Archive for the 'Politics' Category

For those of you who ever wondered what Joe Cocker was really singing about at Woodstock, I present this captioned version of With a Little Help from My Friends. Enjoy!


Birthday Greetings from Joe Cocker

Regina | MySpace Video

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I have a facebook friend who posted this as his status update. A friend of his wrote it in response to yesterday’s vote in Maine that repealed a law passed by the Maine legislature on marriage between homosexuals. I wonder what you think:

I want to give the church a big congratulations for their victory tonight in Maine.

Once again, you kept your eyes on the prize and won. I mean, why wouldn’t you win? You have G-d on your side! Your biggest talent lies in fundraising and your marketing departments never fail. Even though you could use a better PR department, you do a good enough job to get done what you want done. After all, fear is the best way to motivate people.

Tonight you’ve won Maine but you’ve lost the point.

Another 50,000 hungry people died today. Darfur continues. Shonda says she doesn’t need the man who just beat her and left her pregnant with another child. Church… you’ve won Maine but you’ve lost the point.

You’re no longer a place for comfort, healing, advice, direction, or peace. Rather, you’re just another political machine covered in your own filfthy agenda to make everyone look, act, love, and sound just like you through the use of fear.

Your hate is speaking louder than your love. Tonight, you’ve won Maine but you’ve lost the point.

I’m only asking you to comment on this article, not on the particular actions of the voters. Do you think this article is fair?* Do you think this is a fair comparison/contrast?

Thanks for participating.

*It should be noted that ‘gay-marriage’ has failed in 31 states now when put to the vote.

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It’s easy to see the ills of the sin of partiality when we think of differentiating between fellow believers based on race or wealth or appearance in the context of our own communities, those we actually see or with whom we interact.

But how should the command to show no partiality as we hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. James 2) affect our view of those we never see… of believers who are commies or wear towels on their heads?

The title of this post is a chant I heard in a movie. In the context, men were training for the military. The implied question was “How long will we need to fight?” And the answer – “…until all the commies and towel-heads are all dead!”

The obvious offensiveness of the reference aside, it’s easy to understand how this attitude is spun in the context of a Cold-War or War on Terror. And certainly nations such as ours have the need to defend themselves.

Yet, as we study the application of our faith and the command to treat all believers with equal respect and dignity – it makes me wonder how the church, how American Christians, should think and react when our nation undertakes policies that a) benefit us as believers in THIS country while b) adversely effecting believers in THAT country. And do I even think of the ramifications to them? Where is the balancing point between being citizen of a country and a member of a body?

This need for balance is aptly illustrated by the monumental work One Nation Under God, by Jon McNaughton. The work is truly monumental, and the thought McNaughton put into his work impressive… if not thoroughly unbiblical and misguided. I would offer a rebuttal, but Greg Boyd offers what I think is a fine rebuttal in his post “Painted Idolatry.” Boyd has other views that render him controversial, that said, his rebuttal to the idolatry and quite possibly the blasphemy of McNaughton stands on it’s own merit.

While supporting my country and its right to exist without threat… while celebrating the good that my country has done and even God’s involvement in that – I am challenged to remind myself that I am not so much an American Christian as I am a member of the Body of Christ who happens to live in America. The difference may be nuanced in semantics, but the ramifications should be far reaching.

UPDATE: If you follow the link that says you can ask the artist a question he has a rebuttal to Boyd. And while McNaughton makes some good points about people defending their freedoms – he fails to address Boyd’s (and my) objection to his tying the Savior to nationalistic endeavors.

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I just finished reading Jesus For President.

It’s not for me. As I have said, Claiborne has many important things to say, but I seriously doubt his theology of ‘let’s do all we can to get arrested all the time by making a public nuisance of ourselves by trespassing, interrupting the lives of others, and embarrassing themselves.’ I think that sort of contradicts Paul’s statement that we should ‘pray for kings, and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth‘ (not just the poor and disenfranchised; 1 Timothy 2:2).

It may be for some of you, and I’m glad for you. But I seriously, seriously doubt that Jesus’ main motivation was every merely political. I had a professor at Emmanuel School of Religion try to make the argument that Jesus was saying something political. To be sure, he did. But I also think it was more. And Jesus does not need to run for president, nor do we need to vote for him; He’s already King. (I’d appreciate the book far more, I’d still disagree with much of the theology, if they didn’t lean so far to the Left as if the Left has anything better to say than the Right.)

