Sunday, November 30, 2008

Should Christians Celebrate Christmas?

The title of this blog may seem like an odd question to most, considering that celebrating Christmas seems as normal as anything else in the world. I ask the question because I've been doing some reading of old-school theologians who seemed to think that Christmas was a worldly practice of pagan origins, and not to be partaken of by Christians. Also, I have a friend that is adamantly anti-Christmas, mostly for the same reasons, so I thought I would check it out.

At our early service at Riverview (the service which I have the privilege of being involved in) we pray a "Puritan Prayer" every week. These prayers are usually excerpted from the book "The Valley Of Vision," which is a collection of Puritan prayers and devotionals. I appreciated the prayers myself because they are laden with scripture and theology - they have a tendency to very accurately sum up the condition of man, the nature of God, and the relationship between the two in each of the prayers, no matter the subject or topic.

Also, I've been thinking about this because we just started our Advent services at Riverview this week. And if you didn't know it, the Puritans were unashamedly anti-Christmas, so trying to find Puritan material with a Christmas theme was a difficult task. Knowing that the Puritans were so very solid on most of their theology, I became curious as to why they took such a hard stand against celebrating Christmas. Here's some of what I found (NOTE: I'm not implying I agree with the Puritans here, I'm just giving you their reasoning for their position):

1) The whole idea of Christmas (celebrating the birth of Christ) is not biblical. Believers are not instructed or expected to commemorate the birth of Christ.

2) Christmas began as a Roman Catholic tradition. Even the English word, "Christmas" is derived from the Latin, "Christes Maesse," meaning "Mass of Christ," a Eucharistic service.

3) Many Roman Catholic traditions were founded on pagan holidays. When Romans converted to Christianity, several retained the celebration of their pagan religious roots. These celebrations crept into the church and soon became tradition. The Puritans saw no reason for celebrating something that had pagan roots. Even activities such as gift giving, Christmas lights, and Christmas trees, find their roots in pagan religion.

4) The idea that Jesus was born on December 25th is not biblical. In fact, we can't know the exact date of Christ's birth, so then to celebrate it on any day is unbiblical.

These are just a few reasons why the Puritans and other theologians of old declined to participate in Christmas celebrations.

A little more recently though, in the early 20th century, A.W. Pink spoke out against Christmas celebrations as well. His arguments (from scripture, by the way) are given here.

Even my theological hero, Charles Spurgeon spoke thusly of Christmas:

When it can be proved that the observance of Christmas whitsuntide, and other Popish festivals was ever instituted by a divine statute, we also will attend to them, but not till then. It is as much our duty to reject the traditions of men, as to observe the ordinances of the Lord. We ask concerning every rite and rubric, "Is this a law of the God of Jacob?" and if it be not clearly so, it is of no authority with us, who walk in Christian liberty.

Spurgeon's argument seems to be that celebrations such as Christmas had connections to man-made Roman religious practices, and that to expect a Christian to partake was not biblical. However, I don't think he was as hard lined as this statement leads one to believe. Later he comments:

We venture to assert, that if there be any day in the year, of which we may be pretty sure that it was not the day on which the Savior was born, it is the twenty-fifth of December. Nevertheless, since, the current on men's thoughts is led this way just now, and I see no evil in the current itself, I shall neither justify nor condemn, by endeavoring to lead your thoughts in the same direction. Since it is lawful, and even laudable, to meditate upon the incarnation of the Lord upon any day of the year, it cannot be in the power of other men's superstitions to render such a meditation improper for today.

I take this to mean that, although Christmas is indeed a man-made celebration, it certainly cannot be a bad thing. As Spurgeon rightly notes, meditating on the incarnation of Christ is an admirable practice on any day of the year. If we choose to do it on December 25th, then so be it. Additionally, I detect a tone in Spurgeon's remark that also implies that Christmas must not be the only time of year we meditate on the incarnation. I think Spurgeon's biggest fears for celebrating Christmas are communicated by this:

There are those who, on December 25th, will pretend to exhibit joy in the remembrance of our Savior's birth, but they
will not seek their pleasure in the Savior. Joy in Immanuel would be a poor sort of mirth to them.

