Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

Context.

Posted: Thursday, October 11, 2012 in culture, politics, thoughts

I know that I can post quite a bit about politics.  It is just so irritating to have conservative commentators who are either “christian” or say they want freedom of religion (and, thus, play the religious card for their own gain) and yet act in such a contrary way to moral ethics (simply to prove their point).  I harp on the conservatives because it is this group that will always take the higher moral ground in any conversation about doing what is right and good.

Just today I heard Jim Quinn from Quinn and Rose play a clip from President Obama’s speech at the U.N.  In this clip the only thing that got played was the part where our President said, “the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”  Quinn (and I am sure others) went off saying things like, “Can you believe that OUR president would say that?”  The implication is, and has been since Obama came in office, is that he is a secret Muslim intent on reforming and reshaping America into either a communist or muslim nation (the jury is still out on which narrative gets more air play).  Quinn played this clip twice and the second time stopped it too early and said, “Sorry I stopped the clip to early, let me play it again.”  Why the concern for stopping the clip too early?

Well, here is the context of what President Obama said:

The future must not belong to those who target Coptic Christians in Egypt – it must be claimed by those in Tahrir Square who chanted “Muslims, Christians, we are one.” The future must not belong to those who bully women – it must be shaped by girls who go to school, and those who stand for a world where our daughters can live their dreams just like our sons. The future must not belong to those corrupt few who steal a country’s resources – it must be won by the students and entrepreneurs; workers and business owners who seek a broader prosperity for all people. Those are the men and women that America stands with; theirs is the vision we will support.

The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. Yet to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see when the image of Jesus Christ is desecrated, churches are destroyed, or the Holocaust is denied. Let us condemn incitement against Sufi Muslims, and Shiite pilgrims. It is time to heed the words of Gandhi: “Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.” Together, we must work towards a world where we are strengthened by our differences, and not defined by them. That is what America embodies, and that is the vision we will support.

Now the reason is more clear.  He said that after condemning those who target Coptic Christians.  Those who bully women.  Those who steal resources only to make themselves richer.  Then he said what he did about those who slander the prophet of Islam.  But then, right on the heels of that came the remark that those Muslims who are furious with those slanders cannot then turn around and desecrate images of Jesus, or destroy churches, or deny the holocaust.

We must always take into account the full account and not bits and pieces (sound bites) that people want us to bite on for their own agenda’s.  One may still not like Obama as our President, one may not like what he said about not slandering the prophet of Islam.  But certainly there was plenty in that speech to commend and approve.

I’m Not P.C., except that I am P.C.

Posted: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 in life, politics, thoughts

This post could have been written about someone on the left saying or doing something foolish (plenty of examples), yet, i narrow my remarks to one Bill O’Reilly.

O’Reilly, one of the stalwarts on the FOX News Channel (are they really that “fair and balanced” when they keep saying it over and over – are they trying to convince us that they really are?) and a nationally syndicated columnist.  In his recent article, entitled Hating the Rich he said that, “Capitalism is no beach day. The strong and sometimes ruthless prosper. The ill-educated and unfocused often fail.”

This is little more than evolutionary thinking applied to economics.  The strong survive, the weak fail.  And, according to evolution, rightfully and properly so.  But wait!  He never said “weak”.  He did say “strong”, but not “weak”.  Hmm.

He wrote that the “strong (and sometimes ruthless) prosper” but the “ill-educated and unfocused” often fail.  Why not just write “weak” instead of what he did write?  Maybe it just wasn’t prudent to be anti-politically correct.  I mean, who really wants to call other people “weak”.  But if that is what you meant and were using a phrase pulled from evolutionary thinking that applies that language…why not just say it?

I guess it is okay to be vehemently anti-p.c., unless it is more convenient to be p.c. and then you can be p.c. as long as you back up your p.c. by a strong stance against p.c. because being anti-p.c. shows that you are not afraid to speak your mind, unless speaking your mind would really show that it is not anti-p.c. that you embrace but rather b.s. and therefore, it is more wise to be p.c. rather than anti-p.c.

*the last paragraph only meant to show, hopefully (and I probably failed) with a touch of humor, that everyone will be p.c. to some extent (and that is okay!).

My thoughts turn to how God used not only educated people, but “ill-educated” as well to accomplish things in his good creation.  How God used the rich and the poor to accomplish things too.  And in a weird and hard way to grasp God seemed to identify with and have a huge heart and huge compassion for the poor and needy of this world (and not just the “spiritually” poor and needy).

