Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Same Sex Marriage a Social Issue, Not a Christian Issue

To those of secular or other faithful thinking I apologize in advance; most of this statement can only be supported through Christian theological reasoning:

The Old Testament goes far in speaking against homosexuality, and provides extreme punishment for those actions. The New Testament (The New Covenant) speaks more softly about the issues but does, through the Apostle Paul infused with the Holy Spirit, tell us to "avoid sexual immorality, that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen who do not know God; ... The Lord will punish men for all such sins, ... for God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life." (1 Thessalonians 4: 3-7)

In Romans 1: 18-32 Paul speaks, almost shouts, about God's wrath against mankind for sexual immorality and unnatural relations. It is very evident that Paul saw these things as horribly against God and sure to invoke God's wrath come judgment day.

In the very beginning of the next chapter however, writing to Christians in Rome and all the world, Paul says this: "You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things."

Jesus, in Matthew 5:27-28, says this: "You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

We are all sinners. It is simply a matter of what one's sins are. With Newt Gingrich in an affair while he publicly chastises Bill Clinton for his, who is the greater sinner? Neither. All sin is the same.

In "The Augsburg Confession", a document from 1530 written by Philip Melanchthon that is considered early papers of the Lutheran Church, the theology of Original Sin is this: "(We) ... teach that since the fall of Adam all men begotten in the natural way are born with sin, that is, without the fear of god, without trust in God, and with concupiscence; (Saving some time: "concupiscence" means a powerful feeling of physical desire, or lust) and that this disease, or vice of origin, is truly sin..."

All Christians are sinners. All sin is the same. Don’t use another’s sin as the basis for recrimination, especially in the public eye.

Gay marriage is seen as a church issue only because the church is the place many get married. A church, as a private institution, may choose to marry gays, or may choose not to. Differing churches have differing acceptance of this issue. Gay marriage is but one of many differences of interpretation of God’s Word that are the reasons for diverse denominations within the greater church of Christ. If you seek Faith, regardless of your sinful nature, there is a church there for you. Go, be welcomed, and learn the Word.

Gay civil union is a different matter entirely. In considering laws for or against civil unions among people of the same sex the ONLY consideration is the Constitution and the other laws of this land. America is a country based upon great personal freedoms, not a theocracy. Those that wish to hold religious beliefs are entitled to do so but, while they hold themselves (or are held as may be appropriate) to God’s Law, there is no basis in American law for forcing God’s Law on those outside their faith.

If you are against gay marriage, be so on personal grounds, but don’t bring Christ into it unless you are without sin.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Compare

On 7/9/4 I spent a bit of time viewing the web sites of Bush/Cheney and Kerry/Edwards thinking I would be able to compare the issues as each candidate addresses them. Running a comparison of the lead points from each of the seven items that are comparable:

The Economy:
Bush: “The economy is strong and getting stronger.”
Kerry: “(my) priority will be middle class families who are working hard to cover the mortgage, pay the high cost of health care, child care and tuition, or just trying to get ahead.”
Opinion: Too many jobs have moved overseas. Real wages have dropped. Tax breaks for corporations to build and produce overseas are outrageous.

Compassion:
Bush: “has taken bold steps to tear down the barriers that separate the poor from effective programs.”
Kerry: “will fight to repeal the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans so that we can invest in education and health care.”
Opinion: “Compassion” is a fluff term used to lull Christian and other good people into thinking that many programs previously funded by the government are better off being funded by Christian and other good peoples’ groups. I say let the government do public policy good work taking money from everybody via taxation already in place and let various groups do good with their own money as they see fit.

Health Care:
Bush: “believes that all Americans should have access to affordable, high-quality health care.”
Kerry: “believes that your family’s health is just as important as any politician’s in Washington. That’s why he will give every American access to the health care plan that the President and Members of Congress already have.
Opinion: The health care costs for my family, which I am fortunate to be able to afford, begin with insurance that costs in excess of $9000.00 per year. Insurance companies pay, on average according to my bills, 40-70% less for many prescriptions and services than do people that can’t afford insurance. This is one of the great rip-offs of the American people.

Education:
Bush: “submitted his framework for education reform, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), three days after taking office and secured overwhelming bipartisan support less than a year later.”
Kerry: “believes that we need to invest in our schools instead of giving tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans.
Opinion: The No Child Left Behind initiative has been left behind in the funding debacle. It is a great policy on paper that has been shortchanged so as to be ineffective. We are rightly building schools in Iraq. After all, we destroyed many of them and it is only proper to replace them. Lack of funding is weakening most of our public schools; we are among the least learned of the industrialized world. We need GREAT schools.

