Monthly Archives: November 2008

At the Polls

Pam and I got to the polls about 6:15, and the line was already very long. Took us an hour, I believe.

I noticed only five blacks in our polling place. We live in a decidedly white section of town. A young black woman and her daughter–maybe fourth grade, somewhere around there–stood in front of us. For all I know, she could have been a McCain supporter. But I let my imagination run.

This election is hugely meaningful to the black community, in a way I cannot possibly fathom. I imagined that woman wanting her daughter to come with her, so she could experience history being made. That’s what I imagined. If that wasn’t the case with that woman, I’m sure that story does play out among millions of black Americans across the country. It doesn’t mean Obama is the better candidate. It just means his candidacy carries deep meaning to the country. We’ve come a long way.

I voted for Obama. In every other case (except with one councilwoman) I voted for Republicans. Including Mark Sauder, our Congressman. I believe we need to hold Congressmen accountable to their promises. He ran, in 1994, partly on term limits–three terms and you’re out. Now he’s running for his eighth term. On principle, I intended to vote against him (even though he’s a genuine Christian and even a member of my denomination). But the Democrats need to help me out here by running someone who is at least halfway credible. I couldn’t send Sauder’s idiot opponent to Washington, so instead, I voted to send a very good man back to Washington…even though it means not holding him accountable. Oh well. Life is complicated.

Although I voted for Obama, convinced that he is what our country needs right now, I retain these reservations:

  • He’s woefully lacking in experience.
  • He’s lacking in the knowledge and wisdom that life experience brings (though he’s obviously a very quick study, as is Sarah Palin).
  • When Michelle said she was proud of America for the first time, I think that’s what she actually meant. They’ve spun her words this way and that, but I’m not sure this is a woman who, deep in her heart, at a visceral level, loves my country the same way I do.
  • I wish Obama’s voting record was less liberal.
  • I’m concerned about the appointment of judges, not just to the Supreme Court, but to other courts.
  • I believe strongly in divided government, and dislike the idea of one party controlling the White House plus both houses of Congress.

But in weighing everything out, I opted for Obama. Tonight, we’ll see what happens. If Indiana goes for Obama…it’ll be a long night (or short) for Republicans.

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Studs Terkel

Studs Terkel died. He mastered the “oral history” form of writing. He would take a subject, then interview people who could address the subject from life experience. And he would just let them talk. His books gave tremendous insight into everyday America and the life of the common man.

Terkel was a listener. He didn’t interview aggressively. He just sat down with people and let them talk, and then masterfully edit a mass of material into a fascinating whole.

His books typically had simple titles, with subtitles that explained what the book was about.

  • Working: People Talk About What They Do all Day and How they Feel About What They Do.
  • Race: How Blacks and Whites Think and Feel About the American Obsession.
  • Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression.

My favorite book was The Good War, in which he interviewed people about their experiences during World War II, whether on the home front or on the front lines. A remarkable book which strikes the same cords as Tom Brokaw’s much-later The Greatest Generation.

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Potty Mouth TV

I was delighted to come across the movie “All the President’s Men” last night on TCM (Turner Classic Movies). That’s a fabulous movie. I sorta came of age during Watergate, and have read a number of books about the scandal, so it has particular interest to me. Plus, being a trained journalist, I’m fascinated by the inner workings of this historic case of investigative journalism.

I was not so delighted that the airing included all of the profanity, including a number of F bombs. A sign of what’s to come throughout the TV spectrum, I suspect.

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How Being a Christian Shapes My Vote

Pastor Tim, via Facebook, asked people to answer, “What factors should shape who/what we vote for as Followers of Jesus living in this liberal democracy?”

An interesting question, and he received some interesting replies. I wrote a response. I decided to post it on my own blog, with some additions since I wrote the original piece. Follow the link below.

A number of issues have nothing to do with faith, and how I view them aren’t necessarily shaped by the fact that I’m a Christian. But there are, indeed, some issues with clear faith implications.

The Poor
The poor, the powerless, the disenfranchised–these people were constantly on Jesus’ mind, and he talked about them and advocated on their behalf all the time. So this is important to me. Though I’ve been a Republican all my life, Republicans do a dismal job on this issue. They’ve always sided with the rich, which is totally unbiblical.

Trickle-down economics basically says, “We’re going to give extra money to the rich, to make sure they stay rich. But hopefully, some of that money will make it back to the poor.” Jesus never advocated anything like trickle-down economics. (You could also argue that Jesus never advocated anything regarding economic policy.)