So, Irony:

A couple of years ago, two things happened. First, we won a lawsuit over police misconduct in New York City. The police had been arresting homeless people for sleeping in public, and charging them with disorderly conduct. Hundreds of folks rallied to bring attention to this situation, and many of us slept outside to express our feeling that it shouldn’t be a crime to sleep in public. I (Shane) was arrested one night as I slept. Through a long legal process, I was found not guilty, and then I filed a civil suit of wrongful arrest, wrongful prosecution, and police misconduct. And we won, in addition to a legal precedent, around ten thousand dollars. But we figured the money didn’t belong to me or to the Simple Way but to the homeless for all they endure. It was their victory.

The second thing that happened was that after our study of Biblical economics, we were given an anonymous gift of ten thousand dollars, money which had been invested in the stock market and now was being returned to the poor.

I don’t know. Something about all this strikes me as profoundly ironic. It’s like: We hate the system, but by God we are going to use (abuse?) it when we can. I don’t get it. I don’t think it is courageous. Nor do I think there is such a thing as ‘prophetic resistance to corporate interests’ pillaging of the rain forests’ in Brazil; nor does that make one a Biblical martyr.

Perhaps it will make some of you say, “You just don’t know Shane,” or “You read him wrongly,” or “Did you fall out of a stupid tree and hit every branch on the way down?” or worse. That’s fine. His is a way of reading Scripture that is nice, but leaves a lot to be desired. Maybe I need another of his books (more irony) to flesh out where he’s coming from. Maybe I need to visit him and have a tofu burger and some green tea. But for the time being, I need to mull it over and listen to you a little more.

Or…

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“Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is evil. That sentence is the leper’s bell of an approaching looter.” – Ayn Rand

“Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.”Deut 25:4

Part I: Laying the Groundwork
Part II: Principles and Strategic Choices
Part III: A Laffer Matter

[NOTE: This will likely be the most contentious article in this series, as there are no "good"/"painless" answers. Whether we suffer a gradual descent into madness via incremental socialism or whether we're able to accelerate the its catastrophic failure, people will be hurt - regardless. My contention is that fewer will be hurt by a catastrophic failure - if the recovery is to learn from the failure and to ditch socialist and semi-socialist policies - than by the steady decline inevitable in the existing and proposed Ponzi schemes of government-provided health-care. Most, if not all of my 'Galt-ish' suggestions are simply pushing trends faster in the direction they will already be going, for optimum "failure-potential".]

ObamaCareAssumptions

While no health-care “reform” bill has yet passed out of the House or Senate this year, it is probably a safe assumption that one will – in some form, popular opinion be damned – ultimately pass. I’ve already written on the topic at least three times this year.

Within that plan, for the sake of this article, I will assume that there will be provisions that:

  • Prevent health insurance companies from policy denial for pre-existing conditions (”Guaranteed Issue”) and from charging different rates to different customers, based on their risk potential (”Community Rating”). What this means, if this were auto insurance, is that ACME Insurance would have to insure Lindsay Lohan, and they would have to insure her at the same rates as my father-in-law, who I’m not sure has received a ticket or been in an accident that was his fault in 50+ years of driving.
  • Require individuals to carry health insurance or pay a fine (for which the fine would be significantly less money than the cost of insurance). What this means, using the above example, is that Ms. Lohan is better off paying the fine for not having insurance until after she’s been in an accident.
  • Pay doctors on a scale tied to the same scale as Medicare (which most often pays doctors less than their actual costs of providing care).

By the time the government system fails, the goal of “going Galt” should be making it obvious that the road to hell is truly paved with good intentions.

The Looming Tsunami

Currently, there are 267 doctors (without regard to specialty) per 100,000 residents in the USA – a downward trend since the high-water mark of 279/100K in 2000. Even that mark was below the optimal mark – thought to be in the range of 325-350/100K – to support the medical system as it is used in America. Even worse is the huge shortfall in Primary Care Physicians (PCP’s) – where the majority of PCP’s are within 10 years of retirement (right when the wave of Baby Boom retirements hit) and the supply of graduates is less than 50% the number of retirements.

To make matters worse, the trend-line in graduates is headed downward – dropping 50% between 1997 and 2006, and is only kept afloat by the increasing number of immigrant students, willing to help fill the ranks. And it’s not just “about the money” (PCP’s earn 50+% less than most specialists), but also the work, itself – which has longer hours, a more demanding customer base, and lower reimbursement rates from payers. With med-school bills of $300K+ and an ever-increasing risk/reward ratio, along with an explosion in defensive medicine, malpractice insurance and burdensome paperwork that consumes 10 minutes of work for every 1 minute with a patient, it’s no wonder medicine is not an attractive field to enter.

