Democrats running as if Mitt Romney were president

The Democratic National Convention was full of angst about how “middle class” Americans are having such a hard time, how “the system is rigged against them” (as Elizabeth Warren put it), how the rich control everything, and other evocations of national misery.  But if things are so bad and electing Obama will solve the problems, why hasn’t he done anything about them so far?  As someone has noted, the Democrats are sounding like they are running against an incumbent President Romney.  But their guy is the one in office!  Their rhetoric is geared against the status quo–but they are the status quo!

“I will show you my faith by my works”

More from Sunday’s sermon, in which Pastor Douthwaite also picked up on the Epistle reading, James 2:1-10:

What James said: I will show you my faith by my works does not mean that I will show you that I believe by what I do – it means that I will show you what I believe by what I do. For everyone believes something. Even Atheists. They believe there is no God and that belief shows in what they do – or don’t do. So too with secularism, humanism, environmentalism, whatever “-ism” you like. If you believe it, it shapes you, and if it shapes you it will show in your life. Because that’s who you are.

So for Christians, for you and me, what do we believe? Some believe they can do whatever they want because Christ will just forgive them later, and they live like that. Some believe that Christ is a new Moses, a new lawgiver, and has come to give us a new set of rules and regulations, and they live like that. Some believe that Christ has come to make us healthy, wealthy, and wise, and they live like that.

But on the basis on this Gospel, and Isaiah, and what we’ve been thinking about today, what do we believe and so how do we live? If Jesus has spoken His ephphatha to you and set you free from sin, death, and the devil, what does that look like? What does it mean to be set free from idolatry, from selfishness, and from fear? It means the freedom to forgive because I am forgiven. It is the freedom to love because I am loved. It is the freedom to give because I receive. It means the freedom to serve because I am served. It is the freedom to provide for others because my Father provides for me. All these things and more because I cannot out-give my Father and Saviour. And as I believe, so I do. I will show you my faith – what I believe – by how I live, by my works.

And if you and I don’t do these things, if you find yourself struggling to do these things, you know what? It’s not a works problem! And so the answer isn’t just to buckle down and try harder or for me to stand up here and either give you a pep talk or berate you. (We got enough of that kind of thing at the political conventions these past two weeks!) No, if we find ourselves not doing these things or struggling with them, it’s a faith problem. Not that you don’t have faith, but that our faith is sometimes weak and that faith is often hard. And so the answer is to be ephphatha-ed again, to be opened again, to receive again and again the love and forgiveness and healing of Jesus here for you. For that is what changes you. That is what raises you. That is what makes the difference.

via St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Pentecost 15 Sermon.

I know, I know, you atheists, your argument that you can be moral without belief in God and that you are always insisting on how good you are.  That’s not what this is saying.  Your belief or lack of belief influences your behavior.  If you don’t believe in God, you sleep in on Sunday mornings.  If you are charitable, you don’t give money to churches but to causes like Planned Parenthood.  Right?  To switch the example, someone who believes in the God of the Bible is unlikely to worship in a Hindu temple, and if he does, it is reasonable to question his allegiance to a deity who forbids worshipping other gods.  And someone with faith in the Gospel of Christ cannot be self-righteous and, being conscious of having received mercy, cannot be merciless.

Look who’s waging the culture war

Christian conservatives and Republicans in general have been criticized for waging the so-called “culture wars,” making political issues out of  abortion, gay marriage, and other divisive moral issues.  But now it’s the Democrats who are raising those divisive issues.

At the Republican National Convention, hardly anything was said about abortion or gay marriage.  But at the Democratic National Convention, speakers wouldn’t shut up about the goodness of abortion and gay marriage.

It sounds like both sides believe being pro-life and pro-traditional marriage are losing propositions.  The Democrats apparently think they can win voters by emphasizing the Republicans’ official stance on these issues.

Are they right? Have conservatives lost the “culture wars”?  Or are Democrats over-reaching?  Should Republicans be more assertive about their usual pro-life, pro-traditional-family stand?  Or would that doom their chances and put the Democrats in power?

Chicago teachers’ strike

Chicago teachers are on strike, even though they are among the highest paid in the country and they were offered a 16% raise.  But they don’t want to be held accountable for their effectiveness:

For the first time in a quarter century, Chicago teachers walked out of the classroom Monday, taking a bitter contract dispute over evaluations and job security to the streets of the nation’s third-largest city — and to a national audience — less than a week after most schools opened for fall.

The walkout forced hundreds of thousands of parents to scramble for a place to send idle children and created an unwelcome political distraction for Mayor Rahm Emanuel. In a year when labor unions have been losing ground nationwide, the implications were sure to extend far beyond Chicago, particularly for districts engaged in similar debates.

