Category Archives: Culture Wars

Are You Ready for Christmas?

If it was this easy!

If I have been asked once, I have been asked a thousand times: “Are you ready for Christmas?

Well, if by “ready” you mean “have you purchased gifts for every relative and friend, cleaned your house, wrapped everything in red foil, watered the tree, mailed the cards, etc.,” then NO! I’m definitely not ready!

On the other hand, if you’re asking if I am ready for Christmas to get here, then yes, I am.

Am I the only person in this situation? I would suspect most people probably wish they had at least another month to get everything on their lists done.  On the other hand, I hope that we are always ready to celebrate the birth of Christ, which is, of course, the point of the whole day.

But aside from getting ready for the Christmas celebrations, there are other things for which we should be prepared.

As a matter of fact, below are three things we all should be prepared for, maybe even more so than Christmas.

Be Ready to Preach

Paul said, “So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel…” (Romans 1:15).  I should be able to say the same, for, just like the apostle, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth…” (1:16). I should, and YOU should be ready to preach/teach/share the gospel at any time with anyone.

But you may say, “I am not a preacher, though.” Really? Well, the words of Jesus apply to all of us. He said,

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. – Mar 16:15

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. – Mar 16:15 ESV

Even though you may not be a pastor or Sunday School teacher, if you are not ashamed of Jesus, then it is still your responsibility to “proclaim” the message Christmas, the gospel (“good news”) of Jesus coming to save.

Be ready to preach.

Be Ready to Give an Answer

“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer [a reasonable defense] to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have…” – 1Pe 3:15 NIV

If Jesus is the “reason for the season,” are we able to defend the Reason based on reason and evidence, not hollow, empty faith?

There are so many who are quick to attack Christians and the God of Christianity. They claim Christmas is based on a myth no more verifiable than the existence of Santa Claus himself. These same folk who deny Jesus was the Messiah then choose to follow some other pagan god or no god and say their “reasons” are more logical.  Really? Where is their evidence?

The Apostle Peter, when he said to “always be ready,” knew that there would be those who would question us and ask, “why do you have so much hope?” There are still plenty of people who are without hope in this world.  They are looking for answers. What they are not looking for is a fairy tale to make them feel good; they are looking for Truth that will make a difference in life, both on this earth and in eternity.

Be ready to give an answer.

Be Ready to Go

I know that Christmas is just around the corner, but who can assure me I’ll be around to see it?  There are no guarantees about tomorrow; one day life on this earth will be over and eternity will begin.  However, for many of us, we believe that Jesus is coming back one day.

Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. – Mat 24:44

I want to be ready for His return.  I want to be ready to go with Him.  Being ready for that day, I believe, is a lot more important than getting everything wrapped just so, or cleaning house. If any “cleaning house” is done, we should always make sure our spiritual “house” is clean and ready.  One day, someday, a trumpet is going to sound…

1 Corinthians 15:51-54  Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.

Are you ready to go?  If not, then there is good news: You can be!

You may say that you are not good enough.  You may think that you have done too many things to be forgiven.  You may think that if God is real, then there is no getting right with Him because you’re just too bad.  Well, if you are willing to put your faith in the Christ of Christmas, the good news is that God is also ready…ready to forgive.

For thou, Lord, [art] good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee. – Psa 86:5

Get ready for Christmas, but make your heart ready for Christ.  The Savior born in a manger wants to give new life to you.

Are you ready?

Questions about faith in Jesus Christ?

Call 1-800-NEED-HIM

 

 

 

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Filed under Apologetics, Christmas, Culture Wars, Preaching, salvation

Disturbing Reality: Children Are Ruining Everything

Yes, the children are ruining everything we used to hold dear.

Hold on a second…

I’m not talking about young skulls full of mush who haven’t lived long enough for their brains to develop; I’m talking about chronological adults who act like children.

We are truly living in an INFANTILIZED culture that not only refuses to grow up, but is rapidly losing its understanding of what “grown up” and “adult” even means.

I don’t know what you think of Paul Joseph Watson, but when I watched his latest video “The Infantilization of Popular Culture” I felt sick to my stomach for the future of this nation – and the world.

Is it any wonder that this is the same culture that is becoming less and less religious? This is the culture who constantly decries the need for organized religion, pastors, and church, and says, like a toddler who refuses help, “No! I can do it!

