Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Voter Illiteracy and the Media

Some of you will take this as a slam on Obama, and I think that is the primary point of the people who produced the video, but that's not my point. I'm pretty sure most McCain voters would have answered similarly.

I want to highlight their secondary point: Voters are clueless beyond what they can articulate from the headlines, Saturday Night Live and MTV.

Labels: , ,

Monday, November 24, 2008

Quote of the Day

“Behind the shameful apathy and lethargy of the church, that allows one thousand millions of human beings to go to their graves in ignorance of the Gospel, there lies a practical doubt, if not denial, of their lost condition.” – A.T. Pierson

Labels: , ,

Sunday, November 16, 2008

For All You Pastors Out There...

I'll let the video speak for itself

Labels: ,

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Both Sides Have Issues

Yes, that's right folks. There are two sides revealed among Evangelicals these days. The (at least) two sides have been there a long time but were perhaps ignored or minimized before the Great Election. Now they're on the table, and maybe that is a good thing.

I have written about my disappointment with Obama.

I have written about my disappointment with Christians who voted for Obama.

I have written about my disappointment with Christians who don't understand why other Christians voted for Obama.

I have written about why that's a "personal paradox" for me.

Here's another thing I want to write about: How Evangelicals on both sides of this issue are wearing blinders to how the other side thinks.

It goes something like this:

McCain voter to Obama voter: "I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU VOTED FOR OBAMA!"

Obama voter to McCain voter: "I CAN'T BELEIVE YOU HAVE ISSUES WITH OBAMA!'

Okay, maybe that's a bit oversimplified, but you get my point.

You can see we won't get very far at this rate...

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Another Election Thought... Sorry

This is from John Ortberg. I saw it on Jeremy Del Rio's site (a blog ironically entitled “no more words”) and thought it was worth putting up.

I am truly dismayed at some of the small-mindedness of my fellow conservatives and Evangelicals. We are earning (or perhaps reinforcing) a bad reputation for ourselves. I have a long list of issues with Obama. As long as anyone else's. But there is so much more to this complex story, and Ortberg does a nice job of admonishing us. I am going to post at some point on my new term, "Emerging Urban Conservative". Maybe it's the bright future of our species!
Ortberg's Piece:

Lessons from the Election: Seven Deadly Sins of Evangelicals in Politics:

I want to propose the “Seven Deadly Sins of Evangelicals and Politics.” You may have a few of your own to add. But the spirit of such lists in the past was not to add to our store of information but to contrition. So feel free to confess while you read.

Messianism. The sin of believing that a merely human person or system can usher in the eschaton. This is often tipped off by phrases like: “The most important election of our lifetime” (which one wasn’t?); or “God’s man for the hour.”

Selective Scripturization. The sin of using Scripture to reinforce whatever attitude toward the president you feel like holding, while shellacking it with a thin spiritual veneer. If the candidate you like holds office, you consistently point people toward Romans 13: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.” If your candidate lost, you consistently point people to Acts 4:10 where Peter and John say to the Sanhedrin: “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.” It’s just lucky for us the Bible is such a big book.

Easy Believism. This is the sin of believing the worst about a candidate you disagree with, because when you want them to lose you actually want to believe bad things about them. “Love is patient, love is kind,” Paul said. “Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth.” But in Paul’s day nobody ran for Caesar. There was no talk radio.

Episodism. The sin of being engaged in civic life only on a random basis. The real issues never go away, but we’re tempted to give them our attention only when the news about them is controversial, or simplistic, or emotionally charged. Sustained attention to vital but unsexy issues is not our strong suit.

Alarmism. A friend of mine used to work for an organization that claimed both Christian identity and a particular political orientation. They actually liked it when a president was elected of the opposite persuasion, because it meant they could raise a lot more money. It is in their financial interests to convince their constituents that the president is less sane than Jack Nicholson in The Shining. Alarmists on both sides of the spectrum make it sound like we’re electing a Bogeyman-in-Chief every four years. I sometimes think we should move the election up a few days to October 31.

