Southern Culture Versus Christian Character

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We all like to know, if we possess something considered valuable, whether it is authentic, or is it just a fake.  When it comes to questions of faith, it is easy to see flaws for we all have them.  Even the original disciples of Christ certainly had their problems early on until they decided that they were truly going to surrender their lives completely at whatever the cost.  When we examine the effects of any religion on general society or a large segment of society, we should be able to find a general effect upon that society that is measurable and consistently attributable to the influence that the religion has upon its adherents.  With regard to the Christian faith, when we look at different regions of our country, we should be able to find that areas of the country in which faith is claimed also have a resultant effect that is measurable and consistent with the tenets of the Christian faith.

Marriage between a man and a woman with children born after that relationship is solemnized, followed by raising of those children together as mother and father, certainly are well accepted as being consistent with effects of Christian faith upon people’s lives who state that they are Christians.  While it is more difficult to look at individual lives, the general effect of claimed Christian faith upon society as a whole should be able to be seen when examined.  If that effect is not seen when scrutinized, it naturally brings forth questions.  The first question that many ask, certainly among those who do not accept Christian faith, is whether that faith is fake and not effectual in the lives of those who claim it.   Another deeper way to examine this would be to consider whether that, without the faith, the measured effects would be much more negative without it at all, with the measured effect biased by differences in segments of society.    Considering that we are looking at general statistics, if an area of the country has a higher claimed rate of faith, one would expect a difference to be seen with regard to rates of unwed pregnancies and homes without a father present in the home.  To get more specific, should we not see positive effects, in areas of our country that have higher claimed rates of Christianity, with lower rates of unwed pregnancies and fathers present in homes more commonly?  Sadly, this is not the case in these examined areas.  Many in the secular media immediately leap upon that easiest of answers and claim that Christian faith does not, therefore, have any positive effect, but actually is detrimental in societies in which it is more widely embraced.  Should Christians just brush these accusations off and not address them?  Certainly not.  “’But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15; NKJV).

According to Pew Research Center, a little over 70% of Americans identify as Christians with evangelical Protestants being most common at 25.4% followed by Catholics at 20.8% of the population.  According to the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention (https://www.namb.net/Population_Church_Ratios), Mississippi has the highest per capita rate of Southern Baptist churches in the nation at approximately 1,300 people per church.  In comparison, the state of Delaware has about 23,000 people per Southern Baptist church.  In regard to the relative number of places of worship in general, West Virginia, Arkansas, Mississippi, North and South Dakota, Alabama, & Utah have the most in descending order; Delaware is at 16th on the list and Nevada is the lowest.  If you look at statistics of how many people click that they “Like” prayer on Facebook, in descending order of incidence, Mississippi, Alabama, North Carolina, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Wyoming occupy the top seven spots.  Looking at the top seven states with the highest to lowest relative number of those attending worship services, the list changes somewhat:  Utah, North Dakota, Alabama, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and South Dakota.    In Maine, only about 28% of the population regularly attend worship services while in Utah, about 79% of the population does.  Looking at a county level, every state has at least one county where at least 45% attend worship services regularly.  There is great variability among the counties, but on a state level, it is clear that many southern states top the list with claimed adherence to many qualities that one would expect with Christian faith.

Now the rubber meets the road.  Does the car drive good or does it just look good from the outside?  Jesus Christ stated, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:25-28; NKJV).  Jesus Christ also stated, “Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” (Matthew 7: 17-20; NKJV).  Therefore, it important for us to know what we should know, but also to know how we are known.  “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.”  (2 Corinthians 13:5; NKJV).  We need to examine ourselves and look into the mirror to see our own reflection.  Is how we think we look, how we really look?  Is it cultural, or is it true character?  James 1: 22-24 (NKJV), reads, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.”  Let us take a look into the mirror, analyze what we see, learn from it, remember it, and then work on changing, with God’s help, what we see that we do not like to even think about, much less behold.

