Archive for the 'Politics' Category

Friends,

I’d like to share some personal reflections concerning president-elect Barrack Obama and how I have chosen to respond to his recent election to the highest office in our land (save for that of the local church preacher.) PS–as you know, these reflections are my opinion only. They do not represent the views of anyone else who writes for CRN.info. I do not speak for anyone here but myself. jerry

I shall state from the beginning of this post that I am a conservative. That does not mean I am a Republican. Nor does it mean I am not a Democrat. What it means is that I believe certain things about fiscal responsibility, certain things about morality, and that I believe certain things about personal responsibility. It does not mean that I am a misogynist, homophobe, redneck, indigent-phobe, a war-monger or a racist. It does not always mean conservatism=Christianity.

It does mean, among other things, that I think homosexuality is a sin (although for some conservatives it does not mean this at all), men are men and women are women and we are not alike, and that America has come a long way in its race relations since the Emancipation Proclamation. It does not mean I think America is the best place to live for everyone, but it is the best place for me to live (and that our history is rich, diverse, and blessed.) It does not mean I think America is perfect. It does mean I think a lot of places in the world would be rather bad-off if the USA didn’t exist. It does not mean I love war and violence. It does mean that I am not so naïve as to think a world, fallen as it is, will be devoid of war apart from the reign of Christ. It does not mean that those in elected-office get a blank check from me, but it does mean that I respect the office they hold and that per the Scripture, I should pray for them. It means that I think abortion to be one of the most despicable, heinous and outrageous crimes a person can perpetrate against the human body, against life. It does not mean that I think those who have had abortions have committed the unforgivable sin.

Being a conservative gets a bad rap because most think it means being intolerant of those who are living differently or believing differently—as if God’s grace depends upon the rightness of our opinions and convictions. Being conservative does not mean we are intolerant of people even if we are intolerant of certain ideas that people hold or certain lifestyles that people, for whatever reason, live. For that matter, intolerance does not mean or equate to hatred. My conservatism flows out of my being a Christ-follower and not the other way around. It doesn’t mean this for everyone, but it does for me. Being conservative means not being liberal. Neither idea means being less than or more than human. It means having ideas about things that matter this much.

I have made a very difficult decision to champion Barrack Obama. I have written critically of President-Elect Obama and some of his (political and theological) views at my own blog. I had an argument with family members at a summer picnic because they already supported him (actually they just opposed President Bush). I have harbored terrifying thoughts about what an Obama presidency might hold for America. I have read the blogs of those who also live in terrific fear of what an Obama presidency might hold. Like here. And here. And here. (And there are many, many more just like this.)

Suddenly it came over me last week at a prayer meeting, as I listened to a man I know speak about some of his concerns and how God is using this shake this and squeeze that and how the church needs to get ready, that I don’t need to or have to fear a so-called liberal president. Why should I fear? Whom shall I fear? The Psalmist wrote, “Some trust in horses and chariots, but we trust in the Lord our God.” Whom shall I fear? I will not live the next four years of my life in constant fear of some imagined agenda people have put into his mouth. I have other things I’d rather worry about—like prayers, Scripture, those God has put in my life and the lives that God has shoved me into. Fear is not high on my list of fun ways to live, nor is it on my agenda for tomorrow.

So I have decided that I will be a supporter of Barrack Obama for a few different reasons.

First, I will be a supporter of Obama because it is not in my nature to act like an ADM. That is, I will not be one of those who will sit back and engage in schadenfreude. The writers of .info have always impressed me not because I agree with the position they take in regard to everything, but precisely because they do not engage in delight at the failure of others. I don’t want him to fail. Granted, I hope some of his policies fail and do so miserably. But I can hope for him, without supporting his particular ideas about morality.

Take abortion for example. When I went to Great Lakes Christian College in 1991, I remember gathering one night to pray for upcoming elections. The candidates were Bill Clinton and George Bush. We had one issue, mostly, on our minds: Abortion. Then Clinton was elected, much to the chagrin of many people. And you know what? Not a thing happened concerning Roe v. Wade for 8 years of the Clinton Administration. Then George W Bush was elected. And not a thing has happened to Roe v. Wade for 8 years of his administration. I’ll grant that Mr Obama is a flaming lunatic when it comes to his opinions on abortion, but I’m not naïve enough to think that John McCain, had he been elected, would have suddenly swung the pendulum so far right that Roe v. Wade would have been overturned. I’m not saying it doesn’t matter. I’m just saying that perhaps it is time for Christians to find alternative ways for dealing with the abortion issue besides putting all our stock in a presidential candidate who will ‘get the right people on the Supreme Court and get Roe v. Wade overturned.’ I think that is a pipe-dream at best.

