Monday, May 10, 2010

Well Finally! Some Conservative Evangelicals "see the light" on Arizona's Immigration Law

Good psychology says to praise the behavior you want to see repeated. So today let me lavish exorbitant praise on a brave group of some of my fellow Evangelicals who have "seen the light" regarding the Arizona Immigration Law. The link to the CNN article is above so you can read the whole thing for yourself, but here is the money quote from the article for me:

"Discussion of immigration and government immigration policy must begin with the truth that every human being is made in the image of God," the National Association of Evangelicals said in a recent resolution backing comprehensive immigration reform. "... Jesus exemplifies respect toward others who are different in his treatment of the Samaritans."

Well whaddaya know?! Conservative Christians in the news for being compassionate and Christ-like! What a novel concept!

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Arizona Illegal Immigration Law: What’s our Christian duty toward “Aliens”

This will probably be one of the shortest blog posts I ever do. Why? Because not many political hot potatoes have this easy of an answer! This one really isn’t hard people.

In a nutshell, here’s the crux of the new Illegal Immigration Law:

The law would require the police “when practicable” to detain people they reasonably suspected were in the country without authorization. It would also allow the police to charge immigrants with a state crime for not carrying immigration documents. And it allows residents to sue cities if they believe the law is not being enforced.

Ooo Boy. So all “suspicious Brown people” in Arizona better keep their papers handy or risk being rolled up by the “suspicious Brown people” brigade. Now, just for the record, this isn’t a new concept for this Country. During slavery, freed slaves were required to carry documents with them AT ALL TIMES that proved they were free. Failure to produce these documents resulted in the slave being arrested and sold back in to slavery. Amazing! But I guess it worked well for the majority culture the first go-round, why wouldn’t they try this again?

So just as it was back then, as Christians we have to ask ourselves how God would have us to respond. I don’t dispute that illegal immigration is an issue on the border states. The infrastructure in these cities are bearing a heavy burden as they care for the needs of illegal immigrants, many times with no hope for reimbursement. It’s estimated that about 11 million illegal immigrants live “in the shadows” here in the U.S. Because the U.S. has not exactly been the most warm and welcoming of places for Brown people from over the border, they stay in the shadows and a whole sub-culture exists. This is a no-win situation – for those in the sub-culture, and those who have to pick up the pieces when the resources of the sub-culture are inadequate to its “citizens”.

But from a Christian perspective, the idea of “Aliens among us”, illegal or otherwise, is not a new concept. The scriptures are replete with God’s instructions to us on how we are to treat these folks, but here’s a few:

He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt.” Deuteronomy 10:18,19

"Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt.” Exodus 22:21

When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.” Leviticus 19:33,34

Carefully follow the terms of this covenant, so that you may prosper in everything you do. All of you are standing today in the presence of the LORD your God--your leaders and chief men, your elders and officials, and all the other men of Israel, together with your children and your wives, and the aliens living in your camps who chop your wood and carry your water.” Deuteronomy 29:9-11

I think that’s pretty clear.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Seriously, People?! Second Edition - Jim Demint: “Tea Party movement will bring spiritual revival”

I’ve tried to write this blog post for days now, but found myself so irritated that I couldn’t type fast enough. I’ve since taken a deep breath…wuuuu saaaah…Now on to my rant!

Last week, while being interviewed by David Brody of CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network) News, Sen. Jim Demint said the following words regarding the current Tea Party Movement:

…I really think a lot of the motivation behind these Tea Party crowds is a spiritual component. I think it’s very akin to the Great Awakening before the American Revolution. A lot of our founders believed the American Revolution was won before we ever got into a fight with the British. It was a spiritual renewal.

Some context: The Great Awakening, occurring in Colonial America from about 1730-1760, had a two-pronged effect. First, God sparked a revival that caused the colonists to realize that much of their religious experience was a “going through the motions” instead of a true, heartfelt desire to worship God. Many colonists were Puritan or Anglican at the time, but this revival resulted in an awareness of freedom in worship and the establishment of new houses of worship. Secondly, this new religious freedom spurred a desire to be free from the clutches of England entirely. Having been shown by God that they could be bold in worship, the colonists began to be bold in their political rhetoric as well, thus creating the atmosphere that led to the American Revolution.

So if I follow Sen. Demint’s logic, the Tea Party movement is a result of a spiritual awakening in this country, and Tea Partiers are like the Colonists - rebelling against tyrannical rule.

