Voting As Sojourners and Exhiles

(c) Can Stock Photo

How much of our political motivation is rooted in our desire for an easy life, for familiar things, for things that are friendly to our faith? We need to search our hearts on a regular basis to be sure that we are not following after our own, human purposes and not God’s purposes.

What if God doesn’t see things the way we do?

What if God can be most effective and make the most change in the world and in people’s lives when circumstances are not favorable to the motivations and desires of Christians? What if God light shines most where darkness is greatest?

These are rhetorical questions, of course, and the answers are not often what we want them to be. Continue reading “Voting As Sojourners and Exhiles”

Be Faithful to the Gospel This Election Season


Our freedoms in this country may just be the one thing that most undermines the Christian faith in the United States of America. This election cycle has had me doing lots of soul searching. In the process of that soul-searching, it dawns on me that our freedom to choose which person we will vote for in November puts us squarely in a position where we have to compromise our faith.

People have been talking about Donald Trump as if he were the Nebuchadnezzar of the present day, but he isn’t. The people in the days of Nebuchadnezzar had no choice. In the present day, we do have a choice. When Daniel was faced with compromising his faith or being a loyal servant of Nebuchadnezzar, he chose not to compromise his faith, in spite of the consequences.

He could have easily justified a different choice. Continue reading “Be Faithful to the Gospel This Election Season”

When Words Become Fact

Facts in Speech Bubble

To start this post, I need to begin by apologizing for focusing on politics. That is not the focus I want to have, but the current federal government “shutdown” dominates the news and, therefore, is hard to ignore.

For a little perspective, the government “shutdown” effects about 17% of the federal government operations. No, I did not take the time to fact check that statistic. (“Fact check” is the proper verb, isn’t it?) Please be my guest to correct me if you determine I am wrong. In fact, I have spent an enormous amount of my time trying to fact check many things that are being bandied about by the pundits, commentators, politicians and just about anyone who can post to Facebook, but fact checking in the whirlwind of the swirling and diametrically opposed assertions can be difficult.

It doesn’t seem to matter much anyway. I don’t see many people changing their minds when “facts” are tossed out that, if true, ought to make a reasonable person stand up and take notice. Maybe that is due to the fact that everyone makes statements that they assume are facts, without spending the time to vet (to use a cool political term) those assumptions; and, therefore, we all know that the “facts” tossed wildly about by our political opposites are only as reliable as the “facts” we our selves have carelessly stated. No one is to be taken at face value.

It seems like most discussions are no more than hot air. I am not sure people even connect with each other any more. Maybe we never did.

Facts become words and words become facts, and it all becomes just another point of view. Its hard to determine where facts end (if they ever started) and opinions take over.

Words do have meanings though, and the manipulation of words can have a real effect on the law, on health care and on real people. Take the recent article in Forbes published on September 29, 2013: “Why The Federal Government Wants To Redefine The Word ‘Cancer’” This article demonstrates how changing the definition of a word, can change the law, changing whether someone may be covered by health care insurance and whether someone gets treatment that might save a life. When “the government” can manipulate a word like “cancer” to change how a law applies, we should take notice.

When words are disconnected from their meanings like that, we all have reason to be concerned. In fact, maybe there is more to the debate than I skeptically thought.

Regardless of the veracity of the facts that are being leveraged by both sides of the political equation in the current battle over health care, government shutdowns, spending and debt ceilings, the truth of those assertions will eventually give way to words that are passed into law. Those words will become our reality, regardless of any other facts (unless the meanings of those words are changed).

Shutdown the Political Game

Disillusioned PoliticianSomeone is lying. At least someone is not telling the truth, not all of it anyway. Maybe no one is being honest.

When I listen to CNN, I hear senators and commentators talking about John Boehner, and his cronies, and the Senate and how they refuse to compromise. When I  listen to Fox News, I hear representatives and commentators talking about President Obama, and Harry Reid and the Senate and how they refuse to compromise.

Both sides blame the government shutdown on the other. The last comments I heard on CNN were about how federal parks are closed, people are out of work and barricades are shutting the public out, as if barricades put themselves up. Do these people think we are stupid?! Someone gave the orders to put the barricades up. Someone was paid to put them up. Someone is being paid to keep people out.

The conservative sources I read say the orders are being given to “make people feel” feel the impact of the shutdown because they think “the people” will blame the Republicans. It certainly seems that way. People are being paid to keep the lid on the shutdown. The liberal sources I listen to reflect a sort of confidence in the perception that the Republicans are at fault. From my perspective, the Emperor has no clothes!

That does not mean the Republicans get a free pass. Both sides are playing against the middle. This game of chicken is a car wreck, and the car getting wrecked is “the people”. Real people are out of work, can’t pay the mortgage, can’t buy groceries. Real people spending money on vacations can’t get into parks. Real people living on federal land are being dispossessed. Real soldiers’ families are no longer getting their death benefits. They have to rely on the generosity of “the people” to provide money for burial.

There is no generosity in our politicians. There is no civility left in politics. I have never been more repulsed by political gamesmanship. Politics has never been a dirtier word.

Both sides seem to think that the shutdown will be solidly pinned on the other side. Both sides may be wrong. They seem to think they are playing with Monopoly money and pawns. It is time to shutdown the political game and turn up the heat on our politicians.

A City Set on a Hill in a Foreign World

Our end goal is not ultimately to rehabilitate an earthly city or country, but to enter into a heavenly City of which the designer and builder is God.

One Sunday I recall the pastor deviating from the planned sermon to observe that Christians today sometimes act as if God is not in control. We do this by complaining about politics, our country, the world, etc. Sometimes when the Spirit leads, we need to stop from our planned way and consider what God is saying. If we don’t, we might miss God.

There is a segment of the church that believes and acts like the USA is God’s country, a Christian nation. I think this is where many Christians allow politics into their theology at a grave danger to pure religion, which James reminds us “to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world”. (James 1:27)

Yes, the founding fathers were “Christians”; and the country became a haven, a promised land, early on for people escaping religious persecution in England and other places. I love the fact that our country was founded on Biblical ideals, among other things, with honor for God. The freedom of religion and freedom of expression in the USA make this country great, the envy of much of the world, though not understood by much of the world as well.

Many hundreds of years before Jesus the Israelites were God’s chosen people. They were chosen out of all the people groups in the ancient Middle East on the basis of Abraham’s faith, and a promise was made to him that the whole world would be blessed by his progeny.

The promise of God to the people (Abraham and his descendants) to whom He chose to entrust that promise prepared the way for Jesus, the Messiah, except Jesus came with a plan and a message they did not expect. He came to his own, and his own knew him not. The Israelites were dug in, resting on the assumption that they alone were God’s chosen people. Many of them missed the boat. They rejected the Son of God because they had their own expectations and were not in tune with what God was doing.

We know the rest of the story, at least where the narrative continues today. God’s plan was to introduce the Christ for all people through the platform of the message entrusted to the Jewish people, who preserved that message and protected it. But many of them missed it. God does not always work as we expect Him to work.

We might say the Jews became nationalistic in their religion, and they missed the fact that God intended to bless the whole world. Yes, Jesus came to his own, but he also came to all who would believe on him. The new wine came, and the old wine skin could not contain it.

Continue reading “A City Set on a Hill in a Foreign World”

Pausing the Reality Show

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????I stumbled upon on Seth Godin’s blog today. Reality is not a show. He blames what he calls the “punditocracy” for turning life into a game and issues into drama “with winners and losers, villains and heroes and most of all, black and white issues” for their own profit.

From politics to natural disasters and even things like poverty and technology, everything is presented or spun into an “us and against them” reality show, suggests Godin.

Polarization is big business. Rush Limbaugh, Hannity and others on both sides of the ideological divide are pundit business machines. Certainly the liberal gamesters have been a little slower to capitalize on the opportunities that black and white buffoonery provides, but they are coming around. It seems we are becoming more polarized as a society, if politics is any indicator. Has the aisle between the two political parties ever been wider?

At the same time, we do not seem to need much political urging or pontifical force to line up like solders on one side or the other on the issues of the day. The Treyvon Martin case is a prime example. The ink was not dry on the presses when people began to convict or exonerate George Zimmerman in a flood of pontification. Social media allows us to declare our stances almost instantaneously on any issue, national or local. Innocent until proven guilty lost this game, as it usually seems to do in these dramas. Letting the wheels of justice do their things does not seem to fit comfortably into our thought processes.

Android phones must be better than iPhones, or iPhones must be better than Android phones. We do not seem to tolerate uncertainty or inbetweens. Why is that?

Ironically, we hold up tolerance as the ideal to which polite and learned people aspire (or at least that is the standard that we demand of those who disagree with us).

I wonder if we have lost the ability to concentrate on anything long enough to reserve judgment.

I remember watching MTV when it was still Music Television and feeling perplexed by the rapidly changing images in every music video. I could not latch on to anything. It moved too fast. Those music videos of the ’90’s seemed to be a reflection of the way society was going at the time, and continues to go. I am not sure that is the way we want it. Or is that just the way “the media” wants to package it to us? Politicians give us “sound bites” and phrases. Social media allows us to communicate in snippets with Twitter as the extreme example. Email has replaced letters, and texting is preferred to email. Each evolution in technology is tending toward shorter, more truncated, communication.

I think these things are related to the polarization of our society. We are somewhat like lemmings in this reality show life (not that lemmings are anything like what we have been told). We do not want to dwell for long in between; we want to rush to our destination, decision, judgment, adulthood. Maybe that is a reaction to the speed at which information and life comes at us. Maybe it is because we have lost the ability to focus and to hold things in tension.

We act as if each of us is the captain of our own certainty, and we dare not lose grasp of it. In our lives today, every silence is filled with sound, every pause is a transition, every moment is filled with activity. We must latch onto judgment lest we be carried away and lost in the dizzy array of thoughts, images and information whizzing past us like the strobe light scenes of an MTV video.

In this tendency to gravitate quickly to the poles, we lose compassion, understanding and relation. We are drawn into the game and lose the nuance of real-life difficult decisions. In Seth Godin’s words, we “turn pathos into ratings” and make just about everyone “the other”. I am afraid in this process we are losing the sticky interconnectedness that binds us all together in this journey called life. Seth suggests that Facebook “likes” should be replaced with hugs – a little human relation to bridge our different perceptions and viewpoints.

In reality, we are all winners and losers, good guys and bad guys. People are complex. We are not easily reducible to a black/white images. We do ourselves, our neighbors and our world an injustice when we rush to conclusions and judgments. We need space in our existence. We need stillness in our lives. We need to let things percolate in the inbetweens.

Revisiting King Henry VIII

Henry VIII King of England
Depositphotos Image ID: 5598102 Copyright: georgios

I recently saw Shakespeare’s King Henry VIII at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. The play, Shakespeare’s last one performed at the Globe Theater approximately 400 years ago, was very well done. The story line is not as compelling as most of Shakespeare’s works, but the interrelationship of church and state theme struck a chord with me, albeit a discordant one.

King Henry the VIII was born into aristocracy. Young Henry was appointed Constable of Dover Castle at age two, Earl Marshal of England and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland at age three, inducted into the Order of the Bath soon after, and a day later he was made the Duke of York. A month or so after that, he was made the Warden of the Scottish Marches. He had the best education available from the best tutors, was fluent in Latin and French and was familiar with Italian.

For all of his privilege, he was not expected to become king. His brother, Arthur, Prince of Wales, was the first born and heir to the throne, but Arthur died only 20 months after marrying Catherine of Aragon (daughter of the King and Queen of Spain). Henry VIII was only 10. (Wikipedia)

Henry became the Duke of Cornwall and assumed other figurehead duties. His father, the King Henry VII, made sure young Henry was strictly supervised, did not appear in public and was insulated from real authority. Henry VII quickly made a treaty with the King of Spain that included the marriage of his daughter, Catherine, to young Henry – yes the widow of recently deceased brother Arthur. (Wikipedia)

From this point begins a history of manipulation, abuse of power, shameless excess and rationalizations twisting biblical and religious notions to serve the king’s self-interest. This is a story that parallels the “marriage” of State and Church. The two are intertwined in an adulterous affair of blasphemous indiscretions.

Continue reading “Revisiting King Henry VIII”