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I’m a little more than half-way through Jesus For President. It’s rough, for a variety of reasons, but I’m pressing onward. Here’s something that struck me as rather poignant today:

These religiously inspired settlers, instead of embodying Jesus’ peculiar society, which is both revolutionary and subordinate, aimed to be solely revolutionary by creating a competing state that would exist on the world’s terms of power and violence. They eschewed the upside down politics of the mustard seed kingdom of God, while retaining the language of piety. They refused Jesus’ call to be a humble people (to the surrounding natives, to say the least!) and instead seized land to colonize. If we look hard, we might find some sincere Puritans with admirable qualities (as with any person or group), but essentially their identity was less in being the church and more in becoming a state with church words and practices sprinkled in.

Some congregations have identified this historical mistake and attempted to correct it. But in many cases, the treatment doesn’t get to the root of power. Take the great project to ‘take back America for God’ as an example. This project, of course, is rooted in the thought that the United States was initially founded ‘on God,’ a seriously contested claim. But even more, this grand goal, while it sounds pious, attempts to grasp power the same way the world does. The American project may have been a result not so much of malicious people as of bad theology–or wanting the right thing but pursuing it by the wrong means.–Shane Claiborne & Chris Haw, Jesus For President, 173*

Indeed. The church must not become a ’state’ with a few church words and practices sprinkled in. The church must be the church, the body of Christ. Nothing more. Nothing less.

_____________________________

*Unless everything all of us have ever been taught about the founding of America and the Puritan ‘conquest’ and the rather ‘gentle’ nature of the indigenous inhabitants of this place, then there is not a little revisionism in Claiborne and Haw’s words.  Or, to put it another way, while I happen to agree in principle with their thoughts on power, bad theology, and the upside down nature of the kingdom of God, I think that for the most part their interpretation of American history is weak at best. And for all their eschewing of the distinctively American politic that is the democratic process, they seem to fall with a resounding thud on the side of the ‘left’ and are far, far too critical of those, and the positions of those, on the ‘right’. This seriously, seriously impedes the flow of the book and the validity of their argument.

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Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. – Benjamin Franklin

Do not take advantage of each other, but fear your God. I am the LORD your God.Leviticus 25:17

Part I: Laying the Groundwork
Part II: Principles and Strategic Choices

[Again realize, this is all exploratory in nature, and that I am not necessarily advocating this course of action at this point in time. My hope is to gain the wisdom of other voices to see if this avenue is a) fruitful; b) possible; and c) a better way forward than passivity. Some folks may not wish to comment, but can send me feedback via my Facebook mail account.]

The Laffer CurveThe Laffer Curve

As I noted in Part II, the key principle in “going Galt” (or, in the modified manner I’m sugesting – differing from Rand’s philosophy – in which the individual and the church have compassionate roles, while the government should not) is rooted in the Laffer Curve:

The KEY concept to “Going Galt” is to ruthlessly and quickly drive the Laffer Curve down on anything that is taxed.

What this means, practically, is eliminating the activities in your life which add taxes to the public coffers – AND, in deference to our guiding principles, to do so within the confines of the letter of the law.

Most of the taxes collected in America come from one of two sources: Individual Income Tax and Consumption Taxes (Direct an Indirect). The largest source of tax revenue is from individual income tax, and the second and third largest sources are Payroll Taxes and Corporate Income Taxes (which are both passed along to the consumer as increased prices of goods and services). Aside from these, the largest source of individual State taxes is Sales & Excise Taxes (paid directly by consumers at the point of sale).

In examining how to ’starve the beast’, let us first tackle reduction of Consumption Taxes:

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There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build…

- King Solomon

“Change means movement. Movement means friction. Only in the frictionless vacuum of a nonexistent abstract world can movement or change occur without that abrasive friction of conflict.”

- Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals

[In Part I of this series, I laid out some of the conceptual ideas and events behind peaceful protest, the Tytler Cycle, the economic vector of the US government, and"Going Galt". In Part II, I will be exploring the strategic choices that would most humanely - and perhaps, most holistically - enable a small enough "tipping point" of people to push us into the step-change required to reset the cycle.

Please realize, this is all exploratory in nature, and that I am not necessarily adcovating this course of action at this point in time. My hope is to gain the wisdom of other voices to see if this avenue is a) fruitful; b) possible; and c) a better way forward than passivity. Some folks may not wish to comment, but can send me feedback via my Facebook mail account.]

