Category Archives: Politics

Government is to be a service to people, not the solution.

On God’s Side

This book by Jim Wallis was a welcome read for me, but I was ready to consider his ideas.  For some time I’ve been more loyal to Jesus than a political party.  I am registered as an independent.  So I was easily on board when Wallis presented the three target points of his book:

  1. Christian conversion is to impact more than the destiny of my eternal soul.  It is to impact the way I live in this world.
  2. Faith transcends politics, and
  3. My faith should be lived in public for the public good.

The book title comes from a quote by Abraham Lincoln, “My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side.”  Wallis helps me see that I am weakly committed to God’s side in some areas of political debate.  I have been caught up in the either/or mentality rather than both/and solutions.  The table below gives an example of what I’m saying.  It compares the different views of what causes poverty.

Liberals    (blame society)

Conservatives    (blame individuals)

poor-paying jobs poor work habits and work experience
poor education no dedication to education
no or poor child care having children out of marriage
poor housing options weak family structure
lack of affordable health care substance abuse

Commonsense says that I have an individual responsibility for improving my conditions, but it also says that forces outside my influence can make my progress more difficult or even impossible.  Working from only one side of the aisle will not correct the root of the problem.  We have to work on both lists.

Wallis repeatedly discusses “justice”.  He explains that justice has a broad range of meanings: righteousness, wholeness, deliverance, Shalom, and healed relationships.  He emphasizes that Jesus wants this multi-faceted type of justice for everyone.  And he’s afraid that justice can slip to an optional status when it is viewed as an implication of the Kingdom of God rather than an integral part of it.

I really enjoyed this book, but I think some Christians may find it uncomfortable.  He really challenges the readers to embrace following Jesus above following a political party.

My notes on this book can be downloaded in MS Word format from the blue “FILES box” in the right side-bar of this blog.  Look for “On His Side” as you scroll through the box.

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A Political 23rd Psalm

After Dad’s death, I was looking through his belongings and found something that I’m sure Mom cut from the paper.  I could not find a date on the clipping, but the reverse side was advertising ground beef for 39 cents per pound.  Take a look.

Society is my shepherd; I shall not work.
It alloweth me to lie down on a feather bed.
It leadest me beside the still factories; it destroyeth my ambition.
It leadeth me in the paths of a goldbrick for politics sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of inflation and deficit spending,
I will fear no evil, for the welfare agencies are with me.
Their generosity and their staff, they comfort me.
They prepared the requisitions that filleth my table,
By mortgaging the earnings of my grand children.
My head is filled with mirth that my cup runneth over without effort;
Surely, the taxpayers shall care for me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell in the house of a parasite forever.

So it seems concern about government programs is an old issue.  But this “psalm” gives me concern.  I’m concerned that someone believed this sarcastic rewrite of the 23rd Psalm was the proper response to the poor.  In fact, to me, being “poor” means that I lack something, and we all lack something.  Usually people think being poor is lacking money or material goods, but I can also lack friendships, understanding, spirituality, listening skills, hope, self-esteem, humility, job skills, good health, and a hundred other things.  We are all poor, and we all need help.

I don’t see this song as helping anything.  It seems to judge rather than understand and redeem.  It seems to forget that we each can learn something from one another.  It seems to forget that each of us has some  kind of poverty, even if I deny it exists.  It ignores that I have little room to mock and degrade people who are poor in a different way than me.

I wager to say that most of us have some kind of poverty that seems to cling to us.  A kind of poverty that sucks the strength and hope from us.  We  try to fill that lack by hard work, wrong choices, determination, trying again, and failing again.  Getting out of poverty, all kinds of poverty, can be a struggle.  The struggle isn’t always just with ourselves, as this “psalm” implies.  The struggle may be with systems, lack of support, or no foothold to start the journey.   That’s where we all need to help.  Perhaps the worst kind of poverty is a lack of friendships.  My friendships have aided me in many a problem, and this aid started with my family.  Life can be  incredibly hard without a healthy, uplifting family.  Thankfully I only know that fact secondhand, many people know it up close and personal.

So the best thing I can do is to help those who are ready to help themselves and pray for those who aren’t.  If each one of us helped the other, I believe we would see less poverty of all kinds.  We would  have richer lives if for no other reason than that we would have each other.

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Man, Science, and God

Three sentences in the October 3, 2011 edition of Time magazine gave me reason to pause.  They enlightened me to how some people think and where they place their hope.

First, there was a two-page advertisement by Dow Chemical Company which contained a sentence that made me gasp.  I was stunned.   It read, “Together, the elements of science and the human element can solve anything.”

Then, page twenty had a commentary by Lisa Randall who teaches Physics at Harvard.  In 2007, she was voted by Time magazine as one of the one-hundred most influential people.  Let me quote the two sentences that caught my attention, “Adherents who want to accept both religious influences on the world and scientific explanations for its workings are obliged to confront the chasm between tangible effects and unseen, imperceptible influences that is unbridgeable by logical thought.  They have no choice but to admit the inconsistency – or simply overlook the contradiction.”   I’ve read those sentences a few times, and here’s what I think she means.  Religion and science are incompatible because science is logical and religion is not.

I don’t intend to argue about these two statements.  I’m still reeling from them.  I want to consider what this means for those who hold such beliefs, and what does this mean for me, someone who does not.

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In A Box

They put me in a labeled box and nailed it shut.

