Political Post: The Party is Dead, Long Live the Party

I don’t normally post political things, but I thought this was important enough to share on my media blog. I wrote at length about the history of political parties and the possibility of a new/3rd party in this year’s election.

If you’re interested in conservative politics, give it a read.

The Affordable Care Act is Not Affordable and No One Cares

acanotI just came from turning in my insurance forms this this coming year. Once again I cannot afford to add my family to my employer provided coverage.

And, because my employer follows the law and offers coverage, I cannot qualify for subsidies in the ACA exchanges. So we can’t afford to insure our family there. Luckily I don’t make a lot of money, so my kids qualify for the CHIP program here in Texas. And we are Christians so my wife can get covered through one of those Christian Co-Ops. So we won’t get fined/taxed/penalized for not having coverage we simply cannot afford. I had to swallow my pride and take a government hand out so my children could have health coverage, because I simply could not afford it under the Affordable Care Act.

I don’t blame my employer. They offer very good insurance, and they pay about $6000.00 for my coverage. But if I want to add my wife to that same plan, then I must pay over $500 per month. If I wanted to add my children, the price would inflate to over $900 per month. I don’t know a lot of middle class families that could afford to lose over $10,800 annually.

Years ago, before the ACA was passed, I was self employed, and I had a plan I liked. My family was well covered with supplements and major medical. Then the ACA went into effect, and I got a letter saying that my plan was no longer offered, and I would have to shift to a different plan for a 300% increase in premiums. It had been more economical and effective to have a major medical plan with supplemental plans to cover us for basic services. In the new post-ACA world, I must spend more for less coverage.

That continues to be the case today.

I often see friends complaining online about how much their premiums are going up. I hear on the news about Healthcare Exchanges that are going out of business. Healthcare is not getting better.

I know that something had to be done. There were real issues with the old insurance/healthcare system, things that needed to be addressed. But this ACA is a horrible replacement for what we had before. I don’t know one single person who has better coverage for less money. From what I’ve experienced and heard, if you had insurance before the ACA kicked in, you are less happy with your coverage now.

Occasionally I will hear people saying that since the ACA has been passed, and some people who did not have coverage before now have it, you can’t take it away. Why not? The government took away my coverage and forced me to find an alternate/ worse plan. The current system under the ACA is not working. Exchanges are crashing, and costs are rising on plans that offer less coverage for more Americans. What we have now cannot continue for much longer. Something has to be done, sooner rather than later.

And no one with the power to do anything seems to care. Oh sure, there have been bunches of show votes where Republicans tried to “repeal” the ACA,but that did exactly jack squat for my family, and everyone else adversely effected by the ACA rules. Democrats seem to be afraid to criticize the President’s signature legislation, even though there are obvious problems with it. In many ways middle class Americans are worse off now than before, regarding insurance.

Our elected representatives are more interested in talking about how they care than doing something that actually helps us. This will be a big concern for me in the upcoming elections. I don’t want to hear a Republican say they will repeal the ACA, I want to hear them say what they will do to replace it. I want to know how they will help my family have better coverage for an amount we can afford.

Media Bias in the News: Planned Parenthood, Center for Medical Progress, and Awards

Over the weekend we saw several stories about how Planned Parenthood had hired a firm to do a “forensic” study of a few of the Center for Medical Progress undercover videos. The national media, who had been mostly mute about the subject, suddenly found it newsworthy. I wrote about that on my political blog. Many national news organizations couldn’t wait to trumpet misleading headlines like, “Sting videos of Planned Parenthood were totally manipulated, forensic analysis finds.”

If anyone bothered to read the 10 page report, they could plainly see that headline (just one of many) was a serious overstatement, and implied a level of deceitfulness that was not proven in the report.

Center for Medical Progress released a detailed response. In it they highlighted the fact that even a partisan firm like Fusion GPS (who did the analysis) admitted:

This analysis did not reveal widespread evidence of substantive video manipulation” and that it “shows no evidence of audio manipulation.

And CMP went on to explain every issue the firm found in every video. You can read both sides of the story and form your own opinion.

But you will really have to search for this response by CMP.  Because it’s not on any major news sites.

Even though the news media reported on the Planned Parenthood analysis, they haven’t mention this response. Just like they didn’t report on the largest coordinated protest of Planned Parenthood facilities a few weekends ago. Hundreds of cities, thousands of people, barely made local news reports.If you’re keeping score at home: For most major news organizations, the videos from CMP are not newsworthy. An analysis done by the organization being investigated is newsworthy, a response from the group doing the investigating is not newsworthy.

I’m not the first to point out the blatant bias in the news for Planned Parenthood and against any who criticize them. Sean Davis at the federalist.com wrote a piece about it. Did you know that Planned Parenthood gives out awards for media excellence? Did you know that Journalists not only accept awards from an organization they report on (or should report on) but say they are honored to get them? In all 16 journalists received Maggie Awards for Media Excellence. These awards were started in the late 1970’s to “recognize exceptional contributions by the media and arts and entertainment industries that enhance the public’s understanding of reproductive rights and health care issues, including contraception, sex education, teen pregnancy, abortion, and international family planning.”

Does that strike you as odd?

Imagine a political party giving out awards for Media Excellence. Awards that recognize exceptional contributions by the media and arts and entertainment industries that enhance the public’s understanding of this political parties stance on issues and work in the community.  Would any self respecting journalist accept one?

It’s not a journalists job to help any organization enhance the public’s understanding on anything. They don’t report news in order to help an organization, they report news so that the public is aware of what it should be aware of. News media should report what is in the public interest, not an organization’s interest. What objective journalist would want any organization to even imply that they might have been trying to help an organization instead of fairly reporting things that are newsworthy?

But, then I forget that objective journalism in the USA is dead.

Scott Link Politics: New Political Blog

I have been posting about politics a lot lately. There are things going on that I want to write about. But this is a blog about religious media. I know many of you that follow this blog didn’t sign up for lots of political posts.

So, I have created a new blog where I will write about political subjects.

If you are interested, please follow the link and the follow my posts over there:

Scott Link Politics

Let’s Get Gut-Level Honest About Those Abortion Videos

bonnquote

“So it is a sin for the person who knows to do what is good and doesn’t do it.” James 4:17 HCSB

I want to try to explain why I’m writing so much about abortion recently, specifically about the videos from Center for Medical Progress. This is normally a blog about media from a biblical worldview. I talk about indie filmmaking. My controversial posts are normally limited. But not lately.

If I dig down and get gut-level honest about this. I’m not intellectually shocked by anything in those videos. I don’t think this is a new practice. I’ve heard about the possibility of fetal body parts being sold before. I’ve seen still pictures of babies in the womb. And even a couple of images of babies after abortion. They are pretty horrible. But they didn’t get this kind of reaction out of me. I never wrote a blog post, or posted to social media about abortion like this.

The only time I can remember feeling this way before was way back in 2003. I was doing a video for Sanctity of Life Sunday for a church. I found some footage of actual abortions taking place. They were not graphic like the current videos, but the sound of the machine… I was literally weeping as I listened to the sound of a human life being snuffed out, and sucked into a container. I remember crying when I showed the finished product to my pastor. I was heartbroken over what I had seen.

I think that’s why this is so raw for me. These videos ripped that scab off.

These videos pull an emotional reaction out of me. I intellectually understand abortion. But I hadn’t felt anything about it for a long time. It was something that I didn’t like, but It didn’t impact my daily life. These videos, showing the cavalier attitudes of the workers, showing them saying things like “It’s a baby” and “It’s another boy”… coupled with the gruesome pictures… negotiating the price of livers and so on… I couldn’t ignore this anymore.

Right now, these videos cause pain. I hurt when I watch them. But humanity is pretty good about scabbing over, dulling the pain.

