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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

Full Circle

April 19, 2010
Sales of recorded music are down for the fourth straight year. It seems fewer and fewer people are willing to invest hard-earned money on music CDs. Has the music gotten worse? Are people finally getting sick of pop?

Nope. In fact, pop music is more pop and ubiquitous than ever. According to Megan McArdle, writing in the May 1, 2010 Kindle issue of The Atlantic, the reason music sales continue to dive is because music theft is more rampant than ever.

Generation X types have come to expect that, if they can get their music for free, they should be able to - even if it's not legal. Good software is readily at hand, and all it takes is a few friends willing to swap and share. Modern-day pirates are raiding the music industry to a degree that would have made Black Beard smile, and there seems to be very little anyone can do about it.

Interesting. For years parents have complained about pop music that it undermines traditional values and urges kids to follow their passions more than sound reason. The latest generation of pop music-lovers, just like their parents, is taking their idols up on the exhortation, and are stealing them blind, just because they can.

Doutbless today's music pirates will say, "Hey, it's just a little transgression." Like Lot, turning away from God's clear command to "just a little" village, simply because he could. And as Lot's compromise led to more compromise and sin, a generation that can justify theft at the everyday level of acquiring music will learn to justify every other transgression as nothing more than what they're due.

T. M. Moore

Hardly Reassuring

April 26, 2010
You may have felt a bit of ethical satisfaction weekend before last when the Securities and Exchange Commission filed suit against Goldman Sachs for a variety of corrupt practices. At last, it seemed, some clear-headed, sound moral thinking will be inserted to help clean up the ethical sesspool of the American economy.

Then came the disclosures about high officials at the SEC using government computers and time to search out pornography on the web. And not just a few hours - days, and thousands upon thousands of hours. And not just a few low-level paper-pushers with too much time on their hands. No, top officials as well were found to have indulged their smutty minds on the taxpayers' dollar.

So we have corrupt examiners watching over corrupt financiers, and we hope that's going to lead to a sound ethical judgment and renewed morality in the economy? Are we kidding? The corruption at the SEC and Goldman Sachs is just a sampler of the corruption that exists just below - and sometimes right on - the surface of our entire society.

Which is simply to remind us that moral recovery and ethical renewal cannot come from the engines and agencies of this world, driven and operated by the corrupt minds of self-interested men. Some of us may be hoping for a major renewal via the ballot box in November, but, if so, we're headed for more disappointment.

The corruption of sin is endemic in the systems of this nation because the men and women who run and manage those systems are corrupt with sin themselves. Unless we seek a route of renewal that is able to deal with the inherent problem of human sin, this nation, its economy, its government, and all our agencies and institutions, will continue their slide into the slough of destruction via the paths of self-interest.

Only real revival of men's souls can help us, and that revival is only available as we seek it fervently from God. If you are not daily praying for the revival of the Church, the renewal of our mission, and an awakening to truth throughout this land, why not?

T. M. Moore

It Ain't Workin'

April 28, 2010
For more than a generation now evangelical church leaders have been doing everything they can think of to make their ministries more appealing to younger people. Gone are traditional hymns; in their place, worship bands lead hip contemporary praise songs. Pulpits have been removed and preaching has had to make room for "drama" even as it takes on more of the character of a late-night monolog than a prophetic exhortation. Pews and traditional sanctuaries have been replaced by theater seats and kleig lights. Sophisticated sound and video systems have made it possible to do away with clunky hymnals. Doctrine has been shoved aside for the sake of anecdotal and "how to" preaching. All this "making contemporary" has been for the sole purpose of appealing to the 18-29 year-old segment of the population. And guess what?

It ain't workin'.

A report in yesterday's USA Today summarized a series of studies done on this age group relative to their religious commitment. 72% of those surveyed indicate that they're "more spiritual than religious," which means they prefer spirituality of their own concocting to that which they might get in a church. They're still seeking something transcendent on which to anchor their lives, but they aren't finding it in the Church.

Worse, even those of that age group who are in the Church and profess to be believers appear to be fairly squishy and uncommitted in their faith. 65% never pray with others. 38% never pray even by themselves. 67% of this church-attending population never read their Bibles. Is it any wonder their lives continue to reflect more a love for this world than for the unseen things of the Kingdom of God?

