Sunday, August 29, 2010

Glenn Beck: Amazing Grace, Amazing Chutzpah

Radio and TV show host Glenn Beck organized a rally held yesterday near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., the same site where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his "I Have a Dream" speech 47 years earlier to the day. The stated purpose of the rally, which Beck promised would remain apolitical, was "restoring honor" to the United States.

The size of the crowd, estimated at upwards of 300,000, indicated a hunger for the Judeo-Christian values on which American was founded. A succession of speakers, including ministers and other evangelical leaders, invoked God and His authority. The rally included prayers and concluded with a rendition of Amazing Grace. Had there been an altar call, the Christian revival would have been complete.

Beck, advising the attendees to "trust divine providence," described how he challenged God when the rally funding fell short and received $600,000 within two days. You can view the video here. Beck attributed this windfall and other rally-related blessings to God. To understand Beck's God-centered agenda, we need to understand what Beck means by God.

Glenn Beck is an avowed Mormon and here is a video of his conversion testimony.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is named after Jesus, but the church does not believe in the Biblical doctrine of Jesus and salvation by grace, which are the foundation of Christianity. Many Christians consider the Mormon church a cult.

This was not the first time Beck led a gathering dominated by Christians in singing Amazing Grace, a sinner's grateful ode to the gift of salvation by God's grace that, to repeat, is rejected by Beck's Mormon faith. That takes amazing chutzpah.

Phil Johnson of Grace Community Church explains how Mormonism differs from Christianity here and as follows:

1. The issue of authority. Christians believe the Bible is God's authoritative, inerrant, unchanging and complete self-revelation (Jude 3). Scripture is the touchstone to which all other truth-claims must be brought (Isaiah 8:20). The sole and sufficient authority by which all controversies in spiritual matters are to be determined is none other than God's Spirit speaking through Scripture. By contrast, Mormons consider The Book of Mormon, The Pearl of Great Price, and Doctrine and Covenants as additional authoritative revelation, thereby undermining the true authority of Scripture and violating the principle of Revelation 22:18.

2. The doctrine of God. Christians believe there is one God who eternally exists in three co-equal Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Mormons reject the doctrine of the Trinity, believing that there are many worlds controlled by different gods.

3. The supremacy of Christ. Christians believe Jesus Christ is pre-existent God who became a man in His incarnation while maintaining His full deity. Mormons claim Jesus was a "spirit child" of Mary and Elohim (and the brother of Lucifer) who has now been elevated to the level of deity.

4. The means of justification. Christians believe justification is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Mormons believe a person's works in this life will determine his or her status in the life to come, and that "salvation" is actually a progression toward godhood.

The reason Christians evangelize is that we are called by God to spread His word so all mankind can accept the gift of salvation, which cannot be earned. Salvation by grace is given freely by God out of love and not as a reward. Christians believe that good works and good values are the fruit of faith, not the path to salvation.

The reason that Mormons evangelize is to perform good works to earn their "salvation" and, of course, to convert non-Mormons to Mormons. Mormons believe that good works are necessary to earn their eternal reward.

The LDS church has devoted its vast resources for decades to blur the differences between their unusual beliefs outlined above, which are rejected by the mainstream, and the widely accepted principles of Christianity outlined in the Bible. Recently they launched a media campaign to brand Mormons as regular people "just like you."

You may have been approached by a Mormon on a good works mission at your home or in public. These Mormons are always well-behaved, wholesome and clean-cut in appearance, ready to help Grandma cross the street or carry your groceries to your front door for you. They seem to embody good, old-fashioned family values. Who can possibly object to that?

Christians can and must object to Mormonism, no matter how unobjectionable Mormons may be personally. Without exception, Mormons can worship as they please and partake of the blessings of democracy without discrimination. However, to market their religion for mass consumption, they are forced to deceive the unknowing by claiming that there is more that unites Christians and Mormons than divides us. I have heard a variation of that claim from every Mormon I've ever met. If we as Christians believe that salvation is freely given by the blood of Jesus alone, we must believe that every person who is confused by a Mormon is jeopardizing their salvation.

Glenn Beck's rally was a national call to perform good works that, according to his rally speeches, will restore honor, faith, hope and charity to America. What role does the Mormon agenda play in Beck's pivot from the political to the spiritual?

According to the Deseret News, a Utah newspaper owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Beck wants to achieve unity. To what purpose? In July 2010, Beck told the Deseret News:

"I'm trying to get the message out that there's more that unites us than divides us," Beck said. "And what unites us is the content of our character."

That sounds eerily familiar.

The wonderful Christian blog Defending Contending published an article by Brannon Howse that explains why it is so dangerous for Christians to give the Mormon church credibility, even in the political arena. Howse, who during the campaign against Beck's advertisers started a website to support him politically, expressed my concerns in the closing paragraph:

Yes, I would like to see the progressives defeated and the original intent of America’s Founding Fathers restored, but that certainly will not happen if the true Bride of Christ compromises on Biblical truth. This is no time to be committed to pragmatism because the end does not justify the means. The means simply declares our priorities and Whom we really serve.

