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On Friday, May 12, 2017 President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump hosted a reception for active-duty troops, their spouses and mothers at the White House.

Mother’s Day was on May 14 in the US, and Mrs Trump’s speech touched on that beautifully:

As everyone in this room knows, mother is a title that claims your heart and changes your life forever. In fact, it has been said that having a child means allowing your heart to walk around outside of your body.

She added:

For the mothers of someone who has or is serving our country, this must be especially true …

However, I have no idea what kind of different challenges each of you must face as the parent of a soldier. And while you stand with many other parents, so strong and so proud, I am sure that you sometimes march on this journey alone. While your sons and daughters are away serving so selflessly, having a community share even some of that burden must make all the difference in the world.

I want to know – I want you to know, you’re among that community today and we are all so proud to be part of it with you. I also want to say thank you for all that you do, for your selflessness and for your own sacrifice on behalf of our country. Let today’s celebration with this community of strong and selfless moms be a first step in building the relationships and – and in your knowing that my husband and I, along with the vice president and Mrs. Pence and everyone here at the White House, hold you close in our hearts and thoughts each and every day.

Here’s the video:

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I hope they were able to see the White House Movie Theater, which was opened to the public for the first time that day.

It’s heartening to see the Trump White House give the military and their families such deep consideration.

April was the Month of the Military Child and May is Military Appreciation Month in the United States, so the Trumps and the Pences have been holding a number of events for service personnel, their families and veterans.

I do not understand how people still cannot see that the current administration is working for the benefit of all Americans.

Follow the White House site and Twitter feeds to see all the news that Big Media fail to report to the American public.

In 2008, many voters who did not cast a ballot for Barack Obama were disappointed but philosophical.

Life must go on, we figured.

We then hoped that a Republican would defeat him in 2012, but such was not the case. Again, we were disappointed but philosophical.

Now, finally, a Republican has won the election. Donald Trump’s voters are cautiously optimistic about the Electoral College vote despite the Jill Stein recounts and look forward to a safe inauguration in January.

Trump voters bear no ill will towards Hillary voters. We understand that some people are lifelong Democrats who still romanticise the party, recalling the days of FDR and Harry Truman. That’s okay.

However, Hillary’s voters are still apoplectic. The_Donald has a full list (language alert in comments) of the violence angry leftists have committed against people of all ages — including children — who like Trump. There were also leftists who didn’t physically or verbally lash out but lied about Trump supporters attacking them.

One of the incidents on the list concerns a news item published on December 1 in the Observer-Reporter in Washington County, Pennsylvania. A 27-year-old man brutally assaulted his 69-year-old neighbour in a block of flats. This took place just a few days before Thanksgiving (emphases mine):

Matthew Pugh, 27 … was arrested Wednesday on a warrant obtained by Donora police on charges of attempted homicide, aggravated assault, simple assault and reckless endangerment.

Borough police were called to the apartment complex Nov. 20. Witnesses told police that Pugh and the woman, also a Donora Towers resident, were in the lobby when they got into a disagreement about politics, particularly the recent presidential election.

Pugh reportedly became enraged. He allegedly picked up a chair and hit the woman over the head, knocking her to the floor. The chair opened a gash on her head that bled severely, police said. The woman also suffered other injuries in the fall

The woman was taken to Monongahela Valley Hospital for treatment of her injuries. Police said Pugh was taken to the same hospital for an evaluation.

Pugh was arraigned before District Judge Larry Hopkins and placed in Washington County jail on $50,000 bond. He is scheduled for a Dec. 14 preliminary hearing before District Judge Mark Wilson.

An article by Dennis Prager for Townhall described the madness surrounding Thanksgiving celebrations. A number of Hillary voters decided to not participate with Trump-voting family members. This affected all generations and, yes, some parents disowned their Trump-supporting children.

This will probably recur at Christmas. I highly recommend everyone read Prager’s ’10 Reasons Left-Wingers Cut Trump Voters From Their Lives’. Excerpts follow:

… conservatives were not one whit less fearful of Clinton and the Democrats than Democrats were of Trump and Republicans.

Yet virtually no conservatives cut off contact with friends, let alone parents, who supported Clinton.

Exactly.

Here are 10 reasons left-wingers cut Trump voters from their lives.

1. Just like our universities shut out conservative ideas and speakers, more and more individuals on the left now shut out conservative friends and relatives as well as conservative ideas.

2. Many, if not most, leftists have been indoctrinated with leftism their entire lives …

There are far more conservatives who read articles, listen to and watch broadcasts of the left and have studied under left-wing teachers than there are people on the left who have read, listened to or watched anything of the right or taken classes with conservative instructors.

3. Most left-wing positions are emotion-based. That’s a major reason people who hold leftist views will sever relations with people they previously cared for or even loved. Their emotions (in this case, irrational fear and hatred) simply overwhelm them.

This is why I occasionally make the plea for less emotion, especially crying. It interferes with a rational thought process.

4. Since Karl Marx, leftists have loved ideas more than people. All Trump voters who have been cut off by children, in-laws and lifelong friends now know how true that is …

5. People on the right think that most people on the left are wrong; people on the left think that most people on the right are evil

That is a very important distinction: wrong versus evil. Wrong has to do with thoughts and beliefs. Evil implies dark immorality.