Those who collected the data in these surveys worry that not only are church leaders failing to attract, keep, or disciple the very people it threw away its grand tradition to reach, they also may be guaranteeing the closing of many churches in the years to come.

This is what happens when the Church tries to glom on to the spirit of the age in trying to make itself "relevant," rather than cling to the Spirit and Word of God for instruction in how to build the Church and win the lost. Before the last young person blows off the Church for good, church leaders need to repent of their presumptuousness in turning their backs on Scripture and the Christian heritage, and begin seeking the Lord together, with tears, for the revival of the Church and awakening in the hearts of the lost.

T. M. Moore

Slippery Slope?

April 30, 2010
The growing oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico offers a sad commentary on America's voracious appetite for energy. Eleven men are dead and hundreds are feverishly working to clean up the mess, which just won't cooperate. Every day, 42,000 gallons of oil are vomited into the ocean by an open well that refuses to be capped.

Meanwhile, anxious state officials from Louisana to Alabama strain their eyes out into the waters of the Gulf, wondering when the slick will arrive, if they'll be able to contain it, or if it will ruin their beaches and wetlands. This was bound to happen at some point, but I no one expected it on our watch. So what do we do now?

The President recently gave hopeful signs that new offshore wells could be drilled. That will probably get held up in state legislatures up and down the east coast. Doubtless new regulations will have to be spun up by Congress, then put in place at enormous expense, driving up the cost of crude and the gasoline made from it.

A new wind energy project is slated to be built within sight of the Kennedy compound in Massachusetts. Of course, howls and protests abound, mainly from those in the vicinity of the proposed wind farm. Funny how liberals all want alternative energy, as long as it's in someone else's back yard and not blocking their view.

There's no getting away from our need for energy. But I, for one, am hopeful that, given enough room to think creatively, the brains of industry will figure out a way to get the country off the slippery slope of oil and on to renewable sources of energy some time soon. This is a matter of creation-keeping. The creation can yield energy that is renewable and reliable, and that doesn't threaten life in the Gulf, the ocean, or along the shores of the nation. Surely we should be encouraging more leeway and investment for such projects?

T. M. Moore
Arizona's new immigration law shows us why Washington has dithered so long on this problem. Just about any direction you go on this issue, you inflame political opposition, and if there's one thing Washington doesn't like, it's inflamed political opposition.

You have to credit the courage of the Arizona governor and legislature. You can only wait so long for the federal government to do its job. The influx of illegal immigrants in Arizona has led to spikes in the rate of violent crime; a rancher has been murdered; and a sherriff's deputy was wounded by a sniper along the border. Many Arizonans and others are happy to see at least some steps being taken to redress the immigration mess in their state.

I'd like to think that our immigration problem along the southern border is a witness to the great attraction foreign people have for America as a land of opportunity and liberty. Most of the allure, however, seems to be related to drugs. What isn't - jobs in the farm, construction, and landscaping industries - is being abetted by unscrupulous employers trying to save a buck. We don't seem to have an immigration problem from Canada, Europe, or any place else. But a thriving market for drugs coupled with employers eager to bypass all kinds of federal regulations make the American Southwest a place of high appeal for millions of illegals from south of the border.

Scripture has a fair amount to say about how nations should relate to the "strangers and sojourners" in their midst. We might be surprised to discover some meaningful guidelines here. While the Old Testament Law was pointed at Israel in the first instance, it remains a standard to guide nations in achieving a just, peaceable, and orderly society. I rather suppose, however, that the only thing that would rile folks more than the Arizona law would be any law crafted on the basis of plain Biblical teaching.

The immigration problem is part and parcel of a larger problem facing our society: We are beginning to discover that pragmatism, radical individualism, raw materialism, and political expediency don't work very well - either in tandem or alone - as bases for a worldview. But, having repudiated God and His Law, we must - as Paul Johnson explained in Modern Times - find something else on which to pin our hopes for a peaceable and prosperous nation, even if we haven't yet found the way to make it work.

The only problem, as Solomon observed, is that whatever way we choose on the basis of it seeming to be wise in our own eyes, is going to end us up in chaos, confusion, division, and death (Prov. 14.12). Don't look for the immigration problem to go away any time soon - or the problem of drugs, law-scorning employers, or politicians who'd rather duck than do their duty. Political solutions are not the great need of our nation; revival is.