“And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, equipping the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into him who is the head ​– ​Christ.” – Ephesians 4:11-15 CSB

A self-indulgent world without Christ will never grow up and never mature. The end result can only be full-blown playground bullying and temper-tantrum-driven destruction.

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Filed under America, Christian Maturity, Culture Wars, current events, World View

Thanking and the Thankee

I’m Thankful For…

So many people will be celebrating tomorrow (Thanksgiving) by starting off sentences with the words, “I’m thankful for…” Traditionalists will say it before carving a turkey. Vegans will say it before carving a large piece of vegetable protein disguised as something they secretly wish they could eat. Children will even say it just to please their grandparents and to be assured an extra scoop of Cool Whip on their pumpkin pie.

But one thing’s for sure, being thankful implies the influence of an outside source and suggests things could have been different, despite a person’s will. And even though it might sound crazy, being thankful suggests there is someone to be thankful to.

Thankful to Whom?

Maybe you have never stopped to think about it, but being thankful for anything is pretty ridiculous when there is no one to be thankful to. The Concise Oxford English Dictionary* defines “thanks” as  a “plural noun…an expression of gratitude…another way of saying THANK YOU.” So, who is the “YOU” that you are thankful to?

According to many of the stories I have heard, especially in public schools, the original celebrants of Thanksgiving were thankful only to the Indians (Native Americans). According to many accounts, the Pilgrims were so happy that the Indians provided them with food and land that a party was necessary. So, in other words, the first “thanks” of Thanksgiving was given to Squanto and the Wampanoag people.

That’s not totally correct.

Thankful to God

Like those who celebrated in 1623, I am thankful to God. Unlike the common history lessons, the Pilgrims recognized the true Source of blessing.

“Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as He has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience.

‎ Now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November 29th, of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.”

‎—William Bradford, Ye Governor of Ye Colony

If I am going to be thankful, I am going to be thankful to the “great Father…who has granted us freedom to worship [Him] according to the dictates of our own conscience.” As a pastor, I will lead my congregants in praise to the “Almighty God for all His blessings.

What am I thankful for?

I am most thankful for those things which I could not have had if it were not for the grace of God. Among those things are mercy and forgiveness; a family; a peace that passes all understanding; joy unspeakable and full of glory; and even a love for my enemies.

I am also thankful for and to those who serve this great nation, putting their lives at risk for my (and others’) freedom.

I am thankful for and to those who enforce the laws and keep the peace here at home, and for those who brave dangers to rescue us from harm.

“O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.” – Psalm 107:1

And ultimately, I am thankful for all the blessings which I do not deserve, including all of you who read this blog, even those who do not believe a word of what I am saying.

One More Thing

One more thing…being that I have some Cherokee blood in me, I understand that Thanksgiving may not be a Native American’s favorite holiday, but the principle of thanksgiving remains. When we give thanks, to whom do we give it?

“All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name.” – Psalm 86:9 

“O praise the LORD, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people.” – Psalm 117:1 

“After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;” – Revelation 7:9 

One day, when all is said and done, we all will stand before God and give thanks, for He is the God of us all, despite what we have done to each other.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

*Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson, Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 11th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

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Filed under America, Christian Living, Culture Wars, Faith, God, Thanksgiving, worship

Stick Simplicity: A Lesson In Contentment

George

First off, George is my dog. George is the best dog in the world. Everybody loves George. These are the facts.

Secondly, George loves me more than anyone else, and that’s because we think alike in many ways – and because I play with him more.

George is a dog. He doesn’t have a job, any source of income, and no idea what it would even mean to go shopping. His only concept of “Black Friday” is when I turn out the lights and put him in his kennel earlier than he deems fair.

Simple Stick

But George is the kind of dog that likes simple things. He likes his fancy squeaky toys, but he is just as happy with an empty toilet paper roll, a dust mask he might have snatched, or a simple stick in the back yard.

Don’t you wish we could be that way? Don’t you wish that we could be satisfied with a simple little stick to play with? Why do we crave the extravagant things? Why do we need so many expensive and complicated things to make us smile?

That reminds me of a song by Sean Morey I heard on the radio years ago when I lived in Kentucky. It’s called “Dear Santa.” Here’s a video made by a fan.

Sure, there’s more to life than a stick. But just look at George’s face! Look at that smile of contentment! Wouldn’t you like to be that happy?

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. – 1Timothy 6:6-8

Why don’t we just try – I know, we try every year – to keep things simple? Just keep in mind this key truth: George is MOST happy when I play WITH him.

