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Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil -- I Timothy 6:9-10a

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Monday, January 26, 2015

ONIM For January 26, 2015

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Is Personal Peace Standing In The Way Of Love?

Protestants have a mixed historical record in how they regard prosperity. Some, not all, have regarded prosperity as a sign or proof of God's approval. And what prosperity was to those Protestants, personal peace is to many of today's Christians. New York City minister, William Devlin has complained about how Americans are 'addicted' to personal peace amongst other things (click here). Francis Schaeffer, a famous Reformed theologian in the 20th century regarded personal peace as one of the two idols of America's middle class (click here). Schaeffer described this kind of peace as not just an attitude of indifference to those suffering in the world, but a real avoidance of anything that would disturb a person's present sense of ease regardless of what the future would bring to one's family.

The importance of personal peace today is what we want to keep in mind when reviewing the current article by Teresa Kim Pecinovsky (brief bio is at the end of the article) called, Refusing To Be Comforted (click here). And the rub here is apparent. How much of a hearing can this article possibly get in Christian communities where the priority placed on comfort is at a premium?

Pecinovsky correctly ties the experiences of the Black mothers whose children have been killed by police with the mothers of Bethlehem when Herod had all boy babies under two killed and with the experience of Rizpah whose sons were given over to the Gibeonites in an atonement for Saul's sins. The mothers in these Biblical stories refused to be comforted, an attitude shared by the mothers of young Blacks who have been killed by the police. The refusal to be consoled over these deaths is their way of insisting that their children must forever be remembered. It is also a call to to persist in the pursuit of justice, to let neither those who can provide justice nor those who have done what's wrong rest until justice is restored. And part of justice being restored is the prevention of future killings.

But what Pecinovsky is pursuing here is not just to momentarily disturb us with sad stories of people most of us will never meet. Rather, she wants us to join these mothers in refusing to let the killings of these children be forgotten. Why? It is because we can add to the 'transformative power' of mourning mothers. The Biblical examples showed that these mothers were powerless before the government and yet their mourning carried a powerful message. And here, this is where we can amplify their crying by joining them until justice is done.

Of course, what is missing now is the reason why those of us who are both served by the status quo and protected by the police should embrace discomfort. Since we find protection from the police, why should we believe that the police can be guilty of targeting minorities with violence? And even if we do believe that some of the police are guilty, why should we, in solidarity, join those who will forever mourn the loss of their children? 

Our penchant for personal peace gives us every reason in the world to neither join in nor entertain some uncomfortable realities about some of those who protect us. And our preference for serenity tells us that our unease should be for a short season only which would most likely prevent us from taking any prolonged action. But if we consider how and why God sent His son for us, perhaps we might see that the personal peace we so cherish is preventing us from showing others the love God has showered on us. And this should be considered to be a tragic Christian irony in that what we earnestly seek from God would prohibit us from following His example. So perhaps we should further examine this personal peace we so cherish.

Now this blogpost has been a mix of what Pecinovsky wrote along with my additions. In terms of reviewing what she wrote, the association of the Biblical stories of the bereavement of mothers who were robbed of their children with the mothers of Blacks who have been killed by the police is both interesting and valid. At the same time, we need to remember that not all instances of Blacks being shot by the police are unjust. So Pecinovsky could have been more careful in one of the examples she used because it was questionable. At the same time,  the profiling and the disparity in incarceration rates lends much weight to the contention that some police are either targeting Blacks deliberately or are they lack caution when confronting Blacks due to apathy.





Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Comments Which Conservatives Block For January 21, 2015


Jan 19

To R. Scott Clark and his blogpost quote of Jonah Goldberg on how underreported  is the percentage of anti-Judaism attacks while the much lower percentage of anti-Muslim attacks merit warnings about an increase in such an attack .This appeared in Heidelblog

Note that the spike in anti-Muslim attacks following the 9-11 terrorist attacks shows that a backlash against Muslims after a terrorist attack is very well possible. The FBI stats following the 2007 London attacks show that such a backlash does not always occur, but because it has happened, it could happen again. 

So what is Goldberg's point? Is it that because of the percentage of anti-Judaism attacks that we should not care about what happens to Muslims? Such a response would be evidence of tribalism. 

To warn against a possible upcoming spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes is not the problem. The problem is the lack of urgency in addressing anti-Semitic and anti-Judaism. To see this in any other way is to play the "victim game."

