I’m Not Feeling Politics Right Now. It’s Holy Week and I Want Jesus.

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I’m not feeling politics right now.

We’ve got wars and rumors of wars over a large swath of the world. Pro life people are battling killer legislation in Colorado and corporate raiders are raiding the public treasury everywhere and in every way they can. There are runaway bishops to write about, as well as a stand up bishops who are trying to fight the fight.

We’ve got cowards, brave people and martyrs.

There is no end to the politics I could write about.

But I’m not feeling it.

What I am feeling is a deep, aching hunger for the balm of Gilead, the peace that passes all understanding, the comfort of the everlasting arms.

It’s Holy Week, and I want Jesus.

Do you ever feel the aloneness of this life? Does it weigh on you at times that we are, each of us, the heroes of our own stories, but that we don’t matter much in the great scheme of time and history?

Even great people, on whom the fulcrum of the human story turns for a while, are, as Shakespeare said, just actors on a stage that play their parts and then go on to be forgot.

How many times today have you thought about Euclid, or Elizabeth I, or Franklin Roosevelt? When was the last time George Washington or Robert E Lee crossed your mind?

These people made us what we are. The 300 who died at Themopylae, provided a gasp of time that allowed the Greeks to win the war and save Western civilization in its seed. But what are their names to us now?

I am not writing this to convince you that Solomon was right when he moaned “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.” Because he wasn’t right.

What he was expressing is the hopelessness of a world that ends at the grave, where the good we do is washed away by the harm we do and the harm we do is accounted to us without mercy forever.

Solomon was describing a world without second chances and without transcendent hope. Eat, drink and be merry he told us, for all is vanity. Nothing we do matters. We are but a passing vapor.

That is life without Christ. It is a futile, hopeless round of good times, bad times and diversions that end in dust and nothing. If we are animals in a world where the biggest and the meanest make all the rules and winning and triumphing over one another is the only thing, then life itself is both cheap and useless.

What does it matter if we exploit the weak and reduce their lives to suffering, poverty and shame? Why is there any reason to object when we kill the innocent for our convenience?

After all, we are just animals, animated things, who are passing through and then will be no more. In a world without transcendence and forgiveness, anything is possible except peace.

I’m not feeling politics right now, because politics is, like all our other human endeavors, doomed to fail as an answer and an antidote for our hopelessness. There is no balm, no peace, no second chance, without Christ.

It is as simple as that. Only Jesus Christ and His Passion, His suffering, His willingness to bring ultimate transcendence into our world and our lives by taking on our finiteness, can open the door for us to more than the nothing we are without Him.

Christ not only saves us from our fallenness and offers us eternal life, He redeems the dailiness of our lives and the bottomless despair of ultimate meaningless of which Solomon spoke.

Instead of a plaintive cry that “all is vanity,” we are lifted by the sacrifice of Calvary onto a level of existence where everything we do matters in the halls of eternity.

Even the birds of the air fall under God’s loving eye. The hairs of our heads are numbered in His sight. We are not just animated things, carrion flesh waiting to rot. We are eternal beings, made in the image and likeness of the God who breathed all existence into existence with a single word.

I’m not feeling politics right now. I’m feeling a deep yearning for Jesus. I am longing for the balm, the peace, the hope that lies on the other side of Calvary.

But first, I must traverse the painful path of Holy Week. I need, to the bottom of my sin-sick soul, to walk the ugly path of human shame that is the crucifixion. We killed God. We murdered our Creator. We lied about, tortured, mocked, shamed and did our best to destroy the only Hope we have.

The ultimate stain on humankind was also its salvation. We murdered God, and He used that act of damning depravity to redeem us from ourselves.

Politics is one of our pitiful attempts to transcend our fallen state. But, given our fallen state, politics always becomes corrupted by our venalities and cowardices. I’ve written about the cowardly acts of men in high places quite a bit these past two weeks. The truth is, I have more than a passing acquaintance with the weaknesses of princes.

But nothing I have known can touch the combination of cowardice and cold-blooded corruption that led to the final sacrifice of the last Passover Lamb.

We need to bow down before the cross this week. It is, as Scripture says, the Lord’s Passover. It is the door opening on the way out. The cross is the price of our sins. It is the Lord’s ultimate Passover by which we are saved from the absolute and final death that we deserve.

Massacre of Christians in Syria

Idoppersecution

According to an October 21 Barnabas Aid report, Islamist rebels waged war on the civilians of the Christian towns of Haffar and Saddad in Syria.

From Barnabas Aid:

Dozens of people were killed when Islamist rebels besieged the Christian towns of Saddad and Haffar in Syria. As churches, homes and schools were looted and destroyed, 2,500 families fled, while 3,000 people, including children, were held as a human shield for a week.