Here I think Spurgeon is saying that if and when Christmas becomes nothing more than a secular holiday that has no religious or spiritual significance, and is instead focused on secularism (materialism?), it should not be partaken of by believers. I agree with him. The question for me (and you) then is, has Christmas become what Spurgeon described? And if so, should we as believers participate (at least in the consumerism and gift-giving)?

We are certainly much further removed from the pagan and Roman Catholic traditions of the past than the Puritans were, or even Spurgeon and Pink were. Perhaps we are excused because we celebrate Christmas ignorant of the pagan traditions that surround it? Or is it possible to usurp Christmas's original meaning? In other words, is it possible for us to use something that was meant for evil, for good (that's assuming that our celebration of Christmas is still true and pure)?

These are the conclusions and justifications for celebrating Christmas that I think Dan Fortner comes to, as evidenced here:

Without fail, at this time every year, I receive numerous letters, pamphlets, and tracts denouncing the evils of Christmas as a pagan religious holiday. I fully agree that no believer should ever observe pagan religious holidays like Christmas and Easter. We must never incorporate pagan customs into the worship of our God.

We must not observe any religious holiday. We should attach no spiritual, religious significance to any day. Yet, we do not need to act like super-pious religious idiots over a day that has absolutely no religious significance. I would never teach a child that such a thing as Santa Claus exist, or that Christ was born on Christmas day. But, as Paul said concerning idols, Santa Claus is nothing and Christmas is nothing.

Did you know that every day of the week, every planet in the universe, and many of the CARS we drive are named after pagan gods? Yet, we still call Sunday Sunday, Mars Mars, and a Saturn a Saturn. No one would ever dream of calling us pagans for doing so. We worship our God on Sunday, and would laugh at anyone who suggested that we observe the pagan Roman holiday called “Sun’s Day” in doing so. If your car is a Saturn, use it for the glory of God; and laugh at anyone who thinks that you are worshipping the Roman god of agriculture by driving it.

We must not, and I trust do not, worship Christmas trees and lights, or even attach spiritual significance to Christmas day. However, I do suggest that we seize this opportunity afforded us by Divine providence to tell people who Christ is, why he came into this world, what he did, and how they may obtain his salvation. It is no accident that once every year every human
being in the world is confronted with the fact that the Son of God assumed human flesh and came into the world to save men.

Certainly, no one can think that it is wrong for believers, during this season of the year, to express thanks and praise
to God for his unspeakable gift, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is never wrong, but always right to think of him, speak of him, and sing his praise. Rather than not singing Watts’ grand old hymn, Joy To The World, we ought to sing it year round.

While I loathe the religiosity of this holiday season, the silly plays, the idolatrous pictures and representations of Christ and
the angels of God, and pretense of spirituality by people who have no interest in the glory of God, I am delighted for this season of the year (for any season) that brings families together, encourages kindness and good will, and promotes thoughtfulness of and generosity to others. It is perfectly all right to exchange gifts with and send cards to family and friends. (I cannot imagine a reason for anyone objecting to that!) But I suggest that each of us find a way to acknowledge and do something special for someone from whom we expect nothing, maybe even from someone from whom we expect abuse. “Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

This whole discussion may seem trivial and a waste of time to some, but I think it's important to know why we do what we do, and why we think about certain things the way we do. These things will define our worship, so we better have a good understanding of their implications. In the time of Amos the prophet, the people were condemned because they were offering God false worship based upon errant presuppositions about their religion and their worship. Their worship had become hollow, empty, and based on pagan worship practices (Amos 5). I certainly don't want to be a part of any of that! All the more reason to understand our holiday celebrations.

Anyway, just some thoughts that have been kicking around in my head.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Proclamation of Thanksgiving

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

It Won't Be Long, Now.

I was doing my usual monthly check of my MySpace account tonight (I hardly ever check my MySpace anymore), and decided to peruse the "Most Popular Blogs" on MySpace. This is something I've done just for kicks from time to time. I usually gravitate towards the "Religion and Spirituality" blog category. It's almost always full of ridiculous and pointless evolution or homosexuality debates. I must confess that I used to partake in such discussions, but have since found them to be pointless and even potentially damaging to the faith. Nonetheless, I'm still entertained by reading about the war of words between the atheists and the Christians.

