Category Archives: Politics

I could care less if the president is a Christian

'Stop the Intersection of Church and State' photo (c) 2008, Chuck Coker - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/Today’s post is a bit of a rant, but I feel I have to get this off my chest. Last week I received my voter registration card. The Ohio primaries are coming up next week. With all of the political ads hitting lately and the debates among these Christian men running for president, I have a big qualm.

Candidates can spend so much time proving they’re Christian, and to be honest, I could care less. I’m not voting for you to be my pastor, my spiritual mentor, or even my small group leader. I’m voting for you on how well you can lead the nation, as president.

Rick Santorum’s recent comments about how the seperation of Church and State is wrong for America is what annoys me most about those who can’t distinguish between the two. The president is not a pastor, they are a government official. The United States is not the Kingdom of God. The city of God is not the city of man. Sure, you can let your beliefs guide you when making decisions. We all have a set of standards in mind that we evaluate the world on. But don’t favor Christians or your beliefs if they’re harmful to the well being of the overall nation. We are not a Christian nation, never were, especially not today.

Studies have shown that people in the faith community are uncomfortable with the idea of an Atheist president. I personally couldn’t care. I would expect them to respect people of all walks, just like I would expect a Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, or whatever President to do as well. We’re so thrown off in this nation that if they can fix it, their stance on faith matters less to me than anything else.

I know this was short, but I needed to get this out. As I go to vote next week, I’m going to be looking at the policies the candidates mention, how they view them, what they say they’ll do, and then I will vote based on who I think can do the best job. Not who was captain of the Christian club in college.

Lessons in debate we can learn from dragons

Found at PhotoBucket.

I’ve been playing a lot of the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim lately. The game is set in a medieval world and the plot revolves around the reappearance of dragons after centuries without them. One of the dragon related items I found to be thought provoking is a line about a when a dragon breathes fire.

When a dragon uses a breath attack… it is speaking in an ancient and powerful language. A battle between two dragons is actually a deadly verbal debate.

I had always saw dragons growing up and fierce monsters who breath fire and are just heartless and evil. But this characterization found in Skyrim has the main character able to learn the language of the dragons, and at times hold conversations with them.

I began to think about this some more and had to wonder, how often are we like dragons, spewing fire at the people we argue with?

My mind immediately goes to the Westboro protests and the counter-protests against them. Christians who stand across from courthouses and abortion clinics and shout at the “evil” people on the other side. When a popular fundamentalist pastor makes a certain claim and all the Twitterverse and bloggers get to work about how wrong they are. In our world of entitlement, we often feel the first thing to do when we are wronged is retaliate. Sometimes such as in our current political climate nearing election, we don’t even wait, but just start laying out the ways our opponent has done wrong to make ourselves look better.

Instead of fighting, what if we sought to understand our criticizers view?

I offer two examples, one bad, the other good. The other night I was researching something for a project I’m working on. I found what I was looking for on a website and the information was laid out nicely. Then I decided to explore their site some more and found statements that I didn’t agree with. I immediately thought they were wrong and impossible to work with. I wanted to just be done with them and never think of that site again. But as I thought more of it the next day, I realized that the piece I needed was well explained and I agreed it. Sure, I might not agree with every stance they take, but they at least had something to offer me and that I could find helpful if I hadn’t discounted them right away. I went back to find what I originally came for, because it was helpful and it was common ground to move forward from.

The second example takes place while I was in college. There I was a painting major. I admit I wasn’t that good. In one class critique in particular, a classmate equated what I was doing to that of a kindergartener. The found nothing worthwhile in my paintings. It didn’t get to me. Partially because I think in the back of my mind I knew she was right. I didn’t get defensive, because her work was really well done. It was detailed and intricate. Mine was basically a simple cartoon on a canvas.

