Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Pledge of Allegiance

I read a news article this week that I found really shocking. Right now the city of Eugene, OR is divided over our national Pledge of Allegiance. Now, there has been no shortage of controversy surrounding the Pledge in recent years, and most of it has stemmed from the fact that the words one nation under God are included. However, that is not the source of the controversy right now in Eugene. Residents and city council members there are currently divided over whether or not to even recite the Pledge and how often.

The city council recently voted down a proposal to recite the Pledge before every council meeting, and now they cannot agree on how often it should be recited period. They did approve a measure that would allow the pledge to be recited four times a year - that's right - only four times a year! I was surprised to read that, but my surprises didn't stop there. The article went on to quote some of the local citizens and city council members. Councilman George Brown, in particular, had some very surprising comments to make: "People can say it in their front yard or back yard. It really doesn't help move the city business forward. It doesn't unite us." Reading his comments made me wonder why anyone would desire a position in our government when they do not want to recite our national Pledge of Allegiance. His indifference, which seems to be bordering on disdain, makes me wonder what his true motives are.

Another surprising comment came from a private citizen. Anita Sullivan said "So you say 'I pledge allegiance' and right there I don't care for that language. It sort of means loyalty to your country; well, I feel loyalty to the entire world." Let me be clear, I also view myself as a citizen of the world, and and I have close friends in many other countries. As I write this I have friends in South Africa, Switzerland, Canada, Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, Poland, Germany, Russia, England, New Zealand, the Czech Republic and other places. However, I am an American, and I am loyal to America and the law abiding citizens of America. I am loyal first and foremost to Jesus, but he chose for me to be born in America. I don't see why being loyal to America means you have to be disloyal to the other parts of the world.

Furthermore, I'd like to pose a question to Ms. Sullivan. Have you considered what it would be like to live in some other parts of the world? Being born in America is a tremendous blessing, and there are many leading nations that would not even allow Ms. Sullivan to speak publicly, let alone make a comment like the one she made. Perhaps she'd rather be loyal to Afghanistan where she could be killed for showing her hair. Maybe she'd rather be loyal to China where she might have been killed before birth because she wasn't a boy. Maybe she would feel more loyal to India where she could have been married off at five years old in exchange for the forgiveness of a family debt. I love these nations and the citizens of these nations, but we need to keep things in perspective.

I don't mean to be critical of anyone I have mentioned, but if you don't feel loyal to America, at least to the degree that you will recite our national pledge of allegiance, then feel free to resign from your post, Mr. Brown. Take a tour of developing nations and see how much you have as as American, Ms. Sullivan. America is far from perfect, but there is no place I'd rather live. Inasmuch as America is not violating the laws of God, I am loyal and am proud to live in this one nation under God!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Freedom of Speech, Unless You're a Christian

I guess these should probably come as no surprise, but a couple of news stories caught my attention in the past couple of weeks. The first took place in California, and the second in Vermont. Although these stories happened a few thousand miles apart, situations like them are becoming increasingly common.

In Palm Desert, California, a public high school canceled a fund-raiser and returned $45,000.00 because school officials refused to allow a couple of students to share their Christian faith. The school was raising funds by selling memorial brick pavers to students that would be laid in a walkway at the school to be used and seen by students in future classes.

The students were allowed to have their pavers inscribed with a favorite saying or some words of wisdom to inspire future students. A couple of students had their pavers inscribed with a verse from the Bible, and school officials refused to allow these particular pavers to be laid. The two students, Lou Ann Hart and Sheryl Caronna, filed a court complaint against the school for not allowing their pavers to be included in the walkway. As a result, the school district officials chose to cancel the fundraiser and forego the $45,000.00 they had raised up to that point. You can read the news story at the following link:


