May 26, 2015
|Most Americans hold either liberal or conservative positions on most matters. In many instances, however, they would be hard pressed to explain their position or the position they oppose.
But if you can’t explain both sides, how do you know you’re right?
At the very least, you need to understand both the liberal and conservative positions in order to effectively understand your own.
I grew up in a liberal world — New York, Jewish and Ivy League graduate school. I was an 8-year-old when President Dwight Eisenhower ran for re-election against the Democratic nominee, Adlai Stevenson. I knew nothing about politics and had little interest in the subject. But I well recall knowing — knowing, not merely believing — that Democrats were “for the little guy” and Republicans were “for the rich guys.”
I voted Democrat through Jimmy Carter’s election in 1976. He was the last Democrat for which I voted.
Obviously, I underwent an intellectual change. And it wasn’t easy. Becoming a Republican was emotionally and psychologically like converting to another religion.
In fact, when I first voted Republican I felt as if I had abandoned the Jewish people. To be a Jew meant being a Democrat. It was that simple. It was — and remains — that fundamental to many American Jews’ identity.
Therefore, it took a lot of thought to undergo this conversion. I had to understand both liberalism and conservatism. Indeed, I have spent a lifetime in a quest to do so.
The fruit of that quest will appear in a series of columns explaining the differences between left and right.
I hope it will benefit conservatives in better understanding why they are conservative, and enable liberals to understand why someone who deeply cares about the “little guy” holds conservative — or what today are labeled as conservative — views.
Difference No. 1: Is Man Basically Good?
Left-of-center doctrines hold that people are basically good. On the other side, conservative doctrines hold that man is born morally flawed — not necessarily born evil, but surely not born good. Yes, we are born innocent — babies don’t commit crimes, after all — but we are not born good. Whether it is the Christian belief in Original Sin or the Jewish belief that we are all born with a yetzer tov (good inclination) and a yetzer ra (bad inclination) that are in constant conflict, the root value systems of the West never held that we are naturally good.
To those who argue that we all have goodness within us, two responses:
First, no religion or ideology denies that we have goodness within us; the problem is with denying that we have badness within us. Second, it is often very challenging to express that goodness. Human goodness is like gold. It needs to be mined — and like gold mining, mining for our goodness can be very difficult.
This so important to understanding the left-right divide because so many fundamental left-right differences emanate from this divide.
Perhaps the most obvious one is that conservatives blame those who engage in violent criminal activity for their behavior more than liberals do. Liberals argue that poverty, despair, and hopelessness cause poor people, especially poor blacks — in which case racism is added to the list — to riot and commit violent crimes.
Here is President Barack Obama on May 18, 2015:
“In some communities, that sense of unfairness and powerlessness has contributed to dysfunction in those communities. … Where people don’t feel a sense of hope and opportunity, then a lot of times that can fuel crime and that can fuel unrest. We’ve seen it in places like Baltimore and Ferguson and New York. And it has many causes — from a basic lack of opportunity to some groups feeling unfairly targeted by their police forces.”
So, poor blacks who riot and commit other acts of violence do so largely because they feel neglected and suffer from deprivations.
Since people are basically good, their acts of evil must be explained by factors beyond their control. Their behavior is not really their fault; and when conservatives blame blacks for rioting and other criminal behavior, liberals accuse them of “blaming the victim.”
In the conservative view, people who do evil are to be blamed because they made bad choices — and they did so because they either have little self-control or a dysfunctional conscience. In either case, they are to blame. That’s why the vast majority of equally poor people — black or white — do not riot or commit violent crimes.
Likewise, many liberals believe that most of the Muslims who engage in terror do so because of the poverty and especially because of the high unemployment rate for young men in the Arab world. Yet, it turns out that most terrorists come from middle class homes. All the 9/11 terrorists came from middle- and upper-class homes. And of course Osama bin Laden was a billionaire.
Material poverty doesn’t cause murder, rape or terror. Moral poverty does. That’s one of the great divides between left and right. And it largely emanates from their differing views about whether human nature is innately good.
Dennis Prager’s latest book, “The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code,” was published this month by Regnery. He is a nationally syndicated radio show host and creator of PragerUniversity.com.
Copyright 2015 Creators Syndicate Inc.
Tag Archives: conversion
October 26, 1793 – Lewis Lunsford, at the approximate age of 40 fell asleep in the arms of Jesus. Lunsford’s life was terminated in the prime of his life, leaving a family and a fruitful ministry.
Lewis was born in Stafford County, Virginia around 1753. Early in his life, while attending William Fristoe’s meetings, he was deeply convicted and gloriously saved through the gospel of God’s grace. After being baptized by Fristoe, he began to stand up as an advocate for the gospel. Lunsford’s talents commanded the attention of many and procured for him the appellation of “The Wonderful Boy.”
Wherever he went, there was blessing, but his message also attracted opposition. Once there assembled a congregation at a stage built on the property of a Mr. Stephen Hall near Mundy’s Point. After he had read his text, some who were well armed with staves and pistols drew near to attack him. Some of his followers, not listening to Lunsford’s pleas to the contrary began pulling up fence stakes to defend him. Several with pistols mounted the stage when it collapsed. Lunsford made it to Hall’s house and took refuge in an upper room. One of the armed ruffians asked for the privilege of debating with Lewis which the request was granted. When the man returned his countenance was totally changed, and his response to his friends was, “You had better converse with him yourselves, “Never a man spake like this.” They answered him, “Are ye also deceived?” This transformed ruffian never saw Lunsford again because of his ill timed death. Apparently pneumonia had set in. He preached his last sermon from Rom. 5:1: “Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Dr. Greg J. Dixon: adapted from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins/Thompson, pp. 444-45.
A Hostile Investigation Produced an Ordination
John Gano professed conversion to Christ at a young age and was strongly inclined to unite with the Presbyterian Church; but doubting the scriptural authority for infant baptism, he entered into an elaborate investigation of the subject. He became convinced of Baptist principles. He soon received permission from his father to be baptized and unite with the Baptist church at Hopewell, New Jersey.
Soon Gano became much exercised in mind about preaching Christ to dying sinners. One morning while plowing, the words, “Warn the people, or their blood will I require at your hands,” came to him with such force that he became insensible to his work. Soon, after applying himself to study for the call, and before he was licensed to preach, he accompanied David Thomas and Benjamin Miller on a missionary tour of Virginia. Their principal mission was to set in order a small church on Opecon Creek which was in a deplorable condition. The church had only three members able to give an account of their conversion. On this occasion Gano exhorted the people. Upon returning home, his church called him to account for preaching without license but before proceeding to condemn him, they requested that he preach to them. His preaching so favorably impressed the congregation that they called for his ordination which took place on May 29, 1754.
Sometime later he was sent south as a missionary and came to Charleston, South Carolina, where he preached for Mr. Oliver Hart. In his journal Gano wrote of the service: “When I arose to speak, the sight of so brilliant an audience, among whom were twelve ministers and one of whom was Mr. George Whitefield, for a moment brought the fear of man upon me; but, blessed be the Lord! I was soon relieved of this embarrassment. The thought passed my mind, I had none to fear and obey but the Lord.”
Dr. Dale R. Hart: Adapted from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I. (Thompson/Cummins) pp. 219 -220.
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“Never give up on a lost soul”
1814 – William Carey received an invitation to send a missionary to Amboyna, where 20, 000 national believers had no missionary to minister to them. Carey’s son Jabez immediately offered himself, and though he was not yet twenty, he crowded his marriage, ordination and farewell into a short time and then left for his mission. After the conversion of two of his sons, Dr. Carey became very anxious about the soul of Jabez, who had just begun practicing law. Carey wrote to his support team, which included John Ryland as the chief. On the Baptist Missionary Societies 20th anniversary, Dr. Ryland addressed two-thousand “of the mission’s friends in London, in the Dutch Church (Austin Friars), and weeping, asked them to pray for Jabez. God wonderfully answered prayer. In the very next mail Dr. Carey received a letter stating that Jabez had been gloriously saved. Some of the Baptist Pastors in the Northhamptonshire Association called on the churches to appoint a day each month for prayer. Paul assured the Corinthians that they were “helping together by prayer.” May we pray our own children, to the harvest fields of the world!”
Dr. Greg J. Dixon: adapted from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins Thompson /, pp. 09-10.
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Persecution before Communism in Russia
1870 – Vasilia Ivanhoff, was baptized in the Fiflis River, following his conversion to Christ, having been born under the government of Elizabethpol, Russia in 1848. He is one of the prime examples that persecution in Russia against the Gospel of Christ, and especially against Baptists, was in full effect even before the Communist revolution of 1917. Soon after he was saved, Vasilia was called to preach the gospel, and from that time he began to experience severe persecution. As he traveled without a passport, which was denied, he was arrested, tried and exiled. In 1895 he again was arrested and served in Siberia for four years as a beast of burden, chained to fifteen other men and made to grind corn on a treadmill. Under his ministry a Baptist church was established at Baku, his home town, which soon consisted of three hundred members. His testimony at sixty-three was that his persecution began at age twenty-two when he became a Baptist. He said, “Since that time most of my life has been spent in prison and exile.” He said that he had seen the inside of thirty-one different prisons. “…I have baptized over fifteen hundred men and women, most of them at night in some lonely place away from the eyes of the police. Often I have chopped through the ice in order to administer baptism. Once I baptized a group of eighty-six persons.” Vasilia, and others like him, are the forebears of the unregistered Baptist church movement in Russia that survived the Communist era that still exists today. [J.N. Prestridge, Modern Baptist Heroes and Martyrs (Louisville, Ky.: World Press, 1911), pp. 23-24. This Day in Baptist History II: Cummins and Thompson, BJU Press: Greenville, S.C. 2000 A.D. 576-77.] Prepared by Dr. Greg J. Dixon
Joshua Brown Hutson was born in Pittsylvania County, Virginia to Methodist parents. Soon after his conversion to Christ he was immersed on Feb. 3, 1858, and it was said that he was the first Baptist in the Hutson family. He was educated in country schools, but the Civil war made College impossible. Following the war, the Byrne Street Baptist Church in Petersburg licensed him to preach in 1869. They ordained him on Dec. 14, 1871. Joshua married Miss Leonora J. Baugh on March 26, 1874 and became pastor of the Belvidere Baptist Church in Richmond which later relocated and changed its name to Pine Street Baptist. At that time the church had 162 members. By 1890 the church had grown to 1,110, and by the time of Pastor Hutson’s retirement it had grown to 1901 members. During his lengthy ministry he had baptized 2,799 people, an average of one per Sunday. He had made 50,605 pastoral calls, married 1,764 couples and conducted 2,202 funerals. He had pastored Pine Street Baptist Church for forty-five years and six months. He was asked by a gentlemen on the street how long his sermons were, he answered that on hot Sundays they were nineteen or twenty-minutes. Although honors and titles came to him, he always remained to his flock, ‘Brother Hutson.’ It has been well said, “A home going preacher makes church going people.”
Dr. Greg J. Dixon, adapted from: This Day in Baptist History III (David L. Cummins), pp. 176-178.
A Diligent Soul-Winner
From the day he came to know Christ as Savior, Bernard H. Frey, Bernie, as he was affectionately called, felt compelled to share the Gospel with an intense love of witnessing.
Following his conversion, Bernie and two other men organized the Calvary Baptist Church in his hometown of Rushmore, Minnesota. He taught the men’s Sunday school class, ministered as Sunday school superintendent, served as a deacon, and led the way as a soul-Winner. More than twenty men went into the ministry from the church, primarily from Bernie’s influence. Bernard was not a young man when he answered the call to preach, but he entered Northwestern College in Minneapolis, Minnesota along with his oldest daughter. Both transferred to Pillsbury Baptist Bible College in Owatonna, Minnesota, upon its opening in 1957. Bernard was among Pillsbury’s first students, and the first grandfather to graduate from the institution. He was greatly influenced by Dr. Monroe Parker who became President of Pillsbury on February 5, 1958. While still in College, Bernard pastored a Baptist church in Canon City, Minnesota.
In the spring of 1972, Bernie was chosen coordinator of the New Testament Association of Independent Baptist Churches. April 17, 1974 is a date indelibly stamped on the minds of his children as a day they said good bye to their father. Three of Bernards’ children are serving the Lord in full-time service as a direct result of their father’s example of godliness.
Dr. Dale R. Hart, adapted from: This Day in Baptist History III (David L. Cummins), pp. 73-75.
[t]he Baptist doctrine of local church autonomy prevailed]
On Jan. 31, 1938, in a specially-called meeting, the congregation voted 92-18 to concur with the pastor and deacons and withdraw from the Convention and its affiliated organizations. On May 16, 1926, Rev. Ford Porter had become pastor of the First Baptist Church of Princeton, IN. This church held membership in the Northern Baptist Convention, the Indiana Baptist Convention, and the Evansville Baptist Association. The battle between fundamentalism and modernism had recently begun. Pastor Porter had become aware of serious modernistic inroads into the Northern Baptist Convention. Believing in the verbal, plenary inspiration of the Bible, he determined that he would position the congregation solidly upon the inerrant, infallible Word of God. In 1932 during the depression, more than 200 professed conversion or united with the church. The church came to the conclusion that something must be done about their alignments so a special church meeting was called to discuss the matter, when the above vote was taken. However a minority refused to admit defeat and spurred on by denominational leaders they took the church to court asking to be declared the true First Baptist Church of Princeton. We should all rejoice that the Baptist doctrine of local church autonomy prevailed as the court ruled in favor of the majority. Dr. Robert T. Ketcham, one of the founders of the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches testified on behalf of the church in this case. Rev. Porter’s son Robert was only 13 years old at this time. Rev. Porter wrote the famous tract, God’s Simple Plan of Salvation.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. IIII: Cummins, pp. 62-64.
December 24, 1912 – Death came to the frail servant of Christ, Lottie Moon, on Christmas Eve aboard ship in the harbor of Kobe, Japan. A simple monument is to be found in the cemetery of her home church near Crewe, Virginia. This little woman who stood barely above 4’ stands as tall as any missionary ever sent out by the Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, and to this day is their most famous missionary, having served in China for nearly 40 years. She was born in Albermarle County, Virginia, on Dec. 12, 1840 and had a broad educational background. She was also trained in the Female Seminary and the Albermarle Female Institute. She proved to be adept in several languages. She had no interest in the things of God until her conversion under the ministry of John Albert Broadus, pastor at Charlottesville, VA in 1859. In 1873 Lottie heard a challenge from the text, “Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.” Miss Moon volunteered for service in China. She was appointed by the Foreign Mission Board on July 7, 1873. She had also considered marriage to Crawford H. Foy. Years later she explained that she had passed up the love of her life because of “doctrinal conflicts”, and that “God had first claim on her life.” Miss Moon is best remembered because of her suggestion in 1887 that Southern Baptist Women institute a week of prayer and sacrificial offering for foreign missions in connection with Christmas. This money was to assist in sending reinforcements for the work. In 1918 the annual offering was named the “Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for Foreign Missions.” The Boxer Rebellion took a heavy toll on Lottie as she sacrificed her own food during the time of famine. No doubt all of this hastened her death.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins Thompson /, pp. 537-39.
December 20, 1822 – Samuel Green was born in Falmouth, England. We know little about his conversion to Jesus Christ and call to preach, but we do know that he was a Baptist pastor from 1844-1851. After that time he gave himself to the field of education and literary work. Being aware of the need of an educated clergy, Green gave himself to teaching at Rowdon College from 1851 to 1863 and served as President from 1863 to 1876. In 1876 he became editor of the Religious Tract Society in London and served in this capacity until his retirement in 1899. In this ministry he reached untold millions of the saved and unsaved alike with the gospel of salvation and the ministry of sanctification and edification. The name of Samuel Green is one of the most important names for the furtherance of the gospel in the nineteenth century.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins Thompson /, pp. 531-32.