Churches were vandalised, looted and graffitied with insults against Christianity
Churches were vandalised, looted and graffitied with insults against Christianity

Militants from the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front stormed Saddad and Haffar on Monday 21 October shouting “Allahu Akhbar” [“Allah is great”]. They set up sniper posts and launched a campaign of shelling, killing anyone they found in the streets. Children were crying in fear as the militants took over the towns.

One of our partners in Syria said:

1,500 families were held as hostages and human shield for a week, amongst them children, old men, young men, and women. Some of them fled… some were killed and some were threatened by the bullet, by strangulation, execution and with the destruction of their houses.

Estimates of the number of Christians killed during the siege of Saddad and Haffar range from 45 to 70; children were among the dead.

Homes, businesses, schools and other public buildings, including the hospital, were looted and destroyed; 14 church buildings were attacked and graffitied with insults against Christianity.

Thousands fled the violence, many with just the clothes on their backs. Those who took money, documents or other valuables were robbed.

A Slide on the Ice is No Reason to Go to War

War

Much of the news media has been hard-selling war in Syria to their viewers for quite some time now.

Economic issues are the toughest issues to discuss with traditional Christians. I believe this is because far too many of our religious leaders have aligned themselves and their teaching with the Republican party rather than with Christ.

I am well aware that there are many religious leaders who have done the same thing with the Democrats. But when it comes to false teachings about money, the worst offenders are the heretical religious leaders who follow the Rs.

I believe quite firmly that money is playing a decisive part in this push for war-war-any-war-we-can-find that is coming out of certain opinion-makers’ mouths. Not so long ago, these same folks were pushing us to go to war with Iran. If we don’t go to war in Syria, they’ll be looking for another war someplace else before you can say bottom line.

There are real issues involved with this debate about Syria, but you won’t find them on the cable news. That is because the various cable news stations are, as I said earlier “opinion makers.”

Think about that.

Noodle with it.

Let the idea roll around in your mind as you look at it from different angles.

Opinion makers.

Not journalists. Not reporters of the news.

But opinion makers, which is, I think, a nice phrase for propagandists.

They’re not trying to inform you. They are trying to use you. Their “discussions” always go one direction, and that is war, war, more war.

I am not, as I have said many times, a pacifist. I believe in defending this nation. I understand the lessons of World War II when those in power were so hungry for peace that they became enablers of actions that resulted in the most destructive war in human history.

On the other hand, I sort of understand the side-step, two-step of the war that to this day nobody can really explain: World War I. The world slid into World War I like a line of cars rear-ending one another on an icy road.

One salient point that is usually overlooked is that World War I and World War II were not isolated events. They are actually one event. I have always regarded World War I and World War II as the same war with a 20-year, depression-wracked truce between engagements. The world oh-noooed its way into World War II by letting the bullies have their run-up. But the real causes of that war were in the first world war and its inconclusive and destructive pause. In a real way, the horrors of the 20th century began with a slide on the ice.

The moral of all this, at least for me, is that a slide on the ice is no reason, ever, to go to war. We need to think things through.

War is evil. It is destruction. Even when it must be fought, it is always a tragedy, and it always destroys precious lives. I have stood beside enough graves, I have witnessed the psychological deaths of enough parents standing like hollowed out husks of themselves beside those same graves, to be very slow to say that we should commit America to war.

War makes money, big money, for some. But I am from the economic class that fights these wars. I have talked to the men and women who’ve come back and can’t stop remembering. I have, as I said, stood beside graves into which we lowered coffins containing bodies so mutilated their parents were told not to look.

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War is not a video game.

There are three points I want us to consider in this post.

1. Should President Obama have asked Congress to authorize action in Syria, or should he have acted unilaterally?

2. Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons on the Kurds in Iraq, yet the world did nothing. Why is Syria different?

3. Can the American people resist the “opinion makers” who are trying to hard-sell them on war with somebody/anybody and think for themselves?

A couple of days ago:

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One year ago:

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Eleven years ago:

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Dictators Free Themselves, but They Enslave the People


Charley Chaplin said this at a grim time in history. It was a daring move on his part then, and it still is today. Definitely worth considering what he said then and how things have gone up to now, seventy years down the road.

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Book Review: American Militarism vs the Kingdom of God

Fight To join the discussion about Fight A Christian Case for Nonviolence, or to order a copy, go here

Fight is an ironic name for a book that is a polemic on the Christian call to nonviolence.

The book’s author, Preston Sprinkle, wrote the book in response to and as a conversation with America’s militaristic evangelical community. Even though I have a few problems with some of his interpretations of specific scriptures, I think he’s got a point. In fact, I think he’s dead-on accurate in many of his conclusions.

I remember seeing a video of one of our preachers here in Oklahoma City. This preacher was speaking (I can not regard his speech as a sermon of any sort) to a thoroughly roused-up and enormous congregation. Since the speech was going out over the airwaves, his actual audience was much larger.

