Ask almost anybody to name the most important things in their life, and chances are family will make its way onto the list. Family – or at least the idea of it – lies at the core of most people’s existence. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, God designed the family to be the catalyst for spiritual, physical, and emotional growth. The Biblical idea of family is built around mutual respect and well-defined roles. You can find plenty of advice in the Bible on how to live life within the family:
“Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” Deuteronomy 5:16
“Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.” Proverbs 1:8
“A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish man despises his mother.” Proverbs 15:20
“Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” Colossians 3:20
“Fathers,do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4
“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6
Walt Disney lived these values too. He loved his daughters and grandchildren, and his ultimate goal was to provide quality entertainment for families. He designed his theme parks to be fun for parents as well as children, and his films and television series contained elements that the entire family could enjoy.
On the next few pages we’re going to look at the value of family in some of the classics in the Disney canon. The studio released four of these films during Walt’s lifetime, and one came out four decades after his death. Enjoy!
It’s odd. Finding God in middle age brought more joy and peace into my life than I ever thought to expect, and yet listening to people talk about religion and reading modern writers on the subject often leaves me cold, alienated. I don’t care how brilliantly they refute the atheists. I don’t care whom they think God wants me to sleep with, or how they believe I should say my prayers. When they tell me I cannot call myself a Christian unless I condemn what they condemn and despise whom they despise, it makes me faintly nauseous. And though I’ve read many sentences that begin “If you only knew your Bible, you would see…” I’ve never reached the end of any of them.
What good religious discourse does — what good religious writing does — what they do for me, at least — is reorient my spirit toward its lodestar, which is Christ. For some reason, this is less likely to be achieved through flashy logic and pompous denunciations than through humble seeking and painfully honest self-examination. Go figure.
At any rate, here’s a lovely little book of really good religious writing: Strange Gods, by Elizabeth Scalia, who is also known by her blogging name The Anchoress. For reasons I’ll explain, it is an excellent corrective to our ferocious historical moment.
I was first led to the Anchoress by — who else? — Instapundit, (Him By Whom All Good Things are Linked!). I was taken with the gracefulness of her prose and the graciousness of her outlook and often found them an antidote to the fever of political confrontation. It’s not that she doesn’t have her opinions, she just usually manages to remain open-hearted toward her opposition while expressing them. No common thing these days and no mean trick either.
In Strange Gods, subtitled “Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life,” she examines a few of the infinite ways in which she and all the rest of us break the first commandment. She speaks personally and movingly about how an excess of attention to ego, ideas, ideology, coolness, sex — even the films made from Jane Austen novels! — can position these false idols between ourselves and the source of all goodness.
Why do people allow their relationship with God to become disoriented? Sadly, the problem usually starts with love. The human heart craves attention and love — love is the common longing of our lives. We may search for a career, or wealth, or status, but the desire to be loved and valued is usually at the root of our strivings…. Sometimes, discouraged or impatient in our search, we chase illusions…
One by one, they all filed into the kitchen for the family meeting. My oldest hopped onto the counter. His gangly legs dangled past the knobs on the cabinet doors below. Bouncing on his toes, the youngest stretched his arms as high as he could — the universal baby language for “pick-me-up.” I automatically lifted him. He felt twice as heavy the day before. At least, it seemed like yesterday. All of a sudden, his face didn’t look like my pudgy baby with the button nose. Instead, a full-blown toddler had taken his place. As he settled into my lap, wrapped in my arms, I looked around the room at all the faces. Curiosity framed eight pairs of big, Robinson-blue eyes. We filled the entire kitchen of that old farmhouse.
“It’s time to take a vote,” I announced.
Before I could say what we were actually voting on, squeals of delight slipped out of the girls. It’s always fun when you’re little and someone counts your vote — on anything.
“Okay,” I continued. “Daddy and I want to know… who wants Mommy to have another baby?”
All hands immediately shot into the air. The little guy on my lap raised both of his, and now all the girls were giggling.
“Well then, it’s settled. Mommy’s going to have a baby.”
“At the end of the summer.”
The entire room erupted with cheers. The big girls hugged each other, and the two boys started jumping up and down making boy-noises. The older kids narrowed their eyes and studied us. Their suspicion was plainly written all over their faces– “Wait a minute, I don’t think that’s how it works…”
Their dad shot a smile and a wink their way.
Our children were always excited about welcoming a new member. To them growing a family took nothing more than an announcement.
However, building a strong family takes more than simply adding children. It takes these three vital elements.
Subjected to criminal prosecution for homeschooling their six children, Uwe and Hannelore Romeike fled Germany in 2008. U.S. Immigration Judge Lawrence O. Burman granted the family asylum in 2010, only to see his decision overturned in 2012 after it was targeted directly by the Obama administration.