Instead of saying some won’t make it because they are “ill-educated” or “unfocused”, i.e., ‘weak’, why not ask why is someone “ill-educated” or “unfocused”?  What are the factors, the environment, the history, the patterns, and/or the examples that people have going for or against them?  Are some just lazy?  Yup.  But to characterize those who won’t make it big, or even find themselves at least in the middle, in our system as ill-educated or unfocused is to blindly ignore many other factors that go into one’s life and the path(s) they take.

The Hushed Tones of Grace and Humility

Posted: Thursday, October 27, 2011 in faith, life, politics, thoughts

Grace and humility is so lacking in discourse anymore.  And, yet again, the culprits are, everyone to be sure, but exceedingly those who claim that civil discourse has been displaced by angry, hateful people who want to turn this country into a socialist experiment.

Just the other day I heard Michelle Obama referred to as “Moochelle” because of her apparent love of telling others how to eat but her own fondness for greasy, fatty foods.  If one wants to point out hypocrisy with our leaders (and their spouses)….fine, but why must you lower yourself to this childish level?

I heard, from other source, President Obama described as having “just big ears”.  What possible explanation could provide justification for this 4th grade insult?

These are the same comments that fall into the line of thinking that claim those who side with Obama, or question our presence in Iraq, or whatever are America hating, communist loving socialists (or something like that….there are so many words flung around it seems to be a competition of who can string together the longest phrase of inflammatory insults).

All this proves is that no love for discourse or differing opinions is wanted (but isn’t allowing diversity  truly an American thing?).  It proves that either conversation is not welcomed or conversation cannot truly happen because those phrases are said simply to shut down conversation (perhaps because the person using them has no real arguments to maintain a conversation with).  It proves that if you still live in a mentality where if you can simply cut down your opponent with elementary/junior high humor….you win.

For me….if that is the type of conversation people want to purse (name calling, etc)….then, okay, you win.

I would rather speak in hushed tones of grace and humility.  Not that I do this at all times, for i don’t.  I don’t do it as much as I should, or as much as I would like.  Grace and humility isn’t not having an opinion (even a strong one).  It’s not about weakly backing down from a “tense conversation”.  But it is about listening.  It’s about loving.  It’s about cutting through all of our desires to be right and proving that…or at least, proving the other person wrong.  It is speaking what we believe but speaking that with a sense that there is so much more to learn and know.  It is speaking with a sense that maybe, just maybe, our opinions could be tweaked by the other, now or later.  It is speaking to truly know the thoughts of those we are speaking with.

Conversations in hushed tones of grace and humility will never be loud or self-seeking but be quiet redemptive moments that speak for truth in ways in which “the other” will know that even if there is disagreement there is love and respect.  Truth isn’t diminished with grace and humility….truth is put on display through that grace and humility. It is funny how truth tends to be heard more in “hushed tones of grace and humility” rather that shouted and yelled out.

Everyone’s A…..

Posted: Wednesday, July 20, 2011 in politics, thoughts

Hypocrite.  We try not to be, but yet at the end of a long day….we typically fall prey to doing one thing and saying another.  I could recount my many own shortcomings in this regard (many, many, many, many, etc.), but the point was struck by another source.  Albeit that this source is hypocritical is not the main issue but rather highlights the idea that everyone is…..especially those who like to point fingers at others for being hypocrites.

The source?  Rush Limbaugh.  I know….surprising.

I try and be an open person and listen and read both sides of issues and to that extent I listen to conservative talk radio on my drive into and from work.  Typically listen to Quinn and Rose in the mornings and Dennis Miller coming home.  Today, i had to leave early and so was able to catch about 10 minutes or so of Rush.  Most of these shows are 5 minutes of them talking, then 2 or 3 minutes of mentioning sponsors, 3-4 minutes of more talking or phone calls (in which there is no dialogue but rather the caller saying about 30 secs worth of something and the hosts saying something for the next 2 to 3 minutes) after which they cut to commercials breaks that serve to help finance their shows.

One of the sponsors that Rush had was a tax specialist company.  Something similiar to TaxMasters but just a different company.   Doesn’t it seem odd that a group of people who spend large amounts of their on-air time (and even print time) railing against those who receive handouts as, basically, lazy and unwilling to work and describe them as free-loaders that, especially them but also the rest of society, has to support, and who get fired up about those who pay in no taxes but, rather, get tax money back at the end of the year because their salaries are to low to pay anything in (and by extension, again, people who have those types of jobs are lazy and unwilling to work and give their “fair-share”) are now pitching commercials for a group of people who will work hard to eliminate potentially up to 85% of back taxes owed?