To the point, I will not engage in schadenfreude when it comes to Pres-E Obama. I am not an ADM and I never will be.

Second, I don’t have to live in fear of him. He is a man and I just find it impossible to believe that it is his stated or secret goal and purpose to ruin the America we all know and love. Fact is, if he produces policies that differ from my point of view that is fine. If he produces legislation that is forcibly contrary to God’s Law, I have the biblical obligation to disobey. I don’t have the obligation to live in fear of Obama any more than liberals had reason to live in fear of George W Bush or than first century Christians had to fear Caesar. I will not conduct myself or raise my family or practice my faith based on fear of any man or woman in political office. The only fear I have a right to practice is fear of God.

The bottom line for me is this: God is still Sovereign. I heard someone say the other day that our fate lies in Obama’s hands. Pshaw! I saw an ad on facebook that has a picture of Obama with the word “Hope” underneath. Pshaw! I have heard people comparing him to the Messiah. Pshaw! I hear people say that the president of the United States is the most powerful man in the world. Horse****! He is none of these things for me because Christians are strangers, pilgrims, sojourners and aliens…I have as much fear of him as I do for the little old atheist lady who lives next door. Christians live under the sovereign watch-care and covenant-love of God Almighty. Whom shall I fear? This is not so much about should I support him, as much as can I support him. The answer is yes. I didn’t vote for him, but I’m not about to abandon him either. This is a matter of trust: Do I trust God who loves me or fear a man who cannot do me any harm?

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OK, I have a confession to make.  This confession will probably make some of you question my judgement, or possibly even my salvation.  But here goes.  I absolutely love the NPR program This American Life.  I have over 80 episodes on my Ipod, and I’m addicted to it.  I know that the all of the producers, interviewers, and reporters are bleeding-hearts liberals, but I still find the show funny, witty, and overall well-produced.

One episode that keeps on popping into my head as of late is one entitled, A Little Bit of Knowledge.  In the beginning of that episode, the host, Ira Glass has a conversation with Nancy Updike, a producer, about a time when she was in Europe with some of her friends.  She explains it like this:

A couple of years ago some friends were travelling through Europe, walking through these old buildings. And these people do not know anything special about architecture, but, you know how it is when you’re a tourist. So they’re walking through these buildings and they’re looking at these doorways and pillars and they decide that this one building has a very Moorish influence. They’re pointing out details, saying ‘the Moors this’ and ‘the Moors that’. And finally one of them turns to the other and says, “You know, we sound like we’re in a magazine. A magazine called ‘Modern Jackass’.”

So the basic concept behind being a “Modern Jackass” is that you know enough about a subject to talk somewhat intelligently about it, but there are parts that are just beyond your grasp of understanding, so you kind of just make up the rest.  Thus entering “Modern Jackass” territory.

I’ve noticed this quite a bit this past political season.  I think we’re all guilty of it to some extent.  I think the fact that so much information is available at our fingertips through the wonder of Google and Wikipedia just makes it so very easy to make it look like you know more than you do.  So perhaps, we all need to take a step back now that election is over, take a deep breath, and start peeling away the layers of informational defenses we have put up.  In the end, no one really believes us most of time anyway.

I admit that I have done this.  I have been guilty of braying the loudest sometimes.  I have been guilty of caring more about being right than actually showing love to me ideological opponents.  I, sadly, have been a Modern Jackass.

So as we move forward, let’s remember that not everything on the internet is true, and that there’s nothing wrong with saying those three little words – “I don’t know”.

Grace and peace.

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A friend of mine from my days at Milligan College 20 years ago (or so) and I recently got back in touch via Facebook. While we shared a passion for music, working on a number of small projects together, we disagreed (sometimes vehemently) on the subject of politics, with me swinging to the (hard) right and him to the center-left.

Over the years, I think we’ve both moderated a bit (which age does tend to do), and I’ve come to respect a number of points he used to make (regarding social justice). Recently, he recommended a link to an article from the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, NJ, called (link fixed) When is it Acceptable for a ”Pro-Life” Voter to Vote for a ”Pro-Choice” Candidate?, subtitled “The Golden Rule should serve as a guide to those weighing a vote for “pro-choice” politicians.”

