Monday, June 27, 2011

Why I am no longer a Republican, Part 2. "Idolatry on Sandy Foundations."

"Blessed is the nation whose God is YHWH, the people he chose for his inheritance."
Psalm 33:12

You might be familiar with the first half of that passage. But chances are, the second half was conveniently omitted when you heard it. Why? Because the passage specifically refers to the children of Israel...and NO ONE else. But politicians have used it down through the ages to garner support. (BTW: Anyone who knows the bible, also knows that Israel was a flop when it came to following YHWH...and so is every other country that has ever existed.)

I also have another passage for you. It's from a good Minnesota boy, Sinclair Lewis, and it goes like this; "When Fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross."

<---- Whoops!

#1. Is America a "Christian" Country?

Biblically & theologically, the answer is obviously "NO!" No kingdom of man can ever be a christian country. Not the U.S., not Canada, not Denmark, not Nepal. These are kingdoms of men. The only "Christian" nation is the kingdom of heaven...which I should point out is not a representative democracy. And yet, down through the ages, countries have tried to claim that moniker for themselves. (And the results have been two massive black-eyes on Jesus' face.)

#2. Is America founded upon Christianity?

Well, let's take a look at what George Washington had to say about that. He once wrote a letter to the Bey (Kinda like a king) of Tripoli, that "As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion..." And I'm not sure how much more clear you can get than that. <---- Click on the link for more on that treaty.

#3. Is America founded upon "Religious Liberty?"

ABSOLUTELY!!!! But this also means that people of all faiths & denominations are, or at least Ought, to be welcome...even when I don't agree with them. This also means that people with no type of faith what-so-ever should be welcome.

So what does this have to do with why I no longer wish to be identified as a "Republican?" Well, I'll tell ya. But first, an AWESOME T-shirt that I desperately need.

<---- Doesn't that last statement just scream "Jesus" all over it?!?!?!?! (This sarcasm, from a guy who owns two guns and likes to shoot Bambi when given a chance.)

A while back, I explained why I no longer wanted to be known as a Republican due to the extremist Free-Market philosophies that current Republican leaders are embracing. You can read it by clicking the following link, if you so desire.

I love Jesus. I also love this country. Sometimes, people use the bible to bash a given country. It's easy enough to do. No country can match up to what God requires any more than humans can. Don't ever think that I am bashing America or hate it...even though I am going to say some harsh things.

I've lived and visited other countries. Make no mistake, I think what we have here is fantastic, AND offers a fairly good example to other countries as to what they can achieve with an open culture, media, economy, etc. As such, I choose to live here. (However, after having lived in the Czech Republic and sampling their beers, an argument could be made that God likes them more than us.) Still, I think I'll stick around here.

Anyway, as I said, I love Jesus. This puts me at odds with my country plenty of the time. I just don't think that a "Christian" country would have enshrined slavery in it's founding documents, slaughtered the original inhabitants in the name of "Manifest Destiny" (That's Theist-Speak for "God's Will), and allow 30 million of it's own inhabitants go without health care. I just don't see Jesus encouraging behavior like that.

WELL, I should point out that the concept of the U.S. being a Christian country has been thrown around for a long time...and by both parties. However, since the rise of the Religious Right back in the 70s, it has become almost the exclusive purview of the Republican party. (The old guard of the R.R. is slowly dying off. But their toxic thoughts are still very much around.) In fact, the American church can now be seen as being almost completely co-opted by the Republican party.

In the brilliant work by the Barna Research Group, and complied by David Kinnaman & Gabe Lyons into the book "Un-Christian," people under 30 are convinced that to follow Jesus means that you have to become a Republican. This is absolutely deadly to the gospel!!! <---- Click the link for more.

Please, please, please, if you have never read that it, read it, take it to heart and share it!!!

For some reason, many, many, many christians in America now believe that you have to embrace a particular political agenda (In this case, a Republican one) to follow Jesus. After all, Republicans are the party that is Pro-Birth (Not "Pro-Life", but that's for another time) and want to deny gay people their secular civil rights in a secular nation. As we all know, this is pretty much all that Jesus spoke about during his earthly ministry.

I could be wrong, but I think that Jesus also denied the fact that there actually is global climate change that is man-made. Jesus warned his followers not to believe the N.S.A. & C.I.A. under the Bush administration, when they said climate change was a very serious problem and would be the major cause of wars in the next 50 years. After all, Jesus said that there would be wars and rumors of what else could he have been talking about?

Also, what Jesus never talked about was caring for the poor. He never talked about being a peace maker...wether it was in your personal relationships or on the international stage. He never talked about loving your neighbor OR "The least of These."

In fact, in general, I don't ever recall the bible talking about caring for the widows and orphans. Nor do I recall it ever mentioning specific injunctions about how to take care of "Aliens." If it ever did, it certainly meant "Legal" ones...or those from other planets.

