And Another Thing…

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To Change The World: Essay I – Chapters 1 & 2

Up front, let me say that this series of posts is not going to be a traditional critique or summary of the book. Rather, I will be processing my response to the material as I work through the book and answering three questions as I go:

  • Do I agree with what the author says?
  • Should his ideas be applied?

and if so,

  • How can they be applied in the context of the churches of Christ?

The book is broken into three essays: “Christianity and World-Changing,” “Rethinking Power,” and “Toward a New City Commons: Reflections on a Theology of Faithful Presence.” Each essay has about six or seven chapters and I will likely devote two or three posts to each essay depending on the complexity of the material.

Now with all of that said, let’s jump right in.

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Filed under: Books, Faith and Religion, Politics, To Change the World, , ,

Things I Don’t Think We Should Care About: The President’s Church

Christianity Today and Time both rushed to report that the President and his family have selected a church at which they plan to identify themselves as members. However, it appears that they may have spoken too soon.

And I submit to you: how important is this to anyone’s faith, or lack thereof?

So why am I even writing about it? Because people evidently think that this constitutes news. What’s more, some atheists are chortling over this as though it lends further credence to their meme (which apparently some of them really need to hold on to) that Obama is a closet atheist. If you don’t believe me, check out the Obama tag over at Friendly Atheist. I defy you to find at least one comment thread where some idiot doesn’t suggest that Obama pandered to all the slope-browed, mouth-breathing believers in order to be elected.  (FA is also the same site which gleefully informs us that a member of ABBA is an outspoken atheist. I guess if a member of a mediocre 70s vocal band doesn’t believe in God, well, the faith is sunk).

Until proven otherwise, I will maintain my default position that the god of all politicians, regardless of party allegiance, is power. Their only sacrament is approval ratings and their only holy day is the first one of their next term. I don’t need a pastor-in-chief to believe, and you don’t either.

Filed under: Faith and Religion, Politics, Rants, , , , , , , , , ,

While I Was Out

I got caught up on a couple of things at my internship and the instructor for the only class I am taking cancelled one of our major assignments, so here I am. What’s more, hundreds many a handful a couple of my beloved readers have written to ask when I plan to return, so here I find myself. What did I miss? Well: This twitter thing has caught on something fierce, a development which I absolutely did not expect. I won’t be taking this up, however. I can’t imagine that my life is that interesting minute by minute, even to me. I’m sure that I missed blogging on some other things, but for the life of me I can’t think of them right now. Consider this an invitation to do an open thread in the comments.

Books

I recently finished Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse by Victor Gischler. I think whether or not this book is for you will depend on your response to the title, because it delivers exactly what the title promises: an action-packed post-apocalyptic satire set in a future US where the most powerful business, bordering on a fiefdom, is a strip bar franchise. The humor is dark but the characters are endearing. Right now I am reading L.A. Outlaws by T. Jefferson Parker. So far, it is a good read with an interesting plot and believable characters. More after I finish it (maybe).

 TV

Battlestar Galactica came to its eagerly anticipated ending, and the results were interesting: neither the GREATEST ENDING OF ALL TIME as some critics have trumpeted nor a complete failure as other critics insist. Spoilers below:

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Filed under: Books, Faith and Religion, Geek Stuff, Movies, Music, Politics, School, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Duck and cover, someone’s being religious

Several years ago when I was working as a counselor in a group home for adults with mental illness, one of the clients (whom I will refer to as “Joe”) came into my office to complain about something. The exchange went something like this:

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Sigh

Even as the dust settles from the recent election, the spoil sporting continues. It appears that Abilene Christian University has come under fire in a recent column in The Abilene Reporter News by one of her alumni because the student paper, The Optimist, endorsed Obama.

Steve Hemphill, the author of the column, is surely within his rights to criticize his alma mater and to disagree with the student paper, even to take his toys and go home refuse to pay for his children to go there and to stop sending donations. However, I think that his logic is faulty on multiple levels. Consider:

Loyal donors aren’t going to be loyal to a “Christian” school with liberal, anti-God endorsements.

