No Need to Fear

Is it just me, or does it really seem to others like there is a huge upswing in the level of paranoia and fear in our country?  And I’m not talking about just people in general. I’m talking about Christians!

The other day on Twitter, someone decided to unfollow me (and actually blocked me) because I challenged them on the need to address concerns with integrity and truthfulness.  They seemed, unfortunately, to be more content to play into the fear and paranoia that comes from misrepresenting the facts about pending legislation.

Here’s what concerns me: Christians should be the ones demonstrating peace, no matter what the circumstances are.  And Christians should be the ones leading the way to finding out truth.  Even our own holy book says, “Come let us reason together”, yet we throw reason out and instead argue on hyperbole and exaggeration.

The newest controversy surrounds a bill in Congress (H.R. 20) right now that is referred to as the “Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act”.  The way this act is described in the emails that are racing around the country, the bill (if it became law) would mandate a test of competency be given to all mothers when they give birth. If the mother is deemed to be “incompetent”, they will not be allowed to take their baby home from the hospital.

Sound insane? I thought so, too.  Yet, according to this post, that’s exactly what the bill is alleged to say.  And my guess is that many are just taking that information and running with it.

But did you know that you can actually read the text of the bills that are being debated in Congress?

OK, I’ve spent some time reading the bill (if you all don’t know, you can go to http://www.opencongress.org and look up any bill, see its status, read its text, etc.  Here’s a link to the bill in question.)  I’ve also examined the information on the dailypaul.com link that I mentioned above (which, by the way, is a website INSPIRED by Ron Paul, but is NOT Ron Paul — if that matters to anyone. I found it a bit misleading).

I have a couple of thoughts, but first a couple of disclaimers. :)

Dislaimer #1: I’m extremely conservative, and am very opposed to government intrusion.  My political views are probably close to that of the Libertarians. I voted for Ron Paul (as a write-in) in the last presidential election.

Disclaimer #2: My comments are not meant to defend this legislation (which I oppose), but rather to provide some different insight into WHY we should oppose it.

Disclaimer #3: These are just my non-expert opinions, and I’m very open to differing views or different reasoning as mine here.  My desire, however, is to focus on FACTS and not allow ourselves to a) get caught up in hype, or b) simply take someone else’s word for what we think about something.

With those disclaimers in place, allow me to offer my insight here:

1. Having read the entirety of this bill (fortunately, it is not a lengthy one like the stimulus package was!!), I do not see any indication that the claims on dailypaul.com are correct that there is a test given that will cause them not to allow you to take your child home with you if you fail.  The exact quote on dailypaul.com says, “The Mother’s Act, if passed, will mandate that all new mothers be screened by means of a list of subjective questions that will determine if each mother is mentally fit to take their newborn home from the hospital.”  This is simply nowhere to be found in the bill!

2. The focus of the bill is research regarding postpartum depression.  Now, I don’t have any strong feelings one way or the other about PPD (as to its legitimacy, or not) because I simply don’t have enough information, and certainly no experience (!) in this area.  However, in an effort to look at the facts of the bill and not 3rd party statements like dailypaul.com, it must be acknowledged that this bill is geared toward research and resource, not “determin[ing] if each mother is mentally fit to take their newborn home….”

3. Does this mean that new mothers might have to be “educated” at the hospital about PPD?  It does appear to be quite possible.  But does it have anything to do with not allowing mothers to take their children home after birth?  Again, I find absolutely no basis for this claim.

Now, having said that, if you’re still reading, I would like to share why I DO oppose this bill, and give my reasons for concern:

1. Section 101.a.4 concerns me greatly.  It states that the research appropriated by this bill would include “[c]linical research for the development and evaluation of new treatments.”  The reason this bothers me is that there have been uncovered some situations in our nation’s past (and present) where studies are performed on subjects WITHOUT THEIR KNOWLEDGE AND CONSENT.  So, this area does pose some grave concern.  I would see the possibility here for new mothers to be given medication in the hospital as part of this research about which the new mother neither knows or understands, nor to which she gives consent.

2. Section 330G-1.b.2 has similar concerning language: “Delivering or enhancing inpatient care management services that ensure the well-being of the mother and family and the future development of the infant.”  My concerns raised in #1 above apply here, too.

3. Section 330G-1.b.4.B.ii also states that there should be an effort “ensuring that training programs regarding such education are carried out at the health facility.”  This does sound to me like it would be possible for a mother to have to stay at the health facility during whatever training might take place before being able to return home with their new infant.  That concerns me, as well.

So, having said all that, I think there are several reasons to oppose this legislation, or at least to express concern about it.  However, I am concerned that there seems to be a trend in our conservative circles to misrepresent the actual facts and promote a culture of fear.