One Issue-ism. Justifying our intolerance of complexity and nuance by collapsing a decision into a simplistic and superficial framework. [Though you know my thoughts on this one... SL]

Pride. I couldn’t think of a snappy title for this one. But politics, after all, is largely about power. And power goes to the core of our issues of control and narcissism and need to be right and tendency to divide the human race into ‘us’ vs. ‘them.’

What might happen if the world were to see those of us who claim to be the church vote, and speak, and campaign, and respond to the results in a humble and repentant spirit?

Indeed, John. What if?

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Church Invents the Gospel

This is a response to the breathless reviews of the latest scholarly tomes that give a “fresh read” on the four gospels… essentially nothing more than the same old liberal saw on demythologizing.

If the church invented the gospel (or Jesus, or the resurrection…) as the brilliant liberal scholars suggest, then who invented the church?

I picture a scenario something like this happening in order to get to a place where the church invented Jesus and the gospel…

Peter: Hey, guys – I have a GREAT IDEA! We can leave our respectable lives as God-fearing Jews and working class fishermen and invent this cool new religion that will get us in huge trouble! What do you say?

James: Well, we’ll need some kind of folk hero that will really make simple people gravitate to our cause… a figure that’s controversial, compelling, likable… You know, a Messiah or something. We could call him “Jesus”. That’s a cool name. Doesn’t it mean “The LORD saves”? That’s perfect. We could come up with a great story, like he dies for his people and then comes back to life… That would make a pretty cool religion.

John: Man, you guys are brilliant! This is awesome. Hey, let me take it a step further so we’ll be sure to get ourselves kicked out of the synagogue and maybe even killed! We can say that Jesus not only rose from the dead, but that – get this – He’s GOD!! We can pretend that when Isaiah said that the Messiah will be Mighty God, Everlasting Father, etc., that he actually meant…

Peter: But wait! If he dies, won’t that kind of kill the whole Messiah thing? Isn’t the Messiah supposed to be a great conqueror and restore Israel?

James: No, silly! The resurrection will take care of that. Hmmm… we do have the whole lack of conquering problem, though… I know! We can make it a spiritual kingdom and then make it so he comes back to conquer LATER! We could say he died for the sins of people in fulfillment of the Levitical prototype. Hey, everyone wants to be forgiven, right? Wow, this is fun!
Or maybe it really was the other way around…

Labels: , ,

Saturday, November 8, 2008

An Election Parable

Jesus used parables to make a point. As I was driving into work today, I thought of one too. It may seem like a fairy tale, but I dreamed awhile and wondered what might be if we could get the point of a parable like this…

“Once there was a great nation that chose its leader every four years by popular vote. Election cycle after election cycle, various candidates would campaign across the vast nation, trying to convince the people to vote for him or her and stirring up and even revealing a great deal of division in the process. One particular year, the nation was especially divided over who should lead it and how such a leader should go about governing.

Even the Believers of that nation were divided, with some feeling very strongly that the candidate that ran on a “pro-life” platform should be the choice, since life was important to Believers; and others feeling just as strongly that the candidate who ran on a platform stressing unity and the inclusion of those traditionally disenfranchised should be the choice, since those things were important to Believers as well.

In fact, many Believers were themselves among the disenfranchised. They saw the importance of bringing justice to a historically unjust situation, and the candidate they favored, who was himself among the historically disenfranchised, seemed to be just the man to do it. He even identified himself as a Believer! The problem was that the other Believers, their brothers and sisters, had never experienced such injustice and had difficulty understanding how the Believers who had experienced injustice could overlook something as fundamentally important as life.

Lo, the election came, and indeed the man who stood up for the disenfranchised won. This was cause for great celebration, and even the historically disenfranchised Believers who did not vote for the winner felt a certain sense of progress. The problem, however, was that the Believers who had not ever experienced injustice, who were indeed part of the majority culture, simply could not understand how their brothers and sisters could vote the way they did. They felt bitter and betrayed.