Pew Research lists Mississippi and Alabama as the highest the nation in regard to prevalence of religious people (77%) versus 33% in Massachusetts and 39% in many other NE states where they also have the lowest unwed pregnancy rates, such as Delaware.  Mississippi has the highest rate in the nation of unwed pregnancies (despite similar sexual activity rates in Mississippi and Delaware (powertodecide.org)) with a rate of 53% versus 39% for country as a whole; some counties in Mississippi have rates of 70%.  Mississippi leads the nation in the percentage of single mother households with no father present (https://www.statista.com/statistics/242302/percentage-of-single-mother-households-in-the-us-by-state/).  With surveys showing that 80% of young, unmarried Christians have had sex, with 2/3 of them within the last year, it is apparent that there is disconnection between what is being practiced and stated in belief; according to a Gallop survey, 76% of evangelical Christians still believe sex outside of marriage is morally wrong (https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevin-deyoung/premarital-sex-and-our-love-affair-with-bad-stats/).

It is very easy to make associations, but properly interpreting those associations is harder.  Many times, what people see is what they are wanting to see.  Many secular media seize upon the material just presented as evidence that their non-biblical worldview is justified.  Just because someone walked down the same street as a murderer during the same hour means that there is an association between them, but not any more than that they walked down the same street.  So, how are we to look at these facts that paint a poor picture?  That depends upon who is doing the painting and also who is looking at it.

Part of the answer with regard to higher unwed pregnancy rates, but similar sexual activity rates, between Mississippi and Delaware, for example, is the rate of abortion (https://www.kff.org/womens-health-policy/state-indicator/abortion-rate).  Also, Mississippi has a lower rate of birth control usage relative to other states.  Maybe some of it is a psychological effect of being told not to do something so much that it is thought about more and then acted on more than if it were not being fought against as much (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-human-beast/201208/do-religious-people-have-hotter-sex-life).

The “National Survey of Reproductive and Contraceptive Knowledge” shows that 42% of unmarried evangelicals ages 18-29 are currently in a sexual relationship compared to 52% of everyone else.  Ten percent of young, unmarried evangelicals have had sex, but not in the past year, while 20% have never had sex. The percentages go down to 6% and 12% respectively when looking at the sexual patterns of all other unmarried 18-29-year-olds.  However, to look at this survey in more depth, there is an oversampling of minorities which is occurred in their survey methods.  Using 2010 census numbers, 63.7%, 16.3%, and 12.2% of the population, representing whites, Hispanics, and blacks, respectively, are present, but in their survey, the representations were 50%, 22%, and 20%.  When it is considered that 24%, 40%, and 67%, of the same respective households are single-parent homes (http://datacenter.kidscount.org), this has the ultimate effect of making it appear that there is greater promiscuity than it really is, although this does not diminish the fact that it is large percentage anyway.

