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March 11, 2008

Comments

Mary Stoy

Wow. I had heard rumors, but this video is "in your face." Globama.

Randy

As you may recall, Obama made a statement last Monday, March 3rd, which made national headlines. It was in response to questions about his connections with the Muslim religion. His response was, “I am a devout Christian” and “I pray to Jesus every night.” He may not have any strong ties with the Muslim religion any longer, but his understanding of Christianity is distorted and false. Here is another quote from that recent campaign speech at Hocking College in Nelsonville, Ohio. “I believe the “Sermon on the Mount” justifies legal recognition of same-sex unions. And I favor legalized abortion and that doesn’t make me any "less a Christian." Furthermore, he also said in the same speech, “I don't think it [that is, a same-sex union] should be called marriage, but I think that it is a legal right that they should be recognized by the state. If people find that controversial, then I would just refer them to the Sermon on the Mount, which I think is, in my mind, for my faith, more central than an obscure passage in Romans." Of course, the passage he refers to is in Romans is where Paul condemns homosexual acts as unnatural and sinful.”
http://www.cnsnews.com/ViewPolitics.asp?Page=/Politics/archive/200803/POL20080303b.html
http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/new.php?n=11991
http://hughhewitt.townhall.com/blog/g/51cbc7d2-86c5-48de-811c-a40079a3ce77

I also did some research on his voting record as well. Here’s just a snapshot:
• Supports Roe v. Wade. (Jul 1998)
• He voted against banning partial birth abortion. (Oct 2007)
• Voted NO on constitutional ban of same-sex marriage. (Jun 2006)
• Says it is Ok to expose 6-year-olds to gay couples; they know already. (Sep 2007)
• Supports affirmative action in colleges and government.
• Voted NO on notifying parents of minors who get out-of-state abortions. (Jul 2006)
• Voted NO on confirming both Samuel Alito and John Roberts for Chief Justices of the Supreme Court. (Sep 2005)
http://www.ontheissues.org/Barack_Obama.htm

Although I’m sure many will argue that any reference to an “Obama Messiah” is simply a figure of speech, but it does speak to a larger issue in our world today, especially in America. That is, there is a huge group of people who are wearing the label “Christian” that are drawn more to the "fluff teaching” of some nut named “Obama" than to the “tough teaching” by the true Messiah named “Jesus.”


AC

Who made the video? It doesn't have the feel of a video that the Obama campaign would endorse, let alone release.

The images of cocaine, in particular, would probably be the last thing they'd want to remind voters of. Plus, the video, while clearly identifying a groundswell for Obama, also has a strong derisive edge. The sarcastic song and the lemming pictures hardly paint a favorable picture of Obama's momentum.

Anyway, if my instincts are correct: that someone either hostile to the Obama campaign made this video, that sort of rule's out this add being a case of pure "Bar-ack-adocio." (pun intended)

Jim Fleming

AC,
Yes, I think you are right about the video. Click the first link above and read some of Obama's endorsements (in the right hand column). See if you don't think that the parody of the video actually answers to reality. The endorsements may be using "messianic language" as a metaphor. But even if I grant them that, they still seem to reach far enough to be disturbing. Check 'em out.

Jeff

Bleh...honestly, this is all I hear about every day at work. I generally go out of my way to avoid any political interaction as much as possible.

Alex Marshall

I'm not entirely convinced that a person's stance on particular political issues (especially highly controversial and divisive ones) really determines whether they are worth voting for. As recent politics has aptly demonstrated, even the president is not able to dictate what policies he puts in place, he has to work with a lot of other people. So the ability to work with people, in other words character and charisma, strikes me as a more important in a candidate than their particular political views, because in the end, they are going to have to compromise some (or maybe a lot) on those. So in that analysis, I find Obama very appealing, along with McCain and Huckabee. So if it came down to a Obama v. McCain race, I would be pretty satisfied either way, but that's just me, I'm sure.

