Category Archives: Politics

keep christ in…

Let’s be honest.  People are not going to decide to follow Jesus because of our merchandise that say, “Keep Christ in Christmas“.  That just offers one more opportunity to pigeonhole Christians. I mean, seriously:  do we really need to gift-wrap  ammunition for people already antagonistic towards Christians?

In fact, it seems that the more one publicizes pithy little sayings and reduces the gospel to “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven” soundbite (or my personal favorite, “In case of rapture, this car will be unmanned” [are women not included?!  Ok, that was a cheap shot]), the more the Gospel (that is the good news of God’s love!) gets diluted.

Yes, we water down the Gospel, this phenomenon that has changed the world and still holds hope for the world.

Christmas wasn’t instated by Jesus Christ.  In fact, his birth was not central to many early Christians’ faith.  The fact that only two books in the Bible (Matthew and Luke) begin (or include) the story of Jesus’ birth certainly doesn’t mean that His birth was not important; on the contrary!  But it does mean that many thousands (at least) of people trusted in Christ without political ambition, without trying to coerce people who are not “called by His Name” to celebrate Him.

In fact, I wonder if Jesus cares as much about the arguments we make.  We often say it ourselves, that Jesus wasn’t born on Christmas.  So, why do we get all bent out of shape this time of year when people who aren’t Christians don’t want to celebrate his non-birthday?  Why is it that only one day in the year we remember God who came to be human?  Should not the advent of our Lord be celebrated and shared more than during the winter?

How many abuses have been done to others by Christians?  How many in the name of the babe in the manger?  How many have we, today, participated in, excluding others?  How often have we Christians been unloving or indifferent?  Not just to those who do not believe as we do, but to those who are our brothers and sisters, those who also claim the name of Jesus?

I’m all for celebrating Christmas.  This is probably my favorite time of the year.  But I can’t help thinking we’re fighting the wrong battle by trying to “keep Christ in Christmas.”  After all, is it really our job to keep Jesus somewhere, all neat and tidy?  It’s like we’re trying to appease the gods, relegating Jesus to His one time of year.  Maybe we should be trying to get Christ out of Christmas and into the rest of the world.

Perhaps instead of fighting to “keep Christ in Christmas” (or prayer in schools, or the 10 Commandments outside courthouses, or God on our money or in the Pledge – insert your Christianese battle here), let’s do something that really will impact our world:

Let’s put the Christ back in Christian.

That’s something we can control a bit more.  And it’s something surely more pleasing to God than trying to “take back” Christmas.  After all, what are Christians supposed to be known for, fighting and winning political battles over our rights, or pursuing justice and mercy for the oppressed, setting the captives at liberty, loving their neighbor??

Should we be known for making enemies by making the Gospel as offensive as possible, or realizing that the whole Gospel can be reduced to one statement, “to love your neighbor as you love yourself“?  To be sure, the Gospel is scandelous – who else’s god is celebrated as coming through an unwed teenager?  It can be offensive.  Unfortunately, Christians today have taken that job upon themselves, making ourselves offensive in an effort to claim the right to our own “pursuit of happiness.”  Christian has become a descriptive of culture instead of transformation.

Let’s decide to put Christ back in Christian.

That seems to be a better use of our effort.

responsible rights

Lindsay Lohan

Lindsay Lohan

Is it a sin to be gay?” Lohan asked. “Should it be a sin to be straight? Or to use birth control? Or to have sex before marriage? Or even to have a child out of wedlock?  Is our country so divided that the Republicans best hope is a narrow minded, media obsessed homophobe?
– Lindsay Lohan

Lohans words are indicative of a society who’s chief concern is our individual selves, whose primary allegiance is to our pleasure, whose devotion is to desire.  It is unfortunate that one who so clearly lacks anything even close to a moral compass would choose use her celebrity status to make political statements on whether a potential presidential vice president would make a good television anchor.

But even Lindsay is defined by her times.  These are not, as much as she would like to think, her own original thoughts.  The mentality she spouts is the very same thinking that is responsible for the prime time  television advertisements for the purple pill and herpes treatments.

