Saturday, January 26, 2008

Me and My Buddy, James, part 2

On to chapter 2.

One thing that's really bothering me about this book is that he has a tendency to quote scripture to support something, but then not fully explain how scripture supports what he's saying. Chapter 2 (Render unto Caesar) is an excellent example.

The story of Jesus telling the pharisees to "render unto Caesar only what is Caesar, and to God the things that are God's" is actually one of my favorite Jesus stories. I also like the one where he calls the pharisees a "brood of vipers". I just can't come up with stuff this good! I mean if one of the leaders of the Moral Majority came up to me and said, "Tell me, wise teacher, do you think it's lawful to pay taxes when our government is involved in so many immoral things?"

Aside -- I realize this will never happen. First of all, people don't ask those kinds of questions when they already have all the answers, and secondly, they'd never ask a woman! But just stick with me here.

"Tell, me, wise teacher, do you think its lawful to pay taxes when our government is involved in so many immoral things?"

"Well,"... I stammer a response, "Ooohhh, we might have a reason not to pay taxes! goodie."

So, I just get amazed when Jesus comes up with such a great answer. I've also always liked the response because it's given me peace of mind that I can pay taxes and not be sidetracked with concern over what the government is doing. Keep a clear mind of what is God's and pay the appropriate respect and obedience to the governing authorities.

Kennedy is extending this passage to mean that, in this day of democratic government, rendering unto to Caesar includes political participation. There, I would question the argument, but for the sake of reading the book, I'll allow that it could pertain. Let's just say I think he's on shaky ground.

Now, he goes on to talk about "imposing morality" on our culture. And, in truth, I agree with him there. I agree that the Judeo-Christian ethic should be pushed on our culture. I don't want to live in a culture where thievery is accepted (I've dealt with governments like that, and I've seen, first hand, the effects on the people), sexual morality is abandoned and the people are constantly struggling to survive. However, I also have read about and seen cultures where morality is pushed to a point beyond legalism. Do we really want to just push our morality on a culture and force them all to comply? Do we really want to be little Talibans?

In the end, God gives us a choice, and there is a certain amount of grace and respect that I think we need to extend to our fellow citizens. For instance, when I argue the point of abortion with a person who is pro-choice, I don't pull out my Bible and start to lecture. Why would I do that when we've already lost the culture war, and the Bible has no meaning to them? I argue it on these points:
1) We are all better off when we protect the most innocent life --be it unborn, old or disabled. It's better for humanity in general if we preserve the least common denominator because humanity is better off when we are compassionate.

2) Medical evidence shows the existence of life from conception. As the evidence grows for this, do we want to believe we haven't protected life when we should have?

3) We are not in a position to determine if a life is worth living or not. There are three people who are living in my home, living a better and more full life than a majority of the world, who had been written off as not worthy by many many people. Where do we presume to devise the criteria for whose life is worth living?

Of course, I also support birth mothers, adoption and the foster system, as well as trying to provide support and assistance for teen mothers in any way I am able.

What I don't do is take out my Bible and systematically apply scripture to the cause. Of course the scripture shapes the morality, but I'm smart enough to realize that that isn't going to fly in our culture anymore! Thankfully, scripture reveals truth, and so we can use the truth that scripture reveals to shape our arguments.

Anyways, he goes on to the "Goal of the Founding Fathers." Eee gads.

I could write an entire book on my thoughts about the founding fathers, the constitution and the birth of our nation. How in the world did we get where we are today unless there were some problems from the start??? I'll spare you the ramblings, if you've been nice enough to read this far. However, I have to crack up at the point he makes about something the Arthur DeMoss Foundation (which has been involved in some really good things) said in a newspaper many years ago, "Religion's influence on public policy has had a long and distinguished history. Over the past 200 years religion has been a stabilizing force in this country. Suddenly Americans are being told that religion and morality were never meant to influence politics. To believe this would require a disregard for our history...even the desertion of the principles of our forefathers."

