Category Archives: Politics

My Church Started Speaking Another Language (and it wasn’t unknown tongues)

Rodolfo has been taking care of my yard for three or four years. He does a great job and is one of the hardest working guys I know. I see him all over the neighborhood, mowing and trimming grass. He tends to residential lawns as well as commercial property. We got hooked up because he was doing my next-door neighbor’s yard and I needed someone. I caught him one day and suggested he could make us both a good deal since our yards were essentially one. He agreed.

He no longer does the yards of any of my immediate neighbors, but he still does mine. I’ve increased what I pay him, not because he has ever asked for more but just because I thought it was more fair.

Rodolfo is probably about 50 years old, has a couple of daughters in college, and a wife who sometimes works with him. He has long hair that hangs in a ponytail halfway down his back. Also, he speaks less English than I speak Spanish. Yet we communicate. If I need him to do something that requires complex explanation, I’ll leave a message on his phone and his daughter will call back and explain to her dad what I need. Done, it’s taken care of.Language

I like Rodolfo, and I think he likes me. We try to communicate beyond, “Buenos Dias,” and a few arm waves, but we don’t get much further. Until one of us bites the bullet and learns the language, Rodolfo and I will never be close friends. Communication is an integral part of relationships.

At the other end of the spectrum are those who build a relationship strictly on language and very little else. I guess the clearest example of this is our Facebook friends. I have 1,143 Facebook friends. I know that a few of that number have died, and a high percentage of those still living have never been in the same room with me at any time in our lives. We are friends only in the sense that we speak a common language.

I’ve lost many Facebook friends over the years because of the language I speak on Facebook. To be honest, none of my siblings are on my Friend’s List. They’ve never said anything, but I don’t think they like my politics. Since we speak a different language, we find it challenging to be Facebook Friends. (Don’t worry, in real life we are good.)

Only relating to those who speak the same language would be boring and unfulfilling. Who would do my yard for me? I guess I could hire some high school kid to mow the grass, but I’m not sure we would communicate any better.

If you only relate to those who speak the same language, you will find yourself isolated from much of the world. Do it long enough, and you essentially become useless to the world, since the only thing you know is the same things your friends already know. That’s why it’s dangerous to get all your news and information from one source and surround yourself with only people who see the world the same way you do. When that occurs, you don’t actually have a relationship; all you have is a common language.

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The Democrats’ Strategy to Re-Elect Trump

Imagine two kids on the playground in an argument. It doesn’t matter what they’re arguing about; the point is that someone has to win. That’s the whole point of arguing. Most arguments don’t have a clear winner, so it can go on indefinitely. After exhausting all reasoning, one kid will say something like, “Yeh, but my Dad’s stronger than your Dad.”

You know the next line, “No he’s not, my Dad’s stronger!”

“Well, my Dad’s faster than yours.”

“No, my Dad’s the fastest!”

There’s no reasonable end to this dispute because whatever position is taken by one disputant, the other will take the opposite.Election

This childhood arguing style has been adopted by Democrats and puts them in danger of making them irrelevant and out of touch with the majority of people. You can see this pattern with almost every issue. In fact, I might even suggest that President Trump is aware of what is happening and using it to cause Democrats to paint themselves into a corner. It pains me to say it, but he might be outsmarting his opponents.

Let me explain how it works as we take a look at the major issues.

The issue that began Trump’s political career was immigration. He fired the initial shot as he descended an escalator into a pack of reporters to announce his candidacy. The conversation quickly morphed into building a border wall and deporting all illegal immigrants living in the country. After more than two years of pushing and shoving, back and forth claiming that one side is better than the other, it was announced this weekend that people in the country illegally will be rounded up and shipped out.

In response, the Democrats had to support what they have chosen as their strategy, they quickly moved to the opposite extreme. Speaker Pelosi labeled this action as immoral because it is designed to “terrorize children and tear families apart.” She went on to explain to illegals how to use their rights to avoid being deported.

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Patriotism is Not Militarism

When did patriotism become militarism? The dictionary definition of militarism is “the tendency to regard military efficiency as the supreme ideal of the state and to subordinate all other interests to those of the military.” It seems that many Americans are content to define patriotism as nothing more than supporting the military.

