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Virtue Signaling 

I recently posted an article entitled “God Hates Gun Violence” written by Christianity Today author Mark Galli. My heart is broken by the images of yet another school shooting and the loss of 10 innocent people. In the article, the author says, “We Christians should work to ban weapons whose main purpose is to kill a lot of people very quickly, to keep guns in general out of the hands of unstable personalities, and to ensure that everyone who buys and owns guns can demonstrate they know how to use and store them safely.” I spent Monday writing a blog about gun violence but then decided to put it on hold and do a lot more research. After my research my conclusion is that we cannot legislate an answer that will keep our schools safe. Every school shooting is unique. 

For instance, the 17-year old Santa Fe, New Mexico school shooter used a sawed off shot-gun and a 38-caliber handgun. Sawed off shot-guns are illegal already but they still exist. In New Mexico you must be at least 19 years old to own a handgun and 21 years old to have a conceal and carry permit. So legally the Santa Fe school shooter was in violation of the laws that are already on the books. 

The Parkland, Florida school shooter had a long history of documented mental illness and had been a threat to himself and others. However, no person took the initiative to use the Florida law that states that a “person who is a threat to themselves or someone else cannot legally purchase a weapon” (Fla. Stat. § 790.064(1); Fla. Stat. § 790.065(2)(a)(4). As early as February 2016 people were telling school administrators, peer counselors, the FBI, and the Broward County Sheriff’s Department that the Parkland school shooter was capable of carrying out such an attack. So legally speaking the Parkland, Florida school shooter was in violation of the laws that are already on the books. 

My brother, Nick Moon, was involved in a workplace related shooting on February 25, 2016. He was shot in the leg while working for Excel (Hesston, KS) by a person who worked with him in the paint department. Three people died and fourteen were injured.  The shooter was a convicted felon. In Kansas it is illegal for convicted felons to own firearms. The shooter was on drugs and distraught after receiving a restraining order from his girlfriend. In Kansas it is illegal for people who have domestic violence protective orders to carry firearms. In fact, his estranged girlfriend had police help her remove the weapons she purchased from the home they shared only to give the weapons back to him on another occasion when he threatened her. So legally speaking the Hesston, KS workplace shooter was in violation of the laws that are already on the books. 

In saying that we cannot legislate an answer that will stop school shootings, I am not saying that some of our laws do not need to be addressed. One of the things my research called to my attention is the fact that federal laws cannot be enforced by state and local officials. So if there is a federal law that is not picked up and matched by state law, it is pretty much useless unless a federal agent is enforcing it. For instance, in Indiana, if you commit an act of domestic violence against someone you don’t cohabitate with, or are not married to; you can still carry and conceal a weapon. If you are married to the person or if you live with the person you committed an act of domestic violence against, then you are legally unable to carry a concealed weapon. This is called the boyfriend/girlfriend exclusion. Currently, 29 out of the 50 states have closed this loophole but Indiana is still lagging behind. 

In Indiana, there is no law that says a person that is involuntarily committed into a psychiatric facility cannot own a firearm even though there is a federal law that states this. In Indiana, there is no law that says that if a person is found not guilty of a crime by reason of insanity they cannot own a weapon even though there’s a federal law that states this. In Indiana, there is no law that says that if you have been found mentally incompetent to handle your own affairs you can’t own a weapon even though there is a federal law that states this. So there are obviously laws in Indiana that need to be passed in order to keep the public safe. 

The big question that many people are talking about is, “Would a federal assault weapons ban help decrease violent crime?” This is like asking, “Would an automobile manufacturer that closes in Detroit, Michigan decrease the number of automobiles on the road?” The answer is no, there are still the same number of cars on the road today as there were yesterday minus a few. It would take years to see a noticeable difference of cars on the road. During the federal weapons ban that spanned 1994-2004 the drop in violent crime was negligible at best. This is because the number of assault weapons on the street did not dramatically decline and people’s access to these weapons remained the same. 

I think that a federal assault weapons ban would help decrease violent crime; but in my estimation it would take 50+ years to actually see a difference and for a ban to be effective. I think a ban plus a law that takes the assault rifles off the streets would be most effective; but no politician would even come close to speaking this, little lone acting upon it. My estimation of how long it would take for a weapons ban to be effective may be low due to the oldest fireable weapon being a revolver from circa 1597. But as my above research bears out, criminals don’t obey the law and law enforcement can only enact the law when a law is broken. If a criminal believes an assault-style weapon would be most effective in the crime they are going to commit, they will procure one from an avenue other than the legal marketplace. 

