The Giver: Two thumbs up

Note: Spoiler alert

I hardly see any movies, but we went to see The Giver and I was pleasantly surprised.  It was family friendly and life affirming.  An overview via The Giver | Movie Review | Plugged In:

Imagine a place nearly free of all pain and suffering, where people are truly equal and everyone gets along. Imagine a place where hatred does not exist, where minds are not clouded by confusion or suffering, where the sun always shines and no one ever lies.

Jonas actually lives in such a world. He’s never known anything but. If there was ever another way, lost as it is in the folds of distant time, it’s best that it’s forgotten.

Well, forgotten by most.

 

Jonas dutifully bikes to the current Receiver of Memory’s house, built at the edge of the known world—quite literally on a cliff that plummets down into who-knows-what. He walks in and sees walls full of what the Receiver calls “books.” For the first time in his life, Jonas is encouraged to ask questions. And then, when the older Receiver—now called the Giver—clasps Jonas’ arms, the boy collects his first memory …

… of snow, fluttering and cold. Of a green fir-forested hillside wrapped in white powder. Of a sled careening down. Of wind-whipped hair and thudding heart and laughter and—

The memory ends. Jonas is back in his safe and serene, black-and-white world. But he’s been given his first glimpse into something that was lost, something both beautiful and terrifying that was banished so long ago.

. . .

 

Specifically, at the core of this story and at the core of the Community is the issue of euthanasia. Few seem to understand that “releasing” people (from the elderly to the not-quite-perfect babies) to the so-called Elsewhere is actually killing them. . .

 

Religion is among the many things eradicated in the Community, and when Jonas is receiving memories, he sees depictions of unfamiliar expressions of worship: a Christian infant baptism, Muslims bowing to Mecca, paper lanterns rising into the sky as part of an Eastern religious ceremony. And when he rides the sled in his first new memory, he slides toward a picturesque cabin where we hear people singing “Silent Night.”

. . .

I kinda feel for the founders of Jonas’ Community. Their intent, after all, was to create a grand and enjoyable utopia, not a devastatingly grayscale version of an Orwellian dystopia—a land so drained of real life that the world itself has lost its color. They just wanted to live someplace nice. They felt the same frustration that we do when we look at this fallen world of ours. They saw too much brutality. Too much hatred. Too much instability. With every generation, we find new ways to hurt each other and the world we live in. Every day, we find new ways to hurt ourselves.

The Giver believes that if humanity’s given another chance, we could do better. We could make better choices. But the Chief Elder isn’t so sure.

“When people have the freedom to choose, they choose wrong,” she says. “Every single time.”

She’s right more often than not, of course. We do choose wrong. We, as individuals and as a society, almost always choose wrong. It’s in our nature, a nature that’s overwhelmed with sin.

. . .

There’s no foul language in it. No sex scenes. No crude jokes. No gratuitous drug abuse. Hints of youthful attraction and snippets of violence are both restrained in their depictions and used fully in the service of the larger story and moral lesson.The Giver is a challenging film, to be sure. It deals with life, liberty, free will … and euthanasia, after all. But it never once wavers in its responsibility to escort moviegoers onto solid moral ground, to give them loads of positive material to think about and talk through afterwards.

The film focused more on euthanasia than infanticide, but you couldn’t miss the pro-life themes.   I understand that Meryl Streep is pro-choice, so I was surprised to see such life-affirming themes with her in the film.  Perhaps she doesn’t realize how the anti-euthanasia and anti-infanticide themes would apply to the unborn as well?

The approach of the leaders reminded me of Communism (Theme: Hey, once we kill the tens of millions of people who disagree with us, things will be great!).  They identified a problem (people sin) but came up with a solution that made things even worse. Sure, things were better in their world, as long as you stop considering infanticide, euthanasia, drugging people daily, etc. to be wrong.

I loved how it ended with Jonas coming upon a house with people singing Silent Night.  I think Christian films could learn from this.  They often suffer from stilted Gospel presentations, where they might have done better to do something more subtle, natural and artistic.

I also like how the Jeff Bridges character brought back the concept of love, then noted that with love come faith and hope (yes, that’s right out of 1 Corinthians 13).

If you are a movie-goer I encourage you to go see this.

On sports

Note: If you like spending time watching sports and it doesn’t interfere with your other priorities, good for you!  This isn’t about being Captain Buzzill here.  I’m just sharing where I’ve saved a lot of time and broken some bad habits.  