In Vermont, a young man named Kyle Gearwar graduated at the top of his class at Fair Haven Union High School. As Valedictorian, he was allowed to make an acceptance speech, but his speech had to be approved by the school's principal before he could deliver it. Kyle's speech was not approved, however, because he mentioned Jesus Christ and talked about how Jesus had changed his life. He was allowed to say everything else he had planned to say, but that portion of his speech had to be excluded. Here is the link to this news story:


You can also read the text of Kyle's origianl speech here:


Both of these stories are examples of school systems infringing upon our constitutional right to freedom of speech. Again, these types of stories are becoming increasingly common, and because they are happening more and more, it is easy for us to become desensitized to them. However, we need to understand and keep in mind that these are serious violations of our civil rights, and if this trend goes unchanged, there is no telling where it will stop. The school systems claim that they made these decisions so they would not be promoting any particular religion. However, I would be willing to bet that if any of these students had chosen to leave a verse from the Koran or a gay rights slogan, they would probably not have been censored. In many of these situations, the authorities involved seem to be singling out Christians.

In California, which is a state that is nearly bankrupt, a school, in need of funds, chose to give back $45,000.00 rather than allow two Christian girls to share a Bible verse on a brick. In Vermont, a student graduating at the top of his class was forced to change his speech because he wanted to encourage others by sharing his personal story. This should outrage us! Some believe that Christians should just sit back and quietly accept such treatment, but I believe we have been quiet long enough!

The Constitution is clear about our right to freedoms of speech and religion. Here is the text of the First Amendment:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

This Amendment can be studied further at the following link:


The US Constitution is clear about the government's role regarding religion and free speech. These school systems, which are government run institutions, are in violation of some of our most basic freedoms. The freedom of speech was interwoven in the original fabric of America. Francis-Marie Arouet Voltaire, a French author and philosopher who was influential in the mentalities of many of our founding fathers, once said: "I disapprove of what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it." We need to recapture this kind of respect for our freedom of speech and freedom of religion. If we allow the rights to continue to be violated, the inevitable result will be devastating.

Now, as I have stated, examples like these are becoming increasingly common. It is easy to be overwhelmed and wonder if there is really anything we can do about it, but there is much we can do. First we have to determine to never surrender and just accept that this is going to be the reality going forward. The United States was founded upon Godly principles, and it is not difficult to look around and see how our society is suffering as a result of the steps we have already taken to exclude God from our nation. We have to lead the way in welcoming God back to our schools, our neighborhoods and the hearts of our elected officials.

We need to pray for the Lord to intervene and ask for His mercy for our nation. We need to vote candidates into office who share our views and are committed to fight for them. Finally, we need to refuse to compromise and bend to the mounting pressures that seem to be all around us. Beyond this, I believe if we ask Him, the Lord will guide us all on a personal level as to our individual course of action. Even though it may seem that we are the minority, we cannot afford to give up hope and throw in the towel. Andrew Jackson once said "One man with courage makes a majority." If we are standing with the Lord and are determined to see His will done in this land, we are the majority. This is a fight we cannot afford to lose, and may it never be said about us that we laid down our armor when we were needed the most.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What's Really at Stake?

Like many of you, I sometimes find myself overwhelmed when I stop and think about some of the major changes that have taken place in the world in a very short amount of time. In just the past year, Japan has seen one of the most devastating earthquakes in recorded history, there have been sweeping revolutions in many Middle Eastern countries, some parts of Mexico have become totally overrun by violent gangs and lawlessness and the United States has continued a sharp economic downturn that could very possibly define the next season for much of the world. These dramatic changes are happening very quickly and it appears as though we can expect many more.

For most of the second half of the twentieth century, the nations of the world watched intently as the United States and Russia competed for nuclear dominance. These two world superpowers remained in stalemate as both sides slept with one eye open for about fifty years. Thankfully, as the 1980's drew to a close, relative peace was achieved between these giants and the United States began a period of military and economic superiority. Since that time, the US has been the primary world power. Some across the globe have hated that fact, others have enjoyed it but few have been indifferent.