For those of you who are believers in Christ, as am I, we have nothing to fear!  There is nothing our government can do that 1) is outside the hands of our Father, or 2) that can do anything to us of eternal consequence.  Let us not fear!

I would encourage each of you to actively pursue information about these topics when you hear these alarming alerts sounded.  But in the process, make sure that you don’t get caught up in the fear and hype surrounding certain topics.  There is a good chance that the alarms being sounded by many are misdirected and misguided.

Is there reason for concern in this bill?  Yes, I believe I have made that clear in my analysis above.  But I do not believe that the fear that is circulating and perpetuated by sites such as dailypaul.com is rooted in reality.  It simply makes us appear “ignorant” to anyone with a different viewpoint because we look like we don’t know what we’re talking about.  Let us fight these battles with integrity, truthfulness, and — above all — love, in the spirit of Christ!

Until next time,

steve :)

Posted in American Christianity, Christian Behavior, Trends and Statistics | 12 Comments

Engage. Don’t Avoid.

I’m not sure where the notion comes from that the best way to be a witness of the hope that is within us is to speak so judgmentally about the world around us, but I think it’s high time that we as Christians learned how to engage the culture around us instead of just avoiding it.

Currently, I’m working on the musical “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”, a well-known musical that is loosely based on the story of Joseph in Genesis.  We’ve been in production for several weeks now, and frankly, I’m having a blast playing the show.

Involved with our production is a youth choir from the region, many of whom are from Christian homes.  It’s been interesting to see the different perspective of some of the parents.

One person sent an email out to their homeschool group mailing list telling people that, even though their child was involved in the production, they would not be inviting anyone to the performances.  And they pretty much gave the impression that they didn’t think other Christians should see the show, either.  They proceeded to explain how they felt the story was not faithful to the biblical account of Joseph, and how the treatment of the incident with Potiphar’s wife was very risque, etc.

Now, let me say up front that yes, it’s a rather suggestive scene.  But let’s face it — that’s pretty much what happened!  In fact, if I recall correctly, the Bible indicates that Joseph fled the scene less than clothed because he left his outer clothing in the hands of Potiphar’s wife!  In our staging of the show, Joesph gets his shirt ripped off, but that’s it! ;)

Now, contrast that with the discussion I had today at intermission with another mother of a child in the choir.  She, too, is a homeschooler and Christian, and she talked to me about how much she was really enjoying the show.

Without giving specifics, I mentioned the perspective of the other mother.  The response of this mother was, “People aren’t coming to Sunday School when they come to see the show.” In other words, why expect biblical accuracy when attending a play loosely based on a biblical story?  Why should that even be something we expect or demand?

That got me thinking about the two perspectives — and how much I can identify with the second response.  Rather than judge a non-Christian theatre for performing a play loosely based on a Bible story, I’d rather take advantage of a situation which can spark dialogue.  And believe it or not, I have actually been part of several interesting discussions in the green room with cast and crew about this show.

One position says, “Stay away” and the other says, “Let’s put this in perspective.”  My question is, if our tactic is to avoid, how do we possibly shine light into darkness?  How do we possibly show Christ to a world that so desperately needs to see him and experience his love?

Did Jesus avoid the world? I don’t see how we could possibly construe his actions as anything but rubbing shoulders with people who didn’t even know how much they needed him.  And I’ve said it many times before, but his harshest words were for those who thought they were doing God favors!

So, let’s not avoid the world around us.  Let’s engage those around us. Dialogue with them. Listen to them. And by all means, if they’re doing something that doesn’t seem right to you as a believer, be mindful of where they’re at!  Should we expect someone (or an organization) that is not rooted in Christ to be consistent with Christ in its actions?

I work in theatre.  I hear all kinds of language, the roughest of profanity.  I see all sorts of lifestyle choices.  There are many things that I would not choose for myself.  But I can be myself and maybe others will ask me for a reason for the hope that lies within me.

Until next time (whenever that may be!),

steve :)

Posted in Christian Behavior, The Gospel | 8 Comments

It’s Really That Simple – New Podcast Launches

I wanted to take a moment to draw my readers’ attention to another new podcast venture with which I’m involved.  Some of you already are listeners to Beyond the Box, the podcast that Raborn Johnson and I produce weekly.

This new podcast is another one that I’m excited to share with you because it not only involves topics that I care about, but it’s also my lovely wife’s podcasting debut.  That’s right! Christy and I are co-hosting a brand new podcast called “It’s Really That Simple“.  And the URL to find it is “really that simple”, as well: ItsReallyThatSimple.com (just make sure you leave the apostrophe out of “It’s”, or just drop the first word altogether and go to ReallyThatSimple.com – that will work just as well!).