I recently asked an ACU professor, “What if I told you I had just come into some money and was interested in giving $300,000 to ACU or Harding, and ACU would get it if they (The Optimist) withdrew their endorsement of Obama?” He replied he would recommend not accepting it. He indicated that money shouldn’t influence a political decision or affect a moral position. I agreed. Moral positions shouldn’t be changed for monetary gain. But now we have a problem. That’s exactly what The Optimist did. It endorsed Obama, noting the primary reason as the economy.

Sadly, this is the state of the union — economy over morals.

First, the school did not endorse Obama. The student-run campus paper did. Second, his differentiation of economy and morals rings false – how we spend our money is a moral issue. Furthermore, as Mr. Hemphill notes, in a campus poll, the majority of students stated their support and intention to vote for McCain. Of course, Mr. Hemphill takes issue with the paper over this as well:

This minority endorsement is a reflection of that. The campus majority favored John McCain (in an Optimist poll). The paper didn’t reflect the feelings of the majority…

Granted, it’s only a campus newspaper. And while we could certainly debate the merits of any newspaper offering an endorsement of any candidate (personally, I’m against it) is any paper, even a student paper, obligated to adopt the majority stance? And are Christian schools (or any other school, for that matter) obligated to censor all editorial content in their papers?

There is also the disturbing phrasing he chooses in the top quote, “liberal, anti-God”. So I guess that everyone who voted for Obama is a liberal, and anti-God (why even separate the two, when in this fellow’s mind liberal politics automatically equals anti-God?). Good to know. Has it ever occurred to this gentleman that people might be more than their politics? That people other than registered Republicans can cast votes from spiritual convictions? That politics is an inherently sleazy enterprise and to seek pillars of faith among the elected is a waste of time and energy?

Next, he offers one of the most unctuous guilt-trips I have ever read (and I used to be a youth minister!):

One day, we’ll have to give an account, we’ll have to face those 45 million American aborted babies in eternity and explain ourselves. Somehow, I don’t think we can change their minds by saying, “I’m so sorry for voting for a man who supported abortion, but he was the best choice for the economy — I’m sure you understand.” They won’t. And God doesn’t.

I have already explained why [Comment 9] I put little stock in any presidential candidate’s stand on abortion ~ I have yet to see an compelling evidence that a president’s position on abortion has any effect whatsoever on the number of abortions performed in this country. I have also stated that Obama’s double-talk on this issue was a deal-breaker for me. But suppose that Obama actually delivers on his promise to lower abortions in the US through some of his policies…is Mr. Hemphill ready to eat crow over this?

He goes on:

The school paper is a reflection of ACU, and it endorsed a political candidate who supports abortion and homosexuality.

I can’t help but snicker when someone is accused of “supporting” homosexuality. I imagine someone running around yelling, “C’mon straights! Let’s try a little switch-hitting! Its fun!”

Next, he quotes Proverbs 14:34 (in the NLT no less): “God-devotion makes a country strong; God-avoidance leaves people weak.” The NASB translation is probably better: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” I certainly wouldn’t quibble with any of the wisdom to be found in Proverbs; but I wonder if he realizes the broad application of this verse? As a graduate of a Christian college, I can assure any reader that our campuses are, sadly, rife with sin; we just hide it better. I wonder if Mr. Hemphill is as concerned with the binge-drinking, casual sex, sanctimony, and hypocrisy rampant on our campuses as he is with the subjective endorsement of a handful of students. Does he care that Harding University, which he holds up as some moral light shining in the darkness, pretty much allowed intercollegiate athletes to do whatever they pleased without consequences (at least when I was there), just like those anti-God state schools? Favoritism is a sin too, kids.

My point is simple: Who is Mr. Hemphill, or myself, or you, or anyone to judge another’s faith, especially by how he or she votes? That is a dangerous game for any of us to be playing.

Filed under: Faith and Religion, Politics, Rants, School, , , , , , , , , , , ,

It’s over! It’s over! Woo-hoo!

My two cents on the election:

My title is sincere. I have known for the past 10 months that I would be happier about the end of the election than about whoever won it.

Within 50 years of the civil rights movement, we have seen a black man win a presidential election. There is something undeniably wonderful about that.