One particular blog that caught my eye tonight was this one, titled "The Dumbest and Most Ignorant Christians On MySpace" (with a title like that how could I not read it?!). In the blog, the author (an atheist) quotes several Christians that he has had debates (more like cussing, belittling, and patronizing) with, and then goes on to expound upon their ignorance and mental incapacities as displayed by their profession of faith.

Nothing in the blog was of particular interest to me - all just stuff I've seen and heard a million times before. But this blog had several things that caught my eye: in the midst of the text of the blog were several "motivational posters." You know the ones - the kind that are done for laughs. I usually love those things, and I've made several of my own. These were quite different, however. They mocked Christians for being stupid and lacking reason, which is fine - I'm not going to lose sleep over that. But check this out:

If you're not catching the implication here, it's that the moral judgment that led ancient Romans to kill and murder Christians by feeding them to lions and other wild animals was not only justifiable, but noble. In other words, whoever made this poster feels that the deaths of Christians would be a beneficial thing for society and mankind in general. While I understand that there is some satire involved here, it's absolutely way over the top, unacceptable, and tasteless. Imagine if I made a poster that brandished a picture of piles of bodies of Jews who had been killed in concentration camps in World War II, and then labeled it, "Jews: the Nazis had the right idea." You would be well within your rights to label me a hate-filled bigot who, by the very action of creating such a poster, represents a potential danger to Jews who are currently alive and practicing their faith. Is the scenario any different when it comes to this poster and its maker's atitude toward Christians?

While I was amazed by the existence of the poster, I was even more amazed that it remained on MySpace. We live in a country that is hyper-sensitive to any kind of bigotry or hate, but apparently that same sensitivity doesn't apply to Christians in this country. Why has this image not been forcefully removed? It is clearly hateful and bigoted.

But while I imply that I am shocked (and to at least some degree I am) by this poster, it also is somewhat to be expected. Jesus said that the world would hate those who followed him because the world hated him first. So then, since the world hates him, it's going to hate us because we follow him. So in many ways, things like this are to be expected. And guess what: it's only going to get worse. The era of religious freedom that this country has enjoyed for the past 200 plus years is coming to a close, and Christians will be the ones who suffer most because they tend to promote morality and righteousness (or at least they should). And since morality and righteousness are in sever decline in this country, Christians can expect more posters joking about how they should be put to death. And one day, Christians can expect the threats to be followed through on. It won't be long, now.

Lord Jesus come quickly.

Monday, November 24, 2008

My Latest Time-Waster

I accidentally came across this site, where users create graphs and charts based upon phony statistics in made-up categories. The resulting charts and graphs can be pretty funny. Some of my favorites are graphs of: People Who Hate Snakes And The Intesity Of Their Hate; Laser Pen Usage; Relative Greenness of Grass; Relevance of George Washington Carver Innovations; Uses of Q-tips; Football According To John Madden; Morning Radio; How My Pack of Gum Is Consumed.

If you go to you can find a bunch of fun graphs to check out.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Theological Drift

Last weekend my sister called me and asked if I'd heard about all of the "controversy" going on at Northwestern College, my alma mater. I told her that no, I hadn't heard about anything controversial that was going on at Northwestern. She proceeded to send me a link to this website. Some unidentified affiliates of the college formed this website that contains documents that spell out the entire affair. To save you a lot of reading time, let me summarize what I gleaned from the site and the documents found therein: it turns out that some faculty members and trustees from the board have begun to feel that there is a bit of a "theological drift" toward postmodernism and liberalism at the college that has taken place over the last several years. These faculty members and trustees have expressed their concerns to the administration and, despite promises that there would be no repercussions for their opinions, some of them have since been demoted or replaced. And to further the tension, the faculty was surveyed and it was found that at least 44% of the faculty feels that there is a spirit of "fear and mistrust" present on the campus. That doesn't sound too good!

As a graduate of Northwestern I am concerned about the potential of theological drift (however my experiences as a student weren't necessarily laden with solid, conservative, traditional theology - a lot of my professors had somewhat of a "I'm not going to tell you what's right, I want you to figure out what's right" kind of attitude about theology, which is fine and to be expected at the undergraduate level, except when people think heresy is right. At that point a professor needs to step in.). I certainly don't want to see Northwestern tend towards liberalism and postmodernism.

For more info on the scandal, check out my sister's blog - she summarizes the whole situation nicely.

There's a forum to address the controversy scheduled for students, faculty, and alumni this Thursday. I plan to attend.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

American Martyrdom

One of my sisters recently found herself in the unwanted position of potentially having to end a friendship for the sake of the gospel. My sister had been witnessing to one of her friends, and this woman was very closed to the things of God - she wanted nothing to do with him, and she thought that anybody who was a Christian was a judgmental, bigoted, jerk (which is odd, considering that she's friends with my sister!). It finally came to a head a few weeks ago: the woman became very angry at my sister's insistence on biblical truth, and she flipped her lid. My sister didn't want it to happen, but the relationship is most likely over - all because this woman hates God. I told my sister that it was the right thing to do, and to try to compromise and remain friends with her would be compromising the truth and the gospel. My sister sent her an email explaining that her motives were pure, and that she harbored no ill-will towards her. To my knowledge, no response to her email has come as of yet.

A couple weeks ago, the Sunday School class at my church that I frequent (Don't Waste Your Life) was talking about risk, and specifically, risk for the sake of the gospel and the glory of God. As Americans, I think we have a hard time risking things in our life for the glory of God mostly because we live in such a safe country that prides itself on religious freedom. Christians in other countries fear persecution or even martyrdom for their faith. We suffer no such thing in this country.

What then can I risk for Christ? To answer this question, you need to start thinking outside of the box. First, you need to take physical harm, pain, or death out of the picture because again, those aren't things we worry about in America. Therefore, risk in our context is probably something more like risking finances or possessions by giving them to ministry, or risking relationships by entering into them with the specific intention of delivering the gospel. As my sister can testify to, people's hearts are naturally hard and don't want to have anything to do with the gospel. Knowing that then, and entering into a relationship for the specific purpose of preaching the gospel could have seemingly disastrous consequences. In other words...risk.

I recently came across a good article that basically says what I've said above. Rick James, the article's author, makes the case that martyrdom in the USA has nothing to do with pain and death. Instead it has everything to do with the potential death of your reputation, or the potential death of a relationship you are in for the sake of the gospel. I highly recommend the article to you.

The catch is, however, that Christians in this country usually only risk if they're forced into it. In other words, people only stand up for the gospel and biblical truth if they're forced into a corner. That's a completely defensive and backwards attitude. Christians need to be intentionally entering into relationships knowing that both their reputation and the relationship itself is on the line because of the gospel, and they need to be willing to sacrifice both for the sake of God's word going forth.

As stated earlier, Christians in other countriese are persecuted and killed for their faith. We face nothing of the sort in our country. Our response to that fact? Praise God that he has blessed us with religious freedom. Our second response should be an undying willingness (and actually, eagerness) to risk our reputation and friendship with others for the sake of the gospel.

When compared to what Christians in other countries go through, American martyrdom really isn't that bad.

(Note: I am by no means equating the minor "pain in the butt" type of persecution that Americans experience to the persecution that Christians experience over seas. The two are not comparable. I am simply saying that any "persecution" that might be experienced in America is extremely tolerable, and we should be living our lives in such a way as to seek it out for the glory of the gospel.)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

God's Universe

The subtitle of this blog is: "This is God's universe, so he does things his way. Now, you may have a better way of doing things, but you don't have a universe."

That's one of my favorite quotes from the late expositor and pastor J. Vernon McGee. I appreciate it so much because it's a simple way of stating many truths that I need to be slapped in the face with from time to time, such as:

1) God is the Creator God.
2) God is sovereign over his creation.
3) Man is sovereign over nothing.
4) Man is puny and nothing when compared to God.
5) The reasoning and wisdom of man is futile when compared to that of God.

Good things for me to remember.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Change Ain't Going To Be Easy

First of all, let me say that this is not a post that is going to rip on the electoral college. I think it's a fair and good way to run the presidential elections. What I want to focus on here is the illusion that this is an Obama-nation. A lot of people are rejoicing that we have finally voted for change as a country. But change from what? The answer that everyone is giving is, the divissive and unproductive Bush administration. Did we really move toward change though, or did we merely put a new face on the division of this country? A look at the popular vote shows that not much has actually changed. Consider the following:

In the 2000 election, Al Gore won the popular vote by a mere half million votes. That's about as close as it gets. Our country was clearly divided down the middle.

In the 2004 election, George Bush won the popular vote by by three million votes over John Kerry - 50.7% to 48.3% respectively. A little bigger margin, but for all intents and purposes, the country was still essentially divided down the middle.

Barack Obama has won the 2008 election in what has been declared an electoral college landslide. But again, the popular vote says differently. Obama won the popular vote by a mere 7 million votes - 52.3% compared to McCain's 46.3%. Remember how angry people were in 2000 because the popular vote was so close, but Bush won the election? They felt unrepresented, and they were angry that so many in the country were markedly against the Bush administration, and yet they still found themselves under its rule. Well, you don't have much difference between the 2000 and the 2008 elections. Once again - for yet another presidency - our nation is essentially divided down the middle.

What's the point? Why analyze the popular vote? Because although the electoral college implies that this country wants change, 46.3% of Americans have said differently, which brings up all kinds of speculation on the "change" that has been thrown around for the last 2 years. Change isn't going to be easy, because almost half of the country doesn't want change. All of you people rejoicing that change has finally come should realize this - especially those in government - those who are responsible to the people. Perhaps the smarter thing to do would be to recognize the division, rather than celebrate the illusion of change.

Barack's election is not a sign of change. If anything, we're still in a year 2000 mentality of division.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Am I A Racist?

I'm a bit confused. I think I might be a racist.

On my way home tonight, I was listening to AM 1500's election night coverage, hosted by Dave Thompson, a staunch conservative, and A.L. Brown, a raving liberal. Given the pairing, I suppose it was balanced coverage.

During my ride home, I heard that things weren't looking good for McCain, and listened to the results of the Minnesota senate and house races. As things began to look better and better for Obama, A.L Brown piped up for a couple minutes and said something to the effect of (almost in tears, by the way): "I am so proud of this country and its people, because in this election it has shown that it has finally gotten over the racial divide, and now we have proven that anyone can do anything. We have shown that anyone can become president - black or white," or something to that effect. His main point was the fact that Obama was steadily being elected our next president was a sign of how race relations in this country were finally getting better. When A.L. finished his diatribe, Dave Thompson - who is usually not at a loss for words - seemed to not know what to say. I think I know why he had that problem, because I had it as well.

When I got home and turned on the TV, I heard the same message from NBC (by this time, Obama had been declared the winner): "we are finally a country that will elect a black man," again, not their exact words, but that was definitely the message. And this message was repeated over and over again, by pundit after pundit: "We have finally come to a place in our history where we can look past our differences and elect a black president." Statistics were given to support this idea, such as: "45% of white men voted for Obama - see how far we've come?"

This puts me in an odd position, because I voted against Obama. I don't want him to be president. I don't want him to lead our country. I fear the direction that our country will take under his leadership. By A.L Brown's reasoning, and also by the reasoning of those at NBC, I have not progressed, I have not come to a place where I am comfortable with a black president, I have apparently not overcome the racial divide in this country, because I voted for McCain. The message put forth by Brown and NBC is that a vote for Obama means that you are a progressive, diversity-loving, tolerant, person. A vote for McCain means that you are not ready for a black president, and your vote against him is a sign of your prejudice and unwillingness to conform to racial equality. Or in other words, if you didn't vote for Obama, you're a racist. Since when did electing a black man become the litmus test for racial tolerance in this country? You'd think it would be defined by our unity and willingness to live together as Americans in every day, normal situations.

As I have been thinking about this for the past couple hours, I am becoming angry. How dare they imply that I am not ready or willing to elect a black man (this is the implication that is made, whether your like it or not)? How dare they imply that my vote for McCain means I let skin color influence me? I've never been one to demand apologies, but I might start now. This line of thinking is very offensive. It paints me and every other person in this country that didn't vote for Obama as racists. Obama's skin color didn't sway my vote - I didn't vote for Obama because he's a pro-death (abortion) socialist. If it were Joe Biden on the top of the ticket instead of Obama I'd vote against him too, because he likewise is a pro-death socialist. One's white, one's black. They both think the same way, and I couldn't be more on the polar opposite of what they have to offer. And if I did vote for Obama, I would feel extremely patronized - as if voters need a pat on the back from the likes of A.L Brown and NBC for doing the right thing and electing a black man. What a joke.

This whole sentiment is not new - it has been going on throughout the whole campaign. There's been plenty of people who have implied that if you don't vote for Obama, you're a racist, and you're just not voting for him because he's black. Nothing could be further from the truth. See the above paragraph.

So according to the media and A.L. Brown, I'm a racist. I beg to differ.

Customer Service - It Does Exist!

A couple weeks ago I bought the 2007 Video Illustration set of videos from Bluefish TV. They're a company that makes short videos that can be used as illustrations, discussion starters, and just good things to get you thinking for church groups/Bible studies, etc. The set also included a bunch of background videos and pictures that can be used for power point presentations.

I was pretty jazzed to receive the set, as our church is starting to break some ground in the technological and multi-media realm. But as I sorted through the contents of my package, I realized that one of the DVD's that had been sent to me was missing. What actually happened is that the packaging for 2 of the DVD's had gotten mixed up, or in other words, I received the wrong DVD in the wrong packaging. The whole mix up resulted in me not getting one of the DVD's that had been promised in the package.

I called Bluefish and told them about the problem, hoping that they would send me out an individual copy of the DVD I was missing. I talked to a super nice guy named Eric, who told me he'd tell his supervisor about the problem and get back to me. About an hour later, Eric called me back and said that they were very sorry for the mixup, and as a result they'd like to send me the 2009 Video Illustrations pack for free! The 2007 and 2009 video illustration sets are $200.00 apiece, so when I heard that, I was floored. I greatfully accepted his offer, and thanked him for their kindness and their willingness to satisfy me - the customer.

A lot of times you hear horror stories about how poorly people are treated by companies. Nothing could have been further from the truth in my experience with Bluefish. I will gladly give them more of my business, and I encourage you to do the same.

Monday, November 3, 2008

In Praise of Single Issue Voting

Check out this excellent article from this month's WORLD magazine, by Tony Woodlief. He brings up several points that I've been thinking for a long time now, but have not been able to verbalize. Basically, it comes down to this - abortion is the only issue. If abortion really truly is the taking of a life, then nothing else matters at this point in our nation's history. Here's Tony's article:

I have become something I once reviled: a single-issue voter. I used to think that a wise voter tries to discern each candidate's intentions on major issues, and then casts his vote based on an assessment of who will do the greatest overall good—or the least evil. I thought those voters who support a candidate based on a single issue—whether he will increase school funding, say, or lower taxes—were shirking their duty to consider the full ramifications of putting someone in office. What good is electing someone who is "right" on one thing, I thought, if he gets everything else disastrously wrong? This was the reasoning I used as I congratulated myself for wisely apportioning my votes based on utilitarian calculations.

Now I suspect this sort of calculation misses something. I've become convinced that a nation which sanctions the extinguishing of unborn children, and further, the outright execution of near-term infants, doesn't deserve admiration even if it gets every other policy right.

I used to include abortion as part of my voting calculus, mind you, but only a part. What if a candidate is pro-life, for example, but favors disastrous tax and trade policies that would consign people to lower living standards? Or what if he wants to use our military in pursuit of ill-defined foreign policy goals? Shouldn't these things factor into my equation?
Those other issues certainly affect a country's safety, prosperity, and greatness. But I've come to believe that a nation that tolerates destruction of innocents deserves neither safety nor prosperity nor greatness. We've descended into barbarism, and it poisons how we treat the elderly, the incapacitated, even ourselves. We shouldn't be surprised, having made life a utilitarian calculation, that more and more humans become inconvenient.

It's certainly true that there are other issues that ought to concern Christians, like the sanctity of marriage, and how we treat the mentally ill, the elderly, and children who have been born. But abortion is, in my view, the touchstone. Get this one wrong and your moral compass can guide you in nothing else.

There are complications. Does it really matter, for example, if a county supervisor is pro-life? Maybe so. Years ago the late-term abortionist George Tiller expanded his murderous facility in Wichita, Kan., with little trouble, even as local authorities harassed pro-life groups. The battle over abortion is being waged locally, and it makes all the difference in the world whether officials welcome abortionists with open arms, gutlessly tolerate them for fear of legal trouble, or actually get down to the business of scrutinizing their activities with a fine-toothed comb.

Even worse in the Wichita case, the city's mayor during this period advertised himself as pro-life. Hence an additional problem for the single-minded voter: Many candidates claim this label, yet they have no intention of taking action. The ones who will act, meanwhile, may be far less electable. Voters who don't care about abortion can tolerate a candidate who pays lip-service to the Bible-thumpers. But there's a danger they'll write him off as a nut if he devotes significant energy to the cause once in office.

There's also the challenge that a genuine and committed opponent of abortion may win office, work to end this abomination, and simultaneously arm regimes that slaughter innocents in other countries. If we oppose the murder of unborn infants not because they are cute, but because the execution of innocents is evil, then we have to apply this standard throughout our politics. I always thought the single-issue voter didn't have to think, but maybe that's not the case. There are indeed complications.

Yet there is also painful clarity that comes with single-mindedness. Jobs, highways, schools, economic growth—none of these matter if we're willing to sanction murder to get them. Perhaps my mentality is a recipe for political isolation for Christians, for the losing of elections, and maybe even a loss of national greatness. I worry that the alternative, however, is to lose something far greater, which is our ability to discern good from evil, and to act accordingly.

The Divine Butler

You should check this out. It's a tad on the long side, but it's worth the watch, and it might answer some questions about politics and what not.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Political Ads

Like everyone else who lives in America, I'm not what you would consider a "fan" of political ads. They're just a bunch of ranting about misleading subjects designed to get you to hate a person enough to not vote for him or her. Republicans and Democrats are both guilty of this. Also, the ads tend to be full of stuff that's just not true (again, both parties are guilty of this). I especially like the Al Franken ad that says something to the effect of, "Only one candidate in this election has never voted for a congressional pay raise - Al Franken." Well, to my knowledge, Franken has never been in congress, so he's never HAD the opportunity to vote for a congressional pay raise, so of course he hasn't voted for one! That's like me saying, "Joel Detlefsen has never voted for a congressional pay raise." You'd think I'm an idiot because I've never had the chance to vote for such a thing. Also, Dean Barkley, the Independent candidate was only in congress for something like eight days - did he vote for a pay raise in that amount of time, and if so, why? He wouldn't be around to enjoy it. You see, political ads are just dumb.

This political season introduced me to Ashwin Madia, a democrat who's running against Eric Paulsen for a seat in congress. Before this election season, I've never heard of Ashwin Madia, but republican ads would have me believe that he is a liar, and a worthless human being. I'm sorry, but I can't make that judgment simply by a 30 second TV spot! I can understand negative campaigning, but trying to persuade people to feel angst against someone they've never met (or heard of until a month ago) seems pretty wrong to me.

My wife commented tonight that she can't wait until Wednesday, because all of the political ads will be off the air. That got me thinking: if the political ads are true, and these people are the lowest scum on the face of the earth, and they represent us in congress, shouldn't they be running all year long? If these people really are as bad as the ads say they are, isn't that worth reporting to us in February and March, even if it's not an election year? Lying is lying, and stealing is stealing, whether it's an election year or not. The whole political system is extremely screwed up - your own politicians, whether you're a republican or democrat - only think it's important to report the evil of their opponents to you when their own butt is on the line. In other words, they'll only speak out against what's wrong and stand up for what's right when they need YOU to re-elect them. The rest of the time, they're just as guilty as the people they're railing against. Something is very screwed up with that line of thinking, and it needs to stop. Remember that the next time you think about making a campaign contribution.