Since I posted the Christianity Today article publically on our web-site people who don’t personally know me could potentially comment. Apparently it’s a thing now to tell pastors to “stick to preaching the gospel and not worry about social justice.” 

Pastor Sherman Burkhead (Boron, CA) responded by saying, “Christians should evangelize the lost and make disciples of all nations and stop pretending that evil doesn’t exist! Naïve virtue signaling is not God honoring.” I had to look up what virtue signaling actually is. It is “the action or practice of publicly expressing opinions or sentiments intended to demonstrate one's good character or the moral correctness of one's position on a particular issue.” 

Through parables and analogies Jesus used the cultural ideologies and politic of his day to bring about His Kingdom principles. Posting blogs, reading articles, preaching, and small groups are ways to communicate the Kingdom principles of Jesus. 

Let me be clear that in posting the Christianity Today article and this blog that I believe Jesus Christ of Nazareth is the God of a non-violent way. There is no amount of religious hopscotch that will stray my mind from Jesus’ central teaching in Matthew 5:21-26, Matthew 5:38-42, and Matthew 5:43-45. 

In Matthew 5:38-42 Jesus captures the common thought on retaliation “an eye for an eye” and turns it on its head saying, “don’t resist an evil person. If someone slaps you on the right cheek turn to them the other also.” When I see Jesus’ teaching I reflect on the fact that this is exactly what He did for me and for you on the way to the cross. 

C.S. Lewis got it wrong in his essay “Why I Am Not a Pacifist.” He considers Jesus’ injunction regarding “turning the other cheek,” to not be intended to rule out protecting others. “Does anyone suppose,” he asks, “that our Lord’s hearers understood him to mean that if a homicidal maniac, attempting to murder a third party, tried to knock me out of the way, I must stand aside and let him get his victim?” 

To this I say, “Jesus would have stood in the way and been killed on behalf of the person standing behind him.” Hopefully, in the act of doing so, the killer’s heart would be so moved by the sacrificial act that it would lead him/her to change. I’m not sure that I’m spiritually mature enough to follow in my Savior’s footsteps and allow myself to be killed without retaliation for the benefit of someone else.  I do, however, know with absolute certainty that Jesus would not pick up a weapon whether it be a rock, a knife, a gun, or an assault rifle in retaliation to a threat for this is just not His Kingdom way.

Karma: Doing Good Travels 

Karma, what goes around comes around, or cause follows effect; no matter how you say it the meaning is the same. In scripture this principle is stated this way, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7).  Reaping what you sow is a principle that is easily understood by a gardener like me. I know that when I plant my jalapeno plants that I will get a much desired harvest of jalapenos. This principle is at work in our world in more ways than plants can describe. 

I am from one of the largest wheat producing states in the nation (Kansas) and the farmers there know that you must sow before you reap, you reap much later than you sow, and you also reap much more than you sow. Farmers sow wheat and its wheat they get; and Paul, in writing about this principle says, “For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:8). 

Someone leaves me little treats on my desk on Sunday mornings. I suspect I know who they are but their identity still hasn’t been made know. One of the recent treats was an Epic 100% Bison bar. There are 7 grams of protein packed in a very small bar. I opened it and it tastes like bacon and cranberry. I thoroughly enjoyed it so much that I kept the wrapper in my truck so I could remember what it was called. I’m sure that Tawnya saw that wrapper lying there and judged my cleanliness (but I knew exactly what I was doing). 

There is someone in my life that has been asking a lot of my family lately. We don’t mind giving but this particular person seems to always be in need of something. Tawnya and I constantly have to check ourselves to make sure that we are not enabling. Today, this person asked me to bring them an item because they were tight on time and couldn’t drop by and get the item themselves. I was right in the middle of calculating my reimbursements for April and really too busy to drop everything and go; but I said I would bring them the much-needed item. 

As I got into my car I thought, “Well at least where they are located is close to Kroger so I’ll stop in and grab some almonds for lunch so I’ll be able to get all my work accomplished for the day.” But when I slid my water bottle into the cup holder, I noticed the Epic 100% Bison bar wrapper sitting there. I thought, “Well, I’ll check Kroger to see if they have those while I’m there.” I dropped off the needed item and pulled into Kroger. I went immediately to find my almonds and then to the health food section. There was a worker there scanning something and I asked her if they had Epic 100% Bison bars.  She said, “Yes, we do. They are one of my favorite snack choices. If you hold on a second, I’m about ready to mark them down to 50% off because we are moving into our new store soon.” I agreed to wait and got a case of Epic 100% Bison bars for $14 and they are usually $28. 