The next person who whines in my presence about having to wait in line to vote is going to get a punch in the throat. Millions of people around the world live in Third World toilets where any clown with enough men and guns can declare himself “President for Life”. What do you think citizens of such a country would endure to have a vote? How dare any American gripe about minor inconveniences when so many people risk their livelihoods and lives to cast a vote, or don’t get to vote at all?

McCain delivered a classy, humble, and moving concession speech. This is the John McCain that everybody loved in 2000. Where has he been for the past two years? I hope that he will have the opportunity to rehabilitate his image and reputation before he retires.

Is it just me, or did McCain actually look relieved and Obama somewhat solemn? I wonder if Obama is starting to think “What have I gotten myself into?” I sure would if I were him.

Jesse Jackson, that ambulance chaser of American race-relations, was there last night, his eyes red and moist. I wonder if he was crying from joy or because he knows that he could never have had the moment that Obama is having?

Brian Williams is okay, but I didn’t realize what a big hole Tim Russert’s passing left until last night.

If your candidate won: proceed with caution. Don’t put too much trust in any leader.

If your candidate lost: take a breath. The future is not nearly as bad as you expect.

Finally, this article, which aptly expresses how I and many other believers have felt about this election.

Filed under: Politics, , , , , , ,

In Which Objectivists Descend Into Self-Parody

Like a lot of folks I had a brief interest in Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism when I was younger. And like a lot of folks, I recognized it as completely bankrupt when I left adolescence. It should come as no surprise that teenagers are fond of Objectivism. It is a philosophy that encourages adherents to act as though they are the center of the universe, a behavior which most (not all, but most) teenagers have already mastered. However, spend any time in the blogosphere and you are likely to encounter adults who haven’t quite put away this particular childish thing yet. Their commitment to it is absolute, regardless of its precarious balance at the top of a very slippery slope.

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Filed under: Politics, , , , , , , , , , ,

Why I wrote that last post

Consider this:

Canadian doctor warns Sarah Palin’s decision to have Down baby could reduce abortions

’nuff said.

UPDATE 9/15: Link appears to be down. But the headline tells you all you need to know. The doctor in question seems to think that women choosing to keep their babies is a bad thing. Thanks to Micah for the notice.

Filed under: Politics, , ,

This is what I was talking about all along

On more than one occasion I have taken issue with Christians in the U.S. whining about perceived “persecution” that they experience (here, here, here, and here) and have pointed out that our brothers and sisters around the world would rightly laugh at what we consider suffering for the faith.

If you want to know what modern persecution really looks like, consider recent events in India. In response to the murder of a Hindu leader by Maoist rebels (and no these are not those elusive Christian Maoists), Hindus have begun burning Christian meeting places, assaulting priests, and gang-raping nuns.

I tend to roll my eyes when people on the right or left complain about the big, bad media. In my experience, the criteria that most Americans use to distinguish good, objective reporting from biased reporting is whether or not the story in question supports or threatens their already-held assumptions. However, it is hard to not conclude that American media has completely dropped the ball on this. Consider this headline: Faiths Clash, Displacing Thousands in East India. The first line of the story states:

NEW DELHI — At least 3,000 people, most of them Christians, are living in government-run relief camps after days of Christian-versus-Hindu violence in eastern India, government officials said.

This doesn’t really sound like a clash to me; more like a religious rumble between Christians and Hindus. As Get Religion observes:

Now, if you read that this was “Christian-versus-Hindu violence” and then you read that the riots began with the death of a Hindu leader, what would you assume? Let’s see, that would be Christians attacking Hindus and a Hindu leader was killed, thus leading to violence in which Hindus responded to the violence against them.

Draw your own conclusions on this.

Filed under: Faith and Religion, Politics, , , , , , , ,

Irony, thy name is NPR

I have absolutely no regrets about going back to school get my MSW. It has been a mostly pleasant experience, i’ve enjoyed the work, learned a lot, and I have made some great friendships in the process. However, like any other educational experience, one must take the meat and leave the bones.

For instance I have learned a great deal about behavior, mental disorders, public policy, statistics, research, and families. This is the meat. On the other hand, I have also had to resist indoctrination (in some classes and among some peers) about how the rich white cabal that secretly runs this country does everything in their power to continuously oppress women, non-whites, and every other person besides the destructive and over-privileged rich white male. Being a white male, I have yet to experience the phenomenon that my professors keep talking about where the world is handed to me for no other reason than my being a white male. This, obviously, is the bones.

