Making the Case for Polygamy

By Dr. Mark Denison — In just a few days, the United States Supreme Court will decide on the legality of same sex marriage. While gays and lesbians can marry in 36 states, the cases of The United States v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry have made their way up through appellate courts to the desks of nine men and women, the final arbiters. On one side we have James Esseks, who leads the effort for the American Civil Liberties Union. “This is the beginning of the end game on the freedom to marry,” said Esseks. On the other side we have Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. Perkins said, “The U.S. Supreme Court now has the opportunity to issue a long-overdue ruling to restore the freedom of the people to uphold marriage in their state laws as the union of a man and a woman.” Cases from Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, and Kentucky have pushed the Court into a corner. All four states say this is a states’ rights issue. The Supreme Court has heard the arguments and now stands on the precipice of one of the most significant cultural decisions of our generation.

Politicians such as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have “evolved” on this issue. Once outspoken opponents of same-sex marriage, their positions have changed, shockingly, at the very time that Gallup reports a record high number of Americans, sixty percent, now support same sex marriage. For 239 years, America has defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. For the first 95 percent of their lives, Obama and Clinton agreed. But at just the very moment the tide of public opinion switched, so did they. This, of course, is mere coincidence. But I stray from my theme. I am for consistency. So I am happy to lead the charge to legalize polygamy. Its time has come. Let’s review. Polygamy is already legal in 50 countries, making up 25% of the world. But in this country, bigots such as Abraham Lincoln have stood in the way for too long. The Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act was signed into law on July 8, 1862 by President Lincoln. In 1890 the LDS Church (Mormons) finally caved to the mood of the people as they formally abolished the practice for their followers.

But I want to take a stand. Just 20 years ago, only 27 percent supported same sex marriage. And today, about ten percent support the legalization of polygamy. Here’s my prediction. The day Gallup reports that number has topped 50 percent, we will see key political “leaders” evolve on that position, as well. And why shouldn’t they? Two years ago, Harry Cheadle suggested, “After gay marriage is legalized, polygamy will be next – and then bestiality and legal unions between lawn mowers and volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica.” And why not? I mean, who are we to tell a man how many wives he can have? If the Biblical model of marriage is to be trashed because we have “evolved” in our views, why not take it to the next level? I can understand the case for same sex marriage, though I reject it patently. But what I can’t understand is how one can support same sex marriage while rejecting polygamy.

There is only one explanation for any political leader to “evolve” on one form of unbiblical shift in 239 years of American history while not shifting on the other. For 86 years of American history, polygamy was legal, while same sex marriage wasn’t. But now, the Supreme Court is on the verge of adopting the view of most Americans and key national leaders. The moment public opinion changes, so do these “leaders.” And I’ll bet you the second Gallup announces that 50.1 percent of Americans approve of polygamy, these same “leaders” will magically “evolve” in their views again. For those of you who support same sex marriage, why wait? How can you support same sex marriage but not polygamy? Who are you to tell three consenting adults they can’t enter into this relationship if they want to? If you wish to be intellectually honest, you have only two choices. Either reject both same sex marriage and polygamy, or support both. “Evolving” is for wimps. So if you are among the sixty percent who support same sex marriage, take a stand for your fellow Americans who have been persecuted since the days of President Lincoln. You are the change we’ve been waiting for. Speak out for polygamy, the great civil rights issue of our day. The best case for polygamy is same sex marriage.

Woman Defends Tom Brady In Her Own Obituary

By Dr. Mark Denison — They are the three issues that threaten civilization: world hunger, unrest in the Middle East, and “deflate-gate.” I can’t help with the first two, but let’s talk – one last time – about Tom Brady and “deflate-gate.” The footballs were deflated for the big AFC title game. The question America collectively asks is, “What did he know and when did he know it?” Millions have come to Brady’s defense. But count Patricia M. Shong, of Auburn, Massachusetts, as his chief apologist. Ms. Shong went further in her defense of her favorite player than even Brady has gone himself. She defended Brady in her obituary. That’s right – her obituary!

