  Tax collectors in Jesus’ day were hated and considered thieves and traitors.  I know that’s hard to imagine but just stay with me on this.  Simon was a part of a group of people called the Zealots.  This means that if automobiles were invented back then, he would have had a truck with a Don’t Tread On Me sticker on the back.  And yet these two men, along with Peter, the Sons of Thunder and several other large, diverse personalities were in one accord, devoting themselves to prayer (Acts 1:14).

There is a big difference between unity and conformity.  Conformity is when everyone pretty much gets along because they’re all alike.  Unity is when people from different backgrounds can get along because they share a common link.  For the church in Acts, that common link was the resurrected Jesus and the promised Holy Spirit.

Church drama does not happen because too many different personalities from various backgrounds are sharing the same church building.  Instead, it is a direct result of too little Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

One day, a few decades from now, when someone asks my two sons about their childhood, I hope that they answer with a smile as they talk about the joy of growing up in a community of believers who each had their own quirks and personality defects but who shared a common link of a resurrected Savior and an active Holy Spirit.

The Safest Street in Oklahoma

Dylan is three years old.  The other day he was playing outside and he had to go the restroom.  A number one, if you will.

This is never good when you’re three and playing outside.  Inside is a long ways away.  Well, Dylan is resourceful and he had the perfect solution to his dilemma.

But it turns out that little Dylan’s resourcefulness cost mommy almost three grand.

I’m glad that I don’t have to raise my kids on that street.  If I did, by my math, they would cost me somewhere around 9.8 million dollars.

To the Undecided Voters

Maybe you still don’t know who to vote for tomorrow.  Who could blame you?  I mean it’s not like either of the two candidates has been on TV or anything.  Who is it that’s running for president again?

Anyway, while you’re still trying to make up your mind you should consider this guy.

And remember what Thomas Jefferson once said.  “Any man who uses lightsabers and kung-fu dubbing in his commercial will be an excellent fit for any political office.”