Russell and Duenes

Archive for December 2009

It’s just sex!

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Remember this mind-numbing mantra that our beloved American journalists served up day after day as Bill Clinton’s sexual immorality with Ms. Lewinsky became unavoidably public? We were lectured at constantly about the “fact” that Bill Clinton’s willingness to lie about his private sexual activity had nothing whatever to do with his ability to effectively lead as president, as though lying didn’t make one a liar. “It’s just sex,” after all!

Or recall Mark Sanford. Here you have another prominent politician and a Republican leader who was willing to forsake his covenant of marriage, secretly cavort around with his mistress and then lie to cover it all up. Further, as the NY Times reports, “Mr. Sanford still faces charges before the State Ethics Commission alleging that he misused state airplanes, used taxpayer money to buy business-class airline tickets, and misspent campaign donations. And the state attorney general could still level criminal charges against him related to the ethics complaints.” But as of now, he still holds his office.

I suppose we should be gratified that John Ensign, the Republican Senator from Nevada (adultery and bribery), and William J. Jefferson, the Democratic Representative (although the NY Times story about him fails to mention he’s a Democrat. Interesting!) from New Orleans who was sentenced last month to 13 years in prison on bribery and corruption convictions, have been caught and are no longer leading our country.

But what of those who are not caught? Or what of those who are caught but are allowed to continue in office? Or of those whose sins we might even today consider virtues? It’s no big deal; it’s just sex, after all. It’s just adultery. Adultery is not illegal. What a man or woman does with her sex life is their own business.  It’s just his own private affair, so what does it have to do with his ability to govern?And then we wonder why we have the governance we have.

For so long we’ve bought into the lie that one’s so-called “private” morality has nothing to do with good governance that we can no longer see the connection between a person’s character and his or her larger public actions. Why then should we be surprised when we have political leaders who are very willing to spend trillions of dollars we don’t have? Why do we assume that they will tell us the truth about public policy when they are quite willing to lie about their own personal behavior? Why should we expect foreign policy wisdom from people who show little wisdom in their personal dealings? Does this make any sense? Can we really be shocked when senators’ and congressmens’ votes, from both parties, are won, er, bought through bribery, er, political favors? If a leader is willing to live with sin in his personal life, does it follow that he will be able to compartmentalize it so that it doesn’t spill over into his public life? No, indeed. No one can doubt that our political halls – Democrat, Republican, Independent, Anything-crat – are filled with avarice, bribery (whether it’s legal or not matters none), lying, extortion, kick-backs, racketeering, and the like, and it can all be justified in the way that “it’s just sex” is justified. No one should be under any illusion, for we have ancient wisdom to predict all of this for us.

Godliness makes a nation great, but sin is a disgrace to any people (Prov. 14:34).

When there is moral rot within a nation, its government topples easily. But wise and knowledgeable leaders bring stability (Prov.28:2).

When the godly are in authority, the people rejoice. But when the wicked are in power, they groan (Prov. 29:2).

If a ruler pays attention to liars, all his advisers will be wicked (Prov. 29:12).

The wicked take secret bribes to pervert the course of justice (Prov. 17:23).

If the godly give in to the wicked, it’s like polluting a fountain or muddying a spring (Prov. 25:26)… When the godly succeed, everyone is glad.  When the wicked take charge, people go into hiding (Prov. 28:12).

Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much (Luke 16:10)

Jesus answered them, “Truly, I tell all of you with certainty that everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin (John 8:34)

But oh no, we’re told. We can’t hold elected officials to a standard of godliness because there is a separation of church and state, and Jesus says “Judge not, lest ye be judged,” and this is a secular government, you see, and religion and politics don’t mix, as we all know.

I can never delude myself into thinking that my “private” sins will have no effect on how I relate to others and how I do my job in public. If I’m given to one form of sin, I will certainly be given to other kinds of sin. No one is excluded from this, including me. It is abundantly clear to me that my personal righteousness, or lack of it, is the single greatest factor in whether I will be an effective and influential teacher for my students’ good. The same would hold true for politicians. When we decide, as a nation and people, that having effective and judicious politicians has little if anything to do with their sexual ethics (including homosexuality), their personal honesty, the way they manage their own family checkbook, their own personal relationships…and we elect them accordingly, we can then expect rampant folly, corruption, vice and national misery as a result. Our policies will be shot through with failure and ruin, including health care, energy, the environment, education, the military and foreign policy.

If righteousness exalts a nation – and it does – then it must begin with our own personal repentance and in turn our election of leaders who live and practice biblical virtues and wisdom. To use a cliche, and a very true one: Jesus is Lord of all or He is not Lord at all.



Written by Michael Duenes

December 29, 2009 at 5:15 pm

Posted in Duenes, Ethics

Top 6: Things I am thankful for that most Christians are not

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1. Christopher Hitchens– I am very thankful that God has designed Chris Hitchens the way that He has.  The question that is asked of Hitchens in the movie Collision is: “Is Christianity good for the world?”  Instead, my question is: “Is Christopher Hitchens good for Christianity?” The answer is absolutely yes. If Christians were to peruse Hitchens books or listen to him in debate they would ultimately sharpen their ability to reason.  Much of the anti-intellectual movement within Christendom will have to evaporate in light of the arguments purported by Hitchens. If taken seriously, and one should take Hitchens seriously, he will undoubtedly move the Christian to understand their faith even more.  If he is dismissed, it is only Christianity that loses.

