Forty Years of Roe vs. Wade: The debate continues

Forty years has passed since the Supreme Court of the United States decided that a woman had the right to privacy under the 14th Amendment provided states balanced those rights and interests through proper regulations and protection of prenatal and the woman’s health. This decision shut out the backroom abortions many women were receiving that often resulted in physical harm to the fetus and woman and even sometimes death. Indeed while there is no desire to return to those days when abortions were performed in an unsanitary and unhealthy manner, there are still many who believe that abortion should altogether be banned in the United States. Like the pro or anti-slavery arguments of the 18th and 19th centuries, abortion presents the same ethos and pathos appeals for proponents on both sides of the issue.
Having been party to an abortion at one time, I am able to relate to the careless behavior that often leads to the decision to abort a fetus. For this writer, the issue is not so much about pro-life or pro-choice as it is about making better choices regarding sexual behavior. For many, this is as simple as being abstinent or celibate. For others, it is as serious as having a sexual addiction. For the religious zealots, abortion is about murder and breaking God’s command of not killing. For many others, it is about protecting a woman’s right to choose how and what she wishes to do with her body. Neither is a simple argument and the fallacies contained within both are dangerous enough to cause individuals to do horrible things in the name of their cause.
The debate is has been ongoing for the last 40 years and is certainly not likely to find resolution any time soon. The matter of ministering to those who have had or who are considering having an abortion is what is important to this writer. The entirety of the matter is being non-judgmental but loving and compassionate to all those affected by abortion. To God, life is precious and it should be to every human being. One cannot condone the murder of criminals and at the same time denounce the individual who has an abortion. That is unjust at the very least. If we are to be just, then we must also recognize that the religious liberties we experience today are only enhanced when we acknowledge that we live in a land where there is liberty and justice for all.

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The Risk of Discovering Your Purpose

When a man thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Galatians 6:3

Being religious means asking passionately the question of the meaning of our existence and being willing to receive answers, even if the answers hurt. Paul Tillich

Recently I had several restless and sleepless nights that I surmised to be simply nothing more than my body clock was off because of some excessive ministry related activities. A dear friend of mine challenged me to seek the Lord regarding this unusual restlessness. I of course did not because I didn’t believe it was anything more than just me needing to get back on my sleep schedule. I was wrong. I began to seek God rather awkwardly because I was so sure that I didn’t really need to. I mean after all, everyone has a few sleepless nights sometimes.

Well I eventually got some very good sleep the following night, but it was accompanied by an overwhelming sense of guilt and shame from sin. I was confronted by the Holy Spirit to remember that although I had believed I was ok and didn’t really need God at that moment, I was actually sinning against Him and grieving Him.

The two quotes above summarize my experience. First, I didn’t think I needed to pray. Scripture is clear that man should always pray and faint not (Luke 18:1). It doesn’t matter what you pray about, you should always be talking to Abba because in Him you live, move, and have your being (Acts 17:28). I believed I was just capable of handling my own affairs without truly trusting God for help.

The second quote by Tillich really is the driving force of this post. As a pastor, it is my job and purpose to empower believers to become stronger and better in their walk of faith. This takes courage. It takes the courage to actually let go of the fear of being unable to do so. When I reluctantly prayed, I realized that I had a great fear-Fear of Failing God by trying to be something or someone I wasn’t. That may be what many of you are experiencing at this moment. You may believe that if you pray too much, read and study scripture too much, that you may get puffed up and fall from grace. The reality is that you’ve already fallen as far as you can go, and God has still kept you. Proverbs 24:16 says that a righteous man will fall seven times but gets up again. God also promises to keep you from falling and excitedly present you before Himself as someone who has no faults (Jude 24).

That beloved is the risk of discovering your purpose. You step and walk by faith and not by sight (II Corinthians 5:7). The walking is your’s but the direction and leadership is the Lord’s. Take the risk and make the mistakes, ask for forgiveness, but keep walking, praying, singing, and especially trusting and you will discover your courage to be your authentic self in Christ.