But I could have retaliated. Said her painting was too traditional. I was thinking outside the “painter” spectrum. But I knew I wasn’t. It was something I was doing, but not something I was good at. I was able to admit my shortcomings and listen to what she had to say. Others said they enjoyed my painting, while others agreed with her. It turned into a rather civil discussion on why art was or wasn’t good.

That critique is actually the point that I began to love debate and critique. I loved to hear the opposing side. I attended a church my first year of seminary that held a different set of beliefs than I held, because it helped me to know better what I believe. And though I disagreed with them at times, I found some community there in the short time I attended, and found them to be great people. So while opposing ideas might annoy me sometimes, I want to hear them. I just hope we can learn to keep the fire breathing to a minimum when faced with an opponent, and instead seek to hear the other side of the story first and know how our opponents feel when it comes to their beliefs. After all, they believe them just as strongly as we believe ours. Shouldn’t that at least be respected?

Lessons learned from a light fixture

'Light#6' photo (c) 2005, Jérôme - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/While on campus I work at the library. For the most part it’s an easy job, and I get a lot of work done while I’m at the desk. A few months back I was trying to get some work done, but found quite the annoyance was succeeding at keeping me from my goals.

A light bulb was starting to go and was flickering off and on.

It was infuriating. I’m just minding my own business, trying to do some reading, and in the corner of my eye is this light. I tend to have a low attention span at times and if I see something going past me, I tend to look. The light kept my eye tricked into thinking something was happening just off to the left. But all that was happening was a nuisance that kept me from getting anything done.

I sat back and thought about it for a minute. This could be a good life lesson to learn. While people were noticing it, mentioning it, and asking me about it, the main thing everyone wanted to know what, “Can you turn it off?”

Everyone has an opinion, if you’re reading this that’s proof. A blog is a place where someone can express their opinion. I think they key becomes the way we express it. In seminary, we have a variety of beliefs. This is something I wouldn’t trade for the world and has brought about a great amount of debate and conversation. But every so often we end up with someone who becomes a flickering light bulb. Sometimes we let our opinions and views become so overwhelming that it gets in the way. Yes people are taking notice and they’re talking about it, but perhaps the question they’re asking is, “When will you turn off?” I know I’ve asked that to myself sometimes.

Right now we’re in the start of the year of candidate running for the next president. One of my least favorite times for watching TV. Because as we get closer to election day, the more we hear bashing and the same repeat commercials that are just propaganda and don’t push the electoral process further. The shouting begins and the finger pointing begins. While I know debates are not the most entertaining selections of television to ever dance across our screens, I think that the sitting down and sharing our opinions, views, and ideas is one redeeming aspect of the election season. The commercials where the finger pointing and who can shout louder mentality detract from anything. I tend to just mute the commercials during that time because I’m ready for them to just turn off.

Eventually I solved my problem with the light. I put my sweatshirt hood up and it blocked my view of the light. But I attempted to make the point to myself to not become that light. Sharing my opinion is one thing, but becoming a pain to everyone else is another.

Reflections on 10 years

'World Trade Center Jesus' photo (c) 2010, emilydickinsonridesabmx - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of 9/11. I had several blog posts running through my head, yet none fully seemed to fit. I thought about talking about where I was at the time. I thought about complaining about the picture in this post. I thought about ranting over our politicized version of Christianity today. I thought of reflecting on all the lives lost in the last 10 years over this event.

Yet none seemed to fit.

I do remember where I was. It was 9th grade. It happened during my 3rd period advanced biology class. I was taking a test. 4th period algebra came around and I had a test in there as well. Most of the people from my biology class went with me so we were all just in test mode.

It wasn’t until 5th period english, over and hour after the event took place, did I even hear what happened. We sat in there watching the TV, not saying much of anything to each other. We weren’t sure what to say.

School quickly let out and we all went home early. I walked in the front door to find my dad, paralyzed in his bed with my mother and grandmother by his side. All three of them staring at the TV, watching the event replay.

Plane crash, falling tower, wreckage.

Repeat. Again. And again.