When you get right down to it, these videos don’t resonate because of the controversy of potential law breaking. People react to them because they pull the veil back from abortion. Suddenly the gory details are on display. As is the casual, almost playful, tone of the staff as they talk about their grisly work. It’s this, not the legal aspects, that cause the emotional reaction. That’s why “#anotherboy” was trending on twitter. Not because Planned Parenthood may or may not have broken the law, but because another boy was killed and we couldn’t ignore it.

I know, I’ve said it myself. We should’t be so caught up in politics. The best way to change the world is to change hearts. But maybe, changing a heart requires ripping the covering off stuff we’ve buried and forgotten. This really isn’t political for me. I couldn’t care less which party or candidate is for or against abortion or whatever. So I am writing some posts about this right now.

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Previous Posts:

Former Planned Parenthood Director Confirms Her Affiliate Profited from Sale of Fetal Body Parts

Court Stops Release of Some Parts of Anti Abortion Videos

Are Americans Already Desensitized to Selling Aborted Babies?

Former Planned Parenthood Director Confirms Her Affiliate Profited from Sale of Fetal Body Parts

On Wednesday July 29, 2015 the Texas senate Committee of Health and Human Services began an investigation into the illegal selling of fetal body parts. Planned Parenthood chose not to attend the hearing.

About 2 and a half hours into the hearing you can hear testimony from Abby Johnson, former Director of the Gulf Shores Planned Parenthood affiliate.

Her testimony supports the videos from the Center for Medical Progress. In particular the portion at 3:18 and following, where she discusses the fees they charged to “recoup” their costs for tissue donation, and what it actually cost to donate specimens for research studies.

This is testimony from the former director. There is at least one Planned Parenthood clinic that charged more for the specimens than it cost. And the extra was, in her words, “sheer profit” for the clinic. She goes on to estimate what a Houston area clinic might make in a given month: $120,000 from the sale of fetal parts to research clinics.

This video is originally from the website of the Texas Senate. You can stream the whole hearing here:
The portion used in this Youtube clip is about 2:30:00 into the hearing.

More about Abby Johnson here.

Previous articles:

Court Stops Release of Some Parts of Anti Abortion Videos

Are Americans Already Desensitized to Selling Aborted Babies?

[I’m going to stop apologizing for posting about this instead of specifically media related topics. I have to write about this right now. I’ll post later about why this is important enough for me to spend so much time on it. But this is something I have to do right now.

Comments are disabled on this post because if you agree with me, great! And if you don’t, the only thing you can say is “she’s lying” so let’s assume that has already been said.]

“Boring” Testimonies

bap 4Boring testimonies are great!

Last week I had the privilege of baptizing my youngest child. Now all 3 of my kids have accepted Christ, and have a testimony about that. All three of those will be boring ones.

I can remember growing up, when we would hear people share their testimony, it was the ones where the guy lived this horrible life, stealing and drinking and time in prison, then he met Jesus and had this miraculous change. Those were the best. Right? Such radical life change.

Like Saul/Paul in the New Testament. He went from murdering Christians to being one. Such a radical change he had to change his name. Man, those are good stories.

Funny thing, while those are interesting stories, they are not the lives we hope for our children. I hope that my children’s testimony will be “Grew up in church, saved at early age”  followed up with “lived a life of purpose and faith in relationship with Jesus Christ.”

I wish everyone had a testimony like that. Not just because the bad stuff people do before their salvation is sin, and has both spiritual and worldly consequences, but because boring testimonies are just as miraculous (though not as flashy) as others, and they show the faithfulness of God. The real miracle is that what Jesus did can reconcile us to God.

I’m thankful that God is faithful. He will work in my kid’s lives the way has worked in mine, and in my parent’s. Every salvation is a miracle, and the angels rejoice just as much for the 5-year-old in the school yard as they do for the 50-year-old in the prison yard.

The best thing about all of our testimonies isn’t that we were saved from our sin, it’s that the God of the universe desires to live in us, inhabit our lives, work through us to accomplish his will. That’s not boring. That’s amazing.

Motivating the Status Quo Crowd: Meet Joe Status-quo

I am sitting in a Chick Fil A restaurant, eating my chicken biscuit. As expected, the news cycle has moved on. Chick Fil A owners still think the same way, and people still eat chicken, and people still don’t like Chick Fil A because the owners don’t support alternate views of marriage.

