What I Hated about Last Night’s Debate? (Hint: Everything)

It may seem the height of irony, or maybe a double standard. Last night I listened to the third presidential debate as I drove home from a successful pheasant hunt in South Dakota. In my cooler were nine birds — birds that I had shot, that my dog had retrieved to me in his mouth, and that I had cleaned by hand. It’s a bloody business, hunting; admittedly violent.

And yet, as I drove home and listened to our president and his challenger talk about killing people, it just seemed to me that they were altogether nonchalant about it:

ROMNEY: Well, my strategy is pretty straightforward, which is to go after the bad guys, to make sure we do our very best to interrupt them, to — to kill them, to take them out of the picture.

And:

OBAMA:You know, after we killed bin Laden I was at ground zero for a memorial and talked to a young women who was four years old when 9/11 happened. And the last conversation she had with her father was him calling from the twin towers, saying “Peyton (ph), I love you and I will always watch over you.” And for the next decade, she was haunted by that conversation. And she said to me, “You know, by finally getting bin Laden, that brought some closure to me.”

Regarding Romney’s answer: I get that he was trying to be pithy. But cripes, “go after the bad guys”?!?! What is he, in third grade? I’m all for protecting the U.S., but answers like this are unpresidential. As are arguments that we should build more naval vessels just so we can say that we’ve got more ships than we did in 1916.

But I found Obama’s answer even more troubling. I suppose it’s inevitable that the assassination of Osama bin Laden has been politicized, for it is a hallmark of the president’s first term. But to politicize a private conversation with the daughter of a 9/11 victim is over the line.

Worse still, Mr. President, I don’t care if a political assassination makes a 14-year-old feel better, and you shouldn’t either. There are justifiable reasons for assassinating an enemy of the state, but bringing closure to victims’ families is not one of them.

Obama is getting my vote. I think he’s the better choice. But I do wish that he would talk about assassinations and drone strikes in a way that shows these killings are somewhat troubling to his conscience as a Christian. Because everyone I talk to — liberals and conservatives — think that we should go for a few years with no new wars.

  • JoeyS

    They both sounded like war-mongers last night.

    • http://practicingresurrection.wordpress.com Bill

      That’s because they are.

      • http://getoutfromunderit.blogspot.com Andy

        (You beat me to it!)

    • http://getoutfromunderit.blogspot.com Andy

      That’s because they are both warmongers. It’s really depressing and I can’t even think of a snarky, dismissive thing to say about it.

      Both men advocate war and have no problem sabre-rattling for political points while drone warfare is killing innocent children every. single. day.

  • Evelyn

    “Worse still, Mr. President, I don’t care if a political assassination makes a 14-year-old feel better, and you shouldn’t either. There are justifiable reasons for assassinating an enemy of the state, but bringing closure to victims’ families is not one of them.”

    I agree entirely.

  • JonH

    These candidates are sad. Looking forward to the 2016 elections……

    • Eric E

      Why would you think it will be any better in 4 years?

  • http://benjskramer.wordpress.com benyamen

    As a Canadian you can take my comments as either have no true understanding because I’m an outsider, or as someone without a full vested interest who gives some outside perspective. If I were American and had a vote I’d probably lean Romney this time, but would have voted Obama in 2008. It seems to me that much of American politics is about war and empire – regardless or the candidate or party – and that if they spoke any differently they would be seen as weak and unfit to be president. Bravado and imperialism is kind of a prerequisite for any candidate in American politics. Can you imagine how little hope a candidate running on a peace and loving non-resistance platform would have? It was sad to hear how callously they each talked about taking other human lives, but it’s kind of par for the course in that arena. It would be nice to believe there will be no new wars, but in what era of American history was there ever a real time of extended peace? War seems to be the natural inclination. I hope and pray that no matter what the result of the election that faithful followers of Jesus choose to put their faith in him and his church rather than hoping politics could ever fix anything anyways.

    • Curtis

      “in what era of American history was there ever a real time of extended peace? War seems to be the natural inclination. ”

      According to Steven Pinker, author of “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined”, the greatest period of peace in U.S. history is the present, from World War II to today. We are currently living in the most peaceful time in the history of the world. Contrary to the popular notion, modern day terrorism is a minute threat compared to threats that Americans, and humans in general, have faced in the past. Americans today have a greater chance of dying in their bathtub (one in 950,000), than of being killed by a terrorist (one in 3.5 million).

      So why, in this time of unprecedented world peace, is the U.S. spending as much on its military as the entire rest of the world spends, combined?

      Why does Romney feel compelled to argue for even more military spending, more than Obama wants, even more that the U. S. Armed Forces is asking for, without explaining how we are going to pay for it?

  • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

    Tony, you wrote: There are justifiable reasons for assassinating an enemy of the state.

    There are so many things wrong with this sentiment, particularly when stated from a Christian faith perspective, and where you moments later mention Christian conscience.

    Assassination of a human being is never justifiable. If Jesus is your standard.

