There has never been a time when somebody in our government was not misbehaving in some kind of way, whether it’s overthrowing democratically elected presidents of other countries or tailoring legislation to fill the pockets of campaign donors. The latest misbehavior has involved the surveillance of the Associated Press by the Justice Department as part of an investigation of leaks of classified information and the targeted scrutiny of conservative political “non-profits” by the IRS. The sad irony in these incidents is that the government is behaving undemocratically and very clumsily in response to issues that are legitimately undermining our democracy. Continue reading
A number of people in my church have been impacted by the game of chicken known as sequestration that Obama and the Republicans are playing with one another. Almost everyone either works for the civilian sector of the government, a government contractor, or the military. Several people have lost their jobs; many have been furloughed. And that’s why I’m more than a little bit hot about the way that Congress has suddenly bolted in action to exempt the FAA from sequestration rules so that people won’t have to wait in line at airports. It’s an illustration of the uniquely American religious belief in ideology without consequences. Continue reading
There’s something attractive about Mark Driscoll to Methodists in a Clint Eastwood (pre-chair-incident) kind of way. We often see our denomination’s attendance decline as punishment for our unwillingness to “stand up for the truth,” “call sin a sin,” use words like hell and Satan and wrath in our sermons, etc. We’re surrounded by independent evangelical megachurches whose preachers have booming baritone voices that tell it like it is, which is why they’re growing faster than any tower Babel ever built. And then Driscoll tweets this:
One of the most cogent things that Barack Obama said during his 2008 presidential campaigns was that he would sit down with America’s enemies since it’s bad strategy to “punish” them by not talking with them. He was widely ridiculed by people whose heroes Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon accomplished their greatest foreign policy achievements with the USSR and China precisely through their willingness to treat America’s enemies with dignity, which happened in a different time before American politics became an adolescent conversation. It has been painful to watch Obama walk back his stance so thoroughly that instead of continuing the somewhat successful (though expensive) counter-insurgency strategy of building relationships with enemies that worked in Iraq, now he sends in drones to speak with bombs and missiles instead. How would the Cuban Missile Crisis have gone if Kennedy had “refused to negotiate with terrorists”? Probably about as well as the Gaza disaster is going for Israel. The Communists were no less ideologically committed to the fall of America than Hamas is committed to the fall of Israel. And yet instead of negotiating with Ahmed al-Jabari, the Hamas military chief, Israel assassinated him, which was a huge strategic blunder if they have a genuine interest in peace.
What I learned from last night’s final presidential debate (which was the first one I watched) is that the way you “win” mostly has to do with how long you can talk without taking a breath or how willing you are to yell “Liar, liar, pants on fire” while the other guy is in the middle of what he’s saying. The fundamental thing Romney and Obama agreed on is the importance of projecting strength in US foreign policy. “Strength” seems to be defined as not apologizing for anything the US has done in the past and making sure that other nations understand that the US knows what’s best for them. I realize we live in a secular nation-state, but I am really bothered by how thoroughly un-Biblical that way of thinking is. Whether or not it’s effective foreign policy from a realpolitik perspective, the Bible calls us to integrity, not strength.