T. M. Moore
The Gotcha! press has been all over President Obama's imprudent comment, during one of his routine rallies for whatever, that he thinks there's a limit to what people should be allowed to earn. Of course, that's not really what he meant. What he meant is that he thinks there's a limit to how much of what people earn they should be allowed to keep.

That's a fair enough statement of his position. He seems determined to put in place policies to sync with his beliefs, promising to tax wealthy people while he lets the middle class and below off the hook. We'll see.

It does raise the question of how much is enough. The answer seems to be something along the lines of anything up to the point of what the government decides it needs in order to put in place the programs and personnel to manage the nation toward its version of utopia. You can make as much as you like up to what the President and Congress determine you should be required - not willing, necessarily, but required - to pony up as your "contribution" to the good society.

Ahab had a similar view of matters with respect to the vineyard belonging to Naboth (1 Kings 21). In Ahab's view of the good society, he should own that vineyard - a little plot of his own, you know, right near the palace. But Naboth was not willing to relinquish this family property. Short version: Ahab whines to Jezebel, his vicious wife; Naboth, falsely accused of sedition, meets an untimely death; the vineyard comes to Ahab. The good society - as defined by Ahab - becomes more of a reality.

It all comes down to definitions and who's making them. How do we define the "good society"? How do we define "enough"? Note that no absolute standards of right and wrong, good and just, true and fair are in play here. Only politics. Politics - the acquisition and wielding of power toward the realization of one's own vision of the good society - is the driving force in the question of "enough." And, increasingly, of just about everything else as well.

To which, unless the Christian community begins to stand up and disagree, and to work for a different definition of the good society, as soon as the wind goes out of the Democrats' sails, the Republicans will rise again, and, trust me, it will be more of the same. How much of the Church's failing to address these critical and seminal issues is enough?

T. M. Moore
The retirement of a sitting Justice of the Supreme Court affords the nation an opportunity to reflect on the nature of its laws and the practice of their interpretation.

In the minds of those who tend to think about such things, two camps present. There are those, represented by Justice Antonin Scalia, who insist on an "originalist" approach to law: we must always seek to interpret the Constitution according the intentions of the Founders. At the other end of the spectrum are those, like Justice Stevens, who see the Constitution as a "living" document, the meaning of which must be unpacked progressively, according to the changing situations of changing times.

Neither of these views is correct; nor are they entirely wrong. Both have some legitimacy; and both are inadequate.

Neither view is correct because, not to be too brief, we can never be quite certain what the Founders intended; at the same time, we must not fail to consult their wisdom in order to discern, as best we may, how they may have judged the changing circumstances of our own times. They remain, after all, the Founders of the greatest independent republic the world has ever known.

Both views therefore have some legitimacy: we must strive to understand the thinking of our Founders, and the laws in which they encoded their views; likewise, we must not be so foolish as to think that they could possibly have anticipated every nuance of application that subsequent historical circumstances might present.

However both the "originalist" and "living document" views of the Constitution are inadequate, alone or if, by some trick of legal alchemy, they may be combined. This is because the "spirit" of the Constitution emanates neither from the minds of the Founders nor the changing values, morals, and circumstances of any era.

The "spirit" of the Constitution - like it or not - arises both from the Law of God and the practice of that Law within the parishes of the Christian Church over the past two thousand years.

Dissevered from the Law of God and the voice of the Church, the Constitution is like a rugby ball. It is the temporary possession of whichever political philosophy possesses it, for as long as they may control and advance it toward their goal. The battle for the Constitution is a rough-and-tumble affair, with many scrums and laterals and collisions of bodies and tactics, yielding an occasional "score" for one side or the other, to the approving howls of one set of fans the audible moans of the other.

Meanwhile, out in the parking lot, the Church hands out tracts, pickets what it regards as the violence and folly of the game, and goes home after each contest convinced it's done all it can to make a difference.

