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Color Blind, Hearing Empowered March 25, 2009

Posted by Sanity in Politics, Religion, wisdom.
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I have to admit a lack of optimism since the election. Not long before the primaries of 2008 started, I started blogging for the first time.  Hey, I had moved all my music from cassette tapes to an MP3 player, so I finally started exploring the social aspects of the Internet.  The new forum (new to me) allowed me to grow in way an introvert would never grow via live debates.  Of the many areas my curiosity grew wild was to finally try to understand politics.  At most I had ever cared about voting for the President once the choices had been narrowed down.  One dilemma arose: the more I learned, the more there was to learn, more people to track, and more half-truths to filter.  Both sides, in theory, had positions that I could agree with.  Both sides shared an aptitude for broken promises, deceit, not admitted mistakes, childish games, etc.  And the level of scrutiny, also riddled with half-truths, deceit, etc., was raised to a level that not one historic ‘leader’ would measure up.

Among the things that blogging showed me, most people are guilty of being too forgiving of “their side”, overly critical of the “other side”, and the art of constructive criticism is in very short supply.  Being aware of these inconvenient truths, I try even harder to remain open-minded without being easily swayed from my foundation.  The only time I may be wrong on my website is when someone does not challenge my perspective.  I may have been wrong, but if a healthy argument has happened, my position can be changed, but henceforth, I am again right.  Lately, healthy arguments have been less frequent.  Automatic defenses of the current party in power illicit responses such as “so-and-so did that too”, “that can’t be true”, “he has only been in office…”, and my least favorite “You only feel that way because you don’t like the guy.”  None of these tactics has convinced me to reverse my position.  One does not ‘win’ an argument, by excluding opinions purely due to not being aligned with the same political party.  Some of the more energetic exchanges tend to label people as racist for daring to question our new leader.  Regardless of family lineage, I equate certain derogatory racial terms with attitude, not skin color, so, my prejudices have no conventional tie with racial history.

So, with my effort and interest, I thought I would experience joy of “having an effect” and how “everyone’s vote counts”, but the Democrats have control of the White House, and both sides of Congress, and I have had no effect on interacting with third parties.  Where does that leave those that disagree with the paths they choose? Note: The stated question includes Independents, Libertarians and other third parties, AND Democrats who are not acting like kids in an unsupervised candy store.

Luke 16:10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much…”

The Republicans had power and lost it. Everything has cycles, so it isn’t as if Democrats would never have majority again, but obviously ‘the People’ lost confidence in the RNC.  From my perspective, there are signs that those in power are ignoring Republicans, excluding them, and may be gloating about it.  Should the Republicans admit defeat and be content with commentary and criticism from the back seat? I say no.

George W. Bush suffered a huge volume of destructive criticism during his presidency.  Attempting to be “slow to speak, quick to listen”, I always asked the following: Why was a certain action bad?  How do you measure/monitor the effect of a decision? What should have been done instead with the knowledge at the time of the decision? What should be done from the current circumstances? (Rarely, if ever, do I get those answers)

Given the diminished position of power, where do we go?

  1. Servant leadership – Establish who knows ‘what’ to do, by seeing them doing it themselves.
  2. Reasonable accountability – No one is righteous. Know what to forgive and what to ignore.  A “plank in the eye” is usually warped and blocks ones hearing.  An opponent may criticize our leaders, but their leaders are usually guilty of the same criticism, so listen, set the bar higher and show progress by acknowledging and learning from mistakes.
  3. Micro-manage – National fixes rarely find their targets without a lot of waste.  Help the macro-changes find the little guys/gals that need the help.  If money is falling from the sky, the 10th floor exec has a better chance of benefiting than the single story mom-and-pop shop.
  4. Minimize the damage – We may not agree with the plan but we use it to our advantage by minimizing the waste and demonstrating who is actually fixing things with the piles of money.
  5. Regain trust – Things do need to change. Politics is riddle with stereotypes, a majority of which are not flattering.  Sing about accomplishments, share what works with other communities, and give people more of a choice than the “lesser of two evils”.
  6. Compromise on policy, not principle – There can be many ways to accomplish the same goal, as long as the goal is consistent. Don’t move the target to appease the last complaint received.

