Oh boy … Americans don’t think they sin very often


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SURPRISING POLL RESULTS

TOM LAMPRECHT:  Harry, I want to take you to two polls. One, a rather scientific poll out of Gallup, which says 55 percent of Americans still believe religion can answer today’s problems. According to the recent Gallup poll, 55 percent of Americans agree that religion can answer all or most problems in life. 71 percent of Republicans say so, 50 percent of Independents and 47 percent of Democrats share this sentiment.

The other poll, a little less scientific, out of Family Feud. In a recent episode of Family Feud, in the fast money segment, two individuals playing the game were asked, “How many of the Ten Commandments have you broken this month?” To the surprise of many people, the answer at the end of the day, after the survey of 100 people, came back was, “I have broken one of the Ten Commandments this past month.”

DR. REEDER: Well, clearly, there is a lack of theological refinement in the audience because Jesus has taught us that, if you break one, then you’ve broken them all; and then, if you break them all, you’re guilty of breaking them all, so the automatic answer is ten. And we violate God’s Word by what we omit as well as what we commit. Sins of omission and commission, we can do in thought, word and deed.

That’s pretty much an interesting dynamic of what they answered about the Ten Commandments, which I think is rather revealing. Here’s what it reveals: It reveals we have a church within our culture which is attempting to preach the Gospel of good news without communicating the reason of the glory of the Gospel, which is the bad news.

LACK OF SHAME FOR SIN

There was a time where, very clearly in this culture, people knew that they sinned and people knew that they had a sinful heart and they had a sinful record because pulpits communicated the reason the Gospel is precious, which is the bad news. The Gospel is like that beautiful diamond with all of its character, and color, and cut and content but that diamond is always presented on the backdrop of a black velvet, which is where you see its beauty.

Well, so it is with the Gospel. Before Paul develops the Good News of the Gospel in the Book of Romans, he gives for three chapters the bad news, ending up with, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God and the wages of sin is death.” Now he says, “Is there any solution for us who are helpless and hopeless?” I got good news, “When there was no way, God made a way and that way is His Son, Jesus, Who is the way, the truth and the life.”

Then he begins to develop the glorious message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior but he does so first by communicating the bad news. Well, it’s very clear today that the Gospel has become — this is very important and I want our listeners to listen to this — the prosperity Gospel that Jesus went to the cross so that you could be healthy, wealthy and wise. The Gospel has become a counseling therapy Gospel that, if you come to Jesus, you’re going to feel better about yourself.

NEW AGE NONSENSE

The other day, somebody said to me, “You know, my problem is I haven’t learned to forgive myself.” I said, “Well, I hope you never do,” and they said, “What? Why don’t I want to learn to forgive myself?” “Because you can’t forgive yourself. Here’s a fact: the day that you show me that you can make an atonement for your sins is the day that you can forgive yourself of your sins. You can’t make atonement for your sins, so you can’t forgive you. You’ve sinned against God. And here’s the good news: God has provided an atonement. You don’t need to forgive yourself — you need to accept the forgiveness that He gives. He is the one that forgives. You and I are the ones that need to be forgiven. Now, you have to believe that forgiveness and receive that forgiveness by faith and repentance.” Those are just the basic thoughts that are revealed in our communication today.

Therefore, Tom, the interesting thing in this survey about people believing that religion is important, that part of what you opened with, how do people see religion? They see religion as something that fixes things. Actually, Biblical religion is what God does to have a relationship with you and He, Who alone can do it, is the one who fixes us to have a relationship with Him and then fixes us out of that relationship with Him to make Him known, and love Him and serve Him. He doesn’t exist for us. God exists and He who made us is able to change us and save us so that we can enjoy Him and glorify Him forever.

RELIGION HAS SAVING POWER IF IT IS PURE RELIGION

Now, I am grateful that there’s still a sense that religion has a changing power, but not all religion has a changing power — there’s only one religion that has a changing power and it’s not a manmade religion, but a God-designed and God-revealed and God-communicating religion. And that is that there is a God who has come down to save us and to bring us up to be with Him and to serve Him now and into a new heavens and a new earth.