Here’s what happened. The 72-year-old woman knew she was dying, so she wrote her own obit, to be published after her death. It reads, in part, “Ms. Shong enjoyed scrapbooking, weekly card night, and spending time with family. And she would like to set the record straight. Brady is innocent!” Well, there you go. Case settled. I never had the privilege of knowing Ms. Shong, but I have one observation. I’m guessing that anyone who was so passionate in defending her football hero as to publish it as part of her own obituary didn’t wait until she died to defend her man. I’m sure she got in the face of every Brady critic and consistently stood up for her beliefs. But it was her last words that carried the most weight. Last words matter most.

I remember the last words my dad said to me, six days before he died. I remember the last words my mother said to me, seconds before slipping away. Last words matter. Let’s consider the last words of the man whose words still echo through the corridor of time. I’m talking about a man who never wrote a book, never owned a business, and never gave more than one recorded public address. He is a man who never traveled sixty miles from where he was born, never visited a large city, and never conducted a single media interview. He came from meager beginnings and died a meager death. He never married and had no children. He died in his early 30s and was laid to rest in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend. But he is still the most quoted man who ever lived. But it is his last words I leave with you today. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere – in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  

Jesus’ last words were not to a magistrate or world leader. His words were not given to family or lifelong friends. His words were not given to the masses or offered for public discourse. Jesus’ final, most important words were offered to his closest followers. You see, Jesus’ goal was not to impress, but influence. And he knew that the best way to change the world was not by impressing the masses, but to charge a few radicals with the task of sharing the Good News. That strategy is still in place today. Last words matter. May thee last words of the King of kings and Lord of lords affect us, challenge us, and change us. Believers, we have our marching orders. It’s time to go to work.

Swallowing Goldfish

By Dr. Mark Denison — Though most fads seem to spring up from nowhere, the art of goldfish swallowing can be traced to one individual and one specific date. On March 3, 1939, Harvard student Lothrop Withington, Jr. swallowed a live fish to win a $10 bet. Days later, not to be outdone, a college student in Pennsylvania downed three fish seasoned with salt and pepper. When a fellow classmate upped the ante to six goldfish, the gauntlet had been thrown down and the fad spread like wildfire on campuses across the country. Before the goldfish craze faded a few months later, thousands of goldfish had met their collective demise and even coeds had taken up the challenge.

Now, I love seafood as much as anyone. I love shrimp, catfish, scallops, trout, oysters, and crabmeat. I even like the “fish” they sell out of the chain restaurant named after a pirate. But I draw the line at goldfish. But Lothrop was like a lot of us. He was willing to swallow anything, whether it was good for him or not. We are told that we are winning the war with ISIS and the war on poverty. We are told that more money equals better schools. We are told that gay marriage is a matter for the federal government, despite what it says in the Bill of Rights. We are told that electing the right President will solve all our problems. We are told that global warming isn’t real, while others tell us global warming is our greatest threat. But many are swallowing more important myths. Happiness is about what happens to us, rather than what happens in us. You can work your way into heaven. There are certain things you can do to make God love you more. There are certain things you can do to make God love you less. If a couple lives together first, their marriage will be better. Children don’t need a dad at home. All roads lead to heaven. Though the stuff you have now doesn’t make you happy, having more of it will.

An old friend of mine from Gainesville, Texas said something I have never forgotten. Johnny Leftwich often said, “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.” There are times we need to take a stand. We need to investigate, then embrace the truth. I am not a believer because I was raised that way. I am a believer because that is where my pursuit for truth led me. I believe in the three pillars of The Proud Americans: God, family, and country. There is a lot of “stuff” being propagated in today’s world. That doesn’t mean you have to swallow everything that comes along. Stick to goldfish.

