Category Archives: Politics

Topics on political understandings and engagement.

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

Guns Are Not the Problem– Broken Lives Are

Newton, ConnAs I write this, the horrors of yet another mass shooting are unfolding before our eyes, this time at Sandy Hook Elementary school near Newton, Conn. It happened again. Someone armed himself, entered a public place, and opened fire on innocent people. In a split second, lives were taken, and many more loved ones suddenly lost a child or another loved one in a horrific act of violence. 18 children woke up this morning to go to school. They never got home.

And when this happens, we’re shocked in disbelief. I am sickened at the thought of it. The horror overtakes us. We get angry and we demand an explanation. We need something or someone to blame– some deranged sicko. Society. God. And of course guns. It never fails that when a shooting like this happens, immediately the cry for greater gun control or even gun elimination goes up. I sympathize deeply with all of this.

But as always, I find myself concluding the same thing: guns are not the problem. You can control and regulate guns to the nth degree, and I guarantee you, this kind of thing will still happen, even as regularly.

Now, before you lampoon me as some kind of right-wing, card-carrying NRA nut job who worships the Second Amendment, calm down. I’m none of those things. I think the Second Amendment is a good thing. I support peoples’ right to lawfully possess fire arms, and I believe in reasonable gun control and regulation. At the same time, I do not own a gun, and I probably never will. That’s a personal choice.

But every time a shooting like this happens, and the gun control cries go out, I think of 9/11. On 9/11 nearly 3,000 people died, and not a single gun was used. What caused those deaths? Box cutters and airplanes. But actually box cutters and airplanes didn’t murder nearly 3000 people, either. People did.

Guns or anything else used as a weapon are not the problem. The people who would use them to commit an act of evil are the problem. We’re seeing an uptick in the kind of desperation, alienation, anger, and depression that lead to these kinds of awful killings. We see desperation, alienation, anger, and depression all around us, don’t we? We see it acted out in a number of ways to varying degrees of ugliness. I saw it at a gas station today. I even see it in good church people.

It’s the human heart that needs healing, and no increase in gun control laws or any other kind of law will cure that ill. Only God can, either through direct intervention or through you into the lives of those around you. That’s the cure.

We’re nearing the Christmas season and the yearly reminder that God has not left us on our own to our own violent ways. God was born to us as our Emmanuel, as Jesus Christ. God is surely among us, and Jesus promised to never leave us or forsake us. He promised us the way of peace and joy. God has not forsaken Newton, Conn. God is clearly there now in ways we can see and not see, and that gives me a great deal of solace.

How can we prevent things like this from happening again? The answer: by making sure we love the unlovable. When we know of lonely, difficult people, don’t leave them there. Love and care for them. Let them know they are important to you. Dry their tears. Let them vent their anger. Go out of your way to do intentionally nice things for them. Most of all, let them know they are not alone.

Then maybe, just maybe, we might prevent more of these violent acts of desperation from happening again. God only knows we cannot fathom any more of them.

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Filed under Cultural Trends, Mental Health, Politics

I Stand By My Comments on Pat Robertson

If you are new to my blog, welcome!! I think you’ll find things here to be thoughtful and passionate. You probably won’t agree with everything, but I aim to keep my thoughts sincere and authentic. I always welcome your comments and suggestions.

Yesterday I posted an open letter to Dr. Pat Robertson condemning his recent remarks concerning the earthquake and humanitarian crisis in Haiti. To my complete surprise, it created a small firestorm on the web with links to my post placed on Wikipedia, a news blog, on WordPress‘s dashboard, and from many different forums, Tweets, and search engines. Thousands of people have viewed it and several dozen have left comments which have been very diverse and at times quite colorful, too.

I still stand by my comments, without reservation.

However, I would like to clarify a few things:

1) While I fervently condemn Dr. Robertson’s comments, I do not condemn or judge him as a person and as a brother in Christ. I do not question his character or his faith, but I do seriously question his judgment. I wish him no ill will and pray that God would use him to be a blessing to the rest of the world with the gifts and influence God has given him.

