We will never forget.
This essay is dedicated to all who were murdered in Las Vegas on the night of October 1st, 2017, all who suffer from their wounds (seen and unseen), the families who grieve loss, those who gave their lives for others, and those who helped in great or small ways. We stand with the people of Las Vegas, silent, arms around their shoulders, tears streaming down our cheeks, heads bowed.
I had just finished lifting weights at the Solheim Center at Moody Bible Institute. Workers were turning on televisions around the facility. Gaggles of students began to cluster around them. We saw the plumes of smoke rising from one building just as an airliner slammed into the second World Trade Center. Announcements across campus and throughout Chicago directed residents to stay inside, commuters to leave the city.
As I walked a mile and a half to the train station I witnessed empty sidewalks and traffic-less streets. Fighter jets broke the sound barrier overhead. We found out later officials believed big cities like Chicago could be next. All America was in shock. We clung to every news report. Each bit of new information became its own story-line.
The date was September 11th, 2001.
At 4 a.m. yesterday morning I began seeing news reports of a shooting in Las Vegas a couple of hours before. Two people had been killed. My phone chimed over and over with the latest news, the death toll rising. Finally I turned on the television to see the video, much like I and everyone did on 9/11.
Eyelids barely held the tears as I listened to the description of the worse mass shooting in American history: the carnage, the loss of life, hundreds hospitalized. I raged against the abject cowardice of a madman shooting at concertgoers in downtown Las Vegas.
Flashbacks continued throughout the day. I remembered going back to Chicago on the train soon after 9/11. I was supposed to teach next gen teachers about classroom teaching. I thought then as I thought yesterday, “How can I teach/write as if this is just another day, another part of the curriculum?”
I couldn’t then, I can’t now.
During a 45 minute train ride sixteen years ago I wrote a lesson for teachers entitled “How to Teach After the World Changes.” I referenced the laments of the Psalmist, the wails of Job, the anger of Habakkuk, and longing for peace from Malachi. My words focused on how to minister to people who had suffered loss.
The encouragement I brought to students then I bring to readers now; a list of suggestions.
Don’t focus on the person who committed the atrocity, focus on the people you can help in their calamity.
Don’t focus on the political concerns of what should or should not be done, focus on the concerns of spirit, the wellspring of human suffering and love.
Don’t explain, interpret, or conclude, rather comfort, calm, and cry.
Don’t clamor for a cultural response, calling for gun control, rather stand in line at the Red Cross to give blood.
Don’t believe this is the “worst” or the “last” but recognize that “awful” and “horrific” will happen again; how we respond now will help us react then.
I will never forget September 11th, 2001. Now I will never forget October 1st, 2017.
I will also remind myself that my best response to any terror-filled situation is how to prepare myself, my readers, and my students for suffering.
Mark believes that lament is the proper biblical response to suffering (essay), that human horrors will continue until Jesus returns (essay), and that the problems we face are problems of the human heart (essay). Dr. Mark Eckel is President of The Comenius Institute (website), spends time with Christian young people in public university (1 minute video), hosts a weekly radio program with diverse groups of guests (1 minute video), and teaches weekly at his church (video). Picture credit: snappygoat.com
“That’s not the person I was talking about.”
It was the greatest experience of my teaching life.
The most important aspect of education is relationship. Trust is the essence of that relationship. If a student knows they can trust you then math teaching – any teaching – becomes a delight.
We found some time during school to meet. A demure young woman, she hesitated divulging her true need.
I asked some mundane questions to draw her out but I already knew.
“Are you pregnant?” The word momentarily hung in the air.
“Yes.” She hung her head.
“I already have an appointment,” came the matter-of-fact reply.
Her decision, it seemed, had been made. I wordlessly waited for further explanation.
“A relative is driving me to Louisville on Monday. I can’t have the procedure here in Indiana because I’m too far along.”
It was Friday afternoon.