Homeland Security/ National Security:
Bush: “The President’s most important job is to protect and defend the American homeland.”
Kerry: “The most basic responsibility of government is to provide for the common defense.”
Opinion: I agree with Senator Kerry’s use of the term “basic”. Of course we must protect ourselves, it should be a given, but greater things must be expected. I see the propagation of war and continual inciting of fear in the citizenry by the current administration as a ploy to keep us from the issues they don’t want us to consider. I point to the fact that the Bush team used two of their seven tabs for basically the same topic as proof of this statement.

Environment:
Bush: “When the government and landowners and conservationists and others work together, we can make dramatic progress in preserving the beauty and quality of our environment.”
Kerry: “has turned a spotlight on the Bush Administration’s rollbacks of our hard-won environmental gains and their outdated, old-economy notions that our environment must be sacrificed in the name of short-term profit.
Opinion: I think it fair to say that President Bush has never looked at an oil well and not thought it one of the most beautiful, profitable, amazing machines he has ever laid eyes on.

Now, is it easier to be the incumbent, or the opposition? Many would say the incumbent has the advantage by being in control of current policy and the daily media events. Some would say the opponent has an advantage by being able to promise more than is deliverable. I say both are true but ask: Do you see much good from the last four years and do you have hope for the next four?

In Matthew 23:11-12 Jesus says: “The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” When I watch the two candidates and think of their personal histories, I most definitely see one that is humble and one that thinks very highly of himself. I certainly see one that has done a life of service and made some mistakes he admits to, while the other hides much of his personal story. I ask you to consider this in your own way.

Dirt

There is too much dirt being thrown in politics these days, especially in this election. What was Dick Cheney thinking to swear publicly at a fellow of public service on the day they were getting together, en masse, to have the yearly Senate photograph taken? What example is he putting forth to anyone aware of his actions?

In July of 2004 I visited the Bush web site and clicked through on “Kerry Flip Flops” and then to “Kerry on Iraq”. This is what I found:

A time line that shows statements made by Senator Kerry starting in November of 1997 and going through to May of 2004. I don’t know how you might interpret it, but I see in the very first date that they have put a quote as if from Senator Kerry in the headline “…We Must Use Force, Unilaterally If Necessary.” But that verbiage doesn’t exist in the textual quotes of Senator Kerry, which do say “…we should always seek to take significant international action on a multilateral rather than a unilateral basis whenever that is possible…” In the next several time points Senator Kerry:

1. Calls on the U.N. to take action in Iraq.
2. Says that it should be official U.S. policy that we want to see Saddam Hussein removed from power.
3. Calls on the global community to take action.
4. Says we need to keep pressure on terrorism globally.
5. Says we cannot allow (Saddam) to prevail in (his quest for WMD)
6. Says that the President should show respect to the process of international diplomacy.
7. Says that the U.S. needs it’s own regime change.
8. Supported the president and troops as we went to war. (May 2003)
9. Declined to comment on possible misleading of the public by the president without all the evidence being in place.
10. Says that the president did mislead the public three days later.
11. Says that he voted to threaten the use of force and that it was wrong to rush to war without building a true international coalition.
12. Voted to support the spending for the rebuilding of Iraq, saying to abandon our troops and recklessly leave Iraq to whatever follows as a result would be irresponsible.
13. Voted against additional funding for military operations, maintenance and medical care.
14. Tells Chris Matthews that he didn’t believe the president took us to war as he should have.
15. Tells Brit Hume that he knew he had to be accountable for his vote.
16. And two remaining comments out of context, completely.

I don’t see any flip-flops her and, if there were, I applaud the senator for having an open mind, taking the time to consider new information as it arrives and having a considered opinion based upon the facts at hand. It is the person that holds on to an opinion regardless of information pointing to the contrary that needs to be rebuked.

As written by Solomon in Proverbs 18:15 “The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out.”

My greater point is that the GOP is still using the tricks that Lee Atwater, the inventor of negative campaigning, put to disgusting use in previous campaigns for the senior Bush. They are pulling quotes out of context, adding one statement as if it were part of another, creating concepts that were never there in the first place and spending millions of dollars to get very convincing content in front of the American public that seems to make sense but has no basis in fact.

Our media has become little but puppets of the respective parties. From my side I prefer CNN and can’t stand to watch Fox and I know the Republicans out there have the opposite take. Sad, isn’t it, that we all can only be informed by preference giving sources. It is up to each of us to gather whatever information we can, accept it with the salt provided, discern our own truth from it and then make up our own minds as to what the real agenda(s) are. That said, Lou Dobbs may be the most altruistic person providing news these days.

