Diversity and Direction in America

President's Podium

Only someone living in a cave could plead ignorance about the diversity that exists in our country and the decision ahead about the direction in which we’ll be going. The Republican and Democratic conventions held last month made it quite clear that our two political parties hold significantly different opinions on many matters of importance and diametrically opposite positions on others.

Issues at hand include abortion, national security, terrorism in the world, racial tensions in America, the national debt, the Affordable Care Act, gun control, support for military veterans and Supreme Court appointments. You could add to that list. So could I.

Just over three months from now America will choose a new leader. Wouldn’t it be great if at least one nominee for president would actually approach all or even most of these matters the way many of us would like? While that’s not likely to happen, many voters have already decided which candidate would be the best leader for America’s future. Others are still pondering.

Many Americans are frustrated and disenchanted with the options. Quite a few believe more qualified candidates should have arisen. Be that as it may, the choice is before us.

It may help to remember, though not always easy to accept, that those in positions of governing authority “have been placed there by God.” (Rom. 13:1) Could that be true of an ungodly leader? How about even a despotic leader? Surprisingly, God has occasionally demonstrated that reality, as in the case of Old Testament pagan kings used by God for the benefit of his people.

Yet God acts through humans. Our next president will be elected by American voters through the 538 members of the Electoral College, not directly appointed or anointed by God. Exercise your constitutional right to vote. Not to vote for any candidate is to yield the election to those who do.

For now, join me in prayer that even though many Americans may not be thrilled about our choices for president, God will nevertheless use this election to accomplish his will for our lives.

Deo volente!

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Islam’s Future in America—Part I

islam-9-1532819-640x480At the conclusion of my article on the visit of Pope Francis to America a couple weeks ago, I said: “Roman Catholics are not our greatest spiritual enemies. That designation belongs to Satan, the world, our own sinful flesh and Islam. I’ll say more about the last topic on that list in the weeks ahead.” This week I’m making the first installment on keeping that promise.

The title of this edition of Perspectives is borrowed from that of an article in the January/April edition of Concordia Theological Quarterly by Dr. Adam Francisco, Professor and Chair of the History and Political Thought Department at Concordia University Irvine in Irvine, Cal. Dr. Francisco is a young, very intelligent authority on Islam and is the son-in-law of Terry’s and my very good friends, Priscilla and Bob Newton. Bob is president of the California-Nevada-Hawaii District of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and a very bright mission-minded theological leader. Contents of Dr. Francisco’s article are shared here with his permission.

Dr. Francisco’s article chronicles the history of the first Muslims in the United States, who were slaves from Africa brought to this country over 200 years ago. Initially their influence was basically negligible. However, in the late 19th century the first Muslim missionary, Mohammed Alexander Russell Webb (1846-1916), began work in the U.S. Webb “was born in New York, raised in a Presbyterian household, moved to Missouri … established ties with Muslims in India, and received a commission from them to begin a mission to America.” Webb was basically unsuccessful in his five-year effort to promulgate the Islamic faith in America.

A few years later Islam’s influence in this country was catalyzed by “the thousands of immigrants who managed to circumvent the restrictions of the Immigration Act of 1891. By the 1920s it is estimated that around 60,000 had settled in cities throughout the United States. Most of them kept their religion private and sometimes even lied about it. But a few were apparently emboldened to advance Islam.”

The result was “a good bit of success in winning converts” among African Americans in Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, and St. Louis in just three years (1920-1923) by holding what are described as “Mosque meetings” where the “virtues of Islam were exalted and Christianity was severely criticized.” The plan of Islam was to “conquer America.”

Perhaps that’s enough to whet your appetite. I’ll continue next week with more on this important topic. My goal is to be as objective and accurate as possible, being neither unnecessarily alarmist nor gullibly naïve about the potential impact of Islam’s future in America. See you next week.

Pope Francis in the U.S.

Pope FrancisFor the first time in his papacy—and his life—Pope Francis is visiting the United States. This week he is traveling through Washington, D.C., New York and Philadelphia. Hundreds of thousands of people are anticipating the chance to see him during his time here in our country. Tickets for public masses, papal parades and even public transportation are highly coveted.

During the first part of his six-day, three-city visit to the U.S., the pope met with President Obama and today will address the U.S. Congress. Later today he will travel to New York, where he will conduct evening prayer at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and address the United Nations. Over the weekend he will take part in a Vatican-sponsored conference on families in Philadelphia. The official version of the Pope’s entire schedule is posted below.