No, what the bible speaks extensively about, and what Jesus spoke very specifically about when ever he spoke at the National Press Club of Jerusalem, was the need to extend tax-cuts for the wealthiest, even if it added 700 billion to the national debt...because they create jobs. (I somehow missed that one when my company announced a 3-year hiring & wage freeze a bit ago...while making sure the top managers all got their bonuses.) Jesus also said that it is very important for all women to give birth, but that after that, they were on their own because he felt that they should pull themselves up by their own boot-straps and not mooch off the system. I also believe that in 2nd Hesitations, God tells the people to ignore his instructions in Gen. 1:26-30 about being responsible caretakers of his creation. I need a concordance, but I believe the words went something like this; "For thou shall poo in your & thy neighbor's water supply with out guilt or shame, and nothing negative shall come of this joy. Verily, thou shall drill in dangerous ground & seas without a thought to the potential consequences, so thy chariot will hum and it's rims shall shineth as ye cruise. I am the Lord! Spend no time or thought on potential un-harmful alternative sources, or ye shall demonstrate a lack of faith and I shall smite thy Wii. Amen"

OK, maybe I'm having too much fun with this. But seriously, so much of what I hear coming out of the mouths of politicians...especially Republicans at the moment, is just absurd. I'm to the point that if one of them brings up Jesus, I DON'T want to vote for them. I'm so tired of it. I think that Jesus is even more weary of it. But worse than that, I am beyond being sick of so many "Christians" buying hook, line & sinker most things that political leaders say as long as it has some Jesus polish on it...all without much in the way of questioning. It would appear that when you drape the name of Jesus across some secular institution like a political party, platform or nation, it's amazing what you can get the other sheep to do.

Don't drag the gospel into politics unless you are going to embrace ALL of it...including the stuff that is unpopular. If it isn't the WHOLE gospel to the WHOLE person to the WHOLE world, then it isn't the gospel at all.

At present, the Republican party is by far the most guilty of any political party of trying to make Jesus a plank in their platform. I find it verging on prostitution, and want nothing to do with it. (The irony is that within a few years, you will see the economic wing of the Republican party toss the religious conservatives aside like old shoes in the name of political expediency. If you have been paying attention, you can even see it happening now)

Claiming that this country, or any other is "Christian," is nothing more than another form of idolatry. If you slap that label on a matter how good & decent that country might be, you also attach Jesus to every mistake that country makes. (And sometimes those mistakes are massive!) The leaders who attach Jesus to their countries monikers either do so out of complete biblical ignorance, or out of lust for power. And the folks who believe & encourage it are building their foundation on some really wet sand which WILL NOT hold when the storms come.

A couple of final thoughts:
From the book "Un-Christian":

"In my book Kingdoms in Conflict, I make the case for why Christians should never have a political party. It is a huge mistake to become married to an ideology, because the greatest enemy of the gospel is ideology."
Chuck Colson

"Every time Christianity has fallen into the trap of using politics to achieve its means, it has lost its power and effectiveness."
Tri Robbins, Pastor, Vineyard Boise

"When the Christian Coalition refused to hire an executive director because he wanted global AIDS to be on their agenda, and another director resigned for similar reasons, the fate of the Religious Right was sealed." (Boy, I sure hope so)
Mark Rodgers, former staff director, Senate Republican Conference

"Evangelicalism has been hijacked and usurped by partisan political forces. Conservative religion is now being driven and dictated by secular, right-wing political forces."
Jim Wallace, Sojourners

It says "In God We Trust" on American money. It was adopted as our national motto in 1956, during the height of "McCarthyism" as a way to distinguish ourselves from the godless Soviet Union. We put that phrase right next to a Masonic "All-Seeing" eyeball. Hhmmmm.

Turns out that good old Teddy Roosevelt thought it was rather sacrilegious to have that on our money. But I think that Teddy might very well be wrong on this point. I think that Americans generally do trust in a god. I'm not convinced that this god is the one found in the bible, despite what some people think.

I will say this; the god that Americans tend to place their faith in and worship does have it's own hymn. And it goes like this:

"God-Money, I'll do anything for you.
God-Money, just tell me what to do.
God-Money, nail me up against the wall.
God-Money don't want everything, he wants it ALL."

Bow down before the one you serve.
You're going to get what you deserve.



P.S. So I'm guessing that I hit some serious nerves with this one. In leu of that, allow me a bit of levity to make up for rankled feathers.

You ever wonder if Jesus might be treated like the following if he showed up today? I do.

And now for a light hearted look at the way some people seem to think about God & the current President.

Last, but not least. Believe it or not, near as I can tell, President Obama is a Believer. That seems to be a shock to a whole lot of people. I don't know of too many political leaders who are fluent in the theology of Reinhold Neibuhr. At any rate, you can read his testimony here.

I know that can absolutely stun some folks. Especially ones like the following...

Sorry, sometimes it takes a while for this video to load.

Have YOU prayed for our leaders today? The bible says that you're supposed to...and it never mentions bringing your personal politics into it.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Salt & Light...right in Jesus' eyes.

