Monday, May 16, 2005
Sunday, May 08, 2005
Monday, April 11, 2005
As our troops are still in harm's way, we continue to affix countless yellow ribbons to every imaginable surface. But have you noticed their orientation? Many of them are now lying on their sides. Originally, I was sure that this was a matter of practicality. As in the photo linked in the title, you have to get creative if you have a tiny bumper.
I was sure it was just practicality, until I started noticing giant SUVs wearing their ribbons sideways, too. And today on my way home, I crept for miles and miles behind a bright red Mini Cooper with a sleek, white racing strip. This Mini confirmed suspicions that have been building for months and months. On the back of the car were three stickers, all placed with utter disregard for the car's lovely paint job. The first was of Calvin kneeling at the cross. The second was a sticker of the Jesus fish, except that it was patterned after the American flag. The third sticker was a bright yellow ribbon lying flat on its side. If you look at it, that yellow ribbon looks a lot like the Jesus fish when it lies sideways like that.
I don't think this recent phenomenon would bother me if I thought it meant, "Pray for our troops". Rather, it seems like another form of competitive patriotism & religiosity between our red and blue citizens. I don't remember having any slogans on the ribbons we put up during the first Gulf War. We just put up ribbons because we were thinking about our soldiers. But now we have to have the slogan on our ribbons because it's part of the false dilemma to which we've reduced any debate about our current war: either you support the troops, or you have questions about the budget, government intelligence, etc., etc., etc...
Symbols are very powerful, and this one seems to up the ante and further increase the false dilemma from which we Americans are supposed to choose: (1) either you unquestioningly support our troops and believe in Jesus; or (2) you are an atheist Liberal who "blames America first". I worry about invoking Christ in such casual, flippant exchanges about a topic as heated as our current war in Iraq. And I hate to think that, as a result, some non-believers may come to regard the Christian faith as a package deal that comes with a bunch of politics they may not agree with.
Sunday, April 03, 2005
Imagine for a moment that you are one of Terri Schiavo’s parents, and you’re pleading for your daughter’s life. A shared faith brings your priest or pastor and fellow Christians to your side… What do you expect from them? I know that I would expect prayers, counseling, advice, support, advocacy, lobbying, protesting, and so on.
Now imagine that in the final days of a battle that has lasted for fifteen years, new sectarians join the fight on your behalf. Enter President George Bush, Governor Jeb Bush, and various members of congress. Now what do you expect?
These men did not join Robert & Mary Schindler’s fight to offer prayer, support, and guidance. Rather, when they burst onto the scene, they promised action! Worse yet, they promised action from the government, and that is exactly what the Schindlers were expecting.
And this is where a new tragedy in this story unfolded: our politicians gave that family the false hope that our government could be run like a church. They acted like church elders who were outraged at the behavior of certain congregants. They were going to convene, censure the unacceptable behavior, and demand change.
But then our politicians ran square into a problem: the framers of our Constitution had the foresight to build checks and balances into our government, which would contain the whimsy of a few politicians. These politicians couldn’t do anything except exaggerate the tragedy the Schindlers continued to endure. Despite theatric attempts to circumvent an entire branch of our government, even the Bush family realized it was out of options:
Earlier Sunday, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said there is nothing he can do to save Terri Schiavo's life.
"I cannot violate a court order," Bush said after attending Easter Sunday church services. "I don't have powers from the United States Constitution -- or for that matter from the Florida Constitution -- that would allow me to intervene after a decision has been made.
"I'm sad that she's in the situation that she's in," Bush said, commenting publicly on the case for the first time since Thursday. "I feel bad for her family. My heart goes out to the Schindlers and, for that matter, to [her husband] Michael [Schiavo]," Bush said. "This has not been an easy thing for any, any member of the family. But most particularly for Terri Schiavo."
To Terri Schiavo's parents -- who have said Bush should do more to help their daughter -- the governor said: "I can't. I'd love to, but I can't."
Her parents have lost nearly 30 legal opinions in both state and federal courts, which have consistently sided with Michael Schiavo, who also is Terri Schiavo's legal guardian.
Jeb Bush could have come to this conclusion before intervening at all, since all of the theatrics we’ve watched play out on cable news has followed fifteen years of legal decisions. Congress and the executive branch had already created & passed laws that determine what rights families have in making end-of-life decisions, and the courts did their job: they interpreted what this meant for Terri & Michael Schiavo.