These same ethnic groups which have higher rates of unmarried pregnancies and single-parent homes appear to make conservative, southern states (which have higher proportions of these ethnic groups) look as though a Christian lifestyle is only preached, but not lived: “Red states such as Alabama and Texas, on the other hand, have lower levels of teens growing up with married parents both because they have lower education levels and because they have high proportions of black or Hispanic residents, whose families are less stable on average than white and Asian families. The educational and ethnic factors overwhelm the predominantly conservative orientations of the state populations in these Southern states. Thus, the red state model does not appear to be successful in the American South” (https://ifstudies.org/blog/red-state-families-better-than-we-knew).  Brad Wilcox wrote in his article, “No, Republicans Aren’t Hypocrites on Family Values” (https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/11/28/no-republicans-arent-hypocrites-on-family-values-215873), “What’s also fascinating about looking at the individual data is that it suggests that the relatively fragile state of families in the Republican South does not apply as much to individual Republicans in the South. Indeed, in both the North and the South, Republican parents are at least 9 percentage points more likely to be in their first marriage, compared with Democrats and independents. The figure also reveals how the ecological fallacy works: Just because the Republican South has more family fragility does not mean that Republican families are fragile. In fact, Republican parents in the South are more likely to be in their first marriage than Democratic and independent parents in the North.  In other words, even though Southerners in general are at greater risk of family instability than Northerners, Republicans in the South enjoy markedly higher levels of family stability than their fellow citizens—a family stability advantage that puts them above Democrats and independents in the North. Another way to put this: It’s blue and purple Americans in the South who are really pulling down family stability in the South, not red Americans.”  Even though these articles are discussed from a political perspective, it is true that general statistics cannot be applied on an individual level.  However, given the fact that many Southern states claim such high rates of adherence to Christian practices and ideals, the variance in the more general, state-based statistics is not completely explained by the individual differences of race and ethnicities, although the effect is very significant to explain the higher state-based rates of unwed pregnancies and fatherless homes.  Political party identification is one way to look at this issue, but identification with Christ is very high in Southern states, as discussed in the beginning of this article, and more than the “red” versus “blue” state method of analyzing this takes into account.  Could this also be explained from the standpoint that in many southern states, it is fashionable and culturally acceptable to proclaim faith in Christ, to state that one attends church somewhere, to talk about prayer, and acknowledge God?  Those who get serious about really believing what they say they do are religious fanatics though to many.  In 2 Timothy 3, we can read about the characteristics of those “having a form of godliness but denying its power.” (verse 5; NKJV).  “They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.” (Titus 1:16; NJKV).

What can be done about this?  Many people offer up the usual reply that we just need more birth control.  With that, we see sexually transmitted disease rates continuing to rise despite the higher rates of birth control methods used.  Lower teen pregnancy rates are attributed mainly to higher rates of contraception.  However, just preventing pregnancies with higher rates of birth control has not resulted in lower rates of unwed pregnancies and fatherless homes, which are continuing to rise.

Another approach is what is being done through Crisis Pregnancy Centers across our country.  One such example is at Parkgate Pregnancy Clinic (http://parkgateclinic.com/) in Tupelo, MS.  Jessica Roy is the Development Director at the non-profit that offers ultrasound & pregnancy confirmation to women and men facing an unplanned pregnancy.   They teach WAIT Training Curriculum (Center for Relationship Education) through their MPower Program to over 4,000 students each year in schools in their area.  Jessica recently shared that the clinic has seen a 15% increase in the number of students who state that they made a decision to wait until marriage for sex.  They have seen 79% of those with “risky” behavior make decisions to “start with a clean slate”.  Also, the clinic has recorded a 13% decrease in the number of students who believe it is okay to have sex before marriage if in a relationship.

Preventing unwanted pregnancies is certainly one way to reduce fatherlessness but preventing the behavior that causes it is only possible through changing the mindset of people.  Educational programs such as that provided in the previous paragraph help, but only an approach that involves a change of heart affects the mindset to a greater degree.  Christian based programs certainly focus on trying to influence those who are aided by their ministry to seek a change of heart through acceptance of Christ’s offer of forgiveness and the changes that come through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit when salvation is experienced.  No one can really change their own heart; that is something only Christ can do.  Understanding this, it brings us back to the beginning of this article:  Is the faith that is claimed by so many, especially in the South, truly authentic?  If it were, works consistent with the Christian faith would verify it.

How can people in the South who by and large claim to be Christian live the faith that they claim to have?  By actually being a Christian in the beginning is the means of living out the faith that is attested to in those surveys which show the Deep South states with such high rates of Christian faith.  Churches have largely forgotten discipline within the churches and it is easier to join many churches than it is to join a social club in the same city.  When people do not feel that something costs them something, they are likely to value it as worth just what they paid for it.  This is not preaching of salvation based upon works, but salvation evidenced by those works.  In James 2:18 (NKJV), we read, “But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”

If the rate of religiousness is going to translate in better behavior, it cannot be from a source of just religiousness, but of the Holy Spirit dwelling within the true, authentic Christian enabling that person to live out the Christian life as exemplified in the Bible.  “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.  If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:5-7; NKJV).

