You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Culture War’ category.

There are a lot of “firsts” in the Bible, particularly in books like Genesis and Acts as they are books of beginnings. Bible scholars speak of the Law of First Mention to refer to the importance of paying close attention to the first mention of something in the Bible. The reason being, the very first time something is mentioned in the Bible we are usually given God’s original intention or pattern for it.

For example, in Genesis we find the first marriage– one man, one woman, for one life –as God’s pattern for that institution. We also find the first murder and God’s first punishment for that crime.

It’s interesting that God didn’t order Cain killed. In fact, his punishment was to be banished from society to spend his life away from the place of life God gave Adam and Eve.

It’s also interesting Cain replied: “My punishment is more than I can bear”  Genesis 4:13). Putting our worst offenders out of their misery is less excruciating than decades of life in a small cell.

It’s also interesting that God marked Cain. He wasn’t allowed to blend back in but he’d forever bear stigma and separation because of his horrific deed.

It’s also interesting how God basically said to the rest of society… don’t anyone lay a finger on him: “...if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over” (Genesis 4:15).

Apparently God wants us to leave the vengeance up to Him.

[See also: Romans 13:4, The Death Penalty and the Ethics of Nero]

In my current efforts to lead a repeal of the death penalty in South Dakota, Christian friends quickly bring up Romans 13:4 to make a case that God is pro-death penalty. (I’ve laid out a larger Biblical and theological case against the death penalty here.)

Romans 13:1-4 has long caused Christians to squirm because it teaches that God is the one who sets guys like Nero and Hitler in power. However, it doesn’t say God agrees with their governing philosophies. And, it does not say God agrees with the death penalty, only that he gives secular governments the authority to use it.

In Romans 13:4 Paul was writing to believers in Rome saying they need to revere Roman authority as God gives governments even the authority of the sword. He was not telling Christians that they are justified to forsake the mercy path when they one day get in power. Why then are so many Christians today defending the values of the Romans and the ethics of Nero?

Shouldn’t governments in the Christian corners of the world be based on the ethics of Jesus instead of the ethics of Nero? It’s amazing to me how much weight Christians today give Romans 13:4. Somehow it outweighs fifty verses from Jesus on showing mercy. Even so, these verses are not in conflict.

I’m for a government that is more like Christ than Rome. Whichever government we happen to live under we are to live in submission to it, that’s the point of Romans 13:4. The leaven of the kingdom (the ethics of Jesus) should permeate society and government eventually and if we don’t contend for that now, when will we start?

We know what incarceration looks like under the value system of Islam and Sharia Law. However, what should incarceration look like in the Christian corners of the world?

Real prison reform happens when we view prisons as places of reform (and redemption) not retribution. Once behind bars what if we did more than punish their depravity? What if we introduced them to their dignity?

[See also: Cain, the Death Penalty and the Law of First Mention]

My friend Bob Smietana wrote this article in USA Today called Pastors Seek To End War On Drugs By Decriminalizing Use. Basically, Rev. Edwin Sanders pastor of Metropolitan Interdenominational Church in Nashville and other clergy are wanting to decriminalize drug use. The article ends with this comment from Pastor Sanders:

God does not care if you smoke weed…. God is not that petty.”

The comment raises an interesting question: Is God petty?

Well,,, if he’s not, then he’s not HOLY. I know what God says about obeying laws. I know he knows better than we do that there are more negatives for society than positives with pot. For sure what’s best for society comes before what’s best for any individual. We know what God would say about coming under the influence of anything but the Holy Spirit. I can’t imagine God saying it’s ok to get high. If that makes him petty, sorry.

My sense is that a glimpse at the holiness of God would reveal many things we presently think are no big deal. It’s a false grace message to say God only cares about the big sins and that you are ok with him as you are. The Cross was too severe and unnecessary if God isn’t petty. Is your wife being petty because she won’t let you whistle at other women?

I love everything about Charles Spurgeon and have been a big fan for my entire ministry life. In fact, I’m related to him – five generations back. My great grandmother was a Spurgeon. So to cast him here in a negative light isn’t something I do lightly.

On Sunday September 5, 1855 this famous and very fruitful nineteenth century mega-church pastor, the one we call the Prince of Preachers, preached a message simply titled Election. In his third point he commented on Evolution which of course became very popular in his day…

Years ago we thought the beginning of the world was when Adam came upon it; but we discovered that thousands of years before that God was preparing chaotic matter to make it a fit abode for man, putting races of creatures upon it, who might die and leave behind the marks of his handiwork and marvelous skill, before he tried his hand on man.

Frankly, it baffles me that he said this because it so blatantly contradicts other passages I know he wouldn’t budge on. If indeed there were millions of years of extinction, death and killing before sin entered the world through Adam then all that is in Romans 5:12f about death entering the world through Adam becomes entirely false. Certainly Spurgeon wouldn’t toss aside Romans five to accommodate scientific theory with it’s fantastic speculations and faith-based impossible odds and so I’m left to think he didn’t think through the fact that without Genesis, there is no need for Jesus.

What if?

Here we had an opportunity for nineteenth century mega-churches and very popular ministers on both sides of the Atlantic to stand up and smack down an anti-god, anti-life ideology in it’s infancy. Who knows, they did influence many key men who did go on to shape the world, so what’s to say they wouldn’t have influenced a few key university founders and professors on this issue? Instead, Darwinism began to dominate and today Darwinism has resulted in many millions being exterminated and millions more turning from God entirely. Sadly, kids today are taught they are just the next accidental and random mutation in an unguided evolutionary process. Instead of a teaching a concern for the most vulnerable in society, we teach survival of the fittest as a fixed rule of life.

Why don’t big churches take on big issues? To some extent they do; poverty, clean water, human trafficking to name a few. But we are really selective with our salt and our light is notably intermittent. Issues like evolution, abortion and marriage are left alone. Or how about how violence in society is escalating? Why don’t big churches take on these big issues too? One reason is pastors fear their churches won’t be big for long if they venture into things controversial. Pastor, if this is your concern I’d ask what other passages are you avoiding so as to keep people in their seats? My story is that when I started speaking out on big issues my church grew – people today are looking for spiritual and moral leadership. There is an enormous moral leadership vacuum today and the truth is, someones worldview is going to shape this next generation, the only question is whose?

Losing more than we’ve saving

One of the concerns is that these issues are a diversion from the Gospel and our primary task of saving souls. However, think of how many millions have been killed by the tentacles of social Darwinism and its offshoot “favored race” eugenics fueling various atrocities and holocausts. Think of how many more millions are headed to hell because they’ve graduated our universities entirely secularized. Spurgeon spoke to an impressive 10,000 in his church week after week and many thousands were saved. However, because he and others like him did not take on this big issue it just may be that millions more were lost forever.

The Gospel is more than just getting people to heaven. The message of forgiveness of sin is just the door into the kingdom. And though Jesus said “my kingdom is not OF this world” his kingdom is absolutely IN this world. While pastors today are working hard to get people to heaven, Jesus is chompin’ at the bit to return to the earth. Heaven as we know it today is temporary, a place of rest and reward. However, we will be raised and return– we come back! –that’s the classic Christian Hope. Until then, Jesus taught us to pray on earth as it is in heaven. That means part of our task is to bring heaven’s culture and values to earth.

Do we believe the Bible speaks to all of life or don’t we?

Today, traditional values are being undermined and marriage and family are being re-defined… all on our watch. It’s not hate to love only what God loves and then champion it with boldness. Do we believe the Bible speaks to all of life or don’t we? The Bible has much to say about the economy, about devalued currency, about debt- borrower/lender nations, about working for what we eat as opposed to entitlement mentalities, about healthcare, care for the elderly, good and bad presidents/kings, immigration, crime, punishment, prisons and justice, the value of human life, fatherlessness, marriage, etc, etc. The Bible has a public and a private theology and we ought to preach more than messages pertaining to just our personal relationship with Jesus.

Pastors, I have a suggestion for a book to put on your summer reading list. It’s called A City on a Hill: How Sermons Changed the Course of American History. America does have a long history of pastors shaping the conversation. Don’t worry about the IRS, you can talk about any issue you want from the pulpit and you should. Pastor, are your sermons changing history?

There is lots of talk these days about people’s views on marriage evolving. We are fools if we think marriage evolution stops at gay marriage. If this is all evolving, who’s to say this or that can’t marry what or whom they love? When marriage becomes anything, it becomes nothing. Maybe preachers should look ahead prophetically at marriage evolution and what that means for society.

A Prophetic Preventative Role or a Pastoral Consoling Role?

Another hero of mine, Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously said the task of the Church is not just to tend the victims run over by the wicked wheel of society, the task of the Church is to drive a spoke in the wheel itself. In trying to stop Hitler, he did that with his life. Today pastors need to decide if they are called to a prophetic and preventative role or merely a pastoral role tending victims wounds. Are we only called to comfort or are we called to confront cause factors? When our nation experiences a horrific shooting, pastors shift into comfort and consolation mode. Wouldn’t it be better to be preventative and prophetically decry violent movies, video games and violent sports like cage-fighting, or whatever else and use our influence to champion Sermon on the Mount non-violence?

America had a prophetic voice like Amos in Martin Luther King Jr.. America today needs an Amos! “When disaster comes to a city, has not the Lord caused it?” (3:6)  “I withheld rain… struck your fields and vineyards…  sent plagues… yet you have not returned to me…” People today wonder what the heck is going on. We need to do more than just rightly divide the Word, we need to rightly interpreting the times. America needs an Amos who can rightly interpret the times, prophetically.

This summer I’m ramping up for a series I’m calling Hot Potatoes. Week after week the plan is to talk about a variety of issues most churches won’t touch with a ten foot pole. Stay tuned for more on that series.