Marc Lee and the Fall of Ramadi

By Dr. Mark Denison — Ramadi has fallen to ISIS. Sunni support, the leadership of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, and the strategy put forth by American leadership are all hanging by a thread. For his part, White House Spokesman Josh Earnest is standing firm on behalf of the administration. Despite calls from military leaders of a fresh review of American strategy in the wake of the latest failure, Earnest said, “no review of our ISIL strategy is forthcoming.” Perhaps you aren’t familiar with Ramadi. Let’s step back in time a bit. The date was August 2, 2006. Marc Lee was a Navy Seal, fulfilling his dreams that took root when he was a child in Hood River, Oregon. Abandoning his first goal of playing professional soccer, Marc overcame hellish training and pneumonia to become a Navy Seal. His fellow Seals remember him as “brawny and boastful,” but one who “openly spoke of his love for his God and his family.” His pastor and mentor, Chuck Towelcot, praised Marc for his “glorious bravery” and passion for his faith. The 28-year-old warrior was the best of who America is.

But August 2, 2006 would be a day his family would never forget. Lee was fighting beside American Sniper Chris Kyle. Later, Kyle would tell the story of August 2, 2006 in his book. “Marc Lee was at the lead, above us on the steps. He turned, glancing out a window on the staircase. As he did, he saw something and opened his mouth to shout a warning. He never got the words out. In that split second, a bullet passed right through his open mouth and flew out the back of his head. He dropped down in a pile on the steps. We had been set up.” On that fateful day, Marc Lee became the first Navy Seal to die in Iraq. He was survived by two siblings, his mother, and his wife. At his funeral, Pastor Towelcot said, “He died for other people. He died for a teammate. He died for us.” The American surge captured this key Iraqi city. Order would soon be restored. Citizens could walk down the streets. But nine years later, how things have changed. The city has been turned over to poorly trained soldiers backed by the weak Iraqi government. General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the city where Lee gave his life was “not symbolic in any way.” Josh Earnest, asked about the events of the past few days, said, “We aren’t going to light our hair on fire” over the loss of the key Iraqi outpost.

Marc’s mother, Debbie Lee, has lamented the loss of the city and the reversal of the gains her son’s unit had secured. Marc has been awarded a Silver Star posthumously. His bravery and sacrifice stand as a symbol of all that is good about our military men and women. And now, with so many of their gains reversed, the response of the White House is to not even review their strategy, and certainly to “not light our hair on fire” over the loss. A legitimate argument can be made that we never should have gone into Iraq in the first place. But we did. And with the help of the surge, the military action was considered a great success. But as the “JV Team” (President Obama’s own words, describing ISIS) takes hold of cities once secured by American blood, it is easy to understand the sentiments of Debbie Lee. And in the wake of the daily victories of ISIS/ISIL, perhaps the time has come for someone in leadership to light his hair on fire.

A Tribute to Letterman

By Dr. Mark Denison — Last night, David Letterman took the stage at the Ed Sullivan Theater for the final time. After more than 6,000 telecasts spanning 33 years, the iconic 68-year-old former weatherman from Indianapolis called it quits, having passed mentor Johnny Carson as the longest serving late night host in history. The studio was packed with guests, including Jerry Seinfeld and Steve Martin. TV Guide ranked Letterman among the 50 Greatest TV Stars of all time. With a net worth of $400 million and dozens of awards on his mantle, Letterman rides into the sunset as the most famous of all late night comedians. There will be no more Top Ten lists, and according to Letterman, no more Letterman at the Ed Sullivan Theater . . . ever again. He told Jane Pauley, host of CBS Sunday Morning, “I don’t think I’ll ever be back in this building again. Honestly, I think it would just be too difficult for me emotionally, because I just don’t want to come back and see others living our lives.”

