Matt Knight

My thoughts on faith, books, and life in general

Category Archives: ethics

Truth = Freedom

We live in a world filled with lies.

People have all kinds of “reasons” for not telling the truth, and they can hide it for a time; but in the end the truth will come out.

In the news these days, we have seen a number of high profile stories about people who have been caught trying to hide the truth. When they’re finally caught, the truth is exposed for all to see. Sometimes the truth can be ugly. When it is, we have a tendency to try to cover it up, so nobody can see. The result isn’t a pretty thing. When we cover up the truth, we experience fear (that someone will find out), guilt, and anxiety.

Lies imprison us, and only the truth can set us free.
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2 Lessons from the Anthony Weiner Scandal

It’s been all over the news for the last few weeks, and watching the fall of Congressman Anthony Weiner has been like watching a train wreck in slow motion. There’s a lot that can be said (and most of it has been) about this situation, but I want to point out two lessons that everyone can learn from Weiner’s failures.

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Book Review: UnChristian

I just recently finished reading UnChristian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons. You can check out the website for a free preview of the book.
David Kinnaman is the president of the Barna Group. They do a lot of surveys and polling for churches. This book includes a lot of the statistical and anecdotal information that they’ve gathered over the last few years.
The book endeavors to explore and explain some of the ideas that people outside the Christian church have about Christians and the church. The authors assert that many of these ideas that these “outsiders” have about Christians stem from the unChristian activity of people who call themselves Christians.
For many readers young readers in the church, a lot of these concepts and solutions may not be groundbreaking, however the authors do a great job at articulating important solutions. If you’ve wondered why so many young Americans are turned off by church, this is a great book to read. The authors list a handful of criticisms that “outsiders” have of Christians, and how we might respond to these criticisms. In fact, most of these criticisms have some validity. Many people don’t like the church or Christianity because they see a lot of “church folks” living differently from how Jesus would live. The solution, then, involves Christians replacing these “unChristian” actions, views, and behaviors with Christ-like ones.

I really like how Kinnaman and Lyons talk through these issues. I like how they articulate both the criticisms of Christianity, and some proposed solutions. I do recommend this book, and give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Christianity and Competition

Are these two mutually exclusive?  Should Christians be competitive or non-competitive.  I’m specifically thinking about sports.

There’s context here, so maybe I’d better explain myself.  Our church has a fantastic youth ministry.  One of the events that this ministry does every year is a youth flag football tournament.  Sunday afternoon our youth and their friends descended upon the local high school’s practice fields.  We had a great time.  The last games that were played pitted student ministry workers against the church staff team, and then the staff against the top student team.  I have to confess, our staff is really competitive.

So we won the game against the youth staff and played the final game against the students. We tied them and scored in the overtime on a trick play. Some folks expressed some disagreement with the running of a trick play, indicating that it was wrong for us to go so hard against the students. It’s true we played hard and didn’t pull any punches.

All this got me thinking, should Christians be competitive? Or should Christians instead encourage non-competitive pursuits and methods so that everyone can win?

I think of Paul, who often uses examples from sporting events in his letters. He talks about playing to win — he’s referring to how we live the Christian life. Does it then follow that Christians ought to “play to win?” Does this have anything to do with doing our best, or are the two unrelated?
What do you think?

New NY Stadium Causing Controvery

Here’s the story: German insurance and finance giant Allianz has made an offer to fork out some serious cash for the new football stadium which will be the home for both the NY Giants and NY Jets in exchange, of course, for naming rights. The story says

Allianz would reportedly pay $20 million to $30 million per year for the naming rights of the $1.3 billion stadium, which is to open in 2010.

So far, this is nothing strange–many of the major sports venues in the US have sold their naming rights to any number of corporations for vast sums of money. The difference is that this company is being opposed, according to the author of the Daily News story, because of its history. Allianz was one of the companies that served Nazi Germany during the 1930s and 40s. As the author points out, the company’s then CEO served on Hitler’s cabinet and the company insured Auschwitz.

I have no real stake in this story, being neither Jets nor Giants fan, nor even from New York. The author of the story, Oren Yaniv, seems to have a stake and further seems to strongly oppose the proposed naming (and funding) after Allianz. Abraham Foxman, of the Jewish anti-defamation league, also (predictably) labels the potential naming as, “an insult.”

A number of people are upset that Allianz would put their name on the stadium. However, I see nothing inherently evil or wrong about it. Sure it might be painful for some — to deny that would be insensitive at best. The question that the ownership must answered is whether or not they will take money from this company. I can’t help but wonder if such an outcry would have been raised had the company been one of other German companies that aided the Third Reich during WWII if the outcry would have been as great. What if a company such as Volkswagenor BMW were offering to buy the naming rights? Would the reaction be the same? What about companies in the US who insured slaves?

I bring these things up not to cast blame or aspersions upon these companies or the NY fans. Instead, I think it’s important that everyone question their feelings on this matter. Surely there are no Nazis working for Allianz now. The company wants nothing to do with that dark chapter in its history. Still, a choice has to be made. If the ownership of these NY franchises wants to take the money and build their stadium, then they can certainly do that. If they want to reject the money and look elsewhere, that’s certainly their prerogative too. I think this should be about money, and who the Giants and Jets want to own their stadium.

What do you think?

How Separate?

Every election year the issues of separation of church and state come to the forefront of our national consciousness again. This is an issue that seems to be constantly simmering in our country, just waiting for opportunities to boil over and make the news again.

