An Open Letter To The Million-Dollar Abortive Mother

Dear Million-Dollar Abortive Mother,

I hesitate to call you a mother, since what you’re currently doing by threatening to abort your child unless pro-lifers send you a million dollars falls more in the vein of slave-traders, hijackers, and the Saw movies than motherhood.  But whether you choose to acknowledge it or not – and whether I think the title is deserved or not – you are, in fact, a mother.

You’re a mother because you have a 7-week old child growing inside of you – a fact you acknowledged in your essay by using the terms “baby”, “child” and “he or she”.  You didn’t even bother trying to pitch any lines about “choice”, “fetus”, or “clump of tissue” – aged propaganda mechanisms so insipid that even the pro-aborts at Salon advocate ditching them in favor of outright pro-killing language.

No, you came right out and said it: I’m pregnant, I have a baby, and I’m going to kill that baby to make a political point.

Your ultimatum itself explicitly assumes that the life of a child is on the line. I mean, nobody would give a million dollars for a lab sample of your hair or skin or a suspect-looking mole you had removed.  But that’s not what you’re selling, is it? You’re not holding a clump of cells ransom, you’re holding a child. Your child.

I’m sure you’re seeing exactly the kind of reaction you expected from such a challenge.  I’m sure you’re seeing praise and admiration from liberals to whom sexual license is the only remaining virtue. I’m sure you’re seeing shock and outrage from conservatives who see your actions as disturbing and self-interested. I’m sure you’re seeing the media eat it up, as headline after headline draws viewers to your essay.

But more important than all that is what you’re not seeing, Mom.

Right now, at this very moment, unaware of the cultural drama his or her little life is spawning,  your baby is developing hands and feet, and eyelids to cover eyes that are already gaining their color. Those hands and feet are your hands and feet.  Those eyes are your eyes.  A few short months from now, when your baby breathes his or her first breath, every fiber of that little being will recognize you as mother. You will be home to that child – the most important, most precious, and most loved being in their entire existence.

I know this, despite being a loathsome uterus-less patriarchal miscreant, because a little over two months ago, my wife and I had our first child.  We were both excited from the moment we found out about the pregnancy, but we could not have imagined how much joy our son has brought to our lives.

I was by my wife’s side when he was delivered, and watched as he reacted with fear and confusion to all the lights and noises and doctors and nurses – heck, he didn’t even want to see me.  There was only one person in the world who he knew, trusted, and loved: Mommy.

He’s getting big already – growing so quickly. He recognizes my voice when I come home from work, and has just recently learned to smile back at me when I play with him.  He coos and squeals and tries to talk to me, painting my expressions on his little face in an attempt to communicate with the strange non-mom human who grows hair on his face.

But when he gets tired, or gets hurt, or has an upset tummy, he doesn’t want to be around dad anymore.  He wants mom.  See, he and mom have been together for much longer than the 10 weeks that I’ve had the privilege of knowing him.  When the world is scary and mean, dad just doesn’t cut it. He wants to fall asleep in his mother’s arms, hearing the same voice he’s been hearing since the second trimester, feeling the security of the same steady heartbeat that has given life and nourishment to him since conception, and resting secure in the knowledge that she would literally die to protect him.

That’s the relationship your baby has with you right now, whether you know it or not. At this very moment, that little developing brain is slowly getting wired with your intelligence, your wit, and your emotions.

Look, Million-Dollar Abortive Mother (is it okay if I just call you MDAM?), since you’ve decided to make your baby’s life a matter for public negotiation, you’re going to be immersed in the cultural ripples of such a decision whether you succeed in your stated goal of remaining anonymous or not. You’re going to hear a lot of opinions, some you agree with, some you don’t agree with, and some you hate people for even expressing.  This letter might be one of those.  And that’s cool.  Hate me all you want. Hate me and my ignorant restrictive pro-life family, desperately clinging to our backward religious notions of the sanctity of human life. Hate conservatives, hate Republicans, and hate the Tea Party.

Just please don’t hate your baby. Please don’t hold this gun to the head of your beautiful son or daughter, who has a lifetime of hugs and giggles and accomplishments and joy and hurts and love to share with you.

I know this might sound crazy to you in an age where love is pretty much synonymous with sex, and where hashtags like #LoveWins get applied to movements that foster bigotry and discrimination against people of faith, but my wife and I love your baby. Not the concept of your baby, not the idea of winning an argument or proving a point.

We really, actually, love your baby.

Sight unseen, not knowing if he or she will survive the next few weeks, we love your baby.  We will be on our knees praying that you reconsider your decision to end your child’s life. We will rejoice if you choose to keep your baby, and we will mourn if you end that precious little life – as we do for each of the 58 million children who have been sacrificed on the altar of convenience in America since Roe v Wade.

But that’s not all we will do.

You see, as Christians, we are commanded to love not only in word, but in deed. For those who look to Christ as the ultimate example of love, it’s not enough to feel empathy or spin up warm feelings for the occasional act of kindness. I may love imperfectly, but I do have an idea what love is – something I think you might agree that our culture has largely lost sight of.

Do you consider yourself a loving person, Mom?  Have you asked yourself if this ultimatum is the loving thing to do, let alone the right thing?

The Bible talks a lot about love, but it never encourages following your heart, or doing what feels right.  In fact, it places a lot less emphasis on loving feelings than on loving actions.

I’m sure you’ve been to enough weddings in your life to have heard some version of I Corinthians 13 – which I’m pretty sure has been dubbed the official wedding chapter of the Bible.  It says a lot of important things about love, that I humbly ask you to consider with relation to your child.

It says love is patient and kind. Love is selfless – doesn’t seek its own interest. Love doesn’t rejoice in iniquity (doing whatever it wants), but rejoices in truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.

Lastly, love never fails.

Ever.

Love, in fact, always wins. It must always win, for when it stops winning, this world won’t be a place any of us care to live in any longer.

The challenge you have issued strikes right at the heart of what it means to be a Christian, what it means to be human, and what it means to love. This isn’t about scoring political points or making a statement anymore. This is about life and death, love and hate, truth and falsehood.

I know I’ve written a lot, but bear with me. I’m coming to the point.

The wisest man who ever lived once judged between two mothers fighting over a child they both claimed as their own. Not knowing who the real mother was (DNA tests weren’t quite as accessible 3,000 years ago), he commanded that the child be cut in half and one half given to each woman. One of the women smugly accepted the judgment, content that neither would get the child.  But the true mother cried out to spare the child’s life, even if it meant losing him to the pretender.

The moral of the story is simply this: life is precious.  It’s more precious than comfort or pleasure or convenience, and it’s more important than proving yourself right.

As a rule, I don’t negotiate with terrorists.  And make no mistake – that’s what you’re acting as when you threaten a child with dismemberment and death for the sake of money and politics.

The only difference between the statement you will make by aborting your child, and the statement that the Islamic State makes by beheading people, is that their actions garner universal condemnation, while yours will likely enjoy praise from your pro-choice friends and liberals nationwide.  They will celebrate, they will adore, and they will rally around you to tell you how courageous you are for choosing to have that life, that future, snuffed out in order to tell off your conservative foes. If you decide to come forward with your identity, your name will be everywhere.  You’ll make the talk shows, and you’ll be an icon in the pro-abortion movement, for a while.

And when the lights die down and the praise fades and your fifteen minutes are up, and the nation moves on to the next controversy, none of those friends, none of that fame, and none of those fans will be able to fill the hole of “what if” in your heart.  The day will come when you wake up from a dream about a beautiful little girl with your smile, only to realize that dream died the day you walked into the clinic. I pray that you don’t have to live with that. I pray that you will get to hold your baby in your arms, to feel that trust and that love, and to know within yourself that no other choice could ever be so powerful as the choice to protect life.

Now just to be candid, it’s hard to trust someone who puts up an anonymous online threat accompanied by a “donate” button, so forgive me if I – and likely many other passionate pro-lifers – are hesitant about dumping our money into a nameless website with no proof of the situation whatsoever. It’s a bit like me putting up a website saying that I’ve kidnapped the Sultan of Agrabah and will kill him if all American muslims do not pool their resources to buy me a magic carpet.

I also suspect your motives may be worse than a simple con job – by limiting the time you will receive these “donations” and setting the bar at an amount that few presidential candidates can even raise in 72 hours, it seems pretty obvious that you didn’t want to take any chances with being proven wrong by generous people of faith.  It’s a lot easier to just take the publicity, make your statement, kill the baby, and go on living your life with a chip on your shoulder, knowing that you proved all pro-lifers to be both gullible rubes and selfish hypocrites.

But here’s the thing, Mom: I really do love your baby, and I want your baby to live.  I want that more than I want to upgrade my beat-up old car.  I want it more than I want the Xbox One I’ve had my eye on for a while.  I want it more than I want convenience and comfort for my own family – whom I love desperately and would die for in an instant.

I can’t speak for the rest of the pro-life world. I can’t speak for all Christians. And I can’t give you a million dollars to stop you from murdering your baby.

But I can give what I have – all I have.  Get in touch with me – email me, message me, heck even tweet at me – and if you can prove you are serious, then my wife and I will empty our bank accounts tomorrow, with no hesitation and no regret. If you are sincere, and you can show the truth of your claim and the reality of your intent, then get in touch with me, and I will give every last dime I have to see that your child has a future.

We will stand, alone if necessary, to show that the love of Christ still moves people.  We will give, to show that life is more valuable than possessions. We will love our enemies and care for those we have never met, because that is what we were called to do, by a man who sacrificed himself for us when we hated him.

And whether you respond to my challenge or not, whether you go through with your intended course of action or not, whether or not you are even sincere in your situation, you will never be able to say that no one answered the call. You will never be able to say that those standing for life did not put their belief into action, or that they placed convenience over conscience.

Finally, Abortive Mom, I want to thank you.  Not thank you for something great you’ve done or are doing, of course – while I care about you and your child and hope that you are able to joyfully walk through life together, I find your actions and your challenge to be appalling, cowardly, and despicable.

I literally don’t think it gets any lower than holding your own child for ransom, and threatening to extinguish an innocent life just to make someone else look bad.  That’s the kind of malice that could probably get you elected leader of Boko Haram.

No, I have to thank you, not for the calloused and evil thing you are trying to do, but for what I believe God is going to do through you, and through others who have lately thrown down the gauntlet to people of faith.

Because of this challenge, my wife and I sat in our living room tonight and discussed exactly what a life is worth to us.  We recognized that sometimes issues are decided in wars of words and political landslides, but sometimes they must be decided by a handful of principled people who are willing to bleed for what is right.  We found that we could not live with the prospect of being Oskar Schindler’s character at the end of the movie “Schindler’s List” (a film you should definitely check out).  We refuse to look back at this period of atrocity in our nation’s history and wonder if we could have done more to end it.

I’m thankful because I believe that your challenge may end up doing more for the pro-life cause than a million dollars’ worth of ad buys could have done. I think your essay – whether real or a hoax, mind you – exposed the true nature of the pro-abortion crowd: you admit that you’re ending a child’s life, and you don’t care.  As long as it makes the other side look bad, no action is too base, no threat too demeaning.

And finally, I’m thankful for your challenge, because it reminds me that no matter how dark and twisted this world gets, in the end, love always wins. It doesn’t win because of the immediate results, but because of the eternal ones. It wins because it is unmoving, unchangeable, and unquenchable.  It wins because it is not bound by time or space or relationship or finances or political affiliation.  And ultimately history ends up on the right side of it, because history just isn’t strong enough to bend it.

The pro-life movement isn’t dying in America, MDAM.  We’re fighting, we’re winning, and the youth of America (who, by the way, are increasingly pro-life) will one day look back and thank God that we finally ended the hideous and barbaric practice of abortion in America.

And I hope and pray, with all of my heart and all of my finances, that your child is among them.

 

Why Do TPA Opponents Trust Obama?

Most of the recent discussion surrounding Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) has focused on the overwhelming distrust of the President from, well, pretty much everyone. Many fear that the President plans to use trade agreement back-doors to compromise US sovereignty and ram through environmental and immigration policies that would not have a chance of making it through the GOP-controlled congress. The most consistent critique of those who support TPA (other than the criticisms mistakenly applied to TPA, that were intended for the TPP… read this to clear up that confusion) is that we should not trust this President with more power given his track record of abusing authority and circumventing Congress.

The funny thing is that we completely agree.

And that’s why we support the TPA.

Those who treat TPA as an unprecedented empowerment of the President do so without the support of history – and there is a lot of history to contend with. The narrative goes that according to Article 1 Section 8 of the US Constitution, the President has no right to negotiate trade deals, his Article II powers of treaty negotiation notwithstanding.

This interpretation is not changing due to this week’s TPA vote – it changed 125 years ago with the McKinley Tariff Act, which empowered the President to unilaterally set tariffs with Congressional authority at his back. This delegation of authority was challenged and ruled Constitutional by the Supreme Court in 1892. From that time on, Presidents gained more and more unilateral trade negotiation and tariff imposition power, taking a giant leap forward under FDR with the Reciprocal Trade Agreement Act of 1934. The idea behind the centralization of negotiating power was similar to that of the Founders with treaty negotiation – it’s almost impossible to negotiate with a foreign nation when subjecting the final agreement to the knuckle-dragging and self-interested amendments of 535 warring legislators. No nation (or individual, for that matter) wants to sign an agreement, only to have a bunch of amendments tacked on post-ratification.

For almost a century, the President had vast authority to negotiate with foreign powers, and little accountability to Congress at all.

That all changed in 1974, when the Democratic congressional majority decided to push back against Republican President Richard Nixon by establishing their own priorities and terms for trade negotiation with the Trade Act of 1974 – the progenitor of and template for the modern TPA.

The Trade Act laid out Congressional trade priorities, and bound the President to abide by them during negotiations. It also set strict reporting requirements on the executive, and placed both houses of Congress in direct oversight before, during, and after trade negotiations. In return, Congress agreed to allow a vote on any negotiated agreements without amendment or filibuster – an insignificant concession given the fact that The Congress hadn’t used its constitutional authority on any trade or tariff negotiation for decades. The guarantee of an up/down vote from Congress gave the President the negotiating leverage by assuring foreign partners that a given agreement would last beyond the end of an administration – the single luxury that Presidents did not have prior to the passage of the ’74 Act.

Many of those discussing the 2015 TPA assume that in its absence, trade deals and foreign negotiations would revert back to the jurisdiction of Congress, and the President would be bound to futility for the duration of his term. But without overturning over a century of trade law and court precedent, that’s not going to happen. The President still has enormous legal authority for the negotiation of trade and tariff agreements, requiring zero Congressional oversight or approval. Whether this should be the case or not is irrelevant – the fact is that there is a strong legal background for such authority, and the courts have upheld challenges against it for over a hundred years. If TPA fails, trade agreements default back to the President – who has already shown that he will not hesitate to act unilaterally.

Consider the irony of Conservatives working to prevent the TPA and thereby returning unchecked negotiating power to a President who is already in the middle of negotiating a deal with Iran in total defiance of both houses of congress.

Who’s the trusting one?

The whole discussion reminds me of a long-forgotten scene from a long-forgotten movie whose franchise got a reboot this very weekend. In the critically-disdained Jurassic Park III, Dr. Grant’s young sidekick has stolen some raptor eggs, hoping that they will help fund a flailing research endeavor back in the states. Knowing the bereft raptors would soon come looking for the eggs, Dr. Grant seems ready to throw the eggs away, before reconsidering . Another character insists he get rid of the eggs, urgently asking “What if they catch us with them?” Dr. Grant, without missing a beat, turns and responds, “What if they catch us without them?”

 

This is the defining dilemma of the TPA. While there is of course a risk that a lawless executive will disregard some of the limitations set forth, without the limitations and congressional priorities defined in the TPA, President Obama is free to negotiate and sign the United States on to any trade agreement or tariff hike he sees as beneficial. This dangerous lack of congressional oversight is exactly what can breathe life into the corporate global Frankenstein that both conservatives and liberals currently fear.

While shockingly few of the internet warriors I’ve encountered have actually read the easily-available text of the TPA, there are a lot of important provisions that they would see if they did. Here are just a few of them.

  1. The TPA contains an extensive list of Congressional objectives that the President must pursue and deliver in order to retain trade promotion authority. Among the priorities listed in the current TPA are: protection of intellectual property, ending unfair currency manipulation among member nations, open US markets in other nations by ending access limitations imposed upon US businesses by other governments, and protect Israel against coordinated foreign boycotts.
  2. According to the terms of TPA, the promotion of any environmental policies through a trade agreement is limited to partner nations – exempting the US from any such imposition.
  3. The President must submit an annual report to Congress on the progress of any trade agreement toward the objective set forth in the TPA – failure to meet Congressional objectives is grounds for revocation of TPA.
  4. Any implementing law changes from any trade agreement must go through the normal legislative process.
  5. Requires that one member of each house of congress (chosen by that house) be credentialed as a member of the US trade delegation, providing a window for constant oversight by both houses of congress as negotiations progress.
  6. Establishes a new transparency officer to assist US Trade Representative in disseminating information about all proposed trade deals to the public. Specifically calls for soliciting public input on proposed trade deals.
  7. Requires that the President notify Congress of any new trade agreements he intends to negotiate at least 90 days before initiating talks.
  8. The President must submit a complete implementation plan to Congress when he submits the finalized agreement for consideration. Must contain budget, personnel, and all other implementation requirements, upfront.
  9. All finalized agreements must be publicly available online at least 60 days prior to a vote of Congress on the agreement.
  10. Any agreements which do not follow the terms of the TPA are null.
  11. Congress may withdraw TPA at any time if the President fails to follow all terms set forth in TPA – including reporting to Congress at the discretion of at least three different congressional committees.
  12. Dispute settlement panel rulings apply only to the terms of the trade agreement in question, and are explicitly stated to be non-binding to the United States. We comply with them if we feel like it.
  13. Finally, Section 8 of the TPA, titled “Sovereignty” ensures that no trade agreement trumps standing US law. The opening paragraph reads as follows:

     

    United States law To prevail in event of conflict. — No provision of any trade agreement entered into under section 3(b), nor the application of any such provision to any person or circumstance, that is inconsistent with any law of the United States, any State of the United States, or any locality of the United States shall have effect.”

Given the restrictive nature of the TPA and its binding effect upon the Executive Branch, one would think that passing the terms would be a no-brainer from a conservative standpoint – particularly when some of the most ardent adversaries of TPA are notorious right-wingers Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Elizabeth Warren. But unfortunately many conservatives have joined with the far-left to torpedo the TPA, thereby exposing America to the unbounded lawlessness of the Obama administration.

Unwilling to trust President Obama on gun rights, immigration, religious liberty, and in negotiating a deal with Iran, conservatives have insisted that their representatives in Congress bring him back within the bounds of the law and Congressional accountability.

It’s too bad that they trust him to negotiate international trade without those bounds.

4 Things You Didn’t Know About the TPP… Or is it the TPA?

The Far Left and the Far Right finally have something to agree on: opposition to the package of legislative endeavors leading up to what has been dubbed “Obamatrade”. The issue has given rise to the most bizarre coalitions, with Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee joining Harry Reid and Elizabeth Warren in opposing the deal, and Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Rod Blum siding with President Obama and John Boehner to support it. Broad criticisms have been matched against vague praise, and nobody really seems to know what’s going on.

Meanwhile, social media has gone become a political Chernobyl – a radioactive chaos of arguments on an issue where the typical battle lines have become irrelevant. At least half of the conservative internet has simply decided to give a confused shrug and side with their presidential candidate of choice, using the rare alliances to leverage guilt by association.

The fact of the matter is that there is no conservative – or liberal – consensus on trade promotion authority or the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Good people are on all sides, with libertarians and conservatives split just as much as progressives. But despite a lot of intelligent people on both sides, there is a tremendous amount of confusion surrounding the whole thing, and the confusion is quickly turning to suspicion and animosity. International trade is a critically important issue, and so is national sovereignty – there’s no reason to give up on either of them by taking a side in this debate.

So before we line up our ships and broadside each other, let’s step back from this whole thing and make sure we have our facts straight. To that end, here are some lesser-known facts that have been trampled in the stampede of hyperbole blazing a trail across the conservative blogosphere.


  1. The TPA is not the TPP.
    No really, they’re not interchangeable, and the differences are important. The bogeyman in this whole affair is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an agreement between a total of 12 nations that together constitute over a third of Global GDP. The deal purports to strengthen free trade, address the growing intellectual property problems that US companies are encountering, establish labor and environmental standards in partner nations, and (unofficially) provide an economic counterbalance to China. While negotiations on the TPP have not yet been completed, concerns already abound that the administration could use the agreement to override US law on a wide array of issues – from corporate arbitration to gun rights. Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) or so-called “fast-track” status, establishes standards for the negotiation, review, and passage of the TPP, but is not part of the TPP itself. Different versions of the TPA have been passed many times under several different administrations since the Trade Act of 1974, which actually limited Presidential Authority in trade deals, and brought congress back into the equation. The terms set forth in the TPA are intended to increase foreign confidence in any finalized deal by foregoing the amendment process in final passage, as well as allowing Congress to set the negotiating terms for the President, and leaving final passage entirely in the hands of Congress by way of an up-or-down vote.
  2. The TPP is not a treaty. Article II of the US Constitution clearly spells out that treaties with foreign nations can only be negotiated by the President, and require “advice and consent” from 2/3 of the Senate for ratification. The TPP will not be subject to such a vote, and therefore is not, and cannot be, a treaty. Rather, the TPP is a Congressional-Executive Agreement – recognized to be separate and distinct from treaties since at least 1890, when Congress delegated authority to the President to negotiate tariffs without congressional approval. This delegation of Congressional authority was challenged in 1892 before the Supreme Court in Field v. Clark, and was upheld (NOTE: this was not a case of judicial supremacy, since all three branches agreed upon the intent and application of the action). Since the TPP is not a treaty, it does not supersede other US Laws. It can’t destroy gun rights or parental rights or replace current immigration law. It’s an international handshake.
  3. No, we don’t have to pass the TPP to find out what’s in it. For some time now this snide comment has been applied to the TPP, since the deal has been kept confidential by the administration while under negotiation. While the image of a heavily-guarded document in a secret Washington bunker a la National Treasure is provocative, it’s hardly the truth. Tons of information on the TPP is available through the office of the United States Trade Representative. It’s important to note that the TPP currently being discussed is still a draft – until it is brought up for Congressional review, the deal is still under negotiation. This means that the deal available now, will probably not be the deal voted on by Congress in a few months. Ironically, a recent article intending to highlight the secretive nature of the TPP ended up debunking the myth of inaccessibility. In a Breitbart exclusive, Sen. Rand Paul discussed his trip to the Chamber of Secrets to read the text of the TPP agreement, and detailed the harrowing measures necessary to access it. He and his staff were required to submit DNA samples at the door and accompanied at all times by a full detachment of armed marines.

    Just kidding.

    Actually, he and his legal staff waltzed right in – without so much as signing a non-disclosure agreement. They managed, according to Paul, to read through all 800 pages in 45 minutes. Call me crazy, but that doesn’t exactly scream “global conspiracy” to me. Paul came away saying he had more questions for the office of the Trade Representative, but mentioned no major concerns with what he found. In fact, his biggest criticism of the confidential nature of the TPP was that it hurt proponents of the trade bill by making it seem unnecessarily shushed. The text is accessible to all of Congress already. Additionally, (pending passage of the TPA), the President must post the finalized text of the TPP publicly for a review period of at least 60 days, prior to Congressional vote on the agreement – which leads to the final point…

