License Plate Storm Brewing

Indiana License Plate
Indiana License Plate
Here in Indiana, there has been a battle going for many years about what you can put on a license plate. Personalized plates are legal here, but they must meet three criteria:

*They cannot carry a connotation offensive to good taste or decency.
*They cannot be misleading.
*The BMV (Bureau of Motor Vehicles) cannot consider it improper.

In 2013 when the BMV refused to allow a motorist to have a plate that just had “OINK” written on it, the ACLU sued. Almost any religious message has been considered offensive and improper, so “Jesus Saves” has been rejected and having the name of a church has been rejected. These cases have been local because no one wanted to go to court until this February when Chris Bontrager of Goshen was told he couldn’t put “ATHEIST” on a plate. The ACLU got involved again, and on March 20 Bontrager got his plate.

The question now becomes why an atheist should be allowed to put his belief system on the plate when no one else has been given the same privilege. The answer may simply be that no one asked, but you can be sure there will be people jumping on the wagon at this point, and all kinds of messages will be suggested.

Part of the problem here is the question of religious pluralism. If “CHRISTIAN” can’t be put on the plate because it is offensive to Hindus, Muslims, or Atheists, why can’t the same logic apply to “ATHEIST.” Stay tuned.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Global Warming Nonsense

Global Warming Thermometer
Global Warming
The “hot button topic” for a wide variety of people today is the issue of global warming. It is easy to understand why political figures want to use this issue to manipulate their followers, but followers of Jesus Christ seem to be getting swept up in the paranoia also. Jesus said, “Take care that no one misleads you. For many will come claiming my name and saying, ‘I am the Messiah’; and many will be misled by them. The time is coming when you will hear the noise of battle near at hand and the news of battles far away; see that you are not alarmed. Such things are bound to happen; but the end is still to come. For nation will make war upon nation, kingdom upon kingdom; there will be famines and earthquakes in many places. With all these things the birth-pangs of the new age begin” (Matthew 24:5-8 NEB). We need to be informed, but global warming is not of eternal significance. Some people try to make a religion of climate change. We can get involved scientifically or politically if we so choose, but let us not get involved religiously.

So what are the facts?
#1. Climate change is happening. Anyone can look at climate data worldwide and see the changes on a global scale. This is global–not local. We just had the warmest winter here in Michigan that I can remember, and I have lived here almost 60 years, but that is not directly due to global warming.

#2. This is not the first time. The Earth’s rocks show periods of warming and cooling. Natural processes cause changes in the Sun which affect the Earth. Geologic events such as volcanic eruptions can affect climate for long periods of time.

#3. Humans have altered the planet. This isn’t even worth commenting on, and what we have done has effects that are still unknown. God told us to “take care of the garden” (Genesis 2:15), and as custodians of the planet, we need to take care of it. Releasing greenhouse gasses indiscriminately would seem to be failing to do that.

#4. There are consequences to what we do and what we don’t do. As an example, cancer is mostly caused by human actions. The list of diseases human actions have caused or catalyzed is enormous. Not managing Earth’s resources well has cost us dearly in the past, and it will do so in the future.

Jesus said not to let these things disturb our minds. As Christians, we need to keep our eye on the cross and on our journey to an eternal home free of global warming, war, and all the other things that concern people about the physical world in which we live. The physical is important, but the spiritual is far more significant.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Setting Standards

Thomas Jefferson by Charles Willson Peale 1791
Thomas Jefferson by Charles Willson Peale 1791
One of the more convincing evidences that the Bible is inspired and not the work of human minds is the fact that it gives a proven, workable, testable, logical standard of conduct that improves the condition of all humans and brings real meaning to life. Skeptics and atheists do not like to hear that, and they will argue vociferously against it. In modern times, we have had a parade of philosophers from Ayn Rand to the secular humanists of the American Humanist Association that have suggested alternatives, all based on the “virtuous nature of humankind.” It is easy to show from a historical standpoint that such standards are doomed to failure.