What amazes me about this situation is the continued unwavering belief of conservative Christians in the ability of Republicans to make America a nice place for them to live. This is very similar to when President Bush promised his infamous four million evangelicals that he would pass a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages. We have heard almost nothing about the topic from our president since the election, and still conservative Christians wanted to believe that our president, a few congressmen, or one state’s governor could negate the work of an entire branch of our government.
And just like with the DOMA, there was the obligatory threat of serious ramifications for the Republican Party if conservative Christians didn’t get their way on this issue. In fact, Randall Terry promised there would be “hell to pay” if Terri Schiavo died, the same way that the Arlington group threatened the outrage of evangelical voters if no constitutional amendment was passed to “protect” marriage.
My point for all Christians is this: We will always be a just another pool of coveted voters (the “black vote”, “soccer moms”, “NASCAR dads”, etc.). Politicians will always tell you what you want to hear to get your vote. Have faith in God, not politics, and maybe we can spare dragging another family through another pointless tragedy.
*Though the marriage of Michael & Terri Schiavo technically creates one family, I intentionally use the plural here because of how the two halves have alienated themselves from each other since Terri’s stroke.
I began working in a new role within my company in the first week of the year, and after almost no transition I found myself working at a feverish pitch for more hours per week than I care to admit. The obvious side effect has been that, even though plenty of interesting things have happened in the world since mid-February, I haven't had the energy to put together a coherent thought! (And how is it April already!?)
I feel like I have finally caught my breath in the last week or two, and I look forward to writing once a week (or so) in the coming weeks. Many thanks to those of you inquired as to whether I was still among the living. (I am!)
Saturday, February 12, 2005
It all started simply enough while I was in college. I went to school in a famously liberal town in northern California, and I started making friends who were involved in politics. It was all small stuff at the beginning: voter registration drives, small meetings with the Young Democrats, and the like. But then I got more and more involved. I volunteered for a local congresswoman and the state superintendent of public education. I was helping with fundraising dinners and making cold calls to constituents. And suddenly it all got out of control, my life took a crazy turn, and before I knew it, I was a registered Republican.
That’s right, faithful readers, I am a former Republican. This is a true story and I want to explain how it happened so that we can prevent other young liberals from treading the same path I had to travel.
It all started in the dank little office in San Francisco that my roommate and I visited twice a week during our sophomore year in college. We were interns working on the two re-election campaigns I mentioned above. I was particularly excited about the state superintendent of public education, because she was riding on the recent success of class-size reduction. I really enjoyed talking to current and retired teachers who were really excited about what had been accomplished during our candidate’s previous term.
But then I quickly realized that one issue ruled most conversations that took place in our little office and at fundraising dinners and during cold calls: the ever divisive abortion issue. The topic was omnipresent and there was only one acceptable way to participate in any abortion-related conversation: active and unwavering support for and dedication to securing access to safe and legal abortion.
Now, the affliction I have which will prevent me from ever successfully running for elected office is that I see in shades of gray. The abortion issue is already complex, but it is even more so for a religious lefty like myself. My good friends at Merriam-Webster define ambivalent as having “simultaneous and contradictory attitudes or feelings (as attraction and repulsion) toward an object, person, or action”, and this is exactly how I feel about abortion. And what this means in the real world for someone like me is that I do not support overturning the Roe v. Wade decision, but I also don’t want participation in Democratic politics to require me to actively join the fight to expand abortion rights.
The whole topic makes me queasy, and in reality my feelings are somewhere between the two extremes. Nevertheless, at the end of my internship I found myself working at a fundraising dinner for the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League. That night was a dizzying experience I will never forget. Sarah Weddington, the lawyer who argued “Jane Roe’s” case in front of the Supreme Court, was the keynote speaker, and she delivered an amazing speech. Much of it resonated with me: she painted a scary picture of a government that wants the authority to make such intimate, personal decisions about the physical bodies of women.
However, being the deeply ambivalent religious lefty that I am, much of it did not resonate with me. And in the end, I was so mad at myself for having been there in the first place, that I decided I was done with politics, and especially the Democrats! The fervent pro-choice stance seemed to be the glue that held the myriad liberal factions of the Democratic Party together, and I had found myself utterly unable to say the simple words, “Actually, I don’t really want to help out with the NARRAL dinner, because I don’t feel that strongly about the issue.” I was terrified that I would have been ostracized, so I said nothing.
