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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.
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?
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?
This verse seemed important to me last year and shaped how I reacted to some things: “Do not call conspiracy everything this people calls a conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it.” (Isaiah 8:12)
Today I spotted a comment in a blog stream that I thought was good… “We all see through the glass darkly and error. Those errors have consequences and those consequences compound. It doesn’t take the Illuminati to mess up the world.”
So,,,, somewhere between having your head in the sand in a state of denial that there aren’t conspiracies, and seeing a conspiracy behind every politician and power there is a place called discernment.
Don’t call conspiracy everything this people calls conspiracy doesn’t mean there aren’t conspiracies because there are. It’s to not join quickly with those who see conspiracies everywhere. Curiously, Christians are especially vulnerable to conspiracy theories.
Remember when Hillary Clinton referenced a “vast right-wing conspiracy” against her husband? We laughed because Bill was his own worst enemy. Today friends on my side of the aisle smear each other with insinuations and accusations that certain people are secretly pushing Obamacare forward in our state or that there are elected officials masquerading as Republicans in our state who really aren’t.
Certainly there are people behind the scenes pushing Obamacare and others who have no business in the Republican party. I’m one who loves a good conspiracy theory – I’d probably shock you with a few I think have merit. My point here is that we need to be more careful and not be so quick to impugn the motives of others.
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:
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.
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.
Friends, it’s time to stand with Israel! You’ll hear more about this soon but for now, please venture over to Facebook and hit “like” if you’d like to be numbered among those who support Israel. And share this on your Facebook page or Twitter to spread the word.
Our hope is to build a strong coalition of support from South Dakota. This is not a Christian group, per se, and certainly we won’t be pushing any particular flavor of theology or prophecy. The idea for this actually comes from my friend Stephen Rosenthal who for years has been a leader in the Jewish community and organizations in our state. He has shared his vision for this with me and I assured him I’m fully on board and I know many others who will be as well. It’s also non-partisan.
If you aren’t on Facebook and would like to be included in future updates about South Dakotans for Israel, send an email with your contact information to Stephen Rosenthal, firstname.lastname@example.org or to me, email@example.com .