Thomas Jefferson founded The University of Virginia in 1819. Jefferson dreamed of a public college which would have no regulations nor rules. Students of “good report” would be admitted and expected to practice “good will and judgment” that would respect the rights and property of others. Jefferson called it the “Grand Experiment” in which democracy and public education were brought together. It is important to note that it had a faculty and student body composed of the “cream of the crop.” There were no religious values imposed on the students and no rules concocted by previous generations that could be construed as an attempt by elders to manipulate, control, or restrict the younger generation. The University of Virginia offered an opportunity to see where highly educated, intelligent people would go with a lack of external rules and regulations.

The University of Virginia experiment of the 1820s was a total failure. Students did not go to class, drinking became a major problem, all kinds of offensive sexual conduct was carried on, and violence escalated. One night, 14 students high on alcohol went on a rampage assaulting professors with bricks and canes. The trustees of the University held a special meeting with the 82-year-old Jefferson in attendance. In his speech, Jefferson called the grand experiment “the most painful event of his life” and sat down with tears of grief unable to finish his speech. The board of trustees then enacted a series of rules and regulations along with a code of conduct that was rigidly enforced.

One might argue that a total lack of rules and regulations is unworkable, but that the Christian system is only one of hundreds of systems which will work equally well. To see the fallacy of that argument, look at what other systems have done. Look at what communism, as practiced in Russia, China, or North Korea, has produced. See what monarchies over the millennia have done to and for their subjects. Consider how women have been treated in Muslim cultures or how science and technology have fared in animalistic ancestor-worship cultures. While it’s true that some horrible things have been done in the name of Christianity, those atrocities were done in diametric contradiction to Christ and his teachings.

The Christian standard calls for serving others and putting them first. The Christian system rewards love, service, generosity, gentleness, and self-sacrifice. Other systems emphasize loving material things and using other people to get those things. The contrast between the teachings of Christ and all human systems is dramatic. We are surrounded by a culture trying every standard for successful living except real Christianity. The superiority of Christ’s example and teaching is always there for us to see.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

How Close Are We to a Nuclear Holocaust?

Nuclear Explosion
Nuclear Explosion
One thing that seems to never go away is the incredible stupidity of human beings. Every day we see people do things that not only don’t make sense but in many cases are clearly wrong. Scientific American (March 2017, page 10) has some data that shows just how close the world has come to annihilation due to the failures of humans to manage nuclear resources wisely.

The article states that both the United States and Russia have about 900 nukes ready to launch. In 1983 the Russian detection system said the U.S. missiles were on their way. A Russian military officer had a gut feeling that it was a false alarm, and didn’t push the button that would have plunged the world into a nuclear war. It turned out he was right. In 1979 a similar situation developed in the United States which activated ballistic missiles and nuclear bomber crews. Satellites could not verify the alert, so the retaliation was not ordered. It turned out that training software which had a simulation built in had found its way into the alert system. In 1974 during his impeachment proceedings, President Nixon said to reporters: “I can go into my office and pick up the telephone, and in 25 minutes 70 million people will be dead.” There were those who were worried that he would do just that.

The point of all this is that humans continue to allow materialism, nationalism, and personal power struggles to dominate the future of the planet. Albert Einstein is reported to have said, “If world war three is fought with nuclear weapons, world war four will be fought with clubs.” Given this, the importance of getting people to see the wisdom of Christ and His teachings of peace cannot be over-emphasized, In Matthew 24 Jesus predicted that future generations would do stupid things, “You will learn of wars and rumors of wars … famines, bogus religions” etc. Rather than be panicked by all this and what is happening to the world, we need to be encouraged to look to the time when God will put an end to all of the stupidity, and all of God’s children will be at peace with one another and with God. Matthew 24 describes that in some detail, and it is worth reading again in our age of foolish talk.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Illegal Prayers

Hands Of Praying
Hands Of Praying
Let me give you a hypothetical situation. In Irving, Texas my daughter lived near a housing development that was bought, built, and developed by a Muslim businessman. He did not allow any non-Muslim to purchase property or build a house within the development. This man even built a mosque on the property for the use of the residents. The development is run by a group of Muslim commissioners who manage the finances and make decisions about maintenance and new construction. This group meets once a month and opens each meeting with a prayer which is led by one of the commissioners.