The two sides resumed negotiations Monday but failed to reach a settlement, meaning the strike will extend into at least a second day.

Chicago School Board President David Vitale said board and union negotiators did not even get around to bargaining on the two biggest issues, performance evaluations or recall rights for laid-off teachers. Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said that was because the district did not change its proposals.

“This is a long-term battle that everyone’s going to watch,” said Eric Hanuskek, a senior fellow in education at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. “Other teachers unions in the United States are wondering if they should follow suit.”

The union had vowed to strike Monday if there was no agreement on a new contract, even though the district had offered a 16 percent raise over four years and the two sides had essentially agreed on a longer school day. With an average annual salary of $76,000, Chicago teachers are among the highest-paid in the nation, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality.

But negotiators were still divided on job security measures and a system for evaluating teachers that hinged in part on students’ standardized test scores.

via The Associated Press: Chicago teachers strike in bitter contract dispute.

What is at stake, if other teachers’ unions follow suit, is educational reform.  The politics here are interesting:  Unions and teachers’ unions in particular are key activists in the Democratic party.  And yet, these teachers have risen up against educational reforms pushed by Democrats.  The mayor of Chicago, who has taken on these teachers, is Rahm Emanuel, formerly President Obama’s chief of staff and a key fundraiser in his re-election campaign.  Could improving education, even against the opposition of incompetent teachers and their enablers, become a bi-partisan cause?  Or will political pressure from the unions derail educational reform?

Iranian pastor under death sentence freed

That Iranian pastor who had been sentenced to death in Iran (we blogged about him here and here) has been freed after three years in prison:

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has been released from prison in Iran, where he has been held for almost three years on charges of apostasy from Islam, as well as evangelizing. On its website, “Present Truth Ministries” quotes a Luther-like Nardakhani in court:

“During one hearing he was told to recant and he responded, ‘You ask me to recant. Recant means to return. What do you wish me to return to? The blasphemy that I was in before Christ?’ The judges responded, ‘To the religion of your ancestors, Islam.’ Youcef replied, ‘I cannot.’”

The effort to get Nadarkhani released seems to have been spearheaded by the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ, obviously not to be confused with the ACLU). This American organization offers legal services when rights, especially religious ones, have been inhibited. The ACLJ was in contact with the U.S. State Department and was instrumental in making people aware of Nadarkhani’s imprisonment (especially through Twitter, with over 3 million people re-tweeting the ACLJ’s “Tweets for Youcef.”)

via Steadfast Lutherans » Steadfast Guest — After Three Years, Freedom by Pr. Timothy Winterstein.

HT:  Anthony Sacramone, who comments, “Most of us will never have to endure anything more onerous than a snarky remark or a sneer as the price of our faith, so take a moment to consider a man who clearly counted the cost of following Christ and persevered under terrible duress for three years—and who also had a wife and two young sons who no doubt suffered terribly as well.  Of course, Pastor Nadarkhani was already free long before his captors opened the gates of his cell.”

For more details, see this.

What Christ’s miracles mean

We had an illuminating sermon from Pastor Douthwaite last Sunday on Mark 7:31-37, in which Jesus touches the ears and the tongue of the deaf mute and tells him “ephphata”; that is, “be opened.”

Jesus’ miracles are not simply signs of who He is – God in the flesh and so signs of His divinity and power – but even more importantly, they are signs of what He has come to do for you. Yes, for you and me, for how often are we like this deaf man and unable to hear? Unable to hear God’s Word because our ears are clogged with the words of men. Unable to hear God’s Word of love because our ears are filled with words of hate. Unable to hear God’s Word of forgiveness because our hearts are hard with anger and resentment. Unable to hear God’s Word of life and hope because we live in a world of death and destruction. And so unable to hear we are also unable to speak of these things.

But as Jesus came to that deaf man and laid His hands on him and touched his ears and tongue and ephphatha-ed him, so has Jesus done for you. For Jesus came to you and laid His hands on your head in Holy Baptism, He touches your ears with His Word of forgiveness, and He touches your tongue with the Body and Blood of His Supper, and in all these ways He ephphathas you. And eyes and ears and tongues and hearts and minds closed by sin are opened in forgiveness. And we hear of a love we’ve never heard of before, of a goodness we’ve never heard of before, of a life we’ve never heard of before and that is given to us. Given to us now as our foretaste of the feast to come . . . because the full reality is still coming.

Just as the man’s healing was a sign of a greater work, so the gifts we receive here are leading us to a greater opening – when our graves will be opened with Jesus’ ephphatha and in the resurrection we will be set free, body and soul, finally and fully, forever.

via St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Pentecost 15 Sermon.

 


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