Moving toward Hope

pablo

  • Ferguson, MO.
  • Confederate Flag license plates in Texas
  • Indiana Religious Freedom Bills
  • Arkansas’ Prohibition of Anti-Discrimination Ordinances –
All flash points in a growing battle over the issues of racial injustice, insensitivity, and the LGBT discrimination. A battle that has created a polarized reactionary environment that I’m fearful may lead many well-meaning Christians into adopting a stance that serves a social conservative agenda without fully measuring that agenda in contrast to the cause of Christ.

 

I’m a southern white man and a proud member of a Southern Baptist Church. My voting record leans notably Republican but admittedly this is often due to the lack of a more principled option. I’m also an egregious sinner that treads paths of unconsidered pride and selfishness naturally. So I speak as neither the antidote or an alien to these ailments a the intersection of conservative policy and Christian theology.

 

I’m simply trying to ask the question: Are my actions and words surrendering to the glory of God and advancing hope to a dying world?

Moving Toward

Recently both Arkansas and Indiana have passed laws that seem geared to protecting people of faith if they choose to discriminate against someone on the basis of their sexual identity or lifestyle (LGBT). At first glance it may seem foregone that Christian’s should support such measures but I ask you to pause an consider discrimination in the light of actions and heart of Christ.

 

Christ repeatedly challenged the moral norms of his day by seeking out not the well-heeled religious folks but rather the scoundrels and out-casts. Long before he was a popular children’s church song Zacchaeus was the town pariah and a blatant thief. Any morally upright person was more than justified in shunning him. Yet, when Jesus encounters Zacchaeus he says, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” (‭Luke‬ ‭19‬:‭5‬ ESV).

 

Not only did Christ stop and do the unthinkable by speaking to Zacchaeus he caused a scandal by going to this man’s house. To be sure he didn’t excuse or endorse the actions of Zacchaeus but he did the exact opposite of discriminating against him. He went toward him.

 

Toward him.

 

That direction is a direct challenge to any reaction that would relationally stiff-arm someone due to their position as a scoundrel. For we are all scoundrels.

 

To simplify the question: How do I bring glory to God as I interact with every single human?

Yes, but what about legal protection

So what of the risk of legal persecution of someone taking a moral stance regarding their faith?

 

I certainly don’t discount such a possibility. In fact, a biblical worldview indicates more of this is on its way in coming decades. (Revelation doesn’t exactly read like a Disney cruise brochure but that’s okay because I know how the book ends.)

 

The question for me is, where am I placing my trust? I can by no means say that God is against laws that protect his servants but history says that if I’m placing my trust there I’ll be sorely disappointed. When I examine the persecution and flourishing of the early church and that most of you have at least heard the name of Dietrich Bonhoeffer then I must entertain the uncomfortable notion that God may allow persecution to accomplish his purposes. Perhaps my faith shouldn’t be in the words of legal protection but rather rooted in the Word of God.

 

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (‭James‬ ‭1‬:‭2-4‬ ESV)

 

I’d be remiss to not mention the my entire salvation depends upon the unjust persecution of Jesus Christ.

 

The question: Am I more concerned with self-preservation and security than I am with following after Christ?
(Yeah, I don’t much care for that question either.)

 

Hope not Hate

[Disclaimer: I believe the issues surrounding LGTB discrimination and that or racism are VERY different issues. I should have broken these into separate posts. However, my mind an spirit has been greatly troubled and all these words have spilled out over recent days. So please forgive me for writing about both together.]

 

I’m woefully ignorant about many of the challenges that my black brother’s and sisters face in today’s society but I’m grateful for dear friends and exemplary Christian Pastors that God has used to peel back my naivete in recent years. Yet even with my limited understanding of the racism they face I found myself flinching at posts and comments from Christian white people in the days following the Ferguson shooting and subsequent protests.

