Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving...Possibly My Favorite

I love Thanksgiving. I love the simplicity of meeting in a warm home, a table generously spread with delicious food, and loved ones gathered all around for the purpose of giving thanks. No gifts to buy. No schedule to keep that is overwhelming. I am blessed because I have enjoyed my family and my in-laws through the years, as well as many wonderful friends. I know of others have a difficult time returning home for holiday events, and my heart goes out to them. I also know of others who have nowhere to go, and though I keep an eye out for those souls each year, I've found it difficult to locate them to invite them to join us.

I am so grateful to God for his lessons, his blessings, and his faithfulness to his plan for me expressed in love. Good gifts come from him. He gives us things to enjoy. This year was sprinkled with fears and challenges, as well as days of peace, happiness, and fun. In all circumstances, I survive or thrive with God's blessing.

Our needs were met. We redefined our wants. Our hearts broke for others with struggles in health, loss of loved ones, immigration status, emotional battles, natural disasters, broken hearts, and more -- all reminders of the brokenness of the world and our need for a loving Savior -- each day and the hope of Heaven. And from Thanksgiving, I move on to anticipation...Advent...remembering the coming of Christ to earth. Will I ever be able to truly grasp the bigness of that event? I, just the same, celebrate with joy.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

In Response to a Forwarded E-Mail

I got an e-mail about the outrage of a holiday stamp not reflecting Christmas. Here are my thoughts:

Why would anyone not of the [a certain] faith buy this stamp anyway? I don’t think a BOYCOTT is needed. I think to list “Remember...[a list of tragedies credited to a certain group]” creates fear and anger and distracts us from Christ’s direction to love our neighbors and our enemies. Plus, this e-mail is focused against extremists, which is unfair and breeds hate, again, not a virtue Christ calls us to seek. And the whole “Remember...” thing...that has nothing to do with forgiveness modeled by my Savior, the ultimate Ruler of the universe and beyond.

[The e-mail stated, "They don't even believe in Christ and they're getting their own Christmas stamp, but don't dream of posting the ten commandments on federal property?"]

[The e-mail also stated to pass the e-mail along to every Christian and patriotic American. It also made the statement] Religious holidays have nothing to do with patriotism in my mind. And regarding the connection to the 10 commandments in public schools or wherever. Whoever wrote that does not understand the separation of church and state concept accurately, which really does serve believers well. Nor are the 10 commandments the main focus or the magic bullet of Christianity and getting morality into culture. The state cannot endorse a religion, so posting the 10 commandments in a school where children are required to attend is a violation of that premise. However, purchasing a stamp is purely preferential and optional, so it is not an endorsement of anything. Probably just a marketing idea.

The Kingdom of God does not have political borders. All are invited. Christ died to save us all. It we concentrate on drawing divisive lines on things as small and unimportant as a stamp purchase, we are ignoring a greater call.

I read some background on the stamp from the US Postal Service. It is interesting. I found the explanation of the festivals interesting. I’m not going to give this much more thought than that. I wish everyone believed in Christ, but a stamp is not a roadblock to that.

And by the way, who calls this a “new Christmas stamp” as stated in the Subject line of the e-mail? That’s kinda funny. It isn’t a Christmas stamp. It is a holiday stamp for another faith group. They probably don’t buy our Christmas stamps. I wonder if they send around similar e-mails.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Theology of Politics

I know many, many Christians were praying for the election and the results. I believe God answered those prayers. So, now what? The one I voted for won. Many loved ones are unhappy with the outcome. So, did God not answer their prayers? Did they get an answer they don't want? Are they not grateful for God's providence? Do we think we know how God is working and why He does what he does? With my nearsighted limits, spiritually thinking, I cannot presume to know God's plan. I can presume to know God's promises because they are clear in His Word. So, to me, it's still good. How do we know when the government becomes too important to having our lives go our way? I'm not even sure I know what I mean by that exactly. I'm just fascinated by how politics shapes our theology, when I imagine it needs to be the other way around. Too deep for so early in the day.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Things You Don't Hear in Campain Commercials

[Yes, I did spell "campaign" wrong in the post title. It has been a pain at times.]

This is an excerpt from Donald Miller's blog. Donald Miller closed in prayer at the Democratic National Convention 2008. He is a Christian, an author, and more. I found his blog post, "From Reagan to Obama, a Brief Political History," profound.

"While in Denver I met people from the Obama Campaign. I met Joshua Dubois and Paul Monteiro, Obama’s faith-policy advisors. Paul, like me, had been a Republican until recently. He is a staunch pro-life conservative who got tired of Republicans not making enough strides on the issue and was won over by the dramatic effect economic policy has on unwanted pregnancy and the bottom-up effects of economic stimulation as opposed to the conservative, supply-side policy. And Joshua spoke to me about Senator Obama’s personal faith, his commitment to close his events in prayer, his daily morning devotions and his twenty-year history of talking openly about Jesus. I didn’t need to be won over. I’d started a mentoring foundation in Portland two years before and was attracted to Obama’s message on responsible fatherhood (along with his backing of The Responsible Fatherhood Act.)"

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Editorial from Biola Student

This editorial was sent in an e-mail to me by a friend. The writer does a great job expressing some of the complexities of campaign issues for followers of Christ. I found it well done and hopeful.

By Student Author
October 28, 2008, 8:48 p.m.

I’m writing this article because I think the Christian Right needs to take
a long hard look at its policy agenda and make some changes.

Religion, morality, and politics are inherently intermingled and therefore
should not be separated. However, in order for Christians to be a witness
to the secular world, changes must occur in our political ideology and
group behaviors. It’s time for the Christian Right to end its exclusive
ties with the Republican Party. Republicans focus on personal morality
issues like gay marriage and abortion, but they often ignore the equally
important issues of social injustices and human rights.

Same-sex marriage is understandably a controversial issue. Christians are
correct in opposing same-sex marriages; however if we’re amending the
California Constitution to state “only marriage between a man and a
woman,” why not add “until death do them part” and outlaw divorce, too?
This would kill two birds with one stone. I am being facetious, but
honestly divorce is a larger problem in our society than gay marriage will
ever be. Our resources might be better spent enriching family life than
denying rights to gays, especially considering the Christian divorce rate
is virtually the same as the secular one.

The other moral issue, abortion, is an emotional issue because it
represents the negative implications of a fallen culture. Abortion is
morally wrong; however overturning Roe v. Wade would be problematic on a
logistical level. Studies show homosexuals are the leading group showing
interest in adoption, and there are currently not enough Christian
families willing to adopt the annual 1.2 million aborted babies. I’m sure
you can figure out why this is a problem.

Criminalization of abortion also creates a criminal law dilemma.
Illegalizing abortion would force district attorneys to prosecute
back-alley abortions as first-degree murder. Prosecuting scared teenage
girls with murder when their motivation was not malicious but driven by
fear, creates a messy legal predicament and hinders true justice.

Abortion-on-demand is wrong, and will be judged by God. Meanwhile,
Christians should focus their attention on de facto abortions rather than
de jure abortions, meaning we should increase sex education, promote
abstinence, and support crisis pregnancy centers and allow for the
proliferation of birth control use. These are the most effective ways of
deterring abortion.

Aside from these moral issues, the Christian right associates with the
political party which often opposes minimum wage increases, worker’s
unions, and wealth redistribution through entitlements. The Bible is clear
about how important the poor, disabled, widowed, and elderly are to God,
and how evil the love of money is. While there are Christians who do care
for the needy, there is a gap between how much non-government agents are
accomplishing and how much help is needed.

Republicans often advocate increased defense spending over entitlement
programs. This allocation pulls resources from our own single mothers,
widowers and orphans. And as for international aid, it takes away from the
resources needed to help the millions across the globe who live on under a
dollar a day. As Christians, we should advocate foreign aid being lent out
in the form of food and medical supplies, not weapons. The Republican
Party supports the war against radical Islamic fascism while ignoring
genocide, disease and human trafficking problems. The majority of our
society is unaware of the genocide in Rwanda and Darfur, or that Orange
County has an extremely large concentration of enslaved human trafficking

In summation I am calling for a reevaluation of the policymaking agenda
set by the Christian right. By reallocating our time, energy and money
into reforms that are biblical, efficient, and free of hypocrisy, the
Christian Right can better tackle societal ills and serve as a witness to
the world.

What is a Liberal, Politically Speaking?

The term "liberal" has been thrown around lately as a label that is selected to describe some of my loved ones and some of my own political positions on issues. It sounded negative to me, and I didn't care for it. Then I realized I didn't really know what the term means in American politics. So I started some research. Here's what Wikipedia had to say. It's nice, actually. I can see the liabilities, but overall, it is a good political perspective. I was pleasantly surprised. I don't totally trust Wikipedia, but that is an easy place to start.

Liberalism is a broad class of political philosophies that consider individual liberty to be the most important political goal.[1]

Liberalism emphasizes individual rights and equality of opportunity. Within liberalism there are various streams of thought which compete over the use of the term "liberal" and may propose very different policies, but they are generally united by their support for a number of principles, including freedom of thought and speech, limitations on the power of governments, the rule of law, an individual's right to private property,[2] free markets,[2] and a transparent system of government.[3] All liberals, as well as some adherents of other political ideologies, support some variant of the form of government known as liberal democracy, with open and fair elections, where all citizens have equal rights by law.[4]

Modern liberalism has its roots in the Age of Enlightenment and rejected many foundational assumptions that dominated most earlier theories of government, such as the Divine Right of Kings, hereditary status, established religion, and economic protectionism.[5][6][7]

The first modern liberal state was the United States of America[8], founded on the principle that "all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to insure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.[9] Pioneers of liberalism such as Adam Smith conceptualized free markets, free trade, invisible hand, spontaneous order, and how they lead to prosperity. Liberals argued that economic systems based on free markets are more efficient and generate more prosperity.[10]

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Thoughts from Thinkers

“The political leaders with whom we are familiar generally aspire to be superstars rather than heroes. The distinction is crucial. Superstars strive for approbation*; heroes walk alone. Superstars crave consensus; heroes define themselves by the judgment of a future they see it as their task to bring about.”
-- Henry Kissinger
[*ap·pro·ba·tion n: 1. approval, consent, or appreciation; 2. the official approving, authorizing, or sanctioning of something]

“God Almighty has set before me two great objects: the suppression of the Slave Trade and the reformation of manners.”
-- William Wilberforce
October 28, 1787
[Note: 46 years later and three days before his death, slavery was abolished throughout the entire British empire.]