Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts

Thursday

A Rookie Believer

Some years ago, a friend of mine died.

She was a baby Christian, very young in her faith, and frankly, pretty immature, but she was growing.

She was 94, a 94-year-old baby Christian.

So she had a most unusual combination of character traits: some aspects of the wisdom that comes from nearly a century’s experience with life; some aspects that were wet-behind-the-ears fresh and immature. What an interesting person!

Donald Trump reminds me of her. He’s by no means a young or immature man. But he displays signs of what appears to be both sincere faith, and immature faith. I won’t get into what signs I see; you can see them for yourself if you look for them.


If it’s true that Mr Trump is an immature believer (keep in mind that maturity is a condition of the heart, not of the calendar), then we should expect to see some signs of immature faith moving forward.

We should expect to see a whole lot of zeal for the work he’s been given, with maybe a little more optimism than the real world allows for.

We should expect him to see inconsistency in the maturity of his moral and ethical choices. Note that he may or may not be immature of faith but he certainly is immature in politics, and he is not at all immature in business.

We might expect to see mistakes that he needs help cleaning up.


But it would be completely foolish to expect to see him follow the model laid down by your pastor, or by a famous religious leader. He ain’t never been a religious leader, and doesn’t aspire to be. 

Tuesday

We Have Room to Grow in Our Prayers

I learned some things recently. I probably shouldn’t be surprised, but I was.

I’d started a discussion about “What one thing would you pray for Hillary Clinton?” (That conversation is here: http://nwp.link/FB-PFHillary .)

We had a handful of folks ignore the question and rage – sometimes for, mostly against – Hillary-the-Candidate. And we had a pretty substantial number of “prayers” that were political rants in disguise.

I get that: people have been trained to have strong opinions about this election. That always happens. Moving on…

The majority of people didn’t do that; the majority of folks prayed for Hillary, or described a hypothetical prayer. And that’s where my eyes were opened.

I was struck by the nature of those prayers. Out of a hundred or so responses, the vast majority (>90%+) of the responses apart from the political comments roughly fit into one of two religious categories:
Praying for Hillary Clinton
  1. She needs to repent and stop supporting bad things! or    
  2. She needs to have a revelation of God and get saved!
Or some variation of these two. (Full disclosure: my own prayers were in these two categories too.) They were proper religious prayers. They’re the things we’re told we “should” be praying for. 

These all begin with the assumption that “Mrs Clinton is messed up, and she needs me to fix her, and let me tell you how I’d fixer, cuz I’d fix her good!”

I’m not sure any of us would want to have a crowd praying those prayers for us. She doesn’t believe she’s doing bad things (give her the benefit of the doubt); she doesn’t believe she needs to be saved (her testimony of faith was documented in the conversation).

May I be honest? These feel a whole lot like we’ve been praying, “Make her more like us!” 

And that always carries the intrinsic assumption of “You’re not as good as I am. You need to be better, like I am.” 

Ewww. That is, by nature, something of a curse, not a blessing.

Reading through all the prayers (and I have, many, many times) leaves me feeling like I need a bath.

Relatively few responses were addressing actual issues that Mrs. Clinton is facing: health, destiny, goodness, protection, provision.  These were so terribly refreshing! These carried life, hope, faith, and (dare I say it?) love. These were the prayers I found myself feeling proud of (and they weren’t my prayers!).

This draws my attention to at least one reason why political leaders don’t like to listen to Christians: our communication (to them, among ourselves about them) is pretty unambiguous: We think we’re better than you. We’re going to fix you with our talk, with our prayers.

Our interaction with “the world” is so very seldom actually focused on their needs, their wants, their situation. Our interaction is pretty strongly “all about us.”

And in reality, it isn’t even a little bit “all about us.” Not to them. It needs to be an awful lot “about them,” if we’re going to actually connect with them.

Otherwise, we’re wasting their time and ours.

--

The best part of the conversation will be on Facebook. Come join in.


