Monthly Archives: October 2006

Why I’m Not Voting for my Repub Congressman

My district has a fine Congressman in Mark Souder. He’s a true-blue genuine Christian, and he even attends a United Brethren church (Emmanuel Community, which I attended before Anchor started). I’ve been amazed at how refreshingly candid, non-talking-pointish, he is about what’s happening in Washington, even when his words are negative toward persons and causes which he, as a Republican, should champion. I trust him. I like him.

But I’m not voting for him this year. I won’t necessarily vote for his opponent, either. I just won’t vote to re-elect Mark Souder. There’s a principle involved which, on the one hand, can be labeled politically naive, but on the other hand could be labeled…well…principled.

I’m perturbed when blacks give a pass to the indiscretions of their leaders, such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton and that crazy-lady congresswoman who doesn’t like metal detectors. I get perturbed when sports fans give a pass to the shenanigans of their favorite team or player. I get perturbed when society in general gives a pass to the charades of immoral Hollywood celebs. If we have some affinity for a person or team or cause, we look the other way. When actually, we should be holding our own to higher standards.

Republicans should carry the main responsibility for holding Republicans accountable. Thus my decision. Mark Souder entered Congress in 1994 as part of the “Contract with America” class which deified the idea of term limits. We were told they would serve three terms, then leave. And they would work for a Constitutional amendment to limit terms to 12 years max.

Well, Mark Souder served his three terms, then another three terms, and now he’s going for his seventh. So he’s already broken this “contract” with the American people of his district. He has two explanations.

  1. In 2000, his district was redistricted, so he was essentially running for election in a brand new district. And in that campaign, he made no promise about term limits. (For a majority of people in his district, like me, he’s been their Congressman since 1994.)
  2. He notes that Democracts don’t play by term limits rules, so if the Republicans left office after three terms, they would be giving away the huge advantage that incumbents have, Democrats would take over, and godlessness would reign.

I fully understand this incumbency issue. I also know Newt Gingrich and Company, being intelligent people, fully understood this consequence when they wrote the Contract with America. It’s a no-brainer. Of course this would give up the huge advantage that incumbents have. Heaven forbid that Republicans should lead by example and principle. I say: you should have counted the cost in 1994. If the cost would be too great to follow through on the Contract, then don’t put that provision in the Contract. By putting it in, knowing you wouldn’t follow through, you were merely playing cynical, manipulative games with the American people. With me. And I resent that.

And so, despite my enormously high regard for Mark Souder as a person, I will no longer vote for him. Out of principle. We need to have some Republicans who stand on principle regardless of costs. (A friend of mine, a staunch Republican, told me he wasn’t voting for Souder either, and for the same reasons, so it’s not like I’m an island of righteousness.)

Not that it will matter. Souder’s new district is pretty much a bullet-proof Republican district. He’ll get re-elected easily this year…and in 2008…and in 2010. And that’s probably good for both our district and the country. But promises are promises, and the term limits pledge is fully within his power to fulfill. So there, right or wrong, principled or (probably) stupid, I stand.

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Only google with Google

Google, whose motto has been “Don’t be Evil,” has hired lawyers who are concerned about how we commoners ignorantly use the term Google as a verb. They want to protect the Google brand, so that it doesn’t go the way of cellophane, thermos, and other products that have become totally generic. But their me-centric concerns encroach on evilness, and they’ll fully embrace evilness if they take legal action.

We’re told that it’s okay to say you “googled” somebody or something, but only if you did it using the Google search engine. You cannot “google” someone on Yahoo or MSN or Lycos or any other search engine. You can “search” on Ask.com. You can only “google” on Google. This is a matter of cosmic importance.

Google has been a cool company with cool products and services. Now, with this pettiness, they risk losing their street cred and becoming just another bunch of corporate schmucks. Like Microsoft.

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A Team Reaching a Community

On Friday and Saturday I attended a meeting with some United Brethren church planters. A fellow named Tim Roehl, from the Evangelical Church, was brought in as the resource person. Altogether, this was a group of about ten guys who sat around in a living room setting learning and discussing. An intimate setting.

I liked Roehl. He had a lot of good stuff for the guys, and I wrote down some neat insights. Here’s one.

Roehl said church planters often go into an area thinking, “We’re gonna win this place for Christ.” But really, he said, what we’re doing is coming to be part of a team God has already assembled to reach that area–that town, that neighborhood, that city. Church planters need to start by getting acquainted with the other team members already there–the other pastors, churches, and Christian organizations working to extend the Kingdom. And then, as they become acquainted with the other pieces already in place, they can determine what their unique contribution to the team will be. What essential ministries they will develop.