As we commemorate the Fourth of July, Independence Day, it should be a celebration of freedom, not military power. Freedom is the greatest possession we have because of our citizenship. Preceding generations fought wars to secure and preserve that freedom, but that doesn’t mean we celebrate the warfare.

The last war fought in order to maintain our freedom was World War II. All the wars we have fought since then have done little to preserve that freedom. In my lifetime, we fought a war in Korea to keep one country from invading another. In Vietnam, we fought against the feared “Domino Effect” of losing a country to communism. Desert Storm was for the purpose of protecting our oil interests in a small country. Beginning in 2001, we have fought the war on terror in Afghanistan and Iraq. You can say that Afghanistan was retaliation against an attack, but Iraq served no purpose at all. After nearly two decades, this war still rages with no end in sight.Militarism

Yet, Independence Day arrives, and we celebrate the war machine as if it’s the only thing worth celebrating. Patriotism is now measured by how much we appreciate the military. If you suggest any improvement that needs to happen in our country, then you are considered unpatriotic, but most importantly, you don’t support our troops. When athletes chose not to stand during the national anthem to protest police violence against blacks, they were accused of hating soldiers. Their protest had nothing to do with the military.

I remember when the Fourth of July was America’s birthday, and we celebrated the life of our nation, not our killing ability. The biggest celebration planned this year is a massive military parade in Washington where our President, like a dictator, can require “his army” to parade before him in a show of force.

Everyone already knows our military is the most powerful. It should be. We spend more than the rest of the world combined to make it possible. But a powerful military is not what makes being an American special. Our country has been at war for half my life, yet not once has our freedom been threatened. Millions of people have died in these senseless wars, and I find it difficult to celebrate the fact that our military can do it all again without missing a beat.

It’s time to celebrate the good things about the United States—things like freedom of speech, a strong resilient economy, a beautiful country with vast open spaces and sprawling cities. It’s time to celebrate our neighborhoods where people gather in ethnic clusters and create eclectic communities. We can celebrate the fact that the United States is a melting pot, a hodgepodge of cultures, lifestyles, appetites, and preferences.

The thing that holds us together is not our military, it’s our freedom. The freedom to be whoever we are or the freedom to be like everyone else. The freedom to say whatever we want or to blend in with the majority. The freedom to go it alone or stay with a group. The freedom to vote however we want without having our patriotism challenged.

And perhaps, most importantly, the freedom to say thank you to our military without acknowledging that they are the most important element of America. Some will be quick to say that if it were not for the military, then we would not have freedom. While that’s probably true, it’s also true that if it were not for freedom, having a military would not be worth much. When you go to a child’s birthday party, you celebrate the child, not the parents who provide and protect, not the teacher who educates, not the policeman who guards. You celebrate the child. All are important, but on the child’s birthday, you celebrate the child.

On America’s birthday, let’s celebrate America, not the military that protects us.

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The Heartbreak of Exposed Sin, or What’s With All this Blackface Stuff?

I grew up in Denver, not in the racially divided south. I remember all the race riots in the late ’60s but racism wasn’t really a part of my world. My first real job was at a radio station in downtown Denver. The station played what was known then as “soul music.” Today, it would probably be “hip hop,” although I know little about music genres. I reported the news. Along with a guy called “Funky Frank,” we were the only two white guys who worked at the station, and I never gave it any thought. The only roommate I had in college was black.

When it was time to go to seminary, Sharon and I moved to Louisville, Kentucky, and I experienced my initial encounters with segregation. One experience that stands out clearly was when a friend went to interview with a church in Georgia about being their pastor. He told me that the only question he was asked was what he would do if a black man wanted to join the church. This was about the time that Jimmy Carter’s church in Georgia was in the news because black people wanted to join.Blackface

I was flabbergasted that my friend wasn’t upset about the question. He was from Georgia, so he wasn’t surprised. I told him that it would have been the only question they would ever ask me because I would immediately leave. I’ve always been kind of hot-tempered that way.

They did invite him to be the pastor, and later when we visited, I came across something else new to me. All the white people in town sent their kids to private schools, so they didn’t have to attend a segregated school. Although his only child at the time was young, the church promised to provide the funds for private school when he became school age.