TOM LAMPRECHT: Well, I was going to ask, Harry, if Gallup had called Harry Reeder in this polling and asked you that question — do you still believe religion can answer today’s problems — how would you answer that?

DR. REEDER: I would have answered that it depends on the religion. Is it a manmade religion? That will not answer man’s problems; that will only exacerbate man’s problems. But then I would say to Mr. Gallup, do you have another category where I can talk to you not about a man-made religion, but a God-designed, God-delivered religion that begins with God establishing a relationship with us when we did not deserve it and a religion that delivers men and women from sin’s guilt and sin’s penalty and sin’s power and begins to eradicate sin’s practice? Now, that one fixes things because it fixes me and it gives me a life forever.

WHY HAS FAITH DECLINED IN THE PAST SEVERAL DECADES?

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, what does it say about our society, when you look at these statistics going back to 1957 when 82 percent of Americans said that they believed that religion can answer today’s problems and, in 2015, that number dropped down to 51 percent?

DR. REEDER: Well, I think there’s a couple of things. First, they’re finding out that man-made religion can’t solve the problem so there’s some despair. Secondly, we live in a post-modern age in which religion is seen as an antiquated mythological system that needs to be jettisoned. Thirdly, we live in a day in which Christianity has not clearly dealt with the man-made religions of this world and where Christianity is not clearly communicated.

To use James’ language, what is pure religion? Religion is a way of sacred life. Pure religion is not a way of sacred life to get a relationship with God, but pure religion is a way of sacred life that is because of your relationship with God that He has accomplished for you.

In other words, to take the old Sunday school song, we are climbing up Jacob’s ladder. Actually, that’s a wonderful song with a catchy tune for children, but it’s terrible theology because the whole purpose of Jacob’s ladder is not to teach us that we’ve got a ladder to climb up to Heaven; Jacob’s ladder is actually Jesus, Who comes down from Heaven to take us up to be with Him.

WHAT CAN SOLVE PROBLEMS 

And that’s what we need to do is teach this glorious Gospel of saving grace that comes to us relentlessly with unstoppable purpose to bring us from death into life and sin’s guilt is erased. There is, therefore, now no condemnation, sin’s power is broken — you’ve been born again — and sin’s practice is being eradicated as you pursue sanctification without which no man shall see the Lord.

And that’s what we need to again communicate with clarity so that Christianity, while a pure religion that is initiated by God, not a man-made religion that seeks to manipulate God, is now communicated no longer as a ritualistic way of life for self-therapy, but an invasive and glorious and undeserved way of life that comes from the Lord Who is the way, the truth and the life.

Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin, editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News, who has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and whose work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.

13 hours ago

VIDEO: Prisons could be built with COVID-19 funds, Shelby endorses Katie Britt for Senate, Brooks battles with Swalwell as a new poll shows big lead and more on Alabama Politics This Week …

Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and political consultant Mecca Musick take you through Alabama’s biggest political stories, including:

— Will Alabama really use COVID-19 relief funds to build prisons?

— Does Katie Britt’s entering of the U.S. Senate race shake things up, or has U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) already won this race?

— Can U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) keep the more radical members of the Democratic Party at bay?

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Jackson and Musick are joined by former U.S. Attorney Jay Town to discuss the issues facing the state of Alabama this week.

Jackson closes the show with a “Parting Shot” directed at those who want to use the illegally acquired tax returns of the uber-wealthy to push for higher taxes. He argues the released returns show that we should implement a flat tax and do away with all deductions.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN and on Talk 99.5 from 10AM to noon.

16 hours ago

Auburn’s David Housel tackles more than sports in ‘From the Backbooth at Chappy’s’

When David Housel retired from Auburn University in 2006, after a legendary career as athletics director for the Tigers, it wasn’t long before his wife urged him to get busy again – and a deli on Glenn Avenue in Auburn was the beneficiary.

