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Tragedy demands a response, especially when it occurs at home. This is the case in the aftermath of gun violence in Tucson last Saturday that took the lives of six and harmed others including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

The persons we look to for response are our leaders, particularly the President of the United States. Tonight, President Barack Obama spoke to 14,000 at a “Together We Thrive: Tucson and America” memorial service in Tucson at the University of Arizona’s Mckale Center. The speech was an opportunity to grieve and console, remember, honor, and express emotions-in-community.

On these occasions, the President acts as national Pastor-in-Chief. In tonight’s address, President Obama’s pulpit skills helped him lead the nation toward healing. He said Scripture tells us there is evil in the world and he quoted the book of Job. He urged Americans to guard against simple explanations for the violence and reminded us that we “cannot turn on each other.” In his speech-turned-sermon, the President said we should show kindness, generosity, and compassion. We should do right by our children. In pastoral cadence he said that what matters is not wealth or status or fame or power but how well we have loved and make the lives of others better.

President Obama called upon the nation to make sure our reflections about the reasons for the tragedy and our debate is worthy of those we lost. He called for civility and honesty in public discourse as we seek to form a more perfect union.

President Obama’s sermon was good but did not plow new ground. Other presidents before him have offered the nation similar leadership in the wake of tragedy.

Following the 1986 Challenger space shuttle disaster, President Ronald Reagan sat in the Oval Office and gave a brief, powerful eulogy that is remembered today for its simplicity and eloquence. He summarized by saying the last time we had seen the astronauts they waved goodbye and then "They slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God."

April 19, 1995, a bomber exploded the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Four days later President Bill Clinton spoke to the city’s citizens and to the nation, saying, “You have lost too much, but you have not lost everything. And you have certainly not lost America, for we will stand with you for as many tomorrows as it takes.”

Three days after 9/11, September 14, 2001, President George W. Bush grabbed a megaphone and gave an impromptu response to workers at Ground Zero that became one of his most memorable and uplifting statements: “I can hear you. I can hear you. The rest of the world can hear you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.”

February 1, 2003, President Bush addressed another space shuttle disaster, this time the Columbia. In a White House speech he said, “The same Creator who names the stars also knows the names of the seven souls we mourn today. The crew of the shuttle Columbia did not return safely to Earth; yet we can pray that all are safely home. May God bless the grieving families, and may God continue to bless America.”

President Obama struck a balanced respectful tone, honored those lost and comforted their families, reminded us we should strive to be better for our children’s sake, and called for unity and strength in the face of loss. All good.

The President is not a pastor. But in times of tragedy he has to play one on TV. Tonight, President Obama used the bully pulpit in a meaningful if not memorable manner.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at


God is sovereign. This means he is in full authority over the universe he created. Nothing happens in God’s Universe that is outside the will of God or in some way surprises Him. Nothing.

That means that not only acts of good but also acts of evil are within God’s universal and permissive will. God does not cause evil. He is not the source of evil. Satan is the source, along with the evil heart of humankind. But even evil men or women committing evil acts do not catch God off-guard and do not unsettle Him in any way. God is always in control.

Recent events in Tucson might make us think otherwise. People killed, including a nine year-old girl. People gravely wounded, including a United States Congresswoman.

Christians killed in a church bombing in Alexandria, Egypt, the last day of 2010. People seriously wounded.

Is evil somehow triumphing over good? No, not in the worst imaginable circumstances. Not even in the face of tragic, senseless loss of lives.

Death, destruction, human savagery, terrorism, mass murder, abortion, and any other debauchery humankind is capable of devising still takes place under the restraining arm of God. I don’t understand this, but I believe it, for God says this is so.

Consider this passage from the Psalms: “God reigns over the nations: God is seated on his holy throne. The nobles of the nations assemble, as the people of the God of Abraham. For the kings of the earth belong to God. He is greatly exalted” (47:8-9).

Psalm 52 is too long to quote. Just think about these phrases: “Why do you boast of evil, you mighty man…Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin” (52:1,5).

No mass killer, no deranged gunman, no suicide inclined hijacker, no evildoer, no strongman, no terrorist, not even Satan himself can operate beyond the limits of God’s sovereignty. These thoughts should provide immense comfort, for they imply that life is fully understood by God.

While we are finite and cannot anticipate, much less eliminate, all risk, God is omnipotent and has us in the palm of his hands. While we may hear of random violence, nothing is ever random in the omniscient eyes of God. While we may at times be understandably fearful in an unsettling world, we need not live in fear. God is still in control.