  4. The TPA is a tool of accountability, not an expansion of executive power. Outside the readily-available terms of the TPA, the President has the ability to negotiate sole-executive agreements that need no congressional approval whatsoever. This is the same approach that the Administration has already taken with Iran – sparking a massive bipartisan backlash in congress. Sole executive agreements, while certainly not explicitly Constitutional, have nearly a century of legal precedent, multiple Congressional initiatives to limit them having failed since the 1950s, and are virtually immune to legal challenge. Translation: If the TPA is not passed, the President can enter the TPP without Congressional consent anyway. The Trade Act of 1974, the predecessor to the modern TPA, was passed with the intent of bringing Congress back into an international discussion that had long been dominated by the Executive Branch. Under the Trade Act, the President was required to present the negotiated agreement for approval by both houses of Congress (as opposed to a treaty, which requires only Senate approval), as well as follow strict Congressional priorities and guidelines during negotiation. In return, Congress agreed to limit debate and amendment before the final vote, in order to allow timely passage of deals brokered with often-skittish and frequently-replaced foreign governments. The 2015 TPA is cast in the mold of its predecessor, requiring that the President make the final agreement text public a minimum of 60 days before it comes up for a vote in Congress, and maintaining a high level of Congressional input on the priorities and parameters of the agreement. In fact, the majority of the TPA text is about what the President must do, not what the President may do. For instance, the President must present any changes to the negotiated agreement before the Ways and Means Committee for at least 60 days so that they can review and consult with the President on any changes. This prohibits last-minute tweaks from being snuck through Congress. The rest of the text is equally limiting to the executive, placing extensive restrictions on the powers of the President in the trade negotiation and specifically calling out the right of Congress to revoke trade promotion authority at their discretion. Take this section:

    “Section 6(b)(3) and (4) creates a new Consultation and Compliance Resolution process for the Senate and House, respectively. The Consultation and Compliance Resolution is an additional mechanism to withdraw trade authorities procedures for legislation implementing a trade agreement when it does not comply with TPA, in particular because the President fails or refuses to consult, or the agreement fails to make progress in achieving the purposes, policies, priorities and objectives of the bill.”

    The above is just a single example of dozens of provisions legally binding the Executive to the terms laid out by the legislature. Dozens of other terms exist in the text. Those trashing the TPA should take the time to read it, and draw specific objections based on what is actually there, not what they think might be there.

There are valid reasons to support both the TPA and the TPP, and there are valid objections to both. But standing between the nation and honest debate on both of these measures, is a toxic atmosphere of bipartisan paranoia – counterproductive even if well-deserved. It’s understandable to distrust a President who has routinely exceeded his authority while in office. It is equally understandable to distrust the motives of anti-Capitalist progressives in the Senate who have routinely demonized and hampered American businesses. But when it comes to important decisions affecting millions of American workers and a third of the world’s economy, suspicions and doubts aren’t enough. Read, research, discuss, debate. The TPP could be a great trade bill, necessary for the advancement of American Industry in the wake of an increasingly unfair global market. Or it could be a terrible agreement packed with poison pills from a liberal president looking for help to push his domestic agenda past a hostile Congressional majority. Either way, we owe it to ourselves to get informed about the text of the TPA and the TPP, and make our decision based on facts, not fear.

DIY Christianity: Everything you need to build your own personal faith experience!

I wish I could say that I was surprised by the Rob Bell controversy from last week, but it is really just the latest installment of our cultural surrender to subjectivism.

To those who have erased all the lines in their endless search for equality, the difference between the holy and the profane is really just a figment of our collective imagination, either the result of one’s upbringing or of their reliance upon obsolete religious texts written two thousand years ago.

The definitions are disappearing, and while the church tries to fight the wars without, we forget about the wolves within. Maybe it’s time for a refresher.

There is a sense in which the only power God gave mankind is what he gave to Adam in the Garden: the power to name. Think about it. The ability to classify, define, and communicate was the first power and responsibility granted to mankind, and has become the basis of literally every single thing we comprehend as human beings: beauty, strength, virtue, mathematics, philosophy, science, art, government – even language itself.

The power to define is the power to know, in every conceivable way. Too often we get lost in Christian terminology and don’t realize that God’s consistent call to holiness in scripture is the single most empowering call in the history of the world. To say that God is holy is true because he is not like us. To say that believers constitute a “chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation” is true because we are called to be separate from the world at large, in our thoughts, our words, and our behavior. To be holy is to be more than just human, and can distinguish a person in a way that no physical trait or personality attribute ever could. This is the call of the Bible.

A confused form of make-it-up-as-you-go relativism has been at work in the church for some time, but is just now hitting its stride within a millennial culture that is experiencing a rebirth of spiritualism that stands in direct rebellion against the militant secularism popularized by the “God is dead” generation. Many younger Americans who do not directly identify with any organized religion still claim to believe in God and tend to accept spirituality. The combination of religious decline with an increase in spiritual awareness creates a perfect environment for moral and ethical relativism. Far from the overt bleakness of secular humanism, the do-it-yourself faith concept allows each person to dictate their own belief, their own virtues, their own sins, their own heaven and hell, and their own god.

The discomfort of distinction is nothing compared to the hopelessness of worshipping gods made in our image: if God can be anything, then God is nothing. If scripture is broad enough to reconcile the teachings of St. Augustine, Martin Luther, and Dwight Moody, with those of Rob Bell, Joel Osteen, and Fred Phelps, then scripture itself is meaningless. If being a Christian means whatever we want it to mean, then it means nothing at all, and Christianity really is everything the secularists claim – a crutch for the weak and the fearful, an attempt by the ignorant to make sense of the unexplained.

But for those seeking an unbounded means of spiritual expression, or just something a little more flexible than the whole “holiness” thing, here are a few tips to building your own personalized spiritual encounter.

The DIY Faith Kit: Build Your Own Faith in Six Easy Steps

 

  1. Have a really, really emotional experience. Why should the power of emotion in faith be limited to Pentecostal churches? Often the best way to get your emotional groove on is to get a visit from an angel or prophet. If you haven’t seen either of those around lately, a combination of mind-altering substances, meditation, and near-death experiences can often be a useful substitute. Rock concerts, college campuses, and Las Vegas are great places to find all of those things together. A strong emotional experience is often a catalyst for spiritual awareness, and if you’re finding it hard to jump-start your spiritual senses, emotion is a great way to do it. Emotion also plays an important part in deciding which religious truth fits your lifestyle, and which might be better left to those bigots who embrace traditional morality.
  2. It’s important that you find a connection to something beyond yourself, even if that something is just your imagination. If you like the idea of a god (or gods), that’s cool – you can choose from a wide variety of deities including, but not limited to, Jehovah, Allah, Odin, Zeus, Buddha, Krishna or John Lennon. If “god” is not your thing, concepts like collective consciousness, self-actualization, material paganism, or societal advancement can come in handy. The best part is that any and all of these may be grouped together, since we all worship the same god anyway.
  3. Once your supreme truthgiver is firmly in place, proceed to try to imagine what they want from you and structure your life accordingly. Every religion needs some sort of standardization, but with the DIY faith kit, that standardization can be customized to fit your individual needs. Just make sure that any rules you lay down are always dependent upon circumstance, and always remember that you have veto power in all moral decisions. Simply close your eyes, decide what makes you happy, and remember that your god of choice would never want you to be unhappy! It is not recommended that you refer to existing religious texts for your DIY faith. These inflexible passages tend to promote unhappiness and lay out truth claims that are uncomfortably exclusive. That kind of rigid dogma is also notoriously difficult to defend when speaking to others who may choose a different faith route. Your DIY faith, on the other hand, can easily be discussed with anyone, completely absent conflict! Just remind them that you have a right to believe whatever you want, and that your god is just as real to you as theirs is to them.*

    *may not apply to Radical Islamists

  4. Choose a lifestyle to fit with your personal religion. Part of the fun of starting up your own faith is that you can then build a lifestyle to match, completely free of guilt or fear. Want to love your enemies? Great! Want to behead your enemies? Great! Just remember that the worst sin of all is judgment, so everyone’s personal priorities are equally valid!
  5. Every faith needs a motivator, and with your DIY faith kit, you can customize heaven and hell to fit your individual spiritual needs. Think of the absolute best thing you’ve ever experienced: Christmas with the family, your first time trying Oxycontin, that first night with your significant other, or that nature trip you took a few years ago. Any of those experiences can become your own personal heaven, to be sought after by following your prescribed faith path. Best of all, since you choose your own moral pathway, you never have to worry about being selfish or feeling guilty for pursuing things that make you happy. Because in the end, happiness is heaven for us all. The hell package is optional, but can serve as a useful attachment for those who might find they have a harder time refraining from self-destructive behaviors, or to those who simply need something awful to wish on that person who just cut them off on the freeway.
  6. Evangelize! Once your faith is custom-built to suit your needs, it’s time to help others find their way as well. You will find that showing others how easy it is to explore their spirituality, without actually knowing what spirituality is, can be incredibly rewarding. Too many people still ascribe to outdated notions of sin and repentance, believing in a God who holds mankind accountable for their actions, and whose standards are completely inflexible. Many of these poor folks refuse to seek out their own fulfillment, content to live by rules written centuries ago by a bunch of racist, sexist, homophobic bigots who had little understanding of the complex nature of human happiness. But the DIY faith kit has something for everyone, and even Christians will find that they can have a completely satisfying faith experience completely divorced from the teachings of scripture. Several leading pastors have already adopted our simple process, and have had great success in leading people out of the past, and into a future of personal spiritual fulfillment.