    • Cindy

      @ R. Jay Pearson
      “Assassination of a human being is never justifiable. If Jesus is your standard.”
      Somehow I think Jesus would be ok with me putting a bullet in the head of a child molester who was in the act of sodomizing your child. If you had a gun in your hand and stood by and did not “assassinate” him, I’d say you deserved a bullet too. Obviously I am using an extremely obscene example…but we live in an extremely obscene world and I’m not so sure absolutes like “never” belong in an honest debate about killing our enemies. IMHO.

      • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

        I agree to a point…

        But, I’m not sure who you are implying “our enemies” are…?

        • Cindy

          To be honest, my reply wasn’t to imply or clarify who “our enemies” are, I suppose that’s a conversation for another time and quite subjective at that. I was just communicating my frustration with absolutes like “never” and crossed as far over the line as I could with my example to avoid that gray area of subjectivity. :)

      • Erin

        That’s not political assassination, that’s rage-induced homicide.

        • Cindy

          @Erin
          “That’s not political assassination, that’s rage-induced homicide.”

          Regardless of how you categorize it, it’s still the “assassination of a human being” and my argument was with the comment that it “is never justifiable.”

      • Cindy

        Just for simple clarification, I realize that my “child molester” example does not fit the true definition of an assassination (ie: the premeditated killing of a prominent or political figure) but we can all agree that there have been some pretty despicable figures (Hitler?) that can just as easily be used to make my point. Thou shalt not “murder” and thou shalt not “kill” are two different things and as Christians I think we need to recognize the difference.
        My intent is not to debate whether or not any/all of our US wars can be justified, it’s merely to point out that there is a time and place to stand up for the defenseless and if that requires deadly force, I don’t believe that contradicts the teachings of Jesus.

      • Ed P

        Sorry, I cannot buy into the idea that killing someone is justified, particularly assassination. If someone is being raped, you pull them off and throw them in prison. If the masses are being slaughtered (as in Syria), you do everything in your power to remove them from their power. You can argue that killing 100 people is better than letting 1000 be killed, but assassination is impossible to justify other than a result of uncontrolled anger. I would love to hear more of what you meant by this Tony in your original statement.

        • Cindy

          Ummm….If I walk up on a rapist in the act, I can guarantee you pulling the trigger is going to be my first response. I might believe in equality, but let’s be real…I’m a woman. The odds are greater that I would become the next victim, and what if there’s two of them? Am I supposed to just run for help? If you were on the other end of that rapist, believe me…you’ld be screaming at me to shoot them already!
          Absolute pacifism sounds GREAT in theory, but in reality it’s just blah blah blah….

          Obviously, my comment could take this conversation in a whole other direction than Tony was intending, but I stand by my original statement that there are times when deadly force is justifiable. The real issue, and I believe the heart behind Tony’s blog, is that deadly force should never be celebrated and we don’t need two candidates who are running for president to sit on a stage and see who can pound their chest the hardest.

      • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

        Cindy, the key point I want to focus on is where you wrote this: “I think Jesus would be ok with me putting a bullet in the head of a child molester.

        Why do you think Jesus would be okay with you putting a bullet in the head of a child molester?

        • Cindy

          R. Jay,
          My short and sassy answer would be: “common sense” ;)

          My still short but non-sassy answer would be Matthew 18:6. If Jesus is ok with having a millstone tied around a guys neck and drowned in the sea for harming, offending, or causing a child to sin, (depending on the translation) I’m sure he’d also be fine with a much more civil bullet to the head for the guy doing something much more horrible than the offense listed in that verse.

          Matthew 18:6 (KJV) But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

          Believe me, I’d be much more comfortable standing before God explaining why I pulled the trigger in that situation than having to explain to Him why I did not.

          • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

            “Common sense” too often does not equate to “right sense.”

            It seems you take Jesus’ obvious hyperbole at Matthew 18 as a cue which justifies killing child molesters or others who commit heinous acts. Unfortunately it’s a stretch that, while thought-worthy, ultimately does not convince, especially given the totality of Jesus’ message and vision.

            I’m certain most reasonable people would conclude that Jesus was no more advocating murder by drowning at verse 6 than he was advocating the actual cutting off one’s own hand or cutting out one’s own eye in the verses immediately following.

            Since Matthew 18:6 seems to be your cue on this issue, does this mean you discard other verses in the same book where Jesus actually speaks prohibitively of the very action of taking human life which you consider justifiable?

    • Evelyn

      “There are justifiable reasons for assassinating an enemy of the state.”

      Personally, I believe that a God that acts in the world must be a potent God and that everything that happens is God’s will and God is good. If everything that happens is God’s will then I think that, ultimately, God is responsible for the killing of Bin Laden and because Bin Laden was killed, it must have happened ultimately for the good of humanity.

