Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Freedom - You Keep Using That Word...

...I do not think it means what you think it means. 

Pope Francis appeared before Congress this past week, and in a meandering speech touched on numerous current issues. Normally, I would simply ignore a religious leader's opinion on politics. But this pope continues to push ideas that have no place in the United States, and are often contrary to God's Word. I especially found his continual use of words like "free, freedom, and liberty" rather odd.

Building a future of freedom requires love of the common good and cooperation in a spirit of subsidiarity and solidarity.
That sounds rather consistent with America's founding principles. All decisions should be handled at the lowest possible political level, leaving it to the individual would always be the ideal. That is true freedom. "Building a future of freedom" would require rolling back the massive growth of the Federal bureaucracy over the last 60 years, and drastically shrinking government at all levels. Somehow, I don't think that is what this pope has in mind.

A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms.
I found this quote very interesting. Throughout history, what economic systems have been most prone to violence, and which ones were best at protecting individual freedom? Socialism, Fascism, and Communism gave us death camps, extermination by hunger, wars, gulags, killing fields, political prisoners, censorship, oppression, shortages, ethnic cleansing, and many other splendid accomplishments. The Feudalism of the past was not much better, leading to constant conflict and little freedom for the majority of people. Only Capitalism, best exemplified by the post-industrialized United States, shines in comparison. Freedom flourished, economic growth was unprecedented, and millions were lifted out of poverty.

Consider the various religions and ideologies, and the savagery they have unleashed on mankind. Even a cursory review of history's darkest hours reveals a common thread - rejection of God's Word. The pagan empires of antiquity tortured, murdered, and enslaved their conquered foes by the thousands. Islamic attacks on infidels, piracy, and slavery has continued unabated for almost 1400 years. Catholicism's golden age, when the religion dominated Europe, included violent suppression of dissent, religious wars, torture, genocide, and unspeakable barbarism. After centuries of oppression, reformers broke free from Rome's iron fist. And once they were in the majority and had power, many Protestants returned the favor, demonstrating that Christianity without Christ is just another religion, and no better than the pagans. Intellectuals told us they had a better way apart from God. Their foolishness gave rise to the economic systems mentioned above. Their philosophies devalue life, and the lack of a moral foundation leads to diabolical concepts like eugenics, population control, and family planning. Secular humanists attack the very foundation of society, undermining family and faith. Without God, they become their own deity, choosing life for themselves, and violence and death for those they deem unworthy. The weak, elderly, poor, and innocent become victims of cruel experiments, euthanasia, forced sterilization, and abortions. The latter alone has claimed the lives of over 1 Billion children just in the last 50 years!

The United States, while far from perfect, was founded for the very purpose of religious freedom. The Founders, inspired by God's Wisdom, placed a premium on Liberty for the individual - the smallest minority. No delicate balance is needed when the foundation is built on THE ROCK. Religious freedom would not even exist without the Founders understanding the Liberty Believers have in Christ, and the oppression of the past. To preserve this Freedom, all that is required is that everyone respects the Rule of Law, and understands that their Liberty ends when it clashes with the Liberty of another. Cutting off the heads of infidels may be desirable in your homeland, but it is unacceptable in a land where people have the right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Torturing and burning people for fun and profit who disagree with your religious system is contrary to both the Word, and Freedom. Genocide in the name of a deity, religion, economic system, the Fatherland, or the Motherland, is not exactly safeguarding the freedom of anyone.

America has had its dark moments. However, no nation has done more to defend Freedom globally. Very few countries have conquered nations, and even empires, only to give them back to the people and assist in their reconstruction. No nation has shed more blood, or shared more wealth with the rest of humanity than the United States of America.

But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners.
When I read this quote, I wondered if Pope Francis has ever really studied God's Word. I truly want to give him the benefit of the doubt, but this is an egregious departure from the Truth. Consider just a few verses from God's Word.

1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 (KJV)
21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.

This is written by Paul to Believers in the New Testament. He warns Christians to even avoid the appearance of evil. Believers are in the world, but not of the world. There should be no compromise with evil, or even the appearance of evil. That does not mean any departure from the Law of Love. (Matthew 22:35-40, 1 John 3)

John 10:10 (KJV)
10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

This is the Bible's dividing line. The thief is Satan, the enemy of man. His children imitate him. God's children imitate Jesus. Knowing John 10:10 will help you understand what went wrong throughout most of Christendom's history.  If you are imitating Satan, stealing, killing, and destroying, you cannot be following Christ.

There is Light and darkness, Good and evil, Love and selfishness, and most importantly Children of God - those made alive in Christ, and children of disobedience - those who are spiritually dead. Light cannot compromise with darkness. And as a champion of Christianity, the pope should know this. God has made it quite clear throughout His Word what He considers evil. This should not be up for debate. The same goes for what He considers Good.

