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.

Why is God Allowing Beheading?

beheadingWith the recent news of Christians, including children, being beheaded by Islamic jihadists, there comes to mind questions of why the God we serve is allowing this to occur. To acknowledge that God is allowing children to be beheaded in front of their Christian parents in Iraq brings a certain level of discomfort dependent upon our worldview. To those who have not acknowledged God, the horrific actions of these people are explained only as being cruel actions by cruel people. However, for those of us who do recognize that we have a Creator who is the God of the Bible, thinking about these actions in the context of the God we know from His Word brings more to mind than these being plainly cruel actions. We must acknowledge that God had foreknowledge of this happening to His children and did not choose to intervene. Our questions inevitably lead to us wondering why and the answers are not easy to find, if they can be found.

Scriptures that relate to God rescuing us are the first that come to mind when we are in trouble. “He trusted in the LORD, let Him rescue Him; Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!” (Psalm 22:8). Psalm 144 speaks of God prospering and preserving His people, “Rescue me and deliver me from the hand of foreigners, whose mouth speaks lying words, and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood– That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth;That our daughters may be as pillars, Sculptured in palace style; That our barns may be full, Supplying all kinds of produce; That our sheep may bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our fields; That our oxen may be well laden; That there be no breaking in or going out; That there be no outcry in our streets. Happy are the people who are in such a state; Happy are the people whose God is the LORD!” (verses 11-15). That sounds great! We all want to serve a God like that. Think of Exodus 14:13-14, “And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you today: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen today, ye shall see them again no more for ever. The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.” That is another great one that we love to remember and quote. If that is all there were to it, it would be easy to decide to follow Christ.

However, we may tend to suppress other scriptures which are equally relevant and point us toward walking down a road that none of us who are sane want to travel—the path of suffering. Paul certainly learned this; “For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake” (Acts 9:16). In Second Timothy 2:12, we find that “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him.” Obviously, there is more to God than just wanting to rescue us from everything so that it all goes our way all the time. “For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God” (1 Peter 2:20). God wants us to learn from suffering and He wants to strengthen us through it. “But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;” (1 Peter 3:14). Our attitude is supposed to change from one of fear and avoidance to that of embracing the suffering before us.

As Christians, God does not promise to preserve our physical bodies during our earthly lives unless it serves His purposes and allows us to accomplish His will for us. The suffering in our paths can only hurt us so much. We may die physically, but only God has charge over our soul and He has promised to preserve our souls. Therefore, when suffering is in front of us, we naturally are going to look for a way out of it, but if we learn that there is no way out, we are actually to run toward it and accept it as part of His plan for us. That is where it is hard to understand again –to accept that God allows us to be killed, beheaded even. However, Christ went down that road, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:” (1 Peter 3:18). We are good at proclaiming that we want to be Christ-like, but most of the time that means only in ways we agree with or want.

Christ made it clear although that if we want to be like Him, we will have suffering, not possibly, but will. That just goes against the grain of what many Christian churches in America teach nowadays. Jesus Christ explained to those who said they were following Him that He was their food and they did not understand because they did not want to understand. “When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?” (John 6:61-67). It is easy to follow Him when the miracles are performed which sustain us physically in some way or make life comfortable for us, but it becomes hard when it is learned that this is not really what Christ is ultimately after in dying for us. We also are called to the same in our lives here. “For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know” (1 Thessalonians 3:4). “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). It is not easy, but it is part of the Christian walk. Christ was in anguish so much that He sweat drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane and sought another way if it would be God’s will for Him, but in the end accepted what He had to do for us.

Sometimes God chooses to use us in ways we will not like either and we will be in anguish, too, during those times, but we can know that it is to work a greater purpose than what we can understand. God rewards those who suffer for Him and those parents who lost their children, or whomever is missing someone due to such cruelty, can know that those who died are now comforted and will never die again after they physically die in Christ. In America, it usually does not come to that. We should seek God’s face to know if that came to us, would we seek to continue with Him, or would we turn and go another way. May God help us to know Him and His way fully in these perilous days in which we are now living.

Who Will Want Your Chair?