You see, someone did good for me and I in turn did good for someone else. Me doing good for someone else allowed me the specific timing to be blessed by something good. Doing good travels!!! John Wesley offers us some very wise counsel when he says, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can.” 

Unfortunately as much as this is true the reverse is also true. Doing bad begets bad. I see people around me who are making choices that are leading to the unraveling of their lives but they just can’t grasp the big picture yet. Whatever a person sows they will reap. Sowing and reaping is a law of nature and a law of God. Job 4:8 in the NLT says, “My experience shows that those who plant trouble and cultivate evil will harvest the same.” 

Many people are sowing wrong things-lust, jealousy, control, lying, drinking too much, taking drugs, shoplifting, cheating on their taxes, etc.  Billy Graham said, “Some people live by the philosophy that you can sow your wild oats all week and then go to church on Sunday morning and pray for a crop failure.” If you want good in your life then do more good. The choices we make are powerful for they can lead us into abundance or they can lead us into famine. Let us choose abundance by doing all the good we can!

Punctuation Matters 

I come from a family where punctuation and spelling didn’t really matter. Spaghetti noodles could be spelled “spagetti” on the grocery list and it was fine as long as you purchased the right ingredients. I managed to make it through Honors English in high school. I tested out of English 101 in college and was bumped up to English 102. What I learned from all of my studies was that the English language can be tricky, especially as far as punctuation is concerned. 

Part of obtaining a B.A. degree in Christian Ministry is a requirement that you take two years of biblical language. I took Koine Greek, which is the language that was spoken during the Hellenistic period of the Roman Empire. The easiest way to describe it is that it is like what Old English is to our modern English. Koine Greek is no longer a spoken language; so it is difficult to fully understand how to pronounce, and therefore translate, words and phrases. Remember I said difficult not impossible. 

I was mesmerized by my seminary professor, Dr. Tim Dwyer, who could open up the Greek New Testament and translate, as he read it, into English. Hearing him talk and explain scripture was what helped me fall in love with the Bible. Every seminarian was required to take New Testament for a year. At Anderson School of Theology our New Testament classes exhaustively covered every book of the New Testament. As electives you could take a more in-depth study of a biblical book. I decided since the book of Romans is Paul’s magnum opus, that I should study it more in depth. I learned so much, I even memorized the 3rd chapter, but one discovery changed my life forever. The craziest thing about my discovery is that the average Christian believer passes right over it, and classifies it as part of the “junk reading” in scripture. What I’m referring to is part of the formal salutations and greetings in Romans 16. 

In Romans 16:7 it says, “Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.” Some of the translations have “Greet Andronicus and Junias…” In my opinion never has so much hung in the balance over proper spelling. The earliest and most frequently occurring manuscripts have the rendering “Junia.” Someone at a later time decided in some manuscripts to “correct” this name to “Junias.” The question is, “Why would someone want to do this?” 

In my opinion, a patriarchal church realized that Junia can never be found in ANY Greek literature in reference to a man. Junia can be found in at least three other occurrences, always referring to a woman.  The person who added the sigma at the end of Junia was attempting to make the name masculine even though there is no record of ANY kind of that name ever being used in literature. The closest we can come to is the Latin name Junianas. 

This matters because in Romans 16:7 we have a woman named Junia who served alongside Paul in his ministry. She was effective enough to be considered a threat to local authorities and was imprisoned along with Paul.  The Apostle Paul thinks so highly of Junia and her co-laborer Andronicus, that he commends them as being “outstanding among the apostles.” If a woman is an apostle working beside Paul, then we have to conclude that Paul’s other remarks concerning women in leadership are contextual (1 Tim. 2:12, etc.). Any theological inferences we might make from these contextual passages are shaky at best. We must then permit women to have authority over men in the church, because the only scriptural evidence to the contrary is trumped by an apostle named Junia who Paul commends. 

I have two daughters, and it is hard for me to look at them and think that someone might discourage them from being whatever God calls them to be. It’s hard for me to understand how people with daughters (and wives, mothers, sisters, etc. for that matter) would choose to be a part of a church system that would tell them that God cannot call them into ministry: and if he does, it wouldn’t be a ministry where they would hold any authority over a man. I would challenge women to not follow husbands or family traditions into churches that subtly say they don’t matter. A point of irony: every Christian fundamentalist running around with a King James Version (because it’s the only God-inspired version) of the Bible, touting that women should sit under the feet of a man, has in their hands the truth that God has already had an apostle that was a women; but they just haven’t read deep enough yet to discover it. 

