Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Politics and the Government Bailout

Is it just me, or do things seem to be absolutely falling apart in Washington D.C.? President Bush's speech on national television assures the public that if we do not get a government bailout for mortgage companies, then a terrible catastrophe is certainly at hand. And we are supposed to do what, exactly? Call our representatives and say, "Hey! President Bush said that the bailout is necessary, vote for it!"

I'm afraid, and I really mean this, that President Bush is starting to sound like the boy who cried wolf. If we do not invade Iraq, then nukes will go off in New York City. Sadam Hussein is sitting on piles of nerve gas and just waiting to sell them off. Now, economic doomsday can only be averted by a $700 billion dollar loan to creditors who got themselves in a mess through slobbering greed. Where was the bailout for the Americans who lost their homes to the guys who are now getting the bailout? How about $700 billion dollars to the citizens who are going into foreclosure? How would you sell that to the American people?

Instead of going on television and telling us how badly we need this bailout, perhaps President Bush should have called some Republicans in the House. Only 30% of his own party voted for the bailout. 40% of the democrats also said, "No thanks." Why? Why didn't they vote for the only hope to avert certain doom? What was their problem with this bill? Perhaps they have the same problems with it that I listed above. Perhaps they should get some no voter on television to say why they did this.

I'm also stupified that the Republican leaders could get on national television and claim that some republicans voted against the bill because of Rep. Pelosi's harsh rhetoric. Are you kidding me? The "greatest economic disaster since the Great Depression" is looming on the horizon and they change their vote because Rep. Pelosi offended them?? Never, and I mean this, never in my life have I wanted so badly to play Donald Trump and call Senators and Representatives into the board room and fire people. This is the most ridiculously immature thing I have ever seen in my short life. If politics had any dignity left, the last couple of days have succeeded in squashing that flat.

I want to be clear in one thing: I am no financial expert. My limited budgeting experience somes with formulating church budgets (maybe $250,000) and personal family budgets. We seek to spend less than we get. It's pretty simple. So I do not know if a bailout is the best thing to do. I can tell you why it angers me that we are in this predicament. I can tell you that fiscal irresponsibility and greed got us here. I can also tell you that innocent investors will suffer if there is no bailout. But I know that this bailout will protect the very folks who started this disaster, and that they will walk away with millions scott-free, and that there is no guarantee that this will even work and that it will sink our country into even more debt by the billions.

This is why I hired a guy with the expertise to make this decision. I hired him/her with my vote to be a level-headed expert to make decisions for the good of my family and my country. I should be able to trust this person to act professionally, and if they do vote in a way that I may not agree with, they should be able to demonstrate reasonably why they disagree with me. They should be able to make their point of view clear, and even if I disagree, I should be able to see clearly that their position is thought out and reasonable. I should not have to think that their opinion is dictated only by the latest opinion poll or that a Representative from California offended them so they changed their vote!! America deserves better. In November, let's meet them in the board room.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Audacity to be Correct

I remember, quite vividly, one of the things that used to bother me more than anything else in the world. It struck me, at the time, as either absolute arrogance or brainwash. If you wanted to elicit the rolling of the eyes or an audible scoff, all you had to do was mention that one could know that they were going to heaven. I thought such a knowledge claim was preposterous.

I believed that no one could really know that there is a God at all. Or if there were multiple gods. I was fine with claiming that Jesus was God, or that Budda was the enlightend one, or that Muhammed was Allah's prophet. After all, I figured any of these things could be true. I thought religion was simply a matter of picking the one that seemed to make the most sense. Thus, I was happy in my amiable agnosticism, and I was content to let everyone be happy in the system that they had picked...as long as they did not start telling me that I was absolutely wrong.

I felt that I had arrived at my own system of belief by the only means availible to a human being: reason. I found my system of belief to be as reasonable as anyone else's, and so I took it personally if someone told me I was wrong. I could suffer being told wrong if it could be demonstrated reasonably my error. But I would have none of this, "I just know that I know" stuff. That sounded too much like getting emotionally carried away or simple psychological wishful thinking. As if one were attempting to make something true by repeating it over and over.

In some ways, I am much the same as I was then. I am still stubborn, and I still have little patience for the "I just know that I know" explanation. I believe that a Christian ought to have a better reason for their faith than that. But in other ways, I am vastly changed. I now proclaim that Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father, that one must believe that He died for one's sins and rose from the dead for one's justification, and that Jesus Christ is the true Lord of the Universe. I tell people that He is the absolute and only way to salvation. What changed?

I confess that I did not figure this out by reason. The Holy Spirit reaveled this to me personally through the gospel of Jesus Christ. My heart was dead, and God the Holy Spirit made me live. I had nothing to do with this. I did not figure it out by human wisdom. I did not figure it out because I was searching for God in my own strength. It was a simple, gracious, sovereign gift that God gave to me unmerited and unlooked for.

Because I remember where I came from and who I am, I try and present the truth in such a manner that I may cause the least offense. That is not to be confused with soft-peddling the gospel or avoiding conflict. I simply mean that I try to speak the truth in love and humility. The gospel is edgy enough without me adding my own hubris to it.

There are a few things that I now know to be true that really aggravate people. Even fellow Christians. I know that Jesus is the only true Lord and that salvation only comes by Him. I know that God has not chosen to save everyone, though He would save all who are willing. I know that God has an elect that He chose before the world began, and that this choosing was based in His own good pleasure and not by the foreseen merit of sinful creatures. I know that God makes a genuine offer of salvation to all who hear the gospel, but that man in his falleness will never bow the knee to Jesus Christ apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. I know that it is not God's fault when men perish, even if they are not among the elect. Men do not spend eternity in hell because they are 'unelect', they go there because they are guilty of willful sin, and it is willful sin that keeps men from embracing forgiveness in Jesus Christ. God does not actively prevent men from believing.

It may seem like arrogance to some for me to claim such things, but I assure you it isn't. I am open to correction from the Scriptures. If I am guilty of something, it is that I have the audacity to believe in truth and that I have received it by revelation of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Positives of Gov. Palin

In my discussion with Ron in the comments below, I realized that I may not have done quite what I set out to do in my last post. My last post was supposed to have been a critique of what I see as complementarian double-talk over the candidacy of Gov. Palin for VP. As a complementarian myself, I champion what I believe to be the God-designed roles for men and women, and how that crosses over into this situation is the role of male-headship. I simply find it inconsistent to claim that a men should be heads of the home, the leaders of the church, and yet act as if it doesn't matter if they aren't the leaders of the country.

So I want to say that, for the record, that I like Gov. Palin very much. Her living example as a pro-life Governor and VP candidate is like a breath of fresh air. I find the attacks that have been made against her for that position appalling. Some even stooped to say that it was her daughter's child and she pretended like it was hers to avoid scandal. How ridiculous! To add to my ire over how she has been treated, some have ridiculed her for even having five children. This doesn't simply indicate some people's disdain for Gov. Palin, it indicates their disdain of the traditional family and their lack of understanding of the beauty of human life.

Here is a summary of some of her positions according to Wikipedia:

Palin has described the Republican Party platform as "the right agenda for America," because of its "respect for equality and respect for life and an acknowledgment that it is individual Americans and American families who can make better decisions for ourselves than government can ever make for us," adding that "individual freedom and independence is extremely important to me and that's why I'm a Republican."Palin is a social conservative. A lifetime member of the National Rifle Association (NRA), Palin believes the right to bear arms includes handgun possession, and has advocated gun safety education for youth. She also supports capital punishment. Palin supports allowing the discussion of creationism in public schools, but says it does not have to be part of the curriculum.Palin opposes same-sex marriage and supported a non-binding referendum for an Alaskan constitutional amendment to deny state health benefits to same-sex couples.[Palin has called herself "as pro-life as any candidate can be," and she is supportive of "abstinence-only" sex education, although in 2006 said she supported contraception; she is opposed to abortion (including when the pregnancy is caused by rape or incest), but supports it in cases where the mother's life would be endangered. Palin has promoted oil and natural gas resource exploitation in Alaska, including in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), and initiated a lawsuit over the federal listing of the polar bear and Cook Inlet beluga whale as an endangered species.

Read the whole article here.

So what does the above tell me? That on every issue of importance, I am in Gov. Palin's corner. Or perhaps, she is in mine. I even like that she sued over the federal listing of the polar bear and the Cook Inlet beluga whale being put on the endangered species list. Why? I am, myself, an adamant conservationist and I am pro-wildlife. But this lawsuit tells me that she has the chutzpah to stand up and question the convictions of the more left-leaning tree-hugger lot, whose word is generally accepted as law.

I like Gov. Palin, and I think that she is the best candidate we have for VP. But I don't have to like it, and I see her candidacy as a contradiction of ordained roles as taught in Scripture. Ultimately, it is the job of the man to protect families, this includes women and the unborn. I am sad that we've gotten to such a sorry state of affairs that men are no longer the best candidates to do that. I am also concerned that evangelicals are so quick to separate the "sacred and secular", as if such a division is even possible. I see it as political expediency, and I believe that it sets a bad precedence.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Palin, Political Expediency, and Complementarians

I have been doing a good deal of thinking and reading about Gov. Palin's run for the Vice-Presidency. I am bothered by how conservative complementarians have reacted to it, and I am afraid that we run the danger of compromising for the sake of political expediency. The argument that has come forth is that, while the Bible is clear that a woman's priority is in the home, and that they are not to exercise authority over men in the context of the church, it is actually silent regarding the issue of a woman holding secular authority. You may find a couple of strong arguments in this regard by Dr. Al Mohler here, and another excellent article by David Kotter writing for The Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Dr. Mohler, the CBMW, and David Kotter are complementarians who believe that Gov. Palin's run is not necessarily outside the God-ordained role of womanhood.

I know that my critique of the view of these folks may be prideful assumption, but I find their argument bothersome for two important reasons. And on the third reason, I think that it may fail altogether. Let me outline my concerns and let you have at it in the comment section if anyone so desires.

My first worry is this idea that God has ordained roles for men and women inside the home and church that is not consistently applied in the secular world. That is, if Paul forbids women to "teach or have authority over men" (1 Timothy 2:10), must we assume he only meant in the context of the local church? Further, Paul made his argument from creation, not the church per se. In creation, God gave the man dominion over the created world, not simply the church and family. I find their reasoning to be very compartmentalized. I have to wonder, if Gov. Palin's husband is the head of her household and the one to whom she submits, shouldn't we be voting for him instead of her?

That leads me to my second objection. Since Francis Schaeffer, evangelicals have labored to teach people to have a "Christian World View" and not to compartmentalize the sacred and the secular. The reasoning of Dr. Mohler and the CBMW seems to do precisely that. I fear that this position is undercutting, for the sake of political expediency, the arguments complementarians have been advancing for years.

Finally, I want to address the issue of family. Voddie Baucham wrote a post on his blog entitled Did McCain Make a Pro-Family Pick? that addresses this issue. Baucham emphatically answers his own question with a "No!". Gov. Palin may be pro-life, but she is not acting pro-family by running for VP with five children. In fairness to Gov. Palin, she only has three dependant children. Her oldest son is in the military and is heading for Iraq, surely he doesn't still need her at home. Her oldest daughter is about to be a married woman, and I am of the opinion that a seventeen year old married woman is a woman who doesn't need mom at home. So that leaves three children, one of whom is an infant with Down's Syndrome. My wife has two children and is a stay-at-home mom. My wife can hardly find time in the day to go to the grocery store and go to exercise without a job. I simply cannot see, even with three children, how Gov. Palin could manage to be Vice-President, or even President!, and still keep home the priority.

But alas, I confess that I will most likely vote for the McCain/Palin ticket in November. I can even see much good from Gov. Palin's candidacy. (I may write on that tomorrow.) And if it is true that politics are the art of choosing between the unpalatable and the disasterous, then my decision is simply status quo and a reflection of the nature of the beast.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Religion, Politics, and Being Ridiculous

I want to share with you my "Laugh Out Loud" moment of the morning and why, after I thought about it, I got a little grieved. It seems that the director of the movie "Borat" has teamed up with Bill Maher of "Politcally Incorrect" to make a movie called "Religulous". You can check out the hype/advertisement piece for it here. The article is appropriately titled, Western religions attacked in film "Religulous". Basically, Maher will interview people "Borat" style and attempt to make Christians, Jews, and Muslims look at stupid at possible.

My first thought upon reading that Maher will try to make Christians look dumb was, "Shouldn't be too difficult." Oh the shame of religious goofiness that pervades the evangelical world! Hopefully, our brothers and sisters will see how ridiculous we can actually be and learn from it. We'll see. I confess that the thought of the average evangelical being caught unaware by a guy whose mission it is to make them look foolish made me uneasy. Especially knowing that the film will be purposefully edited to make them look as dumb as possible. Even a good defense of the faith can be caricatured by a good editor.

Enough with that. Let's move on to the blatant, contradictory idiocy that made me laugh. Look at this quote in the beginning by Larry Charles, the director of Borat:

"You can't get elected in America without having a religious affiliation. And it wasn't always that way." He says this as a sort of lamentation. It used to be a good thing, apparently, that people didn't take religious beliefs into account when they voted. That, in itself, is debatable. But does he really believe that this is a good thing? That a person's religious beliefs shouldn't be considered important? Here's the kicker that comes at the end.

"I think if we can create some sort of debate before the election it may actually help defeat McCain and Palin". In the first of this article this same guy bemoans the state of politics wherein people consider a candidate's religion when they vote. Apparently, he'd like some sort of election where people ignore religious "stuff" when they vote. The problem is that the same guy is rubbing his hands in glee that abusing religion and abusing people of faith will help defeat the guy he doesn't like. That, my friends, strikes me as hypocrisy in rare form. And the funny thing is, I didn't even have to edit him to make him look ridiculous.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Complementarians, Worldview, and Gov. Palin for VP

I believe that the evangelical world, at least the complementarian evangelical world is smiling right now with Senator McCain's pick of Gov. Sarah Palin. Except, I have the sinking feeling that it may be one of those pasted-on fake smiles that attempts to mask the turning of the mental wheels.

First of all, we evangelicals like Gov. Palin. She's pro-life. She has five children. She chose not to abort her Down's Syndrome son. She seems like a happy person. Plus, rumor has it that her husband has won the Iditarod four times, which means he's a manly man at least. She seems like a great lady.

So why is the smile turning to a look of concern? Because she has five children, one of them is a special needs child less than five months old. Evangelicals has spent the last forty years trying to convince moms that the home is the highest calling of her life. How does a woman be VP of the USA and still be mommy to five children? How is our whole-hearted support for her candidacy not akin to 'taking back' all of our ballyhoo about women being needed at home more than the office?

Now we find out that her seventeen year old daughter is pregnant and planning to marry. How will Gov. Palin find time to guide her daughter through this process and still maintain the rigorous schedule of the office of Vice-President?

As much as I like Gov. Palin, as much as I admire her down-to-earthness, her pro-life stance, and her general winsomeness, I am not happy about this choice for Vice-President. I think it goes against much of what I have been attempting to teach the men and women of our church, and it goes against much of the teaching that I have heard from some of the same folks who support this move. How am I supposed to convince the ladies of my church that it is nobler to relinquish career and income for the sake of educating and mothering her children while waving the banner for Gov. Palin? It smacks of political expediency, and I am afraid that it makes evangelicals look like the glassy-eyed Republican 'yes-men' that we are often accused of being.

I am troubled by this move, and I am more than a little dissappointed with the way it has been treated by most evangelical pundits. That is, we have praised her virtues as a mother...and yet we have been silent on why this run for VP is not the best thing she can do for her children. And if it is, why have we so consistently and adamantly insisted that the best place for a mother is in the home?