On Tuesday, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the administration’s denial of asylum granted to the Romeike family.
“The Obama administration is basically saying there is no right to home school anywhere,” said Michael Farris, founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association. “It’s an utter repudiation of parental liberty and religious liberty.”
The Justice Dept. is arguing that German law banning home schooling does not violate the family’s human rights.
“They are trying to send a family back to Germany where they would certainly lose custody of their children,” Farris told Fox News. “Our government is siding with Germany.”
“Germany continues to persecute homeschoolers,” said Mike Donnelly, HSLDA Director of International Affairs. “The court ignored mountains of evidence that homeschoolers are harshly fined and that custody of their children is gravely threatened—something most people would call persecution. This is what the Romeikes will suffer if they are sent back to Germany.”
Although it was many years ago, the image of a young woman with a tear-streaked face and blank stare is forever etched into my memory. She sat in front of the television cameras, shredding a soaked tissue, telling her story. Once a happy new mother, now distraught and on trial for the death of her baby — the infant died in her arms. The cause of death was starvation and malnutrition.
The first-time mother said she loved her baby and breastfed her regularly. She cared for the child to the best of her ability. She claimed that she had no idea the newborn failed to get the nourishment she needed. Nevertheless, the baby languished in her arms until she became too weak to suckle. It was only then that help was sought.
Of course the outrage came quickly. Bony fingers of blame pointed in all directions. Some held the hospital responsible, believing the first-time mother got released too soon. No doubt a direct result, others moralized, of the cold, cost-calculating insurance companies. Always pressuring hospitals for earlier discharge of maternity patients. Others cast the blame on social services. The government let this poor young woman slip through the cracks. Over and over, the resounding cries filled the airways.
Their haughty laments over that young mother’s fate still echo in my mind: “Where were the pediatricians? Where were the lactation experts?”
The answers were never found. Perhaps because no one asked the right question.
Where was her mother?
We don’t see a whole lot of genuine faith in the movies or on TV these days. Instead, characters who exhibit religious faith on fictional films and programs are more likely to show up as fodder for mocking or as social deviants in disguise. Obviously, we can easily forget that the concept of faith played a much greater role in Hollywood’s earlier days, even in the films made by the Disney Studios.
Walt Disney held a deep, private faith in Jesus Christ, though he was not an outwardly religious man. His parents raised him in the theology of the Congregational Church, and he firmly believed in the power of prayer and Bible study. Rarely, if ever, did Disney attend church, but he made sure his daughters were involved in Sunday School programs, even allowing them to choose the denomination that suited them best in their teen years. Walt also said:
I ask of myself, “Live a good Christian life.” Towards this objective I bend every effort in shaping my personal, domestic, and professional activities and growth.
I believe firmly in the efficacy of religion, in its powerful influence on a person’s whole life. It helps immeasurably to meet the storm and stress of life and keep you attuned to the Divine inspiration. Without inspiration, we would perish.
Clearly, Disney understood the importance of faith as part of the American cultural fabric. Another quote of his underscores this fact:
I have watched constantly that in our movie work the highest moral and spiritual standards are upheld, whether it deals with fable or with stories of living action.
We can see these moral and spiritual standards at work in Disney’s classic films. In fact, the concept of faith plays a role in many of the great films of the Disney canon. Today, I’m going to look at five examples of the value of faith in Disney’s classic films: I’m taking a look at two of the big themes that emerge, and then we’ll delve into three characters who exhibit faith in different ways. These movies are not necessarily religious in nature, nor do I claim that they are theologically accurate in any sort of way. With that said, let’s dive in…
How Did the Theological Fight Between Protestants and Catholics Fuel the Colonization of North America?
Last week I wrote about my “evolution” on guns during the Boston manhunt:
In the middle of that night listening to the Boston police scanner, I evolved. I realized right then that if I were holed up in my house while a cold-blooded terrorist roamed my neighborhood, I wouldn’t want to be a sitting duck with only a deadbolt lock between me and an armed intruder. There are not enough police and they cannot come to my rescue quickly enough. They carry guns to protect themselves, not me. I knew at that instant if Dzhokhar Tsarnaev showed up at my door while I was “sheltered-in-place” and aimed a gun at my head and only one of us would live, I could pull the trigger.
Once I made the decision that I would not be a victim, I began to research my options for home protection. I plan to share the experience of choosing my first gun in a future post but first I’d like to deal with some of the moral implications of the decision to purchase, own — and potentially use — a gun.