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Jan 20

To R. Scott Clark and his blogpost of the historical context for the terrorists who attacked Charlie Hebdo. This appeared in Heidelblog.

First, let's realize that Jihad is not a monolith. It is approached in many different ways. But we apply the word as a monolith on those who most violently oppose Western interests. We should add to the non-insanity plea entered above for the Jihadists the same context we could add for the Ayatollah Khoemeini. That is both were directly or indirectly victims of a brutally violent Western imperialism. Thus their extremism just might partially reflect how Western interests have been advanced in their part of the world through Western intervention and strong-armed proxy leaders.

We could apply to the Jihadists in the Paris attacks what journalist Jason Burke says about Al-Qaeda. That all of the impediments that stand in the way of committing such violent terrorism suggests that terrorists are manufactured. And here, he is not stating that they are manufactured by Islam. Rather, he is stating that they are manufactured by the same conditions used by the West to advance their interests. We should note the 'Who's Who'  of those whose brutality in the Orient received Western support. That list includes, Osama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Mubarak, the current military regime of Egypt, the royal family in Saudi Arabia, the gov't of Bahrain, and the Shah of Iran. And left out of that list is Israel's brutal occupation of the Palestinian Territories.

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To Joseph Sunde and his blogpost on how we are to interact with the world by serving it in order to help it flourish. This appeared in the Acton blog.

Since the message is general in the sense that it could appeal to both sides in the Reformed division between NeoCalvinists and 2 Kingdom advocates and it alludes to the Babylonian exile, it says some useful things in how balance life in exile with a call to serve. 

But we do need to call attention to issues that were glossed over. For example, where Sunde partially quotes the Scriptures in writing:


To seek the good of our neighbors, the flourishing of our cities, and the prospering of the nations across all spheres and through all “modes of operation”: our work, families, education, creativity, political involvement, and so on.

we should note that some prospering of our nearest neighbors includes the exploitation of our farther neighbors. Distance often makes the losses of the latter group invisible to those of us who are myopic. And when that happens, a way of interacting with the world, which was not mentioned in the above post becomes necessary. That way is to speak prophetically to the world regarding its exploitation of others. After all, aren't we already charged by the Great Commission to make disciples throughout the world. And when the those around us, whether they be our immediate neighbors or those with wealth and power who are near and far, practice injustice, then our model for interacting should be the OT prophets who not only spoke to Israel about their sins, they spoke to the neighboring nations as well. And considering that social injustice involves the breaking of the commandments prohibiting murder and theft, then acting as prophets in the face of social injustice should be part of our fulfilling of the Great Commission.

It is the role of acting as a prophet, when governed by and included with being a servant, that more fully illustrates our relationship with the world.

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To Jordan Ballor and his blogpost on Martin Luther King Jr and his approach to law. This appeared in the Acton Blog.

But in his speech about law, King called for strong legislation to address the employment and housing problems just as he called for strong legislation that would address Civil Rights problems. In addition, in his speech, King talked about the intrinsic value of each person. But the free market recognizes only the extrinsic value of each person in terms of the property they can own and what they can do to increase the value of the market itself.

Some like Martin Luther King Jr because of some of the individual statements they can take out and apply. But the real wealth of King's thinking is found in the whole of his thought. It is found in the connections that exist between his approach to legislation and the law, to nonviolence and having the passion to win people over, to his preference for a person-oriented society over a thing-oriented society the last of which emphasizes gadgets, profits, and property rights,  and to racism, poverty and materialism, and war and militarism. Once one starts to see the interconnections of all of the individual parts, one starts to discover the true wealth of King's thinking which cannot be obtained just by studying some individual positions.

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To R. Scott Clark and his blogpost containing a video clip of a minister prohibiting creativity in worship services. This appeared in Heidlelblog.

This is the problem with some Reformed exegesis and preaching. You take an example and perhaps some verses from the OT about worship and then, despite the transition and change in context that occurs in the NT, you use the OT to prohibit or mandate for all time some approach or practice. In the end, what you guarantee is an unnecessary procedural righteousness.

To rule out creativity because God doesn't need it would demand that we rule out our energy or even love because God doesn't need them either. But what is perhaps the biggest problem here is that creativity isn't the real problem, it is tailoring a service to please man for the sake of drawing more people regardless of what we are calling them to. That is the specific problem. One can be creative without doing that. 

Yes, we can also overemphasize creativity so that our worship services are an exercise in self-exaltation. That is a valid concern. But to rule out all creativity in worship because of the OT example and passages used without addressing the tremendous transition in worship which the NT brings, is neither right nor Biblical.




