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This Month's Scripture Verse:

Whoever loves money never has enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.
This too is meaningless -- Ecclesiastes 5:10



Friday, February 12, 2016

Even With The New Jargon, Are Prolife Voters Still Being Urged To Be Single-Issue Voters?

For as long as abortion has been deemed a constitutional right,  religiuosly conservative Christians have been accused of becoming single-issue voters. The concern here is abortion of course. Those candidates who supported a woman's right to choose were shunned at the polls by many religiously conservative Christian voters regardless of the candidates' stands on other issues. Those who opposed either all or elected abortions would all too often secure the votes of many  religiously conservative Christians regardless of their stands on other issues. Since the Republican Party has more Prolife candidates than the Democratic Party, the Republican Party  has used this issue as a way of not only keeping religiously conservative Christians under the Republican tent,  it made us Christians into their base. I grew up in a religiously conservative Christian home with Republican parents and so when I voted, I use to vote for Republicans almost exclusively--here, a bad memory caused me to insert the word 'almost.'

Becoming sensitive to this criticism, religiously conservative Christian leaders are now trying to introduce nuance into what it means to be a single-issue voter. To more and more people, it is no longer appropriate to base one's vote on the abortion issue alone. That is the message of two blogposts by such leaders, Joe Carter (click here for a bio) and Denny Burk (click here for a bio). In their respective articles, both argued that we can no longer vote for a candidate simply because of their stance on abortion. However, do both propose that Christians could vote for any candidate who does not pass their Prolife litmus test? The answer to that question is found in recent articles they wrote to their readers (click here for Denny Burk's article and click there for Joe Carter's article).

The two articles by Burk and Carter are similar. Both advocate a qualified single-issue approach to voting. The approach is qualified in this sense, there are other issues and practices which should bar Christians from voting for any given candidate. Borrowing from an article by John Piper, Burk lists the following traits or positions of  racism, fraud, or bribery as deal breakers in terms of whether any Christian should vote for a given candidate. Carter's list of traits or positions is more narrow in that he focuses on issues of justice in terms of how one recognizes the human dignity of another. Here he  at least acknowledges there are other issues that should be used in determining whether a given candidate has an adequate concern for justice and human dignity. In other words, before judging someone to be Prolife, that person must be concerned with those who have been born as well. So we must be concerned with how those politicians who claim to be Prolife would be truly Prolife by how they view and try to help children who live in poverty or refugees from nations like Syria. 

In contrast to Burk, Carter suggests that no candidate who supports a woman's right to choose could have any legitimate concern for human dignity and justice in other situations. He wrote:
 If a candidate is unwilling to protect children in the womb in America, why should I believe they care about the plight of children in Darfur?

Now after that quote, Carter demonstrates some vagueness as to whether a Christian could vote for any candidate who supports a woman's right to choose. He seems to argue for the allowance of voting for non Pro-life candidates when he quotes Clark Forsythe in saying:
there is no moral compromise when we make the aim of politics not the perfect good but the greatest good possible

And yet, how can one vote for a non Prolife candidate since, according to the first quote, such a candidate may not possibly have any legitimate concern for human dignity and justice?  Perhaps with the latter quote, Carter is giving an out to those Christians who have no real Prolife candidates to vote for. Or perhaps Carter was expressing similar sentiments as what will be expressed next by this blogpost.

It has been the position of this blog that if we wreck the world by waging war or destroying the environment, and we could add failing to adequately address poverty, then abortion becomes a moot issue.  And while Carter's suggestion that those who would allow unborn children to be destroyed in the womb may not be trusted to be concerned with human dignity and justice in other situations needs to be tested on a case by case basis, we should note, and Carter seems to agree, that protecting life in the womb does not imply that one is consistently Prolife. So in the end, Carter's position is superior to Burk's, but the ambiguity expressed in whether a Christian should be allowed to vote for Pro-choice candidates based on other issues needs to be cleared up.

Now if we were to limit ourselves to voting for Presidential candidate's from the two major parties, we should find that, outside of the abortion issue, no available candidates could be properly classified as being consistently Prolife. Certainly the Republican candidates are disqualified by their lack of regard for our environmental problems and direction. In addition, with their criticisms of Barack Obama, their patriotic approach to American foreign policy seems to mean never having to say we're sorry. Combine that with talk of carpet bombing and American "leadership" in the world, the aggressiveness that Republicans seem to be embracing will unnecessarily trigger more wars than the foreign policies proposed by their Democratic Party counterparts.

But the views expressed by the Democratic Party presidential candidates are not much better. Take the positions expressed by the "most progressive" of the two candidates, Senator Bernie Sanders. He viewed our invasion of Iraq is being wrong because of the destabilization it caused. In other words, he views the Iraq War as being a mistake. He didn't apply any moral judgment to that war. This is a similar position to that of Barack Obama when he campaigned for President in 2008. And because of that lack of moral position, I wrote somewhere that Obama would have no problem with waging wars that were not deemed to be mistakes. And what policies did Obama pursued? The overthrow of the Libyan government which required America to work with terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and the expansion of the use of drones to assassinate people regardless of the Middle East nation in which they resided. There is also a possibility that the US was involved with the coup that occurred in Honduras in 2009. There is documentation showing that the US did work to control the aftermath of the coup.

