Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Mississippi finally rejects slavery

Earlier this month Mississippi finally officially ratified the 13th Amendment which outlawed slavery. Actually the state voted to ratify this amendment in 1995, a mere 130 years after it became the law of the land. But the paperwork was never sent United States Archivist as required until January 30 of this year. On February 7 the paperwork was processed in Washington D.C. and Mississippi went on record, in 2013, as supporting the notion that people shouldn't own other people as property in this nation.

Mississippi wasn't exactly progressive concerning the notion that women should be allowed to vote either. It was the last state to adopt the 19th Amendment which gave females that right, taking this action in 1984, about 64 years after this was already the law of the land. But, before we in North Carolina become too indignant over that one, we should remember that this state didn't ratify the 19th Amendment until 1971, more than 50 years after it had become law. Indeed, this was the next to last state to go on record saying that women should be allowed to vote.

I've always found it disturbing that many Christians in this country used the Bible to defend slavery and to make the case that females should not have the right to vote. In an article published in 1884, Rev. Prof. H. M. Goodwin said that the notion of women voting violated the scriptures and represented "a rebellion against the divinely ordained position and duties of woman." Baptist hero Richard Furman, in his biblical defense of slavery, said, "The right of holding slaves is clearly established by the Holy Scriptures."

Today, of course, we believe the Christians who used the Bible to defend slavery and to oppose giving women the right to vote grossly erred in their interpretation. We are rightfully ashamed that our spiritual ancestors abused the Bible in these ways. But the scary thing is that Christians back then were, by and large, completely convinced that they were right and that their cause was just.

Do you ever wonder if there are issues that we face in this land that, should the Lord tarry, future Christians will look back at us in the same way that we look back at Christians who defended slavery and opposed females having the right to vote? Does it bother you that it seems that Christians seem to often bring up the rear rather than take the lead in promoting Bible-based social justice? Do you think that we could use a heavy dose of humility in biblical interpretation concerning controversial issues given our track record of being wrong on some matters that are today considered fundamental rights?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Cameron Crazies apparently didn't say that

So last night during the Duke vs NC State basketball game Terri was sitting in her recliner which is next to my recliner. She, as usual, had her laptop in her lap with Facebook up and she reported to me that someone posted that the Cameron Crazies directed this chant toward Tyler Lewis (freshman point guard for State): "How's your Grandma?" Lewis' grandmother died a week ago. 

When Terri told me of the post, I didn't believe it. I mean I really didn't believe it, and I said so out loud. I took this position as one who is certainly NOT a Duke fan. I'm a Virginia Tech grad and a big fan of the Hokies (which can be really tough in basketball season).

This morning I saw that one of my friends on Facebook also posted something about the reported classless cheer, so I did a little investigating. In a few seconds I found a News & Observer blog from Laura Keeley who reports that the Crazies were actually chanting "past your bedtime" (see the end of the blog at the link). Lewis, a 5'11" freshman dwarfed by the other players on the court, was an easy target for such a cheer.

So it appears highly doubtful that the ugly chant about Lewis' deceased grandmother ever happened. Nonetheless, a Google search reveals numerous indignant blogs and tweets saying that it did. Who is right? Again, as one who DOES NOT pull for the Blue Devils, I think the evidence favors the "past your bedtime" version. But, at the very least, Keeley's report casts considerable doubt that the classless chant was ever uttered.

Whatever the truth is, doesn't this incident remind us to take caution in spreading ugly rumors? The Bible takes a dim view of sharing gossip (e.g. Romans 1:29) and the Internet helps us to spread it like never before in the history of humankind. I would recommend restraint in passing along this dubious tidbit.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Ray Lewis was wrong

It's well known that Ray Lewis, the now retired star linebacker of the Baltimore Ravens, was accused of murdering two men outside an Atlanta nightclub in 2000. He was not found guilty of those crimes but he did wind up paying a financial settlement to the families of the victims. Many still have questions about Lewis' involvement in those slayings. I certainly can't answer those questions, but I do have several problems with what he said in answer to a question about the murders in an interview that aired prior to Super Bowl XLVII last Sunday. Here I'll point out only one of my difficulties with Lewis' words.

He was asked by Shannon Sharpe what he would say to the families of the victims of the murders. Here is part of Lewis' response: "To the family, if you knew — if you really knew — the way God works, He don’t use people who commits anything like that for his glory. No way.  It’s the total opposite.”

I'm sure Lewis meant well, but his theology is terribly flawed. His point appears to be that God has used him in the 13 years since those murders and God wouldn't use him if he was a murderer. Leaving Lewis' specific case aside, it is simply not true that God doesn't use people who commit crimes like murder.

Moses was a murderer (Exodus 2:11-15) and God called him to lead the people of Israel out of bondage. 

King David was a murderer (2 Samuel 11) and he is named in a New Testament list of faith heroes (Hebrews 11).

The Apostle Paul assisted in the killing of Christians (Acts 8:1), but, after a change in heart, he became probably the most aggressive advocate of  Christianity of his time and his words are still treated as inspired by God by Christians today. 

Obviously there is ample biblical evidence that God at times uses murderers for his glory. Certainly all followers of Christ must strive to live holy lives (1 Peter 1:14-16). But when we mess up (and we will), even if we mess up big, thankfully, God isn't finished working through us. The Lord is always ready to forgive as we turn to him in repentance and faith and he still has great plans for us even after we stray.

I appreciate Ray Lewis' willingness to openly share his faith in Christ on a very public stage. But he got his theology badly wrong in the interview that aired before the Super Bowl. God's grace is bigger, a lot bigger, than Ray Lewis seems to think.