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Mississippi and North Carolina Democracy versus Liberal Totalitarianism

Mississippi and North Carolina Democracy versus Liberal Totalitarianism

Totalitarianism is defined as “a political system where the state recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible. Totalitarian regimes stay in political power through an all-encompassing propaganda campaign, which is disseminated through the state-controlled mass media, a single party that is often marked by political repression, personality cultism, control over the economy, regulation and restriction of speech, mass surveillance, and widespread use of terror” (Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Totalitarianism). This definition actually describes the type of actions desired by those who want to punish Mississippi and North Carolina for wanting to let their citizens be able to decide for themselves what they want to think and do with their own lives. These liberals want a totalitarian government, not a republic, and not a democracy. They seek to force their viewpoint upon everyone any way they can.

Most of these companies who are voicing public objections to the laws passed by states, which want to allow religious freedom, are solely acting to protect their bottom line financially as they see it and will shift their actions to whichever way they think the wind blows if it will make them money. The same activists who threaten Mississippi and North Carolina also threaten these large corporations if they don’t comply with their demands. If it is okay with people to demand adherence in such a totalitarian fashion, then some other questions should also be asked.

Should Teva Pharmaceutical Industries be boycotted and people be asked to do no business with this company because they refuse to allow propofol to be sold for executions? They are discriminating against what their product is used for on the basis of their belief system even though the death penalty and executions are legal. If Christians should be forced to participate in matters that conflict with their belief system and violates their conscience, then how can one argue that these companies should also not be forced to sell their products without “discriminating”? If it is okay to sue Christians who solely don’t want to perform a service out of moral objections based on their faith, then should not the states who cannot get the medications sold to them for legal executions be able to bring lawsuits against these companies and force them to do what the law states is okay?

Should physicians who have moral objections to participating in abortions be forced to perform them since abortion is legal and physicians who refuse are “discriminating”? How about pharmacists who won’t fill a prescription for an abortifacient drug and are “discriminating”? Should all of these physicians and pharmacists be labeled as promoting “hate”, and boycotted for their “discriminatory” practices?

What about the pastors who refuse to participate in a homosexual “wedding”? Should they also be labeled and treated in the same way? Are these pastors to be listed on a “hate group” registry and hounded for just not wanting to participate?

What about Muslims who will not sell pork, or prepare it for sale, to others based upon their religious beliefs? Should all the pork-loving people all get together and bring boycotts and lawsuits to force the discriminatory Muslims to participate in what they deem objectionable based upon their faith practices?

Should Jewish owned businesses who choose to close their doors on Saturday be forced to stay open and not “discriminate” against those who want to shop on Saturday? Is it offensive to those who don’t hold those beliefs and places undue burdens on those who only can shop on Saturdays since it is possibly their only day off from work?

It is not people of faith who are bringing lawsuits and attempting to ruin others through tactics of fear and intimidation. These are the actions of the liberal, totalitarian activists who people of faith need to be protected from. Should peaceful non-participation be now made illegal also? That is also what totalitarian governments do. No dissent is allowed without retribution.

People of all faiths should be allowed to follow their conscience and faith practices as their traditions commonly dictate and not have their belief systems trampled by totalitarian demands. The pharmaceutical companies should be allowed to followed their conscience while the states are free to pursue other options without forcing adherence. Physicians and pharmacists should be free to practice in ways that do not violate their faith while those who want something different are always free to seek to have services they legally want elsewhere. Pastors should continue to be free to choose whom they will agree to marry as they always have. Jewish people should be free to practice all aspects of their faith as there are other options for those who live under different practices. Muslims should be free to practice portions of their faith practice as they desire to do so and people who want something different can do business with others. Those who want to label these laws as hateful only reveal their own heart toward those whom they disagree. For people of faith, it is about protecting their own conscience by not participating and it is not about doing anything to hurt anyone else. It is about having respect for other people’s faith choices in their lives and giving them the freedom to live their lives with having a conscience intact, unlike those within totalitarian regimes who historically could be argued to have lost any conscience they might have had.