Tuesday, January 20, 2015

To Be Or Not To Be Charlie Hebdo

Since the Charlie Hebdo attack of January 7, there has been a number of alternating messages declaring either 'Je suis Charlie' or 'Je ne suis pas Charlie.'  Those declaring 'Je suis Charlie' do so partly because of the horror they feel from the attack and the feeling of solidarity with its victims. However, the identity of those chanting 'Je ne suis pas Charlie' is a bit more ambiguous since it has been used by both those who support the attack and those who don't.  

There are issues for all who oppose the attack . One of the major issues of which I can think is how tribalism governs our reaction. One way to measure the effects of tribalism here is to ask ourselves how we feel when journalists from other countries who have different ideologies are killed? The other major issue is, how do we feel about religious satire?

The first question is important to answer if we are to better understand ourselves and why we reacted to the attack the way we did. This blog has defined tribalism as occurring when loyalty to a group trumps commitment to principle and morals. The end effect of such tribalism is that its adherents believe what's right and wrong depends on who does what to whom. Such a belief should raise red flags for Christians who are aware that God is not a respecter of persons (see Romans 2:5-11). 

Despite the red flags tribalism should raise, many of us religiously conservative Christians passionately embrace it in varying degrees especially when the it comes in the form of patriotism. At that time, it is 'root, root, root for the home team.' Such is what we have been trained by society to feel and we embrace it because it feels good. Of course, we don't question why that is the case because if we did, we might not like the answer. For one of the reasons why patriotism makes us feel good is that it is self-exalting. It is our group's supremacy or specialness we are celebrating when we embrace patriotism.

Indeed, some of the 'Je suis Charlie' proclamations were the result of tribalism. A western journal came under attack by a monstrous, alien enemy. And though patriotism isn't the sentiment driving our solidarity with Charlie Hebdo, solidarity for the West, for what is European, for those who are White, and for other factors are why many of us have fallen into the tribalism trap that is so much a part of the current 'Je suis Charlie' sentiment.

A more principled solidarity exists in those Americans who not only feel a unity with the victims who worked at Charlie Hebdo, they felt the same connection with the journalists who were victims of the violence practiced by American troops during our invasion of Iraq (click here and there, note that only some of the journalists killed by American troops, and there). A more principled solidarity also exists in those who support Israel while protesting its targeting of journalists (click here). 

We could go on but the point has been illustrated. Our solidarity shows no integrity when the only victims it expresses sympathy for are those on our side, for those in our gang. Such a solidarity is, in the end, a mere exercise in collective self-exaltation.

The second major issue concerns religious satire. And here we have a rub between two principles. The first principle is that we should all be subject to satirical attacks so that we and others understand our place in the world. But the second principle can appear to oppose the first one as it comes from the life of Martin Luther King Jr.  That principle comes from the first characteristic I learned to appreciate when reading King. That principle was his passion for winning people over. This passion governed how he designed and participated in protests. This passion controlled how he wrote about different positions and people. For King didn't look to humiliate his opponents, he wanted to win them over while relying on the law to control those whom he could not persuade.

But when we look at satire, it seems that humiliation is the rule de jure. So the question becomes, should we always support satire especially when it is used on those who are or could become our opponents? If satire is to be used, then shouldn't a passion for winning over the targets of our satire act as governor of how far it goes. 

Was the satire employed at Charlie Hebdo unrestrained with a desire to humiliate or exploit others or was it held in check by a desire to win others over? Of course restraining the extent of our satire for some noble principle is a killjoy; it does take much of the fun out of things. But then again, one has to look at why we want to use it in the first place.

Finally when comes to the Charlie Hebdo attack, we also need to ask the following question: Was it satire alone that drew the attack? With much of the Muslim world, including Hamas (click here), condemning the attack along with the history of Western invovlement in the Middle East, it wouldn't seem so. Rather, the attack on Charlie Hebdo just might be because of both the satire and the context in which it was written. The context includes a greater than 100 year history of French and Western imperialism in the Middle East designed to exploit and control the region in order to control its resources. And if that context played a role in the Charlie Hebdo attack, then we must arrive at a similar decision as we had to with regard to Charlie Hebdo's use of satire and journalistic freedom. That decision is just as we would condemn the attack because we believe in satire and journalistic freedom, should we do the same because we also support French and Western imperialism. If that is the case, then not only have we embraced tribalism, we have become its prisoner.



