Monday, March 18, 2013

Bad advice Bill

The Sunday paper brings yet more bad advice from our old friend Billy Graham. This time he actually answers two questions in the Q&A column that our local paper publishes. Lets take a look at them one at a time...

Only God can keep us steady in the midst of life's storms

Q: We have two small boys, and we worry about the world they're going to be facing when they grow up -- a bad economy, wars, a breakdown in morals, and so on. What can we do to help prepare them for such a scary future? -- Mrs. A.M.

A: The best thing you can do is to provide them with a solid foundation of faith -- faith in God, faith in Jesus Christ, and faith in God's Word, the Bible.

After all, every generation faces challenges; the world has seldom been a peaceful or easy place to live. By the time they're grown, your sons may have to face challenges that aren't even on the horizon right now. What will keep them steady in the midst of life's storms? What will give them the moral and spiritual strength they'll need? Only God can do that -- and He will, as they learn to put their trust in Him and be guided by His Word.

Teach your sons -- simply but clearly -- that God not only exists, but also that He loves them and wants to help them. Teach them, too, about prayer, and about Jesus Christ and what He did for us by His death and resurrection. Teach them, as well, the importance of the Bible to guide them through life. (Your local Christian bookstore can suggest a Bible storybook for children.)

Above all, ask God to help you be an example to your children of what it means to follow Jesus. Your words to them are important, but so is your example. God's will -- for both you and your children -- is that "you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe" (Philippians 2:15).
Ah, where to start... How about with the questioner. Yes, the economy isn't great, but it's getting better. Sometimes the economy is better than other times, but that's a shared issue we all have to deal with. Wars are certainly nothing new either. Just about every generation has been witness to war in some way or another. Breakdown in morality? How so? Was it a breakdown in morality when 'blacks' fought for and gained equal rights? Was it a breakdown in morality when women gained the right to vote? Do you consider it a breakdown in morality now that 'gays' are finally gaining the equal rights they have always deserved and are also being allowed to marry in some states? Is it a breakdown in morality that bullying is finally beginning to be taken seriously? Is the dropping homicide rate a sign of moral breakdown? In my opinion, morality is gaining stronger overall, not weaker.

So, what's Billy's answer? The same answer he gives to everything... you need more Jesus. But this is far from good advice. The lady questioner is worried about the economy, so does it make sense to push a religion who's churches often expect you to donate generously to the church? Wars? Religions have been behind, or heavily involved in  most of the conflicts that have happened throughout history. Breakdown of morality? Religions seldom have much room to speak on morality. Christianity is no exception. No real issue with slavery, misogynistic, stoning disobedient kids to death, demanding genocides, death to homosexuals, selling daughters, offering daughters up for rape, forcing women to marry their rapist... And the list goes on and on.

Furthermore, Billy (and Christianity) says that you are powerless without God/Jesus. In my opinion, that is horrible advice for someone who is worried about their children facing a potentially difficult future. If you are worried about your children facing a difficult future, you want them to feel empowered, not powerless. Yet Graham is teaching that the exact opposite of what they need to hear. That they are powerless without divine guidance. However, I would tell you that most people are stronger and capable of more than they may personally believe. When someone gets a promotion and gives God the credit, they are selling the work they did short. They got that promotion on their own merit, and need to realize that. My advice to Mrs. A.M. would be for her kids to get as much education as they can. To stay strong, determined and work hard. Through that hard work and determination, they will find the recipe for success, not through deferring to the will of divine guidance that will never come.

The hard questions in science will be solved through hard work. The big medical advances will be made through hard work. If they start a business, it will be through hard work. If they work their way up in a company, it will be through hard work. Hard work that they put in and expended the effort toward. So, do not hang your hopes on the false hope that a god will take care of everything. Rather, believe in yourself instead of a god, and your future will be all the better for it.
Q: I've gotten involved in a ministry that our church has started to prisoners in our local jail, but I honestly wonder if we're doing any good. Just holding a chapel service once a week doesn't seem like much. Am I wrong? -- F.N.

A: Over the years, I've received countless letters from prisoners, and I want to assure you that what your church is doing is important. God may open up additional opportunities as time goes on, but thank Him for giving you this opportunity, and ask Him to help you use it wisely.

Remember, many of those you see every week have never heard the Gospel before, and have had nothing to do with church or Christians. Some, however, come from Christian homes, and even now their loved ones are praying for them. But whatever their background, they all need the new life that comes only from knowing Christ. Make Him the center of your work, and ask God to use your time there to point others to Jesus.

Do you remember Jesus' parable of the seed and the sower? (You can find it in Luke 8:4-15.) The farmer in Jesus' parable sowed seed throughout his field, and not all of it sprouted and grew. But some of it did -- and the same is true when we spread the "seed" of God's Word. God has promised, "My word... will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire" (Isaiah 55:11).
 Seriously?! 'Many of those you see every week have never heard the Gospel before, and have had nothing to do with church or Christians'. That has to quite frankly be one of the most absurd claims I've ever heard! How does he expect that these people had nothing 'to do' with Christians when at least 78.4% of Americans are Christians? But what about the religiosity of inmates. The statistics vary, but a 2012 study found that 66.3% of inmates are Christian. A 1997 study put it at about 80% Christian. Both studies used quite different methodologies,  but one thing that is clear is that the majority of inmates are Christian, and most of the rest belong to different religions. In fact, the 1997 study found that only 0.2% of inmates were atheists. The 2012 study placed 10.6% under 'no religious preference', but does not go further to divide that between atheists and those that are spiritual, or religious but don't subscribe to an organized form. So Billy, your claim is outright folly.

Next you must consider that the Christian promise is not a good tool for rehabilitating criminals. By telling inmates that any 'sin' can be forgiven, you are taking away any reason to become reformed. Why change their ways if they can always be forgiven anyway? Our criminal justice system has problems in it, and I feel that the religious influence is one that has left us with such a poor recidivism rate in America. We can expect that 67% of prisoners will be re-arrested, while 52% would be re-incarcerated. Meanwhile, the less religious country of Norway has a rate of 20%.  As you can see, more Christianity does not lead to safer conditions, or more repentant prisoners.

I hope I have illustrated that God is not what is needed to get through tough times, or the reformation of prisoners. So work hard, believe in yourself, and push for real criminal justice reform. Most inmates are already Christian, so more Jesus isn't going to change them, just as Jesus isn't going to bring the first questioner's children success. Hopefully this sense of personal responsibility will God is the last thing these people need.


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