ImageAs I sat listening to my pastor’s Sunday morning message, he spoke of an old recliner that he used for many years and had seen its days of burping babies, kids piling up in it, and all of the usual relaxing moments that most people have in their recliner that becomes a reflection and somewhat of a commentary about its main occupant.  Pondering that example, I could not help remembering special chairs in my own life.   My own father’s chair is one that I remember climbing into with Dad and my brothers.  I do not have that chair, but I wish I did.  I have the first recliner I ever bought when I was just starting medical school and I spent untold hours in that chair reading and studying; it is now in my office at work.

Another chair that came to my mind is this old greenish colored La-Z-Boy that sits in my library at home.  The arms have been reupholstered to match the original color as much as possible.  This particular chair was the first recliner that a very special pastor in my life many years ago had given to him by a church he pastored.  He had kept that old chair for many years until the arms had been worn thin and there were holes in the arms from what was undoubtedly many years of time spent with studying, family, and even counseling his flock.  The times witnessed by that chair were innumerable and special.  Since that old chair had gotten into such bad shape, it was about to be discarded because a new chair was about to be bought.  When I saw that old worn out chair, I hated to see something like that not be repaired and then used again.  After getting agreement with the pastor’s wife to let me have it, I took that chair to get it fixed and have had it ever since then.  What was valued and special to this pastor was even more valued and special to me because of who owned it, used it, and even wore it out so much it has a mild tilt to it.

I’ve got a chair that is conforming itself to me over time and gets a lot of use.  As I started thinking about my own chair in my living room, I could not help wondering if anyone would ever think of a chair I used as being something they would want.  Am I making enough of a positive difference in the lives of others that what I might see as just a chair would be cherished and thought of as being inspiring, like I think of that previous pastor’s chair every time I sit in it?  I know this humble man thought no one would want his old chair, but I did.  Do I inspire others enough that there might be a similar thought in someone else’s mind one day?

Another direction in this vein is to think about the chair itself.  The chair which conforms itself to my form, my image if you will, could be thought of as the life of each individual whom God Himself wants to use.  If I allow myself to be used by Him, I am then transformed into His image.  In the process of being used, I’ll get to squeaking as time passes, my arms will get thin and worn out, and I just will not move as quickly as I used to move.  However, just as an old chair that is made well, it will keep fulfilling its initial purpose.  Each chair is made with a specific function in mind just as each human is also.  We all will eventually reflect our owner and whom we choose to be owned by is really only between two choices.

Saying Hello

helloIf you have lived very long, you have had those whom you have loved to depart from life as we know it.  Many times, when there is the blessing of having time to do so, we struggle with trying to say goodbye, while sometimes it is instead like saying hello.  We typically say hello when greeting someone and especially if it is someone whom we have just met.  A lot of things that should have been said much earlier sometimes remain unspoken until the last moments of life.  It is wonderful when people do have the time to make clear what was muddy.

This last week a patient came in for a visit and took some time after we had addressed his medical concerns to talk about a discussion he had with his ill father recently.  The two had a history of disagreeing about many things over the years and their relationship had been strained continually.  The father had gotten older and the inevitable problems of aging had taken its toll on his health.  The son knew his father was ill and went to visit with him.  As they sat and talked, the son recounted the major areas of strife over the years with his father with what previously had been relationship shattering issues then becoming seemingly ever so minor.  An apology was offered from the son to the father.  The son was then surprised somewhat when his father slowly looked over at him and motioned with one of his arms an aw-don’t-worry-it gesture much like Bill Cosby used to do a lot on his program when brushing aside something that just was not important.  The father was telling his son that those issues didn’t matter anymore and that it was okay.  That wave of the arm and hand was signification of forgiveness and it touched the son’s heart so much that he had a small tear in his eye when relating the story. The son finally left after giving his father a hug and started heading back toward home.  An hour later, the call came that his father had passed away.  What had been a visit to say goodbye had become a visit to say hello, for what was old was gone and there was a newness that was granted by that father to his son.  There was no better way for them to depart from one another – although that is only temporary anyway for those who know Christ.

There are many health benefits seen in those who make forgiving others a way of life.  There are hundreds of studies which have linked forgiveness to improved physical and emotional well-being with researcher Robert Enright of the University of Wisconsin Madison stating, “Forgiveness works.”  Among those who practice forgiveness, there are fewer cardiovascular problems and stress-related conditions along with a general feeling of greater happiness.  In 2008, the journal Mental Health, Religion and Culture reported that people who forgave had decreased risk of depression.  A study involving 213 Vietnam veterans found that those who had trouble with forgiveness also had more problems with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Mayo Clinic reported in 2008 that holding grudges caused people to have increased blood pressure and heart rates.  A study of more than two thousand twins in Virginia showed that forgiveness was related to less nicotine dependence and drug abuse. That chip on the shoulder might sound like it is small, but it is one of the heaviest things you can carry.  For better health, it makes a lot of sense to say goodbye to those things of the past and say hello to what can be the new you that is found when you practice forgiveness.