For a generation, Americans have debated the issues that affect humankind: Coke or Pepsi, Ginger or Mary Ann, and Leno or Letterman? The correct answers, of course, are Coke, Ginger, and Leno. I admit it. I wasn’t a big Letterman guy. But whether you liked him or not, you have to give him credit for one thing. For a third of a century he made people laugh. There is something to be said for that alone. Solomon, the wisest man in the Bible, said, “A joyful heart is good medicine” (Proverbs 17:22). King David celebrated, “Our mouths were filled with laughter” (Psalm 126:2). And Job was promised, “God will yet fill your mouth with laughter” (Job 8:23). In 1958 there was a television show called Make Me Laugh. It was reprised in 1979. The premise was that contestants would sit there and try to keep from laughing when comics got in their face and did zany things. Through the years, sitcoms have impacted American culture. We all have our favorites, such as I Love Lucy, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Brady Bunch, All in the Family, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Happy Days, The Cosby Show, Seinfeld, M.A.S.H., Friends, and Modern Family.

Why all the shows? Why all the late night comedians? Why all the comedy clubs, popping up around the country? The answer is simple. Laughter is good medicine. Did you know the Bible mentions laughter 5,621 times? You could read a different verse on laughter every day for 15 years without reading the same verse twice. That is because laughter matters to God. Laughter makes a bad day good and a good day better. That is why, since February 1, 1982, millions of Americans have stayed up late to watch a Midwesterner named Harry Joseph Letterman opine on the issues of the day. For that we are grateful. Thanks for the memories, David Letterman. We will miss your Top Ten lists. We will miss you. Thanks for making us laugh.

Life in the Slow Lane

By Dr. Mark Denison — Some amazing things happened on this day in history – May 20. In 2013 an EF5 tornado struck Moore, Oklahoma, killing 24 people. In 1989 Chinese authorities declared martial law, setting off the Tiananmen Square massacre. In 1983 the U.S. had its first AIDS diagnosis. In 1932 Amelia Earhart took off from Newfoundland on the world’s first solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic by a female pilot. In 1920 a radio station in Montreal produced the first broadcast in North America. In 1916, 1917, and 1918 the town of Codell, Kansas was hit by tornados. In 1902 Cuba gained independence from the U.S. But all of that pales in comparison to the event of May 20, 1899. The place was New York City. Taxi driver Jacob German was arrested. The crime? Speeding. Mr. German was ticketed for racing down Lexington Street at an amazing 12 miles per hour. Yes, you read that right. He was driving 12 miles per hour.

I’ll say it for you. Times have changed! I can’t imagine a world that moves so slowly that 12 miles per hour would be considered illegal. But maybe that wasn’t so bad. Think about it like this. At the legal speed limit of 5 miles per hour, it would take 50 days to drive from New York to Los Angeles, driving 10 hours a day. So guess what happened in 1899? People didn’t drive across the country, or even the state. Eighty percent of the people never traveled more than 50 miles from where they were born. So guess what that meant? Neighbors knew each other. People watched after each other. Crime was low, people stayed married, folks went to church, and they did life together. In 1899 everyone knew his neighbor. The other day, I was walking my dog. Passing a neighbor, I waved and said “Good morning.” He snarled at me and just kept walking. We live life too fast. We cook in a microwave, drive in the fast lane, and eat fast food. I take you back to the words of Scripture. The Bible says, “Be still and know that I am God.” It never says “Speed up and know that I am God.” You and I have a choice. We can speed along life like the taxi drive of 1899. Or we can slow down, experience God, and experience life. May 20 is an interesting date in history. Make it your day in history – today. Slow down. Be still. Experience God.