So far this discussion is factual, but now let us suggest the hypothetical part. Let’s suppose that one of the owners within the development converted to Christianity. He goes to a development board meeting which is opened by a Muslim who leads a Muslim prayer. The Christian is offended because it was not a Christian prayer, and so he sues claiming that allowing the Muslim prayer is preferring one religion over another.

Now back to the factual. In an Associated Press headline dated February 16, 2017, we read “Court Says County Prayers are Illegal.” The board of commissioners of Jackson County, Michigan, begins each meeting with prayer led by one of the commissioners. All of the commissioners are Christians. One man who has been attending the meetings was offended by the prayers and filed a lawsuit. The man lost in U.S. District Court, so the case was appealed. What the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled is that “prayer invocations can be legal” but the Jackson County Board of Commissioners couldn’t just have Christian prayers. Suggesting that board members who are of one faith should lead a prayer of a different faith not only is somewhat ludicrous but would be offensive to most religions. If a Muslim ran for the board of commissioners and was elected, that person could lead a Muslim prayer. The offended man was described in one news story as a “pagan.” How would he not be offended by any prayer? Requiring that no invocation could be given would be tantamount to the government endorsing atheism. The founding fathers gave us the blessing of freedom of religion and the separation of church and state, but they never intended to turn America into an atheist state.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Human Embryos-People or Property?

Fetal Development
Fetal Development
A Missouri appeals court has ruled that a couple’s frozen embryos are joint property, not children. The woman sued her ex-husband for the right to implant the embryos they conceived through in-vitro fertilization. The court ruled that the embryos are joint property so both the woman and the man must consent to their use. This is in spite of Missouri state law which says that life begins at conception. The inconsistency of this ruling and of the mentality of the court is incredible. What would be the ruling if the embryos in question had been allowed to develop to nine months and the husband wanted to abort them in spite of the mother’s objection? Most pro-abortion politicians when asked the question of when an embryo becomes a human have responded by saying they haven’t investigated the issue, and yet that is fundamental to this entire debate. When the sperm meets the egg and fertilizes it, what is left if not a property or some other animal, it is a human being. We would suggest that the baby so conceived is a human and should have all the rights that you and I have. The court case was reported in Christianity Today, January/February 2017, page 20.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

A “Christian” Congress?

US Captial

The recent election is unpopular with lots of people for many different reasons. Atheists are unhappy because the percentage of elected officials who call themselves “Christian” is the highest it has been in many years. All but three members of the Senate call themselves “Christian” when asked their religious faith, and the same percentage applies to the House of Representatives. Atheists in their blogs are not very excited about that.

When prisons release the faith preferences of inmates, “Christian” dominates prisoner choices. In most prisons over 90% of the prisoners say they are Christians. The number of atheists is in the single digits. Atheists like to brag about that, but there is a simple explanation of why prisons have so many “Christians” and so few “atheists.” First of all, in most prisons the information cards the inmates fill out do not have “atheist” as a choice. They are forced to check a Christian denomination, Buddhist, Hindu or Muslim. The more important point is that prisoners are anxious to please the warden or powers that can facilitate their release, so they will check whatever they think will get them out sooner.

Politicians are prisoners of the dominant religion of the people voting for them. The fact that some politicians might not know the difference between 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians could be a clue as to how much influence their faith has on their votes on social issues. We’ll see if any Christian values show up in the next two to six years.
–John N. Clayton © 2017