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All posts for the month July, 2012

The Pledge of Allegiance

Published July 20, 2012 by thinkinbout

I received and email years and years ago, and I don’t know if it’s true or not, but it was too good not to share. I printed it out so I have no idea who sent it to me anymore. It’s called “The Pledge of Allegiance,” by John McCain.

“As you may know, I spent 5.5 years as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. In the early years of our imprisonment, the NVA kept us in solitary confinement or 2 or 3 to a cell. In 1971 the NVA moved us from these conditions of isolation into large rooms with as many as 30 or 40 men to a room.

This was, as you can imagine, a wonderful change and was a direct result of the efforts of millions of Americans on behalf of a few hundred POWs 10,000 miles from home.

One of the men who moved into my room was a young man name Mike Christian. Mike came from a small town near Selma, AL. He didn’t wear a pair of shoes until he was 13 years old. At 17, he enlisted in the US Navy. He later earned a commission by going to Officer Training School. Then he became a Naval Flight Officer and was shot down and captured in 1967. Mike had a keen and deep appreciation of the opportunities this country and our military provide for people who want to work and want to succeed.

As part of the change in treatment, the Vietnamese allowed some prisoners to receive packages from home. In some of these packages were handkerchiefs, scarves and other items of clothing.

Mike got himself a bamboo needle. Over a period of a couple of months, he created an American flag and sewed it on the inside of his shirt.

Every afternoon, before we had a bowl of soup, we would hang Mike’s shirt on the wall of the cell and say the Pledge of Allegiance. I know the Pledge of Allegiance may not seem the most important part of our day now, but I can assure you that in that stark cell it was indeed the most important and meaningful event. One day the Vietnamese searched our cell, as they did periodically, and discovered Mike’s shirt with the flag sewn inside, and removed it.

That evening they returned, opened the door of the cell, and for the benefit of all of us, beat Mike Christian severely for the next couple of hours. Then, they opened the door of the cell and threw him in. We cleaned him up as well as we could.

The cell in which we lived had a concrete slab in the middle on which we slept. Four naked light bulbs hung in each corner of the room.

As I said, we tried to clean up Mike as well as we could. After the excitement died down, I looked in the corner of the room, and sitting there beneath that dim light bulb with a piece of red cloth, another shirt and his bamboo needle, was my friend, Mike Christian. He was sitting there with his eyes almost shut from the beating he had received, making another American flag. He was not making the flag because it made Mike Christian feel better. He was making that flag because he knew how important it was to us to be able to pledge our allegiance to our flag and country.

So the next time you say the Pledge of Allegiance, you must never forget the sacrifice and courage that thousands of Americans have made to build our nation and promote freedom around the world. You must remember our duty, our honor, and our country.

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

To be continued…

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The Christian Divorce Culture

Published July 2, 2012 by thinkinbout

Below is what I read in a magazine in September of 2000-long before I knew it would hit so close to home.

“…where did [syndicated columnist Geneva Overholser and others get the idea that most churches no longer oppose divorce? Maybe from the way churches, including evangelical churches, have handled the matter lately. 

     The problem is not confined to one denomination or subgroup. The most recent high-profile example happened this spring, in the divorce of Charles Stanley, pastor of the 5,000 member First Baptist Church of Atlanta. Stanley acknowledged the gravity of divorce when he promised a few years earlier to re-sign if he were to divorce when he promised a few years earlier to resign if he were to divorce. But after Stanley’s 44 year marriage ended, Gearl Spicer, the church’s administrative pastor, told the congregation that Stanley would continue as the church’s senior pastor. At this the congregation stood and applauded.

     Spicer added, “It is my biblical, spiritual and personal conviction that God has positioned Dr. Stanley in a place where his personal pain has validated his ability to minister to all of us.”

     A prominent friend of Stanley’s said he was “deeply sympathetic with the sorrow I know all of the Stanley family must feel over this.” How the matter was handled privately, we do not know. But so nervous are we these days about being judgemental, condemning, and so on, few bothered to suggest publicly that Stanltey’s divorce was morally wrong.

     Divorce is certainly not the unforgivalbe sin, and when a couple divorces, it is only right that the chruch show compassion and understanding- especially in cases where abuse or truly irrconcilable issues have made the marriage a misery and a mockery.

     But htere’s no getting around it: whether we define sin as a transgression of Christ’s commands, missing the mark, or the breaking of relationships, divorce is a sin. To be sure, divorce is sometimes the lesser of two evils, but it nonetheless nullifies God’s intent. God joins people together; he doesn’t pull them apart.

     Why emphasize the moral dimension? Partly because treating divorce as a therepeutic problem only gets us so far. We need to raise the stakes, or better, to show once again how high the stakes really are.

      As a recent study by George Barna showed, the percentage of born-again Christians who have been divorced (27) actually beats the national average by 2 points. ‘While is may be alarming to discover that born-again Christians are more likely than others to experience a divorce,’ says Barna, ‘that pattern has been in place for quite some time.’

     Barbara Dafoe Whitehead argued in The Divorce Culture that divorce is not just a therapeutic problem but a moral one in which, to use biblical language, the commandment to love is thwarted: ‘Divorce has brought a steady weakening of the primary human relationships and bonds,’ says Whitehead. ‘Men’s and women’s relationships are becoming more fleeting and unreliable. Children are losing ties with their fathers. Even a mother’s love is not forever.’ This is precisely why she concluded that if we are to ‘dismantle the culture of divorce,’ we need to ‘treat divorce as a morally as well as socially consequential event.’

     What might this mean practically? First, we can stop using euphemisms. Divorce is more than a ‘tragedy,’ a ‘painful experience,’ a ‘great loss.’ It is the thwarting of God’s will. It is something that tears at the fabric of our moral univerise. As such, as Whitehead has reminded us, it creates ripples of moral and social consequences.

     Second, when pastors and other Christian leaders in significant teaching or preaching positions divorce, they should be held as accountable as they are for certain other sins, like adultery. At a minimum , time out for spiritual direction and healing, as well as a public service of repentance and renewal, are essential before public responsibility can be given again.

     If we were to make clear that divorce is also a moral issue, we would send a strong signal, stronger than we have sent for some time, that except in the most dreadful circumstances, divorce is not an acceptable alternative for Christians.”

     Some of you who know me, know my growing disillusionment and disgust with the modern church. Unfortunately, it is not a place where people with real hurts, fear or problems can turn without feeling judged or comfortable. But certain issues such as divorce, need to be taken seriously.  There is a reason God says, “I hate divorce” in the book of Malachi. Its long term consequences seep into other relationships and cause havoc that I never knew I would experience. While divorce is an everyday occurrence, it’s a despicable, harmful, disastrous thing.