During the past 8 years, the gap between the rich and poor has expanded. We’ve seen a redistribution of wealth, with the wealth going from the middle and lower classes to the upper classes through various tax breaks. Not too long ago, middle-class people regularly retired at 65, and most companies provided healthcare. Now, middle-class people are working into their 70s, and companies are finding ways to NOT provide health coverage. Meanwhile, the rich remain secure in their increasing wealth.

There is no biblical justification for this. Obama won’t continue these policies. Would McCain?

I’m anti-abortion, which means I should vote for McCain…I guess. This issue should definitely matter to Christians. From a pragmatic viewpoint, though, it seems clear to me that neither candidate, once in office, would end up doing anything, good or bad, regarding this issue. It’ll be left to the states to decide (which is all repealing Roe v. Wade would accomplish). So I view it as merely an issue for political posturing at the Presidential level. I could be wrong about that.

Gay Marriage
I’m against it. So are both candidates. But again, the states are taking the lead in this matter, and the nationalwide recognition of gay marriage may be unstoppable. Perhaps the only thing to be done at the national level is to prevent a Constitutional amendment.

However, since we do live in a pluralistic society, we need to allow tolerance for various things. One, to me, is partner rights in civil unions. This does not mean I’m okay with homosexuality. It just means I’m cognizant of the society we live in, and of what is needed to make our society work. We are a diverse collection of people cooperating to maintain a civil society.

Talking to Your Enemies
Jesus says that if we have problems with someone, we should go talk to them. Directly. From a biblical standpoint, it makes sense to talk to and negotiate with folks like Iran, Korea, Libya, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, etc. What can be gained by not talking? That’s just a Cold War mentality. We all understand the preconditions argument, but McCain’s stand still seems unduly hardline, and that worries me in today’s world. I can’t imagine Jesus saying, “I don’t like you, so I’m not going to talk to you…unless you first do this and this and this.”

War and Peace
For many decades, my denomination’s Discipline has contained this statement: “We positively record our disapproval of engaging in voluntary, national, aggressive warfare.” I agree with that. Iraq most definitely doesn’t qualify. We didn’t need to go there, and at this point, staying in Iraq means zilch for our national security. In fact, it just means all of our forces are focused on the other side of the world, and wouldn’t be available in a case of true national security.

At the same time, I believe America needs to be willing to come to the aid of persecuted people and distressed situations. Like Darfur, Bosnia, and Somalia, for instance. That’s something God expects of a righteous people. But as long as our military and national resources are mired in Iraq, we’re stretched too thin to do much anywhere else. I favor, as a nation, being prepared, ready, and able to intervene on behalf of people who need our help. But that can’t happen as long as all of our eggs are in the Iraq/Afghanistan basket.

The Religiosity of Candidates
Presidential candidates always describe themselves as persons of faith. That their faith is a very important part of who they are. They know how to play the appearance game. When, late in the campaign, John Kerry began talking about how important religion was to him, it came across as totally fake, and he lost any chance of getting my vote.

At the Saddleback forum, Rick Warren asked each person, “What does it mean to you to believe in Christ?” Obama’s answer began, “As a starting point, it means I believe in ‚Äî that Jesus Christ died for my sins, and that I am redeemed through him. That is a source of strength and sustenance on a daily basis,” and then he elaborated. McCain began, “It means I’m saved and forgiven,” and then he told a story from his POW days. Obama came across to me as the one who was saying more than words, and who actually knew what the words meant. I’m not sure McCain could have explained, “What exactly do you mean by ‘saved and forgiven’? Plus, Obama’s the one who actually attends church regularly (say what you want about his church–at least he goes.)

The Candidate’s Marriage
What is the candidate’s own marriage like, and his history in marriage? Were there infidelities (or rumors thereof)? Divorce? Carter and both Bushes get high marks in this area. Obama seems to have a great family. McCain’s is a little harder to get a handle on, since the family has been divided so much between Arizona and DC, but it seems solid to this outsider. When asked about something he regretted, or a major personal failing (I forget the setting), McCain mentioned the failure of his first marriage.

Frankly, I like what I see with all four candidates. But the “what I see” can be misleading. Exhibit A: John Edwards. (Meanwhile, the Clinton marriage remains impossible to explain.)

When US intelligence officers are torturing an 18-year-old guy who got swept up in an Al Queda attack in Afghanistan, trying to get him to talk about things they probably know already; or when US intelligence officers are forcing a detainee at Guantanamo to wear pink women’s underwear to humiliate him…God is looking down. Do you think God approves of what he sees? Would Jesus have been an active participant? In these situations, I see God’s heart going out to the mistreated person. Please show me, biblically, that God is on the side of the US intelligence officers in these cases.