The next day I got up and went straight to the post office to fill out a new voter registration card. In a daze rivaled only by the night before, I filled out the new card, checked Republican, and dropped it in the mail. Several weeks latter, the vanilla-colored confirmation of my new registration arrived in the mail. It had really happened. I had really registered as a Republican. I stood in front of the mailbox and stared at the tiny, dot-matrix letters which spelled, “Republican”. I took the card upstairs and buried it in my sock drawer.
As the next few weeks passed and I listened to Democrats and Republicans arguing on the daily news, I realized I’d buried my own Tell-Tale Heart in my dresser drawer. I listened to Republicans yammer on about one thing or another, and I realized (again) that I really wasn’t one of them. I knew that if I volunteered for one of these guys, I’d be attending fundraising dinners to support the active and unwavering fight to reverse Roe v. Wade. And I could think only of my voter registration card in my sock drawer.
Eventually, I tore up that card and went back to the post office to re-register as a Democrat. All told, I was a Republican for about six weeks. I believe my religious and political identities are more complicated than a black-and-white view of this one issue. We as Liberals and we as Christians are called to address more than just this one issue. If we will let this one issue define the depth and complexity of our values and concerns, then there are innumerable issues we will never address and countless people we will exclude from the solutions. Take it from this former Republican.
Sunday, February 06, 2005
Saturday, February 05, 2005
And if you are a supporter of the Arlington Group, which rallied support for the president based on his support for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, you sat on the edge of your sofa awaiting just 38 words of the entire speech:
Because marriage is a sacred institution and the foundation of society, it should not be re-defined by activist judges. For the good of families, children, and society, I support a constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage.
For those of you who cast your votes solely because of the gay marriage issue and Mr Bush’s pre-election promise to “protect the institution of marriage”, this was your reward. The president dedicated less than 1% of his speech to letting you know that he agrees with you. This was not a war cry; this was not a call to action; this wasn’t even a promise for future action. All you got was a simple statement that he agrees with you.
Contrast Mr Bush’s statement above with the following:
To make our economy stronger and more dynamic, we must prepare a rising generation to fill the jobs of the 21st century. [No Child Left Behind]
To make our economy stronger and more competitive, America must reward, not punish, the efforts and dreams of entrepreneurs. [Regulation & Legal Reform]
To make our economy stronger and more productive, we must make health care more affordable, and give families greater access to good coverage -- -- and more control over their health decisions. [Health Care Agenda]
The same-sex marriage issue didn’t even merit a “must” in the president’s speech. All he said was that he personally supports a constitutional amendment. He didn’t call for an amendment, and he certainly didn’t say that we must have one. But all this pales in comparison to the attention dedicated to the two issues that truly dominated Mr Bush’s speech.
Almost 45% of the president’s speech was dedicated to Iraq & the War on Terror: “To promote peace in the broader Middle East, we must confront regimes that continue to harbor terrorists and pursue weapons of mass murder.” These were the president’s signature issues during his re-election campaign, and he worked tirelessly during his first term to build support at home and abroad for his war in Iraq. As a result of his efforts, a significant portion of our budget and our military are dedicated to the Middle East for the foreseeable future.
About 22% of the president’s speech was spent championing private accounts for Social Security, telling us that “we must pass reforms that solve the financial problems of Social Security once and for all”. Immediately following his speech, Mr Bush launched a 2-day, five-state campaign targeting red states with Democratic senators in order to garner support for his Social Security agenda. This, my friends, is where the president will spend his “political capital” before entering the lame duck phase of his second term.
So if you cast your vote for Mr Bush based on your support for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, I hope 38 words of a State of the Union address are a sufficient reward for your loyalty to the GOP.
Sunday, January 30, 2005
Why do I say that? Didn’t 4,000,000 Evangelicals who hadn't voted in 2000 just turn out in November to re-elect the president? Yes, they did… And now, those same Evangelicals who claimed such exuberant victory on November 3rd are saying this:
We couldn't help but notice the contrast between how the President is approaching the difficult issue of social security privatization, where the public is deeply divided, and the marriage issue, where public opinion is overwhelmingly on his side. … Is he prepared to spend significant political capital on privatization but reluctant to devote the same energy to preserving traditional marriage? If so, it would create outrage with countless voters who stood with him just a few weeks ago, including an unprecedented number of African-Americans, Latinos and Catholics who broke with tradition and supported the President solely because of this issue.