Pope Francis, the 266th pope, was elected at the age of 76, is the first Jesuit pope and the first pope from the Americas. One report I read reminds us that the pope is not a politician, he’s a priest and that, despite what the American media might say of his objectives, this trip is the pope’s opportunity to focus more on things spiritual than things political. I hope that’s true.

I’ll take the risk here of sharing a few brief thoughts about popes and the Catholic Church. Quite often, when making a presentation on The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and its place in world Christendom, I compare the pope to the president of the LCMS. Here’s what I say:

The LCMS president has spiritual connection with approximately two million people, mostly in the United States. The pope has connection with over one billion people all across the globe. That’s one thousand million, which is 500 times more than the LCMS.

On November 26, 2001, just a few months after Terry and I sold our home and left our family in Texas to move to St. Louis to assume the office of president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, I underwent radical prostatectomy. Not many folks other than our family, my senior staff and a number of close friends knew about my surgery. That same week, Pope John Paul II had a cold and sore throat. He made front page news around the world! I fully understand the reason.

Our Lutheran Confessions refer to the papacy as the antichrist. This characterization is often understood to describe individual popes who conducted their ministry in less than God pleasing ways, especially the popes in office during the time leading up to the 16th century Reformation. Not nearly as many Lutherans today as in the past consider the pope the antichrist.

The Roman Catholic Church has different understandings of eternity than most of the rest of Christianity, including the existence of purgatory. Catholics are still assigned acts of penance and encouraged to purchase indulgences. While faith in Christ is emphasized, so is praying to saints. Papal infallibility, seven sacraments rather than just two, and the Immaculate Conception of Mary are also upheld. Lutherans and other Christians respectfully disagree with these beliefs.

For the record, our Lutheran understanding of eternity is simply this: We believe we are saved for eternity by grace, through faith in Christ our Lord, and not by works of the law. Because of the perfect fulfilling of the law by Christ and his vicarious atonement for our sins on Calvary’s cross, our sins are forgiven, both temporally and eternally. Heaven is a free gift of God’s grace, which we in no way deserve and for which we will be eternally grateful.

Notwithstanding the differences noted and a few others as well, which are not insignificant, I consider Roman Catholics our sisters and brothers in Christ. They, together with Lutherans and other Christians, confess their faith in The Apostles’ Creed, The Nicene Creed and The Athanasian Creed. Roman Catholics are not our greatest spiritual enemies. That designation belongs to Satan, the world, our own sinful flesh and Islam. I’ll say more about the last topic on that list in the weeks ahead.

In the meantime, welcome to the U.S., Pope Francis. I’m glad you’re here!

U.S. Itinerary for Pope Francis

Tuesday, Sept. 22

4 p.m.: Pope Francis arrives in U.S. at Joint Base Andrews just outside of Washington. He will be greeted by President Obama.

Wednesday, Sept. 23

9:15 a.m.: Pope Francis will appear at an official welcoming ceremony on the White House South Lawn then meet with President Obama.

11 a.m.: The Pope will parade around the Ellipse just south of the White House and the National Mall.

11:30 a.m.: Pope Francis will pray with U.S. bishops at D.C.’s St. Matthew’s Cathedral.

4:30p.m.: The Pope will canonize Junípero Serra during a mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Thursday, Sept. 24

10a.m.: Speech before a Joint Session of Congress followed by an appearance on the West Front of the Capitol at 11 a.m.

11:15 a.m.: The Pope will visit St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in D.C. and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, where he is expected to meet with clients of the St. Maria’s Meals program who will have gathered for lunch, including some who are homeless or live in shelters

4p.m.: Pope Francis heads to New York where he’ll land by 5 p.m.

6:45 p.m.: The Pope will conduct evening prayer at St. Patrick’s Cathedral near New York’s Rockefeller Center.

Friday, Sept. 25

8:30 a.m.: Pope Francis will address the United Nations General Assembly, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary. The Pope is also expected to attend bilateral meetings with the U.N. Secretary-General and the President of the General Assembly.

11:30 a.m.: The Pope will pray, meet with families and deliver an address at a multi-religious service at the Sept. 11 memorial and museum at the site of the World Trade Center.

4 p.m.: Before taking his motorcade through Central Park, the Pope will visit a third grade class at Our Lady Queen of Angels school, a 120-year-old institution in East Harlem.

5 p.m.: Motorcade through West Central Park between 72nd and 60th Streets. A ticket and valid ID are required to enter.

6 p.m.: Mass at Madison Square Garden.

Saturday, Sept. 26

8:40 a.m.: Pope departs New York for final leg of the trip, arriving in Philadelphia at 9:30 a.m.