Exodus 23:1 says, “Do not spread false reports. Do not help a wicked man by being a malicious witness.”

Swift Boat Veterans, hear this please!

In Luke 6:27-28 Jesus says: “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

We are all allowed to disagree. Freedom of speech is one tenet of our great country. It is the way in which the discussion is spoken, it’s very tone, which sets apart a hissy fit from fairness. It is the way the truth is twisted that makes a mockery of our country.

Diversity

Can a Republican be a Christian? Yes.

Can a Democrat Be a Christian? Yes.

Christianity spans political affiliation, generations, economic status, and many other divisors of people. The forgiveness of Christ is there for everyone willing to accept Him as his or her personal Savior. I think it is in the accepting of Christ that one learns we are to dive deeper into the meaning of God’s grace and the salvation, redemption and forgiveness that Faith in Jesus the Christ offers.

Each of us needs to read the Bible and discern what meaning is there for them personally, but we should do so in diverse groups. It is when people of the same opinion get together and try to interpret anything that they might find themselves down a long and twisty path. The better way to study anything, including the Bible, is with people of disparate opinion. Doing this forces people to consider other possibilities that may not have come forth otherwise and, in that consideration, accept that the understanding they would have come up with themselves is not the only possibility.

Jesus spoke in parables for a reason. I think He wanted his lessons to be general, not specific to any moment or situation, that He wanted us to have to ponder the Word and to have to think about how it applies to our daily lives. Different people have had different events in their lives and can take different meaning from the same scripture. Different Bibles certainly have different interpretations even when created from the same source documents!

I use the New International Version because I like the vast number of different denominations that were part of that translation, and because it is fairly current in it’s language. Regardless of what version of the Bible you own, I urge you to read & discuss it openly and honestly with a group of people that differ in Biblical knowledge, political opinion, education and economic status.

After 11/3/2004

Well, I suppose many would be happy if we would just leave the country, and some would be glad to do so. But that isn’t the answer.

We, as socially responsible Americans and as Christians need to work towards the next election, starting now and working tirelessly through November of 2008.

This is an call to any that have the tools: the understanding of Christ as the example of God wanting each of us in our society to do good for all, to accept Him as their savior, and the desire to share that understanding and turn it into wisdom through action.

We must maintain a hospitable manner. May peace be with you.

We must speak the Gospel from our heart as well as from our mind.

We must seek out uncomfortable situations, i.e., chatting with Republican Christians, and persevere in our conversational debates with them. If you can sow one seed of doubt, you may build a mountain of desire for more information.

We must seek out new believers that have been disenfranchised from the church because of the Republican bias associated there. We must tell them the truth of Christ, the Salvation He offers, His desire for us to “Love Everyone”, and of the social responsibility that should not be ignored.

We must strive for a moderate media, one that doesn’t create headlines simply for the sake of divisiveness. Whenever possible, speak out against the media for taking sides. Ask them why they don’t report “news” anymore and go with “stories” instead. Hold them accountable. An excellent example of this is John Stewart on Crossfire, a clip of which can be seen here:

http://www.ifilm.com/ifilmdetail/2652831 or by searching for John Stewart Crossfire.

Be selfless, be caring, be loving, be kind. Tell the truth. Speak it well.

Do it. Starting now.

Independents

Time for me to admit something – I voted for Ralph Nader in 2000. There were several factors at play, the most important one being that I am in California and polls showed a clear win of by the Democrats by the Electoral College in this state. Did I think Nader could win? Of course not. My vote was a protest vote against the similarity of the two parties. The concept of our nation not needing a third party, but a second one rang true to me. Still does on some fronts. I strongly believe we need to get rid of Political Action Committees and their like. Fund raising needs to be kept minimal. Frequent public open debates should replace the massive advertising blitz that we are subject to. But I digress.

Also, in 2000 I was not as aware of my Christian responsibility as much as I am now. I was what I call a “Sunday Christian”. Having just gotten active with the youth group at my church in the fall of 2000 and diving deeper into the meaning of being a Christian at that time I was still on a stronger political rather than Christian action. It is amazing what a couple years of discovering Christ and His desires for us will do to a person.

I ask each person that might consider an independent for their vote to realize that their single vote could be the difference in deciding our next president. I think the 2 percent of the voters that voted for Mr. Nader in 2004 pulled strongly from the Democratic Party and urge them to make their future votes not a protest vote against the system, but a protest vote against the GOP.