Any time a student had come to discuss anything with me in the past I always asked questions. I wanted them to consider their situation, their obligations, and their potential response.
Imposing my views did not build trust.
“Have you considered the other person in your decision?” I began.
“The father doesn’t want me to have it. He won’t help if I do.”
“That’s not the person I was talking about.”
She was startled, looking up at me after I uttered those words.
“You have talked about how this decision will impact your life. What about the life of the baby inside you? Your future will be very different depending on the choice you make on Monday.”
I spoke about the life she was carrying and the potential that life could have in the world. I asked her if she had the right to take the life of another. I told her that I believed only God had the right to terminate a life because only He could restore that life.
I repeated, “The other person in your decision is the person of the child in your womb.”
We talked for some time that Friday afternoon focused on the life of another.
I was shocked to see her.
“I thought you were going to Louisville today!”
Her smile radiated joy.
“I changed my mind.”
I was stunned.
“It was our talk on Friday,” she could tell by the look on my face I needed help understanding.
The dean of women, however, was not thankful.
“Don’t you know how you’ve destroyed her life??!!” she began her tirade.
The young woman’s presence in school on Monday had surprised the dean too. After a brief conversation with the pregnant girl, the school administrator called me out of class.
The dean’s tone was vicious, berating me for my interference.
For ten minutes I stood in her office enduring the verbal assault.
The year was 1994.
In May of 2017, I saw Facebook pictures of a college graduate posted by a glowing, proud mother.
A young woman’s decision one Monday had given her a thousand Mondays with her baby.
This story stands as the greatest experience of my educational life.
Dennis L. Wilson told me this story over coffee. Wiping away the tears I asked if I could retell the story for our audience at Warp & Woof. Dr. Mark Eckel is President of The Comenius Institute (website), spends time with Christian young people in public university (1 minute video), hosts a weekly radio program with diverse groups of guests (1 minute video), and teaches weekly at his church (video). Picture credit: snappygoat.com
Bigotry is the seedbed of genocide.
In the past year I have been both demeaned by a white, female, liberal professor for not saying enough (in her estimation ) against racism and disparaged by a white, male, nationalist for not defending my “blood kin,” my nationality, my skin color, my “whiteness.”
The most recent incident occurred when I posted this 12 August 17 statement on Facebook:
“I stand with my black brothers and sisters against racial hatred #Charlottesville”
One man took issue with my statement, posting over one hundred replies. Here is one, direct, unedited comment about my “stance”:
“Sorry, but many white believers are growing weary of white weakling professors of faith who loathe the very skin God gave them, all the while “standing” with the perceived downtrodden. Weak, vacillating Professors.”
I doubt any of my students past or present, or anyone who knows me personally, would agree with the descriptors “weak” or “vacillating.” My public posts and staunch commitment to any “stand” I have taken should explode any connection to weakness. 
Making a simple statement that I stand with my black friends was vilified because I was not maintaining the “purity” of the “white” “race.” 
“Mark exhibits classic Alienism. . . . “a prejudice in favor of the alien, the marginal, the dispossessed” . . . In Christianity, . . . we have a greater responsibility to our own family, race, town, state, region, and country, than we do to “the other”. Christians should favor the native and the normal over the alien and the novel. . . . Shame on those who despise their own flesh, who God Made them.”
Far from ashamed as to who I am  I am not ashamed to speak out on behalf of others. As an “alienist,” then, I stand with Yahweh who chose to give the same love He gave to His people (Deut 7.8) to the “alien.” The identical Hebrew word is then used to command His people’s love for the “alien.”
“He loves the sojourner . . . love the sojourner” (ESV, Deut 10.18-19)
“The sojourner” is the non-resident, the alien, the outsider, one from other nationalities or ethnicities.
“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself “(ESV, Lev 19.33-34)
There are no boundaries given.
There are no “what if ___” given.
There are no “what about ___” given.
There are no “but they did ___” given.
