Category Archives: Politics

Objective Reality?  Some Thoughts In The Context of Being Pro-Life

Red Letter Christians has an article out called, “Becoming Truly Pro-Life” by Greg Dill. This is the old, “you’re not truly and genuinely pro-life until you’re for all of life not just life inside the womb.” The part that really gets me is when Dill says, 

“But, as I grew in my faith, matured a bit more, and learned what it means to truly follow the peace teachings of Jesus, something changed. I had to take a step back, give pause, and closely examine myself and what I believed. And this self examination led me to reassess what it means to be pro-life in the most fullest sense. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I mostly had it all wrong.”

Think about this. What are you REALLY saying when you say this? That you learned to TRULY follow the peace teachings of Jesus. That you had it MOSTLY WRONG. You are deducing that before this “enlightenment” you WEREN’T TRULY following the peace teachings of Jesus–that before this enlightenment, you mostly had it all wrong. And in saying that, any pro-lifers or Christians that believed what you believed or did what you did were NOT TRULY following the peace teachings of Jesus and that they “mostly had it all wrong.” 

Wow….

I cannot tell you the how much the condescension is strong in this one. “Hey, I thought about it and I discovered I was mostly wrong about everything. Which, if I was objectively wrong, that means that so are all these other pro-lifers and Christians!”  

Any time you start out like this it’s a turn off for me. I pretty much tune you out. It’s like you’re trying to be nice to my face while being a dick at the same time. Please, just be the dick about it. Outright. Or try to put it like this:
“I believed this before. I believe this now. I don’t somehow stand ‘outside from above reality’ as if I have a bird’s eye view on things. So I can’t say that I’m objectively right or wrong on something or another. The best I can do is say, “This is how **I** see it. Others genuinely see the issue different from me. The reason why is because, let’s face it, there are other traditions out there and I may not have all the relevant information to boot.”

You see. I can live with there being other traditions. I can live with them opposing my particular view of things. With Christians opposing my particular view of things–with each other. I’m not saying one shouldn’t try to discuss and attempt to persuade others. Just don’t do it while putting those others down in the process. We may find that we can oppose each other on some point of disagreement–on this or that point of disagreement while working toward the same goals, such as in this case, fighting against the evil that Dill speaks about, ie., cutting back on abortion, lower the rates of death amount African American males, etc.

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The Flash: Social/Political Ramifications 

I just started watching he first three episodes of “The Flash.” I just finished episode three on Netflix. Anyone else enjoying this TV series? This third one was one of the best episodes yet which has helped me reflect a little more deeply about principled pluralism (it also has some interesting philosophy about our running away from problems as well as running TOO something). Gonna put a spoiler out there to demonstrate what I’m talking about.
Barry has now had some time to think about his father in prison. As a matter of fact, he has being thinking about how he could rescue him since he first went. But now that Barry has supersonic speed he KNOWS he can free him without going through the proper channels and in fact he says so when he he talks to Detective Joe West in the hospital. But alas, both realize that the best way to get his dad out of prison may take longer (going through the process) but it is right and good that they do so in the end. And why is that? This scene, more than anything I’ve watch or read so far on authority demonstrates clearly what Austin Lee spoke about in his book, “Up with Authority” concerning the undermining of authority. Think about what would be the case if Barry decided to break his dad out of jail on his own? First, there would be issues of public trust. Barry (Flash) would be viewed as someone not trustworthy. Who’s to say that Barry would not bend the rules whenever it suits him? Also, what would happen with law and order–something we normally take for granted and depend on–if we decided to skirt the rules and act above the law every time it suited us? Not only would there be no public trust for the “Barry’s” of the world but we also wouldn’t have trust in the system. Think about it. You believe your father is innocent (and in Barry’s case actually is), the rest of us believe he’s guilty. You may have it within your power to free him from prison, but by doing so, you’ve done nothing to convince the rest of us that he is. You may want justice for your father but by freeing him without going through the process you’ve undermined 
justice because now nobody will trust the system, ie., were those in authority in on it? The scope of concern is wider than the more immediate need (in this case).

In saying this, I’m not talking about certain rules that can be bent WITHIN the “ground rules.” I’m talking about the ground rules themselves. Certain things can or must NEVER be broken.