Monday, January 19, 2015

ONIM For January 19, 2015

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Friday, January 16, 2015

Can We Solve Racism Without Changing The Status Quo?

There are some people I prefer not to review because I am not sure if I am capable of doing a credible job. Carl Ellis is one of those people. He's a good man who went to Westminster Theological Seminary around the same time I did. While it took a good day for me to be an average student there, he excelled. He has a more complete theological education than I do--which might be difficult for some to believe since I have an AMAR (Almost Master of Arts in Religion)--and he has ministry and seminary teaching experience. I only have the AMAR. And yet, his blogpost on racism in America and what could be done about it needed commenting on (click here  for the article). He is also articulate whereas I struggle in writing.

Though his analysis of the problems Black Americans face have good insights, it's what's missing which requires some comments to be made. Ellis is rightfully distraught over the latest two unarmed Black men, Michael Brown and Eric Garner, who were killed by police along with absence of any indictments. He points to racism in America as an ongoing problem and a possible contributing factor to those deaths. But overlooked in our problems with racism and police violence is another factor which Ellis calls the 'elephant in the room': culture.

To explain how culture, besides race, are the two reasons the Civil Rights Movement has had limited effects, especially in the 'hood, Ellis states that a dysfunctional culture adopted by those in the subdominant culture causes self-sabotaging behaviors and attitudes by too many, though not a majority of, Blacks. To illustrate this point, Ellis provides a 2-dimensional model where on the x-axis lies the divide between the dominant culture on the left-hand side and the subdominant culture on the right-hand side. The White culture is the dominant culture here with the Black culture serving as the subdominant one. The y-axis shows the divide between a culture of functionality and a culture of dysfunctionality (see image below for a complete picture).



Enabled by government assistance programs and protected by political correctness, quadrant 4's subdominant's culture of dysfunctionality produces an ineptitude to positively fit in society and fosters destructive tendencies all of which play a major role in preventing the 'hood from being transformed by the advances of past movements. Again, that is not to say that racism doesn't also play a role. Ellis acknowledges that most Blacks have experienced racism from the dominant culture. But values in the subdominant culture have emerged to further separate the two cultures and even causes those in the subdominant culture to attack each other as exhibited by Black on Black crime.

To make matters worse, multiculturalism in the dominant culture is causing it discard our 'historical core' values many of which have been Biblically based, obtained from the Civil Rights movement from the past.

At this point, Ellis seems to give a mixed message that says, on one hand, we must return to those Biblical values, but, on the other hand, we must seek out 'new paradigms' from what the Civil Rights movement employed. Ellis also points out a struggle for Blacks who have been trying to avoid too much assimilation to the dominant culture have been affected by the culture of dysfunctionality. In the past, some assimilation was one of the keys to success.

Part of Ellis' solution to the problems of racism leading to oppression from the dominant culture and a culture of dysfunctionality embraced by too many in the subdominant culture is to return to using theology as a weapon as was practiced by the Civil Rights movement from the past and to acknowledge the role culture plays in problems we are experiencing today.

Ellis finishes proposing his solution by appealing to Nehemiah as he had to face some similar problems with rebuilding after the exile to the problems Blacks face today. We need, according to Ellis, a kind of discipleship mentoring that passes Biblically based values from the culture of functionality.

Again, we need to recognize Ellis' insights. Cultural values do play a role in the kind of lives people live. And Ellis is acknowledging that the difficulties many Blacks are facing can be complex. But as written before, the problems here revolve around what Ellis is not saying.  For example, Ellis is not specific in listing the different attitudes and behaviors included in the culture of functionality for either the dominant or subdominant cultures. Nor does he describe the contexts in which the culture of functionality plays in both the dominant and subdominant cultures. 

Something else is missing here. With the divisions caused by the legalization of same-sex marriage, we need to be specific in terms of which Biblically based values we will be promoting in society. This because the real debate between Conservative Christians and those who are supporting legalizing same-sex marriage is about the position Christianity will have in determining the laws and mores in society. Will the Church be content with having an equal co-participatory rule as other groups do and would be implied by  democracy for society in determining society's laws and values or will it seek a paternal role in society by trying to reestablished its past privileged position? We should note that the Black community has not been the only subdominant culture in America. Those in the LGBT community have also been members of their own subdominant culture. What is currently changing their position is this shedding of our historical core values Ellis referred to in the past.