The CBC and the Admission of Guilt

While speaking at a town hall meeting at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan on Tuesday, US Representative Maxine Waters of California admitted that she along with other members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) are tired of defending President Obama while he continues to neglect the needs and state of Black Americans. The “For the People” Jobs Initiative Tour is being sponsored by the CBC and includes US Reps Waters, Emmanuel Cleaver, the CBC president. Waters stated “Let me tell you why. We don‘t put pressure on the president because ya’ll love the president. You love the president. You’re very proud…to have a black man [in the White House] …First time in the history of the United States of America. If we go after the president too hard, you’re going after us.” Her remarks were mixed with cheers and jeers from the largely black audience at the job fair and town hall meeting hosted by the CBC. Mark Hicks of the Detroit News reported that the meeting turned heated at times as some residents debated government spending, bank lending, bipartisan bickering and the disproportionate effects of the economy on minorities.  She added that she couldn’t understand why Obama’s Midwest tour does not include any black communities. The unemployment rate for Blacks is just over 16% far above the national rate of just over 9%. This is even more difficult to accept as Obama will take another 10 day vacation in Martha’s Vineyard. It is sending a clear message that President Obama is not in touch with the people no matter how much the media tries to spin it.

From this reaction in Detroit, it is clear that many Black Americans are suffering from post Obama election syndrome. They were promised change, and they are receiving the change that only liberals in government can give. These people were looking for an administration that presented itself as one that had the interest of the people at heart but are now realizing that the Obama administration is only interested in maintaining the status quo of government entitlements and keeping people in more oppression than in previous presidential administrations. What they have received however are more disaffection, higher unemployment, and a greater disenfranchisement from the very politicians they continue to elect to serve them a better deal or handout.

Rep. Waters’ admission sheds light on two major things. The first is that the CBC has realized that even with a person of color in office, they are still left out of the major political game. They have spent the last three decades attempting to assimilate into a government that really does not want their full participation unless they compromise their integrity and values to draw votes for a partisan agenda. I know that may come across as harsh but it is the truth. I don’t want to slight what individual CBC members are doing for their constituents but overall, it is nothing more than a shell game for the Democrats. It is an admission that the CBC is guilty of being the real “Uncle Toms” and forfeiting the needs and concerns of the people for the votes and favors of the DNC. The CBC as an entity is guilty of being the real sell outs to their communities and their people.

The second thing is that black people are more educated about what’s really happening in the country politically than the Democratic party wants to admit. The DNC and CBC can no longer spew nonsensical rhetoric through black media outlets as they once could. Blacks are actually listening to conservative black voices like Thomas Sowell, Michelle Malkin and organizations like the Frederick Douglass Foundation. The CBC is guilty of going with the spin of a pro-Obama media that neglects the authenticity of counter thoughts among Black Americans. They are guilty of being cover-ups for the reality that is plaguing Black America. This cover up and defending of progressives and liberal lies is what has Maxine Waters and others like her tired. They are running out of excuses for Obama and his policies. They can no longer hold their frustration because they realize that
their livelihood is also at stake.

What is the conclusion to the matter? It is simply this. Black Americans must once again find their voice to speak gainst the oppression this administration is continuing. While Obama and his eam of media hype men attempt to promote a message of stability and rogressive change for Americans, Blacks must read through it and see the eality of a President carrying out a progressive liberal agenda that is not ully inclusive for people of color. The real change must occur in the polls as lacks turn their frustrations into votes. These votes cannot be for the same eople they must be for authentic change for Black Americans.
From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20110817/METRO01/108170367/Thousands-connect-with-employers-at-Detroit-fair#ixzz1VK98cn9r

Personal Mission Statement

As a pastor and an individual, I am all about self and community empowerment. In the more recent history, I’ve been learning that just knowing scripture isn’t enough to accomplish purpose. I know for some that is a terrible thing to say. Life is full of more than just what we read in the scriptures, but all of those are enhanced and grounded through and by scripture.  I learned one thing from studying and analyzing successful businesses: They have a mission statement that everyone knows and can carry out. This means that everyone in the business from the janitors to the CEO knows that the success or failure of that company rests in how internalized the mission statement is.