In time, disunity began to tear at the Believers, with their political passions overcoming their bonds of brotherhood and faith. Indeed, this disunity revealed significant cracks in the body of Believers that had been overlooked or ignored before, especially by those who had never experienced disenfranchisement. Believers began to despair.

But then The Miracle happened. The Believers began to come together and pray for the candidate who won. All over the Great Nation, believers overcame their differences and prayed and fasted night and day that God would work in the heart of the new leader, to make him the kind of man that would care about all the things that are important to God, not just one limited set of ideals. There was repentance on both sides for voting political passion or expedience or raw emotion over Kingdom values, and there was much weeping and joy.

And then it happened. The new leader began to see the importance of life! In fact, he began to see the beauty of God’s design for every facet of human experience. The new leader began to see the importance of all of the values of the Kingdom of God, as God opened his eyes in gracious response to the prayers of His people. He repented of his blindness and sin and began to lead justly in all things. And lo, there was an even greater celebration, as believers were able to overlook their political passions and instead focus solely on the things that are valued by God. And the new leader became increasingly wise, and skillful, and balanced and compassionate, as God’s people, the Believers, continued to pray day and night for their elected leader.

In fact, they prayed so much, and God worked so profoundly, that the new leader became one of the greatest presidents in history, and was re-elected by a bipartisan landslide four years later, even though many in his own party and in the larger political establishment were dismayed at his radical change in values.”

A fable? A hopeless fantasy?

You decide.

Labels: , , ,

Some Good Quotes

“Men are not killed by a blow on the extremities… but by an injury to the vital parts. When God purposes to make us die to self, He always touches that which is the very essence of our life. He adapts our cross to each one of us.” – Fénelon

"There was a time when the church was very powerful – in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society… But the judgment of God is upon the church [today] as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the 20th century." – Martin Luther King Jr.

Labels: ,

Friday, November 7, 2008

Race, Hope and Obama

What I'm about to post may seem a little contradictory in some minds to what I have been saying about Obama so far. Especially if your thinking is primarily non-urban conservative, White and Evangelical in nature.

While I have stated my disappointment with Obama the man in no uncertain terms, I know that his victory has a great deal of good attached to it, and is very meaningful for minorities. It is particularly meaningful for African Americans - even ones who passionately voted for McCain and who oppose the political philosophy of Obama. It should be meaningful to anyone who cares about people or race or the work of Jesus in this world.

This creates a tension that those of us who are conservative must all live in, if we are to be responsible: We celebrate the accomplishment but not the man who accomplished it. We celebrate the historical moment even if the politics involved are abhorrent to us. A personal tension for me is that I really believe it was morally wrong to vote for Obama. I think that such a vote amounts to sanctioning his outspoken advocacy of abortion rights. Yet I feel compelled to stick up for Christians of color who voted for him.

But there is something else we must understand: What this means to those who have historically been disenfranchised. It is simply huge.

The post is from my friend and fellow blogger Shlomo, who is an African-American Jewish Christian. While I may not see things exactly the way he does, he has profound points, and he articulates the heart of so many African-Americans. Something it would pay all of us White Evangelicals to strive to understand.

Shlomo on Race, Hope and Obama

Wednesday, November 05, 2008
We Have Been Slightly Healed

Even though I don't hold to the notion that President-elect Obama will solve all of our racial ills, I do believe that merely by becoming our nation's next President he has already set in motion a course of events that will aid in our healing. The first level of healing that I believe we will experience is a restoration of hope.