We should further note that the Republican candidates approach the alleviation of poverty by promoting economic freedom for businesses. "Economic freedom" is code for the abolition of social responsibilities for businesses. Such will mean that poverty or near-poverty conditions will at least maintain, if not increase, their current levels. And here we should note how poverty visits injustice on innocent people in a variety of ways.

So the question becomes whether these articles are freeing religiously conservative Christian voters from being single-issue voters so that they should feel free to vote for candidates from the other major party. Burk's article answers that question with a definite 'NO!'  Carter's article possibly answers the question with 'yes.' But it's hard to tell.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Comments Which Conservatives Block From Their Blogs For February 10, 2016

Feb 2

To R. Scott Clark and his blogpost that both selectively reminisces laments about the past. The selectivity used seems to be used to celebrate old fashion American values. This appeared in Heidelblog

Though there are some good parts to this post, such as the part on our dual citizenship and the fault lying with the voters, but this article is unbalanced in spelling out what is wrong with our nation. It is almost unbalanced to the extent that it encourages Christians to become paranoid. 

Yes, there were social upheavals during the 60s. But there was also an immoral war in Vietnam along with much racism and sexism in society. As for the war, it was an effort made by the nation that prides itself on freeing people to recolonize the nation of Vietnam and to prevent reunification with the North. America ignored the democratic approach to the Vietnam problem as spelled out in the Geneva Accords and installed dictators as well as invaded the country. We won every battle but lost the war because with many of the battles we won, our methods lost the people.

As for what was at home, it was a brutal racism that had its roots in race-base slavery that went as far back as before the fight for independence. Sexism was also a problem to the extent that the overreaction of feminism could be at least partially blamed on the sexism that occurred back then. 

The seamy side of politics as seen in Watergate was previously evident in Eisenhower's warning regarding the Military Industrial Complex--the original name included Congress in the mix. In addition, it was activism, not government, that pushed civil rights onto the agenda and into the laws. Without activism, things would have stayed the same. Such gives another example of the seamy side of politics.

But let's get to the incitement to Christian paranoia. While Clark wants to  say that the legalization of same-sex marriage showed a rejection of nature, nature itself produces many instances of homosexual behavior. So the same-sex marriage decision was a rejection of the Christian view of nature. And while Clark warns us of future persecution, we should note that back in the day, homosexuals could be arrested for their sexual practices. Nothing we could experience in the near future could rival what those from the LGBT community had to suffer from laws based on our moral standards.

In addition, while Clark wants to complain that Christians are being legally pressured into accepting the new moral standards, we should note that some Christians want to use their faith as an excuse to deny equal rights to some who are different.

Clark is right in stating that there has been a resurgence of racism. But that resurgence is merely an instance of tribalism with a racial application. Here we should note that tribalism occurs when loyalty to one's group trumps commitment to principles and morals so that right and wrong depends on who does what to whom.  And we see a similar tribalism to racism being practiced with other facets such as economic class, national identity, and political ideology as its basis. And yet, Conservative Christians can only publicly oppose tribalism as it becomes manifest in racism.

In addition, we have The Constitution that was a document indended to preserve the status quo for American financial elites.

We have a dual citizenship and such is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because we know where our treasure should be. It is a curse because we sometimes use the importance of waiting for that treasure as an excuse to disconnect ourselves from the world in order to maintain our idols of personal peace and prosperity. And least that is what Francis Schaeffer warned us about.


Feb 3

To Joseph Sunde and his blogpost about Trump and allowing politics to determine religion. This appeared in the Acton blog.

There is at least one problem here and that is in the assumed definition of religious liberty. For it seems to me that what is called liberty in the article above is nothing more than privilege. That is because liberty - euqality = privilege. And while some of my fellow religiously conservative Christians are up in arms over expected persecution, we forget how  we have suppressed the religious liberty of others. This was evident when we were colonies when, for example, the Puritans persecuted Quakers even to the point of martyrdom. The lack of religious equality has been more than evident in our choice for POTUS. Consider the consternation people felt when JFK became the nation's first Catholic President. And to this date, we've had not Jewish Presidents or Presidents from other nonChristian religions.

But also, the lack of equality in religious liberty could be seen in our nation's same-sex marriage debate. The religious liberties of those who did not hold to conservative Christianity's definition of marriage were never recognized in the debate. Here we should note that it was the 14th Amendment used to establish the legality of same-sex marriage. In addition, most of my fellow religiously conservative Christians could only see how their religious beliefs were being threatened by the legalization of same-sex marriage; few if any acknowledged that the religous beliefs of those who thought that homosexuality was acceptable to God were being infringed on when same-sex marriage could be legally prohibited.