2) While Jesus commands us to go one-on-one to those with whom we hold grievances, he also tells his disciples to be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. (In other words, be both good and wise.) Robertson’s comments were made publicly. They needed to be denounced publicly. Both the world and the Church needed to know that comments like his have no place within Jesus Christ or his Church.

3) I am not seeking to create division. As a leader in the Church, I must call out bad fruit when I see it, and that might create some division. So be it. However, I saw a greater danger in Robertson’s comments dividing a watching world from Christ’s Church, and I could not sit silently and allow that to happen. Also, I could not allow Christians and non-Christians to assume that his comments were at all representative of Jesus. They were not.

4) One can argue theology, the judgment of God, and consequences of sin all day, but still two realities remain. First, no one can state with absolute certainty the reasons why the Haitians or anyone else suffer certain natural disasters. Robertson’s comments were pure conjecture and completely unnecessary. Secondly, they were made in poor taste and timing. From a purely human perspective, why say something like that in the first place?

So, was it fair to tell Robertson to “shut up?” Well, if I said those same things, I hope someone would have the love and honesty enough to tell me the same.

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Filed under Church Culture and Leadership, Cultural Trends, Politics

My Two Words for Pat Robertson: Shut Up!

A public letter for Dr. Pat Robertson:

Dear Dr. Robertson-
As a fellow Christian and Church leader, I have two words for you out of my deep concern for the people of Haiti, the rest of the world, Christ’s Church, and you: shut up!

Allow me to elaborate.

As you know, the media has reported you saying that the earthquake in Haiti resulted from Haitians having once made a pact with the devil. The reality of Haiti’s ongoing poverty and suffering has been heartbreaking to so many people. Much of the world is now in shock and in terrible grief over the aftermath of Tuesday’s earthquake. Then, like salt poured into an open wound, we have to deal with your comments. You haven’t done yourself any service by trying to clarify them; if anything you’ve made things worse.

I fully understand that too often the media wrongly reports things that notable people say or quotes them out of context, but even if you are within a slim sliver of being slightly, remotely correct that the earthquake in Haiti was somehow a consequence of a “widely-discussed 1791 slave rebellion led by Boukman Dutty at Bois Caiman, where the slaves allegedly made a famous pact with the devil in exchange for victory over the French,” in the face of such death and vast human suffering in Haiti, your horrific comments are painful and inappropriate to the extreme.

So, the next time something like this happens (God forbid!), please limit yourself to share your sorrow, pray, and encourage fellow Christians to give and to get involved. If you’re feeling the need to say anything else, do yourself and all the rest of us a favor and go on a very long vacation… or just retire! And if the temptation is still within you, buy a case of duct tape to paste on your mouth.

Furthermore, it is apparent that you do not understand the impact that comments like these have on those who are not Christians. They hear you say things like this and then distance themselves even further from Christianity and the Church. You make it especially difficult for the rest of us to do our jobs. Now, thanks to you, it is even more difficult to invite and form new disciples of Jesus when the same people we’re trying to love and reach more profoundly associate the Church with the kind of coldness, insensitivity, harshness, and judgmental attitudes that you and others before you have espoused, most especially during horrific times of crisis and disaster.

So, just in case you didn’t hear me before, please take my humble advice, Dr. Robertson: shut up!

Respectfully Yours,

Rev. Chris Owens
First United Methodist Church, Senior Pastor
Laurel, MD

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Filed under Church Culture and Leadership, Cultural Quakes, 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

A Way Forward for Health Care Reform

health careLike most of you, I’m not even close to being an expert on health care issues. Rather, I’m an observant voter and tax payer who cares about the direction of my country. I’m also a follower of Jesus, and that characteristic above all else shapes my views on the issues. But I have to admit, when it comes to health care, I’ve been perplexed about how to view current efforts to reform its quality and accessibility. On the one hand, I agree with the vast majority of Americans that there must be some kind of health care reform in order to create quaility, affordable options for all Americans, especially those who currently have no health care coverage. I also believe, along with most Americans, that both federal and state government have a role to play in making this happen.

Yet on the other hand, I haven’t been able to discern a clear direction forming on either of these fronts of the great health care debate. How do we create affordable, quality health care for every American? And what is the role of government in making this happen? No one solution seems to be emerging from all the fiery House and Senate negotiations. And of course, I haven’t even mentioned the real thorny issue: in the throws of economic recession, who’s going to foot the bill??

So, after giving all of this some thought, I’d like to offer several suggestions from my little island in the blogosphere. If you like them, spread them around. If you don’t like my suggestions, tell me and others what you would propose.  At the very least, we’d all walk away a little more informed and engaged in the issue of health care. That’s not such a bad thing, is it?
So here goes…

Chris Owens’ Health Care Reform Suggestion List for President Obama and Members of Congress

1) Government must be more of a facilitator, not merely an arbiter in creating health care reform. I appreciate all the efforts of the Obama administration and Congress in tackling this issue head on. Agree or not with their presumptions or conclusions, they are actively engaging an issue that affects every American. What concerns me, however, is a dangerous attitude which many Americans including myself perceive that somehow government knows best and will fix the problem. I believe that attitude is a big contributor to Obama and Congress taking political hits in the polls lately. People are scared! Why? Everyone knows that government is stretched too thinly into way too many things as it is. We roll our eyes all the time at governmental inefficiencies. (Don’t you just love your trips to MVA or DMV??) Are we to now believe that our government will suddenly, miraculously get it right with our health care?  Without degrading its quality and accessibility, will it all be as rosy as they say? We’ve got our share of serious reservations.

2) We can more realistically create solutions through public, regular, open dialogue between health care providers, health insurers, and government leaders. Of course, these conversations have been going on, but not as publicly (and probably not as regularly) as they need to be. As a citizen, I’ll feel a lot better about the decisions being made when I see that all the parties who hold sway over my health care are working together to create a solution. I know I’m not alone in believing that. Say what you will, but frankly I’m alarmed by what appears to be a handful of Washington elites– who may or may not be experts in health care!– making decisions that will affect the care of my family, especially for my son Jacob who has Down syndrome, a person who will need excellent, affordable care for the rest of his life. I would feel significantly better if I could see and understand a forward-moving dialogue process that creates shared solutions.

3) Slow down the decision making!! Another reason why our national leaders may be losing ground in the polls is that the American public sees a lot of haste in handling an extraordinarily complex, expensive issue. President Obama, I know that you want results without unhelpful stalling tactics. As a fellow leader, I understand. But concerning our nation’s health care, we’ve got to get this right or it will cost lives. So create and communicate some longer term benchmark goals for progress and hold Congress to it.

4) Knock off the anti-“big medicine” rhetoric. This ties in with my second suggestion. U. S. Representative and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi recently called insurance companies “immoral” and went on to say, “They are the villains. They have been part of the problem in a major way.” C’mon Nancy… You may have substantive grievances with insurance companies for turning people’s health care into private profit, but what do you expect to gain for America by turning yourself against the very agents with whom you’ll have to cooperate? Perhaps she hopes to punish her “big medicine” nemesis by taxing and regulating them into oblivion. But that will only create some acute pain for millions of people like me who hold insurance through companies like these. Those companies will invariably pass their tax costs along to us customers whose care will only be encumbered by additional government regulations. Unless Ms. Pelosi is prepared to offer a health plan comparable or better than the one I have and prove that it will be completely sustainable, she’s not helping matters.

5) Do not settle for any less than a broadly bipartisan solution to health care reform. In the past, major government initiatives like Social Security and Medicare came about through a long but fruitful bipartisan effort. Now we come to health care. Excellent, payable health care is something every American wants and needs. Why can’t Democrats and Republicans do what they always say they’re going to do: stop the finger pointing, sever their allegiances to special interests, and come together to create consensus? Do we have no statesmen and stateswomen left who can lead us though partisan bickering? If not, then I predict several things will happen. First, whatever is passed will only enjoy partisan support, lack the wisdom and insight of bipartisan thinking, and will therefore result in mediocre success.

Then, when we citizens see what a mess this mediocre solution creates for our health care, a lot of politicians from both sides of the aisle will be ousted in upcoming elections. Maybe then we’ll have the kind of leadership our country deserves.

That’s my 2-cents worth. I don’t know enough to offer specific policy points. I have no comment on any of the policies currently being proposed. I just want to see a better process in place for creating those policies. After all, our health depends on it!

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Filed under Cultural Quakes, Politics

What Can We Make of the Beer Summit?

Well, the much anticipated meeting between the President, Dr. Gates, and Sgt. Crowley is over. We saw images of the three men along with Vice-President Biden carrying on like chummy pals, and so the question remains: now what? I think President Obama was right to downplay the importance of the so-called “beer summit”. After all, it was more a recovery effort of Mr. Obama’s after he interjected himself into the story with his remarks that the Massachusetts police “acted stupidly” in arresting Gates.

First, a word about the President’s comments. I don’t completely fault him for what he said. We tend to over-scrutinize every word a president says as if his every utterance has been planned and rehearsed and therefore infallible. Obama was responding to an off-the-cuff question with a very off-the-cuff answer. Granted, it wasn’t a very helpful answer. He pitched unfair aspersions upon the arresting officer which he would days later “recalibrate.” But be that as it may, he also answered as an African-American, obviously seeing things through a long lens of racial history in America. It’s very much understandable and forgivable, yes. But perhaps Obama now knows a bit more keenly that as President of the United States, he carries a most certain gravitas, especially as an African American president speaking on issues of race.

Now I realize that what I say here comes from my worldview as a white guy. At the same time, I have dear friends from many different races and proudly pastor a multicultural, multiracial congregation. I’ve learned from my experiences that people from different races and cultures view the world from a wide range of varying angles. Who’s to say which angle is the most accurate?

Just to give you an example, the day after the Gates arrest and the President’s ensuing commentary on it, I called one of my African American friends to ask him what he thought of all this. His first words were, “Oh man… You’d have to ask that question!” Obviously, the incident stirred up a lot within him.

I was amazed and dismayed– and maybe I shouldn’t have been– to find him questioning not Gates’ behavior nor the President’s remarks but the police officer. His gut told him, “This was racial profiling.”

Then I quoted the police report which detailed Gates’ outlandish behavior and the reasons for his arrest.

My friend held the report in suspicion.

Then I said, “But Crowley has an exemplary record as a veteran police officer. He’s even taught racial sensitivity courses. He has no record of racism in his past.”

To that, my friend replied, “But past behavior isn’t necessarily an indicator of future behavior.”

Then I blurted out, “What?? So you’re saying the officer is guilty simply because the charge of racism has been made?? So the charge is greater than any other evidence??”

I have to admit that beyond that I can’t remember the details from the rest of our conversation. My friend may have had some other good things to say, but my mind shut down after that. We talked some more and agreed to keep watching to see what would happen. By the way, my friend and I rarely agree on much of anything, however we really respect and learn from each other.

Afterwards, a day or so before the White House beer summit, my friend and I talked again. We saw things a little differently than before. While we still didn’t agree on who was to blame for the incident, we both did see that there was some overreacting from both Gates and Crowley. In other words, it was a momentary mistake of judgment. I would add that the President also committed a momentary mistake of judgment by the tone of his remarks.

So is that all it was? Was there no racism involved?

After thinking about things, I’m going to throw this idea out there: There was no racism inherent in anyone’s motives or actions. But racism, like a demonic force, stepped in as an outside intruder to make this incident into yet another firestorm to throw our country into a debate on racism that quite honestly will never be resolved.

So was there any healing balm to be found in the White House beer summit? Perhaps. It was a nice symbolic gesture. Frankly, that’s all it was. Both Gates and Crowley walked away still not agreeing on who was right and wrong. But they both seemed to walk away with a greater respect for the two different worlds in which they live and work. They both want to “move on.”

And that’s probably the best thing for them and for us, too. My African American friend and I drew the same conclusion.

Of course, there is no denying what an incredibly ugly, horrific scar the history of racism has left on America. From the earliest days of slavery in the American colonies to racial segregation and inequalities to the systemic and personal incarnations of racism we find today, that scar still lives and breathes. I truly believe that over time, the scar will will continue to weaken and fade. But I do not think that we will ever find any great coming-to-terms on the debate surrounding racism, i.e. who’s to blame and what are we to do about it.

The debate on racism is what fueled last week’s events, not racism itself.
There is no victor rising from the debate on racism, only casualties. Americans of European and African descent do not see issues of race in the same way, nor may they ever. Thankfully, it’s not necessary for us to agree in order to create racial harmony in the United States or anywhere else in the world. What we do need, however, is mutual respect for the integrity of differeing views. With my African American friend, I can learn to appreciate how and why he sees things as he does, even if I don’t view things the same way, and vice versa.

So, instead of debate, let’s dialogue. Dialogue builds bridges into community with one another. Dialogue might possibly bring new, creative solutions to the lingering issues of racism that the tired out debates could never deliver.
Finally, I’d like to offer a sure, absolute cure to the issues of race, this one from the gospel of Jesus Christ:

For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you. (Galatians 3:26-29, NTL)

If only we would all see, especially those of us who call ourselves Christian,  that God’s promise of Jesus Christ is our healing, our unity, and our life, we would have all the unity we need. And there would be no more need for symbolic beer summits.

Cheers!

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Filed under Politics, Race and Culture

Thank you to the House

Today, the House of Representatives did something courageously, efficiently, and with strong bi-partisan support. (And yes, I’m talking about the United States House of Representatives!)

They passed a resolution condemning Tehran’s crack down on the recent demonstrations over the election while blocking any electronic communications that report on them. Rep. Howard Berman-D, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and co-sponsor of the bill said, “…we must reaffirm our strong belief that the Iranian people have a fundamental right to express their views about the future of their country freely and without intimidation.” Amen, Mr. Berman, and thank you, House! It’s about time that someone from Washington showed enough bravado out of their love for freedom and democracy to make a stand in solidarity with a suffering people who want real peace and freedom.

There is much about my country and the direction of our society that as a disciple of Jesus I can challenge and critique. But one thing I will always celebrate about America is our insistence on upholding and protecting the unalienable human rights of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and freedom to peacefully assemble. The current state of countries like Iran show us how easily tyranny can snatch those freedoms away. Tyranny, fascism, communism, and totalitarianism are easy ways to govern because they feed off our worst natures to gain and seize power over others in order to advance the will of the few. But true democracy and freedom must always be guarded and protected from our worst natures, even here in America.

President Obama had the perfect opportunity this week to uphold and advance the message of freedom to thousands of brave, persistent protesters who are putting their lives on the line for their freedom and a better Iran. Instead, in an effort to soften the stance of a notoriously anti-American regime, one he hopes to engage in dialogue, the President’s remarks were carefully worded, tepid statements. Couldn’t he offer both an open hand to that “clenched fist” along with a passionate defense of human freedom and dignity? As leader of the free world, I would have hoped so. Perhaps he still will, especially after such an overwhelmingly supported resolution from the House.

In the meantime, I’m remembering, supporting, and praying for the people of Iran and others like them in unfree places. I stand with them and pray for the day that they can reap the same dignity and freedoms I enjoy and often take for granted.  And as a disciple of Jesus, I pray for the day that he will return, rid the world of evil and unrighteousness, bring all before the judgment of God, and create a new heavens and a new earth. Come, Lord Jesus!

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