We should also note that not all of the positive values adopted and promoted by the Civil Rights movement from the past were values garnered from just reading the Scriptures. For example, much of King's commitment to nonviolence came from reading Gandhi and reading what was happening in India. In addition, atheists also participated in and contributed to the Civil Rights movement.

But so far, we have yet to reach the core concern of this blogpost and a point which Ellis neglected to mention. That concern which Ellis might have neglected to mention because of his focus on cultural values could possibly make us realize that sometimes, there can be more than one elephant in the same room. Another elephant that could be occupying the same room as cultural values is our economic system. At least, this is what one of the most revered, past leaders of the Civil Rights movement thought. Martin Luther King Jr. stated on several occasions that problems with racism were strongly linked to problems from economic exploitation. King called for a restructuring of 'edifice' that produces too many beggars and a changing of the road to Jericho which produced too many victims as ways of saying we need to change our system.

Now it isn't that King doesn't see cultural values as playing a role in racism and economic injustice. It is that King doesn't see the need to follow appeal to Biblical values as much as he appeals to human values, not that the two sets of values are disjoint. King saw that our society was a 'thing-oriented society' rather than a 'person-oriented society.' And it would not be until our society changed to being a person-oriented society that we could finally start to eliminate racism and poverty. But King is talking about something different from what Ellis does here. King is talking about changes that need to be made to Ellis' dominant culture. In the blogpost being reviewed here, Ellis expresses concern with changing cultural values in the subdominant culture.

Perhaps, the reason why places like the 'hood have not improved since the days of the Civil Rights movement is not just due to a persistent racism along with a dysfunctional culture. Just perhaps we won't see a serious reduction in racism until we fix our economic system that fails to produce any hope for the future. This economic system has maintained both wealth disparity between the races and it has caused a stagnation in income for those whose income ranks in the bottom 90% in the country. And when we realize how our economic system has changed to make things worse since King was murdered, we should feel a greater urgency to change it. This is because the changes in our economic system since King was alive has produced a further objectification of workers.

It isn't that we should look at changing values and changing the economic system as an exclusive-or choice. It would not be unreasonable to suppose that both a culture of dysfunction and an unjust economic system produce effects in each other. The point here is that without changing our current economic system to one that emphasizes people and justice rather than private accumulation, we will, if King is correct, make no headway in eliminating racism in this country. So we have a choice, we can avoid rocking the boat for the status quo and have delusions about addressing racism without changing our economic system or we can demand  the changes there which will also address racism. We should note that King also linked war and militarism to our problems with racism. Perhaps this blog will explore that further in the future.






Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Comments Which Conservatives Block From Their Blogs For January 14, 2015


Jan 13

To Joe Carter and his blogpost that claims that today's anti-Semitism has Islamic and socialist roots. This appeared in the Acton blog.

This article on anti-Semitism seems to be motivated by opportunism more than anything else. Anti-Semitism has been alive and well in Europe well before Capitalism ever existed. It was there in the Roman Empire and did not diminish or die off with the ascendency of Christianity. Though one could trace the crucifixion along with the Jews' rejection of Christ as the most apparent reason for anti-Semitism, it's simply a manifestation of xenophobia. The on and off again relationship between the Jews and the Spanish both during the time of the Moor invasion and afterwards illustrates this. While battling the Moors, Jews were consider allies because they had more in common with the Spanish than the Moors had. But once the Moor invasion had been repelled, Jews fell in disfavor because without the Moors, their differences from the Spanish were again magnified and the fear of having people who were "so" different was unacceptable.

Of course, we can't blame religious reasons for the current anti-Semitism nor could we expect to find one simple reason for the anti-Semitism in Europe. It might help to compare the current anti-Semitism with other bigotries to see what they have in common. But one factor does play a role in Europe's anti-Semitsm today. That factor is Israel's treatment of the Palestinians and the repercussions that come with that treatment. 

The idea that anti-Semitism comes from socialism is odd since when we go back to the days of Hitler, he strongly associated the Communism from the Soviet Union with the Jews. To equate Hitler's fascism with the totalitarianism of the Soviet Union is to miss the key difference between the two countries. While Hitler's fascism revolved around the support of industry leaders, the Soviet Union's socialism was to have the backing of the workers instead. The former is a totalitarian hijacking of capitalism while the latter was the hijacking of a workers' movement.