As I have been pondering the concept of how to humanely “Go Galt” – realizing that this may actually blunt the degree of its ’success’ – I think there are a number of basic principles that should be considered, along with some key strategies that would sit on top of those principles:

The Laffer CurveShifting the Laffer Curve

Probably the KEY concept to making “Going Galt” work – remember this, if you remember nothing else – is to ruthlessly and quickly drive the “Laffer Curve” down on anything that is taxed.

Let me say that again, and emphasize it:

The KEY concept to “Going Galt” is to ruthlessly and quickly drive the Laffer Curve down on anything that is taxed.

Who Pays Taxes?Since the institution of individual income taxes in the 1900’s, the “rich” have paid an increasingly lopsided share of all taxes collected in the US. Right now:

While this disparity has been rightly viewed as unjust by reasonable observers, “Going Galt” would actually leverage this disadvantage into a huge advantage in short order.

Want an example?

New York State recently enacted a number of measures to increase taxes on the rich, but lo and behold, the expected income has not come in, and revenues are even further down than predicted. Why? Some of the rich curtailed their investments in NY, while others (including some high-profile millionaires) just left the state. Good for them! Hopefully more will follow suit.

I plan to delve into “whipping the curve” in much more depth in later article(s).

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Sucking the Public Tit[This post is -possibly, depending on how things go - the beginning of a short series]

Item I

In 39-40 AD, the Emperor Caligula was determined to set up his statue in the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, and dispatched his Syrian governor, Petronius, to do so. Distraught over these events, the farmers and fishermen of the Galilee region – who provided most of the food in Palestine, including the Roman armies – met Petronius and half a legion of Roman soldiers on the road from Caesarea to Jerusalem, where they laid down on the road, threatening mass-suicide (followed by starvation of the people in the region) if the mission to desecrate the temple continued.

Petronius stood down and retreated, while in the mean time Caligula was assassinated, and the desecration of the Temple was avoided…

Item II

In 1957, Ayn Rand published Atlas Shrugged, considered one of the greatest fictional works of the 20th Century. In it, Rand visualizes a future America, in which the government has intruded on almost all aspects of life, and forcibly extracts the wealth of “producers” to distribute to the masses (who, generally, are not producers), as a moral imperity.

One of the protagonists of the book, John Galt – an inventor and influential ‘producer’ – quietly organizes a strike of all of the key producers in the country against the corrupt masses who use the law and guilt to confiscate the fruits of their labors (thus the image of Atlas – who holds the world on his shoulders – to “shrug”).

For a brief time, the government drastically tightens its grip, which is really just the beginning of its inevitable collapse. With this as a backdrop, Galt emerges as a unifying figure to remake society in a more fair and equitable fashion.

Tytler CycleItem III

Alexander Tytler, an Eighteenth-Century writer, is credited with making the following observation of the historical cycles of government:

A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations from the beginning of history has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:

  • From bondage to spiritual faith;
  • From spiritual faith to great courage;
  • From courage to liberty;
  • From liberty to abundance;
  • From abundance to complacency;
  • From complacency to apathy;
  • From apathy to dependence;
  • From dependence back into bondage.

A number of modern philosophers have studied the “Tytler Cycle”, as it has come to be named, and tend to believe that America is moving into the final stage of the cycle – from dependence back into bondage.

I would agree with them.

Obama Budget BEFORE Adding in Health 'Reform'Item IV

The US government is poised to bankrupt itself in an orgy of spending, by taking over 1/6th of its economy (under the half-baked guise of “moral imperity”) and imposing $300-400 Billion in new taxes on those who can least afford it, along with new fees/taxes on its society’s “producers”. Central banks are dumping the dollar and looking for ways to supplant it with a mixture of other foreign currencies. Smart investors are putting their bets on precious metals and hard commodoties. The Obama administration has placed its bets on grossly obscene spending – like a junkie on a payday coke-bender. And that’s all before we even discuss its upcoming astronomically misguided budget busters – cap-and-tax and a VAT Tax.

Meanwhile, a growing number of conservative/libertarian bloggers lend some support that now may be the time to start “Going Galt”

Item V

In the latter-Twentieth and early-Twenty-First Centuries, the American church predominantly vacates the Democratic parties and moves past healthy support into allegiance with the Republican party, becoming an enabling entity to the GOP, for which it will receive lip service and scraps – much like the monolithic support of the Dem’s by African Americans. Increasingly, moderate-to-liberal Mainline and Evangelical Christians see this support for politics as unhealthy – serving as an appropriate critic to the blind service to the GOP. Then, upon the election of Barack Obama, these groups just as quickly become sycophants of the left – blind to their own equal-and-opposite idolatry.

In the end, it is revealed that far too much of the church – both right and left – have corrupted Psalm 121

lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?