As long as we can find enjoyment in being with those we love, who needs more than a stick?

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Filed under Christmas, Culture Wars, Family, Life Lessons, Thanksgiving

Don’t Be Immoral; Be Thankful

Title Undetermined

As I sit down to type this, I still don’t have a title for the post. Several things have crossed my mind, but nothing has clicked.

When I got to thinking about it, maybe that’s a good thing: having a title before the piece is written could affect what I write. So, I’m going to share what’s on my mind, then come up with a title – hopefully a catchy one.

Ephesians 5:23

I was reading through the Book of Ephesians and got to the passage you see in the photo (that’s actually from my Bible). The last part of verse 4 stood out to me so much that I grabbed a couple of colored pencils and marked it (yellow and orange).

But rather… What you have here is an either/or kinda thing. It’s a contrasting statement. Instead of doing one thing, do something else. And what is it that we are to do other than something else?

Give thanks.  Giving thanks is the contrasting opposite to six things described in verses 3 and 4. And what are those things?

  • fornication (πορνεία porneía): any illicit sexual activity outside of marriage
  • all uncleanness (ἀκαθαρσία akatharsía): in a moral sense: the impurity of lustful, luxurious, profligate living
  • covetousness (πλεονεξία pleonexía): the greedy desire to have more
  • filthiness (αἰσχρότης aischrótēs): obscenity
  • foolish talking (μωρολογία mōrología): stupid or rash conversation; like the conversation of a drunk man
  • jesting (εὐτραπελία eutrapelía): witty talk, usually with double, vulgar meanings 

Corruption and Comedy.  Notice, the first three (in verse 3) have to do with immoral actions and desires, while the last three (verse 4) have more to do with talking about it. Isn’t that what most comedians talk about?

Unbecoming.  The fact is that sexual immorality, along with even joking about it, does not “become” saints (Christians). It doesn’t look good on us. We can do better.

Beautiful thanks.  Giving thanks IS becoming! Giving thanks to God for all His blessings is a beautiful thing! It looks great on those who wear the name of Christ.

Why the Highlighted Part?

So why did I highlight the last part of verse 4? it’s because when I looked back at all the sexual sins that are so unbecoming, all of them have roots in ungratefulness.

Simply put, if we would just be thankful and content with what God has given us, then we wouldn’t try to seek out sinful activities to satisfy our longings. It really does make me think the last days are getting closer.

“For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, demeaning, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy,” – 2 Timothy 3:2 CSB

Let’s be thankful for what we have and leave what we don’t have alone.

It’s more becoming that way. 

(Now I have to think of a title…hmm.)

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Filed under Christian Living, Christianity, Culture Wars, Thanksgiving

The Real Problem with the Problem of Evil

This evening at church we will be having an “Ask the Pastor” question-and-answer night. Am I nervous? A little. However, I’ve already warned the congregation that I may not have all the answers and some questions might get a simple, “I’ll have to get back to you on that.” We’ll see. I may even post the questions I get in an upcoming post! Hmmm? 

But, because I have done a little writing on the “problem of evil,” I’ll re-post this article/paper in honor of tonight…and all the questions I still struggle with.

An Old Debate

One of the most common reasons for denying the existence of God is the problem of evil in the world. Just ask any group of atheists to give their top ten reasons for unbelief and surely one will claim as number one, “If there is a God, then why is there so much evil in the world?” For many, this is the pièce de résistance of rebuttals. How could a good God be real and allow all the suffering in the world to continue unabated – assuming He is even good? The eighteenth century philosopher, David Hume described the problem this way in Dialogues concerning Natural Religion, 1779:

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? whence then is evil?” (Stackhouse 1998, 11)

So, the “problem of evil,” and its source, has been an issue of philosophical debate for centuries.  The existence of evil in the world, along with unanswered questions, has even become evidence enough for some to embrace atheism.  Therefore, because so many philosophers and theologians have tried for ages to reconcile the existence of God with the existence of evil, I dare say that nothing I write will be new.  But, if anyone were to challenge my belief in God, along with my faith in Jesus Christ, with the argument that the problem of evil constitutes proof God does not exist, then I would possibly respond with arguments based on the following thought:

Without the existence of God, there should be no evil to be a problem, and that’s the real problem with “the Problem of Evil.”

Evil? What Is It?