You can read reactions and analysis by other Christians at the blog links below.

Caffeinated Thoughts defined what Beck as a Mormon means when he uses the phrase "divine destiny" here. Standing for God examined who Beck thinks Jesus is.

All of Grace analyzed an August 2010 episode of Beck's show in which he shared his Mormon faith. Apprising Ministries and Herescope criticized evangelical leaders for giving Beck theological cover.

In a series of episodes of his Wretched TV show, host Todd Friel summarized the Christian perspective about Mormonism as it pertains to Glenn Beck.

Not Your Typical Negro suggested that Beck is a Mormon proxy for Mitt Romney to make their common faith politically acceptable.

The Way of the Master, a TV program featuring Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort, presented the origins and teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the videos below.

Dr. John MacArthur of Grace Community Church preached the blunt Biblical truth about Mormonism in this sermon jam.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Jenny Sanford and Me: Christian Women Confronting Adultery

I don't know Jenny Sanford, the ex-wife of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, but I admire her public statements regarding her husband's betrayal and their divorce. She has been criticized by so-called feminists for considering a reconciliation with her husband of 20 years, with whom she raised four sons. Now the online edition of Harper's Bazaar has published Sanford's explanation for trying to salvage and then ultimately terminate her marriage.

I sympathize with and strongly relate to Jenny Sanford. During the same approximate time frame, both of our husbands, purportedly devout Christians, committed adultery and exhibited bizarre, seemingly uncharacteristic behavior as they sabotaged our respective marriages and refused to take steps to repair them. My secular friends could not fathom why I let my husband stay in our home after months of his lies and begging me to stop chemotherapy to die for his convenience. In a marriage in which God was a partner and the Bible the user’s manual, I was not the highest authority.

Matthew 18:15-17 is considered to be the Lord's guide to conflict resolution among believers. A husband and wife are also brother and sister in Christ. As paraphrased by Warren E. Berkley, the four steps to conflict resolution when a brother or sister in Christ has fallen from grace are as follows:

Step #1: Go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.

Step #2: If he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that, "by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established."

Step #3: If he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church.

Step #4: If this effort fails, “let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.”

Jenny Sanford declared that she is not a victim. In fact, she modeled Christian values that her husband abandoned to temptation. If you want to understand the Christian commitment to God, family and marriage, please read her essay at Harper's online. Don't look to Mark Sanford, who used his wife and family as political props in a series of strange press conferences to confess not his sin but his alleged love for another woman. Instead, look closely at Jenny Sanford, whose private pain was put on public display and she chose to glorify God with her compassion, mercy and grace. In doing so, she reaffirmed her love for God, for her husband and for her family.

Slow Fade by Casting Crowns is a cautionary tale about the price of adultery.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Dennis Miller on Red Eye Tonight!

Only a week ago I made a wish and today it is coming true. Is it because it's my birthday? Heh. I don't have that much influence even at work, much less in the universe.

Tonight Dennis Miller will finally appear on my favorite secular TV show, Red Eye, for the entire hour. You can catch Red Eye on Fox News Channel at 3:00 am Eastern Time, 12:00 midnight Pacific.

Red Eye is nominally a news program and predominantly a comedy show that stretches the limits of what Fox considers news and will tolerate under the guise of humor. More accurately, Red Eye is a frat house where the smart boys you ignored in high school get their revenge. There is even a "legs chair" where the stunningly attractive female guest du jour perches in a short dress that shows off her gams. I wonder just exactly how that stipulation is tendered, but it must not be too offensive because the chair is always filled as billed.

Host Greg Gutfeld, a long-time political writer and blogger, opens the show and the second half with introductions of the guest panel that are filled with raunchy double entendres, sometimes written by viewers. Bill Schulz is Gutfeld's sidekick and comic whipping boy. Frequent guest Mike Baker is the cool, witty and handsome former CIA operative the Red Eye boys wish they could be. Baker even has his own recurring segment, Meet Your Baker.

For me, the show's MVP is TV's Andy Levy, ostensibly the ombudsman who fact checks the panel and reports corrections at the half-time point and conclusion of the show. According to Greg, he met Levy through the clever comments he left at the Huffington Post when Gutfeld's column was published there.

Here are some recent guest introduction videos rated PG-13 and an Andy Levy highlights reel for your amusement. Enjoy the clips and then check out Dennis Miller on Red Eye tonight.

April 27, 2010 Red Eye intros

May 6, 2010 Red Eye intros

Some highlights from TV's Andy Levy

Happy Birthday to Me!

Before my father first held and beheld me, my Father created and knew me. In a sense, I was not born 54 years ago today, but born again.

Earthly birthdays even among Christians are often filled with worldly treasures given out of love or obligation. I like to spoil those I love, but I am extremely uncomfortable receiving lavish presents and attention. The loyal and loving people who light up my life are gifts aplenty.

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003, I asked God if I could please live to age 50 to see my son become a man. No one in my life will be celebrating my survival today more than my son and he plans to spoil me rotten. So we will feast tonight on seafood and scrumptious dessert. I will cry with happiness and gratitude for the extra time spent with my dearly beloved.