Prior to this election, I don't think that most Afro-Americans actually believed they had a real stake in the American Dream. Surely there was real and sustained progress today in comparison to the horrors of the Jim Crow Era and legalized segregation and social exclusion. Surely there were examples of numerous Blacks who were now rich and famous, but this was not by any means the same Dream which most Americans aspired towards. Only one in ten thousand of the youth on the local basketball courts will make it to the NBA, and even fewer still will land a recording contract and earn fame and riches as a rap artist or a music legend. The American Dream that says, if you work hard and remain dedicated to the principles of self-sacrifice and deferred gratification, then no opportunity or goal shall long remain beyond your grasp. "You can do and be anything you want," is the standard refrain which usually fell on deaf ears.

With Barack Obama's success I believe that the Afro-American imagination has been slightly healed and started back on the path towards restoration and healthy hopefulness. There is a lot more work that remains yet undone. Past hurts and injuries will not simply go away by ignoring them. The prior policy of benign neglect has not been helpful, but rather has strengthened our sense of wounded self esteem and fortified our identity as perpetual victims. When we were faced with not only individual personal attacks, but also a systemic, and therefore institutional, assault via a string of legal decrees, we began to lose hope and our individual and collective psyche was damaged. The most potent aspect of this psychological wounding is known as internalized oppression (the situation where a victim agrees with his/her oppressor and sees himself as of lesser worth or value as a person).

Merely by acknowledging our former state of injury we are affirmed as real persons and thusly a slight healing can begin. In order to progress further we will need to find a means of remedy for the harm inflicted, but our proper starting place lies in facing the past honestly. Barack Obama has repeatedly stated that our national legacy of racial exclusion must be addressed and thus he speaks words of hope to the masses of black and other minorities. The hope is first hinted at by the clear statement that our Nation’s past actions were wrong and therefore need to be acknowledged as such. Such an acknowledgment would give a sense of dignity and worth to black people who were previously regarded as either 3/5 of a person or else mere candidates for chattel slavery (see the US Constitution Article One Section 2 and The Supreme Court Decision in the Dred Scott Case).

The second step on the path to a state of National Health and Wholeness is the forming of new partnerships, not built on the partisan divisions of the past, but rather on the realities of the present. E pluribus Unum – out of many, one (people). Our National unity is presumed as the backbone and foundation of our ideals. Although there are many different ethnic groups represented in our country, we must no longer see ourselves as Red States and Blue States, as White Americans and Black Americans, as Latino, Asian or Native Americans. Instead we must recognize that we are the United States of America. I believe that Barack’s success gives hope and substance to this new/renewed vision of modern America. It’s not the America that has been, but rather the America that should be. I feel that President-elect Obama has created the possibility for our country to have a new and honest conversation about race, and other such divisive issues, and to therefore move forward into the future together, as partners rather than as partisans.


Labels: ,

So Much for Change…

Okay… I have given myself a couple days to truly bask in the progress America has made in electing an African American president. We all have had 72 hours to celebrate something really worth celebrating.

So now it’s time to take the gloves off and treat Obama like any other public official entrusted with the stewardship of office: He’s accountable.

It was announced today that Obama has named Rahm Emmanuel as his White House Chief of Staff. If there was ever a ruthless, partisan political hack on either side of the aisle, this is the man. He makes Karl Rove look like a schoolboy. He is the ultimate Chicago insider and a big player in the Chicago political machine and the Chicago-Washington power axis.

Is this the change you voted for?

Check out these compelling Chicago Tribune articles (the same Chicago Tribune that endorsed Obama):



This is a reminder once again why it is important to vote as close to Kingdom values as possible, and if not possible, then to not vote. I am with my brother and fellow Blogger Aaron on this one – I wonder if Christians should have just sat this one out.

For all my brothers and sisters who voted Obama because he for once offered real participation for minorities or because he is Black or because he promised change or because he somehow stirred “hope”, I hope this is not the shape of things to come…

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

On Abortion

Nov. 5, 2008

By now, I have heard a number of Christians justify their support for Obama despite his strong stand for abortion rights.