Religious Accomodation: The Case of The Kentucky Clerks Not Handing Out Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

Let’s think about this for a second. Corey wants to say Kim Davis has no right to force her religious views on the public through the government. He says: 

“This particular case however, isn’t about Ms. Davis being free to practice her religion and it isn’t about having the freedom to conform into the image and likeness of Christ. Instead, this is about Ms. Davis’s attempt to force her religious restrictions on the general public and an attempt to conform the secular government into the image and likeness of Christ (or her version thereof).”

and

“Every person in America has the freedom to practice their religion. However, we do not have blanket freedom to step into a government role and force that arm of government, no matter how small, to conform to our own religious beliefs.  That’s not what the Bible teaches us to do. We are told to mold ourselves after Jesus– but are never told to hijack the government and force the government to conform to Jesus. Instead, we’re simply to give to Caesar that which belongs to Caesar, and to be obedient to the authorities as we quietly labor at building the Kingdom of God.”  You can read his whole post here.
A. Is THIS not some Christian vision of how Christianity and politics should (or in Corey’s case shouldn’t) mix? So why accuse someone of imposing their version while you do the same? Granted, I agree government should not make theological statements honouring one belief above another ie., padeo-baptism for all citizens regardless of whatever branch of Christianity you are from or religion you are but there are ways of going about this without being accused of what Corey is saying and and accommodating religious belief at the same time. Linked below.

B. The problem with what Corey says here is that because it flows from this anabaptist view it tends to be convoluted. For example, if you are a principled pluralist, you say that God is above everything else. The rest is government and civil society. With each sphere having their own role to play. God above and the rest of civil society below. So THAT understanding should has implications for both government and the public. I guess Corey would accuse someone like me of imposing my views on the rest of the unbelieving world? Seems so.

So essentially, here’s how my religious view would work out in this situation: you accommodate Kim Davis and others like her by saying, “YOU PERSONALLY don’t have to give out religious licenses. Someone in your office who doesn’t have that religious conviction can do it.” Easy stuff you’d think. Read Ryan Anderson’s piece here.

But alas, it would seem, according to Corey, that for the government to accommodate Ms. Davis and her kind that would be imposing your religious views on government. The thinking is so convoluted I wanna cry.


Inclusiveness On Steroids

The whole inclusiveness ideology that many Christians tout today is based on a particular understanding of God’s love and Jesus’ mission in the world (Christ came to save everybody)–the whole, “he came to seek out the marginalized and we’re supposed to love everybody” thingy.

In saying this, many Christians don’t really have a problem with how their faith (and this particular theo/politico outlook) would play out with regard to public justice or individual justice. Essentially, for them, government was and is doing a good and just thing to end discrimination, ie., school integration and civil rights legislation, acceptance of LGBT folk, etc.

Interestingly, the whole top down approach to rid society of discrimination has not only been a failure historically but it really doesn’t make philosophical sense because it ignores that the attempt to eradicate “racism” (ie., attitudes) is much like the attempt to eradicate stupidity as well as it ends up creating a homogenized and uniformed society. That is, it “flattens” society. (James Kalb, “Against Inclusiveness”).

But there’s something else as well. Inclusiveness ignores human nature and how relationships work. What I mean is that you can’t like or “love” (in that sentimental sense) EVERYBODY. Does love (in this sentimental way) mean, for example, that a pastor will get along with everyone in his flock who is under his care? How exactly would a pastor “love” everyone in his congragation? Would he get along with EVERYBODY?Would he not have differences with parishoners? Would he not find some relationships like sandpaper–gritty that go against the grain? Does this not ignore how relationships work in real life situations? For example, most of these same inclusive Christians would have no problem with a couple who divorce for they realize the situation–that that couple are ultimately not reflecting the Triune love of the Godhead in their relationship. In other words, there is a less than perfect love there. As a matter of fact the best that a couple might be able to do is to reflect that love by not talk to each other and in this way seek out as much peace as POSSIBLE. In other words “as possible” means there is less than perfect love there. But maybe it has nothing to do with “less than perfect love.” Let’s say, said couple have different interests and are not compatible on other levels? Does it have to be a question that there is LESS THAN perfect love? Or does this not reflect the normality of the way that relationships work and are INTENDED to work?