I wrote about one of the reasons I refrained from owning a gun for many years:
The other thing holding me back was my belief that if you’re going to own a gun, you must be willing to shoot to kill…I searched my heart and realized that in the heat of the moment of an attack, I wasn’t sure what I would do with a gun in my hand. I knew that could be more dangerous than being unarmed; it wasn’t worth the risk.
A gun is an inanimate object and as such is morally neutral. Lying on a table, tucked under a mattress, or locked in a gun safe it cannot kill, inflict harm, or protect its owner. However, the fact that a gun is in one’s home creates the potential for both danger and protection depending on many variables, including the training, skill, and temperament of the residents of the home and the mental capacity and willingness of the gun owners to use the weapon, whether in self-defense or to inflict intentional harm.
While I understand that many who grew up around guns accept them as a normal part of life, for me, it’s a decision that requires serious introspection and moral evaluation. Though I passionately support the Second Amendment, I confess that I had never taken the time to earnestly contemplate its practical applications. Perhaps this is because I’ve mostly lived in safe, virtually crime-free neighborhoods and have never experienced violent crime. Whatever the reason, it’s not an excuse to jump into gun ownership without first embarking on this intellectual exercise.
Spoiler Warning: Bioshock Infinite cannot be properly analyzed without revealing the details of its plot. If you plan to play it, or haven’t finished it, consider whether you wish to read further.
This may seem an odd way to start an analysis of a video game. But bear with me.
I was not always a Christian. There was a period of my life during which I searched for truth, trying to discern medicine from snake oil. One of the most compelling observations which led to the development of my Christian faith was the unique economy of sin presented in the Bible.
While many people believe that human beings are inherently good, an honest assessment of one’s own thoughts, along with cursory observation of even the youngest child, reveals that human beings are actually quite wicked. Not only are we bad, we like ourselves that way. Indeed, the notion that we are inherently good lowers the moral bar to the status quo, as if this life lived this way with all its horrors and violations were some kind of ideal.
Christianity stands unique among worldviews in not only acknowledging our congenital moral defect, but also in explaining how we contracted it while offering a cure. Other faiths tend to regard sin as some form of moral debit which can be offset by good deeds. Becoming a Christian requires acknowledging that the debt accrued through sin can never be paid by the sinner. Instead, the believer trusts in the atoning death of Christ, pointing to Him as the settler of accounts. Such faith proves difficult, both because we tend to deny our own wickedness and because we prefer to think we can overcome deficiencies on our own.
Surprisingly, this economy of sin proves quite relevant to an analysis of Irrational Games’ hot new shooter set in the skies above 1912 America, Bioshock Infinite. Redemption runs as a prominent theme throughout the experience, presented in various forms which tend to prove false. Protagonist Booker DeWitt, a former Pinkerton man and player avatar, seeks the seemingly simple redemption of a financial debt to a dangerous creditor. Antagonist Zachary Comstock, head prophet of a xenophobic cult, offers his followers redemption from “the Sodom below” within the floating city of Columbia. Daisy Fitzroy, leader of the leftist Vox Populi, offers her followers redemption from the tyranny of Comstock through militant revolution. Player companion and surprisingly able damsel Elizabeth begins as an innocent who comes to realize her own peculiar need for a second chance.
After reading about a newly published scientific book titled The Mystery of the Shroud, which attempts to prove that the Shroud of Turin actually dates back to the time of Jesus, I planned on writing what you are about to read.
Then, an hour before my scheduled writing time, I “just happened” to notice a Facebook post that read:
Christmas was the promise — Easter is the proof.
That phrase truly resonated with me because of the word “proof.”
But do believers really have proof that Jesus was resurrected from the dead?
After twenty years of reading about and studying the Shroud of Turin (and even viewing it in 2010), I have all the “proof” I need. Although let me state emphatically that my faith — and the faith of most people who are celebrating “Resurrection Sunday” today — does not depend on any physical proof whatsoever.
For we know that Jesus is alive and His Spirit lives in us; that is all the proof we need.
Still, physical proof of Christ’s resurrection would be useful, especially when one tries to convince loved ones to believe in what more than a billion people around the world believe today.
So what if this new Shroud of Turin scientific study really does prove conclusively that the Shroud cloth dates back to the time of Jesus? Does that mean mankind finally has the proof it needs to believe that Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead after dying on the cross?
We are certainly getting close to “proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” and here are some reasons why this is happening now.
Daniel Wattenberg, the arts and features editor of the conservative Washington Times, wrote a piece last week chiding Hollywood for being confounded by the ratings success of the History channel’s mini-series The Bible. ”Blockbuster ratings for a compilation of bible stories from a reality TV producer taking his first crack at drama? Can’t be,” Wattenberg writes in the persona of a studio exec. “If there was a market for biblical epics, then Hollywood wouldn’t have long ago abandoned the genre. … Makes no sense.”
