Lessons From the Garden of Eden About Trump’s Travel Ban


The first thing God did after He created Adam (Genesis 2:7) and placed him in the garden in Eden (Genesis 2:8), was to set boundaries by which he was to order his life in the place where God graciously ordained he should dwell (Genesis 2:15).

This boundary is clearly defined in Genesis 2:16:

The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it, you will surely die.”

The word Eden means pleasure.

It is with this definition in mind that theologian John Calvin commented that, in the garden of Eden, Adam “had been bountifully enriched by the Lord with innumerable benefits, from the enjoyment of which he might infer the paternal benevolence of God.”

God created the garden of Eden for Adam and endowed him with the freedom to rule over everything contained within it (Genesis 1:27-31; 2:18-20a).

And yet the liberty conferred to Adam was not open-ended.

The permission Adam had to freely eat from any tree of the garden was offset by the prohibition to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

This lesson from the garden of Eden is one which, in my humble opinion, has implications for us today. This is particularly true, I believe, with regard to the topic of immigration and the Executive Order recently issued by President Donald Trump (which many are referring to as a “travel ban”).

According to Section 3, the Order allows for the “suspension of issuance of visas and other immigration benefits to nationals of countries of particular concern” [as it relates to threats of terrorism], the impetus being that “The United States must be vigilant during the visa-issuance process to ensure that those approved for admission do not intend to harm Americans and that they have no ties to terrorism [Section 1].”

To suggest that the issue of immigration is a heated one would be a gross understatement. I have not witnessed this level of national acrimony over a single issue since the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) became the law of the land on March 23, 2010.

Americans of almost every conceivable ethnic, religious, and socio-economic stripe seem to have an opinion or viewpoint about what “rights” foreign nationals, or “refugees” as they are more commonly referred to, have or do not have to enter and remain in the United States.

My pointing out that there exists such wide-ranging opinions on this issue is not a criticism. After all, what ideal better defines America than that of having the freedom to openly express one’s opinion without fear of retribution or reprisal?

But having this so-called “freedom” raises the question: what is freedom?

What is most concerning to me in the discourse I’ve observed regarding President Trump’s travel ban, is there are those who have convinced themselves that merely having the ability to come to America from another country is tantamount to possessing the inherent right to do so.

This is a misnomer (to say the least).

That I happen to possess the capacity or ability to do a thing, does not necessarily translate to my having an inherent “right” to do it.

I may have the freedom to rob a bank in the sense that I am unrestrained and unobstructed in my my ability to obtain a weapon, arrange transportation to the bank, and physically enter the facility when I arrive. However, that I possess the freedom – in the aforementioned context – to rob a bank does not mean I am inherently free to do so.

The command that Adam not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was a boundary established by God for Adam’s benefit and protection.

It is in this same sense that God established a two-fold purpose for government relative to its divine obligation to:

  1. act as “a minister of God for your good” (Romans 13:4a), and
  2. act as “an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil” (Romans 13:4b)

There are those today who hold fast to the notion that foreign nationals have no desire to “practice evil” against America, the rationale being that their status as “impoverished refugees who have nowhere else to go”, somehow renders them wholly incapable of harboring such destructive attitudes toward this nation and its citizens.

But at the heart of this credulous mindset is a denial of the reality of evil;  and the fact that all human beings are innately sinful (Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:23).

It is on the basis of this naivety that many who oppose President Trump’s travel ban argue there should be no restrictions or limitations whatsoever on refugees being allowed to enter this nation.

But in a nation whose citizens murder one another over a pair of sneakers, what makes us think foreign nationals would not do likewise, especially considering that the vast majority of them are motivated by a “religion” that promises eternal reward in Paradise for doing so?

“…for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” – Genesis 8:21b

If there is anything to be learned from Adam’s existence in the garden of Eden, it is that God’s benevolences are always accompanied by His boundaries and, conversely, that His provisions are never exclusive of His prohibitions.

The bottom line is that freedom is not license.

Not only is the United States government constitutionally obligated to protect its citizens, it is biblically obligated to do so.