The next point elaborates on that notion further:

6. The left associates human decency not so much with personal integrity as with having correct — i.e. progressive — political positions. Therefore, if you don’t hold progressive positions, you lack decency. Ask your left-wing friends if they’d rather their high school son or daughter cheat on tests or support Trump.

That is an erroneous way of thinking — one that affects how leftists see others, including centrist or conservative family members.

There is more at the link.

Prager strongly encourages Hillary voters to make amends with those they have defriended and disowned.

I couldn’t agree more. Christmas is only a few weeks away. Advent is a time of preparation for Jesus’s earthly birth. John the Baptist exhorted his followers to repent and to exercise charity during this time. May we follow suit.

Pastor Ashcraft of Mustard Seed Budget has an excellent post, ‘Suspicion is not proof’, which gives seven good tips on dealing with those suspected of wrongdoing in a church context:

If you are in Christian leadership, you should exercise much wisdom:

1. Always use the lightest correctionary discipline possible, not the heaviest.

2. Be suspect of “revelation or confirmation of the Holy Spirit.”

3. Be aware of your own personality and flesh and how that might color your judgement.

4. Use grace. Forgive others.

5. Don’t insist on having your way but look for God’s.

6. Allow the Holy Spirit to rule the church. You are not the Holy Spirit.

7. Know that the Pharisees exceeded their authority and punished the innocent (Jesus). Don’t join the company of the Pharisees.

Hope these tips are helpful.

They are also helpful in the home. I shudder when I read some parents’ blogs with their accounts of supposed divinely received messages or visions. Scary. Is that bringing their children closer to Christ or estranging them?

There are also many families who are quick to universally condemn a sibling or cousin who, for whatever reason, feels estranged: ‘We don’t talk to them any longer’. Why not? Instead of behaving like Pharisees and all falling into line without getting the facts, talk to those relatives! Resolve the problem!

One of my cousins from my late mother’s side once said, ‘Your dad was always so nice — and so witty!’

I said, knowing of our side’s estrangement of another cousin — a devout Christian — who, after many years, feels as if she can no longer be part of the family despite my long-distance appeals, ‘My dad’s side did not have feuds or a falling out, even though everyone was an individual with different life experiences.’

He replied, ‘Wow. That’s sure not how our family operates.’

‘No kidding. What are you going to do about it?’

‘Nothing. None of my business. I have my own children and grandchildren now. They keep me busy enough.’

I hope that my readers are not like my cousin, congenial and responsible as he is. I pray that if you are reading this and have a family estrangement for no good reason, you take constructive steps to resolve it, especially before Christmas. Invite that relative over for coffee or meet up somewhere. Have a friendly conversation. Let them know you love them — and keep in touch afterwards.

R Scott ClarkReformed minister and professor, Dr R Scott Clark of Westminster Seminary California and Heidelblog is running a series about the Heidelberg Catechism and authority.

The first essay — ‘Heidelberg 104: Authority and Submission (1)’ — is particularly pertinent to Christians who mistakenly advocate Mosaic Law, theonomy and male supremacy.

It is unfortunate that the Reformed churches are affected by these scourges. I suspect it is because a significant number of Americans attending such churches as new members came from highly conservative congregations with erroneous ‘Christian’ teachings.

What follows is a summary of his excellent explanation, supported by the Heidelberg Catechism and Scripture. Emphases mine below.

Mosaic law

Civil punishments prescribed in Mosaic law:

expired with the death of Christ. This is how the civil punishments are interpreted in Reformed theology.

Theonomy:

or the teaching that the Mosaic civil laws have a bi[n]ding validity in exhaustive detail is contrary to the Reformed faith.

And Christianity in general.

The notion of a Promised Land is also no more:

There is now no national people of God and there are no more national promises. There is no earthly promised land and therefore the nature of the promise has changed. Believers are the Israel of God but we have no land promise since Christ is the land, the rest, and the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile has been broken down (Eph 2:14).

John Calvin’s commentary on Ephesians 6:2 says:

And that thou mayest live long on the earth. Moses expressly mentions the land of Canaan, “that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” (Exod. 20:12.) Beyond this the Jews could not conceive of any life more happy or desirable. But as the same divine blessing is extended to the whole world, Paul has properly left out the mention of a place, the peculiar distinction of which lasted only till the coming of Christ.

Home life

Reactionary Christians have an extreme interpretation of Ephesians 5 and 6 regarding authority in the home.

Clark unpacks what Paul meant:

This is not patriarchy nor the ontological (i.e., as a matter of being) subordination of females to males because Paul warns fathers not to be abusive and instructs them to be gracious and kind and patient with their children just as God has been gracious kind and gentle with us.