So, religion did play a big part in the founding? Was it Jefferson's disbelief in miracles and the divinity of Jesus? Was it Franklin's interest in marketing Christianity while not believing in it? Was it in the form of the freemasons? Think rationally James! The actual Constitution of the United States tell us that we have the right to the "pursuit of happiness" -- that's GODLY?

But, in addition to that religion did get used to justify taking of land from the natives, slavery and even, hundreds of years later, segregation. Of course, you can also site Islam, Mormonism, Taoist, and even Hari Krishna as religions that have influenced our government.... is this all good?

Another thing that befuddles me is his insistence on quoting dead supreme court judges and politicians, like what they thought about this topic is pertinent in any truly apparent way. Just because they sat on the bench sure doesn't mean I need to heed what they said! You're going to have to do a little better than that to convince me.

He ends the chapter by stating the we should always vote for Christians. Sure. And we know they are Christians by... their words? Because someone is a pastor? Because they drive a minivan and wear clothes from J.C. Penny? Hasn't he realized that they all say they are Christians, and that some even say they have the same values as us?

In addition to that, even if they are Christian, that doesn't mean they're competent or able to lead a nation or run a state.

We've got to go beyond this somehow because we really can't trust any of them.


Anonymous said...

I drive a minivan and wear clothes from J.C. Penney. Can I have your vote?

Bill said...

Actually, it's pretty funny voting for a guy named anonymous. He the "everyman" candidate. Actually, my name is Bill.

Deb said...

I'd vote for you, Bill, as long as you didn't make your platform based on your "3 C's", which, if I remember correctly were "Cars, Computers and Country Music."

Little Defender said...

Re-writing history...

I find it interesting that the evil white American is blamed for maliciously killing the natives in New World and for bringing slavery into the world.

Is this really the entire story?

These natives are made out to be such an enlightened people... living in complete harmony with nature, nature's god and each other. That's why many of them sacrificed their children to appease their gods and brutalized their enemies in unspeakable ways.

Slavery? Even the Hebrew scriptures made provision for slavery. Slavery has been in existence for 1000s of years. And yet, once again, it's the evil white American that gets damned for the practice of slavery. What people put an end to slavery in their land? What people spilled their blood to set their fellow man free? By the power of prayer and the leadership of great men and women, America rose up against slavery and crushed it's spirit in the New World.

Try this history on for size...

He was a native of the New World. He was enslaved and taken to Europe. Friars intervened on his behalf and took him into their care. They taught him how to plant and grow crops. They also taught him their faith. Several years later he was able to return to his homeland. He discovered that his entire tribe had perished due to an illness. This native was adopted by a Wamponoag village. He was instrumental in helping the pilgrims establish a home in the New World and bringing initial peace between the other natives and these new comers.

His name was Tisquantum.

little defender said...

So I went back and read part 1...

I disagree with your assertion that the current pro-life president hasn't done any thing to change the abortion scene in America in his '8 years' in office.

President Bush pushed through legislation and executive orders ending the practice of harvesting stem cells from new embryos.

President Bush vetoed every bill attempting to legalize the slaughter of children for the excuse of using them in embryonic stem cell research.

He supported and signed legislation to end the practice of partial birth abortion.

President Bush appointed judges that will work to undo Roe v. Wade.

Would you prefer Hillary Clinton or Samuel Alito on the Supreme Court?

Would you prefer Mario Cuomo or John Roberts as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court?

Name a president since 1973 that has done more to turn the tide against abortion?

By the way, can you tell me how many Americans have been killed in Iraq since the September 11, 2001?

Can you tell me how many Americans have been killed by terrorists in the United States since September 11, 2001?

Can you tell me how many Americans were killed during the Clinton administration by terrorists?

Can you tell me how many Iraqis Saddam Hussein killed before 9/11?

Can you tell me how many Iraqis Saddam Hussein has killed since he was killed?

Deb said...