No one can blame Wattenberg for taking a poke at Hollywood’s apparent reluctance to capitalize on the huge audience of the faithful. As I myself have joked repeatedly, if The Passion of the Christ had been about anything else, the Book of Acts would already be in the can.
But just for the record, no one in Hollywood is baffled by The Bible’s success. I think The Passion of the Christ blowout took them aback a little, but everyone gets it now: There’s a large audience of religious people who are tired of being mocked and put down by a small cadre of coastal sophisticates, but who will show up for solid, non-pandering faith-based entertainment. They’re not stupid; they’re not changing their minds; they’re not going away.
So why isn’t there more good work for the faithful? The problem is not Hollywood cluelessness, nor is it Hollywood evil. Conservatives tend to over-emphasize both.
Previous articles in this series:
- 5 Common Accusations Leveled at Christianity
- A Reason for Faith: Christianity on Trial
- A Reason for Faith: 6 Fatal Misconceptions
When Abraham Lincoln needed to rally the nation toward unity, he referenced Matthew 12:25:
But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand…”
That principle proves timeless. Divide and conquer remains an effective tactic. Perhaps that informs the many writers on the Left who have strived to drive a wedge between followers of Jesus Christ and adherents to the philosophy of Ayn Rand.
Consider Boston University professor of religion Stephen Prothero, who once wrote that “marrying Ayn Rand to Jesus Christ is like trying to interest Lady Gaga in Donny Osmond.” He cautioned Republican readers against conflating them:
Rand’s trinity is “I me mine.” Christianity’s is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. So take your pick. Or say no to both. It’s a free country. Just don’t tell me you are both a card-carrying Objectivist and a Bible-believing Christian. Even Rand knew that just wasn’t possible.
Truthfully, one cannot be both a Christian and an Objectivist. As covered throughout this series, Objectivist epistemology does not allow for any acknowledgement of the supernatural. However, one can be a Christian and recognize many of the objective truths which Ayn Rand articulated. After all, Christians do not deny objective reality. We merely recognize an eternal context. Worldviews need not align to overlap.
Prothero employs the typical objection to any alliance between Christians and objectivists:
Real conservatism is also about sacrifice, as is authentic Christianity. President Kennedy was liberal in many ways, but, “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country” was classic conservatism. Rand, however, will brook no such sacrifice. Serve yourself, she tells us, and save yourself as well. There is no higher good than individual self-satisfaction.
Here, both Christianity and Objectivism are misrepresented. True, Rand deplored Kennedy’s classic inaugural exhortation, perceiving it to subordinate the individual to the collective (although it could be argued Kennedy intended the opposite). However, she never presented “individual self-satisfaction” as the standard of value. One can be fully satisfied in any given moment without serving their rational long-term self-interest.
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
Previous articles in this series:
The title of the talk, “Capitalism: The Only Moral Social System,” was irresistible to a newborn activist bred from the Tea Party. As a lifelong conservative, I had always felt as though capitalism was morally superior to any alternative, but had not encountered a claim as bold as this. The speaker was Craig Biddle, editor of The Objective Standard. His thesis was not that capitalism was the best social system, or the most efficient, or the most tolerable among acceptable choices. His claim was that capitalism is the one true good, the only way to go, and that any other system proves profoundly bad.
Biddle’s argument was compelling, built upon observation of reality and application of reason. He took us through the mind’s eye to a far-flung island where we were marooned alone without a single piece of technology. He asked us how such a castaway would survive. What would have to be done? Through what means would it be done? What could prevent it?
In order to survive and thrive, human beings must act rationally to obtain and keep values. A castaway requires food, shelter, sanitation, recreation, and a means to escape or attract rescue. To obtain these things, the castaway cannot rely upon instinct like an animal. Rather, he must apply his mind to the task at hand. He must discern what can be safely eaten, how to fashion tools, how to construct shelter, how to trap and kill animals, how to effectively use the raw materials around him to affect his survival. Ultimately, the only thing which could prevent the castaway from doing these things, aside from his willingness and ability, is brute force from another human being.
Therein lies the objectivist ethic. What human beings need in order to survive and thrive is not provision, but the liberty to act upon their own judgment. Put another way, liberty is life. To deprive a man of his liberty is to deprive him of his life, to drain or contain him. Therefore, the recognition and protection of individual rights are essential.
Hearing this for the first time, I felt as though I had found the Holy Grail of conservative apology. While natural law evoked a Creator which secular leftists could simply deny, this objectivist argument stood firmly upon reason and the uncontestable facts of reality. How is it that this was not being echoed across conservative media, I asked myself. Then I got my answer.