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I watch very few sporting events for the same reason I don’t gamble.  In absolute terms, the pain of losing $50 is much greater than the joy of winning $50.  Same thing with sports: The joy of my team winning after a 3-4 hour investment is much less than the irritation of them losing. Same thing for college sports.  Do I really want to let a mistake of some 20 year old on the playing field impact how much I enjoy my weekend?

And consider how in most leagues your team has a 1 in 30 chance of winning the championship.  Even if you are as fortunate as I’ve been as a Lakers / Steelers fan (yeah!), you will still have many more losing years than winning years.

It used to be that your team could win a championship, then you’d read about it for a week or so in Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News and that would be it.  Now you get many times the coverage of every lousy team every week than you used to get in a year.  You can waste much more time than before.

And it isn’t just that these athletes don’t care about you as a person (given that they don’t even know you), it is that they often have contempt for you and your views. At the risk of using a cliche, there is way, way too much information about athletes now.  The more I learn about what they think, the more I dislike them.  Magic Johnson shilling for Obamacare?  Kobe tweeting support for Jason Collins?  (Yeah, because Kobe is the go-to guy for sexual mores, right?)  The Steelers’ owner stumped extensively for Obama just because of his race?  Ugh.  And on and on.

So if you enjoy sports, that’s great.  It can be a great way to spend time with family and friends.  But I found one of the biggest savers of time and frustration ever by being very judicious about what I watch and read about.

Switching gears, how about sports participation?  I’m a huge fan of exercise and its many benefits.  We should all do at least a little exercise.  But hobbies like golf can become their own gods if we aren’t careful.  This was an excellent piece about putting golf in its place.  I’ve known people who golfed both days every weekend then lived with the guilt of drug-addicted kids (possibly unrelated, but . . .).  It is easy to pick on golf because I’ve only golfed twice, and those occasions were under duress (work outings).  As I’ve always said, other than being too time-consuming, expensive and frustrating, golf is the perfect sport.

But before you golf lovers hate on me, I concede that our idol-factory minds can make gods of any hobby.   The challenge is to keep whatever we do in perspective and do it for the right reasons.

So I encourage you to take a zero based budgeting approach with your sports time and see if it is in balance with what you want to accomplish in life.

Thou shall not commit adultery

Cross-posted at Stubborn Things as part of the Ten Commandments series

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The English Standard Version of the Bible uses whore 48 times to describe the worship of false gods.  For example:

Exodus 34:14-16 (ESV) 14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), 15 lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and when they whore after their gods and sacrifice to their gods and you are invited, you eat of his sacrifice, 16 and you take of their daughters for your sons, and their daughters whore after their gods and make your sons whore after their gods.

This illustration of rebellion against God makes simultaneously strong and unmistakable points: Worshiping other Gods is like sexual immorality and sexual immorality is like worshiping other Gods.  Both have devastating consequences and are the opposite of loving God and neighbor.

This verse summarizes Christ’s  standard well.  (I’m taking a little poetic license by using adultery synonymously with sexual immorality, but I think I’m on fairly solid ground with that.)

Ephesians 5:3 (NIV): But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.

Not even a hint.  That’s unusually specific.  Yet I’ve had lifetime churchgoers ask if sex out of wedlock is really a sin.  Recent polls show that churchgoers who support “same-sex marriage” have the same views about sexual immorality (porn, fornication, adultery, etc.) as the general population.  The world is just fulfilling its job description as rebels against the one true God.  It is the broader  church that isn’t doing its job.

Our society has sunk so low that it is not an exaggeration to say that the commandment has been reversed to thou shall commit adultery.  The alleged moral superiority of having sex before marriage to ensure compatibility is a convenient lie.  This is exacerbated by churches that pretend that God agrees with those ideas.

And feminism has so dominated society that otherwise-conservative and accurate Bible-believing leaders treat feminism as a given.  They assume that it is acceptable to be miserly with sex instead of being generous.  The rules have been turned upside down.  Even Christian women use sex as a weapon before marriage to land men, then after marriage to control them.

Our unwillingness to do anything about porn guarantees that things will continue to slide.  Men indulge themselves with porn and do far too little to fight it and to protect their families.  Women rejoice over 50 Shades of Grey and we use tax funding for Planned Parenthood to encourage kids to read it while experimenting with the BDSM lifestyle.  People indulging in heterosexual sins reflexively give the LGBTQX lobby a pass so they can rationalize their own behavior.

Women have bought the lie that serial monogamy and “frivorce” aren’t adultery.  If you divorce without biblical grounds then remarry, you commit adultery.  Churches went soft on this and we are paying the price.