“Susan wanted me to do something to get out of the house,” Housel recalls. “I started going to Chappy’s to drink coffee, read the paper. Pretty soon, Kenny Howard would meet me there, and it just kind of grew from there.”

In short order, friends of Housel began to gather, first a few one day a week and then, just prior to the pandemic, 12-16 people nearly every day of the week.

They meet at Chappy’s, where a plaque commemorates Housel’s booth, and they talk – about sports, of course, but about pretty much anything that’s on their minds.

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Housel began to write essays about those mornings, posting them to Facebook. He’s now compiled more than 100 of those pieces into a new book, “From the Backbooth at Chappy’s: Stories of the South: Football, Politics, Religion, and More.” It’s officially released next week at a series of book signings at Chappy’s in the Auburn area from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. each day: Tuesday in Auburn, Wednesday in Montgomery and Thursday in Prattville.

“Consider this Housel unleashed,” the author says. “Most of the stuff I’ve written in my life has been about Auburn on an Auburn platform. Even after I retired, I was a representative of Auburn, even though I wasn’t working there. This is not an Auburn book. It’s about football, politics, religion and more.”

“From the Backbooth at Chappy’s,” with a foreword by Auburn graduate and acclaimed journalist Rheta Grimsley Johnson, evolved as Housel’s morning gatherings at Chappy’s evolved, though he began writing the essays fairly early in the process.

“When something is in your mind, in your heart, in your head, if you’re a writer, it just has to come out, and it just comes through your fingers,” Housel says. “Turns out people like to read it, so I got the Facebook page. I shared thoughts and essays and that kind of thing. It was not a planned thing.”

When COVID-19 came along, Housel decided to listen to a few folks who told him his musings would make a good book.

“I had been thinking a lot about it, and it was time to do it,” Housel says.

Housel has written six other books. Most have to do with Auburn sports history, but one, “From the Desk of David Housel,” is similar to “From the Backbooth at Chappy’s.”

“That one was primarily sports, but it had some other things in it,” Housel says. “This one is about the other stuff, but it has some sports in it.”

Though the three topics in his book’s title – football, politics and religion  – are often the subjects people are warned not to bring up if they want to keep the peace, Housel and his friends don’t shy away from any of them. Housel especially gravitates toward religious topics.

“I like the ones that I hope make people think,” he says of his essays. “The good Lord gave us a mind, and we’re supposed to use it. Too few people who call themselves Christians do what the Lord said and use their minds. … Faith has got to be built not on challenging God but questioning God. I think God likes that, because it shows we’re engaged and that we care.”

Now that the pandemic is ending, the Backbooth at Chappy’s events are slowly but surely returning to normal. On Mondays, Housel eats two eggs scrambled, lean bacon and a helium biscuit; on Tuesdays maybe a parfait with granola; on Wednesdays, it’s blueberry pancakes, and Fridays a waffle.

What remains constant is the conversation. And the writing.

“I’m still writing the Backbooth, and since the first of the year, I’ve written a couple I think are book-worthy,” Housel says. “I started out doing maybe one a week, but I’m old enough that I don’t have to meet a self-imposed deadline. When the spirit moves me, I write.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

18 hours ago

State Rep. Pringle pushes to ban critical race theory in public schools — ‘Woke culture indoctrination,’ ‘Needs to be stopped in its tracks’

Last week, Florida’s Board of Education banned so-called “critical race theory” from its public schools, and it is a move State Rep. Chris Pringle (R-Mobile) hopes to follow in Alabama.

Critical race theory, a belief that racism is ingrained in some of America’s sacred institutions, is widely panned by critics because it distorts and weaponizes history for political gain.

Friday, Pringle discussed his prefiled bill for the Alabama Legislature’s 2022 regular session to prohibit critical race theory from being taught in Alabama’s public schools.