 

Regardless of the facts and or fault in such a tragic situation I feel a divine responsibility to confront injustice. Not to be dismissive or hostile. Even a willingness to accept our own ignorance and listen is a starting point.

 

The question: What does loving my neighbor look like?

 

Which brings me to the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Texas who are currently asking, under the premise of free speech, to put a Confederate flag on a license plate.

Bless their hearts.

 

Before I continue let it be known I spent a good number of years as a Civil War reenactor (Grey & Blue mind you and relished every moment). I have been invited 3 times to join the SCV in Arkansas and I have the documentation of family records to have my membership approved. I’ve got kinfolk with their names etched in a wall in Chickamauga, GA and I can sing the words of the “Bonnie Blue Flag” from heart. So if you’d care to attack my love for the South with all her blemishes and bruises you’d better pack a lunch. You’ll need it.

 

My experience with the Illegitimate Sons of the Confederacy (my PG approved moniker) has greatly jaded my view and unfortunately their actions continue to bear out my prejudice against them. Honestly, for the SCV to have any shred of legitimacy in heritage preservation they would lobby for using the actual flag of the C.S.A., pictured below. To be clear I would not support that measure either. So I’ll try to abbreviate my derision of this organization that continues to be an ignorant stain on Southern Heritage and return to the issue of faith.
The 1st National Flag of the Confederacy 1861-1863

The 1st National Flag of the Confederacy 1861-1863

As a Christian standing in line at a the Texas DMV considering a confederate flag license plate how can I ignore that I might unnecessarily offend and also limit my usefulness as a vessel of hope and mercy? I can just see a Baptist church with a parking lot full of trucks with confederate flags praying over how to reach their community.

 

The question: Whom do I love more? Me or them?

 

I echo the words of Dr. Moore (a white Baptist)

And from the Apostle Paul,
Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings. (‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭9‬:‭19-23‬ NLT)

Amen.

Advancing a Higher Agenda

Brothers and Sisters I do not propose that these thoughts should lead to a single or simple answer nor be used as a litmus test. I just want to take a moment and ask sincere questions of myself and my brother’s and sisters.

My goal is to challenge ourselves to consider, to pray, to seek wisdom and above all else seek to advance only one agenda: that of the kingdom of God.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (‭Philippians‬ ‭2‬:‭3-4‬ ESV)
God Bless.

 

Snowden and the Perseverance of Privacy

liberty_bell_jefferson_quote

If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.

In early June a 29 year-old NSA security contractor, Ed Snowden, decided to go public with information that should permanently alter the discourse and decisions that balance intelligence gathering and citizen privacy in this country for the next 50 years.

In brief he detonated 2 intelligence bombs, that the NSA had,

  1. Required Verizon, via the FISA court, to disclose “the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls” on all of its customers. This was not a one time requirement but an order to produce this data on an ongoing basis. via The Guardian: NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily
  2. Created a data mining program that had direct and complicit Access to Web Companies like Facebook, Google, and Skype. via The Washington Post: U.S., British intelligence mining data from nine U.S. Internet companies in broad secret program

Ied_snown response to these revelations Ed Snowden has been charged with espionage and has slipped out of Hong Kong to seek political asylum in Ecuador. He appears to be employing the advisers of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange who is currently in asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

These revelations represent a stunning abuse of our basic rights to freedom and privacy and the whistleblower that brought them to light is on the run.

This is not my America.

We are all at fault

In the post 9/11 era George W. Bush’s administration pushed for and a narrowly Republican congress passed the Patriot Act which broadly expanded law enforcement’s surveillance powers without sufficient judicial oversight. Then remarkably his administration went even further by embarking upon an illegal warrantless wiretapping program that when it became public required congress to enact the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 so the covert program would no longer be criminal. Lest we forget, FISA stands for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, keyword: foreign.

Every iota of privacy we are clamoring to regain from the intelligence community is a direct result of this sweeping “patriotic” legislation and its re-authorization amendments.

Amendments that have been consistently supported by Republicans. (The NSA phone surveillance program that Snowden revealed was authorized under Patriotic Act Section 215.)

However, if Bush initiated this dreadful state of affairs then President Obama has made it into an art form. Obama made such a seismic shift from his campaign trail opposition rhetoric to supporting the FAA expansions as President that the outcry from the left at the time was deafening. When you couple the AP leak investigation with these NSA disclosures you must wonder at what point do we convene congressional hearings on domestic spying and haul this administration in and demand answers under oath?

So regardless of your political persuasion it is time to take responsibility for the cess pool that our willful ignorance has hydrated. We are all at fault.

Let us now resolve to become part of the solution.

The Time is Now

If we, the citizens and voters in this Republic, do not take a vocal and visceral stand against this abuse of power and in opposition to an intelligence community operating with impunity we may very well find that we have permanently punted our ability to preserve liberty or have oversight of these “public servants” who have sworn to uphold the tenets of this country they so readily shred.

It is imperative that we ask our elected officials and candidates for Congressional office the tough questions about protecting our privacy.

It’s time to ask why 53 senators thought so little of an NSA briefing on phone surveillance that they could not be bothered to attend. Senator Pryor why weren’t you there?

Let us ignore the party affiliations affixed to the names of candidates and instead ask them to explain how they will uphold our Bill of Rights including the Right to Privacy. If their answer doesn’t demand specific warrants for domestic surveillance then it is the wrong answer and they should be voted out.

May I suggest 2 specific actions:

  1. Support the Bipartisan HR2399 LIBERT-E Act – It seeks to limit government surveillance without due process of law.
  2. Sign the StopWatching.us Open Letter to Congress – It calls for reform to section 215 and asks for a special committee to investigate the extent of domestic spying. <– 2 great questions to ask the next politician asking for your vote. Also I’d recommend following @stopwatchingus

On Snowden

There is little doubt that Snowden broke the law and at least some of the charges against him are legitimate. However, as Schneier eloquently states, “before the Justice Department prosecutes Snowden, there are some other investigations that ought to happen.”

I’m no legal scholar but perhaps we can find a way to simply indict him and release him on bail pending further review. I’d much prefer Snowden be sitting in the Capitol giving testimony than in an Ecuadorian embassy on the run from intelligence community I no longer trust.

For more enlightenment on this issue may I suggest:

Staking out a Third Way

ArrowsI have no formal education in Political Science beyond my 8th grade civics class so I’m very much an empty talking head but I’ll tell you what I know.

Labels, Rhetoric, and the DNC/RNC party’s bent toward whatever is politically expedient isn’t working out very well for this country.

So I dare propose we try something new: discussing ideas between real people and then working to get sensible people elected.

The premise is that we have now promoted political labels to the point of being an obstacle. There is much more that makes us common than makes us different.

Practically it looks like this:

1. Start Listening & Talking to people with different ideas than you.

Last year a group of friends that like to talk politics decided to take our conversations offline. We created a safe place of mutual respect and the craziest thing happened. We were no longer simply liberals and conservatives but we were Americans that disagreed on a great deal yet also discovered a vast common ground.

To be clear there are divisive issues that touch the core of our faith and emotions and many times we must agree to disagree. But due to the relationships and intentional respect I learned a great deal about how others see these issues. If we can suck the vehement rhetoric and posturing that normally accompanies these issues we might make real progress.

Lastly, you’ll realize that those wedge issues have little to do with foreign diplomacy, how we fund street repairs, ensuring quality education, reducing crime, or any hundred other practical functions of government.

Start by listening to voices you don’t naturally agree with. Don’t choose bombastic media outlets but find moderate sources that don’t automatically reinforce your perspective.

Labels & rhetoric are for those too unsure of their beliefs to think for themselves.

Listen long enough and you’ll be forced to thoughtfully reexamine what you believe. You’ll be better for it.

2. Look for the Right and Wrong in both the Left and the Right.

Tonight I praised an interview that President Obama gave the Atlantic on Iran and Israel.

 

My praise raised eyebrows because I’m a conservative and everything he says I should oppose. This current climate gets to the heart of the weakness of the current political party system.

The Republican National Committee (RNC) and Democratic National Committee (DNC) elevate themselves above all else. If someone is on our side we should stand with them and if they are on the opposing side we always oppose them.

To be clear there is much to be opposed but when we oppose it because of who said it we have missed the mark. Let’s return to the battle of ideas. Take a position because of what you believe and articulate why it makes for a better America.

That isn’t happening these days and the culprit is either:

  • Elected officials that have no conviction of ideas.
  • They are inept in making their case to the American public.
  • Few are concerned with anything other than re-election and party influence.

Voters choice, take your pick.

When you only listen to one-sided propaganda you will eventually accept it truth. Let us take a radical step of encouraging civil discourse amongst ourselves and we will inherently challenge the stranglehold that the 2 self-interested parties hold on American Politics.

My friend @kyranpittman said it best,

PS: Perhaps there is a glimmer of hope in AmericansElect.org

Lord teach me to keep my big mouth shut.

So that initial promise I made to not write about politics… I completely and utterly lied. I’m sorry. Sue me.

If I’ve learned one thing from my friend @BryanJones it is to avoid discussing politics on Twitter. Be positive and don’t be divisive. I swear on cheesecake I try but last night I opened my big fat mouth.

I told someone that they made me ashamed to be a conservative.

It’s true and I stand by it but I should have bitten my tongue. So in response I decided to blog about it. (Makes sense to me)

Without linking to the lunacy let’s summarize the opposing viewpoint as…

Islam is a militant religion set on destroying the U.S. and world domination. I am an America-hating Marxist blinded by establishment media to the fact that Islam seeks to enslave me as dhimmi. etc…

First and foremost I’m not diving into a debate on Islam. I’m not an expert and I’ve never personally read the Koran in its entirety. My personal belief is that crazy people can twist whatever they like to make someone else the enemy.

So why am I writing about this?

Thoughtcrime

I realize this is a bit extreme but I’m pretty sure its legal to want to destroy me because of my belief system, stunning good looks, or my lack of a jump shot. What the law says is you can’t act on that belief. Is it wise to be aware of crazy people that want to me damage? Sure.

There’s this little book I subscribe to that says,

be as wise as snakes and as innocent as doves Matt 10:16

Think and believe whatever you like but take action on your belief to destroy me, my family, my church, or my country and you’ll find yourself at the business end of a Smith & Wesson or the United States Marine Corp (depending).

I’m not naive. I understand the world is a dangerous place but I’m not willing to start rounding up Muslims and deporting them solely based on their belief system. Rumor has it some of them are even decent America loving folks.

Reminds me of an old song… Freedom’s just another word… that people use when it benefits them.

-Marxist signing off

There ought to be a law against that…

I said I wouldn’t talk politics here… I lied. I’ll try to stick to ideals and perspectives and not punditry.

At times in our frustration we’ve all said “There ought to be a law against…”

  • People taking too long to write a check in the grocery checkout
  • bump its
  • Mosques

Freedom is funny thing. We will fight to the death to defend it but we’ll easily ignore it when convenient. Freedom doesn’t work that way, it is a two-edged sword. Ever encroachment is a precedence that will lead to future erosion.

The current debate centers around the proposed building of the Mosque near Ground Zero. A lot of folks are angry that city councils, governors, and now that dang President won’t legally block construction of this mosque. Well we still have a little thing called the 1st amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

I don’t have a law degree but I’m pretty sure that means just because we may not care for a religion we aren’t allowed to deny them freedom.

The Problem with Precedence

Does having a mosque near to Ground Zero rub me a bit the wrong way? Sure, but if I decided to legally punish every religion that has rubbed me the wrong way there would be a long list. The deeper concern is that if I restrict their ability to build and worship as they see fit then what ground do I have to stand in 10 years when the government comes after my church because they disagree with me?