The forms of rebellion shift but they are very effective at causing death and destruction.  The evidence for the damage caused by sexual immorality is irrefutable, yet the proposed solutions are all about giving kids the implicit and explicit message that we expect them to have sex before marriage.  Consider:

  • The vast majority of murders – i.e., abortions – occur because of sexual immorality.
  • The vast majority of fatherlessness is due to sexual immorality. This wreaks havoc on kids and ultimately fills our prisons while creating countless victims.
  • Many painful, life-wrecking, generation-impacting divorces occur because of sexual immorality.
  • Nearly 100% of STDs are due to sexual immorality.

Satan is evil but not stupid.  He has been using sexual immorality to rebel against God for millennia.  Jesus said this to the church in Ephesus:

Revelation 2 6 Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

So Jesus has things He hates?  Who knew?  Apparently the Nicolaitan false teachers were seducing Christians with idolatry and sexual immorality — much like the theological Liberal churches today.

Revelation 2 14 But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. 15 So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.

Given Jesus’ standards – and they are the only ones that ultimately matter — we have all sinned in this area.  By his grace we can still be adopted by God and completely forgiven if we repent and believe.  But if we really believe and if we really love God and neighbor we’ll fight this wave of sexual immorality inside and outside ourselves and inside and outside the church.

Not even a hint. 

Churchgoers who support “same-sex marriage” are identical to the world

This is a devastating but unsurprising summary of their views.  The data is right here.  While comparing the first two columns of numbers is illuminating, what really stuck out to me the similarity of the 2nd and 3rd columns.  Note how the churchgoing people who support SSM are nearly identical to the population average in every category.  These churchgoers are even more pro-porn and pro-abortion than the average person!  Regnerus-Graph

This is just more confirmation of one of the theological Left’s biggest lies, namely that we are just misreading the Bible on the verses about homosexuality.  But if that was the case, these “Christians” who support SSM should at least be more aligned with us than with the world when it comes to porn, abortion, divorce, etc.  And keep in mind that two out of the three types of pro-gay people* (religious or not) agree with Bible-believers that homosexual behavior is a sin.

Please read this carefully and note how it perfectly describes churchgoers who support SSM: 1 John 2 15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.

I wish they would have added a question about whether Jesus is the only way to salvation.  That is a simple litmus test, because it is taught over 100 times in the New Testament.  Anyone who disagrees with that should not claim to be a Christian.  In my experience there is remarkable correlation between pro-SSM people and those who deny the exclusivity of Jesus for salvation.  So you can test their authenticity without even bringing up the LGBTQX topic.

The theological Left and its false teachers love the world, not God.  They have access to the truth but delight in living out the opposite, and blame others for the incredible destruction caused by violating God’s guidelines for sex.  If it weren’t for them, abortion would be illegal, Planned Parenthood would not get taxpayer funding, schools wouldn’t be teaching pro-gay propaganda, and we wouldn’t be losing our religious freedom, parental authority and freedom of speech at such an alarming rate.

Churchgoers who support “same-sex marriage” are identical to the world. In other words, they don’t appear to be Christians.

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* The three general types of pro-gay theology people:

  1. “The Bible says homosexuality is wrong but it isn’t the word of God.” (Obviously non-Christians)
  2. “The Bible says it is wrong but God changed his mind and is only telling the theological Left.” (Only about 10 things wrong with that.)
  3. “The Bible is the word of God but you are just misunderstanding it” (Uh, no, not really.)

It’s pretty bad when even Jezebel says you are awful

Not the Jezebel* of the Bible, the iconally evil wife of King Ahab, but the website of the same name that posted Awful: Couple Ditches Baby with Down Syndrome with Thai Surrogate.

Like many others, Jezebel suffers from moral schizophrenia.  The site is rabidly pro-abortion and therefore fully supportive of killing Down Syndrome children (or any other children) in the womb, as happens 90% of the time in our “tolerant, loving” culture.  Read the comment thread if you don’t believe me.  But they think it was “awful” that a couple paid for a child but wouldn’t accept him because of his Down Syndrome.  That’s rather preachy, judgmental and moralistic of them, but I do agree with them on that point.

Some of the details, if you aren’t familiar with the story:

An anonymous Australian couple has ignited a huge controversy after abandoning a baby they had using a surrogate because he had Down syndrome and taking his healthy twin sister back to Australia with them. Because humanity just wasn’t insufferable enough.

But they would have had no issues if they had killed the boy in the womb, or even outside the womb via “partial-birth abortion,” aka infanticide.

Because commercial surrogacy is outlawed in Australia (though they may use an altruistic surrogate who does not receive any payment outside medical expenses), many couples seek options overseas to make things easier. Fertility clinics in places like Thailand and India have become hotspots as they are a much easier options for overseas parents-to-be and poorer Indian women can make a considerable amount of money from surrogacy.