One of the things that makes me hot in watching politics is when one politician criticizes another one’s decision-making without having to explain what he would have done differently. It’s amazing how omnipotent the American president is expected to be about events that are completely beyond his control. Wow, Libya sure did blow up in your face, President Obama; you should have known those Arabs couldn’t handle democracy (say the same people who 9 years ago justified invading an Arab country to “help teach them democracy”). Well, I don’t object to his decision-making per se (since I can’t offer a better alternative), but he should have run all his decisions by Congress (say the same people who were flabbergasted when the opposite side made the preposterous suggestion of “running a military by committee” 9 years ago). This has ceased to have anything to do with making good decisions; it is about coming up with one-liners that stick. And there’s such a desperate need to make Libya into Obama’s Iran hostage crisis that a congressman was willing to do a Wikileaks-style document dump which compromised Libyan allies for the sake of taking down the president. So let me pose the question to you: what would you have done in Libya? Continue reading
“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth” (1 Cor 13:6). That is the fault-line that I try to follow whenever I write about a public figure’s sin, especially a brother in Christ. Delighting in evil is cynicism; rejoicing with the truth is prophecy. I am often a cynic rather than a prophet, and I have a very difficult time discerning between the two. Dinesh D’Souza is someone towards whom I feel a lot of wrath, some of which God has put into my heart and some of which is my sinful flesh. D’Souza has been a key player in what I call the outrage industrial complex, the group of pundits and professional hyperventilators who have seduced a large number of evangelical Christians with a form of ideological pornography that has poisoned the witness of our church. So I think it’s legitimate to say that I “rejoiced with the truth” to learn that D’Souza was caught attending a family values conference with his mistress and forced to resign his presidency of King’s College as a result. And I think that events like this are how God reveals His wrath against His people so that they can repent of misrepresenting Him before He has to up the ante. Continue reading
Tonight from 9-10:30 pm EST, two men neither of whom are the anti-Christ and both of whom are sinners whom God has used to accomplish varying degrees of good in our world will get on TV and attack one another while millions of Americans watch. While this happens, hundreds and perhaps thousands of Christians will get on twitter and damage their witness to co-workers and friends of different races and political persuasions by writing snide commentaries that bash either of the two candidates. The reason I have made a fool out of myself trying to promote the #JesusIsMyCandidate campaign is to offer a different witness of Christ to people who have been alienated by loudmouth Christians who have not spoken with integrity or represented Christ well. If you have a twitter account, I have made it incredibly easy for you to participate tonight. You can cut and paste any number of the 60 sample tweets below anytime today into a tweet scheduler called twuffer.com (yes, the name is silly) so that you don’t have to post live during the debate. Continue reading
It was only supposed to be a catchy sermon series to attract attention for our fall kickoff season. At first our senior pastor was worried about being misinterpreted in the heat of an extremely divisive election season. We have a beautifully “purple” church where progressive liberals and Tea Party activists worship together. It’s one of United Methodism’s greatest strengths and sources of agony. We’re one of the few big tent Christian denominations left. So many have split on female ordination, homosexuality, and other political issues. And so a sermon series called “Jesus is My Candidate” seemed entirely appropriate for a congregation in which people of all political persuasions worship and serve together. But now it’s gotten bigger than a sermon series; it’s become a meme — that strange 21st century cyber-object that you attach to a hashtag on twitter or hand over to Willy Wonka on Facebook hoping that it “trends.” The vision God seems to be sharing feels about as ridiculous as Kevin Costner mowing an Iowa cornfield to build a ballpark for ghosts, and I need a James Earl Jones with a much bigger platform to swoop in, put this meme on your back, and explode it. It’s really simple. We get as many people as possible on twitter every evening at 9 pm until election day to share as many personal testimonies and prophetic statements about Jesus as they feel like with the hashtag #JesusIsMyCandidate. And if we come up with songs, videos, flash mobs, etc, using the same meme, we go where they take us. It’s not slacktivism. It’s a 21st century act of prayer and resistance against the designs of Satan to use this presidential election to pummel American Christianity (and I’m not being a melodramatic wing-nut to name it that way). Continue reading
I’m really not trying to be a hater. This isn’t part of a subversive strategy to delegitimize Obama as a president. But there was a word he specifically avoided saying last night, and it made my heart hurt. When Obama said we must balance our support for Israel’s security with our support for peace, he couldn’t bring himself to say the word “Palestine.” I guess it’s because if he had actually said, “Palestine,” then the number of Americans who believe Obama is a Muslim would have gone up by ten percentage points. Maybe he had to clear his speech with AIPAC before he said it. Why couldn’t he at least acknowledge the name of the other group of people in the territory controlled by the Israeli government who have the right to security and peace also? Continue reading