On Christian Ethics

If ethics is the study of the life we should live (the good life), then religious ethics is the study of the life God wants us to live. For Christians, gaining clarity on this subject is fraught with difficulty.

One problem is what you might call the “rule-orientation” problem. Ethical systems commonly offer a set of rules for how to live the good life. But Christianity is not a set of rules. In fact, for those who love rules, the New Testament is infuriatingly unhelpful. And even if someone comes to the Bible with the idea of trying to find a compendium of rules, Jesus Himself seems to violate them as often as He upholds them. After all, the rule-oriented leaders of His day were the ones who found Him the most intolerable. His art was far too innovative for their fastidious conventionality.

Another problem is what you might call the “objective ethics” problem. As is natural to think, if God defines the good life and God is fair, then we might expect the good life to be the same for everyone. Although there are certainly some areas of what would ordinarily pass for objective principles, the New Testament again clearly denounces this error under the general principle of Christian liberty. Things that are wrong for one man are good for another and vice versa. And even the thing which might be generally right for one can become wrong in a situation where it alienates people from him or impedes evangelizing or fellowshipping with them. So even when general rules seem to appear, they must always be footnoted by the context and conscience of the individual believer. This again showed itself in the life of Christ and His followers.

But if there is yet a third and truly massive problem plaguing the study of the Christian good life historically, it must surely be the “good enough” problem. This beguiling error tends to think of all possible actions as being either prohibited, permissible, or virtuous. People often think, for instance, that stealing is prohibited, spending money after you have tithed any way you like is permitted, and giving more or all of your money away to charity is virtuous. Unfortunately, the New Testament never gives us ground to hold onto this error. Instead, it says we are to “be perfect.” What this means is that the Christian life is not a matter of avoiding being bad. Instead, virtue, valor, and moral excellence are obligatory. Another way to say this is that there really are no moral options in Christianity. Doing precisely what God wants at any moment is what it means to be good, and everything else is sin. The only life worth living is the perfect one. This is obvious if we merely consider that loving God fully is our basic obligation, which should inspire perfect obedience all the time. Jesus was sinless not because He did “enough,” but because He literally did every single thing precisely right. But considering the first two errors, the perfect life is going to differ greatly from person to person and context to context.

Add to all these difficulties the basic Christian idea that none of us on our own ability can ever actually accomplish God’s perfect will, even if we were insightful enough to see what it was supposed to be in any situation. This means that not only do we need the Holy Spirit moment by moment for guidance, but we need Him to empower us as well.

What, then is Christian ethics? At its simplest, it is the study of knowing the will of the Father at every moment and obeying it by the power of the Holy Spirit enabled in us by the love and sacrifice of our lord Jesus Christ. And once you add all those other wrinkles, it should become clear that Christian ethics is much more like a kind of artistic performance in which something may look quite wrong and be quite right whereas other things may look quite right but be thoroughly wrong. And if we accomplish this, we have merely done what we should.

If this seems to have muddied the waters for you but in a way you don’t really mind too much, then you’re starting to shed some of your pre-Christian ethical misconceptions. And if it also seems to have made things simultaneously far more clear to you, that’s probably because I’m only putting words to the experience of God you’ve already begun to have in your life.

Candy friends

At church recently, my children discovered the joy of being lucky. Ethan had managed to win the grand prize in some drawing, which turned out to be a light-up foam rocket launcher, a toy all the children coveted deeply. Well, we brought it home, but there was a problem. For whatever reason, daddy was the only one who could figure out how to pump it up and launch it properly and his adeptness was non-transferable to mommy or the boys. So, mommy decided to take Ethan with her to Target the next day and return it for something he would enjoy more and could actually use.

His purchase of choice? As much junk food as possible. Kit-Kats, cinnamon swirl buns, chocolate snack donuts, single-serve packets of instant pink lemonade, glo-sticks, and of course cinnamon chapstick. It was quite a haul. What I found just as fascinating as the selection, however, was the method of enjoyment. It was all gone within the day. He would eat some, and he would share some with his brothers. Then he would eat some more, and share some more with his brothers. In fact, he seemed to enjoy being the big man around the house with goodies to dole out just as much as he enjoyed eating them himself.