I was going to devote a post to Rick Warren’s Saddleback Civic Forum that occurred on Saturday (check it out on Google or YouTube – it’s far too long to post the video here). I watched the forum and strongly encourage you to do so too. I think Pastor Warren did an excellent job, and I am thankful that he made this event happen — I believe it will be one of the most critical appearances for these candidates throughout this whole campaign. It’s also appropriate that it was conducted by a pastor, at a church. As Warren said, Church and State should be separate, but not faith and politics.

Considering that our nation was founded and built in communities of faith and our leaders have often made important decisions in houses of worship, this forum is highly appropriate. So with that I move on to:

The Second Part of my Post
Today I received an email that directed me to this story where once again, another militant Atheist is challenging the appearance of national motto (“In God We Trust”) on US currency.
Michael Newdow is at it again, after trying unsuccessfully before to get the words “Under God” removed from the Pledge of Allegiance, and previous tries at banning “In God We Trust” from the public square. He argues that the motto is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.

His suit alleges that, “The placement of ‘In God We Trust’ on the coins and currency was clearly done for religious purposes and to have religious effects.” The story goes on to note:

Newdow’s latest lawsuit came five days after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected, without comment, a challenge to an inscription of “In God We Trust” on a North Carolina county government building.
In doing so, the justices upheld the Richmond, Va.-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that “In God We Trust” appears on the nation’s coins and is a national motto.
“In this situation, the reasonable observer must be deemed aware of the patriotic uses, both historical and present, of the phrase ‘In God We Trust,”’ the appeals panel ruled in upholding the inscription’s display.

What do you think?
First, what about the Saddleback forum? How was the format? What about Warren as moderator?
Second, what about this suit? Frivolous, or does this suit have merit? I gotta give him one thing–he’s persistent.

More Thoughts on the Lotto Tithe

I was going to post as a comment, but the thought just kept getting longer and longer so I decided to make it a full post. If you haven’t read the previous post, go ahead and check that one out for some background.
I’ve been thinking this situation over and I have another question too. The pastor of this church (First Baptist Orange Park, Florida) has a blog and posted about “living in the gray areas.” (Note: If you decide to visit his blog, please be kind).
Several have applauded him for not accepting “sin money” (my words, not theirs). I also read an interesting post that one of the commenters posted. I learned that John Piper has an article on his website entitled “Don’t Play the Lottery for Me.” In that article Piper speaks unequivocally of the lottery as gambling, as sinful, and talks about the lives ruined by gambling. In those things, I think I mostly agree with him. We are called to be good managers of what has given us, and we should not take advantage of others, as those who entice gamblers so often do.

So I still believe I can stand by what I posted yesterday, but I have another question. What about the man? The guy who won and tried to tithe. I hope and pray that this pastor and his church are ministering to him. As I thought about this situation, I moved beyond thinking about the money and what I would do with it if I were the pastor. I began thinking about this man.

Some people are telling him that it’s a sin to play the lottery and that he’s a dirty sinner. Maybe he’s hearing that God doesn’t want anything to do with his money. I certainly hope that he is hearing that God does want him. The other question I have is, what now? What can he do with the money? If God doesn’t want it (at least the church won’t accept it, I don’t agree that God doesn’t want it or can’t use it), then what is he supposed to do? Is he supposed to give it back? Throw it in a ditch? No, I think surely there are good things that he can do with that money. I think that God can redeem it, and can redeem this man’s life. There are many who could be helped by this kind of donation, and I trust that he will give it somewhere, and that it will be used by God wherever it may be given.

Church Declines Jackpot Tithe

I saw a story this morning that got my attention.

Here’s the rundown of the story: Man wins lottery ($6million+), offers tithe to church (10% – $600k), the pastor turns him down, saying the do not accept lottery money.

There may very well be more to the story, that I don’t know, but this is a head scratcher for me.  My wife and I were talking about this issue just yesterday (oddly enough).  We know people who attend church, but also play the lottery.  We ourselves do not play, as much for pragmatic reasons (i.e., the odds are stacked against you) as a belief in not gambling.  The question Kelly and I asked was, what if we played and won?  We talked about the difficulty of having to confess that we’d gotten the money in the lottery, and tithing on it.

This situation seems a bit tricky.  On the one hand, most baptist churches (this was a baptist church in the story) do not approve of gambling and consider the lottery to be gambling.  However, on the other hand I have to commend the guy for being willing to tithe 10% of the winnings.  Now I doubt I will ever play the lottery, I generally tend to believe that it can do more harm to the winners than if they’d never won (cf. Prov 1:19).   I’m not sure I’m ready to put hitting the jackpot on the same level as stealing.  As I say, I admire the guy for trying to give.  If he’d robbed a bank, I feel strongly that the church should accept no part of it, but he didn’t rob a bank, he probably bought a lottery ticket at a gas station. I do believe that he should give the first portion (that does count as increase).

Try this out: God is lord over all.  I don’t believe in coincidence, rather I believe in God’s providence.  Can God bless this guy through the lottery even if it’s wrong to gamble?  If God chooses to allow this guy to win, and scripture clearly teaches that we are to give our first fruits to God, then the guy HAS to give.  So from that standpoint, if my thinking here is correct, the church is just losing out.  I hope he gives the money somewhere else.  We’ve got a building campaign at my church.

What do you think? Was the pastor right to turn him down? What else could he have done?