She questions:  “Should it be a sin to have sex before marriage?  Or even to have a child out of wedlock?”  Lohan betrays her ignorance of social values.  These are not Republican social values, but rather those that are subscribed to across the political spectrum.  How many times have we heard bipartisan calls for sexual promiscuity to be curbed?  Or debates on how best to reduce the number of pregnancies or abortions or STDs?  Who among us is calling for complete sexual anarchy?  Regardless of affiliation, society and history affirm that a war cry for rights should be tempered with a call for responsibility.

Whether or not abstinance should be the only sexual education taught in our schools is not the issue here.  All sides agree that abstinance is the best and most responsible decision to avoid pregnancy, STDs and emotional scarring.  That much is agreed upon.  And I suspect that even the most liberal social moralist today would prefer to see reduced the numbers of teen/unmarried pregnancies, the rate of STD infections to drop, the number of abortions lessened.

Unfortunately, Lindsay Lohan would rather fancy herself as a sexually liberated woman whose actions are her rights, whose responsibility as a role model to her fans (Shaquille O’Neal anyone?) is a farce and whose political commentary is on par with educated political analysts.

We’ve taken Shakespeare’s, “To thine own self be true” and ignored its context.  We would be a much better people and much better country were we to hear his intent, not of selfishness, nor of loudly promoting our supposed rights, but of responsibility:

To thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man

in god we trust?

MSNBC.com recently ran an article and online vote inquiring whether or not to keep the motto, “In God We Trust” on our national currency.  Michael Newdow, an athiest, has embroiled himself in a lawsuit to remove this motto because it carries overt religious overtones – because it prefers religion to non-religion.

You can imagine the stir this provokes in the “Christian” community.

Fury.  Outrage.  Disbelief.

Fear.

It is as if removing “In God We Trust” implies that our country, the United States of America, has abandoned its Christian and religious roots.  No wonder this provokes fear.

On the other hand, it seems to me that placing “God” on “Money” can too easily blur the distinction between the two.  It can lead us to delude ourselves, believing that God approves of our religious nationalism, that God somehow feels better about Himself because His name is splashed across Benjamin Franklin’s bust.  Rather than reminding us that we should put our trust in God (and not in financial security), the motto on the money slyly implies that God is quite okay with our reliance on something other than Him.

He stamps His approval on our consumerism.

His name validates our ambition.

Worse, it gives the false impression that ours is a “Christian” nation (as if writing something about God on money proves that we really seek to follow Jesus).

I have a better idea.  Instead of indignantly asserting that “this is one more step towards secularism”, let’s acknowledge that we Christians have often done a poor job of revealing who Jesus is in a way such that all can be drawn to Him (John 12:32).  Let’s decide to show our friends, community – even our nation – that we trust in God by what we do more than what words on paper read.

faith…

faith japanese character      I think that the problem with faith nowadays, especially, but not exclusively, as it is used in politics, is that belief is used as a litmus test: faith has become believing the right things or agreeing with the same ideals. In other words, we too often judge another’s faith only on the basis of what they believe, what creeds they give their assent. If someone believes the same things as we do, then they have faith, because we are convinced that belief wholly comprises faith.

I’m not completely convinced of this. While right belief is an important factor in belief, what someone ‘believes’ is not the sole judge of their faith. One only has to look in the book of James to see biblical basis for that.

Marcus Borg, in his sometimes controversial book, “The Heart of Christianity” defines faith more exhaustively. He appeals to a more historic and holistic view of faith. I think he’s on to something here. Borg defines faith as the sum of 4 things: Trust, Faithfulness/Loyalty, Vision, Assent/Belief. In other words, faith is much deeper than the right beliefs we so often think are both part and whole of salvation.