But if the Church will neither teach the Law nor obey it; and it if persists both in ignoring the social and cultural heritage of our forebears and focusing instead on a narrowly pietistic "gospel", none of its protests or proselytizing will amount to anything other than harmless, albeit irritating, distractions in the parking lot of life. The struggle for the Constitution, and for the meaning of law itself, will continue apart from the input and influence of those whose heritage is both the provenance and the hope for law and morality.

T. M. Moore

Skin Problem

May 12, 2010
To some observers it's becoming apparent that the President has a bit of a skin problem. Not color, but thickness.

He gets peeved rather easily when challenged or when his views are not immediately accepted. When someone - a member of the press or a Congressman in a meeting - doesn't immediately go along with his program, he cocks his head, lifts his chin, wags his finger, and lets his dissatisfaction be clearly known. As when he chided the Supreme Court for its decision in allowing corporations and unions to have a more active role in the political process. Mr. Obama clearly did not like that decision, and he made himself crystal clear.

So there's something just a little petulant about the President's nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court seat being vacated by Justice Stevens. While a very bright legal mind with a good deal of academic experience, Ms. Kagan has only two years of legal practice, no experience on the bench, and precious few on-the-record legal opinions to commend her for so important an office.

What she does have going for her is that she agrees with the President, against Justice Roberts and the majority, in the afrorementioned case. Indeed, she argued - and lost - the case for the Administration. In introducing his nominee the President - head cocked, chin raised, and all - saluted her courage in taking up this case (he's obviously still miffed). Is this a Presidential poke in the eye for the conservative court, a judicial burr in the saddle, saying to the Court, "Take that!"?

Well, I hope not. But I can't help but think the President's skin problem must have influenced this unlikely choice. Makes you wonder, doesn't it, what he might be cooking up for the Congress and the country for after the November elections?

T. M. Moore
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi wants Catholic priests to preach her version of immigration reform. Immigration reform as she sees it, after all, is simply "how we live out the gospel" (small "g" mine).

In the Speaker's world, churches should stand by on moral and political matters until they receive the proper hermeneutical guidance from Washington as to what they can legally preach so as not to jeopardize their tax-exempt status. Apparently, as long as the message (or communication or whatever they call those things, as the Speaker noted) conforms to Washington's preferred ideology, churches will get a pass.

Because, as we all know, the churches exist to serve the interests of government. And if they don't, for example, if they insist on holding firm on such silly issues as, say, abortion, well, Washington can just ignore them. Like the Speaker does her own Church's insistence that she bring her views on this particular topic into line with the teaching of the Church. However, as the Speaker last year noted, she has thoroughly studied the history and theology of the abortion issue from the Church Fathers to the present, and she finds that the Church has nowhere taken a firm stand against abortion. So bug off, Rome.

Now, where were we? Yes, of course: priests and preachers, instead of wasting their breath on empty doctrine and silly spiritual instruction, or risking their liberties on conservative political issues, should just listen to the Speaker and serve up - in proper homiletical garb, of course - the correct views on the really important issues of the day, and she'll let us know what we can preach on next.

It must be fun being Speaker of the Hypocrites. For now.

T. M. Moore

America's Petard

May 17, 2010
The expression, "hoist with his own petard," refers to someone undone by an engine of his own making. Shakespeare was the first to use the phrase; today it has become fairly common. A petard was a kind of lance or ram, often with explosives on the end, meant to blow a hole in a wall so that attackers could get through to their objective. To be hoist with one's own petard is, we may imagine, not quite what the devisers had in mind.

America appears to be hoisting herself on her own petard these days. Having, by a gradual process, forsaken duty to God and commitment to virtue, America, sometime during the last century, made the pursuit of wealth her means of breaking through to the good life. The goal of life became economic opportunity unto the maximum enjoyment of wealth and things. The schools were bent to this end. Easy credit greased the skids for many to a personalized version of the good life. Questionable practices in the banking and finance industries made more wealth available to the few, at the same time offering the promises of more of the good life to the many. Politicians made "the economy, stupid" the deciding factor in every matter.

The good life, Americans became convinced, lay just beyond barriers of ignorance and opportunity; getting and spending would be the battering ram to get through those obstacles to the good life that lay beyond.