Strange world we live in.  Strange, hypocritical world we live in.  These same people who don’t like “entitlements” are the same ones who “invest” their money in tax shelters and find other legal (ie – “creative”) ways to get out of paying taxes on money earned.  These same people who don’t like those who don’t pay in taxes are the same ones who will, willingly, to receive money in the form of sponsorship, give out the name of those who will help those who owe back taxes due to whatever (good or bad reasons) and help get rid of up to, potentially, 85% of what was originally owed.

Of course if others were to say, “hey, i need my refund check from the government b/c I have a job that doesn’t pay well enough for me to pay into taxes and this money helps my family and I survive for the rest of the year” we would hear about how real, hard-working, tax-paying Americans should be upset about carrying these lazy, free-loaders on their backs.

So what is the deal?  Are we only in to helping a certain segment of the population?  A particular group is only worthy of tax-breaks (even if that segment OWES money)?  Maybe the segment isn’t boiled down to race.  Maybe the only group worthy of special consideration by the likes of Quinn and Rose, Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, etc. are those enlightened souls who care enough to listen daily, hourly and by the minute to their broadcasts (or FOX News in general).

How many times have I heard this over and over.  It is the OTHER side that is hypocritical.  Blah, blah, blah.  Are liberals hypocritical?  Sure.  Are conservatives?  Yep.  Tea party?  You bet.  But of course we know it is way easier to point fingers then to admit that three are pointing back at us.

Osama, Faith and Good vs. Evil

Posted: Saturday, May 7, 2011 in faith, jesus, life, politics, theology, thoughts

Wow.  To see the reactions of people (either ‘for’ or ‘against’) this whole “death of bin Laden” has been amazing and, yet, troubling to see at the same time.   This, i guess, is part two of my thoughts on this whole event.

First, I am thankful that bin Laden is no longer able to carry out any further evil plans or plots against the United States or any of her allies.  However, saying that, I do not “rejoice” in his death.

I have heard many say that this is a triumph of good over evil.  This seems to place the US in the role of “good” and others in the role of “evil”.  This is a reference that I cannot buy into.  Many may say that I don’t “love the US, appreciate my freedoms, etc.”.  Well….i love God and love His kingdom first, foremost and finally.  I do appreciate the freedoms that living in this country have afforded me.  But this isn’t the issue.  The issue revolves seeing ourselves with the white hat.  The good guys.  The guys whose side and cause God is on.  I believe that God has allowed an imperfect, sinful nation to get rid of a sinful, imperfect, evil-intented, man.  I am thankful, again, that he has no more opportunities to carry out his evil acts but i do not and cannot rejoice in his death.

Going back to my original post, i mentioned a very good friend who commented that God did allow killings to show that killing is wrong.  Just to retouch that exchange.  We do see, in the Old Testament, some killings that we have to wrestle with and through.  However, unless we see God speaking to a secular nation like he did with the Old Testament nation of Israel then some things have truly changed. Also with the coming of Jesus and the writers of the New Testament we see none of this (using violence against or killing others) supported or suggested.  The only time it is hinted at is where Paul tells us the government has the right to “bear the sword”.  Whatever that phrase meant…it did include the idea of death….however, Paul is not giving a ringing endorsement of this use by the government.  He is simply saying they have a right to do it.  So i am not yet convinced that “we kill to show others who kill that their killing is wrong” is a viable option for a Christ-follower.  I know some will disagree (and there is legitimate room for disagreement and discussion) so I am not pressing this too hard or far.

However, what I am convinced of is the idea that this killing will only incite more violence.  I said this in my last post.  And just in the last couple of days al-Qeada has vowed revenge on America and her allies.  So while many rejoice and think that we have “won” or gained a “victory” we have just incited more opposition to us.  This is the way of violence.  It doesn’t work.  This is why Jesus gave us an alternative way to live as his followers in the world.  Ones that don’t rejoice in violence or the use of it because we know that it doesn’t work and always leads to more and more problems.

Like many I was appalled when I saw people in the Middle East dancing in the streets at the fall of the twin towers.  I thought “how could they truly be celebrating people losing their lives because of an evil plot?”  Yet many were dancing in the street at the news of bin Laden’s death.  Is there a difference?  Some might say that “innocent” people died on 9/11.  I truly and honestly understand the point.  And to a large degree agree with it.  However, outside of a relationship with God found in and through the person of Jesus we all stand guilty and condemned before God.  So, theologically, we have a hard time justifying that people are born into innocence and go about our lives living in innocence.  I mean, even as a Christ-follower, i am not free of doing wrong, sinful, hurtful things towards others.  But here is my larger point….others dancing in the street at the death of 3,000+ people does not make our own dancing in the street over the death 1 any more righteous or right.  What they did was wrong, what we did (in terms of rejoicing and celebrating death) was wrong.  3,000+ lives, all created in the image of God and loved by Him, snuffed out in a matter of minutes.  1 life (yes, full of evil and hate) created in the image of God and loved by Him snuffed out in the matter of seconds.

