Tag Archives: politics

So You Really Want to Keep “Religion” Out of Politics?

Okay, I’m going to rant here for a minute. I ask your forgiveness in advance if what I’m about to say somehow offends you. Too bad… The politically correct gloves are coming off, and I make no apology for that.

This is called a losing, unjust cause

This is called a losing, unjust cause

I am getting sick and tired of the thoughtless bumper-sticker memes, slogans, and feel-good tripe out there suggesting that religion just “butt out” of politics, most especially the gay marriage/marriage equality debate. It’s same old yada-yada that there is this “constitutional separation of church and state.”

That it false. The phrase “separation of church and state” is attributed to Thomas Jefferson in his letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802. You can read all about that. It’s not in any of the founding documents, and meant something completely different from the “kick religious voices out of the legislative process” sentiment that is out there now.

To all the folks who want religious people to just shut up about the legality and Constitutionality of marriage equality or any other important issue we face, let me remind you of a few things.

  • Major movements in civil rights and equality in America were spearheaded and championed by people of faith, including suffrage and equal rights for ethnic minorities.
  • There are many strong proponents for gay marriage/marriage equality who are from the faith community. Do you honestly want them to shut up, too? [pregnant pause] I didn’t think so…
  • There are people of faith seeking to influence all kinds of issues, including the issues you care about, and are most likely voicing your opinions in the places where laws are debated and passed.
  • There have been awful times in human history in which the church’s silence was either purchased or coerced. A prime example: Germany in the 1930’s. Hitler and the Nazi Party would have never risen to power if the Catholic Centre Party of the German Parliament had not been intimidated into silence. Now before anyone flies off the handle at this, I’m not comparing anyone to Hitler or the Nazis. But the point is, when the voice and influence of the faith community has been shut out, terrible things can and have indeed happened.
  • Laws are statements of what we value, what we hold to be right and wrong, and what we affirm to be just and unjust. What informs how we make these decisions? Isn’t it our philosophy, our values, existing law and tradition, and our morals? For most, faith is foundational to how we understand all of those things.

Now, I don’t believe that religious voices should possess any more power or influence than anyone else. I don’t believing in forcing you to legally abide by my religion or religious convictions. But that does not mean we don’t have a voice at the table. Our Constitution does uphold, in freedom of speech, the right of the faith community (and everyone else!) to be a voice in any pressing issue. Our prophetic voices cannot be silenced, and no one–God help us– will ever silence us in any arena, especially the political arena that molds and shapes our laws.

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Filed under Church Culture and Leadership, Politics

From a Skeptic: Bravo, President Obama

Okay, confession time.  At best I’ve been at best a skeptic of President Obama’s leadership and some of his agenda. (That does not necessarily indicate how I voted. I voted for candidates I was skeptical of because given the choice, that was best alternative.) But last night I saw a very different President Obama at Newtown High School. Apparently, he gave his speech writers the day off, writing most all of what he shared. The effect: it was deeply sincere. He spoke as a parent and as a man. The teleprompters were gone.  He wasn’t stumping or campaigning for anything. He was there in Newtown, Conn. as President of the United States consoling a grieving nation while promising to lead us all forward.
Obama NewtownIn the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, we needed a caliber of leader we rarely see in today’s American leadership– a true statesman. A statesman is one who rises above personal vantage and partisan politics to speak to the nation, on behalf of the whole nation. And in the great and widening political gulf of polarized two-party politics, that is indeed one rare bird to spot. Miring himself in partisan squabble, Obama has only occasionaly shown that kind of statesmanship in the past. But last night, he perfectly embodied it in a timely, powerful way.

For that he has my deepest respect.

I heard the President say several things:

  • He began addressing our grief and need for consolation in very personal, spiritual terms.
  • He praised the wonderful example of the people of Newtown, Conn., something I’ve rarely heard so far in all the reporting and commentary. The message: they are far more than victims.
  • As a society, we are judged by the way we value and care for our children.
  • We cannot go on the same. Something must change to prevent this kind violence from happening again.
  • The President will bring together law enforcement, mental health professionals, educators, and parents to find solutions. (Let’s pray something truly does come out of this. We can’t stand yet another fruitless commission.)
  • We must not be afraid or held back by politics on our way towards the solutions we need.
  • Then the President ended on another spiritual, highly existential note as a way of moving us forward.

I know that talking heads from both sides of the aisle are presently combing this speech for clues of the President’s political agenda. I’m sure he already has ideas of what he wants to do. But I saw hardly any of that on display last night. It was very much a gentle but strong rallying together of our great nation.

We’ll see how long the President can sustain last night’s rally, but for today, he gets an A+++ from me and from many others who haven’t always been on the President’s bandwagon. I’ll be praying for the kind of leadership it will take to unite our nation towards the solutions we need. He’s going to need it! But for now:

Bravo, Mr. President.