As for the relationship between political issues and Christianity, I think the religious conservative movement is guilty of two fundamental flaws. First, I think they have assumed that Christianity is in a place to make moral judgments for people of other communities. In a society that intentionally separates religion from government for the sake of religious freedom, it seems to me that moral judgments in legislation should be made based on appeals to objective and universally (or virtually so) held moral principles. So appealing to a position that is fundamentally Christian (ie, that marriage was designed a certain way by God) doesn't seem adequate in our legal system. Secondly, I think there is a mistaken notion that a handful of issues are the sole issues of import to Christians. Christianity has a lot to bear on a lot of issues. For instance, Christianity’s concern for the poor and oppressed, the marginalized, we might say, could have significant impact on how you view economic policy. I’ve known several very committed Christians who were practically socialist for this reason. Or environmental issues should certainly be influenced by the Christian teaching that humans have a responsibility to be good stewards of the earth. I think Christianity has made a political mistake in this country by focusing on a couple of issues and therefore siding with one party on all their stances that may or may not be right. Not arguing for socialism or extreme environmentalism, by the way, just saying there is more to focus on than the one or two issues that seem to be all that gets talked about in Christian circles. Especially when we seem to struggle to justify our stances on those issues in objective terms that can be applied across the board in our society.

AC

Just a few thoughts about what you said Alex:

As a practical matter, I agree that today's candidate is unlikely to make any bigger short-term splash in the political pond than his equally grid-lock-bound opponent.

It's worth noting, however, that from powerhouse presidents like Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and FDR to obscure ones like James Polk, each had profound and far-reaching impact on the current state of the U.S. So, how can you really know if one man will make a difference or not before he has?

Anyway, biblical precedent makes it clear that man is accountable for the leadership he selects. God was not pleased that Israel preferred a human king to Him; those who follow anti-christ will be accountable for that affiliation. (You think it's to Germany's credit that Hitler became their leader?) A question arises about who a committed Christian can endorse in good conscience. I, for one, cannot endorse a candidate who finds the murder of infants acceptable.

Even if that were not so, I would still have a problem endorsing a candidate whose policies are at worst disingenuous and at best naive. Jimmy Carter was a moral person; he was also unfit to run the country. Even if a candidate is a good man, he's not necessarily also a wise one.

Alex Marshall

I can agree with a lot of that. I definitely think whoever wins this election will have a significant impact on a number of issues. But even looking at history, it seems to me a lot of the influence of the greatest presidents has been because of their character, not necessarily their policy stances on campaign. For instance, Lincoln never campaigned intending to abolish slavery. He was not an abolitionist. Situations forced him to act otherwise, and he handled the issues of his day with great shrewdness based on (I think) his character and his ability to compromise and work with others. FDR very often didn't get what he wanted out of congress, or when he did discovered it didn't work like he had hoped. But his character and charisma helped him keep a nation rolling through some of the most challenging issues it ever faced.

I would say I definitely disagree with Obama on abortion, but I also don't think this is an issue that the president is able to contribute a lot to at the moment. It is almost entirely controlled by the courts, and given the current political climate, a republican president is not going to have much luck getting a conservative judge appointed and a democrat is probably not going to do much to change the composition of the courts. So that issue seems pretty stagnant to me for a while (at least till the next election cycle). Looking at other issues, I can't say I agree with every stance of any candidate out there, but I would say that in addition to the charisma Obama exerts, he also seems much more willing to reason through things and make informed decisions rather than just spit out the party line. Likewise for McCain. That attribute of their characters is what most appeals to me.

I think the most naive candidates in this campaign were Edwards and Huckabee. Edwards simply is not a good politician or communicator. Huckabee was a very good communicator, and is very open and honest (which is admirable), but I think that he also showed definite signs of being naive about how things work on a national level (picking up a very libertarian idea, the fair-tax plan, for instance). Don't think I would describe any of the current candidates that way, though I'm sure some would disagree with me.

Jim Fleming

First, a correction and update. The link labeled "order T-shirts here" was a parody. Apparently, the site has been shut down - not sure why or by whom - but by clicking on the link you can get the originator's description.

Alex,
You summarize this as flawed thinking: "[Assuming] that Christianity is in a place to make moral judgments for people of other communities." Are you saying that a biblically informed moral standard is irrelevant to people who are not part of the "Christian community?" Doesn't Col. 3:5-6 teach that rejecting God's standards does not absolve one from accountability to them?