Proverbs 16:25 (KJV)
25 There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.

Isaiah 5:20-21 (KJV)
20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
21 Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!

Nothing is more dangerous to a Believer than relativism. Without clinging to God's Word, man will always compromise with the world. There is no Truth apart from His Word. The moment you start seeing the world in shades of gray, you are in trouble. If you value the reasoning man, or the theology of your denomination above God's Word, you end up in the religious ditch. The moment you elevate a leader, no matter how charismatic, above Jesus Christ, things go catawampus. There is only ONE HEAD in the Body of Christ, Jesus. And you cannot know Him apart from His Word and the Holy Spirit.

I would like to mention four of these Americans: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.
Of all the hundreds of great Americans you could pick as examples, why would you pick two obscure figures of the extreme religious left? Obviously, I have no problem with Lincoln and King being mentioned. The other two show a profound misunderstanding of what has made this nation great. BTW - if you had to look these folks up, you are not alone. I had no clue who they were.

We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism.
This is a true statement, but not in the way Pope Francis intends. Religion is everything man does apart from God's Word. Faith comes from hearing God's Word. (Romans 10:17) And faith is the only way you can please the Father. (Hebrews 11:6) Apart from God's Living Word, you can do nothing. His Word must abide in you in order to bear fruit. (John 15:1-8) The pope is correct, no RELIGION is immune from delusion and extremism. The difference is that TRUE Christianity is RELATIONSHIP with the Father through Jesus. It is NOT religion.

Delusion is thinking you can chart your own path to God apart from His Truth. That was the sin of Cain. By faith, Abel offered a lamb as his substitute as a sacrifice to God. It was accepted. Since Abel did it by faith, we know that he followed God's Word. Cain offered produce from the cursed ground. It was not accepted. There is a profound contrast here. Following God's way versus man's way. One was by faith, while the other was by works. All religious error, including much within Christianity, flows from a choice between following Christ, or religion, God's Grace, or human merit, His Word, or the reasoning of theologians. Choose your path wisely. It will save you from much frustration. And note, even after murdering his brother, God was still reaching out to Cain. God is LOVE. He will never give up on you as long as you are alive. (Genesis 3, 4, Romans 1, Ephesians 2, Hebrews 11:4)

Even in the developed world, the effects of unjust structures and actions are all too apparent. Our efforts must aim at restoring hope, righting wrongs, maintaining commitments, and thus promoting the well-being of individuals and of peoples.

The quickest way to promote the well-being of individuals is to set them free, spiritually, economically, and politically. Oppressive governments, religious bondage, and spiritual darkness hinders God's Blessing.

In Laudato Si’, I call for a courageous and responsible effort to “redirect our steps” (ibid., 61), and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity.
I addressed his global warming manifesto previously. Its so sad that someone who claims to represent God on Earth, has such little faith in the Creator's ability to prepare this planet, fully anticipating everything mankind might do. I wonder, does the pope know who ultimately owns this planet? The Earth is the Lord’s. The world and all its people belong to Him. He created the Heavens and the Earth. (Genesis 1, Psalm 24:1, 89:5-18) The Earth long ago was created by God's Word, and then it was destroyed by water and darkness. The present Earth is preserved by that same Word until the day of judgment. (2 Peter 3:3-8)

And speaking of Freedom again, who determines what is environmental deterioration, and what is economic or human progress? What the pope imagines is hurting the planet, may actually be creating jobs, protecting the environment, or improving lives. Our heavenly Father gave the Earth to us. (Psalm 115:12-18) He gave man dominion over the Earth, and authority over all things. (Psalm 8) God made the world to be inhabited, He made it for His children. (Isaiah 45:18) He instructed both Adam and Noah to be fruitful and fill the Earth. (Genesis 1:28. 9:1)

Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a “culture of care” (ibid., 231) and “an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature” (ibid., 139).
Nature does not need protecting at the expense of humanity, or individual Liberty. We certainly do not need more government oversight and regulation. We need less government, more private ownership of land, and more of God's Wisdom. We need FREEDOM from economic, political, and religious bondage. Giving more power to spiritually dead politicians, religious leaders, and agitators is a recipe for even more final solutions.

“We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology” (ibid., 112); “to devise intelligent ways of… developing and limiting our power” (ibid., 78); and to put technology “at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral” (ibid., 112).

Who is the "we" in his statement. Because if government bureaucrats, or some global enforcement agency, is limiting the use of technology and/or energy consumption, there is no Freedom. Oil, gas, nuclear, and coal, are the most efficient forms and energy, and readily available without the constraints of government. They have fueled economic prosperity for over a century. Would the pope deny those in developing countries the ability to enjoy what most people in the developed world take for granted? Can those nations struggling to emerge from poverty do this without modern technology, and the energy required to drive this progress? And further, would the pope have those in the developed world relinquish one hundred years of economic and technological progress simply to equalize the misery on a global scale? Where is his compassion for humanity?