I must admit, my first reactions to all this were sort of negative. I was a bit irked that he had liquidated a physical and ongoing asset (a toy) into food rather than another tangible entertainment. Then I was a bit more irked when he just consumed it all in such a short period of time rather than parceling out the pleasure at least over a few days. And finally, I thought it was weird the way he seemed to be almost purchasing affection from the other boys with his favors, as perhaps the insecure second-born is prone to do. The prudent and self-sufficient adult in me was suffering a kind of embodied repudiation of my economic identity.

But in an instant, I reframed my entire outlook. Ethan was throwing a party, and he was just enjoying the chance to be a rich man inviting his best friends to his banquet of unhealthy delicacies. And it reminded me instantly of a Bible verse which I misunderstood for years. Jesus tells his disciples to “make friends with unrighteous money,” which does not mean to become money’s friend, but to use money to make friends, a decided upgrade in value. And when you are a child living in a world where you trust your daddy to always takes care of the important stuff so implicitly that you don’t even have to think about planning for tomorrow, this is precisely the way you misspend a surplus…in love on people.

On loneliness.

Being separated from my family for six weeks while they were in St. Louis was extremely unpleasant for me. There were obviously some lifestyle benefits, such as time flexibility, significantly reduced responsibility, and a total lack of the aggravations which other humans (especially the partially grown ones) bring with them. But just as obviously, these advantages don’t even remotely outweigh the pain of being separated from the ones I love. One way I learned to deal with the separation was simply to not think about them too much, avoiding looking at pictures for the simple reason that it just hurt too much.

But as I endured this unpleasant experience, it also taught me something I wouldn’t otherwise have understood. Obviously, it made me consider those others who suffer much more prolonged separations under much harsher circumstances, such as members of the military and their families. But the not-so-obvious part for me was what it taught me about single people. Young singles tend to have lots of friends and live with roommates or their parents, so they tend to not be alone very much. But for so many older singles, loneliness is a way of life.

See, in my case, it was painful because I missed my family, but at least I knew it was only temporary. There was a wife and sons who were going to return soon, and then it would all be over. But for adults who live alone, no one is coming home…or at least no one is coming home anytime soon. The house may be quiet and no one will bother them, but this also means there’s no one to cry with, get hugs from, run an idea past, or just share a joke with on a moment-by-moment basis. And although I know I have already returned to the family life in which its easy to fantasize about being alone, I hope I will also keep a place in my awareness for the gift of companionship which all of our families have to offer the alone who surround us.

What's the goal?

Last night, while the rest of us watched TV together, Ethan (age five) had gone into the playroom and was occupying himself. Now, as any parent knows, the most distressing noise in a house full of children is quiet. So, having heard no sound from the other room for quite awhile, I went to check on him.

But when I opened the door, I was completely stunned by his response. Looking up from the picture he was coloring, Ethan gave me a murderous look, gritted his teeth, and ordered me to, “Get out!” in the strongest tone he could muster. Baffled, I asked him what was wrong several times, but I kept getting the same basic reaction: fury. Now, normally such behavior isn’t tolerated, but there seemed to be something extra weird going on here, which made me pause before jumping into discipline-and-correct mode.

And in that moment of pause, I considered how God deals with me when I’m angry. Despite often making jokes about being struck by God’s wrathful lightning for some smart-aleck remark or minor indiscretion, the reality is that God is extraordinarily gentle with me. In fact, His normal response to my anger is to wait until I calm down and then talk to me softly. So, instead of pushing for a confrontation with my son, I decided to yield to him for the moment, and I left.

When I returned a bit later, the door was locked, a specifically prohibited action. So I knocked and told him to open the door. When he did so, his anger was still obvious, so I told him in the most gentle voice possible that he must never lock the door and that if he needed a few more minutes to finish, he should ask for it instead of demanding. He did so, and I acquiesced.

A few minutes later, his mood had totally changed. I asked him if he had just needed some extra time to finish, and he said yes. I even honored his project by asking him if he wanted me to put it somewhere special overnight so it wouldn’t be damaged by the other boys in the morning, which he appreciated. And in the course of a few brief, gentle interactions, I watched him become not only unmad at me, but tenderly affectionate and smiling in his eagerness to express his love for me.

It’s not hard to imagine an extremely different outcome if I had gone instead for instant obedience and correction at the first sign of trouble. But instead, I went with God’s own example in Fathering me. It’s odd, but I had never before realized that, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” would apply to my own children in addition to enemies and oppressors. (Proverbs 15:1)

What is Americanism?

Note: I apologize in advance for the length, but I hope you’ll agree it couldn’t have been done more briefly and the ideas justified it in this case.