Also, as for the third temptation, we see this all of the time in religious Conservatives when they blend American ideals with Christianity. The result of this syncretism, which is a fancy word for pounding a square peg into a round hole, identification of Christianity with Capitalism, American individualism, and American Exceptionalism. This syncretism is driven by ideological tribalism. 

What is comical is how Christians point to history, as Kuiper did, to support how they've supported religious liberty when those examples consist of societies that were predominantly Christian in the first place. The real test of one's belief in religious liberty is found when one makes one's own religon vulnerable to other those from other religions by supporting the religious liberties of those who believe differently  In other words, one's belief in reliogous liberty comes when one is willing to surrender the control over society which the adherents of one's own religion have.


Feb 4 

To Mez McConnell and his blogpost on how misrepresenting Jesus can hurt the poor because the Gospel is not being faithfully preached. This appeared in the Gospel Coalition website.

There is another side to this, however. That side consists of those Bible thumper, and I am a Bible thumper, evangelists who go out to the poor neighborhoods to share the Gospel, but who never go to the rich neighborhoods of those who participate in the making of poverty and the oppressing of the poor to tell them to repent and believe the Gospel. 

Social justice not only involves helping people in need, it involves speaking out and defending them from those whose love of money and power lead them to neglect or oppress the vulnerable. Those who are hurting others need to hear a message of repentance and the Gospel as much as the poor do and for the same reasons.


Feb 5 

To Denny Burk and his blogpost on how a self-identified gay Christian explained how she thought she discovered that homosexuality was acceptable to God. This appeared in Denny Burk’s blog.

Perhaps we need to recognize that, for self-identified gay Christians, the wounds they have experienced from past and even current marginalization has made it impossible for them to distinguish God's warnings about homosexuality from man's immoral persecution of homosexuals as they learn how accepted they should be in society. BTW, you can chalk the devastating effects of that marginalization up to our tradition. That should tell us that not all of our traditions are good.


Please note here that in the comment, I had written the wrong name of the person who wrote the blogpost. Instead of referring to Joe Carter, I should have been referring to Michael Sevance. This error comes from a combination of carelessness and switching between multiple articles.

Feb 6

To Michael Severance and blogpost that attempts to use past Church teaching on private property to defend business’s approach to using and protecting property rights. This appeared in the Acton blog.

In terms of helping the poor, it issue isn't whether we can or cannot have property rights. The issue is about how we will prioritize property rights. That was stated above when, as Carter cited Croswaite, in saying:

The principle of the universal destination of goods is an affirmation both of God’s full and perennial lordship over every reality and of the requirement that the goods of creation remain ever destined to the development of the whole person and of all humanity. This principle is not opposed to the right to private property but indicates the need to regulate it. Private property… is in its essence only an instrument for respecting the principle of the universal destination of goods; in the final analysis, therefore, it is not an end but a means.

From Crosswaite's emphasis put on private property in that statement, it does not follow that private property is necessary for the 'universal destination of goods.' Rather, his emphasis on private property put seems to correlate more with Martin Luther King's priorities including private property:

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

We should note that 'materialism' to King was one side of a many side object that included poverty. Thus, the common theme between the two quotes is that private property must not have the highest priority when society wants to address social problems. It's not that we shouldn't want everyone to have house for a home. It is that business's claim to private property are not all the same. A person's need and use of private property is different from a business's need and use. And sometimes, the business use for private property, such as protection for intellectual property or wealth, interferes with addressing issues such as racism, materialism/poverty, and militarism. King noted part of this when he saw the Vietnam War escalate and thus spending for it continually increase. He knew at that time that America would not have the necessary will and resources to fully address the issue of poverty because of the attention and resources being demanded by the War. BTW, the first beneficiary of the Vietnam War were the corporations that sold necessary goods and services required to prosecute that war.

What Carter does in his article is to use the issue of poverty to bring a personal commitment to proivate property and property rights, and then switches our attention to business's concern with property rights such as with patents. In other words, he uses the poor to protect the interests of the rich. And his use of previous Catholic teaching on property shows such a selective approach of property rights that he cannot correctly read what was said in the past. So the question becomes is Carter's first concern an ideological one that revolves around business's concern for property rights, or is it a desire to learn what past religious leaders have taught about such rights? Perhaps Carter could tell us how America's protections of private property have alleviated poverty here.


Feb 9

To Gavin Orlund and his blogpost talking about how our culture is different in 3 ways from any other past culture and what we can say to our culture. This appeared in the Gospel Coalition website.

Observations about how our culture is different without noting how we got there is incomplete. Why is mercy assumed while justice must be defended? Why is today's morality more about self-expression? And why do many lack a sense of objective meaning? The answers to these questions should determine how we respond because the answers to the questions tell us whether or not we should merely modify what is being said today or contradict it completely. 

What is observed in the article above is simply the outworking of post modernism. And here we should note that post modernism has some very legitimate concerns and challenges for both modernism and pre modernism, with the latter being the age that represents groups like conservative Christianity. We should note that post modernism objects to past colonialism, oppression, and exploitation in which the metanarratives provided justifications for the privileged to be unjust to others. Without addressing those legitimate concerns and challenges,  the answers described above will be incomplete.