On this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is this not what we want for our own children? We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal. We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome.

America is a very welcoming nation to those seeking freedom and the American dream. Over a million LEGAL immigrants arrive annually. However, what is happening on our Southern Border can be best described as an invasion. As Believers, we can and should be compassionate. But we also have to obey the laws of the land. There is a LEGAL way to enter this country. If people disobey the immigration laws, they are ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS and should be deported. Nobody should be rewarded for breaking immigration laws - especially when millions spend their hard-earned wealth and time to be admitted legally. If you do not like the immigration laws, change them. Its troubling when religious folks encourage illegal activity. The pope should remember Peter's inspired words on this subject.

1 Peter 2:13-16 (KJV)
13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;
14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.
15 For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:
16 As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.

They too need to be given hope. The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes. I know that many Americans today, as in the past, are working to deal with this problem. 

 It goes without saying that part of this great effort is the creation and distribution of wealth. The right use of natural resources, the proper application of technology and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential elements of an economy which seeks to be modern, inclusive and sustainable.
Throughout his time as pope, there have been plenty of hints of his socialist leanings. It should be no surprise since he was raised in Argentina. His attacks against Capitalism specifically, and the United States indirectly, are misplaced. America has never had true economic Freedom. Government has been picking winners and losers, and regulating businesses and industries into bankruptcy for decades. However, even with so much state involvement, no nation has ever lifted more people out of poverty, or created more jobs, wealth, and quality of life than the United States. I have seen what socialism does to countries. Even the "good kind" in the Nordic nations that is often hailed as a model for the world, features unmotivated drones who are little more than slaves of the state. Everyone is equally miserable, unless you get the golden ticket into the club that enforces the misery on others. If he truly cares about the poor, making everyone else poor is not the answer, nor is it Scriptural.

2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 (KJV)
10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.
11 For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.
12 Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.

Success, wealth, and prosperity never come before work, except in the dictionary.

Ephesians 4:28 (KJV)
28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.

To all those religious socialists out there including the pope, look at God's formula - work with your own hands so that you can give to those in need. Note that it says GIVE, not confiscation and redistribution by a government.

2 Corinthians 9:6-8 (KJV)
6 But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.
7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.
8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:

All of 2 Corinthians 9 is germane. Note the emphasis of giving from the heart. This has nothing to do with government redistribution. This lays out God's economy. Believers give from the heart, trust God's Word, and He makes sure that His Favor and Blessing is working, supplying all needs in abundance. (see also Proverbs 19:17, Luke 6:38, Philippians 4:15-19)

Deuteronomy 8:18 (KJV)
18 But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.

Proverbs 10:22 (KJV)
22 The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.

Prosperity and wealth comes from the Lord, not from governments, economic systems, or redistribution schemes. The state will NEVER be able to provide every need, much less the desires of everyone. But God certainly can.

I bristle at the notion that the United States even needs a lecture on giving, or helping the poor. Individuals in the US give nearly $30 Billion a year to charities. That is more than the economies of most nations. No nation has sent out more missionaries, fed more people, built more orphanages, or sent more Bibles worldwide than Christians in America. $4 TRILLION is taken every year from taxpayers and sent around the world, often given to tyrants, or people who hate us. Knowing how governments waste money, I am pretty certain very few of those dollars truly helps anyone. And yet the pope and his lefty friends demand more redistribution?

Since 1964, US Taxpayers have had over $22 Trillion taken from them and given to the "poor" in a vain attempt to win the war on poverty. That figure does not even include social security and medicare, which are also redistribution programs. America has some of the richest poor folks in the world, almost half own their own home, many have cable TV, AC, computers and a higher quality of life than many taxpayers. Its no surprise many people want to come here and enjoy the gravy train. Its anecdotal, but I often stand in line with guests at Walmart buying carts full of food that would break my budget with their Lone Star card - the EBT of Texas. While waiting in line, they check their Facebook on the latest iPhone. I'm still rocking my 3-year old Android that I bought for under $50. And as I am leaving in my 20 year old vehicle, I often find them pulling ahead of me in a late model SUV. I'm not complaining or envious. I am debt free, and very Blessed. Simply making the point that this nation has made far too many people comfortable in their poverty. The programs designed to help the poor, to be a safety net when hard times hit, are now nothing more than a hammock for too many people. Spiritually, we are doing the poor a great disservice. If a person is dependent on the state for survival, stuck on the government plantation if you will, are they really Free? There is only one way to be truly Free.

John 8:31-32 (KJV)
31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

This is what the pope SHOULD be discussing. Setting people Free through God's Word. That is why I wonder if he truly understands what Freedom in Christ really means.


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