There are many problems with surrogacy and I think it should be illegal.  Sadly, many gays and lesbians use it to deliberately raise children without a mother and a father.

. . . When the agency informed the Australian couple, they said they were not going to take the boy and allegedly asked her to have an abortion—which she refused.

Good for the mother!

When she gave birth to the twins in December of last year, the agent took the healthy baby girl, and left her with the baby boy. Pattaramon claims that she has yet to be fully compensated by the agency. She has never met the Australian parents.

. . .

“Why does he have to be abandoned while the other baby has it easy? I feel sorry for him. I don’t know what to do. I chose to have him, not to hurt him. I love him. He was in my tummy for nine months, it’s like my child. I treat him like my other children, never think you are not my child and I don’t care for you, never.”

. . .

Thai officials have maintained that commercial surrogacy is illegal in the country despite the huge lack of regulation, and Australian groups are worried that Gammy’s story may lead to an intense crackdown or all-out ban on international surrogacy. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has commented, calling the situation an “incredibly sad story,” saying, “I guess it illustrates some of the pitfalls involved in this particular [surrogacy] business.”

 

“It’s a really sad story but not the first case we have seen in this area,” he said. “There have been recent tragic cases of foreign parents not accepting disabled children born through surrogacy.”

Pure moral schizophrenia.  Would they kill the children if they became disabled outside the womb?  Probably not.  Yet.

* Side note: Whenever I hear of her I think of my youngest daughter’s comment about how it would be considered a rather pretty name if not for Jezebel’s over-the-top evil nature.

You shall not steal.

I was invited to write this for the Stubborn Things blog and am cross-posting it here. 

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Stealing makes an unspoken yet clear and outrageous claim against God: “You didn’t order the universe properly, so I will fix your mistakes by taking what is rightfully mine.”  Therefore, it is a sin against God and neighbor.

Stealing is typically accompanied by other sins.  The root is the pride in thinking we deserve more.  Coveting leads to stealing just as unrighteousness anger and lust are precursors to the physical acts of murder and adultery and are also violations of the spirit of the law. Lying usually surrounds thefts, and the cover-ups are often worse than the crimes.  In the investigation work my group does I’ve noted that people who steal don’t mind lying about stealing.

We are often clever and subtle in how we take what doesn’t belong to us.  Sure, some steal the old-fashioned way.  I come across those people both at work, when investigating those who steal from my employer, and in prison ministry (it keeps my life in balance).  Most of us are more sophisticated, though, and pretend that we don’t steal because we aren’t physically taking property clearly belonging to another.  We use our spiritual gift of rationalization* not only to justify theft but to pretend that our vice is a virtue.

Exhibit A: Those who petition Caesar to take from neighbor A by force to redistribute to neighbor B and congratulate themselves on how generous they are.  That thinly disguised attempt at sanctified theft is so ingrained that people often use it to justify why they give so little back to God.  It is symptomatic of our decline that we must remind people that Jesus taught to give your money.  I submit, and the good folks at Dictionary.com agree, that taxes and giving have unique and irreconcilable definitions.

And yes, I used a political example.  God’s commandment against stealing and his admonitions to give presuppose the ownership of private property.  If it isn’t yours, there is nothing to steal and you have nothing to give.  Politics should be about the ethical use of power, so our biblical worldviews should influence our voting.  It is foolish to let our ideological foes tell us that parts of the universe aren’t under God’s sovereignty — especially when those shouting their misunderstanding of the “separation of church and state” issue only try to silence the religious people they disagree with.

Softballs aside, let’s look closer to home.

While Leftists steal jobs and taxes from those impacted by illegal immigration, crony capitalists are just as guilty of theft because they want cheap labor for themselves.

At a Sunday School party celebrating the birth of our Savior, a group of relatively conservative Christians lamented the fall of Napster because they could no longer download “free” music.  After all, those rich record companies could afford it.

Some Bible-believing Christians concede that Obamacare is bad for many, but it helps them so they support it.

Poor driving puts our neighbors at risk.  We steal some of their safety and well-being when we prioritize our schedules and convenience above our neighbors’ best interests.   We don’t actually announce, “I’m running late, so I’ll risk your health, life and property to make up time,” but our actions betray us.

When speaking about leadership to professional groups I ask, “What is it called when you take something that doesn’t belong to you?”  [Pause] Stealing, of course.  So what is it called when you take credit for your employees’ ideas?  [Uncomfortable pause] Yep, stealing.

How about stealing time from your employer?  Would it be ironic and hypocritical to write about stealing on work time, even if you make it up as necessary and meet all your commitments and more?  That’s a hypothetical, of course.