What exactly is “evil?” Now, that may sound like an absurd kind of question to ask, but if the existence of evil is the evidence that is supposed to expose my faith as a fraud, at best, or even a lie, then what is it?  Is it something tangible? Is it metaphysical? Is it theoretical? What is it, exactly? Does it have any particular form? How can it be distinguished from what is called good? On what do the atheists and agnostics base their definition of this thing called “evil?”

Amazingly, the answers are not all the same, nor in some cases even grounded in reality. However, it is imperative to understand that we must define this God-killer, because its definition will determine our conclusions and help to clarify our assumptions.

When C. S. Lewis was an atheist, for example, his “argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust.” (Lewis 1989) There he had it, or so he thought. God could not exist because so much evil exists. But how did he arrive at “this idea of just and unjust?” Lewis said, “A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.” (Lewis 1989) “Tell me,” I would say, “what is evil, and how do you recognize it when you see it?

The Adjective

To start, evil must be understood to be an adjective. Evil is a description of something that is not good. Evil is not a thing. The word “evil” only describes the thing, the thought, and the action. Technically, “evil” does not exist, only what it describes.

Some people say that they cannot believe in God because why or how could a good God, if He was perfect, create evil? They think of evil as something that must have not existed until God made it. But evil “isn’t a kind of molecule or a virus…infecting or affecting everything it encounters.  There was no time when God said, ‘Let there be evil,’ and there was evil.” (Stackhouse 1998)  As John G. Stackhouse put it, “evil becomes a noun only in the abstract.” Additionally, in his book Can God Be Trusted, Stackhouse says of evil:

“An action can be evil, or an event can be evil, or a quality can be evil, or a being can be evil. And we can lump all these particular evils together in our minds and come up with a category ‘evil.’ We can even go on to discuss it as if it were a particular thing, so long as we do not forget that we are always dealing with a category or group of particular evil things, not a thing itself.” (Stackhouse 1998, 31)

So then, if evil is a description, how is it that we come to use the adjective, or as Lewis put it, the “crooked line,” without first having some idea of what is a “straight” one?  Defining what is good is as important as defining evil. To know what is evil, we must first have some assumption as to what is not evil.

The crazy thing is that if God does not exist, and man is nothing more than a collection of random matter, both good and evil are purely relative – their existence is based purely on one’s perspective.  So, in other words, the one who says that there is no God, based on the existence of evil, is literally basing his belief on pure opinion, not on anything objective. Therefore, in order to bring an accusation against the goodness of God, one must have a base line. What is the standard by which we determine what is good and what is evil?

The Standard

Some use Man as the baseline. They compare God to the standard set by what is thought to be good behavior in this world. They rationalize that if God is real, at least according to monotheistic dogma, He must be all-powerful, perfectly good, and the supreme example of love, kindness, and providential care. Because it is preached that God is a better Father than earthly fathers, Mark Twain took it upon himself to write:

The best minds will tell you that when a man has begotten a child he is morally bound to tenderly care for it…[yet], God’s treatment of his earthly children, every day and every night, is the exact opposite of that, yet those minds warmly justify those crimes…when he commits them.” (Tonie Doe Media 2007)

So then, according to Twain, God could not exist because if He did, He would act consistent with our understanding of what a good and loving earthly father would do.  In other words, if God cannot, in all His perfection, behave better toward His children than the most common man, His credentials are therefore revoked, and He must cease to exist.  However, this is so illogical.

Who are we to say that God, if He is perfect, and we are imperfect, ever treats His children poorly? Do the protesting cries of a toddler who has had poison taken from his grasp carry more weight than the decision of the earthly father to take it away? How, then, are we to automatically assume that the infantile tendencies of finite man are wiser than the infinitely Mature?

Using Man as a baseline for what is good and evil is pure arrogance.

Whose Line Is It?

In reality, the problem of evil is really a problem for the atheist. He, who denies the existence of a Creator and accepts only the realities of evil in the world, essentially has nothing about which to complain.  Everything should be just fine and dandy, but it’s not.  The atheist knows that evil things happen to both good and bad people.

He sees the hurt, feels the pain, and begs for justice. The reality of evil in the world causes men to cry out for justice; for things to be made right. This is a problem, though, because knowing that a crooked line is not straight hints at the fact that a Line-drawer exists.

The Followers’ Fault

Others take a different approach. They claim that God does not exist except in the evil intentions of his followers to control others through guilt. They claim that God is just a fabrication of priests to keep mankind from behaving “naturally.”