When I started my doctoral coursework earlier this year, one of the first things we had to do was write a personal and professional mission statement. Some think this should be a breeze for a pastor,  but I found it a difficult task. I spent time in prayer, meditation and reflection and an acronymn coined by my college BSU director came to my mind..my mission statement is to be R.E.A.L.

My mission is to be Relational, Encouraging, Authentic, and Loving. That sums up the entirety of my ministry and my professional career desires. I realize that is what every individual desires from themselves, God, and others. I’m so sold on this that I’ve even included it in the vision statement for the church I pastor.

Being REAL is a lofty mission goal with the added expense of death to selfish service and disenchanted destinies. If we earnestly desire our father’s goodness to mercifully accept us as we are, then we will do our best to present ourselves REAL to him and others we encounter throughout our life’s journey.

DC Mayor Protests to Keep Money to Kill Babies

DC Mayor protests to keep money to kill babies
Washington DC is not short of a lively political atmosphere. It’s the seat of our nation’s government. It’s where all the movers and shakers gather to decide policy for we the people. It’s also a city that reeked with high crime and low educational performance. On Tuesday, April 12, 2011, DC’s mayor Vincent Gray and councilmen along with 41 others took to the streets to protest in from of the US Capitol. The city’s mayor and fellow protestors were all arrested for the protest but released later that day. Even though it may appear that they were protesting against continued infringment on city government, the reality is that it is all about the power to determine who should and should not live.

The major argument according to  Mayor Gray and others regards the recent budget proposal approved by Congress, in which DC would lose more of its autonomy but more particularly, lose funds used to pay for abortions for low income women, needle exchange program for drug addicts, and a school voucher program to assist students attend schools of their choice. According to an Associated Press article on Tuesday, “the city’s ability to spend money on abortions for low-income women has seesawed over the last two decades. When Democrats have controlled both houses of Congress and the presidency, in 1993 and 1994 and again in 2009 and 2010, the city has been able to spend its own money to pay for abortions for women on Medicaid.”  The average abortion in the DC area can cost between $300 and $500. While there is a hot debate in Congress regarding defunding programs like Planned Parenthood, DC’s city leaders are more concerned about keeping money to kill babies, than focusing on creating and supporting programs to empower women and all of its citizens to live an abundant and fulfilling life. They are showing what happens when values are displaced and replaced with shallow ideals and fiscal desires that continue to promote a sense of dependency on discretionary spending on unnecessary things.

While the group’s protest was noble, it also presents what’s wrong with our government. I am a strong pro-life advocate but even if I were not, I would not support any effort to use government funds for abortions of any kind. The fact that they are targeting low income women (mostly minorities) says that the DC city government has little to no concern for the life of the unborn. It is the belief that this very insistence on funding for abortions helps ensure that a woman’s right to an abortion is being upheld. That’s a lie from the pit of hell! Women should feel empowered when they give birth (despite how it was conceived) and should be able to choose to allow that life to continue and prosper. Throughout all of this, many also expressed great disappointment that President Obama is not stepping in and supporting their cause but is continuing to remain unengaged in their struggle.
Churches and Pastors in DC should stand up in protest. They should take the lead in demanding that DC’s leadership not seek any funds for abortion assistance. The citizens of Washington, DC should rise up in protest against their city leadership. The city’s leadership is demonstrating the very thing that is keeping its citizens in a bondage that is worse than slavery, Jim Crow, or any other system that oppressed people.

Louisiana Last in Peace Rankings

Recently, the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) released a study that showed Maine as being the most peaceful state in the US and Louisiana as being the least peaceful state in the US.  The group based their research study on data compiled from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the FBI and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, focusing primarily on several factors including homicide rates, jailed population percentage, and the availability of small arms. The IEP’s peace ranking comes on the tail of a study released in 2010 by Businessweek.com listing Louisiana as the laziest state (not work-related lazy, but laid back relaxed lazy). I’ll be the first to admit this ranking was somewhat disappointing. I didn’t want to seem ignorant so I did my research. I discovered that there is some truth to the IEP’s ranking. In 2010, Louisiana ranked third on the most violent states list. This was worse than California and Michigan which combined, have five of 2010’s  most dangerous cities. I don’t want to give the impression that Louisiana is the Eden of the US, but it is sure much better than many other states with multiple metropolitan cities.