Notwithstanding any ideological differences one might have with President Trump, to remain willfully ignorant about the intentions of some whose hearts are bent toward murdering innocent people in the name of religion is a mindset which, frankly, is devoid of common sense.

A pretty hijab does not portend a pure heart.

We are all sinners.

Yes, even refugees.

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

Why President Trump and Jesse Jackson are Both Wrong About Chicago Violence

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A recent CNBC.com article contained an embedded tweet from President Donald Trump that caught my attention.

It reads:

“If Chicago doesn’t fix the horrible “carnage” going on, 228 shootings in 2017 with 42 killings (up 24% from 2016), I will send in the Feds!”

In response to this somewhat cryptic presage by our nation’s 45th president, Jesse Jackson, a man who many today still regard as a leader in the cause of civil and human rights, counter-tweeted President Trump, saying:

“We need a plan, not a threat. We need jobs, not jails.”

In reflecting on the conspicuous ideological dissonance expressed in this social media tête-à-tête, I am reminded of the 1959 epic film Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, in which a similarly heated exchange occurs between Sextus, the retiring Roman general, and the young tribune Messala, who is zealous to take over from Sextus and make his own imprint on the military unit he has dreamed of commanding since he was a boy.

Messala has been ordered by Caesar to quash the violence in the Roman-ruled province of Judea, and forcefully restore order to a citizenry that has been in constant rebellion against the occupation.

The exchange is as follows:

Messala: “The emperor is displeased. He wishes Judea made into a more disciplined and obedient province. He has ordered the new governor and me to restore order. I intent to carry out his wishes!”
Sextus: “Yes, but how, Messala?! Oh, you can break a man’s skull, you can arrest him, you can throw him into a dungeon. But how do you control what’s up here [in the mind]? How do you fight an idea?! Especially a new idea?”
Messala: “Sextus, you ask how to fight an idea? I’ll tell you how. With another idea.”

It is clear from this discourse that Sextus realized something Messala did not: that genuine behavior change is a matter of internal transformation not external manipulation (Romans 12:2).

Sextus understood that all rebellion is borne in the heart, and that no use of force or other external influence would result in making Judea into the “disciplined and obedient province” Messala determined to bring to fruition.

Like Messala, what both President Trump and Jesse Jackson fail to understand is that matters of the heart cannot be remedied through government intervention or economic incentive.

Oh, you can send the Feds into Chicago to beat up people, arrest them, and throw them in jail. You can even designate certain areas of the city as Empowerment Zones in the hopes that doing so will reduce unemployment and provide economic relief to poverty-stricken communities.

But how do you deal with someone who, for whatever reason, has made up their mind that they’re going to murder someone else?

Does the threat of arrest in and of itself change the person’s mind?

Apparently not.

And how does simply being employed alter the sinful intentions one might have towards another of God’s image-bearers? Does merely having money in my pockets assuage the enmity and bitterness I harbor in the deepest recesses of my soul?

If so, what happens after the money runs out (Proverbs 23:4-5)?

After He called the crowd to Him again, He began saying to them, “Listen to Me, all of you, and understand, there is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man.” When he had left the crowd and entered the house, His disciples questioned Him about the parable. And He said to them, “Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach and is eliminated?” And He was saying, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”Mark 7:14-23 (NASB)

None of this is to suggest that the federal government should not do what is Constitutionally mandated to protect us (even from one another, as is the case with Chicago). Nor is it to imply that the government has absolutely no role in helping meet the essential needs of those who truly are poverty-stricken and destitute (Galatians 2:10).

Though I remain convinced that helping the poor is primarily the responsibility of the church (James 1:27), we who are Christians, especially those of us who, like myself, identify as socially conservative, tend to forget that governments are established by God (Romans 13:1) as minsters on His behalf for our good (Romans 13:4a).

So, yes, there in fact is a role for the government in such matters as these.

Not all government involvement in the welfare of its citizens is inherently bad (the operative word being inherently).

Nevertheless, notwithstanding what governments may or may not be able to do at enhancing one’s station in life, one thing it most assuredly cannot do is change a person’s heart.