This would have been in the mid-’70s. In my own naive world, I thought racism was a thing of the past. It wasn’t, and it still isn’t.

Now, here we are in 2019 holding people from the south accountable for things they did back in those days. It certainly doesn’t surprise me that people were doing racist things at that time, it was their way of life. I doubt if you must look very hard to find a politician in Virginia, or Georgia, or Alabama, or a myriad of other places in the south who grew up believing they were better than blacks.

To be honest, I’m a bit conflicted about whether dragging up the embarrassing past is a good thing. All of us have done things in the past that were stupid, and we don’t want them to be used against us now that we have more sense. If you didn’t do something stupid when you were young, then you were probably boring and had few friends.

On the other hand, if what you did was something that continues to cause hurt and embarrassment then you probably need to do something about it. For example, if you made an unwanted pass toward a girl when you were in college, it might be a good idea to apologize and seek her forgiveness before you are forced into contrition by outside forces. In other words, don’t wait until you’re caught before making something right.

A politician today has known for years that dressing up in blackface is wrong and hurtful to many. The apology should have been made years ago. Since it wasn’t, now they must face the music. Admittedly, some who turned out to be good people when they finally matured are going to be dragged down by all of this. However, if they really are good people, perhaps a confession prior to getting caught would have been helpful.

James 1:16 provides some helpful guidance about the value of being honest within a community: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

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The War on Christmas is Over

The U.S. war with Japan came to an abrupt end when two powerful bombs were dropped on the island nation, and thousands were killed. It was unmistakable that the only alternative to surrender was death. Some wars end that way—with a big bang. Other times, wars just kind of fizzle out. People look around and realize there is no longer any reason to fight.

There has been an enormous amount of talk the past few years about the War on Christmas. To be totally honest, the only ones I hear talking about it are a few sour headed Christians who seem to be upset that the rest of the world doesn’t celebrate Christ at Christmas. Apparently, Happy Holidays don’t belong in their world.War on Christmas

I started to think about this so-called “War on Christmas,” and it dawned on me that the war is already over. I looked around and paid attention to the evidence, and sure enough, it appears the Christians have lost the war.

As an observer of culture, this is my list of evidence that Christians have lost the War on Christmas:

  1. Christmas Eve services at church begin as early as 1:00, or in some cases this year, on Sunday the 23rd. If I’m not mistaken, the word “eve” refers to the evening before an event. Anything that happens before 6:00 pm on the 24th is not an evening event. Of course, the reason we start so early is that people have too much other stuff to do on Christmas Eve—Santa is on the way. A Christmas Eve service in the early afternoon is like an Easter Sunday service on Saturday—oh wait, some already do that as well.
  2. The highlight of Christmas is not Christ but giving gifts to one another. Use all the metaphorical language you like, but the bottom line is that giving gifts to one another at Christmas is not a representation of God’s gift to us.
  3. Jesus is an extremely minor part of the way we do Christmas. Most of our attention is given to family, decorations, food, gifts, shopping, and all the other stuff that fills our malls our family rooms.
  4. Church Christmas programs are over in early December because people don’t have time as Christmas day draws near.

If you think that Christians haven’t already lost the War on Christmas, you are like the Japanese soldiers found hiding in island caves two decades after Hiroshima. You haven’t heard the news that we surrendered years ago. Before you post that next meme about the War on Christmas, make sure Christ is more than an afterthought during your celebration.

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Fiction is Not as Strange as Fact

Way back, well before my time, American author Sinclair Lewis wrote a novel with the title, “It Can’t Happen Here.” It was 1935 to be precise. It’s not unusual for a novel to be colored by the current historical situation of the day when they are written, and that’s certainly true with Lewis’ book.

Hitler was coming to power in Germany and fascism was spreading around Europe. In the United States, a wild card from Louisiana named Huey Long was making preparations to run for president in the ’36 election. However, he was assassinated shortly before the novel was published.fact fiction

The story is about a character named Berzelius Windrip, more frequently referred to as Buzz. Windrip defeated FDR in the primary and was eventually elected as President. His campaign was based on creating fear and promising a return to patriotism and traditional American values. Does that last sentence sound familiar to you?