Most people don’t really understand the nature of Americanism, America’s unique political philosophy. They might think America is mostly about giving people the vote or perhaps (historically) not having a king or even having a Constitution. But those are just byproducts of the underlying essence of Americanism: the suspicion of power. Americans (in any country) don’t necessarily believe that freedom on its own is always good, but they do believe that accumulations of power always lead to the loss of freedom and that is always bad. So Americans actively work to prevent concentrations of any form of power.

In government, this means parceling out political power very carefully through checks and balances and enumerated powers. It also means vesting such limited powers temporarily in the hands of representatives who can be unelected periodically by the voters who cast their ballots privately for the sake of preserving them against coercion. So, when it comes to lawmaking, power is carved up, deliberately partitioned, and spread across the most hands possible, ultimately the hands of every citizen. But this same concern about accumulated power is found elsewhere as well.

Freedom of the press is a bulwark against propaganda by the government, and it serves as a means of decentralizing information so that we can cast informed votes. But it also creates its own good in terms of keeping the power over ideas in as many hands as possible, as opposed to authoritarian systems where ideological power is amassed in one or a few places. And when information power starts to be concentrated too much in anyone’s hands (even if not a governmental entity), this starts to violate the anti-power-concentration impulse at the core of Americanism. Americanism requires a free press. But this means a lot of presses, not merely a handful of non-governmental ones.

Freedom of religion is another example, as is the right to keep and bear arms, both of which preserve the ability of individuals to protect themselves against forms of coercion: the theological and the physically violent. Any form of power is viewed with suspicion as a danger by Americans, and these are historically major forms of it.

But what about property rights and economic freedom? See, monarchy and feudalism went hand in hand because if the king made the laws and held all the political power, it only mad sense that (as a sort of demigod) he would also control all the land and wealth. Yet in America, it was no fluke at all that capitalism arose and flourished along with Constitutional republicanism precisely because capitalism is a truly radical pattern for decentralizing another major form of power: money. The ability of anyone to make transactions, own property, and engage in work for himself or for another means that no central agency can control this vital form of social power.

And yet, if the point is to keep power from being accumulated anywhere so as to preserve freedom for the individual everywhere, then we should very much be concerned about vast or at least disproportionate accumulations of wealth. Not because they show something nefarious was done to earn them (although this may well be so), but because we believe that the most likely thing people will do with such wealth is use it to distort the rest of the society (including political power) to their own benefit.

This is why, when it comes to money, Americans currently find themselves in a very dicey position. On the one hand, it is abundantly obvious that certain groups have amassed truly disparate wealth. They in turn have used this wealth to buy political influence in order to amplify their own economic and cultural position. This is true of the banking and finance industry, and it’s true of media moguls (who also obviously have information power as well). But it’s also true of corporations, labor unions, and senior citizens.

So when redistribution of wealth or financial regulation are proposed or the rich-poor gap lamented, freedom-lovers often mistakenly respond angrily as if government is being sought to deprive economic freedom. But people who truly understand Americanism don’t respond this way. Instead, they realize that economic redistribution (or at least some serious limits on the upper end of the income and wealth scale) aren’t instruments for remedying economic unfairness so much as means of preserving the freedom which vast accumulations of economic power necessarily jeopardize.

Thus, those who praise extreme deregulation as a purer form of freedom actually wind up enabling precisely the sort of economic tyranny which Americanism despises. The danger of a banking executive making $300 million a year when a bank teller makes only $30,000 isn’t just the absurdity of maintaining he is 10,000 times more valuable to society. It’s the real threat to the American doctrine that too much power in anyone’s hands is always a bad thing.

Socialism as an economic system of centralized planning is entirely contrary to Americanism. But financial regulation so as to prevent such accumulation isn’t socialism. It’s America’s truest ideals being played out against the very dangerous and historically obvious tyranny of the wealthy.

The enemyship of certain friends.

As much as I love doing talk radio, I must be honest and say that my industry is riddled with evil masquerading as entertainment. I don’t mean the evil of having wrong beliefs or espousing falsehood or even indulging in vulgar discussions. That goes without saying. Instead, I mean the much larger evil of misanthropy.

You see, a misanthrope is someone who hates humanity, but most people don’t notice misanthropy because they don’t recognize the symptoms. Surely a person who kills or hurts people for sport would be seen as misanthropic, but what of someone who berates and mocks them for money…or a political cause?