I don’t deny that times are hard. I don’t deny that the power-brokers of our nation are pathetically out of touch with the working class. I don’t deny that honest, hard-working people sometimes get hosed. All it takes is a catastrophic illness or being downsized by their employer to push a lot of families into desperate financial straights. I believe that poverty is largely cyclical, passed on from generation to generation like a curse. I don’t even deny the existence of residual, institutionalized discrimination, although I don’t believe it is as widespread or prevalent as some would have us believe. And I believe that any civil society must make provisions for those at the bottom in the hopes of helping them transcend their circumstances. This idea goes back at least as far as the Old Testament, when God commanded the Israelites to leave some of their crops unharvested so that the poor would have access to them.

However, I also believe that people must participate in their own survival. I believe that any honest work, even work that is below one’s capacities, is more honorable than not working. I believe that welfare, while sometimes necessary in the short-term, robs people of their dignity and self-respect in the long-term.

It is with these thoughts in mind that I present this story from NPR. Read the story below, giving special attention to the part at the end where it talks about buying groceries, then click underneath it for a picture of the folks profiled in the article. One hopes that NPR photographers will be more careful about how they take pictures of the subjects of articles in the future.

For Some Ohioans, Even Meat Is Out Of Reach

Her father worked at General Motors for 45 years before retiring. Her mother taught driver’s education. Nunez and her six siblings grew up middle class.

Things have changed considerably for this Ohio family.

Nunez’s van broke down last fall. Now, her 19-year-old daughter has no reliable transportation out of their subsidized housing complex in Fostoria, 40 miles south of Toledo, to look for a job.

Nunez and most of her siblings and their spouses are unemployed and rely on government assistance and food stamps. Some have part-time jobs, but working is made more difficult with no car or public transportation.

Low-income families in Ohio say they are particularly hard-hit by the changes in the economy, according to a new poll conducted by NPR, The Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard School of Public Health. Two-thirds of lower-income respondents, or 66 percent, say paying for gas is a serious problem because of recent changes in the economy. Nearly half of low-income Ohioans, or 47 percent, say that getting a well-paying job or a raise in pay is also major problem.

‘I Just Can’t Get A Job’

Nunez, 40, has never worked and has no high school degree. She says a car accident 17 years ago left her depressed and disabled, incapable of getting a job. Instead, she and her daughter, Angelica Hernandez, survive on a $637 Social Security check and $102 in food stamps.

Hernandez received her high school diploma and has had several jobs in recent years. But now, because fewer restaurants and stores are hiring, she says she finds it hard to find a job. Even if she could, she says it’s particularly hard to imagine how she’ll keep it. She says she needs someone to give her a lift just to get to an interview. And with gas prices so high, she’s not sure she could afford to pay someone to drive her to work every day.

People tell Nunez her daughter could get more money in public assistance if she had a child.

“A lot of people have told me, ‘Why don’t your daughter have a kid?'”

They both reject that as a plan.

“I’m trying to get a job,” Hernandez says. “I just can’t get a job.”

Hernandez says she’s trying to get training to be a nurse’s assistant, but without her own set of wheels or enough money to pay others for gas, it hasn’t been easy.

‘What’s Going To Happen To Us?’

Most of their extended family lives in the same townhouse complex. The only employer within walking distance is a ThyssenKrupp factory that makes diesel engine parts. That facility, which employs 400 people, is shutting down and moving to Illinois next year.

The only one with a car is Irma Hernandez, Nunez’s mother. Hernandez says that with a teenage son still at home, the cost of feeding him and sending him to school is rising, and she can no longer pay for the car.

She’s now two car payments behind.

“I’m about to lose my car,” she says on her way to pick up one of her daughters to take her to Toledo. “So then what’s going to happen to us?”

So Nunez and her daughter are mostly stuck at home.

The rising cost of food means their money gets them about a third fewer bags of groceries — $100 used to buy about 12 bags of groceries, but now it’s more like seven or eight. So they cut back on expensive items like meat, and they don’t buy extras like ice cream anymore. Instead, they eat a lot of starches like potatoes and noodles.

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Filed under: Politics, School, , , , , , ,

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