      Unfortunately, when Bin Laden was assassinated, I couldn’t justify (or rationalize) it because I didn’t have enough evidence that he’d done what George W. claimed that he did. A wacko confessing on Youtube that he “has it out” for the U.S. doesn’t warrant political assassination unless it can be shown in a court of law that he’s an active threat to the country. There was no trial and there was no evidence. As far as I’m concerned those responsible for the the demolition of the World Trade Center were the people who got on the airplanes with the box cutters and actually flew the airplanes into the buildings. I’ve never had enough evidence to convict Bin Laden and I don’t think the government did either otherwise they would have caught him sooner (and I don’t want to hear about “surveillance” being inadequate: our surveillance is plenty adequate and I don’t have a doubt that we knew where he was all along.)

      So, when Bin Laden was killed, I was mad at God and mad at our country for making me, as a U.S. citizen, responsible for the premeditated murder of a possibly innocent man.

      The Christian faith, for about a thousand years, has justified the crucifixion of Jesus in light of his resurrection. That means that Christians believe it is ok that God willed the death of Jesus on good Friday because it ultimately led to his resurrection. This is a justification of murder so I don’t think Christians “never” justify murder because they do it all the time.

      “Justification” to me means that I can rationalize how something that seems bad could be good according to God’s rules. It doesn’t mean that I’d ever feel justified in killing someone personally and I’m not for the death penalty by any means. It just means that I can square events, in my mind, with my concept of God.

      So much for your concept of “surrender”, R. Jay. If you surrender yourself to God’s “love” you also have to surrender yourself to acts of God that don’t square with what you think is right.

      • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

        Evelyn, I don’t at all subscribe to the two theological perspectives you mentioned: 1) that “a God that acts in the world must be a potent God and that everything that happens is God’s will,” and 2) that Jesus’ death was an atonement sacrifice willed by God.

        Then when you write . . . . “So much for your concept of ‘surrender’, R. Jay. If you surrender yourself to God’s ‘love’ you also have to surrender yourself to acts of God that don’t square with what you think is right,” . . . . it seems you’re trying to pigeon hole me into your viewpoint, by which you then assume my perspective must fail.

        But that isn’t the case at all. Nor do I agree whatsoever with your conclusion that “God is responsible for the killing of Bin Laden and because Bin Laden was killed, it must have happened ultimately for the good of humanity.” I do not subscribe to providentialism. It is an abundantly dangerous belief, because it can be (and has been) twisted into justifying any human evil as being the will of God.

        A few years ago I read Shane Claiborne’s book “Irresistible Revolution,” and in chapter 2 he wrote the following: “Two guys are talking to each other, and one of them says he has a question for God. He wants to ask why God allows all of this poverty and war and suffering to exist in the world. And his friend says, ‘Well, why don’t you ask?’ The fellow shakes his head and says he is scared. When his friend asks why, he mutters, ‘I’m scared God will ask me the same question.’”

        When we participate with God in Love, we create goodness, Oneness. When we dismiss God and reject Love, we create adversity, brokenness.

        We live by the choices we ourselves make. We are not puppets, and God is not a puppet master.

        And in the Love of God, the taking of human life is never justifiable. It is wholly inconsistent and incompatible with the Jesus ethos.

        • Evelyn

          When you call God “love” and only love, you are dismissing greater than 95% of the human experience. Most of us do not often feel loved but remember when we were loved and are constantly striving for that remembered love.

          When I made those statements about God at the beginning of my comment, I was describing my view of God. It is similar to Meister Eckhart’s distinction between “God” and “Godhead” in that the “Godhead” is both transcendant and immanent and “God” is the personal God as is described by the Trinity. My view of Godhead is different from Meister Eckhart’s in that I think the Godhead is potent while Eckhart thinks the Godhead passively watches what happens. This view of God is only dangerous when people try to play God. Most people won’t even try to emulate the personal God (i.e. we have a good handle on ethical action but we rationalize bad behavior all the time) so I’m not sure why they think they could emulate the Godhead itself (regardless of the self-destructive emergent and progressive attempts to do so).

          In light of the fact that most of our behavior is motivated by unconscious drives (e.g. http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,2000994,00.html), you must admit that we spend less time making “choices” than we do rationalizing the actions that we have already taken. It is only when our actions become severely aberrant that we have to step back and consciously steer ourselves into new habits.

          While I think that the Godhead is ultimately “good” even though some of it’s actions are thought to be evil by humans (good and evil are purely human constructs), I don’t base my morality on the Godhead itself. The way I live my life is based on the beliefs that I think comprise God and this God is closer to the Christian God that you describe. I agree with you that “in the Love of God, the taking of human life is never justifiable” because I believe that life is sacred. However, my beliefs and the beliefs that we as humans must live by in society are layered on top of the greater workings of, shall I say, “the unnameable forces that drive us”. “Justification” with regards to the Godhead is aimed at trying to make sense of or rationalize events that have already occurred under the assumption that there is “order” in the universe.

          There is a clear distinction between the world as I think it should be which is governed by the rules of my own head (morals and ethics) and the possible intelligence behind the world as I perceive it to be (or, some might say the world as it actually is) which is governed by the rules of the Godhead.

          • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

            I think where we differ is that my understanding of “God” is not theological. It is fully experiential; informed, not by philosophical particulars about God, but in my experience with God. Direct, constant communion. Again, as I always say, Oneness by a pervading Love. (see here)

            As for the absence of the “human love experience” (what you referred to as “feeling” loved) among so many people . . . this absence is a factor of human failing, not any deficiency of God.

            And when I speak of Love as God, I do not mean it as a feeling. It is essence. It is living. All-pervasive.

            So the human “feeling” of love that you mention is very, very different than the Love of God that I refer to.

          • Evelyn

            R. Jay, your understanding of “God” is much more theological than mine. I was raised without religion or preconceived notions – unlike you. My understanding is based on my observations of reality and my observation that God is very powerful – something that must be “surrendered” to (as you have said). I’m not sure how you can observe evil and then claim to be in “Direct, constant communion” with an all-pervading love. You are lying to yourself.

          • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

            Again, Evelyn, you’re trying to pigeon hole me into your own presumptions, and then as a result characterize me as self-deceiving. It just doesn’t work that way. My perceptions and experience are not bound within whatever container of belief you reside in.

            My connection with God is not a factor of theology or observation, or even belief. Again, it is experience; connectedness; communion; participation. Uninformed and untouched by the limits and strictures of the tradition in which I was raised (and which I rejected long, long ago).

            As to evil, I’ve spoken on this already. Evil is our creation. Not God’s. That’s a true observation. But my response to evil is informed by my Love life with God.

            Why is this so difficult for you to understand?

          • Evelyn

            I know your perceptions and experience are not bound within my container of belief. They are bound within your container of belief and it doesn’t seem that we are speaking the same language. You can sit around and talk to yourself about your “Love life with God” and that is fine but it is not the way I see things because, personally, I distinguish between feelings of love, feelings of anger, intellectual understanding, reason, feeling lost, judging, etc… Every phenomenon in my life does not fall under the simple rubric of “pervasive love” and I tried to tell you what my understanding of God is and the assumptions that I was starting with in my comment.

            Perhaps if you explained in particular what “Love of God” entails, then I could understand it. Using general terms like “experience; connectedness; communion; participation” do not tell me what the dynamics of your love with God are or what observations you’re basing this “feeling” or “concept” of love on. (I can’t tell if it’s a feeling or a concept with you because you are saying that it is not a feeling but an experience unlike any other. To me, that is going beyond my definition of love or any definition of anything).

  • Patrick S

    History has proven that when America retreats from the world stage, the world gets more dangerous — for America. It is an old saw but it is nonetheless true: America has never gone to war because we were too strong.

    Obama was absolutely right about one thing: after the disastrous last four years “we need to rebuild our own country.” That’s why I’ll vote for Romney.

    • http://getoutfromunderit.blogspot.com Andy

      That’s a ridiculous position. We continually go to war simply because we can.

    • Curtis

      Which history? From 1985 to 2000, U.S. military spending went from 6% of GDP to 3% of GDP. Over this period, the world has not gotten more dangerous — please show me the numbers that show otherwise.

      Since 9/11, U.S. military spending, including wars, has crept over 4% of GDP. Romney has promised to keep it at that level. Obama plans to scale back current wars and drop military spending to 3% of GDP, which will save 2 trillion dollars over the next 10 years.

      Take these facts and tell me which candidate is more fiscally responsible.

      • Patrick S

        Which candidate is more fiscally responsible? The one that realizes there is fiscal cliff we are headed for. And that you can’t fix a $16 trillion problem by raising taxes one time, “a little,” on the “rich.”

        As to military spending, your earlier post was absolutely right that we live in a great period of peace. The sad thing is, that is exactly the same place the world was in in the very late 1800s and very early 1900s. Then came the 20th century…

        • Curtis

          The fiscal cliff is a gimmick, set up by House Republicans, not because taxes alone won’t balance the budget, everyone agrees on that fact, but because Republicans refuse to raise taxes, even a little, on anyone.

          As for world peace, the numbers compiled by Pinker are quite compelling. In the 19th century, 70 out of 100,000 people in the world were killed by war. In the 20th century, 60 out of 100,000 were killed by war. So far in the 21st century, the global death rate by war is 0.3 people per 100,000.

  • Curtis

    Agreed. But, as we remember Eugene Mccarthy this week, there is no more clear example of the political results of running on a peace platform. I don’t know why, but Americans consistently vote against anti-war candidates at the polls. Since it is us, the voters, that drive this political rhetoric, I guess we get the politics, and the debates, that we deserve.

    If you had to choose between a candidate whose policies you generally agreed with, and who forcefully campaigned on platform of peace and so would certainly loose in the general election, and a candidate with the same policies who sprinkled his speech with hawkish rhetoric and so was able to win a general election, which would you choose?

    • Patrick S

      Why are we remembering Eugene McCarthy this week?

      • Curtis

        I meant George McGovern. I got my Midwestern, anti-war Irishmen mixed up.

        • Patrick S

          I thought I’d missed something….Thanks for clearing up.

  • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

    “As for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.” – Luke 19:27 (Jesus)

    • http://benjskramer.wordpress.com benyamen

      To be fair to Jesus, these weren’t Jesus words coming from his thoughts regarding his enemies, they were the words of a foreign conquering King who’s subjects hated him from a parable Jesus told.

    • Ben Hammond

      That’s a tad misleading. That line is from a parable told by Jesus. Perhaps it was meant to be taken the way that you are stating it, but first and foremost it’s about a parable, and it’s talking about people in the parable.

    • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

      I only quoted that because I think there are several passages that are supposed to have come from Jesus’ own mouth that could be reasonably interpreted in a violent way. So, I think an absolutist pacificism based on Jesus’ teaching is a stretch. Personally, I try to talk about a trajectory, and try to avoid making Jesus say what isn’t there.

      • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

        Jesus was an “absolutist pacifist.” And the ultimate foundation of Jesus’ vision is Love, in which there is no wiggle room or loophole for treating enemies with hateful regard or violence. How did Jesus love his enemies? Certainly not by killing them. According to the Biblical narrative, Jesus bore his enemies’ insults and violence with the power of pacifism, and then died for those same enemies, even while praying for them.

        • drewsumrall

          Good word, R. Jay.

        • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

          I see this as the same kind of interpretive gymnastics that most of us would criticize evangelicals and fundamentalists for. We’ve just got a different agenda/bias that we’re imposing on the texts. I’d prefer to be honest that the “red letters” contradict themselves.

          • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

            You’re right, Rob. The Gospels are littered with internal contradictions. But if there is one absolute theme of Jesus’ teaching and vision that rises above all others, it is Love. There is no exercise of interpretation which could successfully dispute this.

            And so where Love is the gold standard, we can then gauge any given passage’s value as a guiding principle thereto.

          • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

            I would definitely say his “theme” of love “rises above all others.” But, I wouldn’t use words like “absolute,” “standard,” or “guiding principle.” Maybe that’s just my personal preference. I like “trajectory” or, as a friend recently said, “leaning heavily toward peace over violence.”

          • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

            I’m probably guilty of channeling too much John Caputo. Ethical norms, principles, absolutes, standards, etc. can potentially get in the way of love.

        • Cindy

          Jesus, a pacifist? Yes. Because He knew all along that He was here as a sacrifice. That’s why so many were upset when they realized He was not going to establish a real kingdom and right all the wrongs of that time. He was here to be slaughtered like a lamb, to resist would be to go against the One who sent Him.
          Jesus, an ABSOLUTE pacifist? No. An absolute pacifist would not have turned over the money changer’s tables in the temple.

          I think the problem we are having here, is that we expect the leaders in government to rule this world like Jesus did, especially the ones who profess to be Christian. I don’t think Christianity was meant to be a way to govern…it was meant to be a way to change an individual’s heart and to restore a broken relationship with God. “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” to me implies that Jesus was not concerned with the ills of government, His mission was much more personal. As Christians we are trying to justify who we vote for when in reality, maybe politics just isn’t compatible with Christianity. If we are to be “absolute pacifists like Jesus” then maybe abstaining from voting is the only ethical way to live…anything less would be hypocritical. Hmmm…..

          • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

            “we expect the leaders in government to rule this world like Jesus did”

            I’m not sure what I think about this…

            We all want the world to be a better place for everyone to live. We disagree about what that actually might look like, and how best to accomplish it.

            In my interpretation, the Kingdom of God is not a list of specifics or principles (not even the Sermon on the Mount). It is a trajectory, a “way.” And, I think everyone would be better off if everything better reflected that way. This has caused me to hope for a “world without saints” – and, in the least, to vote in such a way so that the world might become that.

            But, no, I don’t expect corporate tools to act like Jesus.

        • Cindy

          Jesus, a pacifist? Yes. Because He knew all along that He was here as a sacrifice. That’s why so many were upset when they realized He was not going to establish a real kingdom and right all the wrongs of that time. He was here to be slaughtered like a lamb, to resist would be to go against the One who sent Him.
          Jesus, an ABSOLUTE pacifist? No. An absolute pacifist would not have turned over the money changer’s tables in the temple.

          I think the problem we are having here, is that we expect the leaders in government to rule this world like Jesus did, especially the ones who profess to be Christian. I don’t think Christianity was meant to be a way to govern…it was meant to be a way to change an individual’s heart and to restore a broken relationship with God. “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” to me implies that Jesus was not concerned with the ills of government, His mission was much more personal. As Christians we are trying to justify who we vote for when in reality, maybe politics just isn’t compatible with Christianity. If we are to be “absolute pacifists like Jesus” then maybe abstaining from voting is the only ethical way to live…anything less would be hypocritical. Hmmm…..

    • http://www.dasrettende.wordpress.com Torsten

      This parable is about how we should use our talents instead of saving them. It says nothing about the way we are supposed to treat our enemies. And yes, Jesus only “quotes” these words by putting them in the mouth of a fictional “master”. They are part of the story he tells.