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“It’s simply a bill that says in public education, you can’t teach or indoctrinate our children with critical race theory,” he said. “People are waking up all around the nation to how bad this stuff is. I mean, this is woke cancel culture gone completely amuck. They want to completely disregard our 14th and 15th Amendment rights, the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act. If you don’t agree with them — here’s what’s crazy: They want to send you to a reeducation camp. Think about that, a reeducation camp. Don’t they do that in China, Russia and North Korea?  That’s how bad this stuff is. Either you agree with them or you have to be sent off to a reeducation camp.”

“This is just indoctrination — the woke culture indoctrination of our children,” Pringle continued. “That’s all it is and it needs to be stopped in its tracks. I mean, our children need to learn history and we ought to open a frank discussion about history — the good, the bad. But this is not about good or bad. This is teaching our children that our nation is a bad nation, is an evil nation and is not the great country that we live in. We are the safest, freest people in the world and that’s what our children need to learn.”

“Do we have problems? Yeah,” he added. “Have we done bad things? Yeah. But we’re still the greatest nation in the history of the world.”

According to the Mobile County Republican lawmaker, the response to the effort thus far has been positive and supportive.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

21 hours ago

Why Sylacauga marble is known around the world

If you’ve ever visited the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. and stared up at the translucent marble ceiling, you’ve witnessed a piece of Alabama history. The ceiling is made of white marble mined in Talladega County’s Sylacauga (appropriately known as the Marble City).

In addition to lending its natural treasure to some of the nation’s most notable buildings, Sylacauga also holds the title for having the longest deposit of marble in the world. The bed of stone runs 32 miles long, a mile and a half wide, and more than 600 feet deep. The marble found in this quarry is especially desirable for two key characteristics: its purity and its durability. When paired together, these distinct qualities make Alabama marble some of the most desired in the world for large-scale buildings and monuments, as well as homes and sculptures.

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The History of Alabama Marble

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The Sylacauga Quarry (Sylacauga Marble Festival/Facebook)

Marble is formed when limestone is subjected to extreme pressure and heat. In Sylacauga, the conditions are perfect for the formation of metamorphic marble. Sylacauga’s massive deposit was first discovered by Native Americans, but it wasn’t quarried until 1834, 20 years after army surgeon Dr. Edward Gantt stumbled upon the vein while passing through with General Andrew Jackson’s army.

In the years that followed Gantt’s discovery, Sylacauga’s marble business thrived. More quarries popped up, mining the marble for everything from funerary monuments to building projects to sculptures. By the 1960s, the use of the quarried marble shifted toward the utilitarian. Rather than being mined in huge chunks for building material, the marble was being ground down for use in products like cosmetics, diapers, magazine paper, fertilizer, fiberglass, toothpaste, and chewing gum. In 1969, marble was named Alabama’s state rock.

A Timeless Treasure

Sylacauga Quarry (Sylacauga Marble Festival/Facebook)

Today the charge for Alabama marble is being led by the Swindal family, who own Alabama Marble Mineral & Mining Co. (AM3). AM3’s 50-acre quarry in Sylacauga is the world’s only supplier and leading distributor of Alabama marble. Owner Roy Swindal’s goal is to reintroduce the world to Alabama marble, once again marketing it as a prized material for both commercial and consumer construction. According to the Alabama Department of Archives and History, around 30 million tons of marble have been pulled from the ground in Sylacauga since 1900. The Swindals hope to add to that number by continuing and improving upon the state’s tradition for many years to come.

Marble Mania

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Sculptor Enzo Torcoletti at the Sylacauga Marble Festival (Sylacauga Marble Festival/Facebook)

It’s only fitting that a town built on marble pay tribute to the stone that brought its success. For the past 13 years, the city has celebrated its marble mining heritage with the 12-day Magic of Marble Festival. The festival, typically held in April, features several activities and events that are all free and fun for the whole family. Festival participants can take a tour of operational quarries and visit the Gantts/IMERYS Observation Point that overlooks the town’s historic first quarry. The creative side of marble is put on display at Blue Bell Park, where 25 sculptors create original pieces made entirely of marble. On the final day of the festival, the finished pieces are displayed and sold at nearby B.B. Comer Library. Other activities include a 5K run and a scavenger hunt.