You see, acerbic political (or theological) discourse is almost always the byproduct of believing that other people are mere means to a (more valuable) ideological end. Those who agree are useful objects in pursuit of the cause, and those who disagree are mere obstacles to be ridiculed or destroyed. Though it may appear to an untrained eye that the misanthrope only hates his opponents, the fact that a supporter can so easily earn his contempt by merely changing opinions (and vice versa) means that he doesn’t truly love those who agree, only the reflection of his own idolatry recognized in them.

This mindstyle of contempt awaiting anyone who fails to measure up is the infallible mark of a misanthrope. But unskilled in the diagnosis, those who happen to agree with his views merely think him a valiant warrior on the field of public discourse. Yet only a narcissist makes agreement the price tag of fellowship, and only a misanthrope mistakes contempt for a virtue.

Nobility is making your enemies so precious that your love of them leads you to suffer on their behalf. But finding your own ideas so precious that devotion to them leads you to verbally maul your enemies (and enjoy others who do the same) is just a cowardly form of fantasizing murder.

Ahh, the invisible hand of culture...

One of the basic problems with cultural evolution is that, unless it is heavily guided by some sort of central governing agency or a common standard like a religious text, it will inevitably produce practices which look absurd when displayed next to each other. This is possible because those practices evolve along separate pathways which don’t normally invite comparison to one other. Thus, suddenly juxtaposing them reveals not only the goofiness of those particular features of the culture but also the utter silliness of the broader neglectful habit of letting culture shape itself this way in the first place.

Allow me to exemplify.

For the average American, divorce is a simple legal remedy to a major personal problem: the unhappy marriage. Despite making a promise before God and all your friends to permanently bind yourself to this other person regardless of the future, very few people these days will think much less of you for breaking precisely this unconditional vow. So many people have done so, in fact, that being anti-divorce is beginning to seem a bit like being opposed to antibiotics. There is simply no notion in the broader culture that there is anything fundamentally wrong with this practice. Bad marriages are a kind of illness that happens to befall some unlucky folks and divorce is simply the remedy. Even Christians who might oppose it generally wouldn’t actually break fellowship with a friend for getting one, despite the fact that divorce is meant to symbolize the union of God in the Trinity and glorify Him and His permanent vows to us as His people. So that’s the current American cultural status of divorce.

Now consider the strategic foreclosure. For most Americans, the idea of deliberately choosing to abandon a house because it is worth far less than is owed on it seems profoundly immoral, a major breach of your word. “You promised to pay, after all, and pay you should.” This despite the fact that the contract was deliberately crafted with dozens of provisos in a merely legal setting without any reference to God, family, or community at all. Moreover, this particular contract specifies a precise penalty for infidelity: loss of the asset. That is all. And there are no promises of forever or sickness and health, not to mention richer and poorer. That’s because the contract is extraordinarily conditional. And yet, somehow, the idea of radically unforeseen circumstances justifying the fracture of this merely manmade and not-even-remotely-God-instituted deal presents a crushing moral obstacle to many decent people, precisely because they are decent.

Now, clearly, one can have a vigorous discussion about both the individual merits of divorce and of strategic foreclosure. I mean only to show the surpassing absurdity of a society whose members would be so calmly accepting of divorce and so morally vexed over strategic foreclosure. It either means they worship money and not God (a possibility not to be dismissed too quickly) or else they are the victims of a culture which is in serious need of some principled reform.

On the private and the official

Mitt Romney recently said that asking a candidate to explain his church’s distinctive theology “would enable the very religious test the founders prohibited in the Constitution.” And Governor Romney is certainly not alone in making the equivocation between the Constitution prohibiting a religious test oath and it being somehow un-American for citizen voters to ask such questions. But the only way to make sense of this line of reasoning is to assert that whatever the Constitution prevents Congress from doing must also therefore be unacceptable for individuals to do.

But such a view is supremely confused about the very nature of the Constitution. The entire point of preventing the federal government (or other governments) from making certain requirements is to preserve and protect that same power somewhere else. If people want to vote against Romney because he’s a Mormon or against Rick Perry because he’s an Evangelical, that is their unassailable right as a voter. And if they use those standards to urge other voters in the same direction, that is part of their unalienable right to free political speech. That’s because there is a vast difference between an official religious requirement for office and private religious judgment by a voter. In fact, one say that using a Constitutional limitation to try to marginalize people for expressing their religious convictions regarding candidates is itself un-American, or at least more so than them holding those convictions in the first place.