NY – Y’all come on down to MS

For those in our country who proudly declare themselves “pro-choice”, there are clear indications as to how truly “anti-life” they really are. When New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently stated that “extreme” conservatives “have no place in the state of New York”, he revealed his own lack of tolerance for others while also displaying a lack of consideration of the value of each human being. It should not be surprising for him to say such a disrespectful and demeaning statement. It is the natural result of having an “anti-life” worldview in which not all humans are viewed as equally valuable and worthy of being protected.

Even New York City’s Mayor de Blasio chimed in stating, “I stand by that 100 percent,” to reporters at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. Mayor de Blasio then added, “I agree with Governor Cuomo’s remarks. I interpret his remarks to say that an extremist attitude that continues the reality of violence in our communities or an extremist attitude that denies the rights of women does not represent the views of New York State.” The mayor must not have given much thought to his statement regarding “violence in our communities”; there is a lack of logic. What in the world does he think he is approving of happening in his position of violence toward unborn children? What about the right of the unborn children who never live to see the light of day? Has the “anti-life” position become such a protected issue that logic has been thrown out the window? There is no denying the fact that areas with the most “gun control” have the most gun violence; just look at Chicago. The same areas of the country that proclaim they are against violence promote it more by taking guns away from the law-abiding and then allowing a plague of ruthless thugs who also do not value life while robbing and killing others. The “anti-life” folks obviously cannot see the contradictions in their own statements.

For those New Yorkers who feel devalued and unappreciated just because they support the worth of everyone and care enough to speak the truth as they see it, come on down to Mississippi, the most conservative state in the union. Mississippians would be glad to have you just as much as anyone who has enough sense to respect the fact that everyone is valuable and has inherent worth solely because of the fact that they are human. Mississippi has learned from its own jaded past when people were not valued equally and now those with differing opinions generally get along well. Just think about where you hear about all of the racial problems and it isn’t in the state with the largest percentage of African Americans. Mississippians get along better now than at any time in the past because of learning respect for each other which is something lacking in New York’s elected leaders presently.

Not agreeing with someone should not cause one to have such a cowardly position to want to push them out of your way. If your arguments for your own position hold water, they can stand up on their own. People who start feeling threatened and honestly have no true way to defend their positions typically resort to personal attacks and attempts to gag the opposition such as these statements from the New York governor to deflect attention from the fact that they have no facts upon which to base their selfish and disrespectful opinions. If all of the pro-life people left New York to the anti-life people, it would certainly be a state that would slowly die – physically and spiritually. Hopefully, that will not happen if those liberals who usually are ones claiming such tolerance would learn to practice that which they preach.

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An estimated 47 lives and dozens of buildings were lost on July 6 when a train derailed in Quebec, Canada, and then exploded. The derailment and the explosion made headline news in most places, but there has not been much discussion regarding the details of this horrific tragedy that started when the train’s brakes reportedly didn’t work. What happened in the small town of Lac-Megantic could be repeated in the United States at an increasing chance of likelihood. The reason that this train derailment caused such damage was that it was an oil train and had 72 tank cars of oil it was hauling.

The fact that a train is carrying oil might not capture the attention of many people, but more and more trains are carrying oil now. Only about 500 carloads of oil per year were transported by Canadian railways just four years ago and now that number has sky rocketed to around 140,000 per year. There are estimates that this number is only going to continue to greatly increase over the years ahead and could increase by eight times the present amount by 2035.