Jeff

I think the flaw that Alex is leading to is that, according to society today, Truth is irrelevant, Christianity's basis of moral law is irrelevant. The best way to point this out is in the issue of same-sex marriage. Of course we, as Christians, know that it doesn't matter what the government ultimately decides because we know that God mandated that marriage be between one man and one woman. But when the debate comes up, those that take this stance are disregarded out of hand, as though the Truth that God mandates doesn't matter to today's government. The point is that people today think the government is to be separate from matters of faith instead of one supplementing the other, so if we DO try to make a moral judgment based on what the Bible says, we are not considered relevant and quite literally dismissed.

It's been my experience that the "Christian Powers That Be" are actually a hinderance to witnessing to those who are opposed to God. We still act like we're relevant, that we should have an impact on government simply because of our faith and it's just simply not the case anymore. We're considered thugs, pushy, overbearing in the general society and we haven't adapted. We're the Bob Knight of the lobbying community, unable to see that the game has changed and we need to alter our coaching style in order to still make an impact.

...wow. Really didn't mean to get on the soapbox.

AC, and maybe Jim too, I'd like to see the Biblical evidence you made mention of that says we are responsible for the leaders we choose.

Alex Marshall

I can agree with a lot of Jeff's assessment from my own experience as well.

I also look at this from a historical perspective. Historically, when Christianity has wielded the political power to write legislation based on its morals, the results have been horrible atrocities- ie. the inquisition, religious wars, etc. In large part, this contributed the individualistic ideas of the enlightenment that turned religion into a personal thing rather than a "community" thing. While I don't necessarily agree with all of that philosophy, I do recognize the serious danger in a religious group dominating politics- look no further than the Islamic republics of the Mid-East to see that threat is still alive today! I think in large part, the corruptions of theocracies past and present creates a huge aversion among Americans to the idea of legislating morality that makes any effort to do so from a distinctly Christian perspective into "bigotry."

So I am not saying that Christian morals are irrelevant to those outside Christianity. But I do think that we should be careful how we approach these discussions. If we are backing something in the legal/political sphere in this society, which is the ultimate embodiment of enlightenment thought, we need to do so on an appeal to an objective principle rather than a distinctly Christian principle to avoid the charge of corruption. If that cannot be done or cannot be done well, then politics may not be the right venue. I think on the majority of these issues, that is probably the case.

Randy

Alex, please, step away from the class notes for a moment and deal with the issues at hand. For example, regarding your post to AC, are you saying you think Obama would be a better leader of this country, based on the “charisma he exerts and willingness to reason through things and make informed decisions” more so than Huckabee would have been had he still been in the race, mainly because of his naivety? That’s what I got from your post. If so, at least from a biblical viewpoint, I see nothing reasonable or informed about Obama’s interpretation of the “Sermon on the Mount.” What is reasonable or well thought out about using Christianity as part of your platform and then using Jesus’ teaching to condone abortion or same-sex unions? Again, he is the one that said, “I am a devout Christian” and “I pray to Jesus every night.” Finally, keep in mind, Light-Work is primarily for readers who “are interested in the Bible and want to talk about ways that life and truth intersect” I beginning to wonder if you and I we are about to have a head-on crash at this intersection.

Jeff

“are interested in the Bible and want to talk about ways that life and truth intersect” - I missed where that's quoted from. I looked up top and saw, "Where biblical principles illumine how to do good."

Randy

First sentence following What's Light-work?

If you are interested in the Bible and want to talk about ways that life and truth intersect, light-work is the place.

Jeff

D'oh! You're right. I completely missed that. Though I will also offer that the next line says the posts start the discussion, not that they ARE the discussion.

Just trying to keep it real. And keep tensions relatively low.

ms

Alex, after hearing many accusations regarding Christianity's role in the Crusades and the Inquisition, I had to do some research. In fact, those horrific confrontations were perpetrated by followers of popes, not true followers of Christ.