My help comes from Washington,
(left) the guarantor of fairness and redistribution.
(right) the protector of ‘Christian values’

In either case – whether seen as pledging allegiance to the flag on Sunday morning, or blessing our new ‘hope and change’ from the pulpit – the salt has lost, or is losing, its saltiness when it sees Washington as anything more than a necessary evil with a VERY limited purpose.

Where From Here?

I have recently been mulling on all of these “Items” – and their obvious connectedness:

  1. I believe that cycles in human history do repeat themselves – even when recognized
  2. I do believe a crash – a huge one – is on the way
  3. I believe that the current administration could do very little, apart from what it is already pushing, to make this crash come sooner and harder
  4. I believe that, the longer the crash lasts, the longer the period of “bondage” will be, and the bloodier its demise will be. In the Tytler Cycle, the transition out of bondage is historically Revolution – often quite protracted and bloody.
  5. I believe that “Going Galt”, as a strategy, has the ability to hasten the crash, but lessen the period of bondage – because it preserves the underlying mechanics of the market while destroying the mechanics of government. In itself, it can create – and bring to a quick end – the Revolution.
  6. Even so – true “Going Galt”, in its purest sense – will result in a LOT of people being hurt…

The question becomes – how does a Christian deal with this situation? Can we “Go Galt” and show compassion in such a way that the next cyclical step – “Spiritual Revival” – be one rooted in a healthy balance between temporal and eternal emphases in orthopraxy?

What would this look like?

In the next article (tentatively), I will try to examine some underlying precepts on a Christian’s “Going Galt”…

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So the other day I was out at the Half-Price Book Store browsing, touching, wallowing in the beautiful shelves of books all lined neatly inside the building when I came across Jesus For President by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw. I literally cannot put this book down. What is amazing to me is that many of the things they are writing, and were fortunate enough to have published, are things that I was saying in the pulpit for the last several years–especially things about God doing bigger things with smaller people, or doing better things with worser things, etc. (See also my series 90 Days with Scripture.)

I love the idea that God is not, in any way, shape, form or otherwise, dependent upon the power structures of the political machines (or machinations) of this world to bring about his vision for what this world is, should be, and was supposed to be. I’m anxious to see what Claiborne and Haw do with Jesus; I hope I’m not disappointed.

So here’s something I read just today and find intriguing and worthy of a reprint here.

We wave the banner for Jesus and not for Rome, the United States of America, or any other nation or empire that vies for our allegiance.

But it wasn’t as if Jesus, in using such language, wanted Rome’s power or wanted to gain a foothold in the culture wars of his time. He didn’t want to climb Caesar’s throne. This political language doesn’t harmonize with the contemporary church project of ‘reclaiming America for God.’ Precisely the opposite: Jesus was urging his followers to be the unique, peculiar, and set-apart people that began with Abraham. He didn’t pray for the world in order to make governments more religious; he called Israel to be the light of the world–to abandon the way of the world and cultivate an alternative society in the shell of the old, not merely to be a better version of the kingdom of the world. (71)

The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that much of my life has been spent in pursuit of the wrong idea when it comes to allegiance–I think of all those times when I ‘pledged allegiance to the flag’ or went to the ballot box to vote someone into power or stood to sing the ‘national anthem.’ After all, it is my civic and American duty to vote and any real American must do those things. (There’s not a little sarcasm there, but hey, some habits are hard to break.)

Just so there’s no mistaking my intentions here, I’m not displeased that I was born in America (although, to be sure, I was actually born in Japan). All I’m saying is that I agree with Claiborne and Haw that winning America back for God is certainly not, in any biblical sense, the point of Scripture or Jesus. And the church must resist the temptation to project that onto Jesus’ agenda: “It wasn’t long, though, before the Hebrew people were tempted to be like those other nations and wanted a human king, one they could see and touch and worship. With growing fear of neighboring empires like Assyria and Babylon, they succumbed to the empty dream of domination” (33). We must resist the temptation to make Jesus’ work anything that closely resembles what we think matters. Furthermore, we must resist the temptation to use those power structures that Jesus exposed and destroyed on the cross.

I only hope that Claiborne and Haw don’t conclude that the best way to accomplish what they are suggesting, and what I agree with, is through the political systems or through important and powerful people. I so hope they don’t conclude for a liberal agenda as opposed to a conservative agenda as if the former is somehow a righteous version of God’s plan and the latter is merely a bloated, ‘friendlier’ version of Babylon. I hope they realize that both agendas are opposed to the Kingdom of Christ because both stand only for their own survival and perpetuation.

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