Thursday, May 08, 2008

Re:How do I reconcile my membership in the Democratic party and my Christian faith? (part three)

What I am really saying here is that injecting the Bible into governance may not be the best idea. So I will finally answer your question as a Lutheran. The main function of government is to keep civil order, because its very hard to preach the gospel in the midst of a war (see for example the decimation of the Christian population in Iraq since the war). The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not a political agenda.
More than simply keeping order a government should look out for the good of all its citizens. It should not play favorites or be beholden to a narrow ideological viewpoint. Demonizing of its citizens should be avoided and a diversity of ideas should be considered. And frankly having spent nearly 8 years now under the Bush Administration I genuinely believe American can be governed better. I think the Democrats will get us out of Iraq sooner than the Republicans will. I think some form of Universal Healthcare will in the long run help the country, as giving people the resources to prevent sickness and disease is better than being forced to pay for their emergency room trip and more expensive treatments that emergency treatment will incur. Further the American economy tends to do better under a Democratic Administration. I could go on, but you get the idea, there are plenty of good reasons for a Christian to be a Democrat.
I would like to add a caveat to all of this. I am not saying that Republicans can not be Christians or Christians be Republican. Republicans at their best want small government, support traditional values, are non-interventionalist, and are skeptical. Not bad things.

Re:How do I reconcile my membership in the Democratic party and my Christian faith? (part two)

With that background in place I hope you can see why the Republican Party seemed less than attractive to me. Now you mention that “the democratic party has a lot of liberal policies that are clearly contrary to the biblical teachings.” By this, I am going to venture that you mean the Democratic Party’s “pro-choice” position and its general support of civil rights for gay people.
I must admit I am made very queasy by the vast amount of consensus in the party about “choice.” It feels like this issue is often not well thought out and supported mainly because “that’s the Democratic position.” That said the way in which the right tends to demonize women who have abortions is horrible. For one thing it is creating an inhuman scapegoat to attack in a similar manner to the attacks on minority groups mentioned above. Also it ignores the culpability of the man who slept with the woman. Its takes two to tango. Attacking the person who has to make a humiliating, horrible, and horrifying “choice” while being silent about the other person who made this decision is disgusting. And when a woman does choose to keep her child she is called a leech on society. Her ability to collect money from the father is tisked at because it involves the state interfering with the lives of individuals. If a woman caught in adultery came to a Democrat he would offer as an option abortion. If she came to a Republican Rush Limbaugh would start snarling at her and they would eventually stone her. Neither of those options seem particularly Christian to me.
As for gay rights my time in Wyoming shaped my view on this subject too. I’ve met people close to Matthew Shepherd, who was murdered when I was 15. I also remember watching Fred Phelps and his crew picketing the trial and Shepherd’s funeral on TV. These experiences have made me believe that homophobia can and does lead to violence and murder. This surely is not God’s will. Subsequently I’ve met gays and lesbians and have come to believe they should have the right to marry.

Further if we are playing the “Government should do what the Bible says” game I would mention there are areas in which the Democratic Party does this better than the Republican Party. There are hundred of verses in the Bible about caring for the poor. Perhaps we should spend money on welfare “queens” instead of corporate “kings.” Excessive riches are condemned. Maybe tax cuts are not the end all be all? The book of Revelation should make any faithful Christian stop and ask if America’s role abroad is mirroring Rome. Some say “Thou Shall Not Kill” does not include war, but going on wars of choice do not seem like a Christian thing to do. Further, Luther’s gloss of this commandment includes in it a charge to “help and care for” your neighbor “when he is ill.” So by this logic universal healthcare becomes almost a biblical mandate!
What I am really saying here is that injecting the Bible into governance may not be the best idea.

Re:How do I reconcile my membership in the Democratic party and my Christian faith? (part one)

Dear Chris, I am wondering how you would like to reconcile your party affiliation with your faith given that the democratic party has a lot of liberal policies that are clearly contrary to the biblical teachings? I would be grateful to learn your perspectives.

We have to understand my party membership has been shaped by my personal experience of the two parties. I grew up in Wyoming, the second most conservative state in the Union. The political discourse there reflected this fact, and I being a contrarian by nature, reacted in kind. Here is what I learned about Republican values and thoughts growing up. (Understand these are the extremes, but very real extremes.)
Minority groups have caused America’s problems. Black inner-city “welfare queens” are taking money out of “our” pockets. “Illegals” have taken all of “our” jobs and are destroying our quality of life with their foreign culture. Gays have perverted “our” children and eroded America’s moral foundations.
When it comes to international relations America can not, and has not, committed any wrong. Any questioning of foreign policy is treasonous. Further, said foreign policy should always involve feats of military force, because that is the only thing foreigners understand.
A life of the mind and a healthy skepticism of the status quo is wrong. The opinions of teachers, professors, doctors, etc. are invalid because of their profession. They simply don’t understand the “real world,” and may in fact be plotting against America, and maybe even against Christ Himself.
I mention plotting above because for some Republicans there are actual active conspiracies perpetrated by “secularists” “liberals” “feminists” and the American government itself (yet for some strange reason America can do no wrong internationally). These conspiritors intend to do a variety of things, for example: create a one-world government, take away our guns, undermine traditional values, create a Caliphate of America, create a satanic “new age” religion, and destroy Christianity.
While we are on that subject apparently the Republican Party is the party of Christ, and Christianity is a facet of Republicanism. The husband is the head of the household, upper-middle class respectability (white picket fences, McMansions, stock portfolios, and a picture of Bush Jr. on the wall) is the ideal, and the family is hermetically sealed from any ideas from “the world.” That becomes the totality of the Christian life.
With that background in place I hope you can see why the Republican Party seemed less than attractive to me.

The Act of Confessing

In Lutheran Confessions, Dr. Wengert lovingly describes the Book of Concord as “catching faithful Christians caught in the act of confessing their faith.” I just think that’s kinda neat! Thought I’d share.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Yo’annid and John

So I was thinking about the book of Revelation today in New Testament discussion group, a good place to think about these things I suspect, and realized something I had realized before. There are a lot of similarities between how we perceive Islam and how the Romans probably perceived Christianity.
Case in point, John was stuck on Patmos “on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.” I read this to mean he was stuck there because he testified about Jesus and the government exiled him there. Likewise Islamic extremists have been “exiled” to Guantanamo Bay.
Likewise I am guessing there are some similarities between how Christianity perceived Rome and how some Radical Islamists perceive America.
America could be seen as Rome. Both Rome and America have unprecedented power.
While our military might has limits we can enforce a “Pax America” in a very deadly and real way.
Free trade and television has expanded American influence and culture all around the known world. Some aspects of our culture offend the religious sensibilities both abroad and at home.
On a good day we can dictate political policy to world leaders, or at least influence them greatly. Many world leaders are western educated, which may make it seem like we have seduced the elites of the world.
The status quo of global trade sometimes (often?) benefits America and other rich countries at the expense of poorer countries. Poor workers in other countries end up not working to build things they can own and use, but instead they are building widgets out of their countries natural resources for a salary that does not allow them to buy said widget in order to send the widget overseas to some rich westerner they will never meet.
Now I’m not saying America is Rome. I’m definitely not saying violence of any kind is a proper response to economic alienation, political domination, having one’s culture and/or religion offended, or feeling overwhelmed by the might of another country, and by that justifying terrorism. What I am saying is that the types of feelings these situations evoke might have been felt by early Christians.

Guantanamo prisoner’s letter released online, warns of more terrorist attacks to come

(AP) Yesterday a letter was released on the radical Islamic website It was reportedly smuggled out of the American detention center in Guantanamo Bay Cuba. The document contained coded language denouncing Western decadence and praising the piety of several Turkish Mosques.
The author appears to be Yo’annid, a suspected Turkish terrorist with links to Al-queada. He was arrested in Ankara in 2004 while denouncing Turkish president Abdullah Gul at a pro-Islamic rally.
In the letter Yo’annid refers to America as “Rome.” He calls it a nation that “seduces the world’s ruling elite and business class.” It also urges Muslims around the world to abandon “Rome” “lest you take part in her sins.”
The document may also be inciting terrorist attacks on America, as Yo’annid describes “Rome” burning “with fire, for mighty is Allah’s judgement of her.” It also describes how Muslims siding with America in the War on Terror will “weep and mourn” the end of global trade after “the day of judgment.”