There are no rationalizations given.
“Love the sojourner.” Period.
Some would say – as did my interlocutor this weekend – that I should defend my ethnicity. No one is disparaging their origins here! But that is NOT the issue. The issue at hand is “How will I respond to the history of oppression against my fellow countrymen and women?”
As a white man, my responsibility is to reach out to my black neighbors. I bear the responsibility to initiate, making intentional my communication and action. Ethnic superiority, purity, and division is NOT the gospel.
So to my liberal collegiate counterpart and my white nationalist Facebook “friend” I say the same thing: only the love of Jesus breaks down all the barriers.
My “whiteness” has nothing to do with the gospel of Jesus.
There is MUCH more to say against quotations ripped from context, misapplied arguments, non-sequiturs, hate-filled videos, and memes which conflate ideas into ideology. Many have thanked me online and in private for allowing false belief to be seen for what it is. Readers can see much more of my stand in the footnotes below. Dr. Mark Eckel is President of The Comenius Institute (site) (video).
 Readers can find many writings from me about ethnicity [use the search line]. Among them I wrote a three-part series with my brother, Pastor Brian Green on “Oneness” (one, two, three) and my personal responsibility as a professor is explained in the essay “Race” (here). Currently I am working on a journal article with my friend Charlie Mitchell on the theological foundations of the 20th century civil rights movement. Find my essay about “Charlie” here.  After I read comments about my supposed “weakness” I continued to remember Paul’s comments, “God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong” (1 Corinthians 1.27).  “Race” denotes the “human race.” It is better to use the word ethnicity when referencing a person’s origins.  See my faith statement here and biography here.
I was too poor to buy books.
No, I didn’t steal them.
Years ago, I was asked by a local group to give a talk about business ethics.Since my degrees focus on “ethics” but not “business” I decided I should visit a bookstore to see what business leaders were saying.
It took me all of thirty minutes to make the startling discovery.
All the books and their authors were stealing their ideas from Solomon in The Bible.
Authors were using biblical principles straight out of Proverbs to communicate business principles.
I was shocked. My research, document-everything, graduate-education persona was incredulous!
And then it hit me. The authors couldn’t help themselves. The books simply reflected what theologians call “common grace.” I realized that I was viewing an example of God’s beneficence to all people.
We find ethical principles for everyday living in any subject; business is no exception.
The book of Proverbs commends itself to all people, cultures, places, and times because God has embedded basic principles within His creation. Life “works” a certain way because God’s consistency and dependability are woven through His Works.
This summer I have been preparing to teach on “wisdom”in my church body to adults on Sunday mornings. In my study I was re-reading Tremper Longman’s book How to Read Proverbs. I was struck again by the “common grace” approach to life when I revisited Longman’s connection to Daniel Goleman’s book Emotional Intelligence. Dr. Longman tied EQ ideas directly to proverbial wisdom. In his words, Goleman’s “knowing how” is the connection to wisdom. God’s Word in Proverbs explains there is much more we need to navigate in life than “knowing what.” We need to know how.
Proverbs is a “how” book. We are taught about situations that arise in daily life for which we need foresight and thoughtful pondering. Proverbs teaches us how best—not how perfectly—to respond, react, remember, or resist.
I am presently teaching a literature course to high school students where “how” will always be linked with everyday living. Juniors and I will recite the importance of memory, navigating Odysseus’ return home in Homer’s Odyssey. We will ponder the distinctiveness of the Genesis origin ideals against the materialistic ways of the Enuma Elish. Virgil’s Aeneid will point us to our need to live piously, loyally, and respectfully.
Here is how I have connected everyday life with God’s view of life elsewhere:
Common Grace allows
Common Truth to establish
Common Law for the
Common Man finding
Common Ground with all.
I am no longer surprised by the commonality of agriculture, business, the arts, or education principles with Scriptural prescriptions.