“The gospel is not a doctrine of the tongue, but of life. It cannot be grasped by reason and memory only, but it is fully understood when it possesses the whole soul and penetrates to the inner recesses of the heart.” – John Calvin, Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life

At the root of the hundreds of murders committed in Chicago in 2016, is the same issue that compelled Cain to murder his brother Abel many millennia ago (Genesis 4:3-8).

With all due respect to the “reverend” Jesse Jackson, Cain killed his brother not because he didn’t have a job. Both he and his brother were gainfully employed – Abel as a shepherd and Cain as a farmer (Genesis 4:2).

No, Cain murdered his brother because he purposed in his heart to do so.

It’s that simple.

In fact, Cain was so determined to carry out the deed that he completely ignored God’s direct warning against it (Genesis 4:7).

You see, contrary to what Messala might say if he were alive today, what Chicago needs is not “another idea”.

It doesn’t need “the Feds” or “a plan” for jobs not jails.

What Chicago needs is what the world entire is in desperate need of: the soul-liberating gospel of Jesus Christ. For only the gospel can so transform a person that murder – or any other type of violence – is no longer a desire of the heart (Romans 1:16).

Our problem, if we were honest, is we don’t really believe the gospel is what it says it is or that it can do what it says it does.

Consequently, we think more like Messala than Sextus.

One need only look at Chicago to see where that kind of thinking has gotten us.

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

A Biblical Theology of the Black-White “Wealth Gap”

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Much is being said today about the so-called wealth gap that purportedly exists among black households and white households in America.

I say purportedly not to deny that such a divide exists – it does – but to highlight that the very term wealth gap is inherently misleading, as it assumes that such imparity is innately unfair – if not immoral – and, as such, should be redressed under the nirvanic pursuit of “income equality”.

The publication The Economist defines income equality as:

the ratio of the share of national income going to the richest 20 percent of households in a country to the share of the poorest 20 percent.

When speaking of the wealth gap strictly in terms of numbers the data are indisputable.

But therein lies the rub.

A study on income inequality conducted by Pew Research found that:

From 2010 to 2013, the median wealth of non-Hispanic white households increased from $138,600 to $141,900, or by 2.4%. Meanwhile, the median wealth of non-Hispanic black households fell 33.7%, from $16,600 in 2010 to $11,000 in 2013. 

On the surface, these numbers appear to paint a rather disadvantageous and inequitable picture in and of themselves. Nevertheless, in today’s politically-correct, hyper-sensitive society, context is more important now than ever.

This is especially true considering that the default milieu in which matters of wealth acquisition and distribution are debated – in terms of race as opposed to socio-economic class – is that any “gaps” that do exist are solely the result of institutional and structural injustices committed by white people against black people.

Notwithstanding the above-referenced data from Pew, the truth is the black-white wealth gap should not be viewed strictly in terms of dollars and cents.

True, there are any number of quantifiable reasons for why such disparities exist, but that they exist does not suffice as a sufficient argument that they should not exist.

In other words, that there is disparity does not necessarily mean there is inequality.

“Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition is gone, pride is gone.” – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

There is a fundamental problem with using “inequality” to describe the income disparity between black and white households.

The word inequality intrinsically conveys that the wealth “gap” is a problem to be remedied simply because there is a gap, and that the acquisition of wealth is the only solution to mitigate that disparity under the subjective premise that income inequality is patently “unfair”.

But to assert that income inequality is somehow unfair is to place oneself in the throes of a philosophical dilemma. For to argue that anything is “unfair” is, by definition, to introduce into the conversation the question of morality.

Consequently, one is forced to consider by what or whose standard of morality should income inequality be deemed unfair. Hence, what began as a circular discourse rooted in subjectivity and ambiguity has morphed into a theological exercise on the level of untying the Gordian Knot.

“When people look at questions of income and the disparity, they’re not looking for causes. They’re looking for blame. And those are not the same things.” – Thomas Sowell, from an interview with World magazine, 12/30/2014

A highly popular television sitcom The Jeffersons ran on the CBS network for 11 seasons (from 1975 to 1985).

The Jeffersons followed the lives of George and Louise Jefferson, an African-American couple who relocated from the poverty of Queens, NY to Manhattan, as a result of the success of George’s dry-cleaning business chain.