Shooting in Waco

By Dr. Mark Denison — A Sunday meeting between five rival biker gangs seeking to settle their differences at a Waco Twin Peaks restaurant turned into a brawl that escalated to gunfire, leaving nine dead, 18 taken to hospitals, and 170 booked by local police. Waco Police Sgt. Patrick Swanton said all involved were gang members. What began as a meeting to discuss their issues quickly escalated to a fistfight, then involved knives, chains, and firearms. The scene that resulted was “the most gruesome crime scene I’ve ever seen in my 34 years of law enforcement,” Swanton said. Witnesses reported hearing 100 rounds fired from 30 guns. Here’s where it gets interesting. Swanton said that over the past few months the police were aware of rival biker gangs causing issues at the Twin Peaks restaurant. “We have attempted to work with the local management of Twin Peaks to get that cut back, to no avail,” said Swanton. “They have not been of much assistance to us.” Jay Patel, operating partner of the Twin Peaks Waco franchise, posted a statement on Facebook saying, “We are horrified by the criminal, violent acts.” He told local media, “Our management team has had ongoing and positive communications with the police.” But Swanton said the management has not cooperated with authorities in addressing concerns about the gangs and called Patel’s statement a “fabrication.” Further investigation into the incident seems to confirm the police version of the story.

Lessons abound. My focus will be on the meeting the gangs set for the purpose of settling their differences. While their intent may have been good, they made one mistake. They failed to leave their knives, chains, and guns at home. While they wanted peace, they brought weapons to the negotiating table. I’ve learned a few things about conflict management through the years. Hurting people hurt people. The issue is never the issue. The list goes on. But I’ve also learned that when we pursue God’s Plan A with our own Plan B in our hip pocket, we are not all in with Plan A. And when God’s Plan A becomes difficult to carry out, we do what we know. We fall back on our own Plan B, so familiar to us. Life brings challenges. It is possible that you will never be in a biker gang. But life still brings challenges. And life brings conflicts. I bet, if you tried really hard, you can think of someone with whom you are in conflict right now. God’s Plan A is clear – go to that person in gentleness and prayer. Confess your own shortcomings. Go in peace with forgiveness already granted. Leave your Plan B at home. The lesson of Waco is the lesson of all human conflict. When we settle our differences our own way, carnage results. God has a better plan.

Coca-Cola

By Dr. Mark Denison — In 1997 one of the finest business leaders in the world died. His name was Roberto Goizueta, and he was the chairman and chief executive officer of the Coca-Cola Company. A few months before he died, he said, “A billion hours ago, human life appeared on Earth. A billion minutes ago, Christianity emerged. A billion seconds ago, the Beatles performed on The Ed Sullivan Show. And a billion Coca-Colas ago . . . was yesterday morning.” He told an Atlanta newspaper he had no plans for retirement. Six weeks later he was dead. And so was Coca-Cola. Or was it? Normally, when the CEO suddenly goes away, the company goes in the tank. But not Coke. Goizueta had grown Coke from a $4 billion company to a $150 billion company. But he did something more important than that. He groomed Douglas Ivester to take his place, if and when the need would arise. Goizueta taught Ivester everything he knew, just in case. And “in case” happened. It always does.

You see, the key to your success in any venture is not what you do, but what you prepare others to do. Paul mastered this concept, and he told Titus to do the same. He understood the importance of finding good men and training them to lead the next generation. To young Titus, Paul said, “An elder must be blameless, entrusted with God’s work” (Titus 1:6). You probably spend a lot of time working on doing things better. Start leading others to do things better. That is the secret of Coke. That is the secret of life.