As Christians seek to re-assert creational and biblical patterns of living in our late-modern age, it is imperative that we do not over-react as some have done. I have heard and read discussions of “federal headship” of males over females in the new covenant. For example, some have inferred that, e.g., females may not or should not vote in a congregational election. Such an inference requires a series of assumptions that must be questioned. Most of the argument seems to rely on a degree of continuity with the Mosaic (old) covenant that is not exegetically or theologically defensible. Some of the arguments (e.g., that females are inherently inferior) that I have seen and read over the years are not worthy of Christians. These sorts of over-reactions to aspects of modern and and late-modern feminism do us no credit as we seek properly to insist that:

• There is a creational, natural order

• Creational order can be determined by looking carefully at creation

• There are two sexes (male and female)

• The two sexes are distinct and complementary

As for ‘federal headship’:

Paul did not invoke the “federal headship” principle nor did he invoke a male Patriarchy in order to justify his teaching. Christ is the only federal head of believers. A husband is just that, a caretaker. A father may be said to be the head of the house but only as a matter of administration not as a matter of being. As we saw above, for Paul, the father’s role in the house to be like Christ, to lead gently and self-sacrificially not abusively and most certainly not high-handedly.

Church life

Clark makes it clear that certain restrictions on women do not actually exist in Pauline teaching:

he nowhere implies that females may not vote in a congregational election.

As for women’s silence in church:

The problem was speaking up inappropriately. The problem was disorder in the worship service. The solution was order.

Creational order, not extremism

Clark concludes by noting that Paul and Peter acknowledged the order of creation, which we are still obliged to follow, but not to drastic extremes.

On the one hand:

Paul was not a sexist nor was he “hopelessly patriarchal” as one polemicist said in the 1990s. Nevertheless, we should not confuse Victorian prejudices with biblical teaching. Paul does not argue that men are inherently smarter or more rational than females. Peter recognized differences and similarities between men and women (1 Pet 3:7). We are both the heirs of the “grace of life.”

On the other:

Paul, like Peter, does teach a creational order. We are not free to disregard his instruction because it puts us at odds with the Zeitgeist (spirit of the age) or widely held assumptions.

Gentlemen favouring extremes would do well to take it easy on their wives and children.

Be Christlike in family relationships.

Recently, we spent a lovely holiday in the south of France.

One thing that struck both SpouseMouse and me was the proliferation of people staring at their digital devices. Now that mobile connections are available on flights from start to finish, some people were attached to their screens from boarding to landing.

While we were there I ran across an article which warned about today’s obsession with non-stop digital connection, especially at mealtime. (I’ve already posted about a French etiquette expert who says that mobile devices are not invited to the table, where good food and conversation take pride of place.) The article reported on a study that showed social interaction, empathy and conviviality declined severely when dining partners continued checking messages, texting and surfing.

Nearly a year ago, I read an article on digital addiction in the French newsweekly Marianne: ‘Chéri(e), lâche ton portable!’ (‘Darling, put down your mobile!’) which appeared in the 25 – 31 July 2014 issue on pages 18 – 21. Highlights follow.

All too real cartoons

Marianne featured three tragicomic cartoons by way of illustration.

The main one showed four people sitting together in silence on their mobiles (pp 18-19):

Man No. 1: Hello. My name is Philippe and I’m a mobile telephone addict. (Tap, tap)

Man No. 2: Hello, Philippe. (Tap, tap)

Woman: Hello, Philippe 🙂 (Tap, tap)

Man No. 3: Hi, Philippe. (Tap, tap)

The second had a couple in bed with the husband responding to a message (p. 20):

Wife: It’s your mistress.

Husband: Not at all … It’s the office …

Wife: No … Your iPhone is your mistress …

The third shows a multi-storey house with dialogue coming from the uppermost room (p. 21):

Once again you’ve taken the side of the bed where you can get a connection!

The problem

A Frenchwoman, Carol, told Marianne that her boyfriend receives audible notifications of messages at all hours (pp. 18-19):

He sleeps with his phone; he wakes up with his phone. During the night it’s ‘ding, ding, ding!’ on the phone, on the computer and on the tablet.

Portable devices have become the adult version of cuddly toys or security blankets. Seventy-four per cent of the French say they never leave the house without them! That gem comes from an Ipsos survey taken in 2013 for Google (pp. 19, 21).

Furthermore, people are using their phones and tablets as escape routes from boring conversations (p. 19).

Even worse, the article says that a survey done in England showed that 62% of women use their smartphones during sexual intercourse (p. 20)!

Marianne interviewed one phone addict who was slowly realising that he has a phone problem. Business school student Jean-Manuel, aged 22, said (p. 20):

I no longer wait for my phone to vibrate; I look at it all the time. Even when I’m having a phone conversation, I hold it away from my face so that I can glance at the screen. I’m never separated from it.

During my student trip to Budapest, I was constantly on WhatsApp to communicate with my girlfriend who was in France. As it was non-stop, I turned down invitations to parties and missed moments of conviviality with the other students … I couldn’t even appreciate my mates who came to visit me.

Whilst travelling, I went to McDonald’s rather than to traditional restaurants just for the Wifi. It was horrible.

Online games are also an issue. Stéphanie Bertholon is a psychologist and cofounder of the Centre de traitment du stress et de l’anxiété in Lyon. She has a patient who prefers to play Candy Crush rather than put his daughter to bed at night. He realised (p. 20):

it gave him a rather pitiful picture of himself as a father …

Yet:

he is completely dependent [on the phone].

Let’s hope that, one year on, he is on the road to recovery.

Two researchers who have been studying phone addicts’ behaviour — sociologist Francis Jauréguiberry and anthropologist Jocelyn Lachance — have found, independently of each other (p. 21):

– No digital addict will make a clean break with a portable device. Although digital addicts talk about it, not one has done it yet.