This quote is from a confidential letter that the Arlington Group sent to the White House, which was then leaked to the press. The part of this quote that I really want to draw your attention to is the threat that if Mr Bush fails to voice strong support for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages, “it would create outrage with countless [Christian] voters who stood with him just a few weeks ago”.
To put it bluntly, so what? The GOP is supposed to fear that Christians are now going to go storming to the other side of aisle to support the Democrats? Conservative Christians have spent the last two decades declaring their unwavering support for the GOP; Republicans have no fears that they might lose Christian voters.
So this is what we can continue to expect: Every election cycle conservative Christians will come up the year’s most important issue (prayer in schools, abortion, marriage, etc.), the GOP will give them plenty of lip service while asking them to rally their congregations, and then after the election you’ll hear something like Mr Bush’s recent comment that “nothing will happen” for now.
And if you don’t think that this has been a pattern of behavior, check out this quote from Dr James Dobson of Focus on the Family in reaction to Mr Bush's new complacence with the Defense of Marriage Act:
If Republicans do what they've done in the past, which is say, 'Thanks so much for putting us in power: now we don't want to talk to you any more', they will pay a serious price.
Really? Why should the GOP take Christians seriously this time?
Sunday, January 23, 2005
Dr James Dobson of Focus on the Family has issued a warning for parents that this video is published by an organization "that's determined to promote the acceptance of homosexuality among our nation's youth". That is a pretty strong statement about a video that makes no mention of sexuality, homosexuality, "two mommies", etc. So what does Dr Dobson object to? Apparently, to this "Tolerance Pledge", found on WAFF's website:
Tolerance is a personal decision that comes from a belief that every person is a treasure. I believe that America's diversity is its strength. I also recognize that ignorance, insensitivity and bigotry can turn that diversity into a source of prejudice and discrimination.
To help keep diversity a wellspring of strength and make America a better place for all, I pledge to have respect for people whose abilities, beliefs, culture, race, sexual identity or other characteristics are different from my own.
The We Are Family Foundation asks, as a part of the post-9/11 healing process, that we reach deep enough inside ourselves to find a basic respect for the humanity of others. Dr Dobson apparently believes that such a basic respect is so insidious that he's spoken out against this video and singled out SpongeBob SquarePants in the process. And now groups comprising the Christian Right have established something of a track record of attacking asexual cartoon characters for their apparent "pro-gay" agendas. (Remember that purple Teletubby?)
Although I respect Dr Dobson's right to his beliefs on homosexuality, I think his reaction to this particular video is entirely disproportionate. I also think it is unfortunate that he believes that it is un-Christian to have a basic respect for those we may disagree with, because attitudes like that that led to the tragic murder of Matthew Shepherd.
Saturday, January 15, 2005
Fast forward a couple thousand years and there are fish on millions of cars all over the United States, but the meaning of the fish has apparently changed. Now the fish seems to mean that the driver believes in Creationism and we’ve launched an all-out “bumper war” against evolution. Darwinists came up with their own Darwin fish, and we came up with a Truth fish that was big enough to eat their Darwin fish. Then they fought back with a T-Rex!
Take a really good look at that T-Rex emblem if you haven’t already. That dinosaur is actually eating our fish. They think they’ve proven that Christianity is a myth because they have dinosaurs. We’ve set up an argument that says that one and only one of the following can be true: (1) God created the earth in seven days, and there were no dinosaurs involved; or (2) Darwin was right, and there is no God. This seems to be exactly the fear of the Cobb County school board in Georgia, except the war there is over textbooks instead of bumper decals.
Why are we fighting this fight? If I weren’t so loathe to participate in this war altogether, I’d put a Jesus fish and a Darwin fish on my car. The two beliefs do not have to be mutually exclusive, and we are creating barriers to people learning about our faith. We are alienating nonbelievers because of the views that some of us hold about Creation before we can even get to the important part: the Good News about Jesus Christ!
In the New Testament, Jesus says that we need to believe & trust in him in order to be saved; he did not say there would be a Creation litmus test at the gates of Heaven. Let’s focus on the important stuff and save the details for spirited debate with other believers.
WASHINTON, D.C.— Christian Independents claim another victory as they have reached a compromise on their coalition bill with Democrats for this legislative season. The Christian Independents’ biggest priority for the bill was funding HIV vaccinations for preschool-aged children in low-income families. In turn, the Christian Independents have agreed to support the Democrats’ top priority of further reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the United States over the next 12 years.