God knows when we rise up and when we lay down. We belong to the Lord, and so does history itself.


A version of this blog was originally aired on “Making a Difference,” September 17, 2001.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at


Last weekend, Tucson was the scene of tragedy, 6 people killed in senseless violence, including a nine year old child born on 9/11, along with 14 people seriously wounded, including Rep. Grabrielle Giffords.

I sincerely hope Congresswoman Giffords and the others make it. Truly it is a sad and sorry situation.

Watching cable news report and try to interpret tragedy is interesting and instructive. News anchors interview psychologists and professors but rarely pastors, the one exception being Billy Graham when he was younger and healthier than he is today at 92. To do so would, in journalists' minds, violate modern conceptions of the proper place of religion in public life, which is to say keep it private and personal and not really public in any meaningful way.

Journalists, therefore, search for secularized vocabulary to describe essentially religious or moral circumstances. They talk about "his demons," as in “he’s wrestled with his demons since childhood.” This is the go-to phrase media have developed in the past twenty years to describe sin or wrong moral choices, without actually admitting that there are moral choices.

Instead of personal or spiritual or moral explanations, journalists typically look for social explanations for tragedy. For example, it's the political rhetoric of the Right (which should be tuned up and toned down) or it’s the economy or unemployment.

Certainly inflamed or mean-spirited or hateful rhetoric can influence people. So do economic downturns. But to say this is to admit that any and all environmental circumstances of life influence people. Yet not everyone responds to social difficulty by becoming a killer. And to say social conditions influence people is not the same as saying such conditions are deterministic, meaning people are programmed to respond in a certain way and cannot do otherwise. No, people make choices.

Beyond this, journalists talk about mental instability, which certainly exists and may ultimately be the primary explanation behind Tucson shooter Jared Lee Loughner. Examining mental issues is a legitimate discussion. But not every person who suffers from mental illness becomes a killer. In fact, the overwhelming majority of mentally ill people do not resort to violence.

Perhaps the real reasons for tragedy lie deeper within hearts not taught moral accountability, nor instilled with hope. The culture in which we live celebrates detachment from moral restraint. Many kids grow up thinking they aren’t really responsible for their attitudes and behaviors. Remember? It’s the economy or parents or the environment or poverty or something, anything, other than them or us or me.

Kids grow up in a culture of abundance, whether or not they experience it, together with a sense of entitlement that makes them forever unfulfilled and unsatisfied. Even those who have are taught to want more in a consumer-driven culture.

Maybe more worrisome is our culture’s dying sense of hope, a declining belief that things can or will be better tomorrow. The Greatest Generation believed this. Nearly all American generations before it believed this. But today hope is in short supply.

Hope is a religious or spiritual concept. If human beings have no hope something withers within them. Loss of hope brings in its wake angst, anomie, and alienation.

Social explanations may be helpful in understanding something about tragedy, but social factors are never enough. Sin and evil are rooted in the hearts of humankind. Journalists, if they really want to get to the bottom of tragedy, should open media to spiritual insight. American culture, if it wants to reduce the number of tragedies like Tucson, needs to rediscover a Sovereign God who lives, loves, holds accountable, forgives, and offers a better tomorrow.

To argue tragedy is rooted in sin, evil, and personal moral choice is not to pronounce doom and gloom as much as to pronounce hope. Because for moral failure, there’s a remedy in Christ who personifies hope.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at


What would the world be like without animals? I don’t know, but I wouldn’t want to live there. I’d rather live in an animal-populated world as we know it or in a world like Jurassic Park. I am, have been, and ever will be an animal lover.

So in a new article called “Praise God For Animals” I tell a couple of animals stories and finally put in print a record of my own growing-up dog, Peppie. She was a good dog, one I can still miss.

In that article I discuss what I believe God thinks about animals. He is, after all, the one who gave us animals in the first place. Yes, he made us humans smarter, but with our smarts he also gave us responsibility. We are his care-takers. We are stewards of the world and everything in it, including animals. So there is no place for cruelty, misuse or abuse, needless slaughter or any other decimation of a specie.

Loving animal life meant, for me, loving reading about animals. Each month in junior high and high school I read religiously Field and Stream, Outdoor Life, and Sports Afield. In time, I read some of the classic stories involving animals: Jack London's White Fang and The Call of the Wild, then Moby Dick, Animal Farm. I read and than watched Black Beauty, My Friend Flicka, and Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan books and later films. I watched Gentle Ben, Old Yeller, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, Lassie, and every other film or television program involving animals. Later still, I read some of Theodore Roosevelt's reports and books about his big game hunting and other expeditions. Loved them all.