For example, how can privileged people tell people who live in extreme deprivation that God is transcendent?  How can privileged people tell the vulnerable that life comes from dying to self while they and their audience return to their respective homes afterwards? And how can the privileged tell people that God is the goal? Doesn't one's privileged state suggest a lack of sincerity in the messages?

History has shown that either by explicit support or in silent complicity, Conservative Christianity has alligned itself with those who are privileged more often than not. And so before we tell people about God's transcendence, how life comes through death to self, and the ultimate human experience, which are all very legitimate messages, we need to adjust those messages to include the legitimate concerns that have led our culture to where it is today and what we are going to do about it.


To R. Scott Clark and his blogpost consisting of an interview in which he describes all involved in the Social Gospel, and Marxism too, as being utopian and thus having an overrealized eschatology. According to Clark, such is not consistent with how the Bible teaches us to advance the Kingdom of God. This appeared in the Heidelblog.

I listened to the interview and the following is my reaction. There are two points to be made about this interview. The first is that sometimes our models of thought interfere, rather than help, us understand both BIblical and world realities. The second is that, historically speaking, pietism, like the beginning of the Social Gospel itself, is a reaction to things that were wrong with the status quo. With pietism, faults were found with the Reformed and Lutheran status quo. With the Social Gospel, it was the status quo of society that contained grave faults.

Regarding the first point, if we liken our models of thought to cookie cutters, we find that the cookie cutters themselves both include and exclude the dough being fashioned into a shape. The dough included in the shape becomes the cookie, but lies outside the shape does not. And here, there are two inherent faults that become part of using the cookie cutters. The first fault is that, like the cookie cutter, our model of thought may not be adequate to produce the shape we want. However, if we religiously use the cookie cutter, we will not be aware of the cookie cutter's deformities.

The same goes for our models of thought. If we are not aware of the weaknesses of our models of thought, we will be unaware be unnecessarily accepting of certain behaviors and beliefs and being unnecessarily judgmental of others. And the more religious we are in employing our models of thought, the more we will remain in denial of the problems our models of thought produce. There is another point here though, the more religious we are in applying our models of thought, the less likely we will listen to the views of others which challenge our models of thought. And the less likely we are to listen, to more we imply that we have everything to teach those with whom we disagree and nothing to learn from them.

The second fault of the cookie cutter is that sometimes we need new ones to make better shaped cookies. But if are religiously attached to our current cookie cutters, we will do nothing more than create cookies shaped in the old patterns. Likewise, when our models of thought are not sufficiently updated, it will be difficult for us to realize changes that have taken place in the different movements we've studied. Changes such as neither all Marxists nor those involved in the Social Gospel are utopians and thus not all suffer from an overalized eschatology. Now those religiously commited to the old models of thought would not realize that some Marxists and some involved in the Social Gospel do not expect a utopia. And the fault for their misperceptions lies with not having updated their models of thought. And since the more religiously one is committed to their model of thought, the less likely that one is really listening to those disagree, it is reasonable to understand how changes in different groups can fly under the radar of those who are too committed to their models of thought.

The above is how I see Clark's misperception of some of the Social Gospel movement. But the failure to recognize change does not stop there. When Clark so religiously applies Acts as a model for advancing the Kingdom of God and Peter's instructions to the saints on how to do the same, there is an implication that the historical context of believers back then and the context for today's believers are not significantly different. And we would never guess that could happen if we were religiously committed to some of the models of thought which Clark is committed to. But if we take an inductive approach to comparing the living contexts of the 1st century Church with today's Church, we find a number of significant differences from the absence of the Apostles in today's world as compared to the 1st century, to a world which was having the Gospel introduced to it vs a world in which the Gospel has been preached throughout, to an empire for a form of government vs a number of democratic republics.  Each of these difference are significant changes in our respective worlds and yet Clark demands that we only imitate what was done back in the 1st century to advance the Kingdom of God. All of this points to an inflexibility and an inability to recognize change in those who are religiously committed to some of the models of though Clark is committed to.

From the above, we can understand why Clark pigeonholes all associated with the Social Gospel as either belonging to or will be belonging to theological liberalism and having a overrealized eschatology.  It isn't that he is wrong about all involved in the Social Gospel and Marxism as well.  It is that he is wrong about some. And that is because his models of thought as expressed in the interview were precise enough in understanding the Social Gospel from both the past and the present.

Second, we should note that pietism is a reaction to failures in the established Reformed movement. The failures revolved around those whose lives were not consistent with their doctrine because they used doctrine as a substitute for more godly living. The failure of those who are Reformed to acknowledge their failures were, and are today, condemned to continue in those failures. And one of the results of continuing those failures is to dishonor the Gospel before both believers and unbelievers. When those who are Reformed do not appropriately acknowledge the legitimate concerns that Pietists, and we can include can include those involved with the Social Gospel today, those who are Reformed have again said that they have everything to teach and nothing to learn. And thus they push Pietists and those involved with the Social Gospel to theological liberalism.