We should also note that we find a significant number of Jews on both sides of the capitalism-socialism debate. To say that anti-Semitism is rooted in Socialism not only ignores and incorrectly associates Judaism with Capitalism where there are not enough connections to associate exclusively with either ideology. it also ignores Socialism's commitment to the international. The anti-Semitism in Europe is nationalistic and ethnically tribal.

Finally, while Islam does lean toward the collectivism side of Socialism, the dispute between Islam and Judaism revolves around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It always has from the days of the British mandate. 

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To John Teevan and his blogpost on how real life is about more than economics. This appeared in the Acton blog.

The following quotes from the post above show the orientation of this blogpost:


I wrote my book, Integrated Justice and Equality, to rebuke the current supremacy of the trendy idea about income redistribution. But is income really the point of life? If I had not focused on biblical integration, my work would have just been a commentary on economic well-being without an anchor.
We live in a world of true human beings for whom poverty, absolute or relative, does not determine who we are nor what contribution we can make to life, to our families, societies, or to our eternal destinies. There is no end to the list of heroes who are poor or to the list of rich and comfortable idiots...
If we give up on these, our poverty could not be cured by empty comforts or by wealth.

See, this post is mostly targeting the have nots telling them to be content because there are more important things than wealth to reach for. And to certain extent, that is true. But why not say the same to those who have wealth and power so that they are inspired to share more with others or to work for a system where wealth is distributed more fairly? We should note here the amount of money corporations are given in the form of government assistance to their employees. Such is a taxpayer subsidy of the payrolls of these corporations. 

In addition, to the poor, it is a matter of survival between gaining adequate housing, healthcare, and food. Because those are the issues, becoming wealth is not what is being asked for. Rather, livable incomes are.

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To Bruce Walker and his blogpost on abundant, affordable energy. This appeared in the Acton blog.

The trouble with the above approach to energy is that it suggests that cuts in emission are fine so long as we don't disturb the status quo. But when cuts in emissions challenges us to change our ways, then we face the reality of the fact that those emission cuts are not as important as we sometimes are pressured into acknowledging they are. 

If we are going to both help people out of poverty while cutting back on emissions to reduce the damage we are doing to the environment, then we can no longer be committed to maintaining the status quo. The status quo promises the potential for unlimited riches for everyone who works hard enough is really a system that serves those with wealth and power. Because such a system will not see those with wealth and power and thus consume the most per person make any meaningful changes to protect the environment.

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To R. Scott Clark and his blogpost interview of Clarke Forsythe on politics and the abortion case decisions. This appeared in Heidelblog.

There are good things said in the interview and something that is overlooked. Concerning abortion, as horrible as the two court case decisions were, the Supreme Court had the Constitutional right to make the decisions it did. Its purpose is to determine the Constitutionality of any law that is passed by either the federal gov't or the state gov'ts. The people can actually change the abortion decisions using the Constitution by passing amendment. But the problem here is that there is not enough public support to do so. Another problem with the abortion content in the interview is that while Forsythe correctly laments that America is one of very few nations that allows for abortion for any reason after viability, he nor other American Christians fail to lament that America was one of tiny number of nations that rejected the ICC and is in the vast minority of nations in how it supports the brutal Israeli Occupation. Somehow, being in the minority in the first case is significant to many Christians but the same cannot be said about the latter two cases.

Forsythe made an excellent point in stating that in a democratic republic, all citizens have significant responsibility in being involved in the political system. However, it would be helpful to distinguish two definitions of democracy. Democracy can refer to a political structure where or a state of being for society. The latter definition is where the people do rule. Confusion between the two causes disillusionment with democratic political structures when they have been hijacked by special interests.

Forsythe made an excellent point warning us to stay away from utopian pursuits and Dr Clark correctly added how that is related to a faulty eschatological view. However, there is a Conservative Christian utopian school of thought that has flown in under the radar. That school of thought says that any attempt to improve the current system is a utopian pursuit. This is a utopian approach because it implies that a relative state of utopia has already been reached and thus any attempt to improve on it is both counterproductive and eschatologically unsound. This utopian approach is used to defend the status quo from changes demanded by those who are in some way significantly marginalized.

Finally, we do need virtues both in the general public and our elected officials. The problem here is how do we produce those virtues. For us theologically Conservative Christians, we are sorely tempted to achieve a privileged status in society in terms of determining legislation. Though the legislation we might produce can sometimes be good, the privileged status means that we are trying, in some ways, to dominate nonChristian. And in so doing, we create stumbling blocks to them listening to the Gospel because in dominating others, we will sin against them.