My oh my, where do I begin? Well let’s start here:

First, any “Spiritual Awakening/Revival” that is God’s doing will FIRST produce a desire to become closer to Jesus Christ. Take the awakening that occurred after Pentecost (Act 2). The presentation of the Gospel of Christ by Peter resulted in 3,000 souls being added the Kingdom of God in ONE DAY. In fact, it says in verses 42-47 that those new awakened converts devoted themselves constantly to instruction in the faith, they united together, they sold their possessions and dispensed the money amongst those in need, and assembled together with gladness of heart, constantly praising God. Sounds just like a Tea Party gathering! NOT!!

Yes, Sen. Jim Demint, there’s a real “spiritual component” at these Tea Party Rallies. Here’s some highlight film from some of these protests:


And what kind of “spirit” is this, Sen. Demint?

A real revival causes those in the revival to exhibit a greater “Christ-likeness”, and causes others to want to know Christ more intimately as well. What I see, I’m not going to bite my tongue about it, is a bunch of hate-filled, angry, racists - Period. I find it abhorrent, offensive, and insulting as a Christian Believer that someone would draw a correlation between what is happening in these Tea Party rallies, and what happens when a true move of God happens.

Secondly, where were these so-called “Tea Parties” in the summer of 2008 when at least two of the major initiatives that they are gnashing their teeth about first happened – the big bank bailouts and TARP? Nowhere. But it is awfully strange that the election of the first African-American President, a Democrat who is no more of a Democrat than President Clinton or President Carter, has caused such uproar. Makes you just go “hmmmm” doesn’t it?

So Seriously, Sen. Demint? You may win the award for one of the most idiotic statements of the year. Congratulations!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"By their fruit you will recognize them"

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
~ Matthew 7:15,16

This scripture is from a wonderfully rich teaching of Jesus Christ recorded in the book of Matthew. For those of us in the Christian Faith, Matthew 5-7 are about as foundational to our Faith as any teaching in the bible.

When people ask me why I'm not a Republican, especially given my Evangelical, somewhat conservative beliefs, I always explain to people that I'm a "fruit inspector". That means, I examine the "fruit" of someone's actions and discern whether what they have done or said has produced something positive or negative. I particulary look closely at the fruit of fellow believers since Christ's teachings in those early days were directed at believers and those that followed Christ closely. They weren't directed at unbelievers. Since Republican's market themselves as "God's Party", citing their open support of biblical values such as embracing a culture of life and definitions of traditional marriage, I get out my microscope.

When it comes to my inspection of the fruit of Republican's, I don't find a shortage of examples of "suspect" fruit. Let's take the Tea Parties for example. The seeds for this movement were planted back during the 2008 Presidential Campaign. You remember, don't you? When Ms. Sarah "pit bull with lipstick" Palin decided that she would ever so slyly plant the seed that Barack Obama was "different"? It was at an October 4th, 2008 rally when she said that Barack Obama "is not a man who sees America as you see it." Fast forward to today and you get pictures like the one posted above, a whole "birther movement" for folks who can't accept that President Obama was born in the United States", and, finally, a groundswell of vitriolic hate speech that's welcomed and encouraged by a group now called Tea Partiers.

While some Republicans are trying to discover some way to distance themselves from this fringe group, I believe that it's safe to say that the Tea Party movement is hand-in-hand aligned with the Republican Party. While Republican's like to say that Tea Party activists are really "Independents", a new Quinnipiac Poll says that 74% of Tea Party Voters vote Republican. (I personally think most of the 26% that said they don't vote Republican are being less than truthful, but that's just me!).

And you only need to look at the Tea Partiers behavior since they bursted on the scene last summer (hat tip to CNN) to see just how ripe this fruit has become:

In Louisville, Kentucky, two young men in camouflage fatigues roamed the crowd trying to recruit new members for their militia called the Ohio Valley Freedom Fighters. They bear signs reading "AK-47s: today's pitchfork" and "Quit worrying. Start your militia training today."

In Jackson, Michigan, a young man didn't need a sign. He was carrying the real thing: A loaded AK-47 assault rifle and two loaded handguns. "I don't want a revolution. I don't want a civil war," he said. "But it is a possibility. It's there as an option, as a last resort."

Some fruit, huh? I think Matthew 7:17-18 says it best:

Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.
I think that settles that.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Stuck with Steele: GOP now a victim of their own petty game

I will try to keep my snickering to a minimum, but it's going to be hard!