Finally, we should note the necessity in including what is called the Social Gospel with the preaching of the Gospel. Whereas the preaching of the Gospel has included the preaching against individual sins, the Social Gospel includes the preaching against corporate sins--sins committed by groups that result in visiting injustice on others. Why? Because in preaching and teaching the Gospel, all sins must be preached against. Such does not imply that we must provide an alternative system to the systems that practice injustice. But it does mean that we cannot ignore injustice as practiced by groups when preaching against sin

But something else should be added. The Christian life Clark proposes is one of the Church being quiet in the face of state and system sins. Individual Christians may speak up, but the Church as an institution is not. The result is that the Church as an institution becomes silently complicit in the corporate sins os the status quo. Such severely damages the reputation of the Gospel today.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Has The Super Bowl Become A Worship Service?

Another year, another Super Bowl. And in terms of the pregame and halftime shows, this year's festivities continues to be mere an intensification of last year's. There was the hypercelebration of the military with the constant message that whenever they are sent on a mission, they are defending our freedoms. There was the singing of the National Anthem, which was done both in a respectful manner and expressively by Lady Gaga as she displayed that she has received some quality vocal training.  There was the huge American flag. There was the timely Blue Angels fly over. And there was the halftime show filled with repetitive music and a conformist performing audience on the field. Finally, there was the game itself with all of the hype as well as a collection of extraordinary athletes. So, with the exception of a veiled, at least veiled to me, protest song performed by Bayonce (click here), the picture we get of America from this game should fill every American with pride as well as a belief in American Exceptionalism--exceptionalism here would refer to the extraordinary lifestyle of manyAmericans--if not in an America as a utopia. In the end, the Super Bowl is about celebrating our country to the extent of worshipping it.

But suppose we were to examine America's underbelly, what we would find? Perhaps some quotes form the Old Testament prophets could describe the America not seen in yesterday's Super Bowl festivities (Bible quotes come from Biblegateway.com).

No one sues righteously and no one pleads honestly. They trust in confusion and speak lies; They conceive mischief and bring forth iniquity. -- Isaiah 59:3

“Woe to him who builds his house without righteousness And his upper rooms without justice, Who uses his neighbor’s services without pay And does not give him his wages, -- Jeremiah 22:13

Woe to those who scheme iniquity, Who work out evil on their beds! When morning comes, they do it, For it is in the power of their hands. 2 They covet fields and then seize them, And houses, and take them away. They rob a man and his house, A man and his inheritance.  -- Micah 2:1-2

Woe to those who are at ease in Zion And to those who feel secure in the mountain of Samaria, The distinguished men of the foremost of nations, To whom the house of Israel comes. 3 Do you put off the day of calamity, And would you bring near the seat of violence? 4 Those who recline on beds of ivory And sprawl on their couches, And eat lambs from the flock And calves  rom the midst of the stall, 5 Who improvise to the sound of the harp, And like David have composed songs for themselves, 6 Who drink wine from  c]sacrificial bowls While they anoint themselves with the finest of oils, Yet they have not grieved over the ruin of Joseph.   -- Amos 6:1; 3-6

49 Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. 50 Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me. Therefore I removed them when I saw it. -- Ezekiel 16:49-50

Thus says the Lord, For three transgressions of Gaza and for four I will not revoke its punishment, Because they deported an entire population To deliver it up to Edom. Thus says the Lord, “For three transgressions of Edom and for four I will not revoke its punishment, Because he pursued his brother with the sword, While he [i]stifled his compassion; His anger also tore continually, And he maintained his fury forever. -- Amos 2:6, 11

From oppressing and neglecting the vulnerable at home while living a life of comfort to exploiting and abusing people abroad, we can see how the Scriptures foretold life in America as it is today.  Of course such does not include what life has become for those living in countries in which the US has intervened. 

See, the Super Bowl has become a national self-worship service.  All of the hoopla that exists both before the game and at halftime presents a picture of America that is true for fewer and fewer of its people. In the meantime, we have banks that are too big to fail or jail and our government is controlled by those with wealth (click here, there and there). Such means that regardless of the effects on many Americans and the vulnerable, bank officials can no longer be criminally prosecuted with them serving jail time for crimes, nor can the American government afford to ignore banks when they need money. In addition, our laws are crafted by and for those who can buy them.

It has been sometimes said, and not without merit, that Conservative Christians are too heavenly minded to be any earthly good. What shall we then say about those Americans who live a life of ease and distraction, as described in Amos 6, with help from events like the Super Bowl? Only in this case, people are such pleasure seekers that they can neither see nor hear nor care about those around them who are in need.

Eventually, the targets of the words from the Old Testament prophets foretelling doom came true. The water crises that cities like Flint, Michigan are facing as well as many of our other problems are a testament to our upcoming doom if we don't change. And what prevents us from changing are distraction, especially the self-worshipping kind of events like the Super Bowl.