Fortunately, both candidates oppose torture. McCain has been very forceful, a leader in combatting the Bush Administration on this issue. I suspect, and hope, that very soon after either of these men becomes president, we see an end to Guantanamo, secret CIA detention facilities, and the hypocritically immoral and horrid rendentions.

My world (especially work) is dominated by Republicans. I am flummoxed that so few Republican Christians are disturbed that the United States tortures people to obtain routine information. This should outrage Christians, as it outrages me. It just shows how easily our political leanings overrule our sense of humanity, justice, and righteousness.

Climate Change
By continually spewing vast amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, mankind is changing the planet entrusted to us. The science is undeniable. George Bush has continually thwarted any action against global warming, thereby wasting eight crucial years. Fortunately, both McCain and Obama intend to actively fight climate change. I can’t imagine that God enjoys seeing us, in our greed and self-interest, destroy what he created for us, and for his own pleasure.

Capital Punishment
George Bush took glee in executing people when he was governor of Texas. The New Testament shows me nothing that would indicate God favors capital punishment. Consider Tmothy McVeigh, the unrepentant Oklahoma City mass-murderer. There was no rejoicing in heaven over his execution. But if he were still alive, whiling away his days on death row, the possibility would remain that he might find Christ. And then, there would be rejoicing in heaven.

I don’t favor anything which decreases the possibility of rejoicing in heaven. (And don’t tell me, “Well, he snuffed out over 200 people, ending the chance for nonChristians to find Christ.” God doesn’t think like that.)

Capital punishment isn’t an issue in this election. But it’s an issue that I, as a Christian, care about and monitor.

Religious Freedom
This isn’t an issue, either. But it’s one to watch. In our pluralistic society, we must ensure religious freedom for all faiths (unless they advocate child sacrifice or something else whacko).

God always seeks justice. He hates seeing people treated unfairly. Hates seeing the rich become richer at the expense of the poor. Hates seeing guilty people go unpunished, and innocent people suffering for the sins of others. Hates seeing the “little guy” cheated, misused, or abused.

Enough. Those are some of the issues that shape my political thinking. I’m okay with people taking different approaches.

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Palin Before the Bedlam

The current New Yorker magazine has an interesting article about Sarah Palin. Nothing earth-shaking, and nothing particularly positive or negative. Just a “here’s some background you haven’t heard yet” kind of piece.

After becoming governor, she learned that some conservative pundits were taking Alaskan cruises. She invited them to the governor’s mansion in two different batches, 3-4 at a time. Bill Kristol was in the first group, and became very enamored of Palin. He subsequently regularly promoted her name as a VP candidate, long before McCain won the nomination.

Dick Morris was in the second group. He talked to her specifically about being a VP candidate, and gave her advice.

The article shows that Palin has a lot of the good qualities (and please, I say this in a good sense) that served Bill Clinton well: personal charisma, charm, great relational skills, smart, listens to people, and a very quick study on issues. Plus the quality behind courting these pundits in the first place: ambition.

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Anchor Halloween

For the 10th year, Anchor offered a maze to trick-or-treaters. We used to create the maze in the basement. But the past two years, we cleared out the sanctuary and put the maze there. This year’s edition featured a huge black spider sprayed with neon colors that Terry Leatherman dropped on unsuspecting maze-goers. Not that it necessarily frightened them. I watched as a few people came through. One said, “That’s cool.” Not exactly what Shelob, with fangs gleaming, wants to hear. Terry told me one guy just said, “That’s lame.”

Pastor Tim stood outside the church, passing out candy and inviting people inside for the maze. As one middle school girl approached the church, Tim asked, “Are you Hannah Montana?”

She said, “No, I’m a pimp, and these”–pointing to two guys dressed as girls following behind her–“are my ho’s.” Yes, it takes me back to my own innocent days of…junior high?

I took a picture of all three in front of the church.

Downstairs, we had hotdogs and lots of crockpots filled with soup, plus various desserts. This is always quite popular, and it’s a good opportunity to get acquainted with neighborhood people.

My brother Rick says both of his kids won prizes at school for their creative attire. Cameron wanted to go as Jesus carrying the cross. “So we dressed him accordingly, complete with cross, blood, and crown of thorns.” How cool is that?

Then there’s the eight-grader in New Jersey who dressed like Jesus, and was sent home from school because it was causing a disruption. The kid wasn’t doing it as a religious statement, but because classmates had told him his long hair made him look like Jesus. So he decided to dress the part.

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