Saturday, May 31, 2008

Scott McClellan – Another Republican Wakes Up

I’ll be gentle here.

One of my wife’s best friends, a Republican woman with a Republican husband raising Republican kids, said the most amazing thing at Easter dinner two or three years ago. We had already been visiting nicely for probably two hours, and there we are at the dinner table wrapping up the meal when she says, “It’s time for George Bush to go.”

Just like that, a little bon mot dropped with the desert on the table. It would have been wittier if it weren’t met with a disgruntled groan of “Oh honey, let’s not get into that here.” from her husband. As it was I didn’t want to rile things up too much so I smiled said something along the lines of “yes, indeed, but what makes you say that now” and learned that it was the war that had her rethink the whole Bush thing. There may have been a few more sentences but I really didn’t want to push her husband’s buttons. He and I get along OK, but it really is one of my wife’s treasured relationships and I don’t want to goof that up.

Scotty McClellan woke up from a sweet dream that turned into a nightmare. He had been lied to and passed it along as the truth. He had believed in compassionate conservatism only to learn that at the highest levels it was purely greed and self serving goals. He had supported without question a fellow Christian whom he believed in only to realize that the man was more myth than substance, more a singer for Cheney and crowd than a maestro showcasing his own abilities, more a man seeking recognition, power and all that comes with it than a servant of the people.

But it isn’t just George Bush that has those faults. We are all born with them and succumb to them sometimes. Me-ism goes back to Adam and Eve. I don't know that we ever rise above it, but we can temper it a bit through faith. For that matter Gentiles have the concept of right and wrong written on their hearts, so they have that to call on if needed.

The Republican line is tempting to anyone that has read Ayn Rand and believes in building wealth on his or her own. Tempting for anyone that has gotten lucky through hard work or good fortune and been able to actually not just buy the stuff they want but put a little aside for a rainy day or old age. Tempting for anyone that thinks they have a chance of achieving those goals on their own, due to their own abilities, because they have what it takes. Tempting for anyone who looks at their taxes and says “That’s too much, it should all be mine.”

Matthew 4:8-9
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me."

We have a really bad habit of wanting stuff. We worship it. Gimme more money, a bigger house, more TV’s, gold, man I need gold the real stuff sitting in a safe deposit somewhere, a bigger car – dangit I don’t care what gas costs, I’m great and can pay the price, I want that V8. I made all this on my own and I deserve it!

So tempting. So easy. So wrong.

There’s nothing wrong with making money. I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said “Hating me because I’m beautiful won’t make you beautiful.” And the same could be said about being rich.

Acquiring wealth is good, smart, and right to do. Doing so in a manner that takes unnecessarily from others, forcing them to cut necessities like food and health care so they can get to work is wrong. I was surprised to learn the other day that Warren Buffett, one of the richest men in the world, is supporting Barack Obama. I guess my GEICO payments are going to a good company.

Wealth is a gift in any case. You can get it through hard work and a bit of luck, or you can sell out, get that degree in business that could actually do some good, but then go find the next Enron to work for. Your choice. It’s all legal by man’s law.

I wonder if Scott McClellan will vote come November 4th, if he’ll do so with a clear conscience, consciously aware of whom the players are and what their real intentions are.

I hope so.

How do you measure success?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Gay Marriage

It’s a difficult time for the church as a whole, all denominations, all places, as we grapple with the issue of gay marriage. Well spoken in a guest commentary by Pastor Jim Somerville of First Baptist Church in Washington, DC, congregations are filled with people from a variety of life-experiences, with different outlooks on many things, homosexuality and gay marriage chief among them. I've also written about this topic long ago from a slightly younger viewpoint.

There are things I don’t speak of in my youth group, that probably need to be said. Youth today have quite a different outlook on gays – much more accepting for the most part, with straight guys still put off by it as I was, but in general a turn towards acceptance is being seen. The worry is what will happen to churches as they grapple with this issue now?