Tiger Woods – Lindsey Vonn Breakup

By Dr. Mark Denison — Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn announced the end of their relationship last week. The legendary golfer and skier had been dating for three years. Vonn announced, “After nearly three years together, Tiger and I have mutually decided to end our relationship. I will always cherish the memories that we’ve created together. He and his beautiful family will always hold a special place in my heart.” That sounded benign enough. But is there more to the story? When you look up “the man who had it all” in the dictionary, you will find Tiger Woods’ picture there. He has won 79 PGA tournaments, including 14 majors. His net worth is $600 million. He was married to swimsuit model Elin Nordegren, and has two gorgeous kids. But all that came unraveled under mysterious circumstances outside the couple’s home in Windermere, Florida when he drove his SUV into a fire hydrant November 27, 2009. Tiger later admitted to serial infidelities and sought treatment for sex addiction. He moved to Jupiter Island, Florida, where he shares custody of Sam and Charlie, ages eight and six. Having completed treatment for his addiction and committed to Lindsey, Tiger’s world was coming back together, if not his golf game. Then Tiger and Lindsey “mutually agreed” to break up. Tiger has admitted to sleepless nights since. He is not happy. And several media outlets, including ABC News, have reported there is more to the story. Woods was playing in the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego in February. After 12 rounds he withdrew with back pain. That night, he was spotted with another woman and eventually admitted this relapse to Lindsey under the stress of the story becoming public. A friend of the couple said Woods “had a relapse in the sex department. Lindsey found out about women again, always while he’s on the road. Just like when he was with Elin.” I’m sure more of this story will soon come out. Sorting fact from fiction won’t be easy. But finding lessons from the Woods-Vonn breakup is. When hearing of such an event, the easy thing to do is joke about Tiger, criticize him, and mock him. After all, how can a man with $600 million, a gorgeous wife (and now girlfriend) toss it all away for a “faceless, nameless woman” (as described by the family friend)? Let me offer some humble advice. First, don’t criticize another person until you have your life 100 percent on track. (In other words, don’t criticize another person). Second, recognize the only perfect people are the ones you haven’t met yet. Third, addictions are real. Some psychiatrists estimate there are 150 legitimate addictions, and the average person has 1.3 of them. Fourth, the sin of Tiger Woods is not that he is addicted to sex. I’m sure he did not choose this addiction. The sin is not getting satisfactory help with it. If the stories are true, Tiger is among the high number of addicts who relapse, estimated at 90 percent by some studies. Fifth, the battle is not won in a day, a week, or even a year. There is no easy fix or pill to take. Recovery is hard work, and success is found only in the crucible of daily commitment and reliance on a loving God. Sixth, your addiction does not define you, nor does it make God love you less. And seventh, some addictions are good, such as serving God. Paul praised some believers who “addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints” (1 Corinthians 16:15). Why does the media go nuts when a star falls? Because we hunger for that kind of stuff. When others fall, we feel better about ourselves. Sure, it’s easy to judge Tiger Woods for his infidelity and addictions. It’s easy to criticize him for throwing it all away for a brief thrill. It’s easy to discuss his faults, and those of others. Celebrities like Tiger Woods, Charlie Sheen, Lance Armstrong, Bill Clinton, Mike Tyson, Gary Hart, Matthew Perry, and Lindsay Lohan are easy targets. It would be easy to criticize those who died at the hand of their addictions and/or drugs, such as John Belushi, Chris Farley, Judy Garland, Whitney Houston, and Janis Joplin. Nothing would be easier than to criticize Tiger Woods as he suffers in the depths of his addictions and depression. And I will be the first to pile on. Just as soon as I have everything 100 percent right in my own life. Until then, I’ll let someone else throw the first stone.

The First Memorial Day

Decoration Day was first observed on May 5, 1865 by proclamation of General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic. Its purpose was to honor those who died “in defense of their country during the late rebellion.” Mourners paid tribute to the Civil War dead by decorating their graves with flowers. On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, after which 5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves of more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery.

By 1868 several cities were claiming to be the first city to host local observances, including Richmond and Macon. The date was later moved to May 30 and they decorated the graves of World War I and World War II veterans, as well. With time, the holiday became known as Memorial Day. President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of Memorial Day. They chose Waterloo – where patriotic celebrations began in 1866 – because the town had held an annual, community-wide event. Businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.

The holiday was officially designated as Memorial Day in 1971, and it was placed on the last Monday of each May, providing a three-day holiday. So this year, when you go to the beach or lake, when you cook outside and hang out with family and friends, remember those whose lives are worthy of remembrance. They gave their lives for their God and country. Let’s remember them with thankful hearts. And in the tradition of John A. Logan, why not visit a cemetery? And decorate a grave.