Some feel that the US has over-stepped its bounds and served as a "world police," while some have welcomed America as a "big brother" trying to help maintain peace and advance the cause of human rights. Regardless of where a person may stand in this debate, there is no denying that many have benefited from the global leadership of the United States. We have certainly not been perfect, but we have been a presence seeking to bring good and hope to even the most remote corners of the world. Wherever there has been a natural disaster, we have normally been the first to offer aid. The wheat fields of Kansas and the corn fields of Illinois have produced grain that not only fills our store shelves, but also fills the bellies of hungry children in developing nations. Our military has not only served to keep us safe domestically, but they have also fought for the bullied, and often unprotected citizens of Bosnia, Somalia, Iraq, South Korea and many other nations.

These are just some of the benefits resulting from the United States being the preeminent world leader. As we look around now at what is taking place here and across the world, we are facing a very real possibility that the United States could lose that place. Right now, for a number of reasons, the US is in danger of falling to the #2 spot, or perhaps even further. Our nation is currently dealing with one of the worst recessions in decades. Recessions are considered by many to be a natural and necessary part of the cycle in a free market economy, but one reason this particular recession is so bad is that our elected officials are doing very little to stop it. There seems to be virtually no bipartisan effort to create jobs, pay down the national debt or redeem the value of the US dollar. While all of this is working against us, there are others who seem to be in a completely different boat.

China, for example, is currently very much in the black economically, and they own much of America's overwhelming debt. The next few years could very feasibly see China emerge as the world's primary super power. In my opinion, that could be disastrous change. China currently has deplorable policies when it comes to human rights and, despite what they may say, they desire to control the world's resources. There is much to be said about this, and maybe I will another time, but let's just imagine that China, or another nation, displaces America has the primary world power. What is really at stake if such a transition should take place? Where the US has fought for human rights, China would likely ignore the cries and senseless killing of the innocent. Would China offer the same relief in terms of economic assistance and food resources that the United States has offered developing nations? If their track record with their own citizens is any indication, it is a safe bet that they would not be as generous.

As a follower of the Lord and a student of the Bible, I believe there will be major shifts internationally before this age fully draws to an end. Many believe that America is destined to lose their place of superiority. I do not subscribe to this idea, however. I believe it certainly could happen, but I don't think it has to happen, and it may still be up to us. I know America is not perfect, and we have major changes we need to make in terms of morality, the family, education and racial and gender equality. However, I believe our nation was founded upon Godly principles by Godly men who envisioned an America that is so much more than we have become. I believe the Lord has a plan and purpose for this nation that has not yet been fulfilled. We are facing major challenges, and we are going to have to make some major course corrections, but like Esther, we have been brought to the Kingdom "for such a time as this"(see Esther 4:14). As the Lord's followers and children in this nation, He intends for us to be the salt and light of the world, particularly in America during this time (see Matthew 5:13-14). Light illuminates and dispels darkness, and salt is a preservative. We have the ability to dispel the darkness presently facing our nation. We can preserve America from the fate that awaits us if we stay on this current course. We have to turn the tide and re-direct this ship.

What's really at stake? I don't think anybody fully knows how to answer that question, but by God's grace, we may never have to find out. Throughout history, nations have risen and later fallen. Empires have risen to world dominance and crumbled like a child's sandcastle washed away by the tide. However, the Lord's goodness never changes, and the heart He has for our nation, and for all the nations of the world, will never change. I do not believe it is too late for America, but as a nation, we have to turn back to the Lord. As His people, we have to lead the way. II Chronicles 7:14 is a common verse, but perhaps never more important for us than now:

If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land (NKJV).

We are the ones who must do this, and the time is now. I pray that America's best days will be ahead, but I do believe it is up to us. Martin Luther King, Jr. once made a very insightful and sobering statement. He was describing the civil rights movement of a few decades ago, but I believe his words still ring true today: "History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people." I believe history will record this season as the time when America's future was determined. May it never record that you and I were silent.