     

Stop making excuses! Get out of those musty old manuscripts, and step into a bright new future, with the DIY faith kit!

My Top 10 Albums of the 2000s

Thanks Gabe, for the inspiration to review my music choices over the past decade, to give some perspective on what’s to come in future years.  As a disclaimer, very few of these would I suggest as the BEST albums of the 2000s- my limited experience certainly does not qualify me to be any sort of competent music critic.  These are simply the words, rhythms, and tunes that have become inexorably tied to the last 10 years of my life, and if you haven’t checked them out, they’re worth your time to investigate.

1.Nickel Creek
     Nickel Creek (2000)

With little fanfare and only one radio release, Nickel Creek’s first album contains all aspects of the musical genius, technical excellence, and fun-loving creativity that defined the band throughout the 2000s.

2. Linkin Park
     Hybrid Theory (2000)

Linkin Park became a household name with this release, and rightly so. Dark and introspective melodies fused Chester Bennington’s powerful voice with the unmistakable flow of Mike Shinoda. The result was the birth of NuMetal, a genre that has been widely explored by other bands ever since.
 
3. PFR
     Disappear (2001)

In 2001, the members of PFR came together for one last album before disbanding again to the dismay of loyal (and hopeful) fans everywhere.  Disappear features a more mature sound and sometimes Pink Floyd-ish guitar work that departs from PFR’s more traditional music but still lets the band’s unique vocals shine on a different backdrop.
4. Evanescence
     Fallen (2003)

Lyrical heartbreak, abundant contrast and the angelic voice of Amy Lee form the backbone of Evanescence, one of few recent bands to hit it big off of a movie soundtrack.

5. Fiction Family
     Fiction Family (2009)

The most fun album of the 2000s.  Jon Forman of Switchfoot and Sean Watkins of Nickel Creek come together to create an acoustic dream accented by a beautiful and complex guitar work that results in a surprisingly blue-collar sound.
    
6. The Killers
     Sam’s Town (2006)

It was refreshing to see the Killers come off of the success of Hot Fuzz with a taste for more creativity and a throwback style, rather than pandering to the lovestruck top 40 crowd.

7. Falling Up
     Dawn Escapes (2005)

The only band to make my top 10 list twice will require some introduction to many. Falling Up started on the Christian alternative charts with their first successful album, Crashings. Comparable to other Christian alt bands of the time (Hawk Nelson, Stellar Cart, etc.) they had good sound but little distinction.  I expected little more from Dawn Escapes, and was blown away by the change in their style. They embraced an intelligent but abstract approach, and the individual tracks flowed seamlessly throughout the playlist.  The depth of their vocal harmony and exchange of heavy guitar rhythm for piano and some synth sound produced a unique and captivating musical experience bested only by their following album…

8. Hawthorne Heights
     If Only You Were Lonely (2006)

Hawthorne Heights unofficially pioneered the 2000s lunge toward what has been derogatorily termed “screamo”, but their second album focuses more on harmony both in guitar and vocals. Some of the best listening for a rainy day at home.

9. Silversun Pickups
     Carnavas (2006)

While the vocals are a love ’em/ hate ’em for most people, Carnavas nonetheless shows off their excellent bass work and a sound that is difficult to categorize but still fulfilling in it’s simplicity.

10. Falling Up
     Captiva (2008)

Captiva completed Falling Up’s masterful transition from a CCM speedbump  to an artistic wellspring.  The dreamscape that trimmed the edges of Dawn Escapes came into full focus with Captiva‘s thematic mastery.  Designed as a musical escape from the ordinary, each track carries a blend of intense harmony and otherworldly lyrics, splashed on to a canvas of nearly new-age synth work with just the right touch of modern guitar mixed in.  Captiva presents a sound that teeters between beautiful and haunting, incomparable to anything else I’ve experienced in modern music.

Honorable Mention:

Anberlin – Blueprints for the Black Market  (2003)
Armor for Sleep – Smile for Them (2007)
Michelle Branch – Hotel Paper (2003)
Paramore – Riot (2007)
Plain White Tees – Every Second Counts (2006)

Pelosi Antoinette strikes again!

http://www.politico.com/blogs/thecrypt/0808/Pelosi_to_protesters_Can_we_drill_your_brains.html?showall

In other news, Medvedev scares me to death.  The Russians (and most U.S. democrats) are in complete support of his aggresive authoritarianism and warmongering.  Other than watching the world go to hell in a handbasket, life is awesome in my corner.  I finish my current project at the end of this month and I’m looking for another job.  In the meantime, though, it will be nice to have time to work on the house uninterrupted, and maybe spend some more time with the church group and my amazing girlfriend.

More later, peace all!

Dual Citizenship: The Christian’s Place in the Political Realm

     Separation of church and state. The statement immediately brings to mind recent legal battles and the rallying cry of American liberals trying to negate the influence of the fundamentalist evangelical right wing.  This notion that the Christian has no place in politics or government is embraced by some surprising groups however.  While the liberals draw on Thomas Jefferson’s letter to a Massachusetts bishop to show that the church must abstain from political involvement, many conservative Christian groups draw virtually the same conclusion from a questionable interpretation of scripture.  They hold that the Church is part of a different kingdom, a kingdom “not of this world”, and that its members should not take part in the political goings of their own civil governments.  While this may at first seem surprising to some, the idea is prevalent among many plain groups and has been held with some consistency by groups of Christians dating back to the Reformation and before.  While one can appreciate the motive behind the ideal, that of “keeping the church pure”, “separation from the world”, and living at peace with all men”, the notion that Christians should ignore such a direct route to impacting society for the good must be called into question.  That said, there are many good points on both sides of the issue, and it’s certainly not an easy one to discern.  Aside from the very different social responsibilities that each side requires, some of the heaviest theological and moral implications are also packed into this issue including such undying issues as the sovereignty of God and nonresistance.  But in the end, how a Christian responds to this issue must not be a matter of denomination, tradition or even personal preference.  Action must not be rationalized by the desire to act, neither must inaction be rationalized by disinterest.  The answers await the soul who dares to seek them, in the pages of God’s Word.  There we must search to find out in yet another modern day situation, “what would Jesus do?”

  • Christian Disengagement from Politics:           “My kingdom is not of this world”

     There are a number of reasons given by those who advocate noninvolvement in politics.  The most popular seems to be the “two kingdoms” analogy.  This argument is based on Christ’s statement to Pilate in John 18:36.  “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight…”  The idea is carried throughout the New Testament, to be sure.  Hebrews 11 tells tale after tale of the people of God who “looked for a city… whose builder and maker is God.”  The NT constantly reminds the Christian that he is a “stranger and a pilgrim” in this world, and thus is not to be entangled with the affairs of this life.  (II Tim. 2:4)  Also tied in with these are the numerous admonitions to come apart and be separate from the world.  The most famous, of course is II Cor. 6:14-18.  The reasoning is that total separation from the world necessitates separation from the world system, including the corruption and abuses that so often accompany politics. Since God calls Christians out of such systems to become citizens of His kingdom, what right do we have to take part in the legal or governmental affairs of another kingdom?  Christ is our King, and we are His ambassadors.  If we are indeed ambassadors of heaven to a fallen world, then we have neither the need, nor the right, to participate in the political whirlwinds of that world.  This is just another way to be “in the world, but not of the world”

