Tuesday, October 28, 2008

We Are Not Voting For a Savior

The best and most coherent “endorsement” for Barack Obama that I have seen, not surprisingly, comes from The Economist. They acknowledge that Obama is a gamble, but one the United States should make. What follows is a plea that I don’t think we should, for reasons different than what you might expect.

I know, I’m exposing the information that is supposed to be just between me and the ballot box (like you didn’t already know). I commented recently in response to Colin Powell’s endorsement of Obama that I don’t take endorsements seriously unless they come from someone who has held or at least run for the position they are endorsing. For that reason, I don’t expect you to take my “endorsement” seriously, but I hope you do take my reasons seriously and at least consider the implications of them. Please believe that there is great concern and great love and great depth and explanation behind each of these reasons (except maybe for the ones trying to make this like a Letterman Top 10 List); but for the sake of brevity (um...define brevity?) I’ll leave mostly unsaid what might be obvious anyway. You will do with it what you will.

Let me say by way of disclaimer that I didn’t want to get this political this season on this blog. My intention is to present the simple truth of the Gospel to our complex culture, and I’ve justified these types of posts saying that politics is a clear contributor to this complexity. But please know that the main reason I am being so outspoken about this election is that I have legitimate concerns with what I see the political campaigns, specifically of Barack Obama, saying about, and doing to, our culture. So what I am doing here is confessing that I have concerns that are out of my control that I’m giving to the Lord through my expression and trusting Him to do what He will for the ultimate good of all those who love Him. If you disagree, please don't get mad at me, but just understand my agony, which is for your good, and know that I am no perfect man. I hope that not only the act of my expressing such concerns in this way, but also the nature of the concerns itself, will capture your attention and cause you to take them seriously if for nothing else than to understand better the intricate balance between Christ and culture; and when in doubt never compromise Christ. I was humbled to read John Piper’s article Let Christians Vote as Though They Were Not Voting. That’s really what I want to do.

Because at the end of the day, through all the elections, economics, politics, wars, and disasters, my trust, my hope, and my salvation is not found in any president or any government. It is in the God of the Universe and only by the grace, and only because of the Cross, of Jesus Christ. God is Sovereign and his glory will not be mocked and his plans will not be thwarted. His Son Jesus Christ has the supremacy and will reign forever. That is good news. May our elections and our country and our government glorify Him in all we do, and honor the original foundation of our nation, which was in God, not in government.

So, with that said, here are my (hopefully humble and as informed as possible) Top 10 Reasons I’m Voting for John McCain:

10. My name is Joe.

9. McCain says he will balance the budget in his first (read: only) term. I don’t believe him, but at least he is going to try.

8a. The media is voting for Obama, and they are annoying. For the record, Keith Olbermann is the most opinionated and unprofessional journalist in the history of this country, and I bet his network will realize that soon enough. Until then, I’m inclined to do the opposite of what he says, and vote the opposite of how he would vote. Maybe I’ll get on his worst person in the world segment. That would be an honor.

8b. It should be unconstitutional to have one party control both the Executive and Legislative Branch as dominantly as would be the case in an Obama Administration in 2009. I learned about checks and balances in high school sometime, but I forget how it works. Can someone explain it to me?

7. Joe the Plumber. Yes, I know, his publicity is a bit ridiculous, but his logic is undeniable, and some have rightly observed that he explains the Republican philosophy on taxes better than John McCain. This should not be as much an indicator on the inability of McCain to explain his points, as it should be that his points are logical and in the best interest of the country. That he can’t explain them as well as an average Joe is less important than the fact that they are good points. I’d rather support poorly explained logical arguments than well explained idiotic ones (if I had to choose). As a sidenote, McCain could also rightly argue that labor unions send jobs overseas and are not in the best interest of workers. This is a fact. (Look at the automotive and electronic industries, to name a couple). Obama would eliminate the requirement of secret ballots and make them very easy to organize. Unions will lead small businesses to have less employees, which does not go well with a 'jobs agenda'. The fact that he doesn't argue this is irrelevant to the truth of the argument. Obama knows how to campaign and dish rhetoric. McCain knows how to fight and lead. Which you would rather have is what I think is being decided on November 4.
6. People who need help (What people, Derek?). Not raising taxes on those who make more than $250,000 (or is it $200,000 now?) will not only encourage growth, motivate hard work, create jobs, and increase discretionary spending, helping the economy as a whole, but also it will (God willing) increase generosity to charitable organizations and faith-based initiatives that pursue some of the causes that Barack Obama says he is passionate about, but has very little means or ability to impact (at least right out of the gate). If you are a Christian you probably know and believe that the Church is the hands and feet of Christ, and we individually and as a united Body, through the Spirit, can do a lot more for the Kingdom and for hurting people than any government. Why is the Church more able to impact the Kingdom than government? Because soul change leads to social change, and the Church can freely acknowledge and proclaim that. We should not substitute government policies for individual generosity, service, and Gospel proclammation. Read Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger for some ideas; I'm re-reading it for this purpose. You can be compassionate, care about poor people, and actually make a difference without supporting bad economic policies.

Yes, at some level politicians, legislators, and even Presidents, need to fight to reverse some of the imperfect social structures that inherently lead to injustices, racism, and poverty; this is obvious. We will still fight for that. But a man who talks more about the middle class (who are able to vote) than he does those who are far worse off (who aren’t), and who doesn’t seem all that concerned about the justice of the most defenseless members of our society, is not the answer. I don’t believe it is God’s will for government to get us individually off the hook caring for the poor and loving our neighbor, and in my opinion Obama's message is less about encouraging people to be generous and more about supporting him to make it all better.

One concrete example of a ministry that would flourish with more generosity but could be crippled if the taxes of potential donors are raised is Rebuilding the Wall. This is their vision: 1) Stabilize and empower low-income families by renovating vacant inner city properties and giving the families the opportunity for homeownership. 2) Combat social injustice by building relationships across racial and socio-economic barriers. 3) Stabilize community by the recycling of assets within the neighborhood. This ministry would flourish more from (and be more fruitful for the community with) the generosity and volunteer time of Americans than it would from government funding and federal programs.

5. Tina Fey will make a heckuva Vice President.

4. National Security. John McCain is a seasoned and experienced leader when it comes to foreign affairs. Say what you will about Iraq, but Iraq will not be the dominate foreign policy of the next administration, whether we stay or not. We need a leader who does not haphazardly suggest meetings with our enemies and potential nuclear threats without much of a plan (Iran), or mildly react to the aggression of one of the next biggest nations in the world (Russia). We need a leader who has looked point blank at his enemies and without wavering, putting the interests of the country first, said “Do your worst”. (Count of Monte Cristo fans, anybody?) We need a President who doesn’t need to be tested in his first months in office, but who is ready for challenge on day one from a career and a lifetime of testing.

Allow me to mention two things to those who are prioritizing the economy over foreign policy in this election: First, it is more important to prevent terrorist attacks than recessions. Actually, recessions are quite normal in a system like ours. Second, governments are much less able to control the nature of the economy (unless we scrap the capitalism idea) than they are our national security, even with more regulation. Keep in mind that the present economic crisis should be partly irrelevant to the election, since neither John McCain nor Barack Obama is to blame for the problem, and neither will be able to entirely implement a solution (the crisis did not come only from bad policy, and had nothing to do with taxes). For them it is more about damage control. To prioritize economic policy over national security in a Presidential election is mind-boggling to me when you consider the world we live in and the dangers we face.

Yes, a strong economy contributes significantly to national security. Yes, the current economic crisis is not normal in a system like ours. Yes, economic policies of government do matter, and some regulation is necessary, and it should be an important priority in this election. Yes, struggling Americans should not lose their savings at the hands of greedy millionaires. But all this does not lessen the importance of competent foreign policy in our time or reduce the present danger in our world. If anything, it increases both.

3. His stand-up routine at the Alfred Smith Charity Dinner was priceless. Obama’s was good too, but not good enough for me to vote for him.

2. Obama’s moral judgment is questionable. I have said this before and many may disagree with me. If I had the opportunity to ask Obama one question it would be this: “I acknowledge that your social initiatives could very well eventually prevent abortions by increasing awareness, education, and means by which solid family structures are developed and provide alternatives to abortion, and I agree with some of these initiatives. But how can you say that you expect to reduce the number of abortions if you openly admit you would overturn the Hyde Amendment, vote in favor of the Freedom of Choice Act, and oppose bans on partial-birth abortion? Before your social initiatives solve the problem from the bottom-up, is there not a better way to love the women and families in crisis pregnancy situations than killing the defenseless babies in the womb?” His attempts to deny that he is a pro-abortion candidate are at best delusional and at worst dishonest, and that should be reason alone to avoid him like the plague.

1. John McCain is running for President, but Barack Obama seems to be running for more than that. I won’t go as far as to defend the "messiah complex", but as a Christian I have to be concerned about the implications or motives of some of the promises he makes. Even if he unequivocally becomes the best and most popular President in the history of the United States, he will ultimately disappoint those who put their hope in him. And if it weren’t for his promises, his candidacy would be seriously lacking. Leading the most powerful and prosperous country in the free world is not all about promises and change, even if the American people deserve promises and the country is desperate for change. It is about possessing the character, experience, judgment, and integrity necessary to lead a complicated country in a complicated time and to face mostly unpredictable challenges. Voting based on promises will inevitably open up the likely possibility of disappointment (not to mention if those promises are either fundamentally counterproductive or morally questionable – but that was covered in the other reasons). Voting based on virtue makes much more sense.

Everything Obama’s campaign promises about hope and change, about caring for the people who need help, about restoring prosperity and freedom and security and justice to this country and this world, is only completely fulfilled in the Person of Jesus Christ. Hope in anyone else and promises from anyone else will ultimately lead to personal and global devastation. Does God want the main focus of struggling middle-class Americans to be on the American dream? Maybe, but I would rather have a qualified leader as President and then by our proclamation and demonstration of the Gospel, help all Americans main focus be Jesus Christ. Hope in government will lead to dependence on government; hope in Christ will lead to dependence on Christ. We should look to Jesus for hope, and to a President for leadership. We are not voting for a Savior. We are voting for a President. Barack Obama confuses the difference and by his presentation distracts non-Christians from the true Savior they should be seeking. I cannot support that. John McCain is clear, and his lifetime of selfless service, and his experience and courage, more than his promises, confirm to me that he is the better selection.

As a Christian, I rejoice at the excitement for social justice, racial reconciliation, and inspirational leadership that Obama generates. My overall point is that I think his effectiveness in these areas will be marginal compared to his promises (not only because he is lacking in qualifications, but also because his role in these things in the first place shouldn’t be preeminent), and in the meantime, he compromises issues that I (as a Christian) consider non-negotiable, and he shows inexperience and naïveté towards issues that may be negotiable, but deserve more experience. So in the end, my one or two reasons to vote for him do not hold up at all to the 10 (listed here) to vote for John McCain.

There, I said it. I feel better. After the election, no matter the result, I am excited and hopeful to see how God desires to use me and this blog to continue to proclaim simple truth to a complex culture. I hope you’ll vote with me on November 4 (though you don’t have to tell who it will be for), and then entrust the result, and our concerns, into Almighty God’s sovereign and all-sufficient care. He will never leave or forsake us.

Political Cartoons found on Today's Best Cartoons.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

God is in Molecular Biology

With all of the economic, political, global, and moral uncertainty and chaos in our culture, country, and world right now, I desperately needed a fresh dose of the Sovereignty of God this week. On Thursday night, I got it. I hope this video will blow your mind and change your life. It did mine.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. - Colossians 1:15-17

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Joe the Foam Fabricator

So, there’s been a lot of talk about Joe this election season. The Democratic vice presidential candidate is named Joe Biden, the Republican vice presidential candidate speaks passionately for Joe Six-Pack, and now both Presidential candidates have discussed at length the concerns of Joe the Plumber.

Well, I’m not a plumber and I don’t have a six-pack (or drink a six pack with any frequency), but my name is certainly Joe, I live in this country, I cut foam, and I don’t want Obama to raise taxes – partly because I’m out of shape and need to work on my six-pack (how does that affect taxes?) but mostly because I don’t think it makes good economic sense and would hurt my company’s ability to cut foam and employ others to help in that effort. Can I get some time with Obama? Maybe I’ll become a national celebrity. Maybe, I’ll even be that guy who single handedly gets the responsibility of deciding the election. What? That was just a movie? Oh.

In any case, let’s get serious for a second about this election. Is it over yet? Holy heavens. I am getting extremely anxious, and though I know God is sovereign and this world and its governmental structures are passing away, I can’t help but at least expose what I see as serious concerns. Feel free to pass any of this along – I’m not sure if I’m preaching to the choir sometimes. Mostly, I hope to reach the creators and supporters of things like this: Pro-Life Pro-Obama. This cause sounds good, but I’m not buying it.

Let’s make something perfectly clear: neither Barack Obama nor John McCain is Jesus Christ. Neither deserves our worship and neither is our Lord and Savior. That should be all I need to say. But, both deserve our respect, and both can handle our criticism. That is the beauty of this country that God has blessed us to live in, and that God calls us to steward. With that said, it shouldn’t surprise you that my concern lies not in a potential president that has yet to be washed by the blood of Jesus, though that is a concern with all people, but in a potential president that is morally questionable. You may say it is an exaggeration to identify Barack Obama that way. My entire point is that its not.

Politically, I do disagree with his tax philosophy, and the logic of Joe the Plumber’s argument is undeniable. If you raise taxes on small business owners who make more than $250,000 (or anybody who makes more than that), you will reduce the opportunity for middle class workers to have a job that may even provide health care, and hurt the very people you are trying to help; not to mention further an economic recession due to less discretionary spending. If you increase taxes for people who make more than $250K, you will also decrease the incentive to make that much, which is not exactly the attitude to have if you support the "American dream", and is not at all good for the economy at any level. Spreading the wealth is a form of socialism, no matter how you spin it. And there is a difference between the middle class and the poor - Obama doesn't make that very clear when he argues for those who need help. He is rallying a generation that is passionate about social justice and is desperate to see the end of poverty without doing much to convince anyone that he understands the real victims of injustice or will do anything to reduce poverty, or the things that lead to it. Instead he just speaks about helping a middle class that could work at my company and receive good health care if we had a job to give. For more on this check out my comments on Wake Up Nap Town (previous post).

I also disagree with his approach to foreign policy. I think he is naïve and inexperienced and his gut reactions to negotiations with Iran and in the immediate aftermath of the Russian aggression in Georgia were terrifying. I think he would withdraw from Iraq prematurely risking not only morale defeat among Americans but also tactical victory for our enemies. While I don’t necessarily believe that John McCain can balance the budget as he claims, it is definitely concerning that Barack Obama won’t even attempt to and will increase spending for things that the government shouldn’t need to do. I seriously question Obama’s association with people such as Jeremiah Wright and William Ayers, not because it makes any difference politically, but because it reveals very suspect character judgment.

But even all of that is not a deal breaker to me. In other words, I would vote the way I’m going to vote, and wouldn’t be bringing this blog into the mix if I didn’t think the most concerning thing about Barack Obama is his stance towards the most important moral issue since the abolition of slavery. And so with William Wilberforce-like persistence, I’ll do my best to cry in the wilderness until someone hears, because we’re talking about a theological issue here. It’s about God.

First, let me define what it means to be pro-life, in my opinion: To be pro-life means to defend and practice life and love in all circumstances. For example, to be pro-life means loving, sympathizing with, caring for, and counseling those in crisis pregnancy situations. It means loving women before, during, and after decisions made regarding an abortion. It means encouraging and providing resources for alternatives like adoption. It means practicing forgiveness, hope, and love to women who struggle with the pain and confusion that follow the decision to have an abortion. And it means defending the defenseless in the womb who have been created in the image of God. It means not ignoring the horror of killing babies for the sake of a women’s right; while also considering a women’s right and avoiding the horror of killing babies. I obviously agree that to be pro-choice does not necessarily mean to be pro-abortion. Hopefully you can agree that to be pro-life does not mean to be anti-choice. ‘Choose Life’ is not just a fancy slogan – it’s the whole point. Why would you not choose that?

With that said, it needs to be understood that Senator Obama, from his voting record, policy plans, and direct quotations, is not just pro-choice but pro-abortion. To think otherwise is not only naïve but downright delusional. And that makes his judgment morally questionable, because at the end of the day, no morally serious person can defend abortion, just as no morally serious person could defend slavery. For me to say such a thing does not leave women out to dry, as my definition of pro-life should indicate. Women may be in the best position to choose, as Obama would argue, but we should never do anything but encourage them to choose life in all circumstances, and then love them in other ways. Future doctors, teachers, pastors, scientists, soldiers, and even politicians could become the pieces of human thrown away if we don’t get serious about this issue in THIS ELECTION. I have no doubt that history will look back at the issue of abortion very similar to the way it looks back on the issue of slavery, and the support of it will be equally appalling. As I said, there are better ways to love the women (and families) in crisis pregnancy situations than allowing them to kill the defenseless person in their womb. Let’s pursue those ways, and stop messing around with an issue of this magnitude.

If you are morally serious, you will read this essay: Obama’s Abortion Extremism , and then vote and act accordingly. As a sidenote, I was motivated to write Senator Evan Bayh on this very essay, and asked that he either reassure me of its error, or speak for me to those who can do something about it. I'll keep you posted. But it in the end, those who can ultimately do something about it are those who can cast a ballot on November 4. I thought this was helpful information to have for that cause. If you need me I'll be doing situps and installing a water soften-- I mean cutting foam.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Wake Up Nap Town

Coming from a weekend in New York City, I felt a renewed heart for the people and the culture of the big city, and I worried about my transition back to the suburbs. The Bible talks so much about the city, the Book of Revelation ends in a city, so much culture (the most complex kind) exists in the city, people come together in the city, poverty and suffering are most visible in the city. Does God have a purpose outside the city, or should we all just move to one?

Well, obviously Indianapolis is a city also, but the culture and the size and the people it lacks makes it pale in comparison to the Big Apple. So what does God plan to do here? This could be the first of many posts on this subject, but this will get us started. My church recently launched a "Neighborhood Initiative" to challenge the congregation to be more intentional in our interaction with, prayer for, and service to people in our neighborhoods. The family next door may be struggling just as much (spiritually) as the homeless man on the street corner downtown, but you'd never know until you asked. So the first 30 days of this initiative is just praying for opportunities and activities that could help us seek God's will for our neighborhoods.

Meanwhile, a good high school friend has started a website that although not specifically Christian or spiritual in any way, has recently sparked some interesting dialogue that I couldn't help myself but to join, and in the process God is revealing to me not only great spiritual hunger, but also maybe some receptivity to the Gospel, right here in the Nap. The conversation is not perfect, and I will only speak for the comments I have made (you might have to scroll quite a bit to find my comments) but in any case the articles and the comments are interesting and prove the timing of the Gospel in our culture and city is especially ripe.

Inevitably, politics enter some of the discussions. That is ok. The politcal and economic landscape add to the receptivity to the Gospel, in my opinion. Also be sure to check back periodically, as the dialogue is far from over. If nothing else, I hope the conversations reveal that we, as Christians, should not be afraid of the reality or the implications of the truth of Jesus Christ, and that we should be merciful to those who doubt. Pray with me that God would wake up our city, both Christians who need more boldness and love, and non-Christians who need hope and salvation.

How Common Christianity Affects Our Moral and Intellectual Integrity

'Religulous' Asks a Lot of Questions

Eight Ball Says Obama Wins

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Say It Ain't So, Joe

Question: Am I considered “Joe six-pack”? I hope so.

Wait, what did Palin mean by six-pack? Never mind. I was asked if I was going to post on the Palin-Biden debate. I wasn’t planning on it. I’m hoping to be done with politics, at least on this blog, with the exception of maybe a last minute pep-talk. But, alas, I want to please my readers. A more articulate, experienced, and talented writer for the Wall Street Journal wrote the review that I would first lead you to: Palin and Populism

My observations are fairly simple:

I don’t think I have heard, nor do I think there is, a Republican who thinks Biden won the debate, or a Democrat who thinks Palin won the debate. So in that sense, the media commentary and polling is pointless, and they might as well show the debate, and then go back to regular programming. Oh yeah, there now are MULTIPLE stations that talk about politics ALL the time, as regular programming. Ugh. And, just to remind you, this was the Vice Presidential debate. That’s not who we vote for. (As a side note, I thought the question about what their administration would look like in the event of the worst happening was unfair, but they both handled it well.)

I don’t appreciate untruth. Why is this such a problem on both sides? Is it intentional? I’ll give you one example that to me is glaring, and reveals a major weakness and danger of the party guilty of it. Palin (as has McCain) pointed out that Obama said he would meet with leaders of Iran, North Korea, etc. without preconditions. Biden said last night, “Can I clarify something? That is simply not true about Barack Obama.” Um, yes it is. Obama’s attempts to cover this with vague interpretations of what he actually meant are more admirable than lying about it altogether. I don’t deny that there was some untruth on the other side - but not this bad or significant, in my opinion. All the other lies ultimately cancel each other out. I’m not sure whether the deception or the foreign policy naïveté is worse, but neither is a solid characteristic of a president (or vice president) at this point in history.

I’m interested that both parties oppose gay marriage and essentially agree with the traditional definition of marriage as the union between one man and one woman. Saves me from having to give a theological perspective on this, which I hope is obvious. All the talk about hospital visitation rights is small potatoes compared to what’s really at stake.

In the end, the two most important issues in this election, the economy and the Iraq war, are approached fundamentally different by the two tickets, and that is not going to change. Take away all the media-spin, all the unfair attacks, and all the politics, and the most important issues are 1) raising taxes to fund programs and more regulation vs. cutting taxes to stimulate the economy and less regulation, and 2) ending an unfavorable war as soon as possible vs. staying as long as needed to win. You undoubtedly feel one way or the other on both of these, so whichever way it is, that’s how you will vote. So, ok, great. Let’s have this thing tomorrow, and get on with it. I want to watch Dwight Schrute instead of Joe Biden on Thursday nights.

It wasn’t the “fireworks show” it could have been if Biden had told a handicapped man to stand or Palin had forgotten what newspaper she reads (or if they had let them cage fight), but it was engaging nonetheless and overall good for the country. And there were moments where I honestly think God was glorified; in the agreement of the candidates on marriage or the unacceptable suffering in Darfur, or the mention of heaven. So that is what I care about. Seriously though, can we vote already?