I was born and am born again in Christ. Today is as good a day as any to rejoice.

Here is the video of Born Again by the Newsboys with new lead vocalist Michael Tait.

newsboys "Born Again" *Official Music Video* from newsboys on Vimeo.

Here is a bonus video of Between You and Me featuring Michael Tait from his DC Talk glory days.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Life Is Beautiful and Eternal

Someday I hope to meet Job in heaven. Job was a faithful servant and yet God allowed Satan to test him in extraordinary ways. He lost his possessions and his children were killed, but Job said, "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord."

I am a sinful wretch. I have lost many things this world values. Because of my Lord and my Savior, my life is beautiful beyond description and eternal beyond measure.

Francesca Battistelli wrote and performed a song that describes some of the love and gratitude I feel. Please enjoy the video of Beautiful Beautiful below.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

It's Miller Time: Dennis on the August 17, 2010 O'Reilly Factor

Dennis Miller's regular appearances on the O'Reilly Factor are the funniest TV segments outside of the best bits on Fox News Channel's Red Eye.

Here is Dennis with O'Reilly today waxing satirical about recent headlines.

A whole host of Fox regulars, including Bill Kristol and Mike Huckabee, have risked their reputations to guest on the deliberately outrageous Red Eye. Dennis Miller, where art thou? If like me you can imagine the comedy magic such an appearance would conjure, check out Miller's interview with Gutfeld and Red Eye regular Steven Crowder captured on audio early this year.


Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Dennis Miller Solves the Border Problem

On today's Miller Time segment of the O'Reilly Factor, Dennis was in rare form. By rare, I mean ready to take names and put them on headstones.

Beginning at the 4:20 mark, Dennis presents his second of two solutions to the Mexican border problem. Dennis proposes that we move the obstacle course from the TV show Wipeout and place it all along the border so illegal immigrants cannot cross without completing the humiliating and nigh impossible challenge. It's so crazy it just might work!

My summary doesn't do Dennis justice, so do yourself a favor and watch the whole thing.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Bobby Hebb: R. I. P.

After God and my loved ones, music has been my most enduring source of pleasure, emotional satisfaction and occasional profundity. Singer Bobby Hebb, who passed away today from lung cancer at age 72, indirectly provided a monumental life lesson that I will never forget. As a performer, Hebb was famous for his self-penned 1966 chart topper, Sunny.

One day in 1966 when I was 9 or 10, we were shopping at the White Front, my mother’s favorite discount department store, near Disneyland. I was a badly spoiled child and Mom would always buy me anything my wicked, willful heart desired. That day I started to panic as we approached the checkstand because I hadn’t found anything I wanted and I certainly was not leaving the store until I did. Looking around in desperation, I grabbed the only item on display that I recognized or even remotely related to – the Bobby Hebb vinyl LP featuring Sunny.

On the strength of Sunny, Hebb toured that year with the Beatles, whose music was much more pleasing to the unsophisticated palate of a prepubescent child. I doubt that I listened to my Bobby Hebb album since 1966. Nevertheless, his record has survived six residential moves in 44 years and is currently stored in my garage. I kept Sunny as a tangible reminder of what a selfish, miserable brat I could be – and as a catalyst for change. The constant cycle of overindulgence and guilt filled me with self-loathing from a very young age and I was always making resolutions to be a better person. After my grandmother, who started the competition with my mother to see who could spoil me the worst, died when I was 14, Mom seemed as tired of our dysfunctional dynamic as I was. It took most of my teenage years before I fully liberated myself from the unhealthy patterns of childhood and then I shifted to the opposite extreme of compulsive unselfishness. When my beloved son Chris was born, I finally discovered the right balance of necessary selfishness and service to others.

Sunny is a fine jazz-tinged record with a catchy beat and Hebb’s smoothly soulful vocal. The song has been covered by a diverse array of artists such as Cher, James Brown, Mary Wells, Jose Feliciano, Ella Fitzgerald, Johnny Mathis, Del Shannon, Marvin Gaye, Dusty Springfield, Wilson Pickett, the Four Seasons, the Four Tops, the Electric Flag, Jamiroquai, Nick Cave, and actors Robert Mitchum and Leonard Nimoy.

Hebb later co-wrote A Natural Man, a 1971 hit for my mother's favorite singer, Lou Rawls, with the late comic actor Sandy Baron and continued to compose music into his final years. Coincidentally, Baron appeared on a comedy album my subversive Uncle Willie, a professional musician himself, gave me in 1965 or 1966 titled Sick Along With Us that became a childhood favorite. Fortysomething years later, I can still quote verbatim from some of the sketches like Sick Sound Waves and You'd Better Believe It.

“Are you a ditch digger?”

“No, I’m a brain surgeon.”

“Then why are you digging ditches?”

“Well, I’m not a very good brain surgeon.”

Here are the two songs for which Mr. Hebb is being remembered today. Enjoy his legacy.