Jeff

MS, even if that is the case (that they weren't true followers of Christ...seriously, you feel comfortable judging that?), they still used Christianity as a tool for their power. And if you'll notice, Alex said "when Christianity yields the political power," not when Christians wield it. And because those things happened through Christian circles, even if you or I can make the distinction you asserted, people who don't know Christ can't or don't. I've had a number of people bring up these things when I witness to them with the attitude of, "I can't even consider your God because look at all the violence that has happened under Christian influence."

But back to the point...if people used Christianity as a tool for their personal power back then, even if they weren't true followers of Christ, how can we be sure that the leaders of Christian lobbying (the modern equivalent) aren't doing the same?

...I continued talking about my experiences, but in the end, it doesn't benefit anyone for me to write it so I deleted it. And I think I'll leave it where it's at.

Randy

Jeff, regarding mixing religion with politics, you have presented an excellent reason to steer clear, no flee, from the likes of Obama and his pastor of 20 years, Jeremiah Wright. Do some research on this and you will be shocked!

Jeff

Oh, after listening to Rush, Hannity and Mike Fleming (constantly) for the past five months, I have no doubt. And truth is, I have no dog in the race because I choose not to vote. But that power-wielding can be seen from both sides.

ms

Jeff, I am not judging hearts; I am describing behaviors. There may have been true believers participating in un-Christlike acts during times of horror, but, at those times, they were not following the dictates of Christ; they were obeying one or more popes. Christ does not lead His followers down those paths.

Jeff

I definitely agree with that. It's just that the "powers that were" dictated action. When it comes down to it, is the lobbying that Focus on the Family does really that different? (by method I mean, not necessarily by action)

This reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend of mine, a devout Southern Baptist. I told him that if the Catholic Church had been the Baptist Church instead from day one, the Baptist Church would be just as corrupt as the Catholic Church is now. He didn't like that assertion too much.

ms

Jeff, I honestly know very little about FoF. I belong to a relatively small, nondenominational church because my experience has been that institutions (political, professional, educational, religious, commercial) often self-destruct when they get too big. Many seem to lose sight of their original goals and push for growth without direction, creating unhealthy power struggles, and so on. I thought of my last employer as "Psychotech" for good reason.

Randy

Jeff,
I understand why your friend didn't like your comparison. Wouldn't you say that is quite a leap in logic, considering the Baptist Church is among several others that were part of the protestant reformation? Capable, yes, but I don't recall the 16th century protestants committing the same atrocities. Also, I take it you feel that organizations like Focus on the Family are counter productive to Christianity? If so, what would be your advice to James Dobson to become more effective?

Jeff

MS, as far as what you said right there, that could very well have come from my mouth. Except my last employer was KLove...but it still applies.

Forgive me for the length coming up...

Randy, yeah, I do understand that there are holes in my comparison. My point to him was that if ANY church (or denomination or segment or whatever term you could think of) would have been the first church of significance (meaning non-persecuted, governmentally approved) like the Catholic Church was, the same issues of power, manipulation and corruption would have been prevalent in its history. I just used the Baptist part of it to push my friend's buttons. My implication to him was that it's a man problem, not a Church problem, and that it really is true that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Thankfully, we know that Christ is the solution to that downward spiral.

To the second question, I'm going to reference FOTF and another ministry XXXChurch. They're pretty much polar opposites as far as ministry goes, but my problem with them is an issue of entitlement.

FOTF (for example) acts as though because it has a certain status (ministry size) and because of certain stances (based on Biblical principles), that it as an entity acts as though it should be the one to tell you what to do about something as though they are the voice of God. Or more to the point, that if you don't agree with their actions, you aren't really a follower of Christ. The thing is, I am almost on the completely same page with them (I called them about trying to find a Christian counselor in the area...would I do that with a ministry that I didn't agree with?)...I just have a different take on how to address those issues. But in listening to the broadcasts, dealing with FOTF employees and reading up on them, the understanding I've always gotten is that if I'm not board completely, I'm not doing what God wants me to do.