Little Defender said, "These natives are made out to be such an enlightened people..." and I would like to point out that whatever the moral case was with the Native Americans, people stealing and attacking in the name of God isn't justified. No war was ever declared on a native nation because the attackers wanted to enable a healthier life for the natives. One could even argue that the native's didn't know any better (as they hadn't been introduced to the true living God) and the Europeans did. But the fact of the matter was that it wasn't spiritual for either side -- the Europeans wanted land. Quite often the "christianity" of their government made it easy for them to create rhetoric to justify their actions. Certainly two wrongs don't make a right.

Little Defender then said..."Slavery? Even the Hebrew scriptures made provision for slavery."

Well, the Hebrew Bible does make provisions, but it doesn't justify it. Hebrew Law puts restraints on something that did exist, in order to establish some boundaries.

And, yes, other countries have been involved in slavery, but I'm not talking about other countries. I'm talking about ours and the insistence that we have a Christian heritage. Our "founding fathers" were perfectly happy to build an economy on slave labor (and tobacco!), and were also happy to spew religious rhetoric out the other side of their mouths.

Incidently, our country hasn't led the way in abolishing slavery. The movement to abolish the slave trade started in Great Britain. Slavery was abolished here years later, despite the fact that many in government didn't want it abolished. Truth be told, the U.S. is still alive and well in the slave trade. It's simply underground.

I'm quite familiar with the story of Tisquantum. What I think is humorous is that you seem to believe that his story is somehow proving your point. The major point that his life proves is his ability to adapt to changing situations. It's also noteworthy that not many years later, that same settlement he helped went to war with the natives -- one of the first examples of the settlers going back on their word.

Deb said...

In response to Little Defender...

In regards to stem cell research, according to what I've read, President Bush has not ended the practice of harvesting stem cells. He's eliminated federal funding. States, however, can individually vote to determine if state funds are used for such research, and private funding is still available.

For the record, I do think that harvesting stem cells from embryos is evil and debasing. I also think the same for abortion. Just because I don't carry the hatchet for the Religious Right doesn't mean that I am immoral. I just refuse to buy the party line.

Yes, he has vetoed many life-related legislation. I don't deny that. What I deny is if he is altruistically vetoing or if he's just following a party line. My point is that being pro-life needs to go beyond the yet-to-be born and extend into policies that render all life valuable -- be it children in dire situations, the middle class or our enemies.

Perhaps if he had a larger value for life we would be in the middle of a just war rather than a war that he rushed us into.

If you actually read more than one or two of my blog entries you would know that, no I don't want Hillary Clinton doing anything in government.

Nearly 4,000 US soldiers have been killed since the beginning of the Iraq war.

The number of US citizens killed by terrorists since 9-11 has nothing to do with the war in Iraq. You could probably site the war in Afghanistan for the greater security here, but we've taken our focus off of that thanks to Iraq. The safety here has, also, to do with the increased security measures at airports and other ports of entry, again not the Iraq war. President Bush can hardly take credit for any of that, nor have I heard him try to. That's just your own argument.

And, while, of course, Saddam Hussein isn't killing any more Iraqi citizens, there will certainly be someone to take his place. So, now we're trying to set up a new government there which may or may not succeed, and if it does succeed may still turn into the next tyrant government. Don't forget that the Baath party was useful for the US government when it was fighting against communists and again against Iran.

It just isn't as simple as you think it is.

little defender said...

I believe taking the war to enemy (in Iraq and Afghanistan) is a sound strategy. Obviously, we disagree.

You stated President Bush simply vetoes legislation 'because he is following the party line'. In July of 2006 there was strong bi-partisan support for embryonic stem research. By the Grace of God the House was unable to get the 2/3rd vote need to override his veto. This was an unpopular veto. But he didn't cave to popular opinion. I saw it as standing on principal. Once again, I guess we disagree.

The U.S. Constitution does not include the phrase... "the pursuit of happiness". This is from the Declaration of Independence.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Although this bold statement did not come to complete fruition in their time (nor in ours), I believe it is very sound.

I'm unfamiliar with this teaching that pursuing happiness is somehow ungodly. Seeking happiness has led me to God. And I believe that He is the only path eternal happiness (Revelation 21).