A couple weeks ago, my grandfather, who has Alzheimer’s, was watching TV with my grandmother, when a commercial for 9/11 came on. He asked, “What are they talking about?” She replied, “Well that’s 9/11, you know that.” He said, “I don’t remember that.” It’s an interesting prospect, forgetting such a huge event in history. Not knowing the damage done to a people. To look back, never to know what was there.

I feel this is almost how we treat what happens overseas. These past 10 years have been filled with bloodshed, both on our side and the other. Innocents of various nations have fallen in a war against a faceless enemy. Sons and daughters, mothers and fathers. People who have families. This is something we need to remember. This is something we can’t forget. Not the reasons why we’re in war, not the vengeance we feel we need, not the revenge that will just lead to more bloodshed on both sides. We need to remember, people are dying. They have died, and they will die. The best we can do is not continue to fight, but learn how to end the fighting. Only then will families be reunited, the bloodshed will stop, wounds will heal, and life can begin again. Ending the non-stop repetition that we see played in front of our eyes, day in and day out.

This wasn’t the post I originally planned. But it’s the best I can come up with. I just hope it said what I needed it to say.

Bringing earplugs to a debate

I have a friend in seminary. The other day she posted on Facebook, “There’s a difference between allowing your faith to permeate your life, and requiring that everyone else subscribe to your beliefs.”

I think this is a good bit of advice for anyone looking to hold a conversation, but I really think that this is the key to successful religious dialogue. The problem with this hopeful idea is when both parties are unwilling to change their beliefs.

When I was in Boston last year, Rachael and I sat in for a moment in the Boston State Senate and House of Representatives. The Representatives were, at the time, in the process of passing a law. The question in our minds and echoed by everyone else in our tour group was, “Why is someone busy presenting their case when no one in the room besides us is paying attention?” The guide told us that this was the last of the debates and everyone had already made up their mind at this point. I had to wonder, why even bother debating if the vote is practically decided already?

A similar thing happens anytime there’s a counter-protest to the Westboro group. Their beliefs are so much a part of who they are that they will never budge from them. Similarly, the people who are protesting them are so entrenched in their beliefs that they’re wrong, they’ll never join them. Which comes back to the previous question, why debate at all?

In this situation it kind of comes down purely to a shouting contest. Who ends up being the loudest with the most signs. There are silent counter-protests which have been quite successful in and of themselves, but neither side ends up caving to the other.

So why do we debate? If we can’t reach an agreement and one side isn’t willing to change its stance to meet another, then walk away and stop shouting. It’s getting annoying. It’s time we began to work to a better mutual understanding rather than a shouting contest of “going-nowhere” proportions.

Are Christians actually loving?

'Was wondering where the cross went' photo (c) 2010, diaper - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/Over the past view days, a group of atheists have filed a lawsuit that would remove the 9/11 cross (pictured here) from the 9/11 Memorial Site claiming that it is unconstitutional and a mingling of church and state. They feel that if the cross, made of two beams that still stood together after the towers fell, is to be left there, it should be among a variety of faith images and philosophies. I have to agree with them and here is why.

Here’s a quote from the president of this group, Dave Silverman:

The WTC cross has become a Christian icon. It has been blessed by so-called holy men and presented as a reminder that their god, who couldn’t be bothered to stop the Muslim terrorists or prevent 3,000 people from being killed in his name, cared only enough to bestow upon us some rubble that resembles a cross…It’s a truly ridiculous assertion.

While this is a good point, leading me to believe that the cross is just a bigger, “burnt toast Jesus,” it’s not the reason I think it should be removed.

My reason is due to the responses to this group my Americans, some of which I’m sure are Christians, on the Fox News Facebook page over this lawsuit. Here are a couple responses to the lawsuit, no editing for grammar:

“Shoot them. Shoot to kill.”

“TO ALL ATHEIST DIE AN GO TO HELL HAHA IF I COULD ID SHOOT ALL OF YOU IN THE HEAD WITH A 12GAUGE”

“Shoot em. At least we know where they’re going, waste of oxygen.”