Last Week’s article: 5 Common Accusations Leveled at Christianity
Christianity is profoundly bad. So argued philosophy professor Dr. Andrew Bernstein in a recent debate sponsored by The Objective Standard and the University of Texas Objectivism Society. Countering Bernstein was Christian apologist Dinesh D’Souza. They discussed whether Christianity is “good or bad for mankind.”
They spent a majority of their time debating more fundamental philosophical questions. What is the nature of reality? Does God exist? What is the proper source of morality? While many attendees commenting during the livestream chat saw these questions as diversions from the advertised topic, they were actually the crux of the matter. In order to discern whether Christianity is good or bad for mankind, “good” must first be defined.
Bernstein primarily accused Christianity of being irrational. To be irrational is to be immoral according to Objectivism, a philosophy advocated by Bernstein and best articulated by Ayn Rand in her magnum opus Atlas Shrugged. As Rand saw it, a proper morality arises only from the application of reason. Rand saw any assertion of faith as a rejection of reason. By parsing through Bernstein’s points, we examine not only whether Christianity is a fool’s errand, but whether faith of any kind is profoundly bad.
We begin at the foundation by first asking what we know and how we know it. Those questions are answered in the branch of philosophy known as epistemology. Objectivism holds that reason is the only means toward acquiring knowledge. In her essay Philosophy: Who Needs It? Rand argues:
Reason is the faculty which… identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses. Reason integrates man’s perceptions by means of forming abstractions or conceptions, thus raising man’s knowledge from the perceptual level, which he shares with animals, to the conceptual level, which he alone can reach. The method which reason employs in this process is logic—and logic is the art of non-contradictory identification.
Objectivist author William R. Thomas explains further:
The basis of our knowledge is the awareness we have through our physical senses. We see reality, hear it, taste it, smell it, feel it through touch. As babies, we discover the world through our senses. As our mental abilities develop, we become able to recall memories and we can form images in our minds.
Strict adherence to this means of acquiring knowledge precludes entertaining the supernatural. Like all religion, Christianity is a faith-based belief system which Objectivism rejects as nonsense.
How may Christians answer this view of knowledge? If the object of philosophy is to understand reality and access the whole truth of existence, then objectivist epistemology has an obvious limitation. Surely, applying logic to our perceptions is a solid method for discerning what is true. However, the amount of truth we can know through that process is capped by our perception.
Depending upon whom you ask, Christianity either withers under constant assault from a secular humanist conspiracy or flourishes as a virulent social tumor threatening intellectual and moral progress. This Friday, two leading intellectuals will take up the question of whether Christianity is “Good or Bad for Mankind.” Prolific writer, scholar, and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza will trade arguments with professor of philosophy Dr. Andrew Bernstein. The debate will take place on February 8th at the University of Texas – Austin’s Hogg Auditorium beginning at 7pm CST, sponsored by The Objective Standard and the UT Objectivism Society. It will also be broadcast live over an internet stream. [Updated: see part 1 of Walter's analysis of the debate here.]
This intellectual confrontation “is guaranteed to set a new standard on the subject” according to The Objective Standard. That promise will be fulfilled. The arguments offered will differ from previous high-profile debates regarding Christian morality. While atheists whom D’Souza has engaged before have come from a position of skepticism or secular moral relativism, Bernstein’s body of work previews a fresh approach.
Bernstein will channel Ayn Rand and her philosophy of Objectivism, which not only rejects the Christian worldview, but emphatically indicts Christianity as a profound moral evil. While that may sound familiar and evoke recollections of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, or the like, Bernstein’s argument will differ in that it will not merely cite alleged evils perpetrated in the name of Christianity but drill down to the root of what makes a thing good and assert that Christianity is the opposite.
Readers who have followed my recent work at PJ Media may have noticed two things. First, that I frequently evoke the work of Ayn Rand in support of my moral and political views. Second, that I am a professing Christian eager to contend for the faith. These two aspects of my person no doubt meet with frustration, confusion, or condemnation from both Christian and Objectivist readers who perceive their respective worldviews as irreconcilable. I dare to contend that, while there are certainly profound differences in these worldviews, they are not as wholly irreconcilable as either contingent thinks.
Let’s preview some of the arguments sure to be made in Austin. Next week, we’ll respond to these points along with any others which arise and consider just how incompatible Christianity and Objectivism truly are. Here are 5 accusations sure to be leveled against Christianity by Andrew Bernstein in his debate with Dinesh D’Souza.
Last week on PJ Lifestyle I read with great interest a piece by P. David Hornik titled “What Near-Death Experiences Tell Us.” With “great interest” refers to my long-time fascination with near-death experiences (NDEs), which began in 1994 after a friend gifted me the book Embraced By The Light by Betty J. Eadie.