This preacher was charging up and down the stage, mike in hand, using all the theatrics at his disposal. He would bend over and lower his voice to make a bottom dropping point at one place, and then straighten up and shout out his next point. It wasn’t a sermon. It was a performance.

And it wasn’t even vaguely Christian.

This man was taking verses out of the Bible to weave a totally fallacious case that somehow or other Jesus supported invading Iraq.

He had his audience in the palm of his hand. After all, most of them came to this particular church because they liked performances for their sermons and because they wanted “christian teaching” that would get them going emotionally while making them feel great about whatever they wanted to do in the first place.

The audience cheered and yelled like they were at a football game.

I haven’t seen many things that disgusted me more than this performance sermon and its clearly heretical mis-use of Holy Scripture to support a war.

I knew, even then, that the whole Iraq invasion was a sham. This was an unnecessary war that we were going into for reasons that had nothing to do with what we were being told. I have never understood why anyone would have had trouble seeing through the excuses for this war.

I also saw that if America’s Christian community did not stop using Christ to justify war, it would eventually destroy itself. People will follow the theological heresy of militarism so long as if feels good. But, as Europe has shown us, bombed out buildings and gas ovens do tend to dim the luster of it.

War is an almost preposterous evil. The Civil War general, William Tecumseh Sherman, the same General Sherman who burned Atlanta and waged war on the civilian population in his infamous march to the sea, said that war is hell.

He was right.

A friend of my husband’s went to view the federal building after the bombing here in Oklahoma City. “That is nothing,” she said as she gazed at the ruins. “Nothing.”

She had lived through war waged on a large scale. She had, in her youth, seen whole cities razed to bombed out hulks, human beings burnt to ash as they hid in their bomb shelters.

We are so soft when horror comes to us. We can not bear our losses, cannot abide our pain. But we treat war itself, which is savagery writ unimaginable, as if it was a computer game. Maybe we do that because we can switch our wars off in the same way that we switch off computer games.

There is very little reportage of what is happening on the perpetual warfront that America has embarked on. We bomb and slay without the rest of us here at home knowing about it. Our best hint of what is happening is when we see our own soldiers, returning to us with shattered bodies and — often — shattered minds.

Something ugly is out there on the other side of the endless rambles of the talking heads debating their endless gaffe reporting about what some politician said to a friend in an elevator or mumbled under his or her breath when he or she thought the mike was off. Something really ugly is out there, but we can’t see it, don’t know about it.

Our only real intimation is that we hear constantly about our national debt. We are told that the cause of this debt is us. It’s Social Security and Medicare. It’s the public schools. The whole debt and economic malaise of this country is the fault of those who pay the bills: The American people. No one mentions, no one even whispers, that we are funding a war colossus that asks for more, more, more ever single year and has been doing so since World War II.

We never talk about that 800 lb gorilla sitting in the middle of the room eating all the bananas. Such talk would be unpatriotic. It would mean that we don’t want to “defend ourselves” against all those people out there “who want to kill us.”

Militarism is a false idol. It is also, according to the author of Fight, anti-Scriptural and anti-Christian.

Fight takes the reader on a survey of the Scriptures from the viewpoint of looking at God’s teachings about war and militarism. Notice that militarism is a category that is distinct from war. One is an action of government-sponsored violence. The other is an outlook, a belief in war itself. It is an idol.

A large part of what Mr Sprinkle writes about the Old Testament necessarily focuses on discerning what God meant, rather than what He said. This is important to all Christians because the Old Testament seems in many ways to challenge the New Testament. Western Civilization is at its best when it is responding to the clear teachings of the New Testament, and at its worst when it looks for excuses for its murderous impulses in the Old Testament.

How are Christians meant to understand the seeming contradictions in attitude between the two covenants?

Mr Sprinkle does a fine job of presenting his answer to this, at least so far as it concerns war and war making. Fight is a well-written, well-researched presentation of his viewpoint concerning violence, war and the call of all Christians to follow Christ, even to the cross.

I don’t honestly know what I think about some of the points he makes. I need to think them through first before I can say. But I do think the book is a good read that opens a debate American Christians need to have.

I do not want to see Christians in this country fall into the trap that Christians fell into in Nazi Germany of supporting militarism right down to the pit of hell.

I am not and never have been a pacifist. I believe in self defense. That would seem to put me outside the ideal Mr Sprinkle is advocating. However, I cannot deny that his presentation is compelling.

My main interest in his book is that it starts a needful conversation. I remember that preacher charging around the stage, preaching what was clearly the heresy of militarism to a cheering crowd. I see this country edging ever closer to economic ruin while we feed our resources into the maw of a war machine. And I know that we must change or die.

 

 

Romney vs Obama: Secret Ballots and Reasons Why

I may have a higher regard for the secret ballot than most Americans. To me, the secret ballot is the core freedom that allows Americans for vote freely.