Thursday

Reflections On American Political Candidates

Election Thoughts

This has been the strangest presidential election season I can remember, and I remember back to JFK in the 1960s. Fair warning this is going to appear really cynical, but stick with me to the end before you write me off. 

If nothing else, the campaigns of this political season have given us nearly endless material for sardonic memes and twisted humor. But our laughter is mostly sad, not humorous, and it’s without hope.

We can easily find a thousand reasons why Mr Trump is not fully qualified to be Chief Executive of America. And his opponents are right: he really is crass and thoughtless, maniacally egotistical and he lacks any political experience whatsoever.

And just as easily, we can find a thousand reasons why Ms Clinton is not fully qualified to be Chief Executive of the United States. And her adversaries are right: she really is power hungry, committed only to her own aspirations, and she lacks any experience whatsoever other than political experience.

There appear to be a small number of people who are honestly confident supporting one candidate or the other, and there probably are a few more who are so blindly loyal to their ideology that they could not conceive of not voting for the candidate of their favored political party. And I’ve met individuals who are convinced that it’s “God’s will” that whichever candidate they support should defeat the candidate that they demonize, and anyone who disagrees is obviously opposing God.

I find myself considering the two options in terms of which choice is less unthinkable. Would I despise myself less if I voted for Hillary to be my president, or would I forgive myself sooner if I cast my ballot for The Donald to be my president. I can’t decide.

I don’t think that’s a very good way to make decisions anyway: which would I hate myself less for, should I support them? Neither candidate is tolerable from my viewpoint.

Well then. If I don’t vote for the candidate, then perhaps I could vote for one party or the other.

But that doesn’t offer to help much either. One party says they support the business and economic foundation of our country, and that’s a good thing, and they speak about certain moral choices that I’m used to supporting. The other party says they support the social foundation for the country, and that’s a good thing, and they want to help people that can’t help themselves and I'm used to supporting that.

That’s what they say. But when I watch what they do, I observe that there’s not so much difference between the two parties. Both of them seem to have sold out their collective souls for campaign contributions and Political Action Committees. And certainly, both parties have let any opportunity to create actual change slip through their fingers, as they have both of them lined their own pockets, secured their own retirements, and exempted themselves from the rules they demand everyone else shall live under.

Worse, both parties in our two-party political system appear to be on somebody’s payroll, and it looks to me like they’re on the same somebody’s payroll. And if I look closely, it appears that this real power behind them, if I were judging by what their handsomely-paid minions actually accomplish, that someone seems to hate my country and despise my faith.

So I can’t, in clear conscience, vote for either party. More specifically, were I to vote for either party, for either candidate, it seems to me that I’d be completely wasting my vote. The “powers that be” would accomplish their own agenda, regardless of who sat in the oval office and took their orders.

Maybe I’ve been gazing into Heaven for too long, but the “halls of power” of this earth sure look pitiful and powerless to me recently. And it dawns on me that our electoral process serves the same purpose in our generation that the Coliseum served in Rome’s day: cheap entertainment for the masses, keeping them distracted from the real issues in the country, in the world.

All of this has led me to this strange thought: If casting my vote for Donald or Hillary is a wasted vote, a meaningless gesture, then is there something that I can do with my vote that is not a waste, that is instead meaningful?

When you begin to think outside the box, all sorts of opportunities begin to show themselves.

Here are some of my thoughts about what I could do instead of investing myself in a political process that revolves around choosing the less despicable of two despicable candidates for a increasingly powerless position. (Note that I am not saying that the presidency is “powerless,” merely that is it has less real power, less ability to effect real change, than it used to have.)

·         I could decide not to participate in the political charade at all, choosing to invest my time, money and energy into something useful. Perhaps I could pray, not so much for “my candidate” to win, but for the values of the Kingdom (love, for example, or humility) to be present in those who lead my nation or yours.