The massive increase in crude oil being transported by Canadian railways is even more interesting now that the Canadian ambassador to the U.S., Gary Doer, recently gave President Obama two choices, “His choice is to have it come down by a pipeline that he approves, or without his approval, it comes down on trains. That’s just the raw common sense of this thing, and we’ve been saying it for two years and we’ve been proven correct. At the end of the day, it’s trains or pipelines.” The final construction of the Keystone Pipeline has been held up for several years now due to President Obama’s objections over “environmental” concerns that have been proven to be not a real concern within the current map of the pipeline’s route. While the environmentalists have obviously gotten President Obama to agree with their desires, there are increasingly greater chances of train-caused disasters that are of much greater risk than any proposed pipeline risks. Any person with common sense should be able to understand these relative risks and come to a logical conclusion that the Keystone XL Pipeline should be approved for final construction and completion so that the risks of these train disasters are not at a higher chance of being repeated.  

Being an Abram, or a Lot?

Just as Abram and Lot had to decide where they would live and bring up their families, so it goes with all the families who will have to decide where they will raise their children.  In the years ahead, it will become more and more of a contrast between the states of the United States where homosexual “marriage” is legal or not.  Those states in which it is illegal and not accepted provide a more family friendly environment that honors God through recognition of Biblical marriage.  The states where homosexuals can now “marry” have become places in which marriage has lost its meaning in relation to the Bible. 

God will not bless decisions to dwell where there is an allowance for homosexual “marriage” any more than He did the decision of Lot to dwell in Sodom.  When Lot saw the land of Sodom, he saw a land that is described in Genesis as “well watered everywhere (before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar” (Genesis 13:10).  The description of the land Lot saw could be used to describe California and many other areas of our beautiful country.  Lot looked only at what he thought would provide him and his family with material abundance and did not consider how living in that land would affect his family spiritually.  Abram walked by faith, while Lot walked by sight.  Lot’s choice revealed his heart was already astray and then he willfully allowed his family to be led astray in a land that refused to honor God.  Now that California is full of many who are celebrating men having sexual relations with men, and women having sexual relations with women, maybe they should change the state’s name to Sodofornia.

In the years ahead, I believe that there will be an exodus of God-honoring families who do not want to raise their families in the lands of Sodom of our day.  The states that choose to honor God’s definition of a family will benefit, while those lands of Sodom will become more wicked as places where one’s family will be more easily led astray into behavior that dishonors God.  Through his faith in God, Abram had enough sense to stay away from the land of Sodom and he was blessed.  The leaders of the families of today have some decisions to make and, hopefully, there will be increasing numbers of people who decide that they will walk by faith and not by sight.

Double Standards for Lying

A 2010 national survey study by Michigan State University asked one thousand American adults to report the number of lies told in a time period of twenty-four hours. According to the survey, “sixty percent of subjects report telling no lies at all, and almost half of all lies are told by only 5% of subjects; thus, prevalence varies widely and most reported lies are told by a few prolific liars.”  Most people tell the fewest of the total lies being told at any given time, while a few people tell most of the lies.  The study also revealed that most of us are not very good about discerning lies from the truth and are better at being able to know something is the truth versus being able to know something is a lie.

There are few people who think positive thoughts when they know they have been told something that is not true.  We all take in a lot of information and if we have a default belief that we are told the truth, life is much more peaceful, but if we have become so jaded that our default belief is that we are told continual lies, we live in a constant state of feeling threatened.  Most people want to believe that the information they receive is the truth.  Given that the great majority of people are generally honest, there occurs a severe break in trust when one is shown to be lying by incontrovertible proof.  In a world of information overload from so many points of view or biases, it is difficult to know fact from fiction.  Due to the confusion, most people will give anyone the benefit of the doubt and their default decision will be to believe the information is truth until it is proven to be false.  Our judicial system is even set up that way.

Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001 makes it a crime to: 1) knowingly and willfully; 2) make any materially false, fictitious or fraudulent statement or representation; 3) in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative or judicial branch of the United States.  Most people remember that this law was what allowed for Martha Stewart to be convicted for intentionally misleading FBI and SEC officials who were questioning her about insider trading.  Even if there are no warnings given, no resultant misleading occurred, no financial cheating occurred, and even if what was spoken as a lie was not under oath, it is a crime to lie to the federal government.  Our government has provided great breadth for prevention and treatment of those who lie to them and the general public is not given any leeway when enforcement is desired.  Since the federal government can hold the general public to this standard, the general public should hold the federal government to this same standard. 