Animals provide us with companionship, food and clothing and a host of other products necessary to life. They provide us with a labor force, intriguing true stories, and entertainment. We need to care for them, domesticated and wild. We could not do without them. Who would want to?


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at


Newly elected Republican leaders kicked off the 112th Congress by reading the United States Constitution. Oddly, it was the first time in history the nation’s founding document had been publicly and entirely read aloud in Chambers.

On day two of this congressional session it took about 90 minutes for 135 Member volunteers to finish reading an edited version of the Constitution. Only about two-thirds of Members bothered to show up, many eventually appeared bored and worked with smart phones during the reading, and most had long since left when the final words were read. This suggests Members, too, need to ratchet up their regard for the historical and ongoing importance of the Constitution.

In consultation with the Congressional Research Service leaders opted for an edited version which omitted sections of the original Constitution referencing slavery and Prohibition. Why this caused concern is anyone’s guess, but Rep. Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. (D, IL) and others later registered protests saying Republican leaders were trying to whitewash history by skipping over slavery and the painful politics and war that led its demise.

Of course, had Republican leaders chosen to read sections of the Constitution dealing with slaves as “three-fifths of all other Persons” protests from liberals and/or Democrats would have been even louder. In this politically correct age, conservatives would have been accused of insensitivity, intolerance, or worse, racism.

So, was reading the Constitution aloud in Congress a gimmick? Probably. But was it a bad gimmick? No. I’d suggest, no matter what the motives, reading aloud the nation’s founding document, which has served this country so well through thick and thin, is an excellent idea.

I recommend Congress begin all its future sessions reading the Constitution. Prepare for the event via a bipartisan committee. Treat the event with respect and conduct it with dignity. Forbid Members from reading papers or accessing cell phones in Chambers, and honor the nation’s core values.

A few Christian colleges and universities begin academic years with special services or ceremonies, sometimes during convocations, with formal readings of the institution’s doctrinal statement. They often include faculty signing ceremonies within the program to reinforce the institution’s commitment to its philosophy of education. I think this is a valuable reminder that helps students understand the school wasn’t born yesterday, owes much to those who have gone before, and is grounded and integrated in its approach to education. I think reading the Constitution is a similarly valuable exercise.

According to the National Constitution Center only 20% of Americans know each state may elect two Senators. Only 2% know James Madison is called the Father of the United States Constitution. Scarier still, some 75% cannot cite what rights are guaranteed by the First Amendment. The average educated person, let alone others, is not able to quote the Preamble or otherwise provide accurate comments on the document’s content.

Reading the Constitution in Congress, than, would seem to be more practical than political. It would be a worthy tradition, a symbolic reminder of what defines our nation. At its best, it could become a non-partisan salute to freedom and government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

So why not read the United States Constitution to signal the beginning of every new session of the United States Congress? Sounds like common sense to me.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at


January 6 is the traditional date of celebration in the west of the Epiphany. Sometimes it’s called Three King’s Day. Epiphany has generally been regarded as the end of Advent or what some celebrate as the Twelve Days of Christmas, December 25 to January 6.

Epiphany means “manifestation.” It recognizes the coming of God in human form, the babe in the manger, as celebrated by the Three Kings from the East who worshiped the babe they knew was the Christ. They presented him with gifts of gold and frankincence and myrrh as a way of celebrating Jesus’ position as Savior, Lord, and King.

I grew up in a church tradition that did not celebrate Advent or Epiphany, much less the Twelve Days of Christmas. Not that this was a bad thing. I enjoyed a series of wonderful Christmas seasons as a child, teenager, and young adult. It’s just that my church experience didn’t focus on these forms of remembering the First Coming of Jesus.

In recent years, I’ve enjoyed learning more about these traditions as a way of learning more about the Christian faith. What I like best is that Advent gets us thinking earlier, before Christmas, about the reason for the season, while the Twelve Days of Christmas leading to Epiphany allows us to stretch the season longer.

Epiphany is particularly enjoyable for me because I’ve always loved the Christmas carol, “We Three Kings of Orient Are.” I used to sing it to the kids when they went to bed in the days leading up to Christmas. In fact, we used to sing it pretty much year round lying on the floor or the bed in the dark—elongating the “Oh-h-h-Oh” at the top of our lungs—You had to be there.

The conservative Church and increasingly ahistorical Christians need to rediscover and resurrect more worthy old traditions. They can enrich our knowledge, our experience, and our worship. Learning about Advent, the Twelve Days of Christmas, and the Epiphany have enriched mine.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at