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.

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?

The Elephant and Gunkin Troll

elephant gazing

You would have to have your head in the sand lately to have not read about the horrible acts committed this last week in the Sandy Hook, Connecticut, elementary school.  Every time we have a tragedy, the public mourning and prayer of the politicians and public figures dies down quite rapidly to be replaced by the almost never ending blame game by those who want to have an opportunity to unveil, and hope to use, their own ax they have been grinding since the last incident.  The same folks who have been publicly crying the loudest over these innocent lives lost think it is fine to kill the little ones as long as the mother chooses this awful fate before birth happens.  This is a fallacious, hollow, and illogical position to have.  Valuing human life should not start just at birth.

After putting aside their public displays of grief, those who refuse to recognize the need for change of the sinful heart of man by God, instead turn aside from that obvious elephant in the room which hardly anyone in public office will even acknowledge any more.  They look around and ignore the completely conspicuous problem while wringing their hands, fretting, and manipulating anything else they can find in the room to blame for the collapsing foundation instead of what is so clear to many.  Therefore, we have the usual whipping boy rear his head again; his name is Gunkin Troll.  He looks like to a troll to those who like whipping him all the time and they keep at it while he screams louder and louder.  Poor Gunkin Troll.  He just will not behave and learn from the mistakes of himself and others.  He cannot have it his way, so he hopes that if everyone around him felt sorry for him enough, then he could have his way. 

There are those who want physicians to get involved in the debate regarding gun control and expect them to start advising on that on a proactive basis as if physicians do not already have enough on their plates to consider with patients.  If the patient brings it up and seeks advice, certainly physicians would seek to help when presented with a problem.  However, ignoring the elephant in the room and turning to gun control isn’t the answer for what ails our society.  A study in Volume 30, Number 2 of the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy (pp. 649-694), answered the question in its title: “Would Banning Firearms Reduce Murder and Suicide? A Review of International and Some Domestic Evidence.”  The answer is that as gun ownership goes up, murder and suicide rates go down.  Two criminologists, Prof. Don Kates and Prof. Gary Mauser, did an exhaustive study of American and European gun laws and violence rates.  They found that nations with stringent anti-gun laws generally have substantially higher murder rates than those that do not. In comparing the nine European nations with the lowest rates of gun ownership (5,000 or fewer guns per 100,000 population) to the nine nations with the highest rates of gun ownership (at least 15,000 guns per 100,000 population), those with lowest rates have a combined murder rate three times higher.  In Western Europe, for example, Norway has the highest rate of gun ownership and has the lowest murder rate.  However, Holland has the lowest gun ownership rate in Western Europe, but has almost the highest murder rate; Sweden and Denmark  also have high murder rates, but few guns. The study’s authors wrote in the report: “If the mantra ‘more guns equal more death and fewer guns equal less death’ were true, broad cross-national comparisons should show that nations with higher gun ownership per capita consistently have more death. Nations with higher gun ownership rates, however, do not have higher murder or suicide rates than those with lower gun ownership. Indeed many high gun ownership nations have much lower murder rates. (p. 661)”.  In Russia, the murder rate is four times higher than the U.S. and more than 20 times higher than Norway; private gun ownership is very low after decades of totalitarian rule.  Very few Russian murders involve guns, but the overall murder rate is explained in the study, “[P]er capita murder overall is only half as frequent in the United States as in several other nations where gun murder is rarer, but murder by strangling, stabbing, or beating is much more frequent.”

Getting back to the aforementioned metaphorical example, the elephant in the room looks on the scene in complete amazement as to why so many seem to not even see him, but grab on to Gunkin Troll instead, to blame him for their house falling apart in front of their eyes.  While Gunkin Troll is hollering, the house continues to deteriorate, but at least they feel better because they are “doing something.”  Maybe one day, Gunkin Troll will grow up, turn around, and direct his attention at the elephant in the room before the house is completely demolished.