“They’re atheists so it won’t matter if you kill them.”

“I love Jesus, and the cross and if you don’t, I hope someone rapes you!”

“these people are f’ing scum of the earth. can we start killing them now? few groups are more filled with hatred than atheists.”

“Nail them to that cross then display it”

I hate to be the one to tell these people, but this nation that was not founded as a Christian nation. So why should we get any special treatment? In fact, if this is our reaction to the world when it tries to remove Christian symbols, then I think we have no right to speak against them. After all Jesus taught us to love our enemies, and to turn the other cheek when someones strikes us, and how is this loving at all? Until we can learn to love our enemies, I think we need to sit down, shut up, and not be so quick to crucify anyone who thinks differently than we do.

Reflections on bin Laden’s death

I initially wasn’t going to respond on this, but I actually feel I have something to say about it. Last Sunday night, like most Americans, I was watching TV. I got on Twitter to see the news, “Osama bin Laden is dead!’ I sat watching CNN waiting for President Obama to come on and give his speech, missing the end of Iron Chef America. (Thank you DVR.)

It was a surreal moment, one that I still haven’t fully processed. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a huge patriot, and for someone who was processing something more personal than 9/11 when it happened, I’m not sure I fully processed that almost 10 years ago.

So what does it mean for bin Laden to be dead? Bigger question is how do we react? I’ve seen lots of people with wildly different reactions. Which doesn’t help the processing. It especially doesn’t help when I went to turn to where Christians were standing. Some stood on the line of “forgive your enemies” and some were saying “Welcome to Hell bin Laden.”

While I know which of these two Jesus said and would stand by today, it’s by far not the easiest option to stand by. I imagine it would be much harder if I had lost someone on 9/11 or overseas in the war on “terror.” Perhaps I would feel more vengeful and desire his death even more. It’s an image many hold to and represent and I respect it. But I also hear stories of families who did lose people in these situations that when they heard the news that bin Laden was dead, the didn’t care. It wouldn’t change anything for them. It was a sombering moment amidst the celebrations. While bin Laden could no longer terrorize others, his death would not save the people who had already died, and that was what matters to the families.

I honestly don’t know the answer for how we should feel. Nor do I think we should all feel the same about this. Obviously some are going to be happier about this than others, others will worry for safety because of it, others will not care at all. I think that spectrum is necessary. However, the one Christian perspective that stood out, that I mentioned before, is one that I do not think is helpful. To immediately proclaim hell and death upon bin Laden is not ours to proclaim. Whether it be true or not, we won’t know until we die where he is, nor do we have any say in it.

It is also important to remember what President Obama said. The war on terror is not a war on Islam. It is not a war on Muslims. Attacking and lumping all Arab people together as worthy of death makes America no better than al-Qaeda. I’ve seen really racist and prejudice comments against Arab people lately. It saddens me that Americans can be narrow minded and terrible people when we are supposedly the best nation on earth. I don’t think we can even be good, let alone the best, until we can get past our narrow mindedness and seek to help those no matter who they are.

 

Obama and Libya

Over the weekend I got the new issue of TIME in the mail. On the cover is a picture of Gaddafi and a big question, “What if he doesn’t go?” Well for President Obama, that apparently isn’t a question we can answer. Today Obama went on the news to announce his rationale for sending troops into Libya. I’m not here to argue if that’s a good decision or not. We’ll find that out in the coming weeks/months (hopefully not years).

What I am here to discuss is what the commentators were discussing. Those in Congress and around the nation are waiting for this to go bad to blame Obama for not making wise decisions. My problem with this is, how can we get to the point as a nation, where instead of attempting to work with each other and solve problems, we just sit back and wait for the other group to fail so we can throw blame around.