One simple question towards that end: Which do you want more, to protest the system, or four more years of Republican handouts to the wealthy, ideological framing of issues with contrary actions, and further increases to the deficit?

Last thought on this – if those of independent thinking would write their senators, representatives, etc., and demand campaign finance reform and an end to PACs, it would be a huge number of voices being heard that haven’t been heard previously. If you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the problem. Let’s solve this. But let’s change our president first.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Abortion

This is the topic that many people use as a litmus test for their political vote. With very strong opinions on either side. Rabid in fact. For those that I am about to offend, I apologize in advance. I just hope I offend both sides equally. Abortion is wrong. A late term abortion is seen as wrong by more people than an earlier term abortion. Partial birth abortion is certainly a horrific murder as I see it. Abortion in the first trimester, I don’t know. I can only say that: I don’t know.

Before I had children I was much more liberal regarding this matter. I wasn’t knowledgeable about Christ at the time although I called myself a Christian, I just didn’t put the time or effort into even thinking what Christianity meant. Then my wife got pregnant and we were off to Lamaze classes. It was there that I saw a woman with a very small pin on her blouse. It was a pair of feet not much more than a half-inch in size and I was told that this is the size of the feet on a fetus at 10 weeks. I was simply stunned. My realization was that there was probably life at that time.

My sister-in-law was recently pregnant. At 8 weeks into her pregnancy the doctor let her hear the heartbeat. I am amazed again.

I also remember, as a child, hearing of awful things happening when women went to get illegal abortions. There were stories of botched procedures in dirty offices, loss of the woman’s ability to ever have children again, and loss of life of mother and child. Mostly these stories involved people of lesser means, those that couldn’t afford to go places well equipped to provide abortions while they were still outside of the law.

Later in life, when in my teens into my twenties, it was the 70’s; I knew two women that had abortions. One was prior to Roe v. Wade, the other after. Neither was carrying my child, but both were close friends that confided in me. The fear of the procedure in each case was extreme but was nothing compared to the feeling of loss afterwards. Both women were certain that they had done something horribly wrong and still, to this day I am sure, carry that burden with them. Imagine for a moment, all you parents that read this whether man or woman, how you would feel today if many years ago you had terminated a pregnancy. If every time you looked at your living and loving child you were reminded that there had been another one, one that had started the life cycle at the very least, one that would never be alive because of your personal decision. That feeling or worse is with these women from the moment of abortion and for each day thereafter.

My point is that abortion is as awful as awful gets. Yes, more so for the child than the mother, but simply awful all around. But, if illegal, those of lesser means face a much more dangerous situation than those that can afford expensive private clinics in other countries. If abortion is again made illegal in this country, those of means and need will still have safe places to go to and have this awful procedure but those that aren’t of means will do whatever is necessary to terminate that life. With that in mind I strongly say it is not up to the people of this country to decide what one woman does when faced with this life changing and yes, life stopping or possibility-of-life stopping situation.

I personally think that third-trimester abortions are murder and second-trimester abortions probably the same. I also think the “morning after pill” may be the only solution that I can support. The time in between, I go back to “I don’t know.” As for the “morning after pill” I don’t see it as a perfect solution because, again, I don’t know when life begins. I don’t find the answer in the Bible and I don’t think anything truly authoritative has been written on the matter.

Sadly I say, let each woman make her decision and live with the consequences. It is not up to the rest of us to judge her. The policies of the Republican Party seem to be to reverse Roe vs Wade by any means available, and the Democrats to defend it unfailingly. I say there needs to be new legislation, with some options remaining. Not the party line in either case. It is my perception of the Republican Party’s desire to outlaw all abortions that makes me think they go too far and want to control too much.

As Jesus says in John 8:7: “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” And Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 4:5 “Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.” Or not, as the case may be. But it is not up to us to judge.

We should all pray for forgiveness. For ourselves and for others. None of us are perfect.

Adoption is a fine alternative but not in cases that would force a not-of-Faith rape victim to carry the rapist’s child to full term. Also, in cases where the mother’s life is at stake, abortion needs to be a legal and acceptable means to preserve the mother’s life. I applaud those that feel differently from me on this last item, for their personal decisions to trust God to do His will, but I do not believe we, as a country, should force that decision on others.

I believe a majority of Americans do oppose partial birth abortion. I also believe that a majority of Americans saw that the legislation passed and signed in 2004 was intended to go further than those Americans wished and I am thankful that our Supreme Court has the wisdom, even in their Republican biased seating, to see through the text of that legislation to the intent within the words. That legislation was entirely designed to appear much less inspiring of future litigation than it truly was.