This podcast does not venture into the theological minefields that Beyond the Box does.  But it does address simplicity in a multitude of areas, from faith to education to nutrition.

So come on over to “It’s Really That Simple” (not available in iTunes yet, but will be soon) and take a listen to the newest husband/wife podcasting team on the ‘net! :)

Until next time,

steve :)

Posted in Beyond the Box, Blog News and Info, It's Really That Simple, Links of Interest, Simple Church | 1 Comment

I’m Thankful

Here on the east coast of the US, it’s just minutes away from the start of Thanksgiving Day.  I wanted to take a moment to just bullet point some of the things for which I am so very thankful right now:

  • I am so thankful that my Father watches over me and cares about every detail of my life.  His care for me is evident every day, and I can’t express the depth of my gratitude.
  • I am so thankful for a beautiful, loving, wonderful wife who supports me in so many ways and gives me opportunities to support and show my love for her, too.
  • I am so thankful for two children who bring joy to my life.  While being a parent is often tricky, I could not be happier as a dad.  The fact that both children have come into my life through adoption reminds me on a daily basis of the joy of being adopted into my Father’s family.
  • I am so thankful for the recent move to Abingdon, VA.  I haven’t changed the graphic in the “About Me” section of the sidebar yet to reflect our move, but we are now officially residents of Virginia.  The details of how we ended up in Abingdon remind me of the tremendous provision of our loving Father.
  • I am so thankful to be able to do things that I enjoy doing for “work”.  My work stays varied enough and interesting enough to actually be fun.
  • I am so thankful that my work often gives me the ability to be home with my family.  There are stretches of time where the schedule gets difficult, but there are many more times where I can stay home and spend time with my lovely wife and children.
  • I am so thankful for blog readers who often encourage me.  Especially when it’s weeks or even months between blog posts, and yet they keep coming back to read!
  • I am so thankful to be a part of a podcast that is actually encouraging people.  The comments we have been receiving on our (mostly) weekly episodes humble me.
  • I am so thankful to be able to minister to people through my music.  There was a time when I realized that I was nowhere near worthy of being used by our Father to touch others’ lives, but I have come to relax in the joy of knowing that I am worthy because of Christ.
These are just a few of the things that I am thankful for.  What about you?  The comments are open for you to share things that you are thankful for.  And to my brothers and sisters reading this in the United States, have a blessed and wonderful Thanksgiving day!  To my brothers and sisters outside the US, this is a good day to give thanks anyway! :)
Until next time,
steve :)
Posted in Beyond the Box, Discussion Topics, Personal | 5 Comments

The Measure of a Man

Many are familiar with sayings similar to, “It is not what a man does that measures his worth, but what he is.” And on several levels, that is true. However, Jesus also said that we would know people by “their fruit”. Fruit can be what a person is, but it also often manifests in what they do. So, what a man does really can be important in measuring his worth, right?

Barb, blogging at A Former Leader, wrote a post called “Husband Replacement“. While the major gist of the post is not what I’m trying to blog about here, she wrote a few sentences that I find really pertinent to this question about how we measure spirituality and “leadership”.

I measured [my husband] Marshall for so many years by a measuring stick that was skewed. On one stick was all the things that I thought made you a good Christian – things like being faithful to daily Bible reading, memorizing, journaling, church attendance and fulfilling all the expectations of the leader of whatever church we were in. On the other stick — (God’s stick, btw) – were things like faithfulness, kindness, loving the unlovely, willingness to help me and others, love for his kids, the ability to laugh with those who laugh and weep with those who weep. If I were to have used the right stick he was head and shoulders above any one I knew.

How often do we judge leaders (or just any Christian) based on their faithfulness to the checklist? You know the checklist I’m talking about. All those things we have been taught indicate that we’re a “good Christian”. We honor church attendance, scripture memorization, etc. Yet how often do we look at the relationships people have? How often do we look at how their heart is displayed in their life?

To paraphrase Paul in 1 Corinthians 13, you can memorize scripture, journal diligently, attend anytime the church doors are opened, etc., but if you don’t have love (or, I would add, any of the other fruit of the Spirit), it is completely worthless.

I think this goes along with a post that Alan Knox recently reposted regarding the story we usually call “the good Samaritan”. The one who didn’t have his theology “correct” becomes the hero of the story. He becomes the one Jesus offers as the model to follow. Why? Because he lived it out.

Until next time,
steve :)

Posted in Christian Behavior, Relationships | 5 Comments