Monday, February 8, 2016

ONIM For February 8, 2016

Christian News

World News

Pick(s) Of The Litter

Friday, February 5, 2016

How Shall We Christians Then Not Vote

Mark Woods (no bio available) has just written an excellent article regarding how Christians should not vote (click here). And the diving board that helped him go head first into this topic is Ted Cruz. 

Woods objects to Cruz's personality and campaign for 3 reasons. First, Cruz favors the Republican view on issues like climate change. Second, Cruz's personality suggests to Woods that Cruz seems to be far more interested in winning than on being right. Last but not least, Woods believes that Cruz has so identified his campaign with the Bible that he feels that Cruz has co-opted the Scriptures. And it is this last perceived characteristic of Cruz that has broken the camel's back for Woods.

But Cruz is not alone in co-opting the Scriptures, other Republican candidates have too according to Woods. It's just that Cruz won Iowa because he outdid his Republican rivals in so doing. 

What tipped Woods off about Cruz co-opting was a statement Cruz made after he had won Iowa. He cited a verse from Psalm 30 to the crowd that said that joy comes in the morning following a night of weeping (click here for the verse). He then equated his win in Iowa with Iowa's way of telling the world that morning is here.

Indeed, Republicans have for years sold Evangelicals on the idea that a vote for them is a vote for God's program. What Woods did not mention is that Republicans have used the abortion issue to do this. For how can a Christian vote for a pro-choice candidate when such a candidate sanctions the murder of unborn children in the womb? The result of such reasoning is that abortion has made many evangelicals 'single-issue voters.' 

Some Christian writers have become sensitive to the single-issue voter label. Joe Carter, writing for the The Gospel Coalition website, just wrote an article trying to correct this perception (click here for the article). In his article Carter stated that single issue Christians should vote on is justice, not abortion. However, he asks how can anyone who is pro-choice be sincerely concerned about the human dignity of people who are in other dire situations. So he implies that though one should not vote for a candidate because that person is pro-life, Christians should not vote for any candidates who support woman's choice to elective abortion because it isn't possible for anyone who is pro-choice to care about justice.  

Woods' solution to the problem he sees is that while Christians should let their individual convictions determine their vote, they should not allow the Christian label to be attached to a particular political party or candidate. That is because once we have done that we have allowed our faith to be constrained by our political views and thus have corrupted the faith rather than vice-versa. Woods notes the irony here because rather than relying on the First Amendment's statement on the freedom of religion and Jefferson's 'separation of Church and State,'  Christians who allow their faith to be dictated by their political beliefs are becoming American counterparts to Muslims who support theocracies in nations like Iran and Saudi Arabia.

This equating Christianity with America, however, is a practice that is older than the Republican Party. In fact, it is a practice that is older than America's life as a nation. In reality, such a strong association between America and the Scriptures is done in order to ride the coattails of Christianity to obtain some degree of authority for their own political position or embrace self-aggrandizement or both. 

Woods' article is really excellent and should be read because this blogpost cannot do it justice in this brief review. However, we could add one point here. Even though we should never attach the Christian label to political positions or campaigns, it is legitimate for both individual Christians and the Church to tell society and  the State that certain practices are unacceptable. In other words, and I think I've written this before, while we cannot identify any single candidate or political party as being the one Christians should support; both individual Christians and the Church should be more than willing to speak prophetically to society and the State in denouncing its sins and injustices. Yes, elective abortion must be one of those injustices preached against. But other practices or results such as an ever increasing wealth disparity, immoral wars (a phrase that is sometimes almost redundant), and destroying the environment are also wrong and immoral and thus must be opposed. In this way, both individual Christians and the Church itself can speak prophetically to the world without risking the corruption of the faith.  

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Comments Which Conservatives Block From Their Blogs For February 3, 2016

Jan 28

To R. Scott Clark and his blogpost quote of Tucker Carlson that both declares  Trump’s use of outrageous speech is right and necessary for debates and the restraint of speech is why our national debates are ‘useless.’ This appeared in Heidelblog.

Then again, self-restraint in speech can indicate a character quality in a person who will be in charge of the most powerful military in the world.

As for Carlson's view, I believe it is a bit backwards. The reason why our debates are stilted and useless is due to the loss of self-control in speech. That loss isn't necessarily seen in the absence of outrageous words, but in choice to attack others rather than address the issues.


Feb 1

To Joe Carter and his blogpost on how Christians can be single issue voters when justice is the issue. And that just because a candidate opposes abortion doesn’t mean that the candidate is consistently pro-life. On the other hand, he cannot believe that a candidate who is pro-choice can care about life and dignity in other situations such as the plight of the children in Darfur. This appeared in the Gospel Coalition website.

Carter's one issue of justice is a worthy issue on which to vote for candidates--that is in principle. The real question will be how it is implemented. And while in one paragraph, he states that a candidate who opposes abortion may not be consistently pro-life. And so we need to find out other policies this candidate has proposed for other situations in which his regard for human dignity would be tested. And all of this is well and good so far.