Here is another chart from me relating to the theme of persecution and martyrdom. These realities have been my focus this season of Lent in my Martyrs Guide to Life message series. Earlier charts included The Skyrocketing Cost of Discipleship and the Degrees of Persecution.

To be in the clutches of something is to be in the grip or hold of something; a strong clasp, tight and sudden. This word describes the last week in the earthly life of Jesus… “the Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men” (Matthew 17:22).

Reading the last week of the earthly life of Jesus, an analogy occurred to me to help illustrate Jesus in the clutches of persecution. For three years he had slipped through various clutches but the last week he succumbed to them. Think of the chuck of a typical household power drill. The chuck is basically a clutching mechanism comprised of three hardened steel jaws held by a tightening sleeve or collar. When you turn and tighten the collar/sleeve, teeth turn a spiral scrolling gear which self center each jaw together equally and mercilessly around a drill bit.

Clutches of Persecution

The three jaws which gripped Jesus were; 1) the whims of people, 2) the religists or religious rulers of the day, and 3) the secular authorities. Knowing that ultimately our battle is not against flesh and blood, the surrounding sleeve or tightening collar relates to evil principalities in heavenly places which were orchestrating all these hostilities toward Jesus.

Here’s a key point: as intense as the clutches of persecution are, notice the entire tool is in the hands of the Lord and he is using it for his purposes. He is building something even when it seems the adversary is tearing it all down.

When I read the last week of the life of Jesus I don’t read any panic at what the devil is doing. I get a strong sense of resolve in what God is doing. The persecuted derive stamina from the perspective of sovereignty. It may feel like and appear that we have been snatched into the merciless hands of others. However, even in persecution, God does not let hold of us.

Bonhoeffer reminded us of the Cost of Discipleship. For a few weeks now in a series I’ve titled Martyrs Guide to Life, I’ve been talking about the Skyrocketing Cost of Discipleship. Basically I’m referring to the forecast Jesus gave us in Matthew 24:9-14.

In light of the fact that more have died for their faith in Christ in the last century than in the first twenty centuries combined, and in light of the fact that the Bible forecasts a greater age of martyrdom at the end of the age, it seems helpful to talk about the skyrocketing cost of discipleship in a latter age of (unprecedented) persecution. By unprecedented I mean to underscore how the latter age will be far more intense and global than the first two centuries which we typically consider the “Age of Persecution.”

Yesterday I posted a new chart I’ve titled Degrees of Religious Persecution to illustrate how there is a discernible continuum with persecution from mild to moderate to severe. (Actually mild is normal as persecution is an indicator all systems are normal.) Here I offer a chart to illustrate the skyrocketing cost of discipleship.

skyrocketing cost of discipleship chart

Obviously, I don’t subscribe to the Left Behind bestselling notion that we will be rescued via a Pre-Trib Rapture. Extensively in other places I’ve shown that to be a recent, extra-Biblical and dangerous error as it leaves us ill-prepared for what is coming. My chart is based on a Classical or Historic Pre-millennialism understanding that the Rapture and the Second Coming are different stages of the same event.

I like charts and when I can’t find one that fits what I’m talking about then I typically make one myself. This is for my teaching series: Martyrs Guide to Life.

Degrees of Religious PersecutionNote there isn’t a “mild persecution” category but rather a “normal persecution” category as those who live the first seven Beatitudes find themselves at odds with the world around them and the eighth Beatitude naturally becomes them.

Woke up today with a headache like I got beat up in a cage fight yesterday. Oh wait, I did. My attempt to ban commercial cage fighting in South Dakota failed in a House vote 27-43.

Though I lost, I won. From the beginning I’ve said the conversation on violence in society has to start somewhere – why not with our most violent form of entertainment? In starting that conversation I succeeded. 27 members of the House of Representatives voted for a total ban on commercial cage fighting in South Dakota. Many others said they hate it but figure it’s best to regulate it because it’s going on anyway. Even Rep. Schrempp who was the sponsor of the bill to legitimize it here says he hates cage fighting because it’s too violent. So thank the 27 House members who didn’t walk away from the fight of curtailing violence in society.

It’s funny how people vote. Some who would normally prize themselves on being family values voters were opponents here. My RINO libertarian friends who vote red on every government expansion and spending bill apparently wanted commercial cage fighting more. Amazingly they voted for yet another layer of unfunded government bureaucracy to regulate and save people from themselves. There were stunning moments like when one member said my ban bill would make a criminal out of his five year old grandson who wants to do cage fighting at a school program. I’m pretty sure 95% of the parents of five year olds in our state would object to their kindergartner watching his grandson beat and kick the crap out of another kindergartner at school. Maybe it’s not so ridiculous. CNN did a story last year on five year old cage fighting.

The question I’d like to ask all my colleagues is simply: what is violence? For some it’s apparently not dismembering unborn children. For others it’s apparently not two people beating each other senseless while rubbernecking bloodlusting pay per viewers cheer. But yesterday the same people who said no to those two things as being violent said two gay men getting in a love spat constitutes violent domestic assault. And ‘splain this to me… those who continually harp on putting all extra dollars to teachers decided yesterday to prioritize boxers over teachers.

It’s too early to forecast what the Governor will do with the bill. I’d think he’ll refuse to sign it and let it pass into law without his signature because he does oppose it and there are the votes in the House and Senate to override his veto.

What this means for South Dakota is we now get commercial cage fighting. It’s coming to a county fair near you. We can now host the big sanctioned events and this means big money. It’s a 3.7 billion violent entertainment industry and the VP of the UFC has contacted the Senate sponsor here and hired two lobbyists to educate legislators here on how it only looks violent. Those lobbyists are Justin Bell also represents the Medical Association and Bret Koenecke who represents the Bankers Association. When I see Justin and Bret today do you support they’ll thank me for landing them such an enormous contract? A hospital lobbyist here in the Capitol joked with me that they aren’t backing me in this fight because it’s good for their business.

The safety issue is secondary to the money issue. I prove that when I point to the pay per view stuff like King of the Cage: Greatest Knockouts #19. Here’s the script on that:

King of the Cage: Greatest Knockouts #19 — The Rear Naked Choke and the Fifteen most LETHEL MMA Maneuvers; the Crucifix – brutally intense! The Heel Hook – one fighter is to effective they’ve named his right kick “hospital” and his left kick “graveyard!” The Guillotine Choke. The Flying Knee. Don’t miss the greatest knockouts caught on camera. Now playing on pay per view.

All this about “safety” is a big smokescreen. The knockouts are what they are selling. This is about knocking people unconscious. I realize other sports have injuries but the last thing we want to see with rodeo, cheerleading and football is for someone to get hurt. Yet that IS what people pay to see in cage fighting. The UFC is interested to make videos #20 and #21 and put them on pay per view at $60 and $75.

Despite the justifications and rationalization and propaganda they throw at me that this isn’t as violent as it looks I find the following forthright comments from USF cage fighters themselves evidence enough that it is what it is.

UFC fighter Nate Diaz was quoted in USA Today (12/5/12) in an article titled: “Nate Diaz Says Sportsmanship Doesn’t Describe UFC”… We’re out there trying to damage each other and finish each other. We’re trying to take each other out. We both want to win by knockout or submission or some type of finish rather than a decision. I think it’s pretty unsportsmanlike.

The Associated Press reported UFC championship fighter Jon Jones saying that he’d rather let his arm break than tap out of a fight. [AP: Jones Successfully Defends Title at UFC 152, 9/23/12]

John Musick, another pro cage fighter said “I will never tap out. You can break my arm off and take it home with you, but I will never tap out.”  Cage fighter Enson Inoue was quoted saying; “I guarantee the fans two things. One, I will give everything I have – I will move until I cannot move anymore. And two, I will never, every give up. I would rather die than tap out.”

So, it is what it is and South Dakota just commercialized it.

P.S. For those who haven’t heard I have said I regret my shocking remark about cage fighting being over the line with violent entertainment like child porn is over the line with adult entertainment. I’ve apologized for it and said it wasn’t my intent to offend people but I see now I did just that. Sorry. It was merely an analogy which I’ve had to explain to many who apparently have been hit in the head so many times they entirely missed it. Now I say, get back up, get over it, and address my point and answer the question I was raising…. if not here, where should the line be drawn on violence in society? Where should that conversation start?

Amidst the flurry of hysterics coming my way after my recent comments on cage fighting I received some forthright letters from Christians involved in the sport. One in particular is from Seth Falvo, a young fighter and writer for the website CagePotato. Apparently he wrote this lovely piece on me - MMA Is The ‘Child Porn of Sports’, According to South Dakota Porn Expert/State Rep. Steve Hickey [HATE]. Seth wrote me a stinging note and in particular called me out on my insensitivity to the death of a MMA fighter. Here is part of his letter:

I’m here to tell you that as a Christian, I have never been more disgusted to read THIS coming from a pastor’s own blog:”I have to bite my tongue because instead of the passages that comfort the grieving I feel like quoting the great philosopher Forrest Gump: Stupid is as stupid does.”

I was hoping this was just a sick, sick parody account, but upon confirming that this is, in fact, your own blog, I’m at a loss for words. Where do I even begin here? Do I quote the Bible and write “Judge not lest you be judged, For in the way you judge, you will be judged?” Do I quote “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone?” Or do I simply point out that you are a self-proclaimed pastor – a man of God – who essentially writes that a fictional character from a Hollywood movie knows more about how one should live than Jesus Christ, the Man whose message he is supposed to be teaching others. I’ll go with the latter. Wow. A self-proclaimed Man of God decides that God isn’t as smart as a dim-witted Hollywood character, and that he, oh wise and powerful pastor, is perfectly right in judging how law-abiding, church going people spend their spare time. If you’ve ever wondered why people my age have quit going to church, well, do I really need to explain why?

Here’s my reply and I’ll post it here as an open letter to all Christian MMA fans and fighters:

Seth,

Thanks for your honest note. For starters I’ll say I have a whole lot more experience with death than you do. I’ve been a police chaplain and pastor for years. There have been times when my pager goes off three times a week and I get to go tell people their loved one has died or been killed. I never quote Forrest Gump in those moments. What you read on my blog was the inner life of a pastor who has to sit with grieving people who are sometimes furious at their lost loved ones for doing stupid, reckless things that result in the wasting of their lives and causing such pain to their families and friends. Both my parents are dead and my father died a very violent death at the negligence of another… meaning it was entirely preventable if only one person had not been so reckless. If you don’t like my Forrest Gump thought I can quote you many passages on foolishness resulting in death and destruction. It is foolish for someone to get into an unsanctioned cage and fight in our state. That was my point.

And not for a moment do I receive your judgmental comment that I’m the type of person who is keeping a generation from Christ/Church. I have started and am leading large church with a ministry school and a substantial ministry to young adults. Also I’ve been planting churches around the world and we lead people to Christ all the time. I’m friends with significant church leaders in your state and we may even have mutual friends. The stream I minister within is aggressively evangelistic and fruitful.

I regret my MMA/child porn comment because it was too shocking and people have entirely lost the point I was making. Forgive me for that but I was simply trying to shine a light on something those in the sport don’t want us to see.

It was interesting to me you jumped right to the “judge not” passage in the Sermon on the Mount. I’ve been a student of that passage of Scripture for twenty five years and have written a 400 page book on the topic. Do you know the Sermon on the Mount also trumpets the non-violence, non-retaliation, turn the other cheek message? Why do you pick and choose verses in that sermon and ignore it’s main point? Do you not agree that we have a problem with violence in society? Do you honestly, before God, think your sport isn’t feeding a blood lust in our culture?

As a Christian let me ask you, if the next guy you kick in the head or choke with some guillotine maneuver passes out and doesn’t wake up— who killed him? Let me ask you Seth, who would Jesus elbow in the face? I won’t judge you or the other athletes here and make some blanket statement that you are full of bloodlust but I WILL say that about your fans and the crowds that flock to your sport. The Bible speaks about bloodlust.  Greed and bloodlust make the MMA today a multi-billion dollar violent entertainment industry.

I’ll be happy to send you a free copy of my Sermon on the Mount book if you want to study that text fully. There is more than “Judge Not” in that sermon. And, by the way, judge not does not mean we turn off all discernment and stop calling good, good and bad, bad. My calling is certainly not to just smile and say nothing. My calling as a minister of the Gospel is to tell the truth even when it’s unpopular. I was elected in my state to push red and green YES or NO buttons and make decisions everyday about things our state should say YES to and things our state should say NO to. Sometimes I fail in that I don’t do all that in love but I figured your crowd was a tough crowd and strong words would be fine. I was wrong, you all are hyper-sensitive, thin-skinned and full of self-justification for what the average person can see with a naked eye is extreme violence. All these claims that I’m ignorant of the sport are simply smokescreens to mask what is obvious.

I’ll paste below some additional comments that I made in the committee and want to point out to you that my comment on a “seared conscience” is a term from the Bible.

All the best to you.
Rev/Rep Steve Hickey

Here are those additional comments:

They say I’m ignorant of this sport and they make a case that it only looks dangerous. I even had a cage fighter/PhD write me and tell me “elbows are used primarily to cause superficial damage and an elbow doesn’t produce a concussive blow.” That’s ridiculous. My response it that it is what it is – too violent and that is evident to the naked eye and the casual observer. I’ll quickly concede I am no expert on MMA. But as I told one of the fighters this weekend… “just maybe a guy like me can see what you don’t see.”  Violence is addictive and people in addiction (including codependents) don’t see or acknowledge any problem until there is a tragedy, or an intervention. I’m intervening here and asking you to join me.

I’ll speak briefly from an area that I do have professional expertise: there is such a thing as a seared conscience which refers to a person who has lost a capacity of innocence whereby they no longer wince. We don’t want to become a society that can’t wince. Ben Franklin said: “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” I submit to you that society is reaching that point and more masters means more laws like this amendment.

I don’t deny the good that is going on in MMA – giving young people confidence and discipline. But MMA is not the only vehicle to accomplish those ends. It doesn’t take that level of violence to develop character, fortitude, confidence, strength and discipline. Any of the other sports overseen by this commission can do all those good things. MMA feeds something in society that we don’t want to feed.

Society was just fine before they figured out to do this and it will be just fine without it again. We aren’t losing ground with my amendment. Actually, we might even be gaining ground that we’ve lost.

I decided to pick a fight.

The conversation on violence in society has to start somewhere so why not with our most violent sport or form of entertainment? Decent and civil societies have to draw the line somewhere; we allow parents to discipline their kids to a point, we allow people to drive up to certain speeds; with smoking we draw the line after tobacco and before pot; with “adult entertainment” we draw the line at child porn. Where do we draw the line with violent entertainment? I suggest we draw the line at cage fighting. Boxing, wresting and legitimate martial arts are violent too but the line needs to be drawn somewhere. Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) or “cage fighting” is over that line – in fact, even the martial arts people I talk to tell me they hate cage fighting because it is a smear on traditional martial arts. I hope you’ll agree that MMA is over the line of what should be tolerable with regard to “violent entertainment” as child porn is clearly over the line with regard to “adult entertainment.” MMA Cage Fighting is the child porn of sports.

The psychological community will tell you that desensitization to violence works exactly like desensitization to porn. You know how porn progresses… a peek at topless isn’t enough, it all has to come off, then a pic is not enough… it goes to video then to virtual and then to the devaluation and mistreatment of women, human trafficking and sex crimes against women. Violence works the same way. Boxing wasn’t enough so they allowed kicking, kneeing people in the head, then elbows to the face, then they put a cage around it. The point is to knock the other guy unconscious while pay per view crowds cheer it on. Why not nunchucks? In Rome they’d gather in colosseums and bring out prisoners and entertain themselves by making them fight to the death. That wasn’t enough so they brought out the helpless and the hated and brought in the hungry lions. Crowds cheered.

In South Dakota this week there is a bill, Senate Bill 84, which is an attempt to legitimize cage fighting in South Dakota. It’s billed as “economic development.” If that’s all we can come up with for economic development we are in trouble. And our decisions on our tolerance for things violent shouldn’t be about money. If we want to attract dirty and bloody money why not legalize prostitution or bring back the gladiators? We need to stop and think about why two governors in our state have been reticent to appoint people to a boxing/MMA commission. I agree with Governor Daugaard entirely:

I’m offended that the state would legitimize cage fighting and the bloody violence these kinds of spectacles create… the way one wins in those contests is by beating up your opponent, bloodying them, kicking, scratching, punching. I don’t support in any fashion anything the state would do to legitimize this kind of behavior. I think it’s a sad commentary on what our culture allows in some areas.

Couldn’t agree more. Proponents say it’s going on here already so we need to regulate it to make it safe. Meth use is going on here too, should we regulate Meth labs?  South Dakota has no business spending any time or money legitimizing cage fighting.  I don’t care that “other states are doing it.” I’d like to think we are better. Other states run billion dollar deficits and we balance our budget. Maybe with our fiscal sense, we could also be known for our common sense and decency.

You’ll hear fans of cage fighting say that more have died in cheerleading accidents. The point of cheerleading isn’t to knock unconscious the other cheerleaders. And there are growing numbers of MMA deaths in sanctioned and unsanctioned fights. Furthermore, the sport is too new to tell us the long term effects of this “sport” on the fighters. The NFL is paying dearly now for their concussion issues. MMA is far worse. We had an MMA fighter in Rapid City die recently and that is in part what is driving the move now to regulate it so it’s “safe.” Proponents say these blood-soaked slugfests only look dangerous. I’m not stupid and neither are you and this isn’t a show like professional wrestling. It is violent and it isn’t a sign of a healthy society that crowds gather to watch it. This is more than consensual assault and battery as the effects of violence desensitization impact the rest of society.

Here’s how you can help. The bill is scheduled for a hearing on Monday at 10AM in our Commerce and Energy Committee (it may get moved to Wednesday at 10am – stay tuned). I plan to introduce a hoghouse amendment (84rc MMA ban amendment) that will establish the South Dakota Athletic Commission to regulate boxing, wresting and martial arts but I’ve written the amendment to expressly exclude mixed martial arts. It’s basically a ban on cage fighting in South Dakota. Expect hysterics from the sport enthusiasts – one local sportscaster already has dubbed me an ignorant idiot.

And, here are some links I encourage you to check out. Hopefully you’ll agree with me that we can do without MMA cage fighting in South Dakota.

Short youtube clip: MMA Most Violent Moments

Parents, check this out: Five Year Old MMA matches

When people get hurt and die in extreme sports I’ll confess I sometimes have trouble mustering up sympathy and compassion (even as we should comfort their families and guys like me officiate these funerals). At some point we can’t call these things “accidents” as they are more the product of our carefully thought out decisions. I have to bite my tongue because instead of the passages that comfort the grieving I feel like quoting the great philosopher Forrest Gump: Stupid is as stupid does.

South Dakota is smarter than this – and so, let’s ban MMA.

In chatting about this with another legislator this past week we both marveled at how society has changed. He remarked that forty years ago his parents wouldn’t let him watch Three Stooges because it was so violent – poking in the eyes, slapping, bonking. We laugh at that today. What’s on TV today would have been unthinkable a generation ago. In a restaurant the other day I heard a lady say about the MMA match on the television… Oh my, when did they take the gloves off?  I wanted to say… Madam, they took the gloves off when we weren’t watching. Folks, it’s time to start paying attention because we are creating today the world our grandkids will live in tomorrow.

Here’s a pic of what the crowds come for: elbow strike rips off a chunk of cage fighters ear. That’s a section of his ear on the floor in the pic on the left.

ear3

The following are additional comments I made in the Committee hearing.

MMA enthusiasts would prefer I not use the cage fighting term but as I told one of them I’ll stop when they remove the cage. They want us to consider this an art, Mixed Martial Arts. For sure there are skills to the craft of nearly killing people but I’d like to draw your attention to the word mixed. Mixed means plus. It means not just this, it means that too. It’s this, plus this, plus that, plus that. The other martial arts don’t have all “that” as there is line that is drawn. Mixed means a free for all. Who knows what the MMA people will mix in next? Sooner or later this will morph into more than it is today. That’s the nature of violence; it escalates as we are desensitized to it.

They say I’m ignorant of this sport and they make a case that it only looks dangerous. I even had a cage fighter/PhD write me and tell me “elbows are used primarily to cause superficial damage and an elbow doesn’t produce a concussive blow.” That’s ridiculous. My response it that it is what it is – too violent and that is evident to the naked eye and the casual observer. I’ll quickly concede I am no expert on MMA. But as I told one of the fighters this weekend… “just maybe a guy like me can see what you don’t see.”  Violence is addictive and people in addiction (including codependents) don’t see or acknowledge any problem until there is a tragedy, or an intervention. I’m intervening here and asking you to join me.

I’ll speak briefly from an area that I do have professional expertise: there is such a thing as a seared conscience which refers to a person who has lost a capacity of innocence whereby they no longer wince. We don’t want to become a society that can’t wince. Ben Franklin said: “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” I submit to you that society is reaching that point and more masters means more laws like this amendment.

I don’t deny the good that is going on in MMA – giving young people confidence and discipline. But MMA is not the only vehicle to accomplish those ends. It doesn’t take that level of violence to develop character, fortitude, confidence, strength and discipline. Any of the other sports overseen by this commission can do all those good things. MMA feeds something in society that we don’t want to feed.

Society was just fine before they figured out to do this and it will be just fine without it again. We aren’t losing ground with my amendment. Actually, we might even be gaining ground that we’ve lost.

UPDATE: You may also be interested in the follow up post I’ve done on this topic: AN OPEN LETTER TO CHRISTIAN MMA FIGHTERS AND FANS

We have an execution in our city today and I made some comments on that yesterday in church and repeated them again this morning on a blog in our state. I thought I’d post them here as well.  Both Catholic Bishops in our state have issued a statement asking for a stay of execution. Here’s why I support the Governor’s decision execute Eric Roberts today. My comments are a reply to this article: Bloodlusters Justify Capital Punishment with Sloppy Relativism, Wishful Thinking.

Cory, I’ll give you some slack on this comment understanding from our previous interactions that the Bible isn’t a book you have much time for: “The only place God seems to say, “Go ahead, kill bad guys” is the Old Testament...”.

Actually, in Romans 13:1-5, it’s real clear that until Jesus returns, God has established our governing authorities as his agents, his instruments to punish the wrongdoer even to the extent of bearing the sword. That passage says the governing authorities are “God’s agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” These agents of God are deemed with the sobering responsibility of bringing justice – at least as much justice as is possible until he returns himself to right every wrong. If all that sounds harsh, consider that God ceases to be loving if he isn’t just. His love fuels his justice.

Another important text to consider on this somber day is Ecclesiastes 8:11 — “When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, the hearts of people are filled with schemes to do wrong.” That is referring to how, via the passage of time (endless appeals), compassion gets displaced, it gets shifted off the victim onto the murderer and when that happens justice is lost and that is wrong. That is why I support the Governor in his decision to execute justice today.

Another thing that is clear in the Bible is the difference between the shedding of judicially innocent blood and the shedding of judicially guilty blood. One is forbidden, the other is allowed but ONLY at the hands of these governing authorities. The doctrine of bloodguilt for the shedding of judicially innocent blood is throughout both the Old and the New Testaments.

How consistent are you willing to be in your abhorrence to the shedding of blood? Should a biological human being ever be executed for the crime of it’s father?

Today is a sad day. No one should be happy. I was thankful to read yesterday that Eric Roberts was spending today fasting and the paper said that is because he is a Christian. We were praying he’d get right with God while he still had time. No one goes to hell for anything they’ve done; even murder. That place of eternal separation from God is reserved only for those who reject his Son and his offer of forgiveness. According to the paper, it looks like Eric Roberts has made peace with God and will spend eternity with him. To people who’ve spent a lifetime being good this hardly seems fair but here again, goodness isn’t the ticket to eternity in paradise with God. Jesus the ticket. This parable comes to mind: Matthew 20:1-16. Even so, Eric Roberts making peace with God does not exempt him from reaping the consequences of what he has sown on earth. Apparently his last decision accepting Christ was his best decision and the most important one.

Another thing from a theological vantage point; the Bible teaches a first and a second death. Roberts faces the first death today; some of us face it earlier than others and for various reasons that relate to our own doing or due to unfortunate circumstances beyond our control. The second death, it appears, is not something Roberts will face as Jesus took that penalty for him. So today, we can thank God for that and should all reflect on our own standing before God.

Understandably people weary of election season political discourse and perhaps even grow to resent or be turned off by the feisty Facebook/Twitter updates of friends like me who like and post on politics (but mostly faith) more than we like or post on football, fishing, fashion or concerts. Lincoln saw law and constitutional government as a gift from God. It affects everything so I hope you’ll rethink your desire to disengage or despise. You can give it a rest in November.

The Bible is 29% about your individual life, though listening to many pastors today you’d think it was just a big fat self-help book. In reality, 71% of it pertains to laws for healthy societies, good and bad national leaders, foreign and domestic policy. Moses was a governor as was Nehemiah, Abraham the father of nations, the prophets were all national prophets, David and Solomon were kings and Jesus’ kingdom may not have been of this world but it is certainly IN it and increasing until the governments rest on his shoulders.  Jesus said pay your taxes, influence and permeate the whole loaf of society with kingdom leaven, he called Herod a fox, and John the Baptist was beheaded for pointing out adultery in Herod’s household.

The Bible has a lot to say about the treatment of the poor, the elderly, and the immigrant. It talks about social order and lawlessness, morality, economies, about lender and borrower nations, and about devalued currency. It even rebukes the entitlement mentality and says volumes about healthcare – how not to get sick, how to eat, self-control, gluttony, sloth, stress, worry and fear. If America lived by the Bible and abstained from excess in eating, alcohol and immorality, we’d save gazillions in health care costs. Do we or do we not believe the Bible speaks to all of life and society? I know I’m a bit of a broken record but nows the time to engage.

There is spin on both sides but facts are facts so know them. The truth IS out there so don’t be lazy, search it out. The fact check groups are skewed too and they don’t publish public corrections when they are found to be spewing things false. Obama didn’t save the auto industry – so says even the Chicago Tribune. GM still owes 30 of the 50 billion it received – the government (aka the taxpaying public) will lose 25 billion more on the auto industry bailout. The Chevy Volt makes no money and costs the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of dollars per car. And let’s talk about all the businesses that didn’t get bailed out.

Obama didn’t save auto industry jobs as Bill Clinton said. Clinton lied to his wife and was impeached for lying to the American people and though he gave a great speech he’s still not telling the truth. Michelle Obama didn’t grow up poor though she should get an Emmy for her performance the other night portraying the part. Her father made over 50k year in the 1960s. That’s like a $250K salary now.

Obama won by 10 million votes in 2008, 30 million evangelicals didn’t even vote. But we sure love Tim Tebow!!!  You get my point.

I’ll try to not spend the next sixty days bashing the left, I’m not lock in step with the right either. I know polite people know to not talk about religion and politics. I joke that expecting me to be quiet is asking a lot because as a pastor and a legislator I’m physically the embodiment of both these cultural taboos. I’m watching irony, I have a funny bone for sarcasm, critical thinking and being winsome in conversation/debate and articulating traditional values is both an art and takes skill, and as a wordsmith the rhetoric is enjoyable to me. But in relation to the message series I’m starting this weekend I want to make sure I’m speaking blessings over this nation and our government. Most times I don’t stoop to cursing (I’m not referring swear words).

Curses are real- life and death is in the power of the tongue! Here’s the verse that has brought some conviction and correction to me; Proverbs 11:11… “by the BLESSING of the upright the city (or nation) is exalted but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked.” Are we speaking blessings over America and our government or are we speaking curses? We may not see ourselves as wicked, after all we are Christians. But our words can be wicked when we say things about our great nation the devil agrees with. So, let’s champion America and call her back to her best! This nation definitely has long history in God and a great destiny in God. Let’s raise our kids to love the country not despise it. We want them to one day lead it.

Another thing. Prayer works and this nation needs to pray the fog of deception lifts. Pray for truth to come forth on both sides. Ask God to expose corruption in a timely way. Just yesterday I prayed God would dispatch angels to come against the thuggery of Obama’s strongman David Axelrod who sent Justice Dept hit men to resurrect an old previously dropped and discarded lawsuit against Gallop when they reported poll numbers not in Obama’s favor. In my view these are crimes against America.

Today we read the EU and the Federal Reserve are making moves to artificially improve the economy. If they proceed, and they will, I consider it the greatest campaign donation in the history of America and of course it benefits Obama. And of course, it comes directly from the dollars being further devalued in your pocket. Pray the moneychangers have the tables turned on them.

And yet another thing… look for God in all of this… he’s there and he has his people there, praying. Even three loud voice votes/boos intended to boot God and Jerusalem from the convention floor didn’t keep him from placing Cardinal Timothy Dolan in place to end the DNC evening with a strong benediction that slammed abortion and upheld moral law. That was awesome.

Steve Hickey's Facebook profile

a

Visitors to this Blog

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 33 other followers