This is to say that faith is not trust; it is not faithfulness or vision or belief. Faith cannot be wholly defined by one expression of that faith disconnected from the other. None of those aspects of faith can give us a definitive answer to the question, “What is faith?” Only when trust, faithfulness, vision and belief interact with one another do we get a clearer picture of faith – especially of a faith in Jesus Christ.

vote right…

Here’s an interesting tidbit from Rick Scarborough (who, on his website has a section entitled “Patriot Pastors“) as he endorses Mike Huckabee for President:

“[Our goal is to get] people who love Jesus to register and then vote their values – not as Republicans nor Democrats – but as follower and sons of God and Jesus Christ. If we can get them to do that and then present to them what the candidates believe, I just happen to believe that the majority of them will vote right.”

So, what exactly is like to “vote right”? Who’s standards will we employ? Who’s values? Does the Sanctity of Life value limit itself only to the unborn? Or does it extend to those facing the death penalty? How about the millions of children living in poverty or the 1.35 millions children who are homeless on any given night? Are their lives sacred? Are they included? If we’re going to vote “pro-life”, let’s vote truly pro-life.

How about stewardship? Do we see care for the environment and political fiscal responsibility as Christian values?

So, back to Mr. Scarborough’s quote, how indeed do we “vote right”?

christian = …republican?

Mike Huckabee          I’m an evangelical Christian and I am angry with Mr. Huckabee.  That a frontrunner for the Republican nominee for President would send a Christ-centered Christmas message paid for by his political action committee is distasteful and hypocritical.  In his own overtly political advertisement he levels the charge that there are too many political ads.

          I’m extremely skeptical of Huckabee’s motives.  In order to boost his credentials in the eyes of Christians who only seem to care about electing someone exactly like themselves, he tells us what many of us want to hear.  This is shameless pandering to voters.  It tells us nothing for which he stands, only that he is the best candidate because he celebrates the birth of Jesus.  Come on!  Please get this right, I want no generic winter holidays (although I might swing for a “Happy Festivus”); it’s Christmas time and there should be no shame in celebrating the birth of our Lord.  But please don’t celebrate it in order to schmooze voters; when you do this, you play right into this accusation against Christians: that we will vote for someone simply on the basis of their Christianity, regardless of whether or not he or she is a capable leader.

           I’m tired of this.  And I’m not the only one.  In several interviews with both churched and unchurched persons (conducted by one of my graduate seminary classes), people equated with failure the tendency of the Church to align itself with the Republican Party.  For too many Christians, to be Christian is to be Republican.  As the US Church, we have a lot of ground to make up because of this unholy marriage between conservative Republican politics and Evangelical Christianity. We’re strange bedfellows and we’re the only ones who don’t see it. 

authenticity

You know, I made some bad decisions that I’ve actually written about. You know, got into drinking. I experimented with drugs,” he said. “There was a whole stretch of time that I didn’t really apply myself a lot. It wasn’t until I got out of high school and went to college that I started realizing, ‘Man, I wasted a lot of time.‘” – Barack Obama

Politics aside, my respect goes up for anyone with a public profile who admits to being human and owns up to their mistakes. We’ve had more than our share of deceit from “I didn’t inhale” to “I had no idea about the Valerie Plame leak“. I’m sick of the nonsense that says, “I have to be seen as above reproach, devoid of weakness.” We’re plagued with this attitude from the church pulpit to the White House. When will we accept people as they are and let them own up to their past without having to undergo our judgment?

I’m not sure how open I would be in politics. Sure I value honesty and authenticity and so does the American public. Somehow we expect our politicians to be honest about their mistakes. But at the same time, when someone ‘fesses up, their political opponents and disgruntled constituents crucify them! We hold people to a double standard: Be authentic. But don’t have skeletons in your closet. We can’t have it both ways.

So, I’m impressed with Obama. Three cheers for him admitting his past drug and alcohol abuse. Mitt Romney should be ashamed of his comments denigrating Obama’s confession. I like a lot about Romney, but this is ridiculous. If everyone who has ever done anything remotely wrong is regarded as unfit for the Presidency (or any other office), we could have no President.

That includes Mitt Romney.