So, if this happens on a personal level, why MUST we push the idea of inclusiveness on such a grand public scale? If the idea of a divorced Christian couple as not “inclusive” (of each other) is OK, why do we not allow for this on a societal/sociological scale? Let’s face it. People choose to hang with and befriend certain other people for various reasons. People clash with personalities. People don’t always feel comfortable in other groups. So what would be problematic with a pastor who chooses not to associate with certain people in his congregation ie., trust, personality issues, cultural differences, etc? Granted, some of this “lack of reconciliation” is due to sinful tendencies and impulses but some if not most of it isn’t. And it would certainly be hard to differentiate between the various reasons, as if there are hard and fast boundaries.

One may say, “Well we should TRY to be loving (which means inclusive) because ultimately in the new age to come we will be love each other.” This is inclusiveness from the other end of the spectrum–the eschatological end. But why must “loving” in this instance mean getting along, making-friends-with, everybody? Why can’t loving mean simply serving–without the sentimentalism? Why couldn’t a pastor serve those in his congregation by helping them connect with others whom are like minded (you know, birds of a feather flock together idea?) or connect them with those who can be loving in the way that these folk need to be loved? Would that not be loving even though the pastor doesn’t have the interior resources to love in that way? It seems to me that inclusiveness in the Christian community is an inclusiveness on steroids that does damage to the way relationships work and are intended to work.


Does Remarriage Equal Continuous Adultery? The Connection With Same-Sex Marriage

Unless you have been living under a rock this past week, some interesting developments have occurred in the US–the one I speak of here is namely the issue of same sex marriage. All states in the Union had bans against same sex marriage lifted.

While I was at the gym yesterday my buddy Dwayne Polk got ahold of me on facebook messenger and wanted to know my thoughts on this Piper article that he posted which you can see here.

Essentially, the argument is that Piper believes that once you divorce and remarry then you are committing adultery. But then he believes that God sanctifies those relationships. So this is the first argument to prove another argument for same sex marriage.

That is, the second argument is that if once you remarry you are in adultery you are in CONTINUAL adultery and God allows for that, then what is problematic with allowing for gay marriage.

At this point, Dwayne says that if that is the case (which he believes it is) then those who don’t allow for same sex marriage but allow for heterosexual remarriage are hypocrites.

Here’s the point I made to my Dwayne.

First off, my interests lie with religion and politics/culture and how they mix. I’m also interested in Christian ethics. Yes, I’m interested in theology and I’ve come to hold to much of the same theology that Dwayne holds to but I’m more interested in the religion/politics question. I’m also a universalist, and I hold to open theism. So you really can’t put me in a “conservative camp” on some score sheet saying, “He’s a conservative.” When it comes to politics I don’t hold to conservative values on some issues and may seem more to the left with others to my conservative friends. This has to do with my believing in the Reform teaching of sphere sovereignty. For me, Abraham Kuyper’s overall schema makes the most sense and is part of the reason why I think there is a lot of confusion in the evangelical community over religion and politics ie., same-sex marriage, etc (yes, that comes straight from Jim Skillen’s book, “A Scattered Voice.”)

I said that to say this. As you may very well know there is a diversity of voices in the evangelical community. My interest lies in how we can get along or co-exist with each other (though getting along is nice it’s not priority in my book. Two can co-exist and not go out of their way to be nice). Being as that is the case, there have been differences of opinion on divorce and remarriage. And if THAT is the case, then there are some who don’t hold to Piper’s view (which incidentally was raised by Greg Boyd on the Open theism boards years ago and by William Heth in the “Four Views” book on divorce and remarriage (which by the way, I’m told by one biblical scholar, Heth has had a change of mind and no longer holds to that view).

Thus, if one holds to the view that scripture allows for divorce AND remarriage, then Piper’s, Boyds and Heth’s view fail. But for the same sex marriage view that uses the argument that one is in continuous adultery it specifically fails (Boyd and Polk). And thus, those who say you CAN remarry are NOT acting hypocritically. They only way you could say that someone is being hypocritical is because from WITHIN the remarriage=adultery view the logic holds.