Mark’s own study of Proverbs shows how much more wisdom he has to learn. Dr. Mark Eckel is president of The Comenius Institute.
Everything is founded on faith.
I asked what was said in class. The discussion centered on people needing to make a decision against violence, for peace. I asked if the professor gave a standard, a reason given, against violence, for peace. There was none.
“There are two basic beliefs which form the basis for the Christian worldview,” I said, “Absolute truth and humanities’ inherent corruption.”
“Absolute truth gives us a basis for saying what is right and wrong,” I continued, “Inherent corruption—what comes from inside us—shows the reason why humans are at war.”
“Think of it this way,” I concluded, “The problem is not out there (pointing away from myself), the problem is IN HERE (pointing at my chest).”
Another Comenius student stopped by at lunch to ask, “My law professor says that the law changes depending on the culture. What will he base his ethics on if judicial rulings are based on the shifting standard of the day?”
“The only basis your professor has for law,” I began, “Is the hope of evolutionary development based on the assumption of human perfectibility.” I expanded on the ideas over lunch.
After her class that same day she texted me. “My law professor gave a lecture on Liberalism. He believes humanity will learn from its mistakes and flaws and evolve into morally better people – exactly what we were discussing at lunch!”
“Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have a faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them.”
The class discussion questions (not repeated here) had nothing to do with the obvious, underlying assumption of Jobs’ assumption: people are basically good.
“Concern about cyber security itself is based on a glaring premise” I stated, “We need protection against technological threats. Technology may change, but human nature does not.” We discussed the assumption that humans are inherently corrupt even if people do wonderful things with technology.
Students in public university are being taught from a belief system. Every belief system begins with assumptions. Comenius students have the opportunity to understand their academic – intellectual development from a decidedly Christian perspective.
The Comenius Institute, where Christian wisdom connects with college life.
Everything we teach, everything we learn, is founded on faith. Dr. Mark Eckel points out belief statements wherever he sees them. Mark is the president of The Comenius Institute.
Our problems originate inside.
Our hope originates from outside.
Over the last three days I have posted these statements on social media:
“Racism” is not the direct result of history, nationality, ethnicity, nor privilege. Racism is the direct result of sin in our hearts.
“Greed” is not a result of big business, banking institutions, capitalism, or economic class. Greed begins in every human heart.
“Hate” does not originate in ethnicity, nationality, political persuasion, or economic class. Hate originates in every human heart.
Some evangelicals believe correction for our problems begins “outside” (my biology, environment, psychology, privilege, etc). But if that is true, then we will subscribe to the source of fixing problems through external intervention (government, law, policy).
The only true change against privilege, negative home situations, or psychological dispositions is the saving grace of Jesus. The gospel changes our “hearts” then motivates us to “do good” (Titus 2.11-14 leads right into Titus 3.1, 8, 14).
If “doing good” has solely a human origin then humans get to define “the good.” Motivation of “doing” belongs to the individual. What is “good” for me may not be “good” for you.
Only the exclusivity of the gospel allows for the inclusivity of help. If we don’t have the first, then the second is up to the whim of the individual or institution. [See my essay on exclusivity – inclusivity.]
Some Christians want to pawn-off policy issues with trite bumper-sticker theology. But if we do not have a biblical foundation for government, law, policy, etc. then biblical truths will not permeate the culture.
My students have heard me say this for decades: “My environment – biology – psychology may accentuate my behavior but it is not the root cause of it” (Mark 7.21-23).
I agree with my friend Stacey “certain outward forces or institutions perpetuate, promote, and propel the indifference of the human heart.”
If you would like my pictorial overview of a cultural – versus – Christian viewpoint concerning sin, salvation, and service, click this link: christian-versus-cultural-views-of-sin-salv-serv
True change, lasting change, eternal change has a Source outside us which changes us inside.