One final comment here - if Roe vs Wade is to be overturned, I would hope for it to be put to a plurality vote across the nation, or in a state - but only with women voting. Men have no place in this discussion.

Evangelism

Now I know this is really going to upset some readers, and I apologize in advance but ask you all to read this and consider it as you see fit:

Rather than quote it here, and because it is one of the most used quotes from Jesus’ ministry I ask that you read the Parable of the Four Soils as written in Matthew 13:1-30 and continued in Matthew 13:36-43 with discussion about weeds in the soil.

I interpret this verse quite specifically to be about Christians spreading the Word (the seed) to non-Christians (the soil). Can anyone read this differently?

Jesus’ last words to us, in giving the great commission as written in Mark 16:15-16 were: “He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.’”

As Christians it is our duty to spread the Word of Christ. He told us to do so! But it is also our duty to be accepting and forgiving of others, to allow them to make their own mistakes and carry on with their lives as they see fit. There is great variety to the soils of the non-Christian people and we must accept that sometime the word falls on deaf ears and/or hardened hearts. We cannot expect to change every person in one fell swoop.

But we can spread the Word of the Grace of God, the Salvation and Redemption we have in Christ, and the hope they bring. But we must do it by gentle means. To continually pound on soil only makes it harder. We can plant seed by simple statements, by our actions and our example. But each person must choose to be saved in his or her own time.

I urge each of you that believe to share your Faith with those that are not of Faith. What good does it do to say “I thank God for what He brings me” at Church on Sunday? Better to say it in a business meeting after a successful project. In school, in business and in play let people know that you are Christian by living according to the Word of God and Christ and by actively discussing what this means to you. Do give thanks to God for everything. Be knowledgeable in the Bible and in those things that non-believers are held up in building their Faith by: evolutionary thinking, media acceptance of poor moral values, lack of historical perspective. Reach out to them in their words, in their thinking, in their places. Walk and talk humbly but proudly. Spread the Word.

Realize that you will be banished by some, especially if you preach at a continual high volume with those of hardened hearts. With them it is the occasional Word, or word as the case may be, that will be the seed for them to nourish. More importantly, in addition to that occasional word, it is your actions, your humility, and your kindness that people will notice and think about when they think of your Christianity. Sometimes the process is begun by working the soil before trying to throw much seed.

Christianity cannot come from the government; it must come from the people, one on one. Other religions have tried the governmental route with the most current example being the Taliban of Afghanistan. We all saw what this regime did to their people in the name of their religion. People putting forth the appearance of faith, due to fear of the consequences should they not do so, are not of faith; they are just wearing a mask. Let this be our real compassion – to go forth in His name as individuals – spread the seed as we can, and let it take root as it does. For as it is written: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Beyond that it is not up to us to decide for them, it is up to God.

Our country was based upon religious freedom. That includes the freedom to be without religion if one so chooses. Plant seeds and let them work in the soil as the soil takes them. “He who has ears, let him hear.”

On Christianity

To be a Christian, in the simplest sense, means that you have accepted that Jesus the Christ is the son of God and came to earth to die on the cross, be resurrected and provide each of us with redemption and salvation for the sins that we commit.

From there the various churches of Christianity differ to varying degree in their interpretation of scripture and in their ceremonies. Going further, members of any given church each have their own personal understanding, or lack thereof, of scripture as well as their perception of God , Christ, and the Holy Spirit.

In the broader sense, as one dives more deeply into the teachings of Jesus the Christ, one realizes that we are meant to attempt to live our lives as Jesus lived his. With compassion, forgiveness and love for all. Not that this perfection can be achieved, because we simply are not wired to be that good, but that we truly attempt it. Christ came to save us simply because of this shortcoming.

What does this mean?

It means that we must put aside our personal desires to whatever extent we can, help those in need in whatever way we can, and spread the Word of Christ’s promise to all we come in contact with. We must attempt to live Godly lives, without sin, so that we bring God greater glory by our actions.

In Phillipians 3: 12-14 Paul writes of the Christian goal: "Not that I have already obtained this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Jesus taught many lessons, each important in it’s own right and timely to each of us in our own time of need and learning. I make no claim to being a perfect interpreter of the Word and can say only that I attempt to do this with the love of Christ for all the inhabitants of this planet. I simply ask, as a Christian and as a Democrat, which party you think best exemplifies by it's actions the teachings and the example that Jesus Christ was, is, and forever shall be.