Their support falls along two lines of thought:

1) The supposedly pro-life Republicans have done nothing to stem the tide of abortions anyway, and their policies may even increase the number of abortions
2) Obama has a heart for social justice, and being pro-life has to involve more than just pre-birth and end-of-life issues; it has to encompass all of life. A social justice stand is really pro-life for those who are already born. Besides, it is not reasonable to be a single-issue voter.

While there are some legitimate ideas expressed in those lines of thought, I believe both are fatally flawed, and while all this was on my mind, I thought it would be good to engage these ideas and sort of unpack some of the problems they present for Christians.

Before I do that, let me say four things:

First, I celebrate with all my heart the election of an African-American president! There is so much unqualified good in that. It fulfills the dreams and hopes of so many Americans and needs to be celebrated for what it is. Last night was truly historical, and regardless of Obama’s current ideology or future performance, it must be remembered as a great night in American history.

Second, I do not owe my allegiance nor put my faith in any political party or platform. My politics are increasingly informed by my theology, based in Scripture, which puts me at odds with various aspects of all parties and in agreement with aspects of most parties.

Third, I believe with my whole heart that there were no great choices for president this election. Nobody who ran really is facing the deepest problems of our country, which are materialism, greed, and humanism. I don’t know how much any man could even adequately address those issues. We have such a poverty of spirit in America that goes back first to our inherent depravity, but more recently to our prosperity after WWII. It ignores social, political and economic differences and pervades every level of our culture, and indeed has taken root in the church. If I did not trust a sovereign God, I would be in despair.

Fourth, I love you no matter who you voted for! I am certain God’s people almost always vote their consciences, and God knows our hearts. I am a little concerned about our heads, however.

But Christians supporting Obama specifically grieves me. I mean, I think we must all support him in his office as president, as far as Scripture commands us to be honoring our leaders. I respect the man to an extent, and I respect the office. My earnest prayer is that Obama will be a wise and discerning leader in a volatile world. Nonetheless, it is the starry-eyed infatuation with this man and the implicit sanctioning of his policies by voting for him on the part of people who believe the Bible that has me so very saddened. So let me answer the issues I posted above.

Regarding the charge that Republicans have accomplished nothing anyway:

I would argue that there has been progress in the effort against abortion under certain sincere conservative politicians (not all of them Republican) who have taken up the fight. South Dakota’s attempt at a ban would be a real-time example. But this is not even the central issue for me. To merely look at the body count and be dissatisfied with the lack of progress seems a bit pragmatic. I think the real issue is the moral viability of a society that tolerates killing babies in the womb at all. Voting for someone who tolerates abortion is bad enough, since it perpetuates the status quo at best. It makes peace with an abomination. However, voting for someone who is an outspoken advocate of abortion amounts to complicity. I know, that sounds harsh. I also know that there are many other issues relating to justice and life that are profoundly important, and I want to unpack that in my next point, but if one cannot get this one right, does he or she even have a legitimate voice in the rest? Killing babies is huge.

So, yes, I think that voting for people who oppose abortion, even if there is NEVER an impact on the actual number of abortions, remains a prophetic statement – a pebble in the shoe, so to speak – to a culture that blithely ignores the most fundamental expression of human life and dignity. I believe Christians should continue to vote pro-life no matter the outcome.

As for Republican policies actually increasing abortions… the last thing I want to do here is get into a messy partisan argument, so let me just say this: This is an illegitimate charge. It assumes that: a) Republican policies cause poverty and b) poverty causes abortion. In order for that to be true, the person considering an abortion has to have a thought process something like this: “My goodness, I’m pregnant! If only I could afford to raise this baby and give it a decent life, then I would keep it, but because of oppressive economic policies I’m stuck in poverty, so I must abort.” This of course reduces the most weighty decision most women will ever make to simple economic calculus. Do you really think that is what happens? What about WIC? What about Welfare, Medicare, Kid Care, and adoption? Women most often choose to abort because of the overwhelming thought of responsibility, shame, selfishness or pressure from the father, family, etc. I have no doubt that out of the tens of thousands of abortions, some are driven by economics, but I’m not sure that Republican fiscal policy is driving up poverty, and even if it is, I’m not sure that poverty is the driving force behind abortions.