  • James

    I do agree with your sediments about last night’s debate. They especially seemed that way when they both agreed on the use of drones in the Middle East. The whole debate sounded more like what they agree on than what the differences in their policies were. I also didn’t like how Romney kept going back to domestic policy for a while which dragged Obama into the argument to defend himself.

    Sounds like you had a successful hunt and I wish there was game bird hunting that good up here in Vermont.

    • Curtis

      “The whole debate sounded more like what they agree on than what the differences in their policies were.”

      And in order to achieve this feet, Romney changed his policies from those he’s held over the last few months, Obama did not. Romney got the boring debate that he wanted.

      • James

        I was definitally praying for the end of it so I could go to bed…

  • http://www.ravenfoundation.org/category/blogs/religion/ Adam Ericksen

    “Peace through strength” of violence is the Republican mantra, and Obama fundamentally agrees. Drones are making us less safe as they ensure we’ll have another generation of “enemies” who will seek to make their world more peaceful by imitating our strength of violence. Violence is imitative. Jesus wasn’t kidding when he made the anthropological warning that those who take the sword will die by the sword. If the candidates talked about violence as a necessary evil (Niebuhr) I could respect that. At least we would know violence is an evil we need to repent from. But these guys are leading us into the celebration of violence. They are making violence sacred. That’s a dangerous place to be, and it makes us the mirror image of those we accuse of being our enemies.

  • Dean

    Tony, if America doesn’t have a new war every now and again, then what will distract us from the serious problems at home that no one really wants to tackle?

  • Gregory

    The part that I hated the most was Romney’s statement that the “USA is the hope of the Earth”. I hope that the the Earth has a hope but I am sure it is not our country, lifestyle, military, or political system. If I should say to you I am your hope doesn’t that make me an ass?

    • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

      Mitt’s use of the word “earth” was super creepy. Mormons…

    • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

      At least he didn’t say that the Angel Moroni is the hope of the Earth. :-)

    • Patrick S

      I think he meant to say “this [is] the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”

    • Buck Eschaton

      Maybe Romney will enact the Jubilee or at least expand it to the 99%. Obama/Bernanke and Geithner only believe in paying off the debts of the super-rich. Bring all your Troubled-Assets to the Fed we’ll buy them at 100% of whatever you hallucinate their value to be.
      It’s MMT and fiat currency for the rich and austerity and the idea that the Fed Gov. is just like a household for the poor. Fiat Currency for the rich, there’s always enough for the rich, we can conjure up magnificent sums if they’re about to experience any financial loss at all.
      But for social security and relief for the rest of us it’s “we can’t afford it”, we apparently only have fiscal sovereignty when it comes to the rich.
      I can’t tell if this is true or not, but I hear that taxes do not fund the Federal Government. The Federal Government can spend money into existence. It’s all a mess, and that we don’t need a debt at all, it only transfers money to Wall Street or something like that.

      • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

        Welcome back, Buck. I’ve missed you.

  • https://charityjilldenmark.wordpress.com Charity Jill

    I cried more than once during the debate. “Is this really how people think? Is this what they want to hear?” Absolutely heartbreaking that people (Christians!) buy into imperialism with such blood-thirsty vigor.

  • Buck Eschaton

    I couldn’t stand to watch last night, the other two debates were more than enough. I hope to catch the 3rd Party Debate tonight.

    Did Obama/Romney discuss Quantitative Easing at all? Mortgage, credit card, student loan forgiveness for the middle and lower classes? Libor manipulation? Laundering of billions of dollars of drug money by the big banks? Prosecution of fraud on Wall Street? I’m going to guess not. Did they discuss anything regarding how a debt is possible for a monetary sovereign? How a country that can print its own money be in debt?
    All I hear is that they want to take my deductions away, cut Social Security and try to start wars.

  • Eric E

    “Obama is getting my vote. I think he’s the better choice.”

    Are you still planning a post to explain why? Technically I agree with you but in my opinion, Obama is a better choice in the same way that running into a brick wall at 50 mph is a better choice than running into a brick wall at 60 mph. Vote for Jill Stein. Her position on just about everything is much better than either of those two.

    • Curtis

      Stein would not be any better than Obama with the current congressional climate.

      Maybe, instead of focusing on the top of the ticket, we should be looking down the ballot a little more.

  • Trevor

    Tony, you lost me when I read that you had nine Pheasants in your cooler that you had shot. What is it about Americans and guns and killing? I can’t see how you can object to the presidential candidates talking about killing people while at the same time writing so nonchalantly about the killing of Pheasants. The lives of animals, birds and sea creatures are precious too. If they had a voice that could be understood by human beings I’m sure they would be speaking up (screaming out) about the brutality of humans.

    • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

      Trevor, do you eat meat?

      • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

        I don’t, but I’m not going to dare to equate humans with other animals…

      • Trevor

        No, I’m vegetarian. I used to be a farmer and know that there is a lot of cruelty in the raising of animals for meat. I have never understood hunting as a sport either.

        • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

          Fair enough. Then you have a right to criticize my hunting.

  • Cindy

    @ R. Jay Pearson (the website is not giving me an option to reply to your last response to me, so I hope you will find this in this new comment.

    You asked:
    “Since Matthew 18:6 seems to be your cue on this issue, does this mean you discard other verses in the same book where Jesus actually speaks prohibitively of the very action of taking human life which you consider justifiable?”

    Is there a particular verse you are referring to?
    Without something in particular, I’ll start with Matthew 19:16-18. Like a previous comment I made, there is a difference in Hebrew between killing and murdering. If taking the life of a child predator is my only recourse to stopping him in the act, I believe a strong argument can be made that that would not qualify as murder, which is what Jesus is referring to when quoting from the 10 Commandments. If you don’t believe there is a distinction, then I suppose we will just have to agree to disagree because I don’t have the time or desire to debate the original meaning/intent of Hebrew root words and their English translations. You could however start with “Googling” some well respected rabbis and their understanding of the original meaning of the 10 Commandments taken from the Torah.

    • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

      Diving into the nuances of the ancient Hebrew distinctions (both linguistic and philosophical) between “murder” and “kill” is of no interest to me either. But honestly, to dive into those nuances in an effort to uncover a Gospel justification for taking human life would be to utterly miss — if not outright reject — Jesus’ core message of Love and vision of the “kingdom.” And that message and vision in its totality does not afford any justification for the taking of any human life.

      Jesus’ ethos of Love insists on loving our enemy, not taking their life. Compassion, mercy and humility are our tools, not the fear-inspired impulse for violent “justice.” Taking the life of the killer or the child molester does not destroy the evil of killing or molestation. The seed and root must be destroyed within the human heart. It is the only way. And this was Jesus’ teaching.

      Obviously it’s your own choice to advocate the killing of child molesters. But you are completely incorrect to claim Jesus would support such taking of human life. This is not agreeing to disagree. You’re just wrong on this point. You can parse Gospel passages to your heart’s content. But in the end, if the Gospel narrative really means anything to you (whether literally or metaphorically), then the ultimate model is in the image of Jesus giving his life for all — including the murderers and child molesters.

      He takes the bullet you would intend for such ones.

      • Cindy

        @R. Jay Pearson
        “But you are completely incorrect to claim Jesus would support such taking of human life.”
        “This is not agreeing to disagree. You’re just wrong on this point.”

        Based on these and your previous comments, I see that you like to live in absolutes. Too be absolutely sure of anything requires a large amount of arrogance. And one thing I know about arrogant people is that there is no point in having a real discussion with them because they already know everything. I understand how you might lean strongly on that interpretation but in the end it is just that….an interpretation. Dogmatic and legalistic beliefs are not exclusive to conservative, bible thumping, redneck Christians, they can equally be found among the liberal, “open-minded” Christians as well. While the beliefs may be different, at the root of those strong held beliefs is the same core problem of arrogance. While I appreciate your passion, I do believe there is enough scripture to support either side of this issue, which is why once again, I believe the appropriate response is to agree to disagree. I’m sorry if that proposal bothers you and that you are unwilling to open your eyes to an alternative understanding, but I refuse to disregard the whole context of scripture in order to cling to one concept. Not that I am reducing LOVE to a “concept”…LOVE is at the root of Christ’s message and as followers of Christ should be the foundation for all that we believe, say and do. I just don’t see protecting an innocent child from the evil actions of a predator as being incompatible with that message.

        • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

          I see that you like to live in absolutes. Too be absolutely sure of anything requires a large amount of arrogance. And one thing I know about arrogant people is that there is no point in having a real discussion with them because they already know everything.

          Cindy, I’m not sure why you would take my perspective and translate it into being a reflection of my personal character (calling me arrogant, referring to me as a know it all). Truth be told, we don’t know each other. So neither of us are informed enough to draw an accurate assessment of the other’s character. To do so not only unnecessarily diverts a conversation from civil dialog to resentful discourse, but it’s also just simply unfair.

          Moving on . . .

          The sun does not revolve around the earth. Jesus does not advocate the deliberate taking of human life, under any circumstances.

          Those are two absolutes that I embrace.

          And by the way, Scripture is not my source of authority. Love — the living, all-encompassing, radical, counter-intuitive and counter-ordinary Love of God which I accept as being personified in the person of Jesus — is the authority I cling to. Scripture is a narrative, a window. But it is not the foundation.

          Scripture can be manipulated by people. It can be changed. Twisted. (And has been.) But Love — which is God, the very essence of Life — is unchangeable by us. It is the universal absolute.

          And all are encompassed within this Love: all Creation, all people. And yes, even the people that commit horrible acts. And to love them — to love our enemies — is not the same as condoning what they have done. It is, though, to affirm the common humanity of all, in the ultimate endeavor of unfolding the vision of Jesus right here and right now; this “kingdom” he spoke of. Oneness. Restorative, redemptive, reconciling Oneness.

          • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

            R. Jay,

            The same allergy that I have to a lot of your language caused me to pay much less attention to Michael Dowd…

          • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

            I had the opportunity to meet Michael Dowd and his wife (very cool lady) a coupled years ago. Good people. Interesting message and mission they’re on.

            I’m curious: what does your allergy look like? And why are you allergic?

          • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

            I have not met them, but they seem like super nice people. I tend to agree with them on a lot of things.

            One of my issues is with using modernist epistemological terms to explain spiritual/religious ideas. For instance, I think someone like Dowd might want the universe to be benevolent, might hope that it’s better to love than to hate – but he doesn’t know these things. He can’t prove them.

            I also don’t think science gives us “absolutes.” It gives us evidence-based theories and probabilities. I even hesitate to use the word “fact” because the future is open and unknown. Paradigms shift.

          • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

            The language issue is certainly not inconsequential, I’ll agree with you on that.

            I think what happens is that many people are using new language (and necessarily so) to try and express the same old beliefs. And what ends up happening is we understand the new language, but once it re-translates in our modern minds we really discover that we’re left with the same old concepts.

            And I think that’s where a lot of the tension arises, within ourselves as well as when we engage in faith dialog. We end up realizing that it’s not just the language that no longer resonates, but it’s the same old concepts that don’t resonate either.

            Which is why I can understand why you have some issue with Dowd. New language. Old concepts. Because he’s discussing beliefs, not experience; ideas, not knowledge. In many ways he’s really engaged in just another philosophical exercise, only with a scientific garnish, where the science is really just a vehicle to transport the philosophy. Not a bad thing. But still, ultimately, the same old thing.

            In my case, where I use terms such as God, Love, Life, Oneness, Jesus, humanity, restore, redeem, reconcile, and so on, it is not to advance a belief. It is to describe and affirm an experience. A personal experience. Subjective. I cannot “prove” the reality of it, outwardly. It isn’t tangible as to be visibly (or materially) provable. But, like gravity, I “know” it by its effect on me. And where there are many, many others who share the same flavor of experience as I have, how they “know” is confined to their personal experience.

            Having said that, how people “love” can indeed be shared, and the creative consequences of that love can be experienced universally.

            My only “truth claim,” then, is that “Love” is the living essence of Life and Creation, with “God” as familiar synonym. And while I say Love is the universal absolute, my aim is not to prove the “truth” of it, but to share and foster the experience of it. Like feeling the warmth of the sun on one’s face. “Walk this way, and come feel this great warmth!” Sorta like that.

            Unlike Dowd, though, I make no claim that the universe is innately benevolent. At the same time, I make no claim that the universe is innately indifferent. I would say, however, that benevolence is a consequence of participating in/with Love.

          • Cindy

            @ R. Jay Pearsons,
            “To do so not only unnecessarily diverts a conversation from civil dialog to resentful discourse, but it’s also just simply unfair.”

            To tell someone pointblank they are “completely incorrect” and “just wrong” on a topic that is purely subjective, diverts the conversation far quicker than implying a tone of arrogance. If you are going to be that dogmatic you should at least be willing to admit that at times it can come across as arrogant. My response was not personal, it was a general assessment of anybody who so boldly claims to know the truth when really it’s just an opinion. And if you take offense to that, well…I guess it just is what it is.

            And for someone who doesn’t claim scripture to be a “source of authority” or a “foundation” I find it odd that you use it when it’s convenient to defend your beliefs and understanding of who Jesus is. Why do you use it as a tool to support your view if in the end it’s nothing more than a manipulated, twisted and unreliable gathering of writings? You can’t have it both ways.

            R. Jay, I will leave you with this. We may disagree on what the Bible is and how we go about interpreting it, but I know that you are after truth just like I am. Your motives are pure, your heart is right and even though we have different views, I wish you nothing but the best.

            (And if you would like to dismiss my thoughts, know that these are just the opinions of a simple stay-at-home mom who just happened to stumble upon this blog yesterday. I’ve enjoyed our dialogue, but I’m probably in over my head and will leave the debating to the rest of you all. It’s been fun, but unfortunately, I’ve got a pile of laundry and a sink full of dishes that are calling my name. Haha.)

  • http://lovesubverts.com M. Joshua

    Still voting for Ron Paul. At least it’s a vote for peace.

  • Nate Ferrell

    I find the approaches of both men to be unpalatable. But Romney’s hypocrisy is sickening to me. His frequent laments over the 30,000 killed by Assad in Syria made me wonder why he had no similar concern over the 150,000+ innocents whom the USA killed when invading Iraq just a few years ago! Do those lives not count? Are those people only collateral damage? And why was this most reprehensible chapter in our nation’s history not discussed in this debate? The weak attempt at true concern over the suffering of the Syrian people was ridiculous and ought to be questioned by everyone who votes.

  • http://www.woodstofood.com Fred

    Congratulations on your nine. Was that in three days? I figured last year’s incredibly mild winter should have resulted in a good hatch, and I doubt the dry summer hurt them any. Where about in SD were you hunting?


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