– No corporate executive is ever completely disconnected.

– Rather than turning off, digital users tend to get more involved with their devices over time. Mastery of applications becomes increasingly more important to them.

Lachance, the anthropologist, indicated that loved ones can become co-dependents in this behaviour:

It’s not work that encourages [the addict] to stay connected. Friends and family cannot admit that they can no longer interact with these people.

Strangely:

The ultimate argument [for staying connected] is death. ‘What if something happens to him?’ ‘What if something happens to us?’

Who will know — and when?

Practical solutions

With summer holidays just around the corner, now is a good time to try to break the habit of being online all the time. Marianne‘s interviewees offered the following suggestions (p. 21).

Jean-Manuel, the aforementioned student: When you’re having drinks with friends, everyone has to put his mobile in the middle of the table. The first one who cracks and reaches for his phone has to buy the next round of drinks … Okay, fine, but we stopped playing that game. It made everyone too nervous.

Stéphanie Bertholon, the psychologist: First thing: I recommend stopping notification of messages. Then, before taking your smartphone to the beach, ask: ‘Why am I doing this?’ Above all, it’s about discarding a ritual in order to control your behaviour.

Another suggestion — especially good for parents and other family elders to impose — comes from Sabine Lochmann, director general for BPI Group, mother of three and wife of 25 years (emphasis mine):

On holiday, my husband and I pay fines if we work or talk about work. Our eldest daughter is in charge of the kitty. And when we all spend time together, I ask everyone to lay down their ‘arms’, meaning portable phones, and put them in a basket when they enter the house.

It was shocking to see so many airline passengers on our return flight from Nice to London using these smartphones and tablets non-stop. They even missed the beauty of the Baie des Anges (Bay of Angels) and the Esterel (the Alpes-Maritimes nearest the coast). I’ve seen both several times on take-off; such natural beauty never fails to captivate. I could not believe the number of people who preferred gazing at a tiny glowing screen!

Conclusion

Parents and grandparents should not hesitate to ask — demand — that mobile devices be left behind or put in a basket during family gatherings. And, unless there is something urgent (i.e. doctor on call), they should stay put until the end of the meal or party.

Let’s recapture the lively art of conversation! What better time to start than during summer holiday?

Bible kevinroosecomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur (Divorce and Remarriage, Parts 1, 2 and 3).

Matthew 5:31-32

Divorce

31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

——————————————————————

Matthew 5, 6 and 7 recount Jesus’s entire Sermon on the Mount. We often stop at the Beatitudes, but the three chapters have difficult verses, many of which we ignore in our own notionally Christian lives.

Our Lord’s objective was to pierce the self-righteousness of the Jewish leadership and impress upon those who heard Him preach that the ordinary Jews were not to imitate the hierarchy’s example. They invented a number of get-out clauses for their own sinful convenience.

Last week’s post looked at Matthew 5:25-26, verses which urge us to come to an arrangement with those who accuse us of wrongdoing. Where we can mend the relationship, Jesus urges us to do so rather than risk a judgement by a court — or an eternal one by Him on the Last Day. We are to resist anger, grudges and bitterness.

Today’s passage is preceded by His condemnation of lust and adultery:

Lust

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

The message is not so much to remove our right eye or hand — traditionally considered by the Jews to be the most powerful body parts — but to pray for the divine grace and Spirit-inspired fortitude to avoid temptation.

Today’s two verses are found elsewhere in the New Testament. I wrote about Mark 10:10-12 in 2012 and Luke 16:18 in 2014. Both of those posts discuss the rampant divorce, particularly among the Jewish leaders, which had been escalating throughout the Old Testament era to Jesus’s day.

From the beginning, God made a covenant with Israel, the precursor of Christ’s with His Bride, the Church. Nothing could break the Old Covenant, despite God’s punishments of His people; in the end, after repentance, He forgave them and showed them mercy. In the Christian era, despite false teaching and apostasy, nothing shall ultimately come between Christ and the Church.

The covenant started with the creation and union of Adam and Eve. John MacArthur explains how this works in a context of couples, which they then marred with Original Sin, the tensions of which exist today (emphases mine):

Now prior to the fall marriage was pure bliss, the man was the head, the woman was the help meet. The man’s headship was a loving, caring provision of understanding. The woman’s being a help meet was a loving, caring submissiveness to the one who was given as her leader. It was beautiful, her heart was totally devoted to him, his heart was totally devoted to her, and according to Genesis 1:27 and 28, they ruled together, they ruled together. But that ended …

… literally what happened was in the fall man was elevated to rule in the house, to rule in the home. He’d had a soft kind of dominance before, held had a loving, caring approach before but now he is set in a place of ruling with authority. [‘Mashal’] is a different word than the word for rule in Genesis 1:28, completely different word, completely different concept. A new dimension of his rule has come about. The woman then is made immediately subordinate to the man.

People say, oh there’s too much male chauvinism in the world, and they’re exactly right and this is why. Because of the curse and because woman led in the sin God set man over her to control her, to subdue her as it were, to be her head. And frankly without Jesus Christ it can be very abusive, I agree, sinful man has been chauvinistic, I’m the first one to agree, only in Christ, only in the Spirit can a right kind of headship be restored and that’s the meaning of Ephesians chapter 5. Only in Christ, apart from that there will be oppressiveness. On the other hand, man is installed in this case as a ruler and woman, it says, her desire shall be to her husband.