Anyone who is in leadership who has a problem with being truthful in all circumstances should not be in leadership.  If the federal government can prosecute any citizen using this law, then the same law should apply to those within the federal government as well.  However, has our culture degraded to the point that we have defaulted to a setting of thinking immediately that our politicians are generally dishonest, so we do not really hold them any longer to the same standard that we are held?  Is it not time to examine ourselves to learn if we have fallen victim to setting double standards of truthfulness among those with whom we personally interact versus those who seem to be more distant from us?  Should not there be the same standard for all?  Do not our children deserve to see leaders with integrity whom they can trust?  Whether we like it or not, our children do emulate who their leaders are.  What kind of example are we setting if we decide it is okay for our leaders to lie to us, but accept laws that they can use against us to hold us to a standard that they refuse to abide by themselves?  Americans need to do some soul searching in the months ahead.  What we tolerate now will become worse in the future.

How Will You Handle The Coming Suffering?

Every person has at some time questioned why we have suffering and disease.  We all struggle at some point with trying to understand in the inevitable attempt at making sense of what happens to ourselves and others.  It’s an old question that not just physicians ponder when faced with illness, accidents, and death.  One way of trying to gain some meaning in midst of suffering is to consider what our lives be like if we had no suffering at all.  We all long for that.  We all want that.  We work for it. We go to doctors. Insurance policies are in place to try to lessen the damages we face.  Most of us, religious or not, have a concept of what we think of as heaven as a place that is perfect.  As Christians, we think of Revelation 21:4, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”  In our desire, our longing, for relief from the pain of life, we impatiently want our lives to be like that now.  However, time isn’t spent sometimes in considering what things would be like if we were able to achieve that wish in the present.

What would our lives be like with no suffering?  Since that hasn’t happened to anyone I know, a close comparison would be life experienced by someone for whom all consequences of their actions are allowed to be desirable.  If a child is never allowed to experience any of the results of their decisions and always allowed to do or say whatever they want for fear of them having hurt feelings, there will surely be one spoiled brat.  Therefore, the reasonable among us know that we have to allow for suffering to occur because it is more than just pain; it is molding and shaping us.  How the pain is perceived, in regard to the understanding of the good or evil intentions of the source of it, greatly influences the results of experiencing suffering.  Suffering is guaranteed to occur and it can make us either better, or bitter; the choice is up to us in how we choose to perceive it.

In Romans 5:1-11, we find that Paul wrote that we are to “glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.”  If we are never allowed to suffer, then we cannot learn to persevere through hardship.  The very nature of persevering produces in us a good character that leads to us having hope.  Look at the lives of those who seem to have everything and want for nothing; many times they do not have the one thing that all of us want – peace.  Those who do not have to suffer lack a hope during this life and also for the afterlife. Too often, we read the tragic stories of early demise of those who seemed to have it all together.  It should make us question what kind of people are going to be the result of a society that thinks it is supposed to remove hardship from everyone’s lives.  The great entitlement society is a clue to this.

I am blessed every time I see certain patients who have such illness, hardship, and suffering in their lives, but possess a peace about them which I do not see in those for whom life has been so easy. They tell me about their struggles and problems while I cannot help but wonder how I would handle the same if it were present in my own life.  It would be prideful to conclude how well I would do.  I don’t know.  What I do know is that I have such admiration for those patients who also hold on to a hope that is outside of them, but also within them. I have noticed that those people who have the best character also have suffered a lot.  So, instead of us looking at the suffering that comes our way with a desire to push it so far away, should we not also understand that it might be a blessing in disguise to produce something in us far greater in value than anything money can buy?