They say that nature is good, and if anything, God is evil for trying to get man to behave contrary to the very way he was created to behave. One guru said, “It seems that for those who worship God, the opposite to God is not that which is ‘evil,’ but that which is natural.” He said of animals, comparing them to men, “They don’t worship God, they don’t go to church, they don’t have any theology.  They don’t have any feeling of guilt, they are simply natural.” (Osho 2009)  In other words, if there is evil in the world, it is because our belief in God has inflicted it.

The Majority Response

But for the majority of the hurting world, pain is real, loss is real, and evil is manifested daily.  Many see the things that happen to innocent people, especially children, and wonder, “If there is a loving God, why doesn’t he do anything about this?

These people, many of which hold on to hope as long as they can, finally succumb to their doubts and conclude that the only way to explain away the pain is to admit that it is just part of life, part of the natural world, part of what makes us human; alone, in our quest to make life easier, free of pain, free from evil; alone, without God.

These are the ones, I believe, that lure more away from the faith than any Darwinist.  They are the ones who have seen evil face-to-face and cannot fathom a God who would allow it to continue.  And because their experiences are so painful and tragic, the devout are left speechless and without explanation. Ellie Wiesel is a good example.

Wiesel’s Observation

Wiesel was a teenager when he saw his family murdered in the Nazi death camps.  But it was only after witnessing one particular act of horror – the slow, hanging death of a young boy – that he turned away from his faith in God.

In the book Night, his Nobel prize-winning autobiography, Wiesel said he heard a man behind him ask, “Where is God now?” As he stood there, being forced to stare into a pitiful, wide-eyed, swollen face of a dying child, a voice within replied, “Where is He? Here He is – He is hanging here on the gallows…” (Wiesel 1982) Because there was no justification, even in the big scheme of things, Ellie Wiesel’s God died with the executed boy.

But as sad as it is, without God, who can say what happened to that boy was any worse than the slaughter of an animal?  Are we not all just animals – some more evolved than others?

The Real Problem

To me, the problem of evil is not a problem for the believer to explain, but one for the non-believer.  Aside from the theological arguments about the character of God, without God, to turn Hume’s question around, “whence then is evil?

Without God, evil is relative to one’s desires and personal pleasure.  Does it really even matter whether or not God could do anything about evil in the world when the whole question is moot if He didn’t exist?

With God, evil is defined as that which is against His law, that which stands opposed to His standards, and that which describes all who take pleasure in such rebellion. Without God, evil is just a matter of opinion.

That is the real “problem of evil.”


Works Cited

Lewis, C. S. “Atheism.” In The Quotable Lewis, by C. S. Lewis, 59. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1989.

Osho. The God Conspiracy: the path from superstition to superconsciousness. New York: Osho Media International, 2009.

Stackhouse, John G. Can God Be Trusted. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Tonie Doe Media. In The Atheist’s Bible, 129. New York: Harper Collins, 2007.

Wiesel, Ellie. Night. New York: Bantam Books, 1982.

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Filed under Apologetics, Culture Wars, Faith, General Observations, Life/Death, Struggles and Trials

I Will Remember

Eighteen years have come and gone, and many have already forgotten what happened on September 11, 2001. But I won’t forget.

Not only will I not forget, I will choose to remember.

I will remember…

  • that freedom isn’t free, and there are those who want to steal it.
  • that Christ came “to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to [them that are] bound;” therefore America is never more “Christ-like” than when its people shed their blood for the freedom of others, whether they love us, or not.
  • that it wasn’t secularists, militarists, or a bunch of Baptist preachers who crashed four aircraft on that day, killing thousands.
  • the Byzantine Empire and Constantinople – they weren’t converted to Islam through peaceful conversion.
  • who is considered the “Great Satan” and what countries are truly religiously intolerant.
  • the heroes who went back into those buildings to rescue anyone they could.
  • the heroes who fought back and said, “Let’s roll!”
  • the heroes who go into harm’s way for freedom every day.
  • that America was founded by men who knew God; who recognized the hand of Providence; and who knew when to bow a knee and call to God for deliverance.
  • that we (and all freedom-loving people) are in a life-and-death struggle between opposing worldviews – a war. Losing can’t be an option.

I will also choose to remember, and not forget, that America, no matter its current faults and flaws, is made up of a people, who, when push comes to shove, will take the fight for freedom anywhere in the world. We will also defend it. That’s who we are.

God Bless America!

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Filed under America, Culture Wars, the future, World View