 But in the paragraph that follows the one asking us to test an anti-abortion candidate's consistency in being pro-life, he says:

On the other hand, failing on a particular litmus test is often a clear signal that the candidate has an inadequate view of human dignity, and will fail to consistently promote justice while in office. For instance, knowing that a candidate favors abortion-on-demand can be a clue to how they would act on foreign policy issues. If a candidate is unwilling to protect children in the womb in America, why should I believe they care about the plight of children in Darfur?

Here Carter is saying that if a candidate supports elective abortion, he has no reason to believe that the candidate cares about the plight of others whose human dignity is being severely compromised. So Carter proposes that we use one way of reasoning to assess candidates who oppose elective abortion and another way of reasoning to assess candidates who don't. And the with the latter way of reasoning resting appearing to assume negative about the candidate, then how is it that abortion has not in part become a single-issue on which Christians can vote?

Now instead of assuming what Carter does about the pro-choice candidate, we treat the pro-choice candidate as we would the anti-abortion candidate, then we would be looking into the candidate's position on other issues, such as the children in Dafur, to see if the pro-choice candidate has a mix of pro-life concerns. In other words, we rephrase Carter's statement questioning how he could believe that a pro-choice candidate could care about the children in Dafur, for example, so that it becomes a hypothesis worthy of testing:

 If a candidate is unwilling to protect children in the womb in America, then that candidate can/does not care about the plight of children in Darfur

Now to prove whether the hypothesis is true, one looks at the candidate's past positions and action regarding the children of Dafur to see if he/she can/does care about these children. And we could use that same hypothesis testing method to see if any pro-choice candidate can/does care about vulnerable or endangered people in other situations.

As Carter wrote his article, there is no need to test a pro-choice candidate's positions or record on other situations where people's lives or dignity are being threatened. That is because Carter's logic here strongly suggests, if not implies, that pro-choice candidates cannot be concerned about human life and dignity in other situations where life and dignity are being threatened. Thus, there is no need to inquire about their positions or record. But such logic tells us to ignore a candidate's position or record once we learn that they are pro-choice.

I oppose elective abortion. I agree with Carter in that we should make justice a plausible single issue on which Christians could vote. But to automatically conclude that one cannot be concerned about the dignity of human life in any situations simply because the candidate is pro-choice is not just wrong; in the context of this article, it is manipulative.


Feb 2

To Jen Wilkin and her blogpost on how to escape becoming bitter over being treated unfairly. This appeared in the Gospel Coalition website.

I've run into a similar decision to the one above when protesting and in my activism. That I must remember when I call for social justice, I am calling as a person who has been unjust to others. Thus, I cannot protest in ways that suggest that I am morally superior to the people whom I am protesting against. That in protesting against injustice, I must show empathy to those I am protesting against and thus I should conduct myself in ways that invite the targets of my protest to change.

One of the ways to escape both the bitterness trap described above and holier-than-thou protesting is to remember my need for God's mercy and grace. 


To Sarah Stanley and his blogpost lamenting the lessening of economic freedom in the US and the assertion that economic freedom causes a nation’s society and economy to flourish. This appeared in the Acton blog.

The problem with this economic freedom measurement is the assumptions that go with the index. For example, back in the '70s, both Chile and Argentina used miltiary dictatorships to introduce the economic freedom that came in the form of neoliberalism. Chile is still suffering from repercussions of that dictatorship. In addition, neoliberalism, which is epitome of economic freedom, required Yeltsin to use the military to attack his Parliament because they were not buying into neoliberalism's economic freedom sales pitch.

Another problem that comes with the measurement of economic freedom is wealth disparity. We should note that 4 of the nations with the most economic freedom listed above are in the top 17 nations in terms of a growing wealth disparity (see http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2011/05/income-inequality-around-the-world-is-a-failure-of-capitalism/238837/  ). In addition, another nation on that list, Chile, already had one of the greatest wealth disparity gaps in the world. And there are growing protests in still others nations from the above list regarding growing wealth disparity. That should not surprise us because economic freedom's definition revolves around the status of the individual. Thus, the above claim that economic freedom brings both social and economic 'flourishing' is exagerated. 

Economic freedom basically cuts social responsibility ties between private sector elites and society. And though the US is thought of as having less economic freedom than other nations, when our financial sector successfully fought off efforts that would regulate Wall Street's dirivative products, increasing economic freedom, that led to the economic collapse of 2008. The correlation between economic freedom and flourishing was backwards during that time--that is backwards according to the claims. 

The problem here is the oversimplicity with which economic freedom is paired with economic and societal benefits. There isn't such a positive correlation between the two and thus we have to look at other factors to see if the economic freedom there is really causing a nation's economy and society to flourish.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

What Is It That The Republicans Really Want?