But now America's petard appears to be exploding in her face: the deepest recession in a generation; national debt spiraling out of control (have you begun paying down the $41,000 of that debt which is yours?); corrupt commerce in pornography available at the click of a mouse; oil flooding the Gulf, children, educated to perform as widgets in an economy, whose morality is determined by mere self-interest; mindless, frivolous advertizing the new literature of the age; borders overrun with like-minded wealth-seekers; corruption, for the sake of wealth and "the good life", rife at virtually every level of our society.

It will not be much of a "sport" - as Hamlet saw it - when America's petard, on which we are hoisting ourselves, finally explodes. There is a way that seems right to men; but the ends thereof are the ways of death (Prov. 14.12). Only foolish men could have put us into this desperate position; only God can bring us safely down from it.

If we are not praying daily for God to revive His Church and awaken this nation, we are consigning our nation and its future to certain self-destruction. The Lord is bringing the counsel of this nation to nothing, frustrating every economic and political plan to keep us on track for the good life; but His counsel and Law stand forever (Ps. 33.10, 11). Happy and blessed is the nation whose God is not measured in terms of GDP, but in terms of repentance and seeking the Lord (Ps. 33.12).

T. M. Moore
It shouldn't surprise us, in the age of "it all depends on the meaning of 'is'", that politicians and others tend to play a little fast and loose, shall we say, with words. A budget projection for health care reform turns out to be, oh, 100 billion or so off, erasing the promised 100 billion savings over the next ten years. Whatever. The Attorney General and the Director of Homeland Security think so little of the language of the Arizona immigration law, which they have denounced, decried, and threatened to bring suit against, that, well, they haven't even bothered to read the actual words of the document.

And then there's Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, captured on video on at least two recent occasions talking about his service "in" Vietnam. But, as the New York Times was kind enough to point out, AG Blumenthal, now running for the U. S. Senate, didn't actually ever serve "in" Vietnam. Well, he explained, what he meant was "during" - you know, during the time that a war was going on over there he was serving somewhere, wherever he was, serving. Indignant at the criticism and flanked by Vietnam vets - many surprised that he had not, in fact, turned up to apologize - AG Blumenthal declared that he would not allow anyone to impune his service record.

Nice use of language to shift the framework, that. His service record is not the issue. His truth-telling is - depending, of course, on what we mean by "is." In, during - whatever. The Connecticut Attorney General, the U. S. Attorney General, the Director of Homeland Security, Representative Mark Souder - and no doubt a cast of thousands of politicians, academics, pundits, and preachers - they all want us to take them seriously, even if they aren't very careful about words relative to their particular offices, and that in spite of the fact that words are their chief stock-in-trade.

Words matter. Truth matters. If we can't trust people to speak truthfully, can we trust them with anything?

T. M. Moore

Whose Kids?

May 21, 2010
The "Texas Textbook Wars" illustrates a problem of which most Americans are completely unaware. In Texas, as you know, 15 people - 10 Republicans and 5 Democrats - are deciding what the curriculum and textbooks shall be for millions of Texas school children. Because of the size of the Texas schools program, their decisions will impact textbook publishing and curricula for school systems all over the country.

In essence, this means that 15 people - Texans, no less, or Texans, at least, depending on your view of Texas - are about to determine the course of the education of America's children for the next decade. I can't think of a better example of the danger of turning the education of our children over to the State. Government has proven itself completely incompetent to manage the education of America's children, but here it is yet again, setting the course for the next generation of school children, and most Americans are simply yawning and reaching for the remote.

Back in the early 19th century, when public school was just beginning in America, parents retained the control they had had over the education of their children since the earliest colonial days. Each political precinct in the growing nation had its own school board - 160,000 compared to somewhere around 16,000 today, and, of course, Texas - and the school boards were responsible to the parents to teach the curriculum the parents required of them. From the beginning of the American experience parental control of the education of their own children was the norm. No longer.

If there ever was a better argument for private schools, home schools, classical schools, and most other alternatives to public education, I don't know what it is. No state government, nor the federal government, should be given the reins for the education of our children, yet here we are with a nightmare scenario, and few people seem to care. By whatever means parents can resist or avoid this pedagogical travesty, they certainly should. This is not to impune the good work done by many public school educators, including many Christians. It's simply to point out that this system is insane, and we are insane if we simply sit by and let it continue to operate as is.

T. M. Moore

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