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Filed under Cultural Trends, Politics

Should the President Address Students?

Obama with studentsThere’s been much fire and controversy brewing over President Obama’s address he will deliver tomorrow to America’s students. If you’re at all conscientious of the news, no doubt you’ve seen the pundits battle back and forth over whether or not its appropriate for the President to make his address. People fear an underhanded plot to indoctrinate students with his political agenda or that he’ll use the platform to advance his policies. Or perhaps some think the President is seeking to recruit the next generation of Democratic voters. Then we hear stories of parents pulling their children out of school tomorrow and entire schools and school systems turning off the television.

Is this right or even necessary? What’s a fair Christian response to all of this?

Let me begin by saying on a purely personal, individual note that I tend not to agree with portions of the President’s governing philosophies, foreign, and economic polices. I acknowledge places I agree with him. There are also many points with which I disagree, and I do so respectfully. (By the way, I will not publicly divulge any of the details. I’m perfectly willing to be open with people one-on-one, but on this or any other public forum, I’ve been learning to keep my political thoughts to myself.) The key here, however, is to disagree respectfully. Why? As an American and as a Christian I oblige myself to honor the office of the Presidency, no matter who occupies the office.

So let’s take a look at tomorrow’s presidential address to school students. I took a look at the White House’s page detailing tomorrow’s address. The President is going to encourage students to work hard, take advantage of their education, graduate, and to set goals and priorities for their future.

That’s all! Yes, the U.S. Department of Education has created optional educational resources for teachers to utilize before and after the President’s address. As an educator, I looked at them. They’re grade level-appropriate discussion and exercises geared to help students receive the most from the address. It’s not Obama worship. There’s no discussion of any policies. (Yes, recently there was one discussion question recently modified to move it away from “supporting the President” to setting personal goals. That was a wise change. After all, the speech’s purpose is not supporting President’s goals. It’s about furthering the lives of students.) And any teacher knows that resources like these are a menu. Teachers pick and choose activities to match the needs and abilities of their students. Or, they may bypass all of it.

So what’s all the hubbub about? How can a President’s address to school students encouraging them to be their best cause so much turmoil? Sadly enough, it’s a sign of our times. Politics has turned from impersonal debate on the issues to a personal vitriol designed to destroy political opponents.

We’re seeing this now with the Right’s relentless attacks on the Obama presidency. And we saw President Bush (43) weather the same kind of blistering, nasty attacks from the Left, ironically from the same people who have the gall to be deeply offended that Obama is taking so much heat! And I would have thought  the Right would have been angered enough from the tactics of the Left during the Bush years to prove themselves to be different.

But people are people. And right now, people are swept up in an ugly cycle of personal politics fanned into flame by a hardened political Left and Right who know nothing of cooperation or compromise.

President’s Bush and Obama, as vastly different as they are, had one thing in common upon assuming the presidency. They both had a passionate desire to change the tone of politics in Washington. Both have had their successes and their failures. In some instances, both Bush and Obama pushed back on the tugs from their base to reach compromises. At other times, they both had succumbed to petty partisanship. My prayer for our country’s sake is that President Obama will be successful in keeping his word to shape the different kind of politics he promised during his campaign.

As for myself and fellow disciples of Jesus, I think we would be very wise to adhere to Paul’s teachings on how to relate to governing authorities. He said,

…it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give of their time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: if you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. (Romans 13:5-7)

Is that to say that we should never be critical of our leaders? Absolutely not! Use your First Amendment rights. Vote. Stay informed, and get involved. The difference, however, is the tone and attitude we take and what battles we choose to fight.

I mean, c’mon now… Differ as vigorously as one might with President Obama on polices and philosophy, can we reasonably and rationally argue that he’s using tomorrow’s address to indoctrinate students into liberalism?? Where is the hard evidence? What grounds do we have to assume he would do such a thing? Yes, I’m sure people will vigorously argue that this is exactly what the President intends to do, but I’d also argue that these conspiratorial assumptions tend to be the kind of shrill, alarmist, unreasonable efforts that do virtually little to move our country forward. Depending on who is in power, these same, predictable tactics simply shift from one ideological base to the other. The Left used them during the Bush presidency. The Right is using them now.

After Obama’s address to students takes place tomorrow– and it will!– I’d love to see something different as Congress re-engages on health care reform. Can any of our elected leaders demonstrate the kind of statesmanship to argue their vision for reform, listen to other points of views, work together with leaders who differ, keep the good of the American people in mind, and create a bipartisan consensus that the majority of “we the people” can embrace? I hope and pray so… And I also pray for an end to the hard Left and hard Right venom that is destroying the kind of civil political discourse our founders hoped would last more than a mere 233 years.

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Filed under Cultural Quakes, Politics