Consider similar cases. The First Amendment prohibits Congress from establishing a religion. Does that mean it is un-American to support building a church? The First Amendment prohibits Congress from censoring the press. Does that mean it is un-American for a privately owned newspaper to reject essays it considers unworthy or unfitting for its periodical? And the First Amendment prohibits Congress from interfering with the right of people to assemble. But does this mean it is un-American for people to exclude anyone from their group?

For my own part, I’m not sure how much I care that Romeny is a Mormon. I might even try to persuade someone else who is adamantly against him for that reason to care less about it if the particular electoral circumstances were right. But I would never dare mangle the Constitution so badly as to imply that him persisting in his rejection on those grounds is somehow un-American. If anything, the fact that he made that argument might put me off of Romney more than his religious loyalties ever could.

It's not easy being a kid.

Having been apart from my children for six weeks, I had almost forgotten all the ways in which the life of a child is really quite difficult. Two examples attracted my attention today.

First, they have almost no power over their own lives because they are either too small, too inept, or simply not allowed to do what they desire. If I want to have a piece of French bread with my spaghetti, I simply cut off a slice, butter up, and enjoy. But if one of my sons wants the same thing, he has to ask me or mom to get it for him. If I want ice cream after a meal, I just take it. But they know they have to ask permission and then probably get help from one of us get it. Such dependence on their parents isn’t quite total, but it’s pretty easy to see how so little ability to control your reality would so regularly lead to crying and screaming.

Second, their sense of what is significant is highly distorted, and it’s distorted in such a way as to make their lives much more miserable than necessary. It’s almost like Tallman’s First Law of Toddlers dictates that the magnitude of a squabble is proportional to the inverse square of the disputed object’s real significance. Hence, a single piece of candy or a dropped nickel can lead to fistfights. Apparently they don’t realize that their daddy has at least enough wealth that clawing each other over such baubles is really quite insane. But since they don’t know the difference between what really matters and what only seems to matter in their own possession, it’s pretty easy to understand how such inequities cause such conflict.

It sure is nice that once we grow up and become mature, we never suffer anything like these sorts of problems in our adult lives at all.

There are two sides to every slope.

The Supreme Court recently struck down California’s law prohibiting the sale of extremely violent video games to minors, saying the law improperly violated the free speech rights of merchants and children. A common sentiment about this ruling is, “Well, that’s what free speech means. Besides, if you start limiting this form of expression, who knows what will be the next thing to be censored?”

This pattern of reasoning is called a “slippery slope” argument, and it compares the political restriction of vulgarity to a hill on which government (and our freedoms) rest precariously. If we allow even one inch of movement in the wrong direction, our freedoms will slip away into tyranny, or so the argument goes.

The first sign of danger in this argument pattern is that it specifically avoids discussing the merits of the particular issue in question. It seems no one actually defends the sale of such games to minors (aside from those who seek to make a buck from it). Instead, the argument only looks down the road for eventual danger rather than considering current danger. Thus, people worry that limiting commercial expression in this way will jeopardize all the rest of our precious free speech. Of course, it’s fair to be concerned about both this step and the others which might come later. But it’s also fair to be concerned about the danger of things sliding too far in the other direction as well. The slope, you might say, slips both ways.

In protecting these games, the Court is affirming a culture which ruins children in a thousand different ways. And if these games had been proposed to the America of, say, 1930, the idea that this is an important freedom would have been scoffed out of the arena. In other words, that side of the slope has come true, whereas the “tyranny of censorship” which people fear from allowing the California law isn’t even a remote danger.

Economists say there is no such thing as a free lunch because somebody has to pay. The same holds in politics. That’s why we must be on guard lest while defending against slipping down one gorge of ruined values we haven’t already fallen into another one. At this particular point in American history, which do you think is a more pressing cultural hazard: the potential for future loss of free speech or the actual absence of parental authority and corruption of children’s moral development?

On missing the right thing.

In the process of going through my emails (some of which dated back to the beginning of the program in 2005), I was both gratified and saddened. Gratified by all the notes of appreciation people had sent over the years, but of course saddened by precisely the same thing. Every email only made me consider all the other emails that would now not be coming.

And part of me obviously was missing the unique ego-stoking that comes from appreciative praise. But that wasn’t the main thing bothering me. After all, if that’s what I really loved about receiving those notes (and thus also what I will most miss about not receiving them) then I really am quite a self-centered person. But that’s not really the point at all.