Did the US do what it had a right to do?  Yes.  Could it have done it by capturing him, instead of killing him?  Perhaps.  Would that have been a more “christ-like” thing to do (capture vs. kill)?  Yes.  Am i thankful and glad that bin Laden can no longer create, implement and execute some of his evil plans?  Yes.  Am i celebrating and rejoicing over and in his death?  No.  Violence and death have again had its way (just like it had it on 9/11).  I look forward to the day when there will be no more violence or killing or death and i work for that day even now….but i understand the person who ultimately will usher that day into it’s fullness will do so in a completely right, just and perfect way.

The Day America Died?

Posted: Monday, May 2, 2011 in faith, politics, thoughts

When we rejoice, as a nation, over the death of a person created in the image of God, we have shown our cards that either we have drifted so far away from our values as a nation (and it is a curious cry that comes from those of us who are conservative that the ‘other’ side is moving us away from our biblical roots and values but we seem to be the ones cheering the loudest over this death) or, perhaps, a more faithful interpretation, is we are showing that we never really had those values embedded deep into us from the beginning.

Do I believe that the state has a right to punish evil?  Yes of course.  Do I believe Osama did evil things?  Yes.  Did the United States (or any other nation) have the right to try and bring him to “justice”?  Yes.

But whose justice?  And how are we defining justice?

The Old Testament does see God asking the nation of Israel to kill others.  But is the United States receiving direct communication from God like the nation of Israel?  And beyond that point the Old Testament killings present some weighty theological discussions for people who are honest with themselves and scripture.

I posted on a good friends site that by killing Osama we are “killing another to show that killing others is wrong”.  He responded, “in scripture we do see killing to show that killing is wrong.”  Fair enough.   In the New Testament we see that the government has the right to “bear the sword”.  But an obvious question arises: what does that phrase mean?  He says the government has the right to punish people who commit evil and in his day that did mean death…but what is less clear is Paul’s endorsement of state-sponsored killing.     Governments can do a lot of things…it doesn’t mean they should.     People owned slaves in the New Testament …and the Bible doesn’t directly have a verse that speaks against that….does that give us precedent to own other people?  For some it did and they wound up on the wrong side of the moral issue.

My point is that where does my first allegiance lie with and to?  The kingdom of God or empire?  I believe that government has a role to play but I am not sure to what extent.  Do i rejoice because the government has fulfilled it’s purpose which is to deter evil?  I can rejoice when government actually does that but i think that we may have incited a bunch more evil toward us.  In other words, like most killings, this killing will not stop killing but only provoke it.

I wrote to my friend that i felt a tension that “this was not how things were supposed to be”.  And the charge was made that we don’t live in “Eden” but this present reality.  I get that and appreciate that reminder.  But here is my trouble.  I believe that with the coming of Christ he brought with him, in part, the Kingdom of God.  And with his death and resurrection he, in the words of N.T. Wright, “dragged the future into the present”.  That the Kingdom of God is here, right now…not in it’s fullness but it is here.  So, as a Kingdom-citizen I am to live my life under Kingdom values and norms and principals.  So when somebody strikes me….i turn the other cheek.  That isn’t weakness, but a living out of the reality that the kingdom is here and not only do i get to live in it and by it’s rules I get to invite others into that reality and, also, pray for it’s fullness to arrive quickly, and, moreover, help to bring it about by living it out in the here and now.  In other words: yes, i live in “this” world (and ‘this’ world is important because this is the place where heaven will come down and God will set up the eternal kingdom) but the ‘values, morals, and directives’ of “this” world do not guide me…..i live, in the kingdom that Jesus brought with him….the kingdom that looks upside-down but is more right (and beautiful and true) than any other way of living.

I wish that our government was better adept at delivering justice rather than retribution or payback.  My fear is that many people under the guise of “justice” are actually celebrating “payback” or a “thirst for blood.”  That is not biblical justice.  I believe in justice but I believe that God is the only one who can dispense it fairly and justly.  He may use governments to dispense it to some degree or another on earth but we are fallen people who can neither give it out purely or perfectly.