So, does remarriage=divorce and along with it the argument that we should allow for same-sex marriage? My response is no. And why is that? Because, as I said, in the evangelical community there is more than one view on divorce and remarriage and Piper’s and Boyd’s and Heth’s are only ONE out of the four mentioned in the book (and let’s remember, that if we were to take into consideration the Catholic and Orthodox positions which are in some respects radically different than evangelical views, then we would still have disagreement with Piper’s, Boyd’s and Heth’s).

But why do I disagree with the Piper/Boyd view and disagree with the charge of hypocrisy? Because, I follow Craig Keener on this who is no fly by nighter scholar and would disagree with the remarriage as adultery view which you can read and listen to here and here. For Keener, when Jesus said that when you divorce and marry another you commit adultery he was using hyperbole and thus remarriage doesn’t mean continual adultery. Let me know what you think.


On Racism

My buddy Tom Belt wrote an interesting piece on racism that you can view here.

I do have a couple of things to say about this though.

A. Dwayne and Tom see systemic racism to be a failure to truly love someone because of self-perception. I really don’t know if I would identify this as the “systemic” portion of racism. Of course, one could say the same thing about blacks against whites. One could also say the same thing about sexism. The list could go on and on. Not trying to say this is not true. As a matter of fact I do see this as a pretty plausible explanation. But an explanation that seems to have to fit into a wider view of justice.
B. Some Christians are fond of saying that Christian morality should not be forced on to others. Something like, “You can’t force non-Christians to love” through law. So, if this is a Christian understanding of racism, I would like to know how this could ever be reflected in law. Should such a view be encoded in law? COULD it be reflected in law? Sure, a non-Christian may not be able to love the way they should if the Spirit was guiding them, but I tend to think that the Spirit is still at work in unbelievers as well as I tend to think that if a view such as this was encoded in law, it may be able to be done without the Christian trappings. In other words, how could we all perceive ourselves as “one?” Forget law. Just put it in policing policies.
C. I do think that this explanation is helpful with regard to responding to the question that was actually proposed to me on Facebook: “Do you think the police want to kill others?”

I don’t think these question are irrelevant. I think the questions Tom raises is one side of the coin while my thoughts are the other side. Theirs is theoritical. Mine is trying to see this as an outworking in law and policing policy. I’ve been guided by a saying that goes something like this:

“Justice fulfills what love cannot.” You can start out with love–looking at what the problem is or what you think the problem is. You can come up with solutions, ie., deal with the self-perception issue, ., ie, we’re all one. But it also needs to have a practical outworking–justice.


Red Letter Christians And The Rest Of Scripture

I have, for the most, part when doing theology (on the laymen’s level that I do it) have relied on two major sources, reading and talking to others. But there is also what is known as the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. Scripture, tradition, reason and experience. In other words, I use other authoritative sources to reach as much of a sound moral/ethical decision as I can. I am not a Red Letter Christian–giving Jesus’ words priority over the rest of scripture. That just sounds weird to me. Stan Guthrie wrote a critique about Red Letter Christians at Christianity Today here. Tony Campolo responded in the same online article–though I think Campolo can be easily refuted here. With just one word: Justice.

Let’s think about this for a second. Red Letter Christians ACTUALLY do give priority to Jesus and his words that you find in those older renditions of the Bible. The justification for this is rather simple. Let’s go through this.

Stephan Jarnick says this:

“Another thing some Christians say that needs to be challenged is “I read the WHOLE Bible” as if giving the Old Testament and the New Testament equal weighting somehow makes them better Christians. Jesus made it clear that the Old Testament is important when he said in Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” but he also said several times “You have heard it said, but I tell you…” whenever he’s about to teach something that’s different from what’s found in the Old Testament. The law said “An eye for eye, and a tooth for a tooth” but Jesus said “Do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” I don’t want to accuse anyone of intentionally ignoring Jesus but it’s sometimes tempting to do an end run around him to find a sound bite in the Old Testament that will support our agenda. I often encounter this kind of thinking when talking to people about Jesus’ peace teachings. Reading the Old Testament to learn about how God interacted with people prior to Jesus coming on the scene is a good thing. Using it as an optional guide for how to live when we don’t like what Jesus has to say to us is…not Christian.”