I like that. A lot.

In starting Anchor in 1998, we certainly didn’t take this approach. We were one church coming to impact a neighborhood, and it all came about rapidly; a month after the core team came together, we were on the ground running full speed. But there were already churches–“partners”–ministering in that neighborhood: Wesleyan, Mennonite, Church of God, Presbyterian, others. And we properly need to view them as teammates. I guess it’s not too late.

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Seeking Justice

I read a definition of injustice as “people with power taking something from people who lack power.” I like that. The context involved helping to free women and young girls in south Asia who are forced into prostitution. That’s a rather obvious case of injustice. So was American slavery, and our treatment of native Indians. So is the way cities seize private homes, via imminent domain, to satisfy the greed of wealthy businessmen wanting to build expensive condos.

Injustice also arises in very small ways. I think of Josh, a young man who showed up at our church a few months ago after having been out of state for a few years. He had gotten his life in order, and was excited about going back to school to get his GED. After getting his GED, he planned to join the Marines. So he had purpose in his life.

But he didn’t have a car. He planned to get his GED at North Side High School in Fort Wayne. But when he met with an administrator there, he was told that he would need to attend Elmhurst High School. Most of the kids in our neighborhood are bused to Elmhurst, located many miles away on the south side of the city. North Side is closer, and Josh told me he could walk there.

But because of some rigid rule and an equally rigid administrator, Josh’s plans were dashed. He told me this one Sunday in August. I decided that the next time I saw Josh, I would offer to go with him to North Side, to plead his case for a reasonable exception. But that was the last time I saw Josh, and I wonder what has happened to him.

An injustice occurred. Josh needed an advocate to go up against persons of power–in this case, an uncaring school administrator hiding behind a policy. It was a little thing to that person, a simple matter of saying, “Sorry, we can’t do that.” But to Josh, the ramifications were huge.

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Prayer and Smoke

Tonight was our prayer meeting. This is totally unlike prayer meetings I grew up with. It’s more like a small group, with lots of koinonia happening, yet we’re focused around prayer. And it’s not attended by the “church faithful,” as were all the prayer meetings of my childhood, but by an interesting assortment of folks whom I’ve really come to cherish. Since we started in June, we’ve seen a lot of prayers answered. Pretty neat.

Last week Dan, one of our resident felons, came halfway through the meeting and stayed. Tonight he was the first one there. Alan and Carolyn came tonight for the first time (my heart leaped when they came through the door), along with their newborn son, Conner. They aren’t married yet, and live in a house with a lot of smokers, most of whom have consented to restrict their smoking to the outdoors, out of concern for Conner. Alan, who also has a felony conviction, told us he finally landed a job and starts next week. He’s had a tough time finding work. I hope this one pans out. Alan referred to it as an answer to prayer.

We had 13 people there tonight. I think that might be our largest group yet.

We met in the youth center, which is a house next to the church, because a concert was going on at the church. I hadn’t been to one of our concerts (held at least once or twice a month) in quite a while, so I decided to stroll inside and see what was happening. Just under 200 teens and young adults came; at least, that’s how many wrist-bands they had given out. I’m not sure band members get wristbands, and there were four bands, one hailing all the way from California. They were charging $10 per person tonight, so I think they did pretty well.

Lots of kids were on the church steps smoking, so I walked through the haze to enter and exit the church. That would upset the saints in many UB churches. Me–it made me proud. Proud that my church doesn’t get in a snit about it.

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Escape from Phone Tree Hell

Here are tips for extracting yourself from the maze of customer service “help” lines. I found these precious ideas in Wired magazine.

  • Press 0 (zero) repeatedly, or use combinations of 0, *, and #. If you’re told it’s not a valid entry, ignore it and keep punching. A real person may come to your rescue.
  • Punch in the number for the Spanish operator. This person is probably bilingual and can help you, or at least transfer you.
  • Call the sales line. Sales lines get quicker attention than run-of-the-mill customer service lines. A sales rep can at least transfer you.
  • If you find yourself in a voice recognition system, try saying words like these: agent, operator, representative, I don’t know, get human, and help.
  • As a last resort, shout profanity into the phone. Some systems, according to Wired, will rush angry callers to an operator. If you decide to use the profanity route, I suggest you close your office door, especially if you work at the United Brethren denominational office, as I do.