We didn’t always have a secret ballot in this country. It’s not in the Constitution. The secret ballot first came into use in the United States as a means to protect the votes of newly-freed slaves in the Reconstruction South. It passed into law in each of the states in turn, often as a response to the practice of vote buying.

Grover Cleveland was the first President elected by secret ballot. That happened in 1892.

Rep. Mark B. Cohen of Philadelphia, a supporter of the secret ballot said, “The secret ballot guarantees that it is one’s private opinion that counts. Open ballots are not truly free for those whose preferences defy structures of power or friendship.”

That is one reason why I don’t make public statements about my private votes. The other reason is that I enjoy drawing a line and saying, “This is my private concern and I will not answer questions about it.” That may be an emotional symptom of someone who has lived too many years as a public person. I don’t know. I do know that the emotion is real.

I am not going to disclose how I intend to vote in this election. I would like, instead, to focus on the issues that will shape this vote that I am going to cast.

How do the two candidates stand on the issues that matter most to me? I think, as you read through my answers, you’ll see why I keep saying that no matter who wins this election, Christians have a real fight on their hands.

These assessments are my own thoughts. They are not definitive. They are not even necessarily right. I’m wrong about things from time to time just like everyone else. They are also not an attempt to persuade you or to determine your vote. What I hope they will do is to get you in the game of thinking for yourself.

Here, in the order in which they come into my head, are the issues I see as most important and where I think the two candidates stand on them.

HHS Mandate and Religious Freedom

President Obama signed the mandate and has stuck with it through thick, thin, and a close election. It appears he is willing to face defeat in this election, if that is what is required, to defend it. If he does this now, I can only wonder what he will do when he has no fear of re-election.

Governor Romney has promised to rescind the HHS Mandate as soon as he takes the oath of office. I believe him about this. He would be a total fool not to follow through. As for other religious freedom issues, while I don’t expect the total all-out war on faith that might come from President Obama, I expect Governor Romney would continue the process of co-opting, weakening and regulating that has brought us to this pass in the first place.

Sanctity of human life.

The sanctity of human life is under attack from so many directions, I have to address them separately to make sense of where the candidates stand.

1.   Abortion.

President Obama is the man who never met an abortion he didn’t like. I don’t see him as pro choice. I think he is pro abortion. I could elaborate, but I think his views on the subject are clear-cut.

Governor Romney is the man who believes whatever the next election requires. I don’t think he will actively work to increase abortions as President Obama has done, at least not openly. But that’s about it. His one visible act on the subject of abortion that I know of since he changed to pro life has been to persuade Congressman Ryan to change his position to allow abortions in the case of rape. It should be noted that the pro life Congressman obliged easily enough. After all, this is the vice presidency. Right?

So what we have is a choice between abortion and lots of abortions.

 2.   Embryonic stem cell research and other ways to kill, degrade life and reduce women to chattel through science.

President Obama has pushed embryonic stem cell research with the federal dollar. One of the first things he did as president was to sign a bill into law that would give enormous federal funding for it.

Governor Romney, on the other hand, has a son who has used women as surrogate mothers to supply him with children. Just writing this makes me mad. I think both these guys stink to high, high heaven on this.

1. Euthanasia.

President Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act pushes people toward agreeing to end their own health care. I’ve experienced this with my mother. Every trip to the emergency room must include a hassle in which they try to get her to broaden her advanced directive to allow them to cut off her water and food if they see fit. It is disgusting. The law’s provisions for determining which treatments are “cost effective” and basing care on that are health care rationing that, I believe, will lead to untimely deaths.

Governor Romney, on the other hand, according to a LifeSiteNews article Governor Romney has supported the death by starvation and removal of fluids of Terry Shiavo. He also, during his tenure of Governor of Massachusetts, stood by while the state’s Department of Social Services petitioned to terminate life support for an 11-year-old victim of child abuse.

War

Which candidate is most likely to get us into an unnecessary war? Based on his calls for extravagant increases in military spending, saber rattling at Iran and all-out commitment to the multi-national corporations, I have no doubt that Governor Romney takes the prize on this one. We haven’t had a peacetime president in decades. I’d like to see one.

The Economy

Until and unless our government stops being the government of the corporation, by the corporation, and for the corporation, there is little hope for a genuine improvement in America’s economy. We need to re-industrialize our country. We also need to start putting America’s national interests ahead of the multi-national corporations.

Governor Romney is, in my opinion, 100% in the bag for the multi-national corporations. I think that is the real frame for what his presidency would be.

President Obama is somewhat in the bag for them. He actually will do something now and again that opposes their interests in favor of the interests of the American people.

There you have it. Those are the major issues so far as I’m concerned. I will vote, as I said, by secret ballot. Then, like some of our atheist/vampire friends, I may have dyspepsia.

 

 

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