"You are the salt of the are the light of the world...let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your father in heaven." Matt. 5:13-16

And I want to throw another one in just for good measure...but I'll explain why later.

"Be careful not to do your "Acts of Righteousness" before men...but when you give to the needy, do not let your right hand know what your left hand is doing." Matt. 6:1-4

So anyway, many years ago myself and some other students from Bethel Seminary decided to see a Neil Young & Crazy Horse concert in Minneapolis. (I highly recommend seeing this group once in your life.) So we headed on down to the Target Center to enjoy an evening of "Rusty" guitar solos. As we approached the concert venue, we were greeted with folks holding signs similar to this one.

We all found this to be rather odd. Sure, Neil Young isn't a Believer. I'm pretty sure he still smokes pot. But it's not like he is Marylin Manson, Black Sabbath...or Barry Manilow. So what was up with the signs?!?!

As seminary students, we weren't exactly pleased with this approach towards evangelism, but we never-the-less entered the concert hall and a good time was had by all...of the hippies, bikers, posers, aging bankers wearing tie-dyed T-shirts...and seminary students. (A blistering rendition of "Crime in the City" certainly didn't hurt.) We quickly forgot about the signs.

When you were a kid, did you ever pour salt on a garden slug or a snail? Shame on you if you did...but it is pretty cool. (I used to grab Mom's salt shaker and run to the garden to play Stuka dive bomber.) The salt hits the poor creature and in reacts with it's skin. Next thing you know, you have a bubbling mess. It's all quite awesome when you are 9.

Save that thought and image.

Have you ever noticed that Christians can be a lot like the following cartoon?

There is a certain irony in displaying this cartoon. The creators of the website from which I found this, actually think this is a positive. From what I could gather, they really seem to like confrontational witnessing. I suppose that they wouldn't wish anyone to actually sow salt in people's eyes, but they certainly would encourage it verbally.

When Jesus spoke of being Salt & Light in this world, testifying to the kingdom was a given. He never said "You SHOULD be the light of the world." He just assumed it. But there is a whole lot more to being a witness then simply confronting people verbally. In context, these verses speak of his salty followers being a preserving force...because that is what salt has traditionally been used for. (No explanation should be require to explain the point of light.)

Have you ever been walking down the street and been handed a tract by someone you don't know? Maybe the tract is pretty benign. Maybe it's pretty creepy. Maybe you found a tract by a fellow named Jack Chick. He's pretty a David-Lynch-make-your-skin-crawl kind of way. Unfortunately, if you are anything other than a King James Bible Fundamentalist, you probably wont appreciate these tracts for the deep theology & gracious content.

<--- A fine example.

So a long time ago, I had signed up with a ministry group from Bethel College. I was given the task of being a "Big Brother" to a Junior High boy. Long story short, his Dad had deserted the family & his responsibilities to live "as an open and proud Gay man." (No comment.)

One day, the kid and I were out at a mall. He spots this tract thingy on the ground and picks it up. Turns out that it is one of Jack's. It also turns out that it was a tract on homosexuality. It also, also turns out that it was one of the most homo-erotic set of cartoons that I have ever seen. (Made me wonder if Jack or one of his minions had a little secret that he could barely keep hidden.)

I'm sure that it all left a great impression on the kid about Christians.

So, in Galatians 5, Paul speaks about the cross being an offense. I've always kind of figured that if the cross is already some sort of offense, then maybe...just maybe...Christians DON'T have to be. Do we really need to hand out pamphlets to people we don't know? Do we really need to pull a Todd Friel and try to argue & insult people into the kingdom? Do we really need to take a flashlight and a handful of salt and rub it in people's eyes??? Seems to me that we get more in Jesus' eyes than anyone else's.

It always strikes me how relational oriented Jesus was/is. It appears that he actually took the time to get to know people on a personal a loving friend would. It also appears that, more often than not, he did that BEFOR he began teaching them, correcting them, or convicting them..

Now, I am NOT saying that there is no place for tracts, street evangelism, crusades, etc. After all...and I absolutely believe this with every fiber of my being, God uses EVERYTHING. But it does appear that at the end of the day, it's all about relationships. Jesus didn't say to his disciples at the last supper, "Obey my commands and I'll love you." He said, "IF you love me, you will obey my commands." So following him was based on a relationship. Being a witness seems like it would be too.

It should be pointed out that Billy Graham was very concerned with getting local churches involved in his crusades. He thought it extremely important to get new Believers connected to others who could help them on their journey...also known as getting young believers into positive relationships.

Earlier I added the bit about your right hand not knowing what your left hand is doing. That's kind of a Zen-like statement coming out of the mouth of the Messiah. I think that the point Jesus was trying to make was that when you are doing something good, righteous, what ever, that it simply comes out of you as if it were second nature. You don't even realize that you are doing it. Being a witness shouldn't have to be "Intentional." It certainly shouldn't have to be forced. It should just be as normal as breathing.