The theme song from The Jeffersons was titled Movin’ On Up, the lyrics of which celebrate the fact that the rambunctious George, and his beloved wife Louise, had finally achieved their dream.

In other words, they had conquered the wealth gap.

Well,, we’re movin’ on up (movin’ on up)
To the east side (movin’ on up)
To a deluxe apartment in the sky.
Movin’ on up (movin’ on up)
To the east side (movin’ on up)
We finally got a piece of the pie.

Fish don’t fry in the kitchen;
Beans don’t burn on the grill.
Took a whole lotta’ tryin’
Just to get up that hill.
Now we’re up in the big leagues
Gettin’ our turn at bat.
As long as we live, it’s you and me baby
There ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.

Well, we’re movin’ on up (movin on up)
To the east side (movin on up)
To a deluxe apartment in the sky.
Movin’ on up (movin on up)
To the east side (movin on up)
We finally got a piece of the pie.

“The rich and the poor have a common bond, the Lord is the maker of them all.” – Proverbs 22:2 (NASB)

Please understand that I do not believe there is anything inherently wrong with an individual endeavoring to achieve the “American Dream” and acquiring their own “piece of the pie”.

But when those pursuits are engaged in solely under the pretense of “income inequality”, a philosophy predicated on pitting the haves of the world against the have-nots, then perhaps the time has come for a re-evaluation of motives (James 4:1-3).

“Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, cease from your consideration of it.” – Proverbs 23:4 (NASB)

A major fallacy of the black-white wealth gap is it assumes a cause (e.g. systemic racism) without regard to other factors that might contribute to it.

A case in point is a report published by Demos, progressive public policy organization, which found that:

  • 42 percent of African Americans report using their credit cards for basic living expenses like rent, mortgage payments, groceries, utilities, or insurance because they do not have enough money in their checking or savings accounts.
  • African Americans carry an average credit card balance of $5,784.
  • Just 66% of African American households report having a credit score of 620 or above, compared to 85 percent of white households.  
  • 50 percent of indebted African American households who incurred expenses related to sending a child to college report that it contributed to their current credit card debt.
  • 71 percent of African American middle-income households had been called by bill collectors as a result of their debt, compared to 50 percent of white middle-income households.

What no one is talking about concerning the black-white wealth divide is the role human behavior plays in helping facilitate that gap.

It is a universal truth that when, in our self-centered efforts to “move on up” in life, we choose to violate the principles of God’s Word, we should expect certain outcomes as a result.

Scripture is clear on matters of:

This is not to suggest or infer that the black-white wealth gap is attributable solely to a collective disregard for biblical principles on the part of black Americans.

Not at all.

I am not naive to the reality that not all black Americans – nor Americans in general – are believers in Jesus Christ and submit their lives to the spiritual disciplines set forth in His Word.

To be sure, not even we who are believers in consistently abide by His precepts (Luke 6:46).

Nevertheless, the reality is personal responsibility is a major factor in the black-white wealth gap being what it is. It would be disingenuous, to say the least, to suggest that socio-economic factors alone (e.g. unemployment, racism) are at fault in creating this imbalance.

“The measure of our success cannot be defined by what we accomplish here on earth; it has already been defined by the fact that we are in Christ.” – Dr. Ian Duguid, from the January 2017 issue of TableTalk Magazine, p.13

It may not be politically correct to say this, but the truth is not everyone is destined to achieve the American Dream.

The sovereignty of God is such that, ultimately, it is He who determines to what degree we experience success in this world, whether material or otherwise (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 20:4; 118:23-25;  Deuteronomy 8:18; Romans 9:14-16). With this (God’s sovereignty) in mind, as followers of Christ, contentment should be our goal not closing the wealth gap (1 Timothy 6:6-8).

This is not to suggest that one should not aspire to improve their socio-economic station, but that they should do so with the larger picture in mind – eternity.

For, indeed, what does it profit a person to gain the whole world, and forfeit their soul (Mark 8:36)?

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

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huffingtonpost.com

Related:
Thomas Sowell on the Root Causes of Income Equality – World