Senate Leader Loretta Beal, CI-Nevada, said, “We promised Christian voters in our campaigns last year that we would finally help the most vulnerable victims of this terrible disease, and voters responded by entrusting us with an unprecedented 16 senate seats. Working with Democratic leadership on this issue has been very productive, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s vote.”
After last November’s election, Republicans hold 43 senate seats, the Democrats 41, the Christian Independents 16. As a result, both of the major parties have agreed to work on coalition bills with the Christian Independents to get their top legislative priorities passed. Republicans and Christian Independents begin working on their coalition bill in two weeks.
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
This article provides some compelling commentary on America's brand of Christianity.
Enjoy, and let me know what you think!
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
I read a letter to the editor in the Citizen Times today that mentioned this scripture for the benefit of the Christians who helped to re-elect our president:
(Proverbs 6:16-19 ) There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.
I've discussed my views on hate in an earlier post, but I thought this letter served as an interesting reminder that there are things that are detestable to God besides those we hear about most often from some vocal sects.
Monday, January 10, 2005
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...
Check it out & let me know what you think!
Thursday, January 06, 2005
Think about the many conversations you’ve participated in that went something like this:
“Let me get this straight, you think you’re going to Heaven just because you believe in Jesus?”It’s interesting, isn’t it? Jesus doesn’t treat us fairly; rather, he died on the cross to pay the price for our sins. All we have to do is believe and trust in him. Can you imagine if he did treat us fairly? I shudder to even think about it…
“And you don’t have to do anything? You’re just saved by the grace of God if you believe in Jesus?”
“So you’re telling me that you could be a sinner you’re entire life and then suddenly believe in Jesus, and you’re saved?”
“But…that’s not fair!”
We’ve been given this amazing gift, and even we Christians still want to be treated fairly. There is a story in the New Testament that clearly illustrates this desperate desire of ours: the Prodigal Son. Usually when people talk about this story, they concentrate on the son who leaves & returns; but I want to focus on the son who stayed with his father. When the prodigal son returns from having wasted his share of the father’s fortune, the son who stayed cannot believe that their father would throw the prodigal son a party to celebrate & welcome his return. In fact, the son who stayed becomes so angry that he refuses to go into the party at all. After all, this isn’t fair! The prodigal son doesn’t deserve a party!
So, to wrap this back around to my last post about the Christian Coalition: “fairness” is a perfectly legitimate reason for secular conservatives to argue that what’s theirs is theirs and that they shouldn’t have to share anything of theirs with those who don’t deserve it. But Christian? I still don’t see it. Jesus never promised us fair (and thank God for that!), so I still don’t understand how fighting for tax cuts for the wealthiest among us is one of the CC’s top seven goals for this year. It may not be fair to share our wealth with the poor and the needy, but I believe it’s what Jesus would have us do.
I welcome your comments.
Tuesday, January 04, 2005
The first is the CC's goal of "making permanent the 2001 federal tax cuts including the marriage penalty tax cut and increase in the child tax credit". The second is its goal of "passing reform of the Social Security program including optional private accounts". I am really confused as to how these are Christian issues. They are definitely fiscally conservative issues, but Christian?
And I'm not trying to say that either of those goals is particularly anti-Christian, but why do they need to be goals of "America's largest Christian grassroots organization" in the first place? Why is it necessarily a Christian aim to reduce this country's revenue by protecting the income of the absolute wealthiest? Why is it necessarily Christian to force change to the safety net that protects this nation's elderly this year, when the program is still solvent for decades to come? Why are these two tax goals so important to the Christian Coalition that they have made the Top Seven list for 2005?
I can find two references to the actual paying of taxes in the new testament: Matthew 17:24-27 and Matthew 22:15-22. And in both of these, Jesus seems to shrug and say, "Well, pay your taxes."
So what's my point? Well, I think it is this: if as a fiscal conservative you believe that either or both of those goals ought to be accomplished this year -- great; however, if you believe those two goals are worthy of our vote because you believe in Christ, I'd love to know why. (Seriously -- please post!) I think I've touched on this before, but if you vote based on what your faith tells you to do, I urge you not to vote for one party's agenda part and parcel because one Christian lobby tells you it's the Christian thing to do.