2. The Current Jolt to Unadulterated Capitalism– I will continue to make the argument that Capitalism, in its purest form, is Darwinian.  Survival of the fittest is not a Christian concept and is repulsive. Capitalism is not just a means to an end, but rather a means to an economic caste.  I am hopeful that a more moral form of Christian Capitalism or Christian Socialism may evolve from this current economic dilemma.  Being a Darwinian Capitalist is NOT a Christian idea.  Being an economic, social and political Biblicist is.

3. President Obama– I am thankful for his ability to reason.

4. A Public Option in Health Care– I am hopeful this will be put into our new reform as it allows those who suffer the most to get care they need.

5. Anti-war songs– I’ll pick one. Just listen to Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War” and honestly tell me he isn’t right about most of what he says in this song.

6. Christian Schools– I know this seems like an oxymoron, but it is so vitally true.  Most Christians are not thankful for Christian schools.  How do I know this?  Because most Christians don’t financially support them and they don’t do everything they can to put their children in them.  Instead, we are training a generation of young people to mirror the world and its standards.  I am fearful of the eventual consequences of this.


Written by Michael Duenes

December 23, 2009 at 9:35 pm

I want my kids to be nature freaks

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My wife and I have been talking more seriously these days about our philosophy of education and how that will inform the way we school our children. My wife continues to remind me that we urban dwellers wouldn’t know the difference between a daffodil and a dandilion, and when it comes to identifying different kinds of trees, forget about it. I’m lucky if I can ID a pine tree. We would like things to be different for our kids, but how can this happen without moving to the country? I’m not sure of all the specifics, but I recall that Thomas Jefferson used to spend no less than two hours each day walking in the countryside, and he accomplished quite a lot.

Where we live in the Bay Area, there are certainly places to walk in nature that are within an hour or less of our home (The Los Angeles area is a lost cause, I fear. The urban density stretches as far as the eye can see.). It will have to be intentional, but our sons can learn well the different kinds of rocks, trees, flowers and critters found in nature. And though I would never have said this earlier in my life, if we have to leave the urban core in order to accomplish this, I would be open to it. I’m not ready to up and become a farmer, but I wouldn’t mind being in a context where I, too, could take some hour-or-so long walks in the forests or fields. We’ll see. But even in the Bay Area, I have begun looking forward to taking my oldest son on little walks around our neighborhood after I get home from work and letting his attention wander to the different rocks, plants and flowers he sees. After all, “the earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof.”


Written by Michael Duenes

December 23, 2009 at 6:23 pm

Posted in Duenes, Education


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We sat aghast as we watched this show last night. Aside from the horror of trying to imagine life in homes like this, I was struck by the underlying spiritual sickness that gives rise to such hoarding. It was another lens through which to view our incredible brokenness and lostness as people.This lostness manifests itself in ways we don’t see everyday and can’t quite bring ourselves to believe even when we do see it, as on this program. Jesus came to redeem and set people free even from the life-destroying bondage of hoarding.


Written by Michael Duenes

December 22, 2009 at 8:58 pm

Posted in Duenes, Reflections

the fourth sunday of advent

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When I was in seminary I had to read an essay entitled, Cur Deus Homo (Why the God-man?) by the great medieval divine, St. Anselm. In it he attempts to explain how only Jesus Christ as perfect God and perfect man, together in one person (i.e., the God-man), could effect the redemption of sinners like us. In this brief excerpt he gives his explanation of the nature of Jesus as God and man.

How necessary it is for the same being to be perfect God and perfect man.

Anselm: The Divine and human natures cannot alternate, so that the Divine should become human or the human Divine; nor can they be so commingled as that a third should be produced from the two which is neither wholly Divine nor wholly human. For, granting that it were possible for either to be changed into the other, it would in that case be only God and not man, or man only and not God. Or, if they were so commingled that a third nature sprung from the combination of the two (as from two animals, a male and a female of different species, a third is produced, which does not preserve entire the species of either parent, but has a mixed nature derived from both), it would neither be God nor man. Therefore the God-man, whom we require to be of a nature both human and Divine, cannot be produced by a change from one into the other, nor by an imperfect commingling of both in a third; since these things cannot be, or, if they could be, would avail nothing to our purpose. Moreover, if these two complete natures are said to be joined somehow, in such a way that one may be Divine while the other is human, and yet that which is God not be the same with that which is man, it is impossible for both to do the work necessary to be accomplished. For God will not do it, because he has no debt to pay; and man will not do it, because he cannot. Therefore, in order that the God-man may perform this, it is necessary that the same being should perfect God and perfect man, in order to make this atonement. For he cannot and ought not to do it, unless he be very God and very man. Since, then, it is necessary that the God-man preserve the completeness of each nature, it is no less necessary that these two natures be united entire in one person, just as a body and a reasonable soul exist together in every human being; for otherwise it is impossible that the same being should be very God and very man.


Written by Michael Duenes

December 21, 2009 at 5:28 am

Posted in Duenes, Theology