None.

Freedom doesn’t cater to your preferences but if it isn’t protected your preferences won’t matter.

So if you really want to stand for freedom then take a stand for those whom you disagree with to enjoy that same freedom.

Finally

I know plenty of real conservatives that think the same way and a lot of the so called Republican’s are just posturing for the cameras. This is why you’ll always see me classify myself as a Conservative not a Republican. Let it be known that both sides of the aisle are quick to ignore the US constitution when it benefits their agenda which is why its so important to hold tightly to its principles.

So kudos to President Obama for standing up for the First amendment. Now if he’d just take a look at the rest of the document. My friend @erniebufflo called me out for this line since it seems as if I’m calling Obama ignorant of the Constitution. Let me rephrase it to say that I think many of his policies ignore the constitution. More accurate, less pithy.

Respect, Shame, & President Obama

On January 20, 2009 Barack Obama became my President.

I didn’t vote for him. I stand in opposition to 99.9% of his policies and ideals and I fully expect to oppose him in 2012 but today but he is my President and he deserves respect.

I’m sickened by some of the crap I’ve seen lately coming from conservatives and I will not be associated with that trash one day longer. Its high time someone shamed this nonsense and reminded us that politics should be about reason and ideas not personal slander and attacks.

Clinton, Bush, & a lesson repeated

In early 1998, the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal broke and I remember being in total shock. I wasn’t shocked at President Clinton’s actions because in these parts his wandering ways had long been known but I was aghast that Conservatives I respected and some whom I shared the pew with were openly gleeful that Clinton had been caught in such a disgrace. I strongly disapprove of his actions but the cheering and jeering at every scintillating detail left the young idealist in me forever changed. At the end of the day Bill was a man. A man that had hurt his family, his wife, and shamed a nation. I dare not revel in the troubles of others because I have been forgiven much.

Then during the George W. Bush administration I spent years seeing hate spewed from the left. I bit my tongue at bumper stickers and posters that I considered totally out of bounds and I lost a great deal of respect for a good many liberals.

I think healthy debate and discourse are essential for a strong Republic but the moment either side makes it a personal vendetta we are all the worse.

The lesson is the same. Neither left nor right is immune to nastiness.

Then we elected a black man

As mid-term elections approach after 2 years of a very liberal agenda the fervor on the right is high and the garbage is beginning to roll once again.

So what spurred this post? I received the following via email. (I apologize in advance but for you to understand my intensity concerning this matter I think you should see it.)

Leave him alone he be an American.

A recently released photograph of Obama in his cradle released by the White House proves Obama was born in the U.S.

ATT00037

I stared at this email in utter disbelief. I simply don’t have the words to express how angry this makes me.

Beyond the fact it is utterly racist and disrespectful of the President of the United States the sender shamed me. I’m ashamed they call themselves conservatives and I’m ashamed that they think I’d find this funny.

Furthermore, anyone that receives this email from this day forward will see my name in the recipient list and assume that I approve and endorse this hate. That is why I’ve taken it public so there is no doubt where I stand.

I will not be a complicit bystander. You will not drop this trash at my doorstep.

A final word

I’d discourage anyone from making broad characterizations based on the actions of a few. There is good and bad on both sides of the aisle and that is why it is important for all of us to stand up for what we know is right especially when we see it coming from within our own political base.

Allow me to share some words that I just can’t ignore.

1 Timothy 2:1-2 I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority…

Matthew 5:43-44 You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.

There is plenty of fire and rebuke in this post but I write this as a reminder to all of us, self included, that Christians are called to a higher standard. It is easy to love those that I agree with and consider friends but Christ called me to love even those people I consider an enemy.

The position and title of the President of the United States of American demands my respect. My faith demands that I show love and pray for my President.

As an American citizens let’s choose to elevate our standards. As Christians let us choose love.