XXXChurch (at xxxchurch.com...it's completely safe) has a different problem with entitlement. The problem is that they are shunned by mainstream ministries (like, specifically, FOTF) and they think they are entitled to be considered significant to mainstream Christian culture. The bitterness kind of seeps out of everything I've read them blog about and they've kind of set themselves up as opposition to mainstream Christian ministries. Also, because of this, they've kind of found a home with the emergent church (even moved to be based out of Grand Rapids, MI) and have adopted the "the numbers of people we get to church mean we're important" mentality. They've got a bit of a Napoleonic issue.

So, let me give you two working examples from my life that put me at odds with both these ministries. As I've told you before, I went to see "Brokeback Mountain." I absolutely think that Christians have missed the opportunity to engage in conversation those who don't know Christ with this film (similarly to what Jim mentioned last December about "The Golden Compass"). I'm here to tell you that the message of the story is that if you do not deal with sin in your life, you'll ruin your life. Anyway, that was a tangent...the reason I went to see it was because of a bet that I had with Bev Hart (of Tim, Bev and Bad Dog fame). Ultimately, I lost the bet and my payment was to go see the movie. But the REASON I went to see it was to be able to meet her where she was at. She's a mid-40s lesbian living with a partner (named Angie...pause for irony. End pause.). And if I went to see something that was important to her and we talked about it, eventually it could lead to talking about stuff that was important to me, namely and ultimately life in Christ. Bev got fired a couple months later so I haven't been able to connect with her like I wanted, but I wouldn't have traded the chance in the world. Now generally, Christian ministry would completely shun that tactic with that movie out of hand. Heck, I've heard it as recently as a month ago, even to the point of questioning my faith! But it was the absolute right thing to do, to go where someone is sick with the opportunity to make them well.

I absolutely believe God is the God Most High. He created everything. Jesus is his only son, who paid for my (many, MANY) sins because he died on the cross. He proved that it was taken care of by being raised again. The Bible is absolutely, 100% God's Word, every word and mark there for a reason. Truth can be known and God being Holy and Just is as significant as God being Love. The bad attempt at a "Rademaker Creed" was significant because what I just said at the end, about God being Holy and Just, kind of flies in the face of what XXXChurch believes. There is a real absolute...God is it and he's made it known...and that's something that it seems they're not comfortable with. But it doesn't matter what they're comfortable with if it's true...and it is.

Ummm....I'm going to stop there, not because I can't answer the other question, but because I typed a LOT and it's already 11pm. If I keep going, I might not make it to bed before midnight. But if you want, I can address it later.

Alex Marshall

Jeff, definitely agree with what you've said. And I think you're analogy between contemporary protestants in America and Catholics pre-reformation is more on target than you've admitted.

I'm in Memphis this weekend attending a conference at Mid-America Baptist Seminary. One of the speakers made a statement that was very contrary to what I hear in most settings today, but I think it was a very good thought. This is kinda jump from where this has been going, but I think its relevant... I'm paraphrasing him a little bit: Basically, there are two options for Christianity in the public square today (not just in politics, but that's included). If we continue the course we are on, which is essentially confrontational- we are opposing aspects of the culture we do not agree with- we are quite likely to be completely shut out of the public square in the not so distant future. Not only that, but certain stereotypes that create huge hurdles to evangelism will become even more embedded into peoples perceptions of Christianity, making it much harder to do ministry. The alternative is to meet people where they are and shatter the stereotypes. For instance, this speaker (and this guy is a very conservative scholar who teaches at Dallas Theological Seminary) proposed going to the homosexual community and working/partnering with them to protect free speech/expression. Not only would this completely shatter the stereotypes of Christianity as considering homosexuals sub-human (I exaggerate only a little), but it would open up countless doors for ministry. I think an approach like this, and like what Jeff has been talking about, is the best way for us to approach our involvement in society as a group. I am not saying that Christianity should not be involved in politics. I am saying I think we need to be careful to be involved in ways that are not creating artificial barriers to ministry by painting ourselves as confrontational bigots. This is going to be more and more important as our younger generation rises to power. Obama's movement, for instance, demonstrates very clearly the loss of credibility that Christianity currently has with America's youth, in large part I think because of its involvement in politics over the last 20+ years.

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