You see, every time someone took the time to share their happiness about some aspect of the show, it always meant that somehow they had experienced something so positive that it literally overflowed back out of them into an email. The emails, you might say, were just the signs of the real events which had already taken place. And since one should never cherish the sign more than that which it signifies, it is the loss of such impact on the hearts and minds of listeners which I find most difficult to contemplate.

Be careful what you enjoy...

America loves the principled vigilante who slices through all the legal-bureaucratic red tape of the justice system and metes out fair punishment only to those who deserve it. And the most satisfying vigilante stories of all involve evildoers who escape on a technicality or who deliberately took advantage of the system somehow, only to be caught and punished by a take-no-guff type who doesn’t have the time to jaw with those candy-suited wussies from Division with all their paperwork and regulations.

We all enjoy such stories and wish things could be so simple. But with such fantasies in mind, I’d like to pause a moment and tell you what you’re really wishing for: Sharia Law. You see, the tribal code concept that underlies Sharia Law strives to settle matters quickly based on the best judgment of the wise ruling religious judge. Casey Anthony would have long ago been dead if she had wandered into a Sharia court.

Jack Bauer is wonderful when it works out, but we call it a lynch mob when things aren’t so clean and nice. So, as much as unjust verdicts and slow judicial systems may drive you crazy, keep in mind that there is a real, existing alternative not all that far away.

In closing....

Well, as most of you know by now, the Andrew Tallman Show has experienced a brief interruption in service. After 6½ years on air (to the day), KPXQ decided to eliminate the local programming position after the broadcast on Friday, July 8th. This was not in any way a result of management’s dissatisfaction with me or my show, and we are parting on very good terms. I know this came as a big surprise, and for many of you this has already caused sadness, frustration, disappointment, and maybe even anger. I understand. But I don’t want you to think of it this way.

Instead, I hope you’ll join me in being grateful that we had this amazing opportunity for so long together. Seriously, for those of you who have been around long enough, you remember the early days of the show when we actually counted the days of “The Great Experiment.” Part of the reason for that was that I was never really sure this thing would work, let alone work anywhere near as well as it did. It was abundantly obvious from the start that God brought me here to give me this opportunity, and it has been equally obvious since Friday that God has seen fit to take it away for the moment.

I am absolutely grateful to Him for letting me do something I loved so much with such fantastic people and such an amazing audience for so long. And I’m completely grateful to Salem Communications for cooperating with Him in making this possible, and John Timm for having been my mentor and benefactor for most of that time. Moreover, I got to do it with you, the most amazing and intelligent talk radio audience in the world!

I do not know what the future holds for me, or even where it will take place. But for years now God has been telling me that the next thing He has planned for me is even better than I can imagine. “I dunno, Lord. I can imagine quite a lot.” But I’m the kind of person who will never leave a good thing (or even a mediocre thing) unless I have to. And this job was a very good thing. So the only way God could get me into something else was to force me out of this situation.

That’s why I’m very much looking at this as if it’s Christmas morning, and I’m going downstairs to open the big present from my Daddy. I have no idea what it’ll be, but I can’t wait to find out and start playing with it. He’s really good at giving gifts, I’ve learned. So, in the meantime, I’m going to continue writing and posting materials on the websites. I may try to figure out how to do some Internet radio or podcasting also. And I will try to send out the email as frequently as I can, hopefully every day still. But aside from thanking you for your loyalty and asking for your prayers, I have an idea for how to end this portion of story in a neat way.

One of the show topics we never quite got around to doing was on the question, “How has the Andrew Tallman Show impacted you?” or “What have you learned from the Andrew Tallman Show?” So, as a way of celebrating (eulogizing?) this fun and fascinating thing we did together, I’d really love it if each of you would post something on the blog or facebook (or email it to me, and I will do so for you) in answer to that question. That would not only be very encouraging to me to read, but it would also (I hope) give all of you a chance to say your goodbyes (at least for now) to the show.

And trust me when I say that as sad as this is, I’ve actually never been happier in my life because of how amazing God has been prior to and during the last few days. On top of it all, I haven’t seen my family in 6 weeks (they come back tonight!). If you know anything about me, you can only imagine how tough that was all by itself, and then to have to deal with this development while deprived of them, too…. Nevertheless, God has been more than enough source of comfort and joy for me, which has already been a gift I can barely comprehend. He truly is far more amazing than any of us ever realizes!