In Moses’s time, adultery began to become a problem. In fact, so much so that he allowed a bill of divorce, which in the Jewish religion is called a get. Deuteronomy 24:1-4:

Laws Concerning Divorce

24 “When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife, and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the Lord. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.

From this, we understand three things: divorce is permitted because of a wife’s  ‘indecency’, remarriage can lead to another divorce and excessive adultery would have led to defiling the land God gave to His chosen people.

Although stoning was allowed and took place in cases of adultery, as time passed, it was done less and less.

A certificate of divorce became the norm. Note that it had to be written out. This was to eliminate impulsive decisions taken in anger. A husband couldn’t tell his wife he was divorcing her, he actually had to be able to write such a statement. Most men could not write in that era and, for this reason, divorces were relatively rare.

On the other hand, the Jewish leaders, being educated, were able to add new meanings to the word ‘indecency’. From an original context of adultery, it came to encompass anything which displeased the husband: his wife’s looks, her ability to cook, her family and so on. Although the leaders presented themselves as following every aspect of the law, they created various means of twisting it to fit their own appetites. By the time our Lord began His ministry, divorces among the Jewish elite were frequent.

Therefore, although Jesus acknowledged that divorce is allowed (verse 25), He said that improper divorce is akin to adultery (verse 26). It may be driven by lust for another, fornication. Ultimately, remarriage often involves marrying a woman to whom a man has no right.

Matthew Henry explains:

He reduced the ordinance of marriage to its primitive institution: They two shall be one flesh, not to be easily separated, and therefore divorce is not to be allowed, except in case of adultery, which breaks the marriage covenant but he that puts away his wife upon any other pretence, causeth her to commit adultery, and him also that shall marry her when she is thus divorced. Note, Those who lead others into temptation to sin, or leave them in it, or expose them to it, make themselves guilty of their sin, and will be accountable for it. This is one way of being partaker with adulterers Psalm 50:18.

Thinking about divorce today, our reasons for undertaking it are similar to the Jewish hierarchy’s, especially the notion of ‘irreconcilable differences’.

MacArthur sums it up this way:

the point that the Lord is making is just know when you go in you’re going in on the right terms with a commitment to stay there. Because divorce proliferates adultery.

Jesus elaborates on this in Matthew 19, which we will look at in due course, as it is also not in the Lectionary. It seems its compilers and editors did not wish to offend our delicate sensibilities. Matthew 19:3-9:

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”[a]

The message for us is to take marriage seriously. It would be a mistake to marry for sexual attraction alone, although that seems to be an overriding reason for many couples. We need to look at long-term compatibility and pragmatism: cooking, housekeeping, cleanliness, managing money, child-rearing, restraining impulses (anger), avoiding addiction (gambling, drink, drugs) and so on.

The Catholic Church has a lengthy pre-marital course lasting several weeks. This used to be called Pre-Cana and now goes under another name. I knew a couple who attended it in the 1980s. They were shocked at how ill-matched and ill-prepared some of the other couples in their class were. It was not unusual for couples to argue during the courses. Some engagements were broken as issues regarding children, money and gambling came to light. 

I am not sure how strict certain Catholic parishes are on these pre-marital classes now. I know of a couple who were able to claim an excused absence for several of them. After a few years of marriage, they recently divorced. The husband ran off with another woman.

This is only one example of many proving our Lord’s point about divorce.

Regarding the marital covenant and the parallel with God’s covenant with His people, the Old Testament has examples of how serious this is. He will reject our praises and worship. Could this be one reason why our churches are emptying? MacArthur cites Malachi 2:

Judah Profaned the Covenant

10 Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers? 11 Judah has been faithless, and abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem. For Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the Lord, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god. 12 May the Lord cut off from the tents of Jacob any descendant[e] of the man who does this, who )brings an offering to the Lord of hosts!

13 And this second thing you do. You cover the Lord‘s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. 14 But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. 15 Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union?[f] And what was the one God[g] seeking?[h] Godly offspring. So guard yourselves[i] in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. 16 “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her,[j] says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers[k] his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”

The Book of Hosea tells the story of an adulterous marriage with eventual reconciliation. Hosea 1:2-11:

Hosea’s Wife and Children

When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord. So he went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.

And the Lord said to him, “Call his name Jezreel, for in just a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. And on that day I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.”

She conceived again and bore a daughter. And the Lord said to him, “Call her name No Mercy,[a] for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all. But I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the Lord their God. I will not save them by bow or by sword or by war or by horses or by horsemen.”

When she had weaned No Mercy, she conceived and bore a son. And the Lord said, “Call his name Not My People,[b] for you are not my people, and I am not your God.”[c]

10 [d] Yet (P)the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children[e] of the living God.” 11 And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head. And they shall go up from the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel.

MacArthur explains:

Hosea is to become a dramatization; he is going to enact in his life a great drama to illustrate great spiritual truth. Now here’s what Hosea was to do, Hosea was to marry a woman, a woman by the name of Gomer, and having married her, discover that she had become a prostitute or a harlot. And in spite of that he was to be faithful to his vow, no matter what the pain, no matter what the unfaithfulness, no matter what the excruciating agony, no matter what the price he was to be faithful to his harlot, prostitute, debauched, vile wife, no matter what she did, why? Because this was a pageant to demonstrate how faithful God would be to His wayward wife, Israel. And it sets for us the standard of relationship in a marriage as it is the image for God’s relationship to His people ...