Mark, like the rest of the human race, has many internal struggles. But Mark also knows that the human race will be saved not by themselves but through the sacrifice of Jesus. Click the link for The Comenius Institute to see some of Dr. Mark Eckel’s activities.
What should matter most?
This was his first question for me after the election.
My brother Brian called on Saturday. We spoke of many things but primary to our conversation was what we together referred to as “cultural Christianity.” Brian and I mean by this phrase that we are concerned believers have placed cultural belief ahead of Christian belief. What do Brian and I mean?
We focus on political, ethnic, and gender differences over Jesus’ prayer for “oneness” (John 17.11, 21, 22).
We are concerned for institutions, parties, and movements more than Jesus.
We quote the words of personages, celebrities, and politicians more than The Word .
We align ourselves with tribes, factions, and voting blocs more than with The Church.
I second that rhetorical question.
What are we teaching our children when we make fun of people?
What are we teaching the next generation when we can’t get along with each other?
What are we teaching the culture about charity when we ourselves are uncharitable?
What are we teaching our churches when blaming others matters more than supporting our brothers?
What are we teaching our enemies when rancor and anger replace generosity and grace?
I could not agree more.
Our talk has been fragmenting, splintering, fracturing. We have injured each other with our words instead of binding up the wounds of the brokenhearted. We have perjured our testimony of love with the vile and bile of hate. We have merged our thinking with cultural icons instead of speaking in the name of Jesus.
Our rhetoric is reminiscent more of bar-talk than Church-talk.
How have we arrived at this place?
The more important question is “How should we leave this place?”
Cross the street, to visit, connect, and care. Do good, do good, do good in the community. Be sure of research and resources before speaking and acting. Celebrate differences that make communities whole. Hear what people are saying and what they are not saying. When we meet others who disagree, learn the backgrounds and backstories of their thinking.
We should listen to viewpoints other than our own.
We should speak up for those who have no voice.
We should stand up with those who have nowhere to stand.
We should raise our prophetic voice for life, for liberty, for love.
We should construct our words with clarity, care, and compassion.
I have talked with so many students, groups, and Christian leaders who have asked “What should we do now? How should we live in a polarized nation? To whom should we listen?” My response is always, always the same, “Love your neighbor, love the stranger, as you love yourself” (Leviticus 19.18, 34).
Culture should not drive Christianity, Christianity should serve the culture.
Brian Green is pastor of Emmanuel City Church, Laurel, Maryland. Mark Eckel is president of The Comenius Institute. Brian and Mark have been learning from each other since they met in 2011.
“You can’t handle the truth!”
“For the general public is being reduced to a state where people not only are unable to find out about the truth but also become unable even to search for the truth because they are satisfied with deception and trickery that have determined their convictions, satisfied with a fictitious realitycreated by design through the abuse of language.” 
“In Today’s World the Truth is Losing,” intoned The Washington Post. “Post-truth” captured 2016 “word of the year” honors via Oxford Dictionaries. It seems that even the care of wild horses depends on truth.
Every conversation, every dialogue, and every debate hinges on two assumptions: human nature and absolute truth. The first assumptions asks, “What is the origin of any problem?” The second assumption asks, “What is the solution to any problem?” Christian teaching gives the starting point from which we address truth issues. [Find my overview of human nature here.]
A friend sent me a video this past week of Simon Sinekexplaining why past generations and recent technology have been detrimental to millennials. There are many concerns to unpack here because Sinek makes so many good comments. But Sinek, like all of us, rests his case on two baseline assumptions: (1) Human Nature and (2) Absolute Truth.
Over and over Sinek says about the millennials they bear “no fault” for their current addictions to screen technology. Sinek suggests we are basically good. It is the environment or others which make us “bad.”
Then Sinek tells the audience to find “joy.” The questions he bypasses are, “Whose joy? What IS joy? Where does joy come from?” It is the first question I pose in any discussion: what is the source or origin of the thing, idea, or issue? In this case, does “joy” just come out of mid-air? Do we create ‘joy’ ourselves? By what authority do we say “Choose joy?” Why not say “Choose death?” or “Choose jealousy?” or “Choose lying?” Who says joy is a truthful solution to the problem millennials face?