     The second step taken by the purporters of noninvolvement is to show that the Church and civil government are completely incompatible, forcing a Christian to choose between them.  After all, no man can serve two masters.  You either serve an earthly king, or a heavenly one.  The roots of this assumed contrast lie deep in the doctrine of nonresistance, and form a critical part of that teaching.  A brief summary of the doctrine of nonresistance may be in order here:

  1. Matt. 5:38-41.  “Resist not evil”  It is the Christian’s duty to allow abuses of his own rights for the cause of Christ, and resistance to evil must be on a purely spiritual level.  Follow this up with the command to “Love your enemy” and there can be no reason for the Christian to fight. 
  2. John 18:36, Matt. 26:52.  “Then would my servants fight”  The Christian, like Christ and his Disciples, must forego self-defense in submission to the will of God.  In so doing, God’s purposes are fulfilled by “overcoming evil with good”.  It can hardly be disputed that from the time of the Disciples until recently, this view has been the prevailing one in the Church as a whole.  The violence of the Reformation period, coupled with the specter of previous crusades, has all but eliminated knowledge of this important Christian doctrine.  In some ways, the teaching of political noninvolvement, mainly restricted to highly persecuted Anabaptist sects, seems to be a reaction to the Reformation period, where “Christians” sought to burn dissidents at the stake, often with the approval and/or assistance of local civil authorities.  The line between Church and state was virtually nonexistent, and the nonresistant Anabaptists were sought out for persecution by both Catholics and Protestants, as well as their various state supporters.  Before this period, however, early Church fathers taught nonresistance as a basic tenet of Christianity. After all, Christianity is a religion of peace. Historically, it has always been the blood of the martyrs, not the sword of the saints, that has maintained steady growth and purity within the body of Christ. 

One of the key scriptures used to develop this type of contrast between Church and civil government is Romans 12-13.  It is held that Romans chapter 12 puts forth the responsibilities of the believer in this world.  As enumerated in the chapter, these include:

  • be not conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
  • Abhor evil, cling to good.
  • kindly affectionate, preferring one another.
  • Bless them which persecute you.
  • recompense to no man evil for evil.
  • live peaceably with all men.
  • do good to your enemies.

All these must be characteristic of a Christian’s daily walk.  Romans 13, on the other hand, outlines the duties of the civil government, which are quite different.

  • a terror to evil works.
  • for praise of good.
  • minister of God to execute wrath, “beareth the sword”.
  • collect tribute to accomplish God’s purposes.

It is drawn from these scriptures that the Christian cannot fulfill both Romans 12 and 13 when in a civil office.  How can one recompense no man evil for evil, if he is called on in civil government to “bear the sword” as God’s revenger?  Extended, this means that Christians cannot vote or seek to place others in a political office; because it would be immorral to ask another to do a job that one feels is wrong to do himself.  In addition to the constant highlighting of this contrast, much is drawn from what is not said about the place of Christians in relation to government.  Christian duties toward government are given not only in Rom. 13, but also in Peter’s epistles, Titus 3, and in Christ’s monologue on tribute.  The point usually offered is that since the NT does not directly speak of Christians being politically involved, it is likely that Christians had adopted a policy of noninvolvement (several important assumptions there).

     Another key to this position is reliance on the sovereignty of God to control the affairs of Government.  Rom. 13 tells us that the powers that be are ordained of God.  Proverbs 21:1 states, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth is withersoever he will.”  Since it is clear that God raises up and puts down rulers, whatever He needs accomplished by way of laws and public policy, he does not require our help to do. 

     The position can be summed up by saying that seperation from worldly politics is just another way of obeying the call to “come out from among them, and be ye seperate, sayeth the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you.” (II Cor. 6:17)

 

  • The Christian in Politics:                            “I sought for a man…to stand in the gap”

 

     Now that the noninvolvement position is outlined, there are serious concerns with this position that must be addressed.  First, let’s examine this contrast between the Church and the State.  The position supporting Christian involvement in politics has never held that the Church and the State are synonymous, or even that they are to set common goals.  The job of the Church is to expand Christ’s kingdom by preaching the Gospel, and to “do good to all mankind”.  Natually, the role of civil government is to punish evil and praise good. But within that very goal statement lies an even deeper purpose of government:  to preserve freedom.  Any moral code or guideline must be preceded by the assumption that A PERSON IS FREE TO CHOOSE THE ALTERNATIVE.  Without freedom of choice, a moral code becomes irrelevant.  A law against what we cannot do is pointless.  Similarly, government application of law (praise of good and punishment of evil) serves the purpose of protecting the freedom of some men to do good, from the freedom of other men to do evil.  The government is called upon to maintain a balance, between right and wrong, freedom and responsibility.  Thus, while the government is not commissioned to PERFORM the work of the Church, in order to be a valid government its actions must FACILITATE the work of the Church by protecting the rights of Christians to spread the gospel and do good. 

     Government is the art of compromise, and there must be some compromise for any people to live together in peace.  A Christian in government will be called on at some point to compromise, but compromise involves GOOD as well as BAD.  It involves a bringing up of the lowest denominator, as well as the bringing down of the highest.  For example, while a Christian legislator may have to vote to send men to a war that he disagrees with, he also has the opportunity to advance peace in a host of ways.  He may be forced to vote to allow evolution into schools, but also have the chance to guarantee homeschooling rights to parents.  There may be times where the lesser of two evils is the only option, but bear in mind that the GREATEST evil would be ignoring the decision.  A position within civil government holds both opportunity and responsibility.  Thus, abdication of the responsibility to make difficult decisions that God (who does rule the affairs of Government) has brought to you, equates to negligence.  James tells us, “To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”  With this in mind, a Christian placed by God into a position of leadership does not have the option of abdicating his responsibility.  The tough choices are his to make, and burying his head in the sand will only increase his guilt.  Paul tells us in I Cor. 7 “Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.”  Servants are specifially told to stay subject to their masters, and masters are never told to abdicate or to release their slaves, rather, they are commanded to treat them with decency and love. (Eph. 6:9)  Whether we find ourselves in the position of the ruler or the ruled, we have responsibilities before God. 

     So just where do we find ourselves in America today?  What responsibilities does the Christian have?  Romans says, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.”  Peter tells us, “Fear God, honor the king.”  In that time, it was clear who the higher power was: “the king”, or Caesar.  During Peter’s time, the ruthless Nero held the throne, and his word was law.  The Roman Senate had long since been devoid of real power, and Nero had become an absolute dictator.  There was no written law that could keep him in check, no balance of power, and no accountability to the people.  Herein lies the most critical difference between the Christian’s responsibility in Nero’s Rome and the United States today.  We live in America, a nation founded on Christian principles, including the belief that “all men are created equal”.  Our government mirrors this belief, and is built on the assumption that all equal under the law.  The only difference between the President and his cheauffer is four years and an election.  Never before in the history of the world has there been such a government as ours, of the people, by the people, and for the people.  In America, we, the people, are THE HIGHST POWER.  Every elected official is responsible to us, and every law is subject to our scrutiny.  Even our Constitution, the highest law in the land, can be revised by a convention of the people. 

     Anyone who is a citizen of the United States is part of the civil government, like it or not.  Citizenship on Earth is a reality.  Though we may by choice become citizens of a heavenly kingdom, we are still by birth citizens of an earthly realm as well.  After seeing Christ on the road to Damascus, Paul still claimed Roman citizenship, and used the privileges associated with it (i.e. fair trial).  Since we are certain that he did not at that time renouce his heavenly status, we must assume that Paul was claiming DUAL CITIZENSHIP.  (Also note reference to “they of Caesar’s household”, Christians who probably had more rank than anyone else in the kingdom.)  Citizenship comes with both priveleges and responsibilities.  As stated before, the most basic responsibility of government is maintaining a balance of freedom.  Key to maintianing this in our democracy is ensuring that benefits are coupled with responsibilities, taxation with representation, etc.  Anyone who enjoys the benefits this nation offers, freedom, safety, public services, social security, or driving priveleges, must also take part of the responsibilities of civil government.  In our country it is the cost of citizenship.  Jesus’ monologue on taxes in Mark 12 tells us to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.”  From the changing face of currency we can gather that this saying did not only apply to taxes.  A debt is owed to any agency providing benefits.  The benefits afforded by our nation come with a cost.  Certainly taxes are part of the cost we pay in this country, but taxes pay for physical benefits.  How do we pay for things like freedom?  How do we pay for the sacrifices of lives to bring us this freedom?  Andrew Jackson, in his farewell address, reminded America, “you must remember, my fellow-citizens, that eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty, and that you must pay the price if you wish to secure the blessing.  It behooves you, therefore, to be watchful in your States as well as in the Federal Government.”  Eternal vigilance is the cost of freedom.  Every citizen who enjoys liberty in this country is subject to this burden, this privilege, of maintaining the liberties he enjoys.  As part of this great country, we are given this responsibility by none other than God Himself.  If God raises up rulers, and the people are the ultimate rulers in this nation, then one can only conclude that God brought each and every person in America to this constitutional democracy according to His purpose, and that every Christian citizen with the opportunity to effect civil change has been brought to the United States, “for such a time as this”.  This quote from Mordecai harks back to the political involvement of God’s people at a critical time in the history of the Jewish nation… a great launch pad for the next point.