Fighting will not free me.  Rescue is impossible.  Only my captors can liberate me.  They made the box according to their self-made blueprint. They are the ones who stuck me in it.  I think it makes them feel safer.  It makes their life easier.  My crime is simple; I am not one of them.  And there is only one way out – become one of them.

But even that act will not set me free.  If I become like my captors, then I fall victim to another gang who will imprison me because I am not like them.  No matter what I choose, I am not free to be me – at least not without fear of someone sealing me in a labeled box.  There are too many of them – the boxes with labels.

What is a man to do?  Or a woman?  Or a democratic, a Muslim, a black, the handicapped, a CEO, an addict, an atheist, a genXer?

A single idea, word, act, or belief cannot be the only criteria for who we are.  We are much too complex and changing for that method.  It would seem obvious that labeling is extremely inaccurate, if not impossible.  But our only solution seems to be to multiply the act.

We create labeled boxes within labeled boxes.  Americans are liberal, conservative, progressive, Northerners, Southerners, redneck, trash, white collar, and a host more.  Protestant Christians, already double labeled and boxed, seek to label and imprison themselves further: evangelical, contemporary, emerging, organic, traditional, etc. 

And what do these labels mean?  What makes someone an extremist, a radical, nominal, or average?  Who creates the final definition and commissions its use?

Why are we so eager to lock a developing human being into a labeled box?

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About Abortion

I have questioned some of my attitudes about abortion.  As a result, some of my beliefs have been solidified, others modified, and others reversed.  Let me share an example of each.

I believed using abortion as a form of birth control was wrong.  A fundamental issue seems to be a woman’s right to do to her own body whatever she desires.  Some believe the fetus is part of the woman’s body; it is not a human body in and of itself.  From that view, an abortion is nothing more than cosmetic surgery.  In my reconsideration, I cannot escape the hypocrisy of a judge declaring the murder of a pregnant woman as a double homicide while another judge says that a mother who aborts her fetus is simply removing an unwanted tumor.  A human fetus is a human life, or it isn’t.  It cannot alternate back and forth at the whim of the court or even the mother.  And I see the line between fetus and human to be so fine that it is practically invisible.  I recall several examples that highlights Jesus’ defense of the defenseless, and an unborn human is as defenseless as I can imagine. Therefore, I still believe abortion, as a method of birth control, is wrong.

I believed that abortion, as a form of birth control, should be illegal.  My underlying belief was that if abortion was illegal then abortions would stop.  At the least, the number of abortions would dramatically decrease.  However, history does not prove this true.  Slavery is illegal yet there are more slaves now than at any other time in history – over twenty million worldwide according to one report.  The US State Department estimates that approximately 16,000 foreign nationals are trafficked into the United States every year to serve, for all practical purposes, as slaves.  The FBI has rescued more children destined for a life of sex slavery from my home state, Ohio, than any other state in the nation.  Like antislavery laws, making abortion illegal will fall short of stopping abortions.  In fact, it will probably cause an increase in other forms of unsafe, unexpected, and criminal behaviors.  My belief is reversed.  I no longer see anti-abortion legislation as the solution to this moral and ethical issue.  Legislation isn’t enough.

I used to believe that picket lines, protests, boycotts, and other non-violent demonstrations yielded only negative results.  However, the negative results I witnessed were mainly due to ignorant and hateful methods.  I have no doubt that unified protests done in wisdom and love can turn an unwanted pregnancy into a loving mother-child relationship.  I am willing to modify my belief with condition.  If these exhibitions are done wisely as acts of love for all concerned, I believe they have great merit.  But such displays alone will not stop abortions.

Honestly, I think most of the anti-abortion efforts I consider, let alone do, fall short.  Actually they fall upon the wrong shoulders.  I throw blame or responsibility at government, special-interest groups, and even specific political parties.  I sure don’t take any personal responsibility, and that makes me question my personal conviction on this matter.  What could I do if I am willing to personally sacrifice?

  • More that 85% of insurance companies cover abortions.  Am I willing to investigate my insurance company’s policy?  Will I write a letter of dissent if they pay for abortions?  Would I drop my insurance in favor of another company who does not cover abortion costs even if the premiums are more costly?
  • Am I willing to volunteer at a shelter or clinic for unwed pregnant girls?  Would I support the shelter or clinic financially?
  • Will I listen to those who disagree and really try to understand before I speak my beliefs?  Will I speak my beliefs with love, reason, and grace to those who disagree? 
  • Would I promise a pregnant girl, who has little income, my personal financial support?  Can I promise emotional support when it is lacking?  Can I care about her as I would care for my own child?
  • Do I know how Jesus feels about this issue?  Do I seek his counsel as much as I listen to politicians, talk show voices, and media commentators?  Who will I follow?
  • Would I be eager to lead a support group for expectant mothers?  How ready am I to mentor soon-to-be fathers?
  • Will I refuse to push my personal convictions regarding birth control onto those with different beliefs, support, options, and responsibilities?
  • Will I promise, and keep my promise, to pray daily for God to intervene with grace, hope, courage, and wisdom in the lives of all those facing the choice of abortion?
  • Do I comfort those who have abortion in their past and desperately need grace for healing?
  • Can I love those who disagree with me?  Can I behave like Jesus toward them rather than acting like the Pharisees and Sadducees who Jesus so severely chided?

All these questions, and more, I must answer – not only to myself but to God.  It is time for my behavior to change.  Abortion is not a political issue but a moral one, and my foolish, hateful attitude, actions, and words make no positive difference.  I do too little of the wise and good.  I need to love a lot more.  And love is a verb.

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