So post your farewell thoughts. Keep in touch. And may God richly bless you all even more than He has me.

PS My new email address is tallmanuniversity (at) yahoo.com.

PPS I know some of you will feel like contacting KPXQ about all of this (Jim Ryan is the General Manager: jryan (at) salemphx.com or (602) 955-9600 x1202). But if you do, I hope you’ll express to him your sincere gratitude for having the show as long as we did. Please don’t be angry. God is in charge of this situation, and that would mean you’re angry at Him. Be as grateful as I am, okay? And keep in mind that Jim Ryan is God’s servant, too. Remember, we show by how we handle unpleasant events whether our trust is really in Christ or only in favorable circumstances. Always strive to bring Glory to Him in everything, including how you respond to this.

An object lesson from Al Gore.

Al Gore has become famous for making extravagant claims, particularly in his film, “An Inconvenient Truth.” The most infamous part of that film was the graph of a sudden spike in carbon dioxide levels predicting an equally sudden and dire spike in global temperatures.

Well, despite the high carbon dioxide, the temperatures have been flat or lower for several years now. As a result of this and other alarmist exaggerations, many people consider Al Gore to be an unreliable joke. Moreover, since Al Gore has been the main spokesman for global warming, they transfer his discredit back to that issue, concluding that it, too, must be exaggerated or false.

However, it’s very important to remember that Al Gore’s discredibility does not disprove the cause he represents. Despite his outrageousness, global warming might be real. I don’t happen to think so, but I know that one buffoon doesn’t disprove a viewpoint. But it does make it much easier for the opponents of that cause to reject it.

And in this way, Al Gore can remind Christians of a very important lesson. When we yell or exaggerate, we make it easier for non-Christians to dismiss our Lord. But when we simply tell the truth in humility, we at least don’t make it any harder for them to accept Him.

Will there always be...?

There will always be enough doctors for all the sick people.

There will be enough clean water to drink.

When I go to the gas station, there will be as much gas as I’m willing to buy, and I will not have to wait for it.

The roads I drive on will not collapse, and they will be in good condition.

There will always be enough teachers for all the children.

If I don’t like what is on this radio station, there will always be others broadcasting for me.

There will always be enough paper.

I will always need bookshelves because there will always be books.

If I plan badly and run out of something like eggs or toothpaste, I can always buy it within an hour.

Television may not always be good, but it will always be available.

Our government will always be elected by the people and will transition across elections peacefully.

As you can see from this ridiculously short list, America works pretty well. But there is no magical guarantee that any of these things will be true in the future except that somebody, many bodies, continue to make it so.

You are not alone

I have a lot of wild and weird thoughts. For those of you who know me, this comes as absolutely no surprise, and it fits perfectly with my belief (taken from Pasteur) that the way to have a lot of good ideas is to have a lot of ideas. But I’ve discovered in my life that pursuing some odd little hunch or intuition can be extremely fruitful if only I force myself to press it a bit.

This is one of the reasons I love doing these daily thoughts, because they are a chance to share such produce with you without the need to find things substantial enough to make an entire hour of discussion or a full-length column out of.

But here’s something I’ve noticed when I do write on some odd little topic. People routinely respond to me with something along these lines. “I’m so glad you wrote that. I’ve been thinking the same thing but I worried that no one else saw it that way.”

The joy of showing people they aren’t alone and thus encouraging them to trust their own ideas a little bit more by simply saying out loud what they silently suspect is truly a wonderful reward.

What divides us, really?

One of the most fascinating observations made so far by Lawrence Wright in his book “The Looming Tower” is that Islamists seek power, but never seem to have any interest in actually governing. This is why they are so short on political ideas, if they have any at all. The best example of this was the utter failure of the Taliban to do anything other than destroy things and bring practices to an end, decimating their society.

Instead of governance, the real objective for the Islamists is purity. And “when purity is paramount, terror is close at hand.” The reasoning is simple. If your status with God depends on not only your own personal purity but also the purity of everyone around you (since otherwise you have tolerated their evil and become an accomplice to it), you will gladly kill them since religious purity is more essential than life. In fact, killing them becomes a key way to achieve purity.

On this Fourth of July, this reminds us that Americans deeply believe other people should be essentially free to live their lives as they see fit. This may not be the only thing dividing us from the Islamists, but it’s certainly sufficient to do so.