I am well aware of the passages in the Bible that speak against homosexuality and lesbianism, Old Testament and New, of being put to death for such an act, and the call by the apostle Paul against homosexuals in the early church. This may be a line you don’t want to cross, but I’m wondering how much of the Bible is God’s Word, and how much of it is written with the hand of man.

Homosexuality is not a choice. For some, perhaps, but from those that I’ve spoken to at any length about their experience (and that would be a total of two – one male, one female) they were aware at a very early age that they were different. There is fair evidence that homosexuality is a genetic trait which for me means it is but one of the many variations of God’s design. If this predisposition is part of God’s design for some of us, then why would God call for gays to be killed, as is written in Leviticus 20:13?

Here’s a sick argument: If it was God who told Moses to write that homosexuals should be killed, does that mean God wanted to wipe some error He made off the face of the Earth, deleting it from the gene pool? Isn’t God perfect, though? Given God’s perfection, would He create some of us knowing at the time that he would ask to have them killed at a later date? That isn’t the loving God I know. Is it possible that Moses was a straight guy (probably) that was repulsed at homosexuality and he wrote those laws from his own mind? I realize I am way out of bounds for many here, but I can’t align the design of homosexuality at the genetic level, which means by God’s hand, and the desire by God to kill these people, His children, too.

I’m as lustful a guy as there is. Have been from around age 5, probably earlier. Reading the Augsburg Confession I had to look up the word “concupiscent” which is part of the definition of original sin. It means “lustful,” of course. As a photographer in Hollywood as the ‘70’s rolled into the ‘80’s, I’ll admit to many of the sins one would expect, with women and drink chief among them, but never once in my life has the idea of man touching man done anything but gross me out. Funny as it may or may not seem, I’ve been told that to gays straight sex is equally repugnant. That said, from my own personal experience and conversations, homosexuality is not an extension of lust but a different desire at the base level.

Why are we wired so differently? I have no idea.

I have long supported civil unions giving committed gays the same rights as married couples. It’s fair, that’s all. Blessing those unions with the term “marriage” doesn’t overstep any bounds for me, but my sense is it will for many at my church, especially the older members. We are ELCA and in California, so it will be on our doorstep sooner than we want to consider, but consider we must. I think it certain that some churches will more openly embrace this issue, some will do so quietly, and some will fight it tooth and nail. Such is the nature of the church, a place full of sinners seeking redemption but consistently able to castigate others. May we turn away from that behavior!

My prayer is that we find a way to remain harmonious, a church of people from a variety of backgrounds but an appreciation for each other that transcends these differences, that recognizes that none of us are without sin, that no sin is greater than any other, and that by the grace of God we all move forward in this amazing creation of His, all His children together as one in Christ.

As for whether homosexuality is sin – I don’t know, it isn’t my issue, and if it’s my neighbor’s issue may they find peace in the Lord.

As for my considering the source of some of the Bible's passages, I realize that is one very slippery slope. I do recognize that a few passages were added long after the original books were written, as in Jesus forgiving the adulterous woman which is said to have been written perhaps 300-400 years after the resurrection of Christ. I'm uncertain what to make of that, but I have no issues with my faith in God, in Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit. I do lack faith in mankind, tho. We're a selfish bunch if ever I've seen one.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

An Evangelical Manifesto

It’s an awesome write of some very high-minded, faithful and dedicated thinking. A call to faith beyond politics, and beautifully done. Worth a read. From there I leave it to you to form your own thinking.

Check out the Charter Signatories and consider who isn't on board. That's the sadness of the situation with several notable absences, Dobson, et al. But it is a start.

I like how it slaps both liberal and conservative Christians equally. Extremes are rarely correct and humankind is sadly flawed in so many ways. The call, individually, to personal commitment is key in my perception. Yes, we gather in churches but that is because we have a personal relationship with Christ and God. We cannot speak for our brothers and sisters in Christ, as to their achievement. We can only define ourselves in thought, word, and deed.