  •     God’s People in Politics: A Scriptural Precedent

 

      Lets take a moment to examine the scriptures with relation to political involvement.  It might be good to start this discussion in Hebrews 11’s “hall of faith”, where we find the people who God declared to be “looking for a city… whose builder and maker is God,” and “seekers of a heavenly country.”  Clearly, the men and women mentioned in this chapter are citizens of the heavenly kingdom.  Oddly enough, though, many of them were also civil rulers in an Earthly kingdom as well.  Take these examples:

  • Joseph became ruler over Egypt, and effectively used his office to preserve his nation and his family, and to consolidate power within the Egyptian nation.  His policies resulted in the nation becoming servants to Pharoah.  With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that this policy later allowed the Pharoah to become a dictator who oppressed the children of Israel.  Nevertheless, God had placed Joseph in this position, and he realized his responsibility to use it to the best of his ability.

 

  • Moses, though he forsook the high office of Egyptian nobility, went on to become the executive and judicial head for an entire nation.  While God provided the laws, there is no evidence that God made day to day decisions in civil disputes.  This responsibility, left to Moses, eventually overwhelmed him (Ex.18:13-27), and he appointed men to judge under him.  While surely God could have empowered his prophet Moses to handle the civil affairs alone, He allowed even the great Moses to take the counsel of another and appoint faithful men to handle the civil affairs of Israel.

 

  • Samuel, Israel’s last judge, was not only placed by God to lead Israel against the Philistines, but also to assume civil responsibilities for the nation.  I Sam. 7:15-17 tells us that Samuel served as the first Circuit Court of Appeals!

 

  • David was annointed king of Israel by Samuel, when he was still a shepherd boy.  This young man went on to become a warrior, yet God called him “a man after my own heart”.  II Sam. 8:15 states “And David reigned over all Israel; and David executed judgment and justice unto all his people.”  Again, David did not try to govern the whole nation alone, by divine authority, but sought out wise counselors and appointed officials in many offices.  These people, though not directly annointed by God, were ready to leave their various occupations and take up the responsibility of directly serving a nation.  

 

  • Daniel, Shadrach, Meshack, Abednego, Esther, Nehemiah, Ezra.  These rulers over secular provinces were not only used by God, but CHOSE to be used by him.  It was no coincidence that Mordecai placed Esther in the running for queen of Persia.  His statement to her “who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” is exemplary of the lives of each person listed here.  These people, whose steps were directed by God, found themselves in a position of power, and believed that position to be a DIVINE MANDATE to use that power to benefit God’s people.  Each one realized that God would not stoop down and manaully direct the affairs of government.  Rather, God’s direction of civil government WAS THROUGH HIS PEOPLE.  Daniel, placed in the evil regime of a heathen king, could have either abdicated his responsibilities in an effort to “separate” himself from this system, or perhaps simply avoided contact with the king and other rulers in an effort to remain invisible.  Rather, because he proctively used the gifts and talents that God had given him, he was advanced above all the other governers in Babylon, and was able to directly influence the policies of the king.  Many have speculated that the exploits of Ezra and Nehemiah would not have been possible had it not been for the work of Daniel, Esther, and the Three Hebrew Children.   

 

  • The Prophets, some of whom carried civil responsibilities (priests, scribes) sent one of the most important messages to the people of Israel when they cried out, “Bring no more vain oblations…learn to do well, seek JUDGEMENT, relieve the oppressed judge the fatherless, plead for the widow” (Is. 1:13-17)  Throughout the prophets, God calls men to get involved, not pray and sacrifice, and wait for God to fix all the societal ills.  The entire nation was handed the guilt for the pollutions and innocent blood shed by the rulers.  Why?  Because the people were responsible for their political officials.  The nation had “corporate guilt” for the actions of its rulers, because the rulers represented the people, whether directly or indirectly.  Surely God could have reached down and struck the evil king Manasseh from the throne and replaced him with a Godly ruler.  But rather, he called on men to right the wrong, to cleanse the land. Throughout the Bible, there have been times where the people were called upon to rise up against evil rulers, even though they were the annointed of God.  While David was just for not slaying Saul, Jehu was equally just in slaying the entire ruling families of Israel and Judah.  God cries out against oppression, and calls on men to seek justice, even if it means opposing established authority.

     There is a link in all these examples: Judgement.  God calls believers to judgement, just as he did his people in the OT.  In the New Testament, Christ tells us “Judge not, that ye be not judged,” perhaps one of the most oft-quoted scriptures of all time.  However, the same Christ commands Christians to “judge righteous judgement” in John 7:24.  Paul says in Phi. 1:9-11, “And this I pray, that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and in all JUDGEMENT.”  Paul also encourages believers to judge civil matters in I Cor. 6:1-6.  “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? And if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?  Know ye not that we shall judge angels?  How much more things that pertain to this life?”  Further, Jesus condemned the pharisees in Matt. 23:23 for neglecting the “weightier matters” of judgement and mercy.  In modern language, we could say the pharisees tithed, went to church regularly, spent much time in prayer, went to the “ends of the world” to preach… and yet Christ condemned them for neglecting matters of justice and mercy.  In other words, MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE REAL WORLD.  All the prayer and tithing and preaching in the world will not make a difference if believers are not willing to get their hands dirty and change society.  Christian life is composed of two parts, James tells us: faith and works.  in James 2:14-26, he reminds us that faith must have real life application to be of any use or substance.  The “spiritual kingdom” to which we belong, must have a physical outreach.  This is true by extention to a national level.  A spiritual renewal as described by II Chron. 7:14 is completely unsubstantial without a cultural renovation to mirror it.  In other words, if God’s people will humble themselves and pray, etc., then they will follow that repentance with ACTION, not only on a personal level, but nationally as well. As the nation experiences revival, God’s people will begin to fill public offices, whether by ascention or conversion while in office.  Inexorably, public policy will change to reflect the condition of the people’s hearts.  This works faster in some governments than others, but brings into sharp contrast the opportunity we have in a representative republic.  Keep in mind that civil judgement and Christian activism are not mutually exclusive.  A man trying to affect public policy for the good, can still hold as his goal preaching the gospel, and changing the nation from the bottom up.  in fact, it is often the case that people who are willing to get involved in fighting for the good in the nitty gritty world of politics, are all the more willing to spread the good news on a personal level as well.  