Michael Steele, current Chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC), is under fire big-time for a series of high profile blunders on his watch including the revelation that the Committee spent almost $2000 at a West Hollywood strip club. Yes, the money was spent officially by the RNC. Tsk. Tsk. Tsk.

Now of course, this is extremely embarrasing for the Republican Party. Especially since they pride themselves on being the "party of traditional family values". Well, hanging out at a strip club (and not just any ol' strip club, but one that caters to those who dig watching lesbian bondage) is definitely not on the list of Sunday afternoon, after church outings.

So it should be a "no brainer" that a blunder like this would mean that Steele would be out of a job, like, yesterday. But, oh-oh, turns out it's not that easy.

Picture it, January 2009. After losing two national elections back-to-back, the last of course resulting in the election of the first African-American President, and the loss of both houses of congress, the Republicans were dejected and desperate to find a way back to relevance. The Democrats, with President Obama at the helm, looked like the new, hip kids on the block. Republicans appeared, well, old and "WASPY". So when it was time to elect a new RNC Chairman that January, Republicans wanted to show the country they could be just as cool and hip as the Democrats. After five rounds of voting, it came down to two finalists: Michael Steele, a suave, quick-witted, "in your face" Black man with plenty of swagger and flash, and Katon Dawson, a good ol' boy from South Carolina, who had just recently "discovered" that the country club he belonged to for 12 years was a "whites only" club, and who was staunchly anti-desegration in his younger days. Now, rumor on the floor was that the vote was pretty even for a while, and many really wanted Dawson. They felt that Dawson more closely represented the views of the conservative base. Michael Steele wasn't even pretending to be conservative. But, they knew that Dawson as Chairman would be so not cool.

So they threw caution to the wind, the conservatives sucked it up, they elected the Black Man, and basically said "na na na na na, we got a Black man too!"

Cut to 2010, and the Republican's Black Trophy has made a mess of the place. But what to do, what to do? They can't fire the man now. How cool would that be? Barack Obama is still President. And still Black. What would it look like to get rid of their token now? And so close to the Fall 2010 mid-term elections?

No, Republicans are stuck with this hand. They decided to play this petty game, and they'll have to play it all the way through. In a desperate attempt to "keep up with the Joneses", they've painted themselves into a cruel corner of their own making. The Conservative base feels vindicated, yet they're still stifled and can't get "their" guy in. At the same time, Steele's supporters can only make the argument that yeah, he's made mistakes, but they're stuck and it's nothing they can do about it.

Too funny!!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

"We did not get the miracle we prayed for"

Those were the words late last night of West Virginia's Govenor Joe Manchin after learning that the 4 remaining missing miners, who were caught in an underground explosion inside the Upper Big Branch Mine in Charleston, WV, were found dead. In all, twenty-nine miners died from Monday's explosion.

Over the next few days, that close-knit community in Charleston, WV will have to agonize through twenty-nine funerals. These men were somebody's father, husband, brother, uncle, fiance, friend. Many of them were men of faith. Their families stood vigil and cried out to God on their behalf - praying for a miracle. Last night they were presented with an uncomfortable reality for those who put their infinite trust in an all-powerful God: Sometimes, the answer is "No".

"...Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" ~ Matt 6:10

I know from experience that hearing a "No" from God when you are earnestly seeking Him to intervene with a miracle is a bitter pill to swallow. It can shake your faith to the core. But through the tears, the faithful can come to accept the perfect will of the Lord, while learning a whole new level of trust.

Over the next few days, the families of these miners will have to lay their loved one to rest. Not long after that, the dirty politics will begin. Well, it may not even take that long. In fact, both sides have already begun to take up arms. Democrats accuse the leadership of Massey Energy of being anti-union and having a pattern of violations at the mine. Their CEO, Don Blakenship, is known as an influential and powerful donor to the Republican party. Meanwhile, Republicans accuse Democrats of using this incident to attack big business and label Republicans as heartless overseers. President Obama has already signaled that there will be a full federal investigation into what happened.

At the end of the day, both, all, or parts of each of these allegations may be true. But it really doesn't matter right now. Right now, I hope we can focus our attention on those that grieve in Charleston. There'll be time enough for finger-pointing, and activists on both sides will make sure everyone knows that the other party is wholly responsible. But as you go throughout your day, just pray for these families and this community.

And also pray that the political opportunists will have the decency to "stand down" until the last of these families at least gets home from the cemetary. Yes, I know. That would require another miracle.