Amazon CEO still supports legalizing gay marriage. And there still hasn’t been anything on most conservatives radar about that. They are still buying Kindle books and everything else Amazon sells. It’s not because people have realized that boycotts really don’t work well. It’s because those in the status quo crowd, the people who are happy with the way things are, only really get motivated when they are personally effected by something.

Liberals get up in arms about a restaurant that serves chicken they like, stands for things they believe in, and exercises free speech? Sure, get a conservative talk show host to mention it a couple of times, and we can get this bandwagon rolling. The implication that free speech was threatened combined with possible loss of the good Jesus-chicken was enough to tip the scales toward action, at least for one day.

And then it’s back to status quo.

It’s easy to see why this is the case. The people trying to change the status quo are in a state of dissonance. Their immediate view of the world is not congruent with how the world is. So they act to change the world, in various ways.

Those in the status quo need do nothing, and their immediate view of the world is just fine. Threaten my chicken, and you get a response. The president I didn’t vote for says it’s time for gay marriage to be legal, and I barely acknowledge it. A state I don’t live in legalizes gay marriage, and I might care but I don’t actually do anything.

Because I’m comfortable in my status quo.

In fact, most people won’t be kicked into a dissonant state until something drastic happens in their own immediate view. Let me propose a for instance. I’ll use gay marriage and something which is happening in Denmark, (something similar will happen here eventually) as an example.

Joe Status-quo lives in a midwest state.

He voted with an overwhelming majority a prohibition of any kind of marriage except that between a man and woman. Later a judge rules that the referendum isn’t binding. Gay marriage isn’t legal, yet, but it’s not prohibited like the vote said. Joe doesn’t pay attention because things are basically the same to him. Besides he voted so he did his duty.

Later, after a series of lawsuits Joe doesn’t notice which remove the rest of the legal obstacles, the state legislation passes a bill that legalizes gay marriage. Joe hears about that, and is a little upset. But really, it doesn’t affect him personally. So aside from making a few crude jokes around the water cooler, he does nothing.

A couple of months later, the church Joe attends refuses to allow a gay couple to use their building to get married. The couple sues. After a long and expensive legal battle, a judge rules that the church has to allow all legal marriages to be performed on their private property. And as an added insult, the couple brings a civil suit for damages, and the church settles, paying the cost of the entire ceremony and reception.

Joe Status-quo finally is in a dissonant state. He is incensed. His first amendment rights have been trampled by the state. He looks around, but discovers it’s too late to stop anything. By the time Joe Status-quo looks outside his immediate view, things have gone too far.

Here’s what I want to say to Joe before this, or something like it, happens:

Dear Joe,

If you like your life, you had better pay attention. That commotion on the fringes is your way of life unravelling. Every thread brings it closer you where you are. As the old saying goes, “A stitch in time saves nine.” Broaden your view now, before it’s too late to do anything about it. The people trying to change your way of life are active right now. Pay attention.

Mormonism, Christianity, and Cults

I recently learned of the current controversy regarding First Baptist Dallas Pastor Dr. Robert Jeffress and comments he made in support of one candidate. Reporters heard something that piqued their interest, and went to find out. Turns out, shocker, I know, that this prominent conservative Christian pastor thinks Mormons are members of a cult. This is almost as big news as when the Southern Baptist Convention said they were going to pray for Jews.

The problem in this controversy is one of semantics. Non Christian people and Christian people sometimes can’t communicate clearly. When Jeffress says cult, reporters think of compounds with automatic machine guns and explosives. It takes them about 0.07 seconds to hit the oddball religious news alert, and away we go. Now Jeffress is going all over the place talking about it.

As for how the world views cults, Mormons don’t fit their understanding of one. Calling Mormons members of a cult on national TV just confuses people. Our soundbite generation cannot compute that. Jeffress says that he went on to explain more about what he meant, but of course that is too long for a news soundbite. The Hardball clip that’s going around, the commentator can’t get past his own definition cult. Is Jeffress concerned about a member of a cult in the White House? Jeffress keeps trying to define Mormonism as a theological cult.