     …Which brings us to the conclusion of the matter.  Consider these calls of God to men throughout the ages:

  • Mic. 6:8 ~  “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”
  • Ez. 22:27-31~ “Her princes in the midst thereof are like wolves ravening the prey, to shed blood, and to destroy souls, to get dishonest gain. And her prophets have daubed them with untempered morter, seeing vanity, and divining lies unto them, saying, Thus saith the Lord GOD, when the LORD hath not spoken.  The people of the land have used oppression, and exercised robbery, and have vexed the poor and needy: yea, they have oppressed the stranger wrongfully.  And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none.  Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord GOD.”   
  • Ez. 45:9 ~ “Thus saith the Lord GOD; Let it suffice you, O princes of Israel: remove violence and spoil, and execute judgment and justice, take away your exactions from my people, saith the Lord GOD.”
  • Ps. 82:2-4 ~ ” How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah.  Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.  Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.”
  • Pr. 21:3 ~ “To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.”  
  • Gal. 6:10 ~ “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”   

     The call is clear.  Don’t let faith stop at faith!  Don’t let our Spiritual kingdom go without a physical outreach!  Here in America we have so many opportunities to “do good to all men,” both in private life and in the public arena.  Consider the huge amount of missions and ministries that have been possible across the world because of Christian men in political office.  Think of all the evils that have been struck down.  What about slavery?  Slavery never disappeared.  It would still be in America today were it not for the brave outcries of Christian men and women who believed that ALL men are created equal by God.  In America, we find ourselves in a position of authority, simply by virtue of God choosing this nation as our birthplace.  Such opportunity to effect good!  We must never forget, though, that “unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.” (Luke 12:48)  And much is required of Christians today.  The task before us in this nation is not for the weak or fearful.  We are indeed sent forth as sheep among wolves in a world that hates us.  The world has been calling forever for the Christianity to leave the public arena.  Nothing infuriates them more than Christian policymakers who believe in national standards based upon absolute morality.  But the fact that we face such opposition should cause us to rejoice (Matthew 5:10-12).  We can rejoice because in the cushy world of modern Christianity, we have found a cross.  A cross not easy to bear.  A cross of ridicule, and scorn, and derision from a world that is becoming increasingly hostile to any absolute morality.  For the Christian to enter the political scene means that he will be opposed in a host of ways, have his name slandered, and subject all his friends and relatives to the ridicule of a cynical world.  But God calls the believer to “be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom. 12:21)  The first step is to follow the II Chron. 7:14 path to revival.  We must come together as believers to humble ourselves and pray, and seek God’s face, and turn from our wickedness.  Only when this is done, can we recieve grace and strength for the healing of our land.  But God does not heal nations by magical rain showers or Angels in the outfield; He heals lands with His own hands and feet, the Church of Jesus Christ.  Our mission, while strangers and pilgrims in this land, is to be the Light of the world, a City on a Hill.  Even as Christ gives us this calling in Matthew 5:14, he follows it with an interesting command in verse 16.  He tells us what light men will see in our lives.  Not faith, not preaching, but concrete works.  “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your GOOD WORKS, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”  May God help us to put our faith to action, and use every opportunity He gives us to change our community, our nation, and our world.

Dave Barry

Dad forwarded me this article – it’s way too funny not to post.  A CHAINSAW!?!?!?  Wow….

 

A real giving kind of guy

Posted on Sun, Aug. 03, 2008

BY DAVE BARRY

(This classic Dave Barry column was originally published April 15, 2001.)

The other day, my son and I were talking, and the subject of women came up, and I realized that it was time he and I had a Serious Talk. It’s a talk every father should have with his son; and yet, far too often, we fathers avoid the subject, because it’s so awkward. The subject I’m referring to is: buying gifts for women.

This is an area where many men do not have a clue. Exhibit A was my father, who was a very thoughtful man, but who once gave my mother, on their anniversary, the following token of his love, his commitment, and — yes — his passion for her: an electric blanket. He honestly could not understand why, when she opened the box, she gave him that look (you veteran men know the look I mean). Another example: I once worked with a guy named George who, for Christmas, gave his wife, for her big gift — and I am not making this gift up — a chain saw. (As he later explained: ”Hey, we NEEDED a chain saw.” ) Fortunately, the saw was not operational when his wife unwrapped it.

The mistake that George and my dad made, and that many guys make, was thinking that when you choose a gift for a woman, it should do something useful. Wrong! The first rule of buying gifts for women is: THE GIFT SHOULD NOT DO ANYTHING, OR, IF IT DOES, IT SHOULD DO IT BADLY.

For example, let’s consider two possible gifts, both of which, theoretically, perform the same function:

GIFT ONE: A state-of-the-art gasoline-powered lantern, with electronic ignition and dual mantles capable of generating 1,200 lumens of light for 10 hours on a single tank of fuel.

GIFT TWO: A scented beeswax candle, containing visible particles of bee poop and providing roughly the same illumination as a lukewarm corn dog.

Now to a guy, Gift One is clearly superior, because you could use it to see in the dark. Whereas to a woman, Gift Two is MUCH better, because women love to sit around in the gloom with reeking, sputtering candles, and don’t ask ME why. I also don’t know why a woman would be ticked off if you gave her a 56-piece socket-wrench set with a 72-tooth reversible ratchet, but thrilled if you give her a tiny, very expensive vial of liquid with a name like ”L’essence de Nooquie Eau de Parfum de Cologne de Toilette de Bidet,” which, to the naked male nostril, does not smell any better than a stick of Juicy Fruit. All I’m saying is that this is the kind of thing women want. (That’s why the ultimate gift is jewelry; it’s totally useless.)

The second rule of buying gifts for women is: YOU ARE NEVER FINISHED. This is the scary part, the part that my son and his friends are just discovering. If you have a girlfriend, she will give you, at MINIMUM, a birthday gift, an anniversary gift, a Christmas/Hanukah/Kwanzaa gift and a Valentine’s Day gift, and every one of these gifts will be nicely wrapped AND accompanied by a thoughtful card. When she gives you this gift, YOU HAVE TO GIVE HER ONE BACK. You can’t just open your wallet and say, “Here’s, let’s see … 17 dollars!”

And, as I told my son, it only gets worse. Looming ahead are bridal showers, weddings, baby showers, Mother’s Day and other Mandatory Gift Occasions that would not even EXIST if men, as is alleged, really ran the world. Women observe ALL of these occasions, and MORE. My wife will buy gifts for NO REASON. She’ll go into one of those gift stores at the mall that men never enter, and she’ll find something, maybe a tiny cute box that could not hold anything larger than a molecule, and is therefore useless, and she’ll buy it, PLUS a thoughtful card, and SHE DOESN’T EVEN KNOW WHO THE RECIPIENT IS YET.

Millions of other women are out doing the same thing, getting further and further ahead, while we guys are home watching instant replays. We have no chance of winning this war.

That’s what I told my son. It wasn’t pleasant, but it was time he knew the truth. Some day, when he is older and stronger, we’ll tackle an even more difficult issue, namely, what to do when a woman asks: ”Do these pants make me look fat?” (Answer: Flee the country.)

 

Yes, it’s about a girl… If you don’t want to hear it, go back to youtube.

I’m realizing how wrong I was, one day at a time.  What I thought would work, what I thought I could make happen, what I wanted… was not only unfair and unreasonable, but just flat-out unworkable.  Worlds apart, I just keep thinking. 

Maybe I lack faith, maybe I lack trust.

Once again I’m drawn into my unending discussion of choice…

I still have to wonder how much of this was God and how much was our own doing.  I haven’t believed in fate since… the 2nd Terminator movie I think.  Never bought into this “oh, God has somebody for you and when the time is right he’ll bring them into your life”.  Any two people – ANY – who have Christ first in their lives and are pursuing him above all else can make a lasting relationship.  I think that’s the beauty of it.  We get to pick what set of personality and character colors we want to add to the mural of our life.  Without the element of choice, God’s whole plan becomes of little significance.  It’s only BECAUSE of choice that divine guidance IS significant.  Obedience, hope, courage, love, all our better angels spring from choice, as do our worst.

The problem, then, becomes choosing good, right, and ultimately, life. 

Proverbs 3:5-6 has always been a hard verse for me to swallow, but leading is God’s offer to blend chance and choice into a masterpiece, eternally adorning the walls of heaven with the brilliance of a life well lived.

But we make art of each other as well.  My choices have affected others, and not always for the better.

I hate when the abstract sears its way into the tangible. 

 

 

I still question one choice…

I still worry about her.  She’s my friend, my ally.

She’s the ‘not’ that has been, and ever will be.  I wonder if she’ll ever find it again.

We held something precious and fragile in our hands, only to let it fall to the ground. 

What if it WAS our choice?

 

No complaints, no regrets.  Just a little concern, and the constant wish that I could heal it for us both.

 

Ecclesiastes 3

 1To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

 2A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

 3A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

 4A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

 5A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

 6A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

 7A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

 8A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

 9What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?

 10I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.

 11He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

 12I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life.

 13And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.