Monday, March 27, 2017

The problem with "fake news"

In December, Edgar Maddison Welch, a 28-year-old North Carolina man, reacting to a story he had read online, drove to Comet Ping Pong, a Washington, D.C. pizzeria with a machine gun to confront an alleged child-sex ring supposedly involving Hillary Clinton.

When he got there he got a big surprise — the story that inspired him to take action turned out to be false, with no ring in sight.

Last night the CBS newsmagazine “60 Minutes” aired a segment about “fake news,” during which unverifiable facts are spouted as news designed to smear someone. It’s not news, as this kind of thing has been going on for some time, but it shows me that folks simply aren’t using discernment.

I first began to notice this in 1992, when conservative media began attacking Bill Clinton when he was running for president; I eventually learned about the conspiracy in the fall of 1995, which was actually reported in legitimate media. Things have gotten worse since, with the focus on online media that report “what the mainstream media won’t.”

Which is true — for a good reason: Real news outlets check, double-check and triple-check their sources. These fake sources don’t even bother.

Last week I confronted someone online whom I know to be a Christian about his posting a video on “Pizzagate” and told him to take it down because I knew it was false. He refused, insisted that it was true and tried to blame me for being “partisan.” (That was beside the point.) When we Christians engage in gossip for the purpose of hating someone for political reasons we compromise our witness.

Solution? We need to come out of our bubbles and not always listen to people who tell us what we want to hear. These days that’s a tough sell — but needs to be done.

Friday, March 24, 2017

A failure to govern

I wonder if President Obama is chuckling now …

Since it was signed into law in 2010 Republicans have been determined to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The complaints were legion — that it didn’t cover everyone, its costs were too high and — falsely — it would lead to a government takeover of the health care system.

But in its haste to repeal it with the election of Donald Trump as president, the GOP didn’t count on a few things.

One, it actually did help a lot of people, ironically many of whom live in rural areas and voted for Donald Trump for president last year but who want to keep it. (They were told that they really wanted to repeal “Obamacare,” not realizing until it was too late that they were the same.)  Two, the “American Health Care Act,” coming from the Trump White House, jettisoned several key planks in the ACA, including the mandate for coverage, as well as not being anywhere near as comprehensive and thus rendering it virtually ineffective. Three, the GOP’s “Freedom Caucus” has never wanted any bill at all no matter which side proposes it and are opposing the AHCA on what they call principle.

What we have, and have had for decades, is a failure to govern properly on the part of the Republican Party. It has told people for years “This is what is good for you” rather than listen to people with open ears, its “donor class” often drowning out those voices. That has led to the present stalemate in Washington.

You see, this is what hate does — folks were so determined to rid themselves of the legacy of a man they despised that they didn’t think long-term about what they were doing and whom they were doing it for, and now it’s coming back to haunt them.

I said seven years ago that GOP leadership was green with envy when it came to the ACA, and that resentment is coming full-flower now. Some differences simply cannot be split to benefit everyone; at times hard choices need to be made for the good of all even though some might complain, because when you try to please everybody you usually end up pleasing nobody. Obama understood that in pushing through the ACA, but apparently his critics didn’t. And still don’t.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Here we go again ...

It has always puzzled me how and why President Trump, who has never pretended to embrace the basic doctrines of the historic Christian faith, could receive so much support from evangelical Christians. An article I read today shed light on that phenomenon, focusing on one fast-growing group.

Writing in “The Conversation,” Brad Christerson, a professor of sociology at Biola University; and Richard Flory, of the University of Southern California, identified a group to which they referred in their book “The Rise of Network Christianity” as “Independent Network Charismatic,” which focuses not on building churches but “in spreading beliefs and practices” and that has close ties to conservative U.S. politicians, including Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry and more recently the president.

The article says that INC leaders have identified "seven mountains of culture" to be surmounted that would include business, government, media, arts and entertainment, education, family and religion. “In this form of ‘trickle-down Christianity,’ ” the article says, “they believe if Christians rise to the top of all seven 'mountains,’ society will be completely transformed.” It sounds good and wonderful for those who subscribe to the “culture wars.”

Don’t be fooled in the least, however, because it actually represents nothing more that just another demonic deception. If that sounds arrogant, consider the devil’s only real goal — to keep people from knowing and recognizing Jesus as LORD, and he will misuse even “Biblical principles” to do it. 

Yes, I chose the term “misuse” carefully and deliberately. If you have the “principles” and the resultant cultural power, what do you need God for? You’ll have to excuse me if this appears to be the 1980s redux, complete with organizations that answer to no one — not even to God.

It seems that people just don’t learn from their mistakes. The kind of revival such groups and their supporters want is possible only through local churches and comes from the bottom up, not through major campaigns from para-church groups that try to impose an ideological agenda from the top down. What we’re seeing here is yet another attempt to impose Christian values on society without the bother of spiritual warfare — which, of course, is hard and doesn’t get the quick results folks want because they don’t want to address the transformation of hearts. (That, of course, would include their own in the process.)

Moreover — and here’s the dangerous point — those Christians willing to do things “the old-fashioned way” and not go along with this movement, let alone speak out against it, will have their faith questioned. We know this because that’s happened in the past.

This appears to be yet another occasion for Jesus to say at the final judgment, “I never knew you.” I don’t see INC as having sanction from the Holy Spirit and, as such, failure is guaranteed.