As a person who was born and raised in Louisiana, I’m not sure what to make of this ranking by the IEP.  I’m sure that there are plenty who can and would argue that in some Louisiana metro areas, there is quite a bit of violence, but that can be said of any state with multiple major metropolitan areas. There are a number of correlating reasons why Louisiana received the lowest ranking including political, socioeconomic, and educational factors.

It can be shown that Louisiana has a large disparity in many of those areas that may contribute to our peace ranking. This however does not take away from the many good things Louisiana has to offer to its citizens and visitors. Louisiana is a shining example of recovery and resilience in the face of terrible circumstances. Unlike most states in the Union, Louisiana is experiencing economic growth and development despite losing a lot after Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Gustav, and the horrible BP oil spill. We still produce some of the best culinary treats in the world, have the biggest party every year during Carnival and Mardi Gras season; and we can boast of having a Super Bowl Championship team in the New Orleans Saints.

In all honesty, Louisiana may fall short in many areas, but one thing is sure for those of us who live here. Louisiana is truly a great place to live and work and no peace ranking from any organization can take that away.

Rediscover the art of rhetorical criticism

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Throughout the day, we encounter signs, symbols, and sounds that engage us and cause us take actions and communicate our thoughts and opinions on certain matters. Each time we participate in this process, we are participating in a skill that has all but gone extinct. It is the ancient skill of understanding and effectively communicating the symbols, signs, and sounds
around us.  This skill is called rhetorical criticism. When the average person hears the word rhetoric, most automatically assume that it means, talking in pompous, bombastic, and seemingly irrelevant words to evade answering questions or just simply sound like a know it all. In reality, rhetoric is simply communication and has been used for centuries as a means of persuasion. In the philosophical world, rhetoric is a way of teaching through communicating. In politics, rhetoric is the persuasion of potential voters to a particular point of view. In religion,
rhetoric is the symbolic actions of believers as they profess their religious beliefs through sacraments, liturgies, and devotions. Every living human being is engaged in rhetoric and as a result, also engaged in rhetorical criticism.

We live in a world where information is transmitted so quickly through 60 second sound bites that there is little to no chance of fully understanding authentic knowledge as it presented. Symbols and signs that once meant something positive are being usurped and their meaning and message changed to convey new thoughts and messages that may directly or indirectly
counter the original meaning or message. The question then becomes why should we be aware of this rhetorical criticism thing and how can we use it to better communicate? The answer is because our world is more interconnected than before and understanding how and what is being communicated empowers the person to control the knowledge they receive and share. This is a much needed powerful skill to have because more individuals have access to the means of delivering and sharing rhetoric (blogs, twitter, social networks, news media, and cell phones) and it is almost impossible to control the content of that rhetoric (unless you live in China or other places where the government controls content).  When we use rhetorical criticism, we become better at investigating, understanding, and explaining our responses to the symbols around us.

Rhetorical criticism isn’t a hard skill to learn and master. It involves two main processes: 1) asking a question, and 2) analyzing something that relates to the question we have asked. Each time we ask a question about anything, we have begun the process of rhetorical criticism. The
question does not have to be anything deep or fantastical, it can be something as simple as why did a band choose a particular logo design, or why a certain color of lipstick looks better than another color. This sets in motion the second process. It is the action (either actual or symbolic or a combination) that we do following the question we ask. It is here that we examine something related to the question we asked. We formulate hypotheses around it and attempt
to understand it better. There are several ways to accomplish this, but the most common is through the written form (email, text message, academic writing, blog, etc). Once we have completed this, we communicate it with those around us. This is done in several ways also. The entire act results in the full communication of our response to the initial symbol that led to the rhetorical criticism.

When practiced regularly, rhetorical criticism can be a way of empowering people to influence in their world. It can be a way of countering what a person believes to be the wrong messages sent out by the wrong people. It can be a way of helping others to be proactive and engaged in all the symbols, signs, and sounds around them.

How High Can You Jump?