Let me boil it down for you.

No, Mormons are not going to give all their money to the church and turn up, en masse, all dead with white sneakers and open packets of cool-aid littered around. In that connotation of the word cult, of course the Church of the Latter Day Saints are not a cult. They are a religion. Everyone I have ever met has been very nice, highly moral, and deeply committed to their faith. But not in that Going-to-mass-suicide-and-take-as-many-ATF-agents-with-us-as-we-can kind of way.

Mormons are an offshoot of traditional Christianity. They claim they have a more complete faith than us regular Christians. But there are several defining characteristics that define them theologically as a Christian cult.

For Christians, theologically, cults can be defined using a simple process:

“+, -, x, /”

Christian Cults are an offshoot of traditional Christianity that:

+ Add to scripture
Subtract from diety of Christ
x Multiply what is required for salvation
/ Divide their followers from traditional Christianity

Groups who do those things are generally thought to be non-Christian but traditional Christianity. Yes, I mean that members of those cults are not going to heaven. (Of course, if you dig a bit into Mormonism you see that I’m not going to be in their heaven either, so turn about’s fair play, right?)

So, how do the LDS measure up to that criteria?

+ Mormons claim that in addition to the Bible, the Book or Mormon and other texts should be considered scripture. They add to scripture.

Mormons do not think Jesus Christ is a part of a Triune God. He is Elohim’s only “begotten” son, but not his only son. In fact, Lucifer is Jesus’ brother. He is not part of the Trinity. He is not God, like Elohim is God. (Before you comment and say it, I know that the word Trinity isn’t in the Bible, but evidence for it is. Traditional Christians believe in it. Mormons don’t.) Mormons subtract from the deity of Christ.

X Mormons cannot achieve the highest level of heaven unless they do certain things here on earth. Salvation is not by grace alone, but works are required to enter the Celestial Heaven. Plus, if you want to be able to have your own planet and be a god, you must be married in a Mormon temple. Mormons multiply what it takes for salvation.

/ Mormons believe that they are the fully restored church, and that while most Christians have some truth, it is not complete. Mormons are the only religion that has complete truth on the earth. Traditional Christianity generally believes that as long as denominations hold to certain basic truths, the minor tenets of each group’s polity and practice do not bar them from entering heaven. These differences have to do with worship practices and general theology, but do not impact salvation, and the work of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit in that act. Mormon divide themselves from other Christians as the holders of complete truth.

So, am I saying that every Mormon in the world will end up in hell? No. I don’t know the condition of any other person’s heart. In fact, one of the major LDS “mission” fields is Christian people. They often meet people of faith, and then convert them to Mormonism. It is likely that there are some nominal Mormons who have true faith in Christ. But, that faith did not come as a result of any Mormon theology or teaching.

What I am saying is that Mormon theology will lead you to hell. While they use the same words as traditional Christians (God, Jesus Christ, Holy Spirit, grace, salvation) they mean something else entirely. If you worship the mormon god, you worship someone other than the God of the Christian Bible. I know that sounds harsh, but when push comes to shove, that’s the cold hard truth of it. Mormons and Christians do not believe the same thing. That’s part of the reason mormon active;y seek to make converts from Christianity. They genuinely care about us knowing the whole truth. I don’t fault them for it, but that doesn’t mean we have the same faith.

What does that have to do with politics? Not as much as some would think. A person’s faith should permeate everything they do, and that won’t stop if that person becomes President. But, as I said before, Mormons are generally great folks with high moral standards. And I’m pretty sure no sitting President is going to try to make Polygamy legal, so no worries there. For me, I won’t vote for someone just because they are a Christian, and won’t vote against them just because they are not one.

Word of note: Please don’t email me or comment and say that I am deliberately misrepresenting the truth. It’s one thing if I have a fact wrong, it’s quite another of my opinion differs from yours.