Then there are sins like stealing the joy of others via all sorts of selfish acts and unkind words, stealing purity via out-of-wedlock sex, stealing reputations via gossip, stealing the innocence and security of children via frivolous divorce, and more.

If we love God we shouldn’t sit in judgment of how He has ordered our lives.  If we love our neighbors we shouldn’t take what belongs to them.

Thankfully, the blood of the cross can cover our many sins of stealing. God adopts, completely forgives and pours eternal blessings on all who repent and trust in Jesus. By his spirit we can be conformed more to his likeness every day and begin to only desire that which authentically belongs to us.  We can also remember that it is only ours by his grace, and that when Jesus said to lay up treasures in Heaven it wasn’t marketing spin.

*Possibly not a real spiritual gift.

If you can’t dictate the terms to a McDonald’s cashier, what makes you think you can do so with God?

If you authentically seek God on his terms, you will find him. If you think you get to sit in judgement of the real God, you will not find him.  If you “seek” a god of your own making, you will not find him – except in the mirror, and as you know that god has rather limited powers.  If you think that pretending He doesn’t exist will make him go away, you are mistaken.

Romans 1:18–20 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

 

Romans 9:20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?

That may sound obvious, but think about how many people insist that all religions lead to God.  Lots of false teachers in churches will tell you such things.  People claim that they wouldn’t believe in a God who says that homosexual behavior is a sin or who sends guilty sinners to Hell, as if not liking someone makes them disappear.

An acquaintance once noted that he would never believe in a God that would send his Jewish friend to Hell.  What was lost on this college-educated person is that whether he liked God or not, if the one true God will send non-believers to Hell then that is what will happen.  God is not going to disappear because this guy doesn’t like his terms and conditions.  And being in Hell with his friend is not going to make it better for either of them.  Side note: If the subject weren’t so serious it would be amusing how certain people are that they will be happier in Hell or that they get to spend time with friends and family there.

They don’t recognize the absurdity of thinking something doesn’t exist just because they don’t like it or the idea that they can tell the real God what He must be like.

What if you went to a company for a job and demanded that they hire you on your terms?  Hey, go ahead and ask for a million dollar salary and unlimited vacation.  Ridiculous, eh?  But only a tiny fraction as ridiculous as thinking you are going to tell God how things must be.

Or tell the cop who pulled you over that you set the speed limits today and that he is wasting your time.  Or pretend that he doesn’t exist because you don’t like him.

Or tell your teacher that she has to give you an A+ even though you won’t come to class, do homework or take tests.

Or if you are still at home, tell your parents that you set the rules now.

Better yet, go to McDonald’s and tell the cashier to give you your entire meal for $1 because you set the prices and see how that works.

If you can’t dictate terms to the person barely and momentarily higher than you on the cosmic organization chart, what makes you think that the one true God must answer to you or that pretending He doesn’t exist will make him disappear?  

God sets the terms, not us.  His first commandments make that explicit.  Better yet, the first verse of the Bible makes that clear.

What makes anyone think they get to dictate the terms of the universe and eternal life to the one true God?  Pride.  Satanic pride (“Did God really say . . .?”).

Be bold in prayer, but know that God still sets the terms.  Ask tough questions, but know that God is ultimately just and all-knowing (also see Job 38).  Seek him earnestly, but humbly and on his terms.

Where do you find his terms?  In the Bible.  They are indescribably generous.  All you have to do is repent and trust in Jesus.  No good deeds required – though in response to his mercy and grace and by the power of the Holy Spirit you’ll be inspired to do good deeds.  Better yet, not only are all your sins forgiven but God will credit Jesus’ perfect righteousness to your account.  It is the ultimate trade, but that is the only way to get there.

If you “seek” a god of your own making, you will not find the one true God.  If you’ve been doing that, stop kidding yourself.  Eternity is a mighty long time to regret your foolish pride.

If you authentically seek God on his terms, you will find him.

Acts 17:26–27 (ESV) And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us . . .

 

Luke 11:9-13 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.  What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

If you are a believer, try using this line of thinking when sharing the Good News with others.  Ask someone what they think happens when they die, then use the 10 Commandments to point to their sinfulness and need of a Savior.  Explain how God sets the terms of engagement and how remarkably loving and generous they are.  Note how these same terms applied to you and how grateful you are for them.  If they start judging God or pretending that they can ignore him if they don’t like his ways, use any of the examples above to push a reset button on them.  They may not repent and believe on the spot, but you will disarm them of a really bad line of thinking and hopefully plant a seed that someone else will water.