Now I do not believe for a moment that God forced her into her harlotries to be an illustration. I believe God worked in His sovereignty with her own will. But the heart of the story is that dear Hosea was to be faithful and forgiving no matter what she did. In fact as we go into the story we find out that when she went into harlotry he actually paid her bills, because he felt so bound by the vow he had made when he married her, he followed her around paying her bills.

Ultimately, Gomer failed in her adulterous pursuits, and Hosea persevered in preserving his marriage:

here in a sense is a husband who is chastening and judging all the while and supporting, so that she stays alive.

And you see exactly this in God’s relation to Israel. God on the one hand is judging and chastening and dealing with Israel, on the other hand God is the very life of the nation, right? You look at Israel today, and God is chastening the land of Israel and yet at the same time God is the sustenance of that people. And so Hosea works with this ambivalence, a wife who is a prostitute and a harlot, and he wants so much for her to be judged and he wants so much for her to be condemned in this so she’ll return and yet he, he goes along because of the vow that he has to her as a husband and he makes sure her needs are met. Incredible commitment …

The point is God’s unchanging love for Israel is based on the permanent promise He made which is based upon His character. And so even though Israel became a harlot, God said I’ll bring her back, even though she bore children of harlotry God said I’ll change their names. And so it was that Hosea was to live the illustration of an adulterous wife to be brought back, to be brought back to a place of blessing.

In closing, I wanted to bring to light research MacArthur cited in his sermons. He wrote and preached them in 1978. Even then, the damage divorce brings was becoming crystal clear.

Armand Nicholi, MD, a psychiatrist who is also on the faculty of Harvard Medical School, looked at the effect divorce and parental absence had on families. His research appeared in a 1978 edition of Christianity Today. He warned:

Certain trends prevalent today will incapacitate the family, destroy its integrity and cause its members to suffer such crippling emotional conflicts that they will become an intolerable burden to society. If any one factor influences the character development and emotional stability an individual, it is the quality of the relationship he or she experiences as a child with both parents.

And:

Conversely if people suffering from severe non-organic emotional illness have one experience in common, it is the absence of a parent through death, divorce, etc. A parent’s inaccessibility either physically, emotionally or both can profoundly influence a child’s emotional health.

Moving around was also problematic, and some of this was driven by divorce. Nicholi’s research published in 1978 revealed that:

50% of the U. S. population lived at a different address 5 years ago. Consequently young people have no sense of roots, have no concept of extended friendships.

Nicholi saw the 1970s reality and correctly predicted a stark future:

The trend toward quick and easy divorce, and the ever increasing divorce rate subjects more and more children to physically and emotionally absent parents. The divorce rate has risen 700% in this century, and it continues to rise. There is now one divorce for every 1.8 marriages. Over 1 million children a year are involved in divorce cases, and 13 million children under 18 now have one or both parents missing.

First, the quality of family life will continue to deteriorate, producing a society with a higher incidence of mental illness than ever before. 95% of our hospital beds will be taken up by mentally ill people. This illness will be characterized primarily by a lack of self-control. We can expect the assassination of people in authority to be frequent occurrences. Crimes of violence will increase, even those within the family, the suicide rate will rise. As sexuality becomes more unlimited more separated from family and emotionally commitment the deadening effect will cause more bizarre experimenting and widespread perversion.

We’re seeing and living this out today.

Our Lord is perfect in all things, including His exhortations about marriage and divorce. Why do we continue to ignore Him?

Next time: Matthew 6:7-15

 

I have a backlog of unused links in a Pending folder.

One of them is a profile of radio host Larry Elder‘s 2012 book Dear Father, Dear Son with the subtitle Two Lives, Eight Hours. The photo is of his father’s snack bar in Los Angeles. More about that in a moment.

Writing for World Daily News in January 2013, during the aftermath of the Sandy Hook killings, Elder says that American society is suffering not from gun culture but from a fatherless culture (emphases mine below):

Rapper/actor Ice T (“Cop Killer”) and I attended the same high school. In the 1991 John Singleton film “Boyz n the Hood,” the teenagers attend that school and car-cruise the South Central Los Angeles boulevard after which the school is named.

Crenshaw High opened in 1968. By the time Ice-T left, less than a decade later, Crenshaw had become, in the rapper’s words, “a Crip school” – meaning one controlled by that street gang. Because of the school’s reputation for violence, Time magazine called it “Fort Crenshaw.” A powerhouse in basketball and football, the school lost its accreditation 2005, before getting it back in 2006 on a short-term basis.

In 1970, I was part of the second graduating class in the new school’s history. Some kids who started with me in the 10th grade did not finish. But it was the exception rather than the rule. By 2012, only 51 percent of Crenshaw’s students graduated.

What happened?

Dads disappeared. Or, more precisely, to use Bill Cosby’s term, the number of “unwed fathers” exploded.

He goes on to say:

In 1979 the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth found that fatherless kids were twice as likely to drop out of school and that girls who grew up without dads were 2.5 times more likely to become pregnant teenagers.