Erinn, one of my coworkers, taught English in Japan for two years. She pointed out that some of the first words students pick up when learning a new language (though not because she taught them) tend to be swear words. But here, she noted, was a practical reason for learning English profanity. That’s a marvelous insight that would make her father proud.

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Over the Crest of the Hill

Today I am 50. Half a century. I hereby claim the right to be unrepentantly crotchety and cranky.

Also 50 years ago, the Hungarian Revolution broke out. So in Hungary, they are celebrating my birthday with fireworks and other raucous behavior. The Soviets crushed the revolution 12 days later. Yet I, safe in my Indiana crib, lived to fight another day.

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The Christian College Rich-Poor Divide

Kalvin is bummed out. He initially enrolled at Taylor University-Fort Wayne right after graduating from high school, majoring in Pastoral Studies. But the finances weren’t there, and even before school started, he had to back out.

So Kalvin waited two more years, saved up, and this fall was excited to enroll at Taylor. But a week ago, he had to drop out–again, for financial reasons. He was doing very well in his classes and was thoroughly enjoying college life. He was working for pennies in the college kitchen and tried to get work elsewhere (hard to do without a car, often a fact of life with poorer people). But in the end, he had no choice. Taylor no doubt bent over backwards to help him, but costs are costs.

Pam and I care deeply about Kalvin. He began attending Anchor as a youngster, became a Christian and was baptized at Anchor, and we’ve watched him grow over the years. We’ve invested a good portion of ourselves in him. On Saturday, yesterday, we spent about six hours with Kalvin, as he helped us move Pam’s sister from one house to another. He explained the whole sad situation to me yesterday. He had no other option but to drop out. I wonder if he’ll ever get another shot at a Christian college. If maybe he has crossed this dream off in his own mind.

Read more »

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Evangelizing a Good Cause

I stopped by Tony Morgan’s blog this afternoon and saw an interview with Guy Kawasaki, the original “Apple evangelist.” I’ve read several of Guy’s books and regularly check his blog, Signal Without Noise, which mostly deals with issues related to technology, marketing, and business in general.

Here is an exchange between Tony and Guy that cracked me up.

Tony: I don’t own an Apple computer. I feel like I’m missing out. Am I?
Guy: This is like me asking you, “I don’t believe in God. Am I missing out?”

Later, Tony asked Guy what makes a good evangelist. Guy responded, “90% is having a good cause. It’s very easy to evangelize a good cause. It’s hard to evangelize crap.”

It’s easy to evangelize the Macintosh, because it is so obviously superior to anything else on the market, except to the unfortunate lemming masses. The Mac is most definitely a good–yes, noble–cause, which is why I’ve been evangelizing it since 1988, when I joined the Enlightened Minority.

Evangelizing for Christ is certainly a good cause (not to mention a requirement of disciples). If we could just point people to Christ, that would be fine. But Christ is all wrapped up in Christianity, Christians, and the church, and that muddies the cause with, uh, crap. When you talk about Christ with people, sometimes all they see is condemning attitudes, boring services, legalism, Sunday Christians who engage in office lewd jokes during the week, the Bush Administration, and Trinity Broadcasting Network idiots with big hair and makeup so thick it requires a putty knife and chisel to remove.

Here’s a quote from Kawasaki’s wonderful book Selling the Dream. “Evangelists are usually ordinary people. Their passion for a cause makes them special. Gifted people can make good evangelists, but they often fail because they concentrate on selling themselves and not the cause.”

I guess in the church we often err by selling ourselves–our church, our music, our okayness with bluejeans, our friendliness, our pastor–rather than selling Christ.

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Associating with the Snooties

Last night at our little prayer meeting, we spent some time looking at Romans 12:9-21. Verse 16 says, “Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.”

Nicolette offered what, to me, is a fascinating observation. She wondered if you could read that verse in the opposite way, meaning, “Be willing to associate with people of high position.”

So we talked about that. Nicolette said she felt uncomfortable, in particular, being around wealthy people. (In that regard, Anchor is definitely a low-position church.) We might view someone as a high-position person because of their education, important job, or wealth. Especially wealth. We agreed that we don’t like being around snootie people. People who regard themselves as better than you. People who use their intellect/position/money to assert their superiority, to intimidate others, or to wield power and influence.

No, it’s not fun being around such people. But perhaps the Bible is saying we shouldn’t avoid them. Maybe the spirit of the verse is, “Be willing to associate with anyone who isn’t like you. Don’t let your differences separate you.”

[Okay, amateur theologian on the premises.]

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