If truth cannot be known,
Why should I defend or critique any idea?
How can I claim something is “right” or “wrong”?
What is the basis for my emotional response for any ethical breach?
What gives me the basis for declaring anything to be “correct” or “incorrect”?
If standards of conduct are left up to a community, why should I accept any community standard?
__Practical___, conforming to our real world.
__Sensible___, working and functioning with what is; we can live with it.
__Consistent___, something we can count on; truth is dependable.
__Universal__, for all people, in all places, at all times, in all cultures.
__Comparable_, showing its distinction matched with other “truths.”
__Exclusive__, defining validity and falsehood by its very presence.
__Verifiable___, withstanding intellectual and historical tests.
__Absolute___, not altered to fit the circumstances.
__Transcendent___, originating outside human reason.
___Objective___, working because it is accurate, not merely subjective or experiential.
Perhaps Pieper is correct: the real issue may be we don’t want to handle the truth.
Mark believes one cannot claim anything is false unless truth exists. Dr. Mark Eckel is President of The Comenius Institute. Josef Pieper. 1992. Abuse of Language—Abuse of Power. 2nd edition. Reprint, Ignatius, 34-35. Josef Pieper was concerned that when words were divorced from reality, disassociated rom truth, they would simply become “instruments of power” (20-23). “The word is perverted and debased, to become a catalyst, a drug.”  Used throughout my 30+ years of teaching, published in Timeless Truths: An Apologetic for the Historicity, Authenticity, and Authority of The Bible. Purposeful Design, 2000.
Picture credit: Wikipedia
The March for Life, 2017
The Washington Post finally reported on the pro-life event this year.
Teaching the biblical basis for government I have had students read The American Declaration of Independence (1776) and The French Declaration of the Rights of Man (1789). I asked students to notice similarities and differences between the documents.
Students discovered the same ideas each time. The French document premised its authority on “the people” (or “citizens”). The American document based its authority on “Nature’s God,” “The Creator,” “The Supreme Judge of the world,” and “Divine Providence.”
The French document concedes a “Supreme Being” but one who is only “present.” The French declaration says government “recognizes and declares the rights of citizens.” Notice it is the government (“the National Assembly”) which gives rights.
Students were surprised at the human-centered French document.Statement #6 always stood out:
“Law is the expression of the general will.”
More reflection and discussion brought out the basic belief: the French declaration assumes humans are basically good and have the authority to grant rights.
The room always fell silent when I told them that 30,000 people were killed—their right to life taken away—during the French Revolution. They were considered “enemies of the state.”
If rights are given by government, government can take away rights.
If rights are given by God, government’s role is to protect those rights.
“Reproductive rights” and “reproductive justice” are phrases used today by those who want to decide their rights. Pro-choice advocates say only the woman should decide to keep or kill her baby.
If humans are the authority, they can decide their own rights, making any pregnancy choice they desire.
If rights are my “choice,” then my choices can be imposed on an unborn child without restraint.
The word “choice” comes from the middle ages: To taste or try, a willful selection based on preference or individual option.
Here is my definition: choice is bowing to the altar of self.
As my nephew Ethan has pointed out, abortion is the obvious outcome of a culture obsessed with self. If I make my own rights, then I can make my own choices. But if my choices are limited by God-given rights, then my choices are limited and my rights are held in tension with my responsibilities.
Over 55 million American children have been killed through abortion since the Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision of 1973. The unborn have become the new “enemies of the state.” We are a nation, much like the French, wanting our authority, our rights, and our choices.
Who or what do you worship?
What options exist for the origin of rights?
What is the authority for being pro-choice or pro-life?
Picture credits: Washington Post, March for Life, Ethan Renoe, Wikipedia