Rutgers University sociology professor David Popenoe published “Life Without Father” in 1996, where he describes the “massive erosion” of fathers in America. Popenoe concluded that boys raised without fathers were more likely to have problems with drugs, alcohol, behavior and social interactions. Several studies during the ’90s found that disruption in family structures was a predictor of children’s gang involvement.

Many on the left dismiss the importance of fathers as “right-wing,” blame-the-victim propaganda. Well, the late rapper Tupac Shakur, in the posthumously released documentary “Resurrection,” said: “I know for a fact that had I had a father, I’d have some discipline. I’d have more confidence.” He admits that he starting hanging out with gangs because he wanted to belong to a family structure, and it offered structure, support and protection – the kind of thing we once expected home and family to provide.

Anyone who knows a bit about gang culture will know that the gang leader acts as a surrogate father and that his top assistants as big brothers, meting out brutal punishments to members violating house rules.

Larry Elder’s upbringing in an unsavoury part of Los Angeles was quite different.

In this YouTube clip, Elder — a graduate of Brown University and University of Michigan Law School — tells the interviewer about his troubled relationship with his dad:

Elder explains that he and his father — married, working and living at home — got into an argument when Elder was 15. They did not speak to each other for ten years.

When they did start talking again, they had an eight-hour long conversation.

Until that point Elder did not understand what his father had been through from childhood in the South through to the time he was raising a family.

Elder Sr took his surname from his mother’s long-term boyfriend. In a parallel with Elder Jr, Elder Sr did not get on with the man of the house and was thrown out at age 13. He went on to serve his country during the Second World War. Upon returning to the South, he could not get a job. Frustrated but determined, he moved to California. He had problems finding employment as a short order cook because he had no references. Eventually, he ended up working two jobs whilst his wife raised the children. Larry Elder said that his parents believed it was important for his mother to stay at home.

Elder Sr, he tells us, only got four-and-a-half hours of sleep for decades. Even when he had saved up enough money to open the snack bar, Larry says his dad was always on edge. Home life proved difficult, especially once the children began working there:

… what I knew I hated — really, really hated. Cold, ill-tempered, thin-skinned, my father always seemed on the brink of erupting.

But Larry never knew about his father’s trials until the eight-hour conversation many years later. That is the reason for the book.

Larry Elder wants to reconcile children with their fathers, those fortunate enough to know them. In the Fox News interview, he says he has heard from men and women around the country who have mended fences with their dads and have come to understand them and love them in an entirely different light.

Elder believes that fathers are essential and that couples should marry before having children:

The formula for achieving middle-class success is simple: Finish high school; don’t have a child before the age of 20; and get married before having the child. Preparing for the future requires dedication. It requires deferring gratification, precisely the kind of “discipline” Tupac admitted he lacked because he grew up without a father.

Doing what you want to do is easy. Doing what you have to do is hard. Dads, by getting up and going to work each day, send a powerful message every day to their children: Hard work wins. There are no short cuts. The outcome is unknowable. But the effort is entirely within your control.

His own success is a testament to the upbringing he had, flawed and harsh as it was.

Elder says that whatever we perceive to be the problems in the black community are not the crucial issue. As he tells Tavis Smiley (at 5:06 and near the end of the interview) the crux of the matter is ‘children having children’:

He wants people to take responsibility for their own lives and rely less on the welfare state.

Incidentally, this is not just a black problem: Britain has many whites who have adopted the same multi-generational lifestyle.

In December 2014, Los Angeles radio station KABC dropped its hometown host’s show from its schedule. However, Elder’s show is syndicated and can be heard via other American radio stations and online.

Elder’s politics are small-state libertarian. Some would call him conservative, particularly in his probing and fascinating interview of Bill Ayers, who — amazingly — progressed from antiwar terrorist to teacher to Obama’s mentor:

Several of Elder’s fans would prefer that he be President of the United States rather than a talk show host. I can see their point.

Light of the World Holman Hunt detail thewordscom bigclose11Yes, the foremost association we should make with the title is our Lord Jesus Christ.

However, there are many people in this world who feel unloved by everyone in their family.

This is often caused by a mischief-making spouse or another family member who tells that person they are terrible and unloveable when they are not. This normally happens after an argument with relatives.

It happens all the time. Not only is it sad; it is also sinful and destructive. Mischief-making relatives will have to answer for their actions one day. So will those who are indifferent to family ructions. Those saying ‘It’s nothing to do with me’ are also guilty.

The notionally unloved then begins to retreat from engaging with family, even those cousins or aunts and uncles who contact them. They may act in an abrupt or hostile manner so that those caring relatives do not contact them anymore. They block any efforts at rapprochement.

Let us imitate the Good Shepherd in seeking the lost sheep by continuing to contact the unloved now and then. Pick up the phone or write a letter. They might ignore or rebuff your attempts but, deep down, they will be gratified to know that you are thinking of them.

And, when that family member returns to the fold, let us imitate the Prodigal Son’s father in extending a warm, loving, hearty welcome home.

Stained glass question jeremypryorwordpresscomIt is puzzling that families have so-called ‘secrets’ which are not scandalous.

Why would it be scandalous to share information about illness or something else about oneself or one’s spouse such as a job loss?

Chances are everyone else knows anyway ‘on the QT’, as Americans say.

I once knew two families well. One was very secretive. The other was open.

The end result was that Secretive Family had quite a few divorces through two generations as well as abusive marital relationships during that time.

Open Family had healthy relationships among everyone through the extended family. When they knew something was amiss, they restrained comment but offered help.  They really meant it.

To date, Open Family has had long-standing marriages with no divorces.

Go figure.

What does that mean?

One cannot help but reach for Luke 12, specifically, verses 2 and 3 (emphases mine):

2Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 3Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.

That is all.

Make of it what you will.

 

As some of us know, vulnerability — principally because of age or loss — can create a vacuum to be filled by an unscrupulous, manipulative fraudster.

This has been the case throughout history, although there was a time when the most serious menace a widow in my mother’s city could face was a series of obscene phone calls in the middle of the night. Her other widowed friends warned her that a local man read the obituaries in the local newspaper and looked up the telephone numbers of households where men had recently died, specifically those death notices which mentioned surviving widows. Yes, my mother, as did her friends in their time, received several of these calls over a period of a few weeks.

That is distressing enough, particularly as, when the phone rang at 2 or 3 a.m., she thought I had been seriously injured or died in an accident. It really isn’t big, clever or funny. Nobody knows what happened to that heavy breather on the other end of the phone. He might have died by now or moved away.

Some years earlier, my late grandmother recalled the pigeon drop. It was rampant in her urban neighbourhood — a different city — in the 1970s. Two confidence tricksters — a thirtysomething man and woman — preyed on elderly widows to part with their savings in order to somehow magically get more money. The man presented the money angle; the woman the emotional ‘we really want you to have the cash, you’re so adorable’ gambit.

Anyone with half an ounce of common sense could see where that was going to end, right? Not necessarily. Some of Grandma’s friends were even taken in by the scam, despite the fact that all the senior citizens clubs in her area warned against even talking to these grifters.

Today, I heard an hour-long programme on French radio station RTL about how lone confidence tricksters can prey on married couples and split them apart.

I’ve written about Flavie Flament’s afternoon show on RTL once before, with regard to etiquette.  Her show on May 13, 2014 focussed on the true story of a manipulative man who one day began communicating with a married woman —  Ghislaine (pron. ‘Ghee-len’) de Védrines — and managed to defraud the couple of a serious sum of money. He is now serving a prison term. The woman and her husband, Jean Marchand, have since written a book about their decade-long ordeal. A psychiatrist was also on the show to explain how this occurs.

The psychiatrist, Marie-France Hirigoyen, said that manipulative grifters can sense vulnerability and gradually — my words, not hers — go in for the kill, if you’ll pardon the expression. She said that loss triggers vulnerability in most cases: death, divorce or, perhaps, a job.

Strangely, in Ghislaine (pron. ‘Ghee-len’) de Védrines and Jean Marchand’s case, they were married and living together with their children. Unfortunately, I missed the first part of the show which explained exactly how Ghislaine was ensnared in this man’s universe. Although Jean explained that he tried to tell her time and time again that the man was no good, she refused to believe him.

Amazingly (to my mind, anyway), this disagreement filtered down to their children, who began taking sides with Mom or Dad.

The weird thing is that Ghislaine never actually met this man until later on. However, he contacted her by telephone and he emailed, targeting her mind first and then her wallet.

Therefore, this scenario could happen to anyone, including a married couple who are parents of younger children living at home.

The danger was that once Ghislaine was trapped, she couldn’t get out because the conman had such a psychological hold on her. I watched the show as it took place live in the studio. Ghislaine and her husband look completely normal and middle class. You would not think that one of them would fall prey to such a scam, particularly one that stretched over ten years.

They — along with the psychiatrist — ran through characteristics that these con artists have in common: persuasive communication, drawing the ‘mark’ (targeted person) away from their family and friends, encouraging the mark to trust no one but the con artist himself and ensuring that they have secret communications.

Jean remained by his wife’s side throughout the ordeal, even though — because of the con artist’s manipulative persuasion — Ghislaine couldn’t bear to be with him. She ended up going through psychotherapy and fully regrets that she was taken in by a man who threatened every aspect of the stable family life and financial security she once knew.

It’s interesting that the title of the couple’s book is Diabolique, which needs no translation.

I’m still surprised thinking about it now, hours later. However, it just goes to show us that evil can work under a series of subtle disguises, seemingly good, so ‘good’ that it can seriously damage people, their relationships and their future.

If we’re going through trauma, the best advice we can follow is not to be drawn in by chance acquaintances, whether in real life or online.

This story is proof that a con artist can penetrate even a marriage and active family life.

At least, in this case, the husband persevered. He never gave up reclaiming his wife’s affections and putting his family back together.

As for Ghislaine, she said that the most important thing a mark can do is to apologise to their loved ones by admitting they made a serious mistake.

Some family members would not take a sincere apology well and possibly reject that person.

Fortunately for Ghislaine, her family has forgiven her, although both she and Jean admit that things are no longer what they once were.

We as Christians are called to be kind to strangers. Yet, we can bear in mind Jesus’s words to the Apostles when he sent them out to preach and heal (Matthew 10:16):

16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

Let us pray to the Holy Spirit for wisdom and guidance in our daily dealings with the world.

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