The similarities between a fictional President and our current President nearly 80 years later are eerie. Here’s a list of some of them:

  • Had a ghostwritten book that was a big seller and made him popular
  • Wife not involved in his campaign, stayed home to raise the kids
  • A strong supporter of veterans
  • The New York Times was anti-Windrip
  • Most religious periodicals wrote that he had been called of God
  • Strong emphasis on patriotism
  • Promises to return the country to greatness and prosperity

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The Handmaid’s Tale: Is It Fact or Fiction?

I confess. I got hooked on watching “The Handmaid’s Tale” the past two seasons. I’m not sure of the original attraction, especially since it’s a hard show to watch. I don’t mean the acting or production is terrible; what I mean is that the story is painful to accept. For some, it seems like the setting is too far-fetched to suggest the possibility, but it is possible to see strands of realism flowing throughout the setting and plot.

Margaret Atwood who wrote the story that inspired the TV show said that she had a rule in place as she wrote. She did not “include anything that human beings had not already done in some other place or time.” In other words, she wasn’t making this stuff up. She merely rearranged attitudes and events that already exist and bundled them together in a new story.

Perhaps that explains my fascination with the show. To be honest, as I watched, I kept seeing the fringes of fundamentalist Christianity. Listen to how Atwood described the Nation of Gilead which is the setting for the story:

The group-activated hangings, the tearing apart of human beings, the clothing specific to castes and classes, the forced childbearing and the appropriation of the results, the children stolen by regimes and placed for upbringing with high-ranking officials, the forbidding of literacy, the denial of property rights—all had precedents, and many of these were to be found, not in other cultures and religions, but within Western society, and within the “Christian” tradition itself. (I enclose “Christian” in quotation marks, since I believe that much of the Church’s behavior and doctrine during its two-millennia-long existence as a social and political organization would have been abhorrent to the person after whom it is named.)Handmaid

            It’s almost as if the story is ripped from the headlines as they say. The underlying premise is that men seize control over women. Look at the current issues as they are dealt with in Gilead.

  • Abortion – In Gilead, men determine how and when a woman becomes pregnant. A woman does not even have access to birth control without a man’s approval.
  • Children – In Gilead, children are separated from their parents and given to those who are more deserving. After watching what our government did recently with immigrant children is it far-fetched to see something like this happening. The Attorney General even defended the practice by quoting Scripture.
  • Rape and Sexual Assault – The lot of a Handmaid is to be raped by the man of the house where she has been assigned. If she is fortunate to become pregnant, she is removed from the child once the baby is weaned. There was no “metoo” movement in Gilead.
  • Subjugation of Women – The nation of Gilead is divided into various castes, and in each class, the women are subservient to the men in that level. This is not unlike many fundamentalist Christian churches today. They allow the Pastor’s wife to be considered an “equal” with her husband, but she is not equal in the sense of function or authority. A favorite Scripture is that there is “neither male nor female” in Christ except when it comes to function within the church.
  • Streets are patrolled by heavily armed guards. Several times they shoot and kill those who step out of line. How often do we hear similar stories today – a man killed by police for being in the wrong place, being somewhere he should not have been.

All this is happening under the guise of God’s Word. When the commander was raping his handmaid (with his wife’s assistance I might add), he quoted Genesis 30, “When Rachel saw that she could not give Jacob children, she became jealous of her sister. She said to Jacob, Give me children or I’ll die!”

When one of the handmaids is being disciplined by holding her hand over a hot stove, an allusion is made to I Peter 5:10, “…but only in suffering will you find grace…”

At a marriage ceremony the words recorded in Genesis, “be fruitful and multiply” are cited as the primary focus of marriage.

As I watch the show, I can’t help but see a possible future for our “Christian” world. I also choose to use the word in quotes like Atwood because I see much of what is happening today under the banner of Christ as being abhorrent to Jesus.

The TV show has already gone past Atwood’s novel, which I’m also reading. For the sake of my own sanity, I hope the current writers choose to bring in a happy ending. However, I’m not sure how that can happen without a complete revolution taking place in Gilead. Perhaps there’s also a lesson for our nation about what has to happen before we can expect everything to be fine in the end.

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