The book, according to my friend, was a “must read.” As proof, she claimed it was still on the New York Times best seller list after an entire year. (For the record, Embraced By The Light was #1 on the New York Times list in September 1993 and in the top ten for 78 weeks. Subsequently, it became the fifth bestselling book of the 1990s.)
Embraced By The Light, published in 1992, was Eadie’s personal account of her near-death experience after an operation gone awry in 1973.
Then, for more than a decade, Eadie was hesitant to write or speak about her NDE out of fear that people (including family members) would think she was totally nuts, or would not believe her story.
What makes Eadie’s NDE so controversial and intriguing is the title of the book itself. Because, immediately upon reaching heaven, Betty was “embraced by the light,” and that light was Jesus Christ and he made himself known to her.
Betty is then taken on an unforgettable tour of heaven which she describes in great detail. Throughout the book, Jesus teaches Betty His message of eternal and unconditional love. But despite her pleas to stay in heaven, Jesus sends her back to earth because it was “not yet her time.” The book concludes with Jesus’ final message to Betty, “Above all else, love one another.”
Like millions of other readers around the world (the book was published in 130 countries, translated into 38 languages, and to this date has sold over 20 million copies), I was totally captivated by Embraced. This captivation stemmed from my belief in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. But Betty’s NDE account, the first one I had ever read, only served as sweet confirmation that the “benign deity” (the phrase used by Hornik in his piece) not only exists, but that we will meet Him face to face “when it is our time.”
Here’s a video of Eadie on the Oprah Winfrey Show in the ’90s, when Embraced was a best-selling book:
About five years ago, after my husband and I first heard Paul Wilbur perform at a messianic temple in Ft. Lauderdale, we became instant fans. Since then, we have played his CDs in our cars repeatedly.
Wilbur’s songs appeal to traditional Jews and Christians alike. He has performed in Israel on numerous occasions, and his love for that nation, coupled with his own Jewish heritage and love of Christ, is the hallmark of his music ministry, making him a unique performer.
As a result, Wilbur’s popularity as a singer, songwriter and praise/worship leader has grown tenfold around the world since we first heard him perform in a small venue.
His music resonates with me, and not just because we are both Jewish believers in Jesus Christ, but in the extraordinary way his songs fill any room (or car) with passion and love.
Now, as so often happens when I’m inspired to write something with a spiritual theme for PJ Lifestyle, a deeper dimension of the topic is revealed while I am doing “research.” (A quick Google search.)
Such was the case with Paul Wilbur. I had already decided to write about him because I thought PJ Lifestyle Sunday readers would appreciate knowing about him and hearing some of his music.
That was when I discovered, just this past December, Paul Wilbur made history as the first singer to perform at a religious concert event in Cuba with the full permission and “blessing” of the communist Cuban government.
Watch him here as he speaks about this historic trip.
His Cuban concerts were truly amazing events for this struggling nation and its oppressed people.
Perhaps, just the fact that Wilbur’s two “praise and worship” performances were even allowed to proceed, is a signal that some potentially major political, social and or spiritual changes are about to be instituted by the Cuban government.
Which begs the questions, “Is God at work in Cuba and if so, is HE using Paul Wilbur as a catalyst?”
Only time will tell, but in the meantime, check out Paul Wilbur Ministries and discover what a tour de force he has become around the world.
And, if you are ever presented with the opportunity to see him perform live, do not hesitate. Trust me when I tell you your faith walk could be impacted, even if you have little faith or none at all.
Finally, I will close with a video of Paul Wilbur performing a song that ranks high among my favorites.
Please do watch until the very end, for this song builds and soars and I predict your spirits will be uplifted right along with it.
If President Obama’s goal with the inaugural prayers was to marginalize and offend devout, conservative Christians and orthodox Jews, it would be fair to say: mission accomplished.
The choice of Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, departed from historical protocol. She was the first female and first non-clergy member to lead an inaugural prayer. She did so in the wake of Pastor Louie Giglio’s unceremonious removal from the dais after the discovery he had preached a sermon 20 years ago expositing the Bible’s position on homosexuality. While it’s understandable that Evers-Williams would feel the need to temper her prayers, lest the current administration banish her from future public speaking engagements, her words represent a stunning departure from historical inaugural prayers and from anything resembling a Christian, Jewish, or even a generic Judeo-Christian prayer.
Evers-Williams, when asked to describe her religious affiliation by Religion News Service, said,
I have been Baptist, I have been Methodist, I have been Presbyterian. I have attended all of those churches depending on where I have lived in my life.
The answer seems rather dodgy, but nothing out of the ordinary, so when her “prayer” began as something of an announcement, we waited for the “prayer” part to begin:
America, we are here, our nation’s Capitol on this January the 21st 2013, the inauguration of our 45th [editor’s note, should be 44th] president Barack Obama.
And we waited some more…
We come at this time to ask blessings upon our leaders, the president, vice president, members of Congress, all elected and appointed officials of the United States of America. We are here to ask blessings upon our armed forces, blessings upon all who contribute to the essence of the American spirit, the American dream. The opportunity to become whatever our mankind, womankind, allows us to be. This is the promise of America.
Was this a prayer or a speech? If it was a prayer, note that Mrs. Evers-Williams addressed it simply to “America,” imploring “America” to bestow blessings upon our leaders and our country.
Anyone on a faith walk will eventually ask the question, “How do I pray?”
Except for the Lord’s Prayer that Jesus taught his disciples, there is no easy answer, for prayer is a very personal and personalized pursuit.
And, as with all pursuits, practice is the key to success and prayer is no different.
You will soon discover the more you pray, the more you will find answers to difficult questions, along with mental or physical healing from various maladies, protection for you or your loved ones and comfort from any number of storms that happen to be raging in your life.
Whatever the current state of your prayer life, even if you do not have one, or practice no faith at all, here is a powerful “prayer exercise” that you should find very beneficial.
Back in 1990 I first experienced this exercise in a group while attending a prayer seminar at my church. During the course of the exercise, the answer to a personal spiritual question that had been plaguing me for 15 years was instantly revealed.
Thus, I immediately became a huge believer in this prayer exercise and since have shared it with many others over the years. You too might find some answers but only if you are truly honest and unafraid to ask or face the most difficult questions or issues in your past or present circumstances.
So without further ado, here is the exercise.
Jesus is visiting your neighborhood. He is going house to house and will be at your door in five minutes.
Will you let him in?
What will you say to Him when he appears at your door?
What is He going to ask you?
What questions are you going to ask Him?
Are there any rooms in your home that you do not want him to see?
Any closets, drawers, photos, or computer files that you want to hide from Him?
Pray about these questions for five minutes.
(Five minutes passes)
Knock, knock Jesus has arrived.
Greet Him at the door or ask Him to go away.
If you invite Him in, visualize actually letting him in the door of your home or apartment as you would any guest.
You may even offer Him something to drink or eat.
Just let the visit unfold.
Perhaps you might want to take him on a tour of your home. Or ask him to sit down as you begin chatting in your most comfortable space.
Remember to discuss the questions or issues you identified in the first part of the exercise.
His visit can last as long as you want because, as the Bible says: I will never leave you nor forsake you.
However, in my group prayer seminar His visit lasted about 10 minutes.
After that time, the prayer leader asked our group if anyone was willing to share their experience of “Jesus’ visit.” Many did, but I was still in shock from His most perfect answer to my question, so I remained uncharacteristically silent.
This exercise is effective in a group setting or when one is alone. Adults, teenagers or even children can be enthralled by this 15 minute “visit with Jesus,” if participants take it seriously and deal with sometimes difficult personal issues honestly.
For a different twist, you could even visualize Jesus walking around your office building for five minutes visiting others before He shows up at YOUR office.
Even though it has been 23 years since I was first introduced to this prayer exercise, my experience was so enlightening it was imprinted on my heart and soul forever.
Do not be surprised if you have similar results. This exercise is extremely powerful because it presents Jesus as someone who you can communicate with in a two-way conversation.
And, after all isn’t that what prayer is anyway, a conversation with God?
Finally, this week on a country music station I heard the song, If I Could Have A Beer With Jesus for the first time. This song by Thomas Rhett reminded me of my 1990 prayer seminar experience and that is the reason why you just read what you read.
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
A pastor visiting our church shared a story from when his children were young. The oldest was four years old, and the younger three, when their mother served them grapes on the vine. As they plucked the sweet fruit, the younger child asked of the older, “How does Mommy get the grapes on there?”
Summoning elder gravitas, the firstborn replied, “Mommy doesn’t put the grapes on there.
“The store does.”
Children have a wonderful way of modeling our deficiencies. While it is easy to laugh at the reasoning of a child, we ought to consider how silly our reasoning might prove if the whole truth were known. Indeed, if we cannot point to an idea or two which we have reconsidered in light of new evidence, it cannot be said we have grown.
One idea which I used to hold, which made perfect sense to me at the time and still makes perfect sense to most of my Christian brethren, is the notion that man cannot rationally demonstrate an absolute morality in a world without God. My reasoning echoed that of Jeff Jacoby in a 2010 piece for Townhall. He wrote:
For in a world without God, there is no obvious difference between good and evil. There is no way to prove that murder is wrong if there is no Creator who decrees “Thou shalt not murder.’’ It certainly cannot be proved wrong by reason alone. One might reason instead — as Lenin and Stalin and Mao reasoned — that there is nothing wrong with murdering human beings by the millions if doing so advances the Marxist cause. Or one might reason from observing nature that the way of the world is for the strong to devour the weak — or that natural selection favors the survival of the fittest by any means necessary, including the killing of the less fit.
Reason is not enough. Only if there is a God who forbids murder is murder definitively evil. Otherwise its wrongfulness is a matter of opinion. Mao and Seneca approved of murder; we disapprove. What makes us think we’re right?
This perspective contrasts with that typically offered by atheists and agnostics, who assert that right and wrong can be discerned without reference to the supernatural. As a Christian, it is tempting to respond to such skeptics as PJ Lifestyle contributor John Hawkins did while affirming Jacoby.
In 1967 the Beatles song “When I’m Sixty-Four” appeared on the now iconic Sgt. Pepper album, and many, including this writer, considered age 64 “old.” (Of course, I was only 12, but 64 was old at that time.)
But when General Norman Schwarzkopf recently died at age 78, I did not consider him old.
So what happened to change my view of when old age begins?
Well for starters, I got old along with the 76 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 who are affectionately known as “baby boomers.” Boomers transformed America at every stage of life. Unfortunately, our nation was totally unprepared for all the change we brought every step of the way and now is no different.
Last year at an Aging in America conference, Ken Dychtwald, CEO of the consulting firm AgeWave, summed it up like this:
“We weren’t prepared for the boomers,” he said. “There weren’t enough hospitals or pediatricians. There weren’t enough bedrooms in our homes. There weren’t enough schoolteachers or textbooks or playgrounds. The huge size of this generation has strained institutions every step of the way.”
Then Dychtwald compared his New Jersey high school, with such overcrowding that students had to go to classes in shifts, to what’s in store for aging baby boomers in the coming decades.
“The boards of education had 13 years to see this coming. What was the surprise there?” said Dychtwald. “But it’s the same today with senior care and geriatric medicine and continuum of care. It’s staggering how unprepared we are.”
Yes, it is staggering indeed — and, as the saying goes, “we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”
I lost the argument with my wife. Should we encourage our children’s faith in Santa Claus? I was concerned that doing so might later undermine both our credibility as parents and our children’s belief in God.
It may not be a conversation that most couples have. Then again, must couples don’t include a former Jehovah’s Witness who was raised without holidays. As a child, I absorbed the cold hard truth dispensed from my parents. There was no Santa Claus. Other children’s parents cruelly lied to them. The privilege of knowing the truth served as consolation for receiving no presents.
Though I’ve long since rejected Jehovah’s Witness beliefs, my parents’ reasoning regarding the Santa fantasy lingered. Is there value in believing in something which is not true?
That question deserves careful consideration, and serves as a check against adult beliefs. In our postmodern, politically correct society, we commonly hear ecumenical equivocations like, “There are many paths to God.” While sharing my Christian faith, friends have more than once told me, “That’s your truth.” That rebuke stops short of saying my faith is false, claiming only that it is no more or less true than any other. But if that proves somehow valid, if one person’s faith in a flying spaghetti monster is no more or less true than my faith in Jesus Christ, what value is there in holding to either?
“Exactly!” an atheist might say. “Faith in Jesus is no better than faith in either Santa Claus or the flights of a pasta god.”
In Leonard Peikoff’s The Ominous Parallels, the ardent atheist and intellectual heir to objectivist philosopher Ayn Rand defines faith as the opposite of reason:
“Faith” designates blind acceptance of a certain ideational content, acceptance induced by feeling in the absence of evidence or proof.
Were this our working definition, I could agree that faith in anything is useless. However, this narrow view of faith does not encompass how the word is used in our culture. When a husband expresses faith in his wife, is he necessarily doing so in the absence of evidence? Or is his faith a bet made on the basis of past experience and intimate knowledge of her characteristics? Either scenario is possible, and surely men and women have been known to invest faith blindly. However, as a friend to a married person, we would not encourage blind faith in the same manner we would that informed by evidence.
On Christmas Eve, gather up your loved ones and to listen to Amy Grant sing Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song).
This is my favorite modern Christmas song and one I cannot listen to without tearing up.
The song takes you inside the mind and heart of the person who would become the world’s most revered Jewish teenage mother as she is about to give birth, in the most difficult of circumstances, to a baby she was chosen to bear — the One who will impact the world like no other.
Merry Christmas to all and especially those who truly love this mother and Baby.