Essentially, what Jarnick does is say that Jesus “peace teachings” is above the Old Testament law of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth (even though, pretty much, justice is not fully accomplished in this fashion: Do you think justice can be served by punching someone’s tooth out the same way that they punched yours out? For it to be a tooth for a tooth it would have to be done in the exact same manner and force and making sure you only knock one out and not others, etc. Not to mention, do you REALLY feel justice has been accomplished? Don’t you feel a just a little jaded? Really, the “eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth” was a VERY JUST law as it had to do with the concept of proportionality. Which meant that you didn’t go overboard with a DESERVING punishment. If this interpretation is correct, then the “eye for an eye or tooth for a tooth” is not really all that contradictory to Jesus words.

So when Campolo responds to Guthrie in the above CT article saying:

“While we, like you, have a very high view of the inspiration of Scripture and believe the Bible was divinely inspired, you are correct in accusing Red Letter Christians of giving the words of Jesus priority over all other passages of Scripture.”

He begs the question. How would not going overboard with punishment (thus being a just punishment) be contrary to Jesus’ peace teachings? If we WERE to ask, “WWJD?” could we not say that Jesus would say, “Hey, don’t go overboard with punishment!” So why would we give priority of Jesus’ words over this Old Testament law?

If I were to add the Ten Commandments into the equation, we might ask, how is say, “Not making idols” (graven images) NOT relevant to Jesus’ commands to love God with all our hearts first and foremost? It should be obvious that not only is there no contradiction but the Old Testament could give us a “filler” so-to-speak (explanatory power) to the words of Jesus.

But let’s go further. Campolo says:

“You got us RLCs right again when you suggested we were anti-war, pro-environment, and deeply committed to ending poverty primarily because we believe Jesus is anti-war, pro-environment, and deeply committed to ending poverty. The only mistake you made was to imply that thinking this way—or trying to influence our government according to these values—makes us the Religious Left:”

OK…this is where I have serious reservations with what Campolo is saying. The anti-war, pro-enviroment, deeply ending poverty are USUALLY the staple of the Left NOT the Right. I mean, after all, the right is more concerned with abortion and same sex marriage. So it really is not a far cry to say that Red Letter Christians fall to the left side of the spectrum. But, is not most in the evangelical community REALLY against war PER SE even though some on the Right may be more quicker to go to war than others on the Left?

However, let’s go back to that word I mentioned above–justice and it’s opposite, injustice. Is injustice not injustice no matter what? Let’s say, through some political educational policy, that we take taxes from citizens to pay for education because we as a society have seen fit to educate our children up to a certain age. However, let’s just say that someone wants to educate their kids according to their particular history or political science (as these last two are not neutral unbiased territory, who’s to say that the public educational system’s teaching on these subjects is the “correct” one?) or values or tradition. However, in order for them to do so, they must pay for it OVER AND ABOVE their taxes and in effect penalizing them financially for doing so as well as treating them like second class citizens. Is this not an injustice? And if it is an injustice, why would Jesus be any LESS concerned with this? Sure, we might prioritize “life issues” as more important than education but we would never say that it is not important and we especially would not say that treating others in society as second class citizens is not important.

So, what am I saying in bringing this up? I’m saying that all of these diverse issues are important as far as justice is concerned. Jesus would be concerned about war and whether we should participate in it. Jesus would be concerned about abortion. Jesus would be concerned about the enviroment. Jesus would be concerned about marriage. Jesus would be concerned about poverty and and homeless. And lastly, Jesus would be concerned about the ways in which we treat others as citizens. You do realize there is more than one way to treat people as second class citizens right? The human imagination for dehumanizing others seems to know no bounds!

So if it is the case (that Jesus is concerned about JUSTICE as a whole) then why the incessant need to differentiate between what Christ says in red and the rest of scripture? Should we not be concerned about reflecting idolatry (an Old Testament declaration of freedom) in our laws and policies? I don’t see how we should not be and thus I don’t see why we should prioritize one scripture over another.

In closing, I think this whole idea of being a Red Letter Christian is condescending. **I** follow the words of Jesus. While everyone else….what?