God bless.

Deb said...

Little Defender....

A war is hardly sound strategy when the majority of nations don't stand with you. A just war requires diplomacy until diplomacy is no longer an option. This simply did not happen with Iraq. Bush lost Powell because there wasn't sound strategy going into this war. Try doing some serious international travel and see if the war in Iraq has done much good for our nation. We have many more fundamentalist (and boarderline fundamentalist -- I spent significant time in one of these countries after the war started) angry with us.

Of course, too, if the Iraq war was really about liberty and human rights and such, then why aren't we involved in Dafur? Why didn't we get involved in Rwanda?

I did mean the "Declaration of Independence", sorry for the mistake.

However, I don't find the "pursuit of Happiness" anywhere in scripture. Now, my relationship with God has brought me peace, joy, and hope. It has given meaning in my life -- far greater meaning than can ever be found "pursuing happiness". Happiness is fleeting, earthly and can be self-serving. I doubt there are many persecuted Christians who would call "happiness" a concept from Christianity. In fact, political liberty, which is what the Declaration of Independence is referring to, isn't a Biblical Concept either.

And, of course, the founding fathers didn't mean happiness or life and liberty for everyone -- just only if you could belong to their white male club.

This nation was based on what it still focuses on: materialism. Back then it was land, now it's a myriad of "junk" and oil. The only saving grace has been the Christians who have worked hard to spread God's kingdom and have brought God's grace to the people.

little defender said...

You stated -- 'A war is hardly sound strategy when the majority of nations don't stand with you.'

I believe when Great Britain stood alone against Nazi Germany, they made the just choice. It is my belief that popularity is not the measuring stick for doing what is right.

Are Darfur and Rwanda training bases for the people who have pledged to kill us and have demonstrated the means to do so?

You stated -- 'I doubt there are many persecuted Christians who would call "happiness" a concept from Christianity.'

Happiness is defined as a state of well being, contentment, and joy by the Merriam Webster's online dictionary.

The persecuted christians I know of find their refuge, their joy, their happiness in serving God. Perhaps your experience is different.

You state that the right to Liberty and to the Pursuit of Happiness are not God given rights.

I am amazed! Does man have free will? Does man have the right granted by God to choose his path to happiness, even though the choice may be wrong? According to what I have read on your website, the answer for you is no.

Deb said...

There are numerous points in your history argument that are wrong, including Britain being on its own when attacking Germany during WWII, as well as drawing a comparison with this war and WWII.

If our lovely President had worked on diplomacy a bit more, this situation would have probably grown into something more similar to WWII, and done so quickly. As it stands, thousands of innocent lives have been lost (and yes, more were lost under Saddam Hussein, but as I said before, there is no promise that's going to stop under the new leadership) and our standing as a benign power has been lost as well. In addition to that, a more co-ordinated effort would have probably produced a more efficient and less costly war (in life and financial terms).

I think you have a scriptural and intellectual misunderstanding of "happiness" as opposed to joy and hope. People pursuing happiness often wreck their families (I'd be happier married to someone else... I'd be happier if I only had a bigger house), and pursuing happiness is certainly a foundation of our culture. Madison avenue thrives on the idea.

Most of your comments show you don't have a real understanding of the bigger picture involved, and for that I'm sorry.

I pray that you'll grow in the knowledge and understanding of Christ and that you'll come to understand the difference between civil religion and Christianity. It's a fine point difference, but enough to make a definite quality-of-life difference shape a more humble and gracious viewpoint.

In no way has my blog denied free will or any rights that God has given humans. If you actually read my blog in its entirety, you would realize that most of my adult life has been spent in service to God dealing with those very issues. Of course God has given us freewill to pursue happiness... I just know that pursuing happiness is not the choice God would want anyone to make. There are much better things to pursue. Lasting things. Just like wasting time defending our Founding Fathers and such is trash compared to the things God calls us to focus on.

In addition to all that, I'd like to point out that you don't have to read my blog.