10:30 a.m.: Mass at Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, the mother church of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia

4:45 p.m.: The Pope is expected to talk immigration and religious during an address at Independence Mall

7:30 p.m.: Visit and prayer vigil at the World Meeting of the Families on Benjamin Franklin Parkway

Sunday, Sept. 27

9:15 a.m.: The Pope will meet with Bishops at St. Martin’s Chapel, St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.

11 a.m.: Visit to Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, the city’s largest jail.

4 p.m.: Mass at World Meeting of the Families.

7 p.m.: Meeting with World Meeting organizers, benefactors and volunteers.

8 p.m.: Official departure.

Reminders to help us keep an open mind—Part 2

bright red and orange open signLast week’s Perspectives began a series of prophetic statements reported to have been made in the past that have proven to be inaccurate. Here we go with the second installment:

  • “The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C,’ the idea must be feasible.” – A Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith’s paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. Smith went on to found Federal Express Corporation.
  • “Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.” – Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University, 1929.
  • “Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value.” – Marechal Ferdinand Foch, French Soldier and First World War Commander in Chief of the Allied Armies.
  • “I’m just glad it’ll be Clark Gable who’s falling on his face and not Gary Cooper.” – Gary Cooper on his decision not to take the leading role in “Gone with the Wind.”
  • “A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, the market research reports say America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you make.” – Response to Debbi Fields’ idea of starting Mrs. Fields’ Cookies.
  • “Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.” – Lord William Thomson Kelvin, University of Glasgow and President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 1895.
  • “If I had thought about it, I wouldn’t have done the experiment. The literature was full of examples that said you can’t do this.” – Spencer Silver on the work that led to the unique adhesives for 3-M “Post-It” Notepads.
  • “Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You’re crazy.” – Drillers who Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist to his project to drill for oil in 1859.

Again we see how God has blessed his creation with incredible intelligence, even though premature prognostications, in hindsight, turn out to be equally incredibly short sighted.

Stay tuned for next week’s conclusion to this series.

May our gracious God bless and keep you in his love and care!

If I were the Devil: Paul Harvey

Paul Harvey Credit:  Wikipedia

Paul Harvey
Credit: Wikipedia

Several years ago radio commentator Paul Harvey spoke this Warning for a Nation:

If I were the devil, I wouldn’t be happy until I had seized the ripest apple on the tree: thee. So I’d set about however necessary to take over the United States. I’d subvert the churches first. I’d begin with a campaign of whispers. And with the wisdom of a serpent, I’d whisper to you as I whispered to Eve: “Do as you please.”

To the young I would whisper that the Bible is a myth. I would convince them that man created God instead of the other way around. I would confide that what’s bad is good and what’s good is square. And the old I would teach to pray, after me: “Our Father, which art in Washington …”

And then I’d get organized. I’d educate authors in how to make lurid literature exciting so that anything else would appear dull and uninteresting. I’d threaten TV with dirtier movies and vice versa. I’d pedal narcotics to whom I could. I’d sell alcohol to ladies and gentlemen of distinction. I’d tranquilize the rest with pills.

If I were the devil I’d soon have families at war with themselves, churches at war with themselves, and nations at war with themselves, until each in its turn was consumed. And with promises of higher ratings I’d have mesmerizing media fanning the flames.

If I were the devil I would encourage schools to refine young intellects, but neglect to discipline emotions. Just let those run wild, until before you knew it, you’d have to have drug-sniffing dogs and metal detectors at every schoolhouse door.

Within a decade, I’d have prisons overflowing. I’d have judges promoting pornography. Soon I could evict God from the courthouse, then from the schoolhouse, and then from the houses of Congress. And in His own churches I would substitute psychology for religion and deify science. I would lure priests and pastors into misusing boys and girls and church money.

If I were the devil I’d make the symbol of Easter an egg and the symbol of Christmas a bottle.
If I were the devil I’d take from those who have and give to those who want it until I had killed the incentive of the ambitious. And what’ll you bet I couldn’t get whole states to promote gambling as the way to get rich?

I would caution against extremes, and hard work, and patriotism, and moral conduct. I would convince the young that marriage is old-fashioned, that swinging is more fun, that what you see on TV is the way to be. And thus I could undress you in public, and I could lure you into bed, with diseases for which there is no cure.

In other words, if I were the devil, I’d just keep right on doing what he’s doing!

Paul Harvey. Good day!

Jerry Kieschnick Signature

Dr. Gerald B. (Jerry) Kieschnick
One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism – Eph. 4:5
For previous issues of Perspectives go to www.jerrykieschnick.wordpress.com