Book Club: Myth of a Christian Nation : Chapter 2 February 11, 2009

Posted by Sanity in Book Review, Faith, Politics, Religion, Separation of Church and State.
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OK, I am not done with this chapter, but I am struggling with it.  The focus of the chapter seems to be a perspective on who rules this world, who rules God’s kingdom, and our servant purpose in this world.

Up front, I struggle with knowing when to turn things over to God, preferring to accomplish things to overcome feelings of inadequacy.  We aren’t meant to be couch potatoes, but when are we to take action and when to trust His plan?  Before I continue, let me relay excerpts of what bothered me… (I typed the best I could while listening to the audio version)

“The kingdom of God advances by people lovingly placing themselves under others, in service to others, at cost to themselves.  This “coming under” doesn’t mean followers of Jesus conform to other people’s wishes but it does mean we always interact with others with their best interests in mind…. We are to do nothing from selfish ambition nor conceit but in humility regard others as better than ourselves.  We are to not look to our own interests but to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4  We are to not seek our own advantage but that of the other. 1 Corinthians 10:24  …. in serving them in any way we can… ”

1.  I understand the servant role, but when are we to lead and when to serve?  I struggled at one job where I reluctantly stepped up to a management role to fill a void.  I was fired for reasons I am proud of, because I would not treat those under me as the type of leader the CEO was trying to groom me to be.  It was the very day after being fired that I attended a Men’s Breakfast at church, and was reminded on the term “Servant leader” which explained how I was trying to be, and brought me great comfort, opposite of the “whip” I was supposed to use.

2. The author seems to emphasize that Satan rules this world, so therefore, if we are servants, how are we to serve Satan’s “interests” without violating God’s purpose for us? Are we to regard his servants as better than us? To seek their advantage? Are all Christians to never prosper over non-Christians?  This makes my head hurt, because there has to be a time us to lead, or prosper, but still “be a good example”?

3. A short way farther into this chapter is mention of the Sword and got me thinking about the Armor of God.  Part of that armor is the “Sword of the spirit”.  Are we to “turn the other cheek” until the rest of the armor is so damaged that the Sword is the only defense left? A sword can be used in defense and in attack. We certainly should be careful not to attack when unnecessary, but where should we draw the line?

Again, this speaks to my resistance to turning things over to God.  In reflection, I desire to, but “in the moment of decision” it is a personal struggle to remember to do it.

Book Club: Myth of a Christian Nation February 4, 2009

Posted by Sanity in Book Review, Politics, Religion, Separation of Church and State.
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I am actually guilty of buying this book based a faulty assumption on the title.  The card containing the code for downloading the audio version did not have the advantage of allowing a quick scan of the book’s intent.  If I had, I probably would have skipped this one.  The title is not, as I hoped, a twist of meaning to defend the influence of Christianity during the founding of this country.  Nor does it appear that it will go into any history of the country.

I just started listening, but hope it goes somewhere substantial.  The introduction paints a picture of excuses not to, as a church, get involved in politics.  Some reviews summarize intent as warnings about when a “church gets too close to any political or national ideology”.  There are valid points in remembering not to place country BEFORE God, and I will always agree God comes first.

My problem with the direction this warning appears to take is avoidance.  I understand somewhat that a church cannot flatly say “Vote for Joe the Plumber”.  But a church leader is supposed to teach and guide the congregation.  Secular Progressives are blurring the lines and leading Christian followers to accepting ‘softer’ more tolerant definitions or marriage, of sex (Thank you Bill Clinton), and equating tolerance not only with acceptance but also approval of things that contradict the Word of God.  This is where the author of this book loses opportunity to teach biblical perspective on political issues.  Where should a Christian stand on the death penalty, welfare, national security and all the other hot topics in government?  Teach not to idolize a party and to not “hate” the opponent, but teach about responsibility, accountability, integrity, and compassion.

I have just started this (audio) book and hope it answers my concerns.  Feel free to “spoil the ending” and share insight on this topic whether you have read this book or not.  The origin and intent of “separation of Church and State” has been perverted.  I pray this author is not advocating the turning over of governing completely over to secular hands.  To stand idly by and let certain activist attempts to erase all evidence of Christian influence from public eye cannot be part of our calling as Christians.