This means that it should also be total...a part of your overall being. In fact, you shouldn't actually have to "Witness" at all. Your life AND mine should simply reflect what Jesus is doing in you.

It's not about being perfect, either. In fact, I would argue that it's better if you simply own up to your own stupidity rather naturally, too. Your friends already know most of that about you anyway. I think it's just easier to tell others that "Yeah, I really want to Jesus to help me with this specific crap."

Earlier this week, me and a buddy drove up north to Minnesota's Iron Range. We poked around Bob Dylan's home town and stared in awe at the world's largest open-pit mine. (Pretty freaky, really.) He's a "Skeptic," but an honest one. I think his I.Q. is WAY up there, so he had a ton of tough questions for me. I'm pretty comfortable with the phrase "I don't know," which came in handy for me.

So he asks me how one can tell the difference in a worship service between what's real, and what's fake...and for Christianity in general. Thankfully, I actually had an answer for this one...and I think it's pretty spot on, if I do say so myself. Oddly enough, I had been thinking about the same thing for many years, and here is my answer: If it doesn't sound like the words that Jesus spoke, if it doesn't reflect the character that Jesus displayed, if it doesn't look like the things that Jesus did...if those things don't match up to what you are seeing, then it probably isn't OF Jesus. If that is the case, then get away as fast as you can.

Ta Da!!!!

And I would say that the same applies for your own approach to witnessing.

I really enjoyed my day with my buddy. It was a blast to have my brain picked, and to have a deep discussion with someone that I really respect. We could talk about almost anything...including the kingdom, regardless of our differing opinions. All of that may have been possible because I actually care enough to have a relationship with him. He's an awesome guy. We don't have to put on masks, or win arguments. We're just friends. I don't have to shove a bible down his throat or beat him over the head with one. I don't have to do anything other than simple "BE."

I trust God enough to leave whatever else comes out of all that in his hands.

It's just a thought, but...

I'm not convinced that sharing the Gospel looks like this.

I can't really bring myself to even comment on this, because the whole thing just makes me so angry.

Maybe instead, the Gospel often looks more like this...

This picture is from this past winter in Egypt. With all of the protests going on in Cairo, and despite the danger...and being an oppressed minority, Egyptian christians actually made a human chain around muslim protestors to protect them while they prayed.

I'd be rather curious to see if that could/would happen in this country with my fellow evangelicals.

Again, I am NOT convinced that telling people the "Good News" of the kingdom looks like this...

(Pay careful attention to the sign in the background)

I couldn't quite make out everything the "Fear God" dude was saying. I may actually agree with most of what he said. But I simply cannot see Jesus taking that approach.

Maybe, just maybe, Jesus would encourage his followers to try an approach more along these lines...

Please do watch & listen to all of this.

I tend to tear up when I watch this.

Maybe sometimes the Gospel looks a lot like that.

Last but not least, maybe, maybe, maybe...just maybe, sometimes the Gospel even looks as simple as this...

Like I said, it's just a thought.



P.S. "Hi" Jennifer Greenberg...whoever you happen to be. :)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The God of Banquets & Fudge

"I will tell of the kindness of the Lord, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all Lord has done for us -- yes, the many good things he has done." Isaiah 63:7

A few days ago, I finally had a day of free-time to go on one of my delighted mini-road trips. I need to do this from time to time to awaken my soggy brain with visual stimuli after a nasty Winter and gloomy Spring. So I packed up my sister, and we headed out of the Twin Cities south on old Hwy. 61 (Yes, of Bob Dylan fame) and went out to see some of the gorgeous "Bluff Country" of S.E. Minnesota.

If you ever get the chance to do this, keep your eyes peeled for, what appears to be, a little house attached to a mini-golf course on the west side of the highway about 3 miles south of Wabasha. It's called "L.A.R.K. Toys." I'll tell you more about it later, but for now I'll just say that I purchased some of their homemade fudge while I was there. (To resist this fudge is a modern form of blasphemy.)

Since the purchase of said fudge, I've been bringing the box of it to work each night and sharing it with my friends. I just think that the stuff is so good that I can't help but want to share it so that others can taste how awesome it is. When I come across something that I think is pretty cool, I can't help myself. I just want others to experience it too.

So last night at work, as I was attempting to share the goodies, something I heard from Pastor Rob Bell a while back popped into my head. It was all on how generous, giving, gracious and kind God is. So many of the parables that Jesus told were of God, the kingdom, etc. being fun, joyous and celebratory. In particular, the parable of the great banquet stands out as a great example of this.

"...Jesus replied: "A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time on the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, `Come, for everything is now ready...and there is much righteous fudge to be had.' But they all alike began to make excuses...Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, `Go out quickly into the streets & alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.' `Sir,' replied the servant, `what you ordered has been done, but there is still room and copious amounts of fudge to be had.' Then the master told his servant, ` Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full, because we simply cannot let this awesome mint/chocolate swirl and amaretto fudge go to waste!" Luke 14:15-24...with my editorializing.

What this Bell pointed out, and appears to be spot on, is that Jesus offers no explanation at all for why this "Certain Man" (God) would throw a banquet in the first place. And this happens over & over again in the parables. God just seems to like to have parties & celebrations. Why? Well, maybe because God is just somehow like that.

Back in the early 70s, Phillipe Petit (Little Phil) decided to string a wire across the World Trade Towers and go for a walk. Not exactly something you see everyday. He was up there dancing around for over 40 minutes. When it was all over, he was arrested. The police arrest record records "Man on Wire" as the official charge.

Here's a clip from the documentary that was made about this event. In the last 30 seconds of this clip, Petit explains why he risked his life in this manner. Pay careful attention to what he says.

"There is no WHY."

And so it may very well be with God.

Perhaps it is merely something innate in the deepest parts of YHWH that causes him to be so generous, gracious, fun-loving and joyful...and digs a good feast...with fudge.

Another interesting example is found in the Parable of the Talents from Matthew 25. When the master/God talks to each of the faithful servants he says to them, "Come and share in your master's happiness/joy." He doesn't say that he is going to reward them with a 401k or a nice end-of-year bonus. No. God wants to share his happiness & joy with those who will follow him.

Perhaps it is simply that God desires to pursue Joy, and invites people to share in it.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out before us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the JOY set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:1-2

One guy at work last night refused the gift of Praline Swirl fudge. (Blasphemy!) He had legitimate reasons, so I don't dis him for it. But it does make you think about the way we reject God's invitations. I'm not a Calvinist. I don't believe that God is particularly pushy. He invites everyone to his banquet. (Although he does appear to be partial to those who would never be invited to a "Proper" feast with "Polite Company & Respectable People.") But not everyone chooses to come when told of the Gospel/Good News of the divine BBQ...or to eat the fudge when freely given. Ultimately, it is their loss, not God's. Sad really, because it's a pretty awesome party.

Anyway, those were just the thoughts that were running around in my head last night.

More on LARK toys:
First off, check out their website.

I'd driven past this place for a few years before I decided to drop in. From the road, it doesn't look like much of a place to visit. However, once you are inside, be prepared to spend at least an hour. You simply will not be able to resist. (I'm very serious about that.) It's like walking into some sort of time warp of nostalgia. You instantly regress to being about 10 years of age.

The truth is that the store is a maze of 4 different houses mushed together. The first thing that you will see is a hand-made carousel.

Those are actual pictures of the giant wooden hulks that were hand-craved into moose, dragons, fish and ducks that visitors can ride.

The famous Mayo Clinic in Rochester is about an hour away over the hills from this store. I found out that they will often bring bus loads of children from around the world, who are at the hospital for treatment, to LARK to simply play. It's probably better therapy than a booster shot, I would suppose.

There is also a very unique candy selection at LARK. Obviously, you know about the fudge by now. But wait...there's MORE!


Not just any kind of candy. WEIRD candy!

That's right. Those are onion ring, ranch dressing, bacon and corn dog flavored breath mints.

I purchased a tin of "Juvenile Delinquent Breath Mints." ("Wild, depraved youth with minty fresh breath.") Delicious...and it makes you want to T.P. someone's house.

What is so awesome about LARK is that once you get in the toy area, you quickly discover that it is a maze of rooms connected to each other. Each room has a different theme to it. There are rooms with educational toys, retro toys from decades ago, and even a room full of nothing but awesome children's books. (Plus, the original owner has his massive toy collection on display for all to stand in awe of...and I do mean massive.)

The following are some examples of the weighty tomes that appeal to my stellar intellect.

These last two are semi-autobiographical novels based on the childhood of my friend David. His self-esteem is healthy, so he has no problem dealing with the messiness of his infancy. Plus, he is a good sport and doesn't seem to mind my needling of him. (Either that, or he is as starved for attention as I am.)

You can check out his blog on this link. You're welcome, Dave.

ANYWAY, if you ever DO get the chance to head down Hwy. 61 in Minnesota, make sure you seek this place out. It truly is well worth it. Plus the fudge is simply divine, sayeth the Lord.



P.S. What the heck...

Friday, June 17, 2011

Why I am no longer a Republican, Part 1. "Sodomites!"

This should be an interesting post. It's been bubbling in my brain for a few weeks now. The trick will be keeping it relatively manageable, succinct and coherent.

A couple of caveats before I begin. #1. This is in no way a slap at any of my friends. I have friends across the political spectrum. If you are a member of any given party, kudos to you. I am not attacking you personally. This is my story, that's all.

#2. I think that it is difficult to be a member of any political party. Every party has good and bad ideas in them. They are only has good or as flawed as the people who make them up.

#3. I could sing the old song of "I didn't leave my party. It left me." This is true in my case...and that's all I'm saying..."In MY case."

#4. NO, I am not a Democrat. I am strictly independent. I try to look at every issue and politician individually, and vote accordingly. I have come to the conclusion that this is the most biblical way to view politics.

#5. Regardless of your political persuasion, put your faith in God and his kingdom FIRST. Political parties come & go. So do nations. His kingdom lasts for ever. He knows what he's doing. Keep that in the forefront of your mind when you are discussing politics.

Traditional Republican philosophy has believed for decades in Limited Government, low regulations and "Reasonably" low taxes. I still believe in this. (I simply no longer believe that the current Republican party does.) Also, I have voted for Republican candidates almost exclusively since I could vote. I still love Ronald Reagan (Though for reasons different than those who currently hold him up as a saint.), Teddy Roosevelt...and even John McCain. (Just my opinion, but I do believe that if McCain had been elected back in 2000, we would NOT be in the mess that George Bush got us into.)

So why do I no longer consider myself a Republican?

George Bush:
It would be easy to lay all of the blame at the feet of this man for why I left the party. I voted for the guy. I thought the alternatives of Al Gore & John Kerry were worse. But I also thought that W would be a moderate who kept the "Religious Right" at arms-length. What I ended up with was a guy who thought it was God's will to invade Iraq (YES, he actually said that), had no problem torturing people, and bankrupted the country. I mean, for a guy who billed himself as a fiscal conservative, he actually caused the size of government to grow by 25.3%...while giving out unwarranted tax cuts. Even Clinton only caused the size of government to grow by 14.4%...and he left us with a budget surplus.

Yeah, it would be easy to lay it all at the feet of Bush. But I would have to include most of the current Republican leadership in this blame game, too...which I do. And it is these same folks who now blame Obama for the fiscal mess that THEY created. (But now they want me to trust them to actually fix it.) I don't understand how anyone can NOT admit that the Bush administration was an almost complete disaster for this country economically, militarily and diplomatically. (It's as if God raised up Bush as our leader to punish us for our arrogance & selfishness.) But that's not the reason I left the party.

The Election of Obama:
I didn't vote for the guy, but I knew he was going to win. I was fine with that. I knew that he was not the screaming leftist that some wanted to make him out to be. Frankly, I really liked the idea of a godly, family-faithful President who was also African American. I thought he would be a great role model for many people in our country.

What I had not counted on was the vitriolic reaction to his election. I was completely taken off guard by the foaming at the mouth reaction to his administration with in two months of his inauguration. All of a sudden, all of the mess that Bush had gotten us into were laid at this new President's feet. The majority of Bush's emergency plans to save the auto industry and banks (Which I agreed with, but still held my nose over.) were blamed on Obama. It was as if the economy had been fine & dandy for the past two years previous, but came tumbling down as soon as Obama said "I do." I could not understand this reaction. (Wasn't real keen on a lot of the undertones of racism that I noticed either.) But that's not the reason I left the party.

I could even comment about the reaction to Obama's health care initiative. I could easily point out that most of it is a revamp of Republican ideas that were put forward in the 90s as an alternative to Clinton's proposals. I could point out that the majority of it was based on then Republican governor MITT ROMNEY'S Massachusetts' plan. I could point that out. I could do that...but I'll let the current Republican contenders shred candidate Romney's evil socialist/marxist/REPUBLICAN ideas about health care for all in the debates over the next few months. I could point out that Republicans are being extremely disingenuous...even hypocritical, on this issue. But that's not the reason that I left the party.

This person is the main reason that I left the party.

Admittedly, this is a video compilation. So it is subject to being taken out of context. However, anyone can do a minimal amount of digging to find plenty on the philosophy of Ayn Rand.

One article on Rand's philosophy that I found to be very interesting and highly recommend is this one from Christianity Today.

Let me state for the record that I have flirted with the idea of "Libertarianism" for years. But I have come to the conclusion that it is simply another form of un-biblical idolatry. (Not that there is such a thing as pro-biblical idolatry.) It raises the individual and said individual's pursuit of economic gain above all else...including God, as being the "Greatest Good." This is idolatry plain & simple.

The views that Ayn Rand espouses are a direct attack on everything that Jesus taught. She has some good ideas, but the over all package is an assault on a biblical worldview. That simply cannot be debated....and she makes no bones about it! She hates any concept of God & religious faith, and she hates the idea of altruism and protecting the weak..."Those people do not deserve my love."

The truth is that Ayn Rand's views are EVIL. (I know that it is a bold and provocative statement to make, but I absolutely believe it to be true.) If you call yourself a follower of Jesus, have read the Sermon on the Mount, try to model your life after the character Jesus portrayed in the Gospels...and also agree with Ayn Rand's philosophies, you really need to explain to me how you can square both of those diametrically opposed world views in your mind. I honestly do not understand how you can do it. This person despises the things that historic, orthodox christianity is suppose to uphold. You cannot debate or ignore that fact.

The underlying fact that Ayn Rand's philosophy has become the underpinnings of current Republican ideas is a great danger to our country. It is the promotion of selfish individualism at it's worst. It is Social Darwinism in it's wickedest form. The idea that an unchecked Free Market is the final arbiter of all things economic is deadly...and we already have the history to prove it.

All you have to do is go back and take a look at American history from the end of the Civil War to the rise of Teddy Roosevelt to see what unfettered Capitalism will get you. Robber barons ran the economic infrastructure of the nation. Workers were routinely exploited. Best of all, there were no safety regulations or any type of social safety net. So if you lost an arm at work..."Oops! Bummer for you, buddy." And, "Hey Bob! I got a bunch of dead rats in a pile from the poison we laid down around the meat. What should I do with them?" Answer: "Heck Steve, just sweep it all into the sausage vat. We need a little more filler anyway."

Gosh, golly-gee...who wouldn't want to go back to a system like that?!?!?!

Yes, it actually WAS like that. It doesn't take much digging in history books to figure that out. It took a REPUBLICAN President, Teddy Roosevelt, to begin to address those issues in a serious way. But it would appear that current Republican philosophy wants to regress just a tad.

So, am I attacking the Free Enterprise system? Not at all! It still is the most efficient means to produce a decent standard of living for a society. But it needs to be balanced with proper and wise government regulations. (It was sloppy, or no, regulation of the housing sector that got us into this financial crisis) There should be balance, and never be one side overpowering the other.

As I said, Ayn Rand's ideas are nothing more than the worst of Social Darwinism. The idea that so many of the current Republican thinkers are so far to the Right on this scares me. Rand espouses self-interest above all else. There would be no social safety net. People would be on their own. That's a great way for the most vulnerable to get hurt. And it is NOT something that Jesus would EVER do.

Please do not throw out the silly argument that charity and the church would fill those gaps. (In an ideal world, that would be true.) The church SHOULD fill that gap. But the fact remains that too many American christians are not doing their part. (I include myself in this condemnation.) There are some things that only the government is equipped to do. And who is to say that the church shouldn't or can't harness and help the government to create a system that protects the most vulnerable?

Just a Thought:
So Ezekiel the Prophet is off in Babylon. One day, YHWH send him to the Hebrews in exile to tell them why he punished them. YHWH compares the Israelites to the city of Sodom. Normally, people think of Sodom & Gomorrah as being sexually WAY out of whack. This is true, but the sexual hedonism was the result of something deeper in the lives & mindsets of the people of S & G.

"Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom:
She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned;
they did not help the poor and needy.
They were haughty and did detestable things before me.
Therefore I did away with them as you have seen."
Ez. 16:49 & 50

Hhhmmmmm, that sounds remarkably close to what Ayn Rand espouses.

So if blatant self-interest, with little to no altruism, along with a general being "unconcerned" (Lip service doesn't count.) is really what God defines as Sodomy...and caused him to bring the hammer down, THEN I suppose it would be fair to say that people like Ayn Rand, Congressman Paul Ryan, Gov. Scott Walker, Congresswoman Michelle Bachman, etc. are all a bunch of Sodomites...and so are so many others. Yes, they are sodomites. They promote Sodomy...Sodomy, Sodomy, SODOMY! (I'd pay good money to see that on a couple of placards at one of their campaign rallies. YES!)

So I shall now tell people, when they ask me why I am no longer a Republican, that I love this country and do not wish to see God destroy it due to the promotion of Sodomy, and that's what Republicans are currently doing. (Can't wait to see the looks on their face's when I bring that up in polite company.)

Whatever happened to the Republican heros from my State like Con. Jim Ramstad, Gov. Arne Carlson, Sen. Dave Durenburger and Gov. Al Quie? Oh yeah, they backed Tom Horner for governor of Minnesota 2 years ago...a former Republican, now of the Independence Party of Minnesota. Interesting, very interesting.

ANYWAY, That's my explanation for now, for what it's worth.



P.S. Friends don't let other friends encourage Sodomy among political parties and politicians.

Other Resources:
The following are a list of videos and links that helped to inform my views on this journey. It certainly is not exhaustive by any stretch. Again, these are simply my opinions. But I hope that they are relatively educated ones...and ones that are also, hopefully, consistent with Scripture.

#1. Ayn Rand on the old Phil Donahue show.

In no way do I believe that Atheists are evil people. (Obviously I don't agree with Atheism, but that's for another time) I just think that this gives a very good her own words, to Ayn Rand's worldview.

#2. An EXCELLENT interview with an author who has investigated the Koch brothers. They were major financiers of Glen Beck's Rally to Restore Honor on the Washington mall last August. These two are hard-core libertarians who want NO government regulations. If you have family or friends involved in the Tea Party political cult, you should send this to them. (Especially because of the demeaning way that the brother's minions refer to members of the Tea Party.) They like it that they are their shock troops for their personal agenda, but consider them to be essentially hill-billies.

Remember this the next time you are buying Brawny paper towels. (The Koch brothers own that.)

#3. Dr. Russell Moore is a theologian for the Southern Baptists. He had some things to say about the B.P. oil spill last year that I thought were brilliant. "Simply trusting corporations to go about their business without polluting the water streams and without destroying ecosystems is really a naïve and utopian view of human nature. It's not a Christian view of human nature."

These two links go hand in hand with each other. But the NPR link holds the bulk of the information.

#4. Finally. Most people throw terms like "Liberal & Conservative" around, but do not actually know what these terms mean. It's been my observation that it can mean a variety of different things to a variety of different people. In fact, most political scientists have noted that since the end of the cold war in late 80s and early 90s, these terms have collapsed in many respects. So, here is a website where you can go and take a test to see exactly where you fall in respect to the broader view of these terms. (Plus, you get to see what historical figures you might line up with.)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Things I hate

"Jesus went through all of the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.""
Matt. 9: 35-38

I just finished a 4 month gig working at an inner-city school that serves a very marginalized bunch of kids and their families. There is a lot of poverty, homelessness and abuse that comes with this territory. Many of the older kids are affiliated with gangs and such. Not a lot of positive choices are being made.

To top that all off, last month we had a tornado that decided to visit this area. Since half of the homes in this area are rentals, a huge chunk of the residents are now left with few options. It's a difficult environment to work in because you tend to see, at best, only a few glimpses of hope in these types of circumstances.

So I need to vent a bit.

But first, please pay close attention to the lyrics in this song.

I hate poverty. I hate what it does to people. I hate how it degrades the "Image of God" into something that is almost sub-human.

I hate "Liberals." I hate how, through some type of guilt-ridden conscience, they will throw good money after bad. I hate their ideas that another government program here and there, with it's top-heavy bureaucracy in which the money flows upwards, will actually make any meaningful dent in these situations. I hate how they feel very self-satisfied that they "Did something to make a difference," but actually only eased their poor self-esteem.

I hate "Conservatives." I hate how they talk from time to time about helping the poor, but in all actuality, they barely give a damn. Our welfare state sucks!!! But the fact is, it's the only one we have, and I rarely see any "Conservative-Republican" offering a functional, practical or realistic alternative. What I DO see is that when it comes time for budget cuts, they go after programs that serve the poor as if it were as natural as breathing.

I hate "Community Activists." I hate how they think that they can lead a neighborhood, but can't even set a halfway decent example for their kids at home. They are great at getting people all riled up...which may explain why their children are often such little shits. I hate that it is often my tax dollars that fund their ridiculous programs that only serve to put money in their pockets.

I hate people with easy and simplistic answers to difficult problems. I hate their pat answers and broad generalizations. I hate how they can make wise and learned pronouncements when most of them have never spent much time at all with any poor people, let alone getting to know them as a human beings. (That goes for people who make broad statements about the rich, too, and their desire to soak them for their money.)

I also hate the "Poor." Poverty in America is unlike any poverty that I have seen in other countries. I don't understand how a poor person can have a cell phone, but no job or house. I hate how they so often assume that they are owed things and entitled to "Stuff" simply because they breathe air. I have watched the Red Cross hand out water, food and toys to people, children and families for a few weeks now. I was appalled and HATED seeing so many of these gifts strewn about our park like half-eaten trash. (I watched some kids use their free sandwiches as toys to be kicked around the yard.)

I hate the idea that poverty in America is mostly a learned behavior. Somewhere along the line, a stupid parent begat stupid children. I hate it that these parents never taught these children a work ethic, personal responsibility, and appreciation for other people's property and belongings. I hate the fact that most of them will never learn from the mistakes of their parents, and will only be successful in life at replicating their own misery in the lives of their children...from a variety of different fathers. ("Has anyone around here ever heard of this thing called a "Condom?" It's a tiny magical device that will keep you from growing cacti in unmentionable places, and sprouting one more mouth that you can't afford to feed. You might like to try one some day...pretty please.")

I hate it.

I hate poverty, Liberals, Conservatives, Community Activists, easy/simplistic answers and the Poor.

But most of all, I hate myself.

I hate myself because there are times when I will be looking at a student and think to myself; "You, kid, are a walking dead man. You have made so many stupid choices that your life is virtually over already and you don't even know it." I hate it that so often I no longer see God's image when I am dealing with some people. I hate having those kinds of thoughts in my head.

I hate myself because I can drive out of that area everyday and put a good deal of it behind me and go on with my life. (Obviously, I can't put it all behind me, because it's weighing on me right now.)

I hate myself because I feel helpless in these types of situations. It's like I truly can't see any viable option to correct these problems.

I hate myself because so often I can look at ALL of these "Liberals, Conservatives, Community Activists, and Poor people," and these circumstances & situations and not have the same compassion that Jesus had. In fact, I can say that I hate myself because all of this demonstrates a massive lack of faith on my part. It really does. Do I really believe that God knows what he's doing, and that his kingdom can and does break in in unexpected and powerful ways regardless of my frustration and self-loathing/pity, or don't I?

I don't have to harvest everything. But I should at east try and rest in the thought that the Lord of the harvest knows his field.

"Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of it's own." Matt. 6:34

Easier said than done. But I'll still try and pray this every day...