If you can’t wait for next year’s festival and you want to see Alabama’s famous white marble in action now, there are several locations around the state to see it put to good use. In Birmingham, try the John Hand Building, Wells Fargo headquarters, City Federal building, or the Chamber of Commerce. If you’re in Montgomery, don’t miss the “Head of Christ” sculpture at the Alabama Department of Archives and History. It was created by Italian sculptor Giuseppe Moretti, who also happens to be the artist behind Birmingham’s Vulcan.

(Courtesy of SoulGrown)

21 hours ago

The economics of paying ransom

The cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline by the hacker group DarkSide disrupted gasoline supplies across the Southeast. The company caused a stir by paying a 75 Bitcoin ransom to DarkSide. America historically has been opposed to paying evildoers, as reflected in the slogan, “Millions for defense, but not one cent in tribute,” and President Jefferson sending the Navy and Marines to fight the Barbary Pirates.

Ransomware raises many economic issues. A first question is, do hackers ever give the data back if paid? DarkSide provided Colonial Pipeline a key to decrypt their data. According to Proofpoint, this is the norm: 70% of ransom payers got their data back, 20% never got their data back and 10% received a second ransom demand.

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From an economic perspective, this is not surprising. About two dozen groups, identifying themselves by name and known to insurance companies, carry out most of the sophisticated attacks. Insurers would never recommend payment in the future to a group which has reneged. The hackers must deliver as promised to make money.

Some have suggested making payment of ransom for cyberattacks illegal. If no one ever paid ransom, the hackers could not make money. Refusing to pay ransom though faces two significant economic challenges.

The first is time consistency. Kidnapping illustrates this concept. Before an event, the incentive exists to say, “We will never pay ransom.” If the bad guys believe this, they will never invest the time, effort and expense to stage a kidnapping. Once they hold hostages, however, our incentive changes; negotiating just this one time now makes sense. Our policy to never pay ransom is not credible.

Collective action poses the second challenge. Businesses collectively have an interest in not rewarding cybercrime, yet individual businesses suffer these attacks. A business which does not pay ransom benefits other businesses, creating the challenge. Why should Continental Pipeline suffer losses to make other businesses less likely to be attacked?

Why do businesses pay ransom? Reports mention several factors. A business may face a closure of unknown length and cost. Customers’ personal information will be sold if ransom is not paid, leading to fines and bad publicity. And the hackers might sell proprietary information to competitors.

Good economists know better than to second guess business managers’ decisions. Decisions to pay ransom often involve the business’ executives, its insurance carrier and tech security experts. They know the options and likely costs and should make a good decision, despite the pressure of a crisis.

Insurance companies and government regulations reduce organizations’ vulnerability to hackers, which is good. But what about channeling President Jefferson and going after the hackers? Most of the hacker groups operate in Russia, which provides Safe Haven as long as the hackers do not target Russian companies. Some law enforcement options may exist. Federal prosecutors apparently recovered most of the Bitcoins paid to DarkSide.

Crime is a very costly way to transfer wealth. Stolen merchandise typically sells for one-third (or less) of market value. A criminal might have to steal thousands in property to net $1,000. Ransomware appears much more wasteful than traditional theft. Consider just the value of the time Americans spent searching for gas during the disruption. Remember then that the ransom was about $4.4 million.

Cybercrime makes us poorer. The hackers and defenders at tech security companies are highly skilled computer programmers. But instead of making new apps or games, they are hacking or defending existing computer systems. Add to this the service disruption during cyberattacks, the reduced use of technology for fear of being hacked and the time spent on security training. The costs may be $1 trillion annually, or one percent of global GDP.

We must guard here against comparing the real world to an imagined utopia. We cannot costlessly protect our property from thieves or our computers from malware, or make people no longer willing to steal from others. Economics teaches that there are no perfect solutions in life, only tradeoffs. Vigilance, antivirus programs and backup are the tradeoffs we face with cybercrime.

Daniel Sutter is the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics with the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University and host of Econversations on TrojanVision. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Troy University.