Friday, August 29, 2008

Good as Good Can Get

What do you think of when you hear the word "good?" When God first created the Earth, He used the term "good" to describe it. In school, good meant I got a 'B' -- better than average (C) but not quite excellent (A). My wife loves to bake and watches Martha Stewart. Martha has a saying, "That's a good thing," when she talks about something she enjoys. Advertisers love the word too: "Mmm mm good" (Campbell's Soup), or "Good to the last drop" (Maxwell House coffee).

The word 'good' is used 7 times to describe God's creation in Genesis Chapter 1. The final use is coupled with "very," as in "very good," when God describes man. The Hebrew word for good is 'towb' as opposed to 'tamiym,' or perfect (see Gen 6:9 when God calls Noah perfect in his generation or Lev. 22:21 as it relates to the type of sacrifice required by God).

Not only does God limit His description of the Earth to good, but He tells Adam and Eve to subdue it (the Hebrew word kabash) in Gen. 1:28. Furthermore, in Gen. 3:16 God tells Eve, as a punishment for eating of the tree, that he will multiply her pain in childbirth. I was not a math major, but anything multiplied by zero, is still zero. So childbirth prior to the fall must have still hurt for the pain to be multiplied. Then there is that little thing about the serpent roaming around...

I had often thought of Earth prior to the sin of Adam and Eve as a perfect and spotless paradise. It is not that God couldn't have made it perfect, but I am not so sure that God intended it to be so at that point in time.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Imagine No Religion

I don't post in several months and now two in one day...but this story was too good to pass up, given what I wrote about earlier. The Freedom From Religion Foundation is putting up five billboards across Phoenix. They range in messages from, "Imagine No Religion," "Beware of Dogma," and "Keep Religion OUT of Politics." Below is an example.

I will likely pass by at least two of them given my frequent trips to the state Capitol. Perhaps I will stop and get a picture. I don't know why the John Lennon song (blatantly ripped off for the sign above) is referred to as such an inspiring song. A few months ago, I touched on this depressing tune in a previous post (Imagine No Heaven). Obviously, countries without religion have been so successful that we need to replicate their efforts (North Korea, the U.S.S.R., etc.). While China has managed recent economic growth, I doubt the political prisoners arrested for owning a Bible would be willing to give an enthusiastic thumbs up to their country's brutal regime.

John Lennon's song conjures up a supposed utopia where there is no war and the people live for today. Removal of religion is a cornerstone to this utopia. I will be the first to say that countries founded by Christians utilizing Christian values and thought have not been perfect. But the freedom provided by these nations have provided an environment for growth in science and human dignity like the world has never seen. We will not see a utopia on this side of eternity. However, this does not mean we should stop efforts to stamp out injustices. That being said, getting rid of religion from American life is not and never will be the answer.

So The Pendulum Swings

It has been sometime since I have posted (mid-January). I was motivated to start back up again after reading this story. A survey released last week by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found a "narrow majority of the public saying that churches and other houses of worship should keep out of political matters and not express their views on day-to-day social and political matters." Apparently, for over a decade, Americans have supported religious institutions weighing in on such issues. The change of heart has come largely from people who describe themselves as conservatives. Those surveyed do not want purely secular elected officials, however, as they want their political leaders (including the President) to have strong religious beliefs. They are uncomfortable with politicians talking about how religious they are (wearing their faith "on their sleeve" so to speak).

It seems like a mixed message: churches shouldn't espouse their political/social views, but political leaders should have religious beliefs - however, they shouldn't talk about them very often. We should be careful when saying that churches have no place in discussing social and political matters. They were instrumental during the American Revolution, the abolition of slavery in England and America, not to mention the civil rights movement (Martin Luther King was a Baptist minister). The list could go on. I think the concern arises when churches enter political debate when it is perceived that they do not have their house in order. Some persons of faith are quick to judge society while not holding their fellow Christians accountable. Hence the claim of "hypocrites" by opponents to religion.

Religious institutions should engage on issues of importance to our great country. Participation has proved beneficial in the past and will in the future. We shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater.