Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Lend a Hand

I found an opportunity for you to do a small thing to help make a huge difference.

Compassion International is running neck and neck in a online voting contest. The winner will have the opportunity to reach 100,000s of people. The issue is that if Compassion wins they will be able to promote ground breaking water filter technology. This will help 1,000s of people have the fresh water they need.

It will save lives.

The publicity they'd gain from this opportunity will open the doors to get this life saving device into the hands of the people who need it.

Compassion is worth supporting and you can help them in this project by going here and voting for them!

Then spread the word. Voting ends tomorrow!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sunday's Child

Well, today is Sunday. It is a beautiful day here in Colorado Springs (I am making strong mental notes of it, so when I leave on Wednesday I'll remember beautiful, green Colorado). It is bright, sunny, and the birds are singing (maybe, if I took the time to go outside and hear them).

But what strikes me about this particular Sunday is that last night was full of lightening and thunder. I was driving back with my family from Water World in Denver and the last 25 miles or so we were surrounded by constant flashes of lightening.

It was constant.

No more than than 3 seconds between flashes. It was astounding. You would see the electricity jump from one cloud across the sky to another. You would also see it crash to the ground and know that someone's computer and other appliances were being fried.

The storms of life?

Today, bright and beautiful followed followed the storm. Draw your own analogy, but that is what strikes me this Sunday.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Evangelical Political Tradition, part II

This is part two of what is turning into a three part series on Evangelical Christianity and politics prompted by Alisa Haris’ recent article. Part I is available here. This section will address some of the shortcomings of Ms. Harris’ article, while part III will focus on what she gets right.

I grew up in the same conservative christian circles as Ms. Harris. As such, I am rather familiar with the names she drops.

And I can identify when she is not portraying certain individuals accurately.

Take, for example, Francis Schaeffer. To read Ms. Harris article, one would conclude that he was a Southern sympathizer who was unconcerned about slavery. She writes:

The political principles I now embrace — human equality, human dignity, and human rights — align less with Schaeffer and more with King, who not only marched for civil rights for African-Americans but also launched the Poor People’s Campaign and fought for the economic rights of all, black and white.

I have to wonder if she actually read Schaeffer’s How Should We Then Live:

There were many areas where the Bible was not followed as it should have been, but two are outstanding: first, a twisted view of race, and second, a noncompassionate use of accumulated wealth.

In the area of race there were two types of abuse. The first was slavery based on race; second, racial prejudice as such. Both practices were wrong, and often both were present when Christians had a stronger influence on the consensus than they now have—and yet the church, as the church, did not speak out sufficiently against them.


Today’s Christians, by identification with their forbearers, must acknowledge these inconsistencies in regard to a twisted view of race. We can use no lesser word than sin to describe those instances where the practice was (or is) so far from what the Bible directs. The most effective acknowledgement is for Christians to strive in the present to follow the Bible at these points. Of course, slavery was not only practiced in these Christian countries. In fact, in some Moslem countries, black slavery continues to the present day. But that does not lessen the wrongness of a twisted view of race in the countries where churches out of the Reformation tradition could have done more about it.

The lack of compassionate use of accumulated wealth, especially following the Industrial Revolution, must also be faced squarely. . . . all too often in England and other countries the church was silent about the Old and the New Testament’s emphasis on a compassionate use of wealth. Individual efforts of charity did not excuse this silence. Following industrialization, the noncompassionate use of accumulated wealth was particularly glaring.


[T]he weath produced by the Industrial Revolution was not used with compassion. This resulted in the growth of the slums in London and other cities and industrial towns, the exploitation of children and women (who suffered especially), and the general discrepancy between the vast wealth of the few and the misery of the many.


A tragic example of the acceptance of these views [that poverty is inevitable, and social reforms only increase the problems and medical care for all people is an evil rather than a good] was the attitude toward the Irish potato famine held by Charles Edward Trevelyan (1807-1886), who was in charge of government relief in Ireland. He withheld government assistance from the Irish on the grounds that they should help themselves and that to do otherwise would encourage them to be lazy. It was not that he lack compassion or a social conscience (his later career shows otherwise), but that at a crucial point a sub-Christian prejudice stifled the teaching of Christ and the Bible, and sealed Ireland’s doom.


And in the area of slavery, the Untied States must bear special criticism, since slavery based on race continued there until such a late date.

Or, as Schaeffer wrote in A Christian Manifesto:

[W]e must make definite that we are in no way talking about any kind of theocracy. Let me say that with great emphasis. Witherspoon, Jefferson, the American Founders had no idea of a theocracy. That is made plain by the First Amendment, and we must continually emphasize the fact that we are not talking about some kind, or any kind, of a theocracy.


There is no New Testament basis for a linking of church and state until Christ the King returns. The whole “Constantine mentality” from the fourth century up to our own day was a mistake. . . . Making Christianity the official state religion opened the way for confusion up till our own day. But through the centuries it has caused great confusion between loyalty to the state and loyalty to Christ, between patriotism and being a Christian. We must not confuse the Kingdom of God with our country. To say it another way: “We should not wrap Christianity in our national flag.”

This is not a white-only or a rich-only or even a Christian-only politics. In fact, one of the primary points Schaeffer tries to make is that it is the Christian tradition that is responsible for the current understanding of what Harris calls “human equality, human dignity, and human rights.”

Now this is not to say that there are no fringe authors who do advocate some form of theocracy. I’ve already written about them. That Gary North, a real Christian Reconstructionist, had such hostile things to say about Schaeffer in Political Polytheism (pages and pages and pages) should alone indicate that Schaeffer is not in that camp. But to project all the implications of a view upon anyone who may be remotely associated with someone familiar with its founders is to construct a straw man. And if we accept this sort of reasoning based on inference, we must also classify Martin Luther King, Jr. as a theocrat. After all, he was the one who wrote “segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful” and then quoted a theologian. That sounds a lot like Harris’ “mak[ing] make our country’s laws conform to our private morality .“ (Unless, of course, there is more than mere private morality at play here.)

This is not to say that Harris has no point to make. Underneath her prejudices, there is a very valuable conclusion that many conservative evangelical Christians would be benefited by (and more already hold than Harris appears willing to admit). I will address that next time. But to get there, she unnecessarily misrepresents those she claims to be breaking with.

Harris may have abandoned the conspiracy theory that “humanists, from the NAACP to the Rockefeller Foundation to the National Council of Churches, were conspiring to build a one-world socialist order.” But she appears to have merely exchanged it for another, which believes that conservative evangelicals want a society ruled by those who know what the word of God is, and their Napoleon, whether she likes it or not, is Michelle Bachmann (or Rick Perry).

Oh wait, that’s what was said about Jimmy Carter.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Wanted: one blue police box

First there was this, from Paul Krugman:

KRUGMAN: If we discovered that, you know, space aliens were planning to attack and we needed a massive buildup to counter the space alien threat and really inflation and budget deficits took secondary place to that, this slump would be over in 18 months. And then if we discovered, oops, we made a mistake, there aren't any aliens, we'd be better –

ROGOFF: And we need Orson Welles, is what you're saying.

KRUGMAN: No, there was a “Twilight Zone” episode like this in which scientists fake an alien threat in order to achieve world peace. Well, this time, we don't need it, we need it in order to get some fiscal stimulus.

Then this, from a report from Penn State and NASA scientists::

It would be particularly important for us to limit our emissions of greenhouse gases, since atmospheric composition can be observed from other planets. We acknowledge that the pursuit of emissions reductions and other ecological projects may have much stronger justifications than those that derive from ETI extraterrestrial intelligence] encounter, but that does not render ETI encounter scenarios insignificant or irrelevant.

It seems that someone has been watching too much Dr. Who.

Or, with theories like that, maybe not enough.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Travels and Training

In the last several weeks I have been doing quite a bit of travel. This week I am in Colorado, last week I was in Virginia, the week before that I was in Hawaii, before that-Arizona, before that-California, and... well you get the idea.

In these travels, I have had the opportunity to train hundreds of young people in practical political activism. But one of the things that is becoming very clear to me is that we do not need more politicians. Rather, what I see is that we need more honorable men and women who are willing to be trained to be effective. Morton Blackwell recently told me and a group of my students that it is a lot easier to take someone with a solid foundation and equip them with political skills, than it is to take a skilled operative and give him a solid foundation.

Although my classes center around fostering political skills, I find that the best moments come when I am given the opportunity to be a part of someone's foundational development. Sometimes a student needs a little more than political advice. Sometimes they need to learn about themselves.

What is awesome about these kind of training opportunities is not just the coolness factor of helping someone wrestle with hard things in his life, it is also the fact that I learn about myself in the process. Helping train others forces me to looking back at things I've done, and evaluate them and then proscribe solutions based on that analysis.

I remember an old Adventures in Odyssey radio show where the lead, Whit, says that one of the best ways to learn, is to teach.

I have found that to be true.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Evangelical Political Tradition, part I

Last week, the New Yorker published a fairly long article on Michelle Bachmann, spending significant time on some of the authors who have influenced her political views. And while I have my own reservations on Bachmann, this particular piece has drawn some justifiable criticism--not the least because it resurrects the Dominionist conspiracy.

But as interesting as that is, this post is about a separate response. Alisa Harris, some time contributor to World Magazine, wrote a piece for CNN entitled: I Could Have Become Michelle Bachmann, where she explains her disinfatuation with the conservative evangelical political tradition that has influenced Bachmann.

I hope to sort out and write up my own thoughts on the Harris piece in the near future. She does have some valid criticisms. And, for better or worse (and often worse), she does appeal to my own political angst. However, I am left wondering whether this particular article’s purpose is to call for a more rigorous evangelical conservative political theory (which is commendable) or whether it is a call to her fellow readers to abandon ship. Harris accuses the conservative/worldview crowd of equating their politics with religion, but does she subordinate her Christianity to her politics?

I will have to read her book to find out.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Republocrat: a review

Republocrat: Confessions of a Liberal ConservativeMany many many books have been written on the Christian’s involvement in politics: old and new, good, bad, and ugly. So I cannot say that Carl Trueman’s addition, Republocrat: Confessions of a Liberal Conservative, is groundbreaking in that it explores new territory. But that is not it’s purpose. Rather, it’s purpose is to get the evangelical conservative Republican to consider what his brothers and sisters in Christ across the isle (and pond) may have to say about politics - and to remember first and foremost that the Savior who unites us is greater than the ideologies that may divide us.

I have long enjoyed Carl Trueman’s writing. So this past spring, to reward myself for an academic accomplishment, I purchased this book on politics. The Forward, written by Trueman’s friend and self described conservative conservative Peter Lillback, was enough to confirm that this was a good addition to my library. His description of Trueman is priceless:
Here is a man who has memorized the lyrics of Bob Dylan and Led Zeppelin, but prefers to sing only the psalms on the Lord’s day. Here’s a dean who only under coercion reluctantly walks the 26.2 steps to the president’s office from the dean’s office for fear of being asked to do some extra work, but regularly delights in running 26.2 miles, even if it means there will be icicles hanging from his running shorts and oozing wounds from his ice-nicked ankles. Here is a scholar who relishes the writings of Karl Marx, but who is inherently, instinctively, and immutably committed to the Reformation spirit of Martin Luther and John Calvin. Here is a man who refuses to go to counseling to address these oxymoronic traits, but who nevertheless is soon psychoanalyzed by all who associate with him. And how can a man so conflicted write intelligent blog articles read all over the globe, all while being suspicious of technology?
And Trueman lives up to that reputation. Addressing the Patriot’s Bible, Fox news, capitalism, and (at his best) the influence of secularism on American conservative Christianity, Trueman forces the conservative reader to reconsider some presumptions about his political positions. He will straw man at times, and he also enjoys the occasional intentional overstatement. But by the end, the reader has a better grasp of where American politics, both left and right, may have gone astray.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Support a Good Cause

First, I would like to apologize for my blogging absence. I've been traveling quite extensively around the country (even Hawaii) teaching Christian citizenship to high school students.

One of the principles that I base my Christian citizenship speeches on is the Christian calling to be a good steward with what God has given you. In the United States, we have been blessed with a system of government that allows us to make a difference by participating. And that is a wonderful thing.

But being politically active is neither a fix all or the sum total required for Christians. In fact there are many other things. One other one is money.

No one likes being told what to do with their money. It is ours. Keep your hands off.

But that is not biblical. The Bible makes it clear to Christians that the money they have is a gift entrusted to us with the expectation that we do good with it. Part of that is taking care of ourselves and our families so we are not a drain on the government, church, or society.

Another part of it is using our money to help the poor and the vulnerable. Another part is to support the work that grows the Church.

One of my good friends (and former housemate) is working as a missionary in Mexico. Dan has always had a heart for missions and for the children in 3rd world nations. I remember when he finally decided that he would quite his job and go to Mexico, I looked at him and said "Finally!" I could see God's anointing on him in this area, and I was so excited to see him step out into it whole heartily. He now teaches and administers a small Christian school. He recently came back stateside to raise support. And it was wonderful to see them and hear a little about what God is doing through him and his new wife.

I would encourage you to think about supporting their work in Mexico!

You can give Here. Just put Dan Burns in the "Specific Missionary" box. For more information about the work they are doing you can check out the school website: http://www.pueblachristianschool.org/
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