·         I might choose not to participate in the political process at all, choosing instead to invest that time, money and energy into something that brings peace, rather than supporting tension, division and outrage. Perhaps I could plant a garden, or begin volunteering at the food bank, or take a vacation, or teach someone to read, or sit with my family in the evenings. Maybe I could write a story or make pottery or just dig a hole and fill it back up again.

·         I could participate in the political process, but do it in a new and different way. Perhaps I could cast my vote for candidates not affiliated with the two main parties: it’s time we were done with the two-party system anyway. There are competent candidates from the Libertarian party and the Green party. Maybe it’s time to vote for them, since my vote would be meaningless if I squandered it on Donald or Hillary anyway.

·         I could ignore the national political scene altogether, and invest myself in my city’s government, or police force, or port commission or fire department or school board. Instead of being a tiny voice among millions of tiny voices shouting in favor of the despicable candidate or the unconscionable candidate, maybe I could be a real voice, maybe one that has a chance to actually get heard, in a much smaller and infinitely less-glamorous arena in my own neighborhood.

·         Instead of giving donations to candidates or committees or other political tomfoolery, perhaps I could give my money, and maybe even (gasp!) my time, to the local street mission, or to foreign missions, or to that business that’s trying to create jobs for the otherwise unemployable members of our society. 

·         Instead of participating in the time-honored tradition of blindly defending my candidate and pouring out my outrage on their opponent, perhaps I could choose to invest in words that heal, words that encourage. These could be distributed anywhere: public transportation, local businesses, local government. Some of these places – some of these people – haven’t heard a real “voice of reason” for longer than they can remember. Maybe I can be that voice of reason, or maybe I can aspire to be a voice of encouragement and hope.


I’m interested in your opinion – certainly not your opinion about candidates – but about how you could defy “the system,” how you could get out of “the box” and do something meaningful. 

The best part of the conversation will be on Facebook. Come join in.

The God Who Never Changes!


Every so often, usually when somebody is thinking outside the box, someone will quote the Bible that God doesn’t change, and then assert that we can’t change either. I got hit with that again this week.

We can’t think new things, because God doesn’t change, doncha know!

And there's some truth in that: God does declare, “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” (Malachi 3:6)

And the New Testament declares, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

Yep. It’s true that God doesn’t change. He’s the same forever.

But that doesn’t mean that change is ungodly. Think about it:

    That God who never changes is an unchangingly creative God!

    He is the One who declared, "Light, be!" when there was no light.

    He is the One who decided to create man in his own image, when there had never been anything created in God's image before.

    He is the One who proposed a covenant of intimate personal relationship (Ex 19:6) into a nation of slaves who knew no covenant, and who rejected his proposal outright (Ex 20:19).

    He is the One who put on human skin, who became a living, breathing, squalling, pooping part of his creation so that he could re-offer a covenant of intimate personal relationship.

    He is the One who is always creating something new, whether it’s manna in that generation or wine in this generation, or a new heaven and a new earth in this other generation. Or stars. Stars and planets before there were any generations.

    He is the One who has adopted us, changing us, removing our slavery to sin and hell and making us his own children, his own heirs, and his own friends.

So yeah: God never changes. He's always the same, always changing everything around him, always up to something new and different that we've never seen before, always creating new ways to bring people into his family.

This is the same God that declares, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”  (Isa 43:19)

Yeah: THAT is the God who never changes. He never stops being good, he never stops loving you and me, he never changes who he is. That’s really good.

But please stop trying to tell us that new things are evil because God doesn’t change. God is the greatest source of new things this universe has ever seen!



Saturday

Multi Level Marketing

I have been approached many times in my life about an “opportunity” to join in a multi-level marketing organization. I have always declined. God challenged me to clarify my opinion one day.

Multi-Level Marketing is Expensive:

1. It costs relationships. Multi-level marketing (MLM), by its very design and nature, changes my relationships. People are no longer only my friends or family, but must become—to some degree—prospects for the business. MLM requires by its very nature that you bring others into it. I have not been willing to pay that price.

Furthermore, some of the relationships that are spent are those of my family. MLM works well only if both husband and wife are equally committed to and enthused about “the business.” But even then, the time and attention siphoned away from my family relationships is hard for me to live with. Besides, I’ll miss our golf games on Fridays if that’s part of the cost.

And beyond all that, every successful MLM that I have ever seen (and I’ve seen a lot!) virtually requires my joining their social subculture in order to be “successful.”

2. It costs time. Any business endeavor will require an investment in time. Ten hours a week (such as is often quoted) strikes me as idealistic, but even if it is true, I have other uses for those hours that are more consistent with my long term (eg. ten thousand years and beyond) goals. Ten hours a week usually means ten hours on a quiet week and more on other weeks. But even ten hours a week comes out to 520 hours in a year, or the equivalent of three months of full-time work every year. I’d rather spend that with my family, or with baby believers, or even raking out my lawn!

3. It costs money. Likewise, any business will require a significant financial investment. Even if I don’t buy product to sell (but then what would I show my customers?), I must buy advertising, brochures, gas to attend meetings, costs for meals & conferences, meals for some meetings, bookkeeping paraphernalia, office space, etc. TANSTAAFL, you know.

4. It costs focus. MLM is, by its nature, an opportunistic business. That means that when I find an opportunity, I must seize it and make the presentation. (Rather like evangelism, though it’s an either/or situation. One can’t evangelize for both MLM and Jesus simultaneously. “No man can serve two masters…” and all that.) The inevitable result is a significant loss of attention to the task at hand, whether that’s groceries, landscaping, job search, or pastoring.

5. It costs reputation. Thanks to Amway, MLM has a really bad name in America: a low-life, get-rich-quick reputation. Of course, people involved in MLM aren’t always “low-life, get-rich-quick” people, but you’d be hard pressed to convince many Americans of that. They hear MLM and they begin to look at you differently.

6. It costs my values. The last thing I need is a values war inside me. Many people have observed a spirit of greed in MLM adherants. In my experience, this is a very (I repeat, very) common problem with MLM. Soon, often before they even sign up, people stop seeing a business and start seeing dollar signs. This is largely related to the way many MLM members promote “the business:” “Look at the potential,” they say. “Think of the things you could do with the money!” I know, this is not a given. It is a serious danger; one that I choose not to expose myself or my family to. I don’t want any of my family flirting with the lust of the eyes or the boastful pride of life.

7. It costs my self-esteem. When I am in MLM, I am associated with values that are opposed to my personal core values. I am part of a group that is considered “low-life, get-rich-quick” by people whose opinions I hope to influence. I get a dozen “No thank you” and a handful of “Hell No’s” for every “I’ll think about it.”

The official figures are that one out of every twelve presentations will be interested in the business and one out of every ten persons who signs up will do anything with it. (These figures come from Amway.) That means one out of every 120 people I take the time to make presentations to will be influenced by “the business.” That’s a lot of work.

The concept of “If you work hard at your business, you can be very successful,” is true for most businesses, most jobs. If I own a drug store and work with as much focus and dedication as is required to make a success of the MLM business, I’ll be a wealthy drug-store owner before long.

Benefits of Multi Level Marketing

Now, lest I be found guilty of one-sidedness, I should present some of the “other side:”

1. If your boss is involved, it may be the “politically correct” thing to do.

2. If you are willing to pay the price(s), MLM can indeed make you rich. My personal opinion is that nobody does it better than Amway, but then Amway has so many people and so much exposure that it’s hard to make it to the big time with them. (A note about startup MLMs: the support services are usually pretty skimpy.)

3. If everything goes exactly as planned (not a regular occurance in our world, but it does happen), you can end up with a sizable residual income, if the MLM company doesn't go bankrupt. (Most do.)

My Sources

Having said all that, it occurs to me that perhaps I should explain where my opinions come from.

I have studied MLM quite closely. I have a friend who is in an Amway offshoot and is probably going to be rich before he’s my age. He and I have spent probably 100 