We are we so worried about terrorists?  Because they are a real threat to people everywhere.  And they terrorism does have to be dealt with in some way or another.  However, America needs to worry less about terrorism destroying our way of life, etc. because the moment we started to celebrate and rejoice and be thankful for and call it “one of the greatest days in our history” at the news of Osama’s death, a person created in the image of God, loved by God, and longed by God to come to a knowledge of Himself, that is the day that America started to die and become further removed from the values we say we hold so dear… the values rooted in a love of God and others (specifically) and a love for what the Bible says (in general).

Again, to see an aspect of evil defeated and the ability of that person to commit no more evil acts is not wrong….however, to rejoice and be thankful over the death of a image of God bearing person and to revel in that seems odd.  Osama is dead.  Is America dying as well?

Why So Hard?

Posted: Thursday, January 13, 2011 in politics, theology, thoughts

1 Timothy 2

Instructions about Worship

1 I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. 2 Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. 3 This is good and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.

What is it about these verses that Christ-followers don’t seem to understand (myself included)?

Pray for all.  Okay.  Ask God to help them.  Okay.  Ask God to help them on their behalf.  Got it.  Give thanks for them.  Hmm.  Wait a minute.  Are we really supposed to give thanks for, at the time, President Bush?  It would seem so.  What about Obama?  Yes.  Dang.  Maybe I am just misunderstanding the verse.

By the way, the above link is written by a fellow family member….about me.  To begin with…he doesn’t say how i am liberal other than the reference to me enjoying the writing of Jim Wallis (which I do, but I don’t agree with him on everything).

Here, after almost a year, is my response:  Where is “my logic” that says i wouldn’t prevent this extreme example that Mr. DeMar uses?  I never said or implied that by referencing the above verse to “pray for and be thankful for our leaders.”  And, yes, i understand the verse refers to “all” men (and women).

Mr. DeMar is right…there are NO QUALIFICATIONS.  That’s the point…but then Paul specifically turns our attention to the very people we will want to disagree with and hold without much regard or love.  We tend to qualify everything.  We want to exclude people based on this or that.  But God says, good or bad, right or wrong…we are to pray for and give thanks for our leaders.  It doesn’t mean we can’t voice our disagreement or criticize decisions made by those whom God has allowed to be raised up into positions of authority…..or even seek to work that they don’t get re-elected.  But in the biblical context Paul was writing a group of people who had no say over those issues and who had it much worse than modern day american christians…and he STILL says….”PRAY FOR ALL AND BE THANKFUL FOR THEM.”  So, Mr. DeMar….there are no qualifications…you are right…..because that is exactly the point in this passage.  We do this because it is rooted in creation theology.  All people have been created in the image of God and no one is beyond grace, love, respect, prayers, forgiveness…simply because they are in the image of God…made and formed by Him.

Um…also, where does the Bible only give limited authority to civil officials.  I understand your inclusion of the Constitution but it seemed that Jesus, Paul, other writers understood completely that secular authority had the authority to do pretty much what ever they wanted and unless it completely went against our calling as Christians in the world we were to obey (i don’t mean, again, that we can’t speak out against things we don’t like – of course, in the 1st century, they ran the risk of being killed).

When do our prayers, as Mr. DeMar says, have to mean that we pray that someone is successful in an issue that we don’t like?  Our prayers mean we pray for that individual and pray that God would lead and direct them in wisdom and grace.

No Mr. DeMar we don’t pray that someone comes “to their senses” so we can live a peaceable and quiet life…our prayers certainly may include that but, rather, it means we pray for them, ask God to help them make good and wise decisions, and we give thanks for them (for God has raised them up and allowed them to come into power)…in so doing we are learning to be submissive to the authority God has placed over us and by doing that we can lead peaceable lives.  Again, this doesn’t mean we obey everything because some things may go against what God has clearly commanded us to do and we are to resist.  But those times are so few and far between…it is the exception rather than the rule.

Why did Mr. DeMar take what someone wrote about me and simply fill in a whole bunch of blanks that weren’t even there?  Maybe because he wanted to fill it up with his own agenda.  My point, to my brother-in-law (whom I love, respect and consider a brother in Christ) was as simple (yet as hard to live out) as the verse I quoted:

1 I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. 2 Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. 3 This is good and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.

Pray for all.  Ask God to help them and work on their behalf.  Give thanks for them.  Pray for everyone (even those in authority).  The readers of this letter would have understood the implications of what Paul (God through the Spirit via Paul) was asking of them.

The 1st century readers understood this verse and its implications.

Why don’t we?

There are no qualifications because there are no loopholes.

We pray for and give thanks.

For our leaders.

For all men.

For everyone.