As he said in recommending the article, it contained a good deal of food for thought. The author, Gerard V. Bradley, first academically dissects many of the terms used in the debate of abortion, choice and life. He then does a careful job of providing ethical parallels, to help guide those who are struggling with their decisions on whom to vote for (if you choose to do so):

This question about the fairness of lethal side-effects is in the news almost every day now. Not because of abortion, but because of U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Almost every day there is news of an American air attack or ground operation which results in a substantial number of non-combatants’ deaths, or there is news about a post-mortem analysis of an earlier deadly attack. (Some days there are both.) The basic scenario and the recurring moral question are always along these lines: suppose that there is a wedding feast in Northwest Pakistan. Among the 100 guests are two high level Al-Qaeda operatives. The military reality is that any attack intended to kill those two puts everyone present at grave risk of being killed. Would it be morally right to launch the airstrike, thus endangering 98 innocents to get two who are not?

I do not know for sure whether, all things considered, the strike should be ordered. I do know, however, that any right answer to the question must go through the Golden Rule, precisely so that we do not unfairly off-load fatal effects upon people who are not like us. Precisely to avoid that form of unjust partiality towards ourselves and those like us, we must ask: would we order the airstrike if the feast were in Zurich? Or in Dublin? Or if the feast were taking place in South Bend, Indiana (or your home town)? If the answer to any of these questions is “no” then it is pretty clear that, if we nonetheless order the strike in Pakistan, we would not be acting in accordance with the truth that every innocent has an equal right not be killed. We would not be acting in accord with the Golden Rule.

We need to apply the Golden Rule in a very similar way to the question: when is it morally right to vote for a “pro-choice” candidate. I propose to do so by testing the three best arguments that “pro-life” voters voting for “pro-choice” candidates have made to justify their decision.

He then goes through the three key arguments in weighing this decision – Attacking the Root Cause of Abortion, Weighing the Balance of a Candidate’s Issues, and Women’s Equality – many things we’ve discussed here in the past.

All in all, this article is a very good read, which avoids the overuse of religious jargon and emotional appeal, rather dissecting the issue from an ethical, logical manner.

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“…in recent decades many Christians have responded to the moral and social decline in American society by embracing political activism.  Believers are running for office in growing numbers; churches are organizing voter registration; public policy groups are proliverating; scores of Christian publications and radio programs offer commentary on public affairs.  This heightened activism has yielded good results in many areas of public life, yet the impact remains far less than most had hoped.  Why?  Because evangelicals often put all their eggs in one basket: They leaped into political activism as the quickest, surest way to make a difference in the public arena–failing to realize that politics tends to reflect culture, not the other way around.” Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth. 18 (Emphasis mine.)

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This was posted on Slice today

Imagine asking a pastor for advice and Bible verses on dealing with a specific problem. He isn’t your pastor, but it’s someone you respect, and you ask for advice. Within a short period of time, the pastor decides that the news is so juicy, it just has to be told publicly. That’s what happened to Sarah Palin when she returned a September 6 phone call from Rick Warren and asked him for Bible verses on dealing with pressures she is facing. (He stated it as though she had called him out of the blue for advice.) Rick Warren’s apparently insatiable need to hang with the movers and shakers and to puff his ego was bigger than his respect for Mrs. Palin’s privacy.

Uh… I am pretty sure that Warren knows when it is appropriate and unappropriated to share information with the public. This is hardly a case of a pastor breaching the clergy confidentiality agreement. Growing up in a pastor’s home, information was often leaked to us via overheard phone conversations, impromptu counseling sessions in the living room and poorly placed mail. We learned very quickly what was appropriate to share and what had to be kept confidential. Telling the press that someone called for Bible verses is hardly a problem. And, since the Palin campaign said nothing about the incident, one would assume this would be fine.

Once again — ODMs trying catch Warren in any snare possible. I found it funny that this was under the section of “purpose driven madness” on the Slice Site.

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…if they will say the same thing about McCain’s speech in September?

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With her the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries. – Revelation 17:2

There you have it folks! Revelation 17:2 has called out Rick Warren’s political show down between Barak and McCain. The great prophesies of the end times are being fulfilled, and the final pages of history are finally being revealed! I am so glad I recently purchased my license plate frame letting everyone know that “in case of rapture, this car will be unmanned.” At least the guy behind me will have had fair warning.

Two serious thoughts…

First off, I find it extremely odd that CRN just bashed Bell for loose interpretation of the scriptures and suggesting that cultural context must be looked at before making conclusions on biblical interpretation. Here is a pastor that interprets revelation via sermon and video to show that Saddleback is apostate because of the political connection. If that isn’t loose handling of the Word of God, I don’t know what is. This is a perfect example of isegesis — inserting one’s agenda and preconceived notions into the text. Who’s the one that should be accused of bad exegesis?