The seventh Republican debate took place without Trump, and that was helpful. The Republican candidates could focus more on the issues and less on name calling and thus the audience could learn more about the candidates (click here for the debate and click there for fact checking the debate). And the following is some of what I learned.

First, all of the Republicans in the debate said they want both small government and fiscal responsibility. But at the same time, most, if not all, of the Republican candidates claimed that we need to rebuild the military because of the damage Obama has allegedly visited on it.

We should note that a damaged military was also the complaint of the Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney. In his 2012 campaign, Romney compared our then current size of the Navy with its size in 1917. Such comparisons are not as revealing as some would hope since advances in technology have greatly increased the power of each ship compared to their 1917 counterparts. This is true for any non recent year the Republicans would want to use in a comparison.

But there are other problems with the Republican emphasis on rebuilding the military. One of them has to do with the fact that the US under Obama still spends more on its military than the other top 7 to 9 other nations spend combined. In addition, the Navy now has roughly the same number of active ships as it did under President George W. Bush between the years of 2005 to 2008 (273 compared to 278 to 282, click here and there for documentation). In addition, a new generation of surface ships is being tested now as exemplified by the USS Zumwalt. The Navy has reduced the number of Zumwalt type ships from in the 30s to 2 because of the cost of each ship as well as concerns over its stability at sea (click here). In addition, there is a new class of aircraft carriers being currently produced. This is the Gerald R. Ford class carrier with two being constructed at this time and a third one is planned for the near future (click here). 

But there is another issue as Republican candidates promise to both reduce the size of the government while rebuilding our military. Since the military is part of the government, to increase the size of the military is to increase the size of the government. In addition, to increase the size of the military also increases government spending unless compensatory cuts are made elsewhere. 

The only proposed cuts made during the debate was Governor Christies guarantee that he would cut federal funding to Planned Parenthood if elected. Now it seems unlikely that cutting funding to Planned Parenthood's could make up for the increased military spending promised by the candidates. So one key and unanswered question becomes this, where will the Republicans cut the budget in order to keep their promise to be fiscally responsible? Will it be in Social Security which is not only self-funded, it is the largest holder of federal debt? Will it be in Medicare? Will it be in the EPA and, if so, how can the EPA plan to protect our environment from those corporations that pollute its surroundings? Will the EPA become impotent like the SEC was during the housing bubble days of George W. Bush?

In addition, to increase spending in order to rebuild the military, these Republican also want to hire more federal agents to patrol the border. And unrelated to spending, most of the Republican candidates want to incease the surveillance capabilities of the NSA as well as to take the handcuffs off of the military as it attacks our enemies overseas. The problem with this last proposal is that some of those handcuffs are made by International Law. So not only do these Republican candidates complain about the deficit and debt while proposing to rebuild the military, they promise a less intrusive government than Obama's government while most of them want to both maintain or expand NSA surveillance and remove the restraints that Obama has placed on the military--note that this is Obama the drone President.

While promising a smaller, less intrusive government at home, most of these Republican candidates seem trigger happy to increase or reassert Amerian power abroad to combat terrorism. And they do so with the same short-sightedness as they have in their approach to controlling illegal immigration. For in the immigration part of the debate, the problem starts with too many immigrants illegally entering our nation. Not once during the debate, did the Republican candidates even speculate why so many immigrants have been stealing their way across our borders for around 30 years. 

Here we should note that, as measured in 2012, the top 4 nations from which illegal immigrants come are nations where either American trade agreements or foreign policies have had a significant detrimental effect on the country. These top 4 nations consist of Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras with the latter replacing the Philippines ranking in 2012 (click here). And whereas the effects of NAFTA  and Mexico along with past American interventions in El Salvador (1980s) and Guatemala (1954) are well documented, US participation in the 2009 coup  in Honduras and/or its aftermath has been speculative. However,  US participation in at least the aftermath, if not the coup itself, has been confirmed by Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton's own testimony (click here).

Of course, the Republican candidates tie their harsh immigration rhetoric to terrorist threats and ISIS. However, just as with the immigration problem, their genesis account of our battle against terrorism starts with what is done to us and excludes what we may have done to precipitate the attacks.  This practice goes back to George Bush and his claim that the 9-11 terrorists attacked us because of our freedoms, not because of our foreign policies. This is despite the fact that those policies included overthrowing democratically elected governments, supporting tyrants, supporting terrorists, and maintaining an unbalanced support for Israel against the Palestinians.

So without recognizing any accountability for what has caused our problems with immigration and the new terrorist threats posed by groups like ISIS, the GOP candidates are looking for more money and power to solve these problems. In the meantime, any discussion on new regulations needed to prevent the illegal actions of our financial sector which crashed the world economy in 2008 was never placed on the table in this or other debates. 

All of this is quite disturbing. While dressing in the sheepskin of small, less intrusive government, a majority of Republican candidates claim that a larger military and less rules for those with wealth and power are what the doctor is prescribing for a healthy future. And the only reason why their claim can seem credible to those remaining Americans who vote is the conjunction of  our two-party system and the formidable failures of the Democratic Party.