Brigham Young University’s star basketball player and finalist for the Oscar Robertson Trophy for NCAA Player of the Year, Jmmer Fredette is featured on the most recent cover of Sports Illustrated Magazine. Fredette has led the team to the NCAA’s Sweet 16 in what is fast becoming college basketball’s most cherished Cinderella Story of the 21st century. It’s certain that Fredette has both the talent and the desire to see his team all the way to the Final Four, and if he and the team continues their dramatic season, it is no doubt that they just may make it all the way.

This cover photo amazes me for two reasons. The first is that Fredette clearly puts to rest the myth that “white men can’t jump!” This guy’s vertical leap is simply jaw-dropping and in the process puts black guys like me with little to no ballin skills to shame.

The second reason is a little more subtle than the first. From the offset, we see him taking a gravity defying jump shot while an opposing team member simply stares as if in disbelief. What I see is a man overcoming a major obstacle to claim a victory.  This is even more pertinent since another BYU basketball star, Brandon Davies, was suspended several weeks ago for admitting to violating the school’s Honor and Moral code by having premarital sex with his student athlete girlfriend. It shows that Fredette and others are more willing to be committed to their game and their code to become champions on and off the basketball court.

This picture makes me ask the question-“How high is my jump over sin and the world?” If I were to answer that now, it would be nothing more than a little hop and if you were to be honest with yourself, I’m sure your answer would be similar. We are called to not conform to the world and that takes more than walking sometimes. There are times when we must leap higher than our adversaries’s assault on us. If we take the vertical leap through the Spirit’s power, we will surely leave the adversary staring up with a dumbfounded look of disbelief on his face. It is surely a jump worth taking because it could be the very jump that thrusts us from defeated to victorious!

 

HBO’s The Sunset Limited-Hollywood’s Attempt at Exploring Faith and Existence

The Sunset Limited

I was up late one night flipping through the channels and came across a movie that had two of my favorite actors-Samuel L Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones, sitting at a table discussing deep philosophical and theological issues. The name of the movie is The Sunset Limited. Adapted from the stage play by Pulitzer Prize Winner Cormac McCarthy, the movie brings life to the real disparities of faith and life many people struggle with.

The two characters, White and Black (respective to their ethnicity) are brought together by what appears to be a moment of chance as Black , a deeply religious ex-con, saves White, an apathetic and atheist college professor from a suicide attempt of jumping in front of a subway train named Sunset Limited. Upon returning to Black’s apartment in the slums of New York, the two engage in a deep dialogue of philosophy, faith, and life. Even the setting of their dialogue, a simple table in a one room slum apartment can be seen as a symbol for the need to simplify our environment so that we may engage our inner self.

It’s not often that Hollywood would tackle the deep philosophical questions of suffering, life, and faith, but this movie does a great job. Jackson plays the role of a deeply religious man who while not fully understanding his faith, accepts it and questions it at the same time. Jones plays the role of an educated atheist man overcome with the despair of his existence. Both men existentially present arguments to counter the other’s faith both in religion and natural order and in my opinion, both are successful at convincing the other that each of their arguments amount to nothing more than fleeting fallacies. This is evident in the very beginning dialogue of the movie where Mr. Black says, ‘What am I supposed to do with you, Professor?’ and White says, ‘Why are you supposed to do anything… ‘Take action? There’s only one action that would have any meaning, and that’s to jump in front of a train.” Watching the interaction of the two men and listening to the dialogue, it’s hard to decide who is more likeable and believable enough to support Mr.White or Mr. Black.

For me, the most moving part of the movie was at the end. It is here that Mr. White comes to grip with his angst, despair, and dread and although presented with the alternative, chooses to leave in the same state of being. This leads Mr. Black to fall on his knees and cry out to his God-“I tried, you know I tried.” It is as if the ending is attempting to bring the audience to question whether or not efforts to prevent fate are worth it. It certainly leaves the watcher with deep pressing questions that he or she may engage with his or her self that could press them to either draw closer or further away from faith and life.

I strongly recommend this film for both its existential relevance, but also because it has two of today’s best actors tackling roles that relate to the average person and are highly likeable.