I had the opportunity to name one of my daughters, and her middle name is Junia. I would like to think that both Emma and Phoebe have the opportunity to listen to God and become all God is calling them to be. I think of Junia as a woman of power, a woman who is fearless and willing sacrifice herself for God’s call on her life. These are characteristics that we should all aspire to be.

Snipe Hunting by Pastor Jim Moon III 

When I was younger my older uncles would dupe me into going on a snipe hunt. I must admit that the fresh night air was great, but being out in the dark was a little unnerving. Every once in awhile one of my uncles would enthusiastically say, “Oh, there one is. Did you see it?” Of course, I didn’t see them, and after a few such outings I realized that either snipes aren’t real or that they are too elusive to be found, so I gave up the search. When we, as Christians, go around labeling people, places, and things as holy that turn out to be anything but holy, it is just like saying, “Oh, did you see that? There it is! Oh, you barely missed that one!?!” People finally realize that either what we are saying isn’t real or it’s too elusive to be found. We are living in a time when the efficacy of the Gospel is at stake. The Gospel’s ability to produce the desired result is like a plate wobbling on top of a broomstick. People who have yet to know Christ have lost the ability to differentiate what it means to be Christian from the lives of the Christian men and women around them. 

At times I have voted Republican and at times I have voted Democrat, for my alignment is to Christ above all else; and I vote with my conscience. My concern is that my evangelical brothers and sisters have made an error in judgment based upon great intentions. Many endorsed our current president as an evangelical Christian person. To judge whether Donald Trump is a Christian or not, is not my place. I can reasonably assert that our president has had a difficult time espousing Christian morals and values in the way he has related to people.  According to the statistics, “in the 2016 presidential election Donald Trump won 81% of the evangelical Christian vote.” Donald Trump can credit his victory to the overwhelming turn out and support of the evangelical Christians.  My close friends have said that they were forced to vote between the lesser of two evils, and that it is highly important to protect our freedom of religious conscience and the right to life. I actually agree with them in principle but what has it cost our witness to align ourselves with a president that is pro-religion but not religious?  Being pro-religion is different than being religious.   

When we say, “Donald Trump is accomplishing parts of our evangelical agenda,” people are looking to him as an example of what it means to be a Christ follower, and what do they see? I’ve been mulling this over in my own quiet times, and I pray that you will do so as well. 

The other day one of our 6th grade athletes on the River Valley Track Team ran a 59.4-second, 400-meter dash. Coach Hasselbring and I were amazed at how well he ran the race. He was racing one of the fastest 8th graders in Clark and Floyd County. For some reason this 8th grade young man, as he rounded the last 200-meters, pointed at our 6th grade runner in a taunting/show-boating type of way. Needless to say, seeing this kind of unsportsmanlike behavior left a bad taste in my mouth; and even though the 8th grader won the race, something of the excitement was sucked out of the venue by his actions. For the way we accomplish something is just as important as what we accomplish. 

In Genesis 15:4-5 God makes a covenant with Abram, {4} Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” {5} He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” God promises Abram that his offspring will outnumber the stars in the sky. As Abram and Sarai grew old, they became concerned because there was not a rightful heir to their household. So Sarai devised a plan to have Abram sleep with her slave Hagar to produce an heir for their family. Abram agrees and Ishmael is born (Genesis 16). In Genesis 17 God makes a covenant with Abram and changes Abram’s name to Abraham, and Sarai’s name to Sarah. God also tells Abraham that he will have a child even in his old age, and Abraham laughs at God. God’s response to the laughter of Abraham and Sarah can be found in Genesis 18:14, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”  A short time later Sarah conceives Isaac. 

Abraham attempted to take matters into his own hands to produce an heir for his household when all the while God had a plan in place. Abraham wanted things done in his time and in his way, but what he needed to do was trust in God. We are living in uncertain times and it can be easy for us to want something so bad that we take matters into our own hands, or use whatever means necessary, to accomplish them. We must trust in God and in God’s timing, for if we don’t we may accomplish a few small things “for the cause” but in the end compromise the things that are most dear to us. 

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to us that we will eventually be forced to do something that is against our religious consciences. At the rate society is going persecution will no longer take subtle forms. But we should not align ourselves with anyone that will forcefully take our rights back while at the same time ruin our witness. 

My prayer for us can be found in I Peter 4:12-16, 19, {12} Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. {13} But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. {14} If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. {15} If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. {16} However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.  {19} So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

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Mission Statement: Park Memorial UMC exists to SERVE others by WITNESSING to our faith through ministries of CARE that enable people to realize what Christ has done for them. We endeavor to DEVELOP personal relationships with Christ so that we may GLORIFY God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.