Lastly, the ODMs are constantly harping on the fact that seeker sensitive churches never give real meat to their congregation. They just give good advise and stick some scripture in here and there. There is no meat and no spiritual substance to what is being given to the people. But now I am confused. Here Pastor Jamey Day preaches on how evil Saddleback is from the Sunday morning pulpit. I mean, this whole thing was a huge hit piece on a church and pastor that is 2,631 miles away from them, and the ODMs post it on their blog! Did the congregation walk out saying, “Man! That was some amazing meat from the Word today. I am so glad to know that Revelation 17 shows how apostate Saddleback is, and that I should never get involved with purpose driven. I would never have known how much the Lord detests Rick Warren.” Mr Kettle, Mr. Pot is on line two.

Now, I will say this for those who will try to make excuses for the whole thing… Yes, the pastor did not mention Rick Warren or Saddleback by name. However, the examples he used were overtly pointed to them. Also, it appears that the video was posted under the Watcher’s Lamp YouTube account. So, it seems that the video was not made by Grace Fellowship of Chester Virginia. However, the principles remain the same

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Saturday night, after spending some much-needed time in conversation with my wife in the wake of our oldest son leaving for his sophomore year at Purdue, I turned to the Olympics to watch Michael Phelps’ swim into the record books. Sunday morning, though, I heard a good bit of buzz in church about another event that occurred on Saturday evening – the Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency, where Rick Warren sat down and gave essentially identical interviews to both major Presidential candidates. On the advice of many, I watched the replay on Sunday night…

…and I was impressed. Perhaps my expectations were already low (since I’m pretty skeptical on the mixing of politics and faith), but I was very pleased and surprised at the service done for the church in America by Dr. Warren’s church. And – if public reaction can be taken as an indicator – he may have provided an excellent example of how the church can play a non-partisan way in political involvement and improvement of public discourse. [After all, with Obama's official cheering section (i.e. the MSM) being sure to note that the Saddleback crowd was stacked to favor McCain, and the anti-Obama spokesfolks (i.e. the Armchair "Discernment" "Ministries") grousing about audience applause for and Warren's non-condemnation of the Democrat, the truth is bound to be between the two interpretations...]

Some highlights and thoughts…

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Since the release of his first book, The Irresistible Revolution, Shane Claiborne has both risen to prominence and taken a lot of flak in Evangelical circles.  He is one of those people who people either seem to love or hate.  He is one of the few people who seems to have the ability to remain within the mainstream of American church culture, yet offer some harsh critiques at the same time.  All the while he never comes off as mean-spirited or like he has an ax to grind.

His new book, Jesus for President, a collaboration with Chris Haw, is in some ways a sequel to the first book, but it goes in some unexpected directions along the way.  With a subtitle, Politics for Ordinary Radicals, some might expect that this book would be Claiborne’s take on the current political scene in the U.S. or some sort of alternative Christian voting guide.  While, the book is certainly political in the sense it talk about political issues, it never really delves into the American political system.  In fact a strong theme throughout the book is the futility of expecting any real change to come through the political process, much like the point that Greg Boyd made in his 2005 release, The Myth of a Christian Nation.  That certainly doesn’t mean Claiborne doesn’t have opinions about issues, though.

First, I think I need to say something about the actual book itself.  The book is full color paperback, and nearly every page has unique, hand-drawn (or at least made to look hand-drawn) artwork pertaining to the content on the page.  It is obvious that the was a labor of love for the authors.  The book is nearly 350 pages long, but in actual content it is probably comparable to other paperbacks half that length.  It’s a pretty quick read.

The book is broken up into four sections, and the first three are largely historical in nature.  In Section 1, the Old Testament narrative including Creation, the Fall, the Flood, the Tower of Babel, and the call of Abraham are reviewed.  The authors make special note that all throughout this time, God was working with humanity to bring redemption and restoration to the fallen world.  They talk of God’s plan for the Israelites, and His frustration with them for neglecting their calling.  They talk about God’s giving in to the Israelites demands for a king, and the prophets that were sent to keep these kings in check.  An interesting discussion in this section has to do with the Levitical laws and festivals the Jewish people were to observe.  A major point of these laws and observances, according to the authors, was to set Israel apart as an example for other nations to see.

At their core, these Hebrew laws were ways God was protecting the integrity of a new humanity.  It was not simply for their sake but for the sake of creation.  For the original plan of God was that Israel would be set apart to redeem the nations.  This was not a plan to reform the pagan nations around it – like making the neighboring Assyrian empire better at doing empire.  Rather, God would save the world through fascination, by setting up an alternative society on the margins of empire for the world to come and see what a society of love looks like.  It would be the city on a hill that God would use to light up the world, drawing the world back to God.

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Check out this really good post from Team Pyro (yes, you read that right). They have been writing a series on faith and politics. Anyone who thinks that we are a “Christian Nation” because biblical moral are made into laws has something else coming. Anyhow, check it out.

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