Regarding the idea that Obama is for social justice, so his compassion on other issues outweighs his support of abortion:

If I said I was passionate about social justice, except when it comes to racial issues, would you believe me? Would that have an impact on my credibility? Of course it would. Why, then does Obama get a pass from Christians when it comes to abortion? Is not abortion a social justice issue? Isn’t it the biggest social justice issue of all? I would argue it is. So here’s my thesis: If you are for social justice, but not justice for the most vulnerable of all, then you are NOT for social justice.

Now I do agree that being pro-life has to mean all of life. And I do believe that Evangelicals and other conservatives have egg on our faces, because it seems that many of us care about people only before they’re born and after they die. Many of us (but not all, thankfully) at least seem to be able to stand by and let kids grow up with no hope of a decent school, or decent healthcare, or decent neighborhoods. We tend to turn a blind eye to the issues of justice that are still alive and well, especially in the cities. As a result, we have lost credibility, and so the power of our words weighs considerably less than it ought to.

People who are pro-life and care about other justice issues often vote for candidates like Obama because they see them as more balanced… as more caring for the larger number of important issues. But I would say that failing at the point of abortion disqualifies a given candidate completely. This is not to say that we should not be passionate about all issues relating to justice, but it is to say that abortion is huge. Just huge.

I think we can all agree on this: It would be nice to be able to vote for someone who truly reflects Kingdom values. That day may come (I’m not holding my breath), but until it does, voting will always be a contradiction and a paradox and a tension for Christians who wish to be biblical. But personally, I will never knowingly vote for a supporter of abortion, and I am loathe to vote for anyone who is ambivalent. And if the political process never delivers any results favorable to the pro-life movement, it does not matter. I believe it is an outrage to even appear to cheer someone on who will actively perpetuate our culture of death.

Labels: , , ,

A Reason to Celebrate

Before I post my next thought, which is a WHOPPER, I thought it would be good to simply celebrate the progress represented last night.

We have elected an African-American.

That deserves unqualified, unconditional celebration.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Ten Reasons I Did Not Vote For Obama

I could not vote for someone who constantly talks about “change”, yet refuses to stand up to rampant corruption in his own party

I could not vote for someone who expresses concern for justice yet condones the indiscriminate killing of the unborn, denying them any chance at justice

I could not vote for someone who disingenuously blamed “failed Republican policies” for our financial difficulties, when the crisis was spurred on by both parties, with the Democrats in the driver’s seat

I could not vote for someone who was a product to the Chicago Machine, and accountable to it

I could not vote for someone whose approach to foreign policy is appeasement

I could not vote for a champion of “gay rights”. I simply cannot understand how “gay rights” is substantively different from rights for polygamists, pedophiles, and the incestuous. While I am bound by Christ to love all people and all sinners, and while I am certainly guilty of sin myself, I cannot bow to pressure to call the perverse “normal”, and I cannot vote for someone who does

I could not vote for someone worshipped to the point of absurdity by the national and local media. One has to be a little leery of someone so adored by journalists

I could not vote for someone so popular in Europe

I could not vote for someone whose only real accomplishments are raising a family, community organizing and getting himself elected

I could not vote for someone who reinforced the American bent toward style over substance

There were some things that impressed me about Obama… his concern for the disenfranchised, his ability to articulate ideas, his potential to serve as a bridge builder… Unfortunately, these were vastly outweighed by his leftist ideology and his unwillingness to confront the real issues related to change in our country


Monday, November 3, 2008

Election Day Eve

For those of you who read my blog, please check out the important conversations happening on two dear brothers' blogs:



They're both also linked at the right of my page on my blog roll.

And comment, why don't you?