This can happen in the church as well. One problem with the church today is how fractured it is. There are Calvinists and Armenians; pre-trib, post-trib, and a-trib; Methodists and Presbyterians; etc. One topic we’ve been discussing in our Doctrine of Church course here on campus is the ecumenical movement. That is the unification of Protestant denominations, Catholics, and Orthodox members of Christianity in a common ideal. While this doesn’t mean we all abandon what makes us each unique, but we look for a common ground to work together.

The problem our class sees in this is that some ideas are so ingrained in us that we cannot look past them to work together. As I’ve mentioned before, I have no clue what I want to do in life, but I have a feeling a goal of mine is to begin into this movement and attempt to bring some unity back among the division. I currently describe myself as unaffiliated with a denomination, a free-agent if you will. While I’m not looking to be drafted to a certain team, I feel this gives me the ability to blend into a group. And while I don’t want to be deceptive in my blending, I’ve been in several churches of several denominations over the past year, and I can’t say that I have at any point not agreed with them on a basic level at what makes us Christian.

Here’s my hope. That one day, we can find more unity. Not to the point that denominations disappear, but that more don’t sprout up all over because of petty disagreements. One thing I love about denominations is that it gives us the opportunity for different ideas and the conversation that provides. However, we can have all the opinions in the world, but if we can’t work together and all we do is wait for others to fail, then we’ve already failed.

Hope for a terrible situation

Represenative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona was one of the victims of a shooting in Tucson, AZ. Shot through the head, the doctors say she’ll make it through. Last night I had heard ideas that it was politically motivated, or at least Tea Party influenced, but after sitting on it, and thinking, I don’t think the most important or longest lasting part of this story matters if it was or wasn’t committed for those reasons. This whole thing is a terrible situation, no matter what your political stance is, and while it’s unclear whether or not it was politically motivated, I hope that it can have future political ramifications.

I hope that this situation can begin to bring the two major political parties together. Even if it wasn’t an attack by one side on the other, maybe it can be a chance for one party to reach out to the other. Perhaps the biggest problem in politics is that the two parties can’t seem to work with each other. The only way a decision can be made is if the President or the majority of Congress is one party or the other. What if political parties didn’t matter, because people could come to a common understanding for the better of the American people.

Better yet, what if it was the American people that could band together to tell those that represent them what the nation as a whole want and needs. I don’t think that these are unachievable goals. I also don’t think everyone needs to think exactly the same, but working together requires people to compromise, understand, and see the larger picture. It won’t happen overnight, but I do believe it can happen.

Christian Right

 

While working on my paper on Buddhism’s Eightfold Path, I was attempting to find parallels between this teaching and those of Christianity. Each tenet of the Eightfold Path begins with ‘right’ such as ‘right understanding’ or ‘right action.’ Without thinking I searched “Christian right intention” only to be blown away by the amount of irrelevant articles on the ‘Christian right.’

It drives me mad how that term has become so saturated through our society. Especially as a Democratic Christian that values the morals of the Republican party, I (and those that are similar to me) end up left out of the picture because we’re not Republicans. It’s a shame that we are looked at sometimes as inferior Christians or not true Christians because we aren’t of the same political party. It’s worse when you consider that Christianity isn’t a political party. So how can I not belong to one system by being defined by another system? I’m sure there are plenty of Republicans who aren’t Christians that don’t want lumped into this group either.

As for how much I think Christianity and politics should mingle, it’s a little. As a Christian, I let my views shape my decisions. But realizing that our nation is full of people that aren’t of the same religious background as I am, I can’t force my beliefs across a nation as a once and for all statement. I wish that political officials who are trying to “take back America for God” would understand that not everyone in America wants God in control, and as much as I would like a nation of Christians, forcing it on people through politics is a terrible way to do it.

So if someone wants to enter politics and they are Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, etc., support them based on what they can do for the nation. We’re not in the best shape right now, and spending all your time electing people who fit your mindset might not help if all they do is debate why the Speaker of the House shouldn’t be Jewish. It’s not advancing us any further.