A recent Gallup poll shows that 81% of Americans today rate the overall state of moral values in our country as poor or fair (45% and 36% respectively). And 77% of American's believe America's moral values are getting worse.
At the church where I pastor, I have been asked, "Pastor, what is this world coming to?" Actually, Christians for years have been decrying the moral decline in America for years. More than 25 years ago I had a teacher, who in his 60s, quoted his elementary school teacher saying, "If Jesus doesn't come back soon, He will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah!"
At present, more than 40 actors, media, or political personalities have been accused of sexual misconduct in 2017. The majority of that number being accused just since October. Even last week, the news of the firing of an NBC morning show anchor for misconduct made the rounds through the media outlets, and he wasn't the only surprise firing that happened either!
"The Protest is Over!" At least that is what Anglican Bishop Tony Palmer declared at a Kenneth Copeland pastoral leadership conference on January 21, 2014. "The Protest is over," repeated Palmer, "and if there is no protest, how can there be a Protestant Church?"
It seems to me that the line between Protestant and Catholic gets blurred more and more every year. Attitudes and opinions of the Roman Church by Protestants are softening. A mere 60 years ago the country was concerned about electing a Catholic President of the country. Today, religious affiliation has little or now influence on voters. In fact, according to an August 31, 2017, article by Pew Research, "Most American Protestants now say the two Christian traditions are more similar than different, religiously, and many U.S. Protestants espouse traditionally Catholic beliefs on some issues." In fact, the article went on to state that a full 36% of Protestant Americans do not believe in either sola fide (faith alone) or sola scriptura (Scripture alone).
He talked about how the brothers had money, but no food, so they came to Joseph. It's interesting, in the original story, the brothers came and bowed down to Joseph. The unity the Roman Church has always sought is one where the world church bows at her feet.
What have the last 500 years taught us? Is the Protest really over?
(Thoughts and reflections as I watched the General Conference Annual Council 2017.)
It happened when I was pastoring a smaller church in a large metropolitan area. We had a growing number teens and young adults in that church--but most of them weren't involved in church beyond weekend attendance.
Silvia and I invited this growing group of young people to a social evening. At some point in the evening I asked these teens and young adults why they weren't involved more. They responded that the "old people did everything" and they "felt judged if they did it any way but the way it has always been done."
So I asked them what they wanted. They wanted inspiring music--not just hymns (yes, even in the early 2000s, some church were still singing hymns, and this church was still using the 1941 edition of the SDA church hymnal--not even the 1985 copy!) They wanted to be involved in worship. At that time, my church had two elders and they always accompanied me on the platform. One did the offering appeal--the other the morning prayer. Next week, they traded. And they wanted more social activities. And they had quite a simple list of things that most Adventist churches had addressed a decade before.
"In that case," I responded, "why don't all of you who are baptized come to the next church business meeting and make it happen?"
"The adults won't let us..." one said.
"They will contradict us and overrule us..." said another.
"I don't know," I told them. "Not many people come out to church business meetings."
I've been to several websites who have had popups stating that they've "throttled back" today. I use Twitter and Dropbox regularly. They're protesting. I've not been on Netflix, but understand they are throttled back on speed in protest as well. It has to do with net neutrality. If you haven't heard about this, the ultimate effect is massive limitation of free speech and free markets.
Here's what would happen: Without net neutrality, Internet Service Provider (ISPs) giants like Verizon and Comcast place a fee, or "tax", for company websites to have faster speeds--essentially creating fast lanes and slow lanes on the internet. Obviously, this creates an advantage for big companies with larger cashflows, even though the smaller company might have a better site or better innovation. What it does, it allows the internet to be bought by the highest bidder, leaving your content in the dark.
Until now the internet has been seen as a utility. If that classification changes, we will have giant ISP censorships, higher fees, and a dramatic decrease in the exchange of private citizen information.
Why this is serious to me is for two reasons: 1) My church has a website. We live stream our services and now have hundreds and thousands watching our rebroadcast on either YouTube or our Website. We have people watching our live broadcasts from a growing number of countries around the world. And it's not just my church--how many other churches live stream and use their website for ministry? Without net neutrality, we are effectively censored or at the very least, slowed down to a less effective speed where folks who might otherwise watch, lose interest. What if people live an area or have a certain service provider that limits YouTube? The ministry is reduced!
2) I have my own website. It's small and simple. But it's my place to share my thoughts, ideas, and ministry from. It probably wouldn't be affected much at first--though the videos posted through YouTube might. But it is an open door for greater regulations and censorship in the future.
I'm standing opposed to these proposed changes. I stand in favor of NET NEUTRALITY. I encourage everyone to look into this and write to your legislators ASAP, letting them know how you feel.
"A Bad Joke."
These are just some of the terms I've heard (or read) to describe #Election2016. For almost two years, we have been inundated with campaign news, speeches, debates, commentary, and scandals. And it's not just in the TV news, it's in the social sphere as well. I have limited myself on Facebook and Twitter because after a while it's not longer educational or informational, it's just tiring and depressing.
These candidates have slung the mud, have serious credibility issues, and aren't the most popular potential candidate in their own party. Yet, after today, one or the other will be elected Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful nation in the world.
I've had friends tell me that this time around they are just going to "hold their nose and vote." I've heard that before--four years ago... and eight years ago...
Actually, that got me thinking: What's really different about this election cycle? And the answer is, not much that I can tell. As I write this, I'm sitting in a waiting room that has a TV on in the corner. It's airing the "Today Show" that just took a look back at the last 40 years of elections. Do you know what they ALL had in common? The commentators called every election the "most hotly contested election in recent history." Whether it was Carter/Ford in 1976, Reagan/Carter in 1980, or Gore/Bush in 2000, they were all hotly contested.
So I did some research and discovered that almost every Presidential Election has been hotly contested going back to John Adams versus Thomas Jefferson in 1796, which ironically, was the first contested election in U.S. history. In fact, the election of 1800 (again between Adams and Jefferson) was the first election in which negative campaigning emerged.
For those interested in history, here are just a couple of contested elections in our history that literally had thoughtful citizens wondering what the world was coming to. (If you're not interested in history, skip down below to the point.)
What is the point?
New candidates. Same news. We're discussing policy and trustworthiness. Republican or Democrat. It's really and truly nothing new. Yet, somehow, the nation has continued--sometimes up, sometimes down. I guess the point is, does it really matter?
As a Christian pastor, I have come to conclusion that Satan is playing both sides of the political arena. I have watched as the ideology between Democrats and Republicans continues to move further and further apart. Partisanship drives votes. And the resulting effects of polarization in society is unmistakable. Just look at social media and count the number of posts of individuals claiming to have been "unfriended" because of political difference. Satan is having his way in the political arena. The division is growing.
Maybe it's over-simplification, but I'm just not losing sleep over who the next POTUS will be. Sure I've got my opinions just like everyone else. But as a student of Scripture, I know that the stuff happening now is small compared to what's coming. Revelation 13 speaks of a time of coerced religion and worship. It tells us of laws pertaining to religion. And it speaks of economic collapse.
Even though I believe Satan has been playing both sides, I also believe that at some point God is going to stand up and say, "Enough is enough." Daniel 2:21 reminds us that God sets up kings and dethrones them--or in this case, I believe, sets up Presidents and removes them.
So what do we do in the mean time? I say prayerfully vote your conscience today, if you are so inclined. Keep your eyes open and be a people of prayer. But don't lose friendships over it. That is of Satan--not God. Is one candidate better for the immediate future than the other? Perhaps, but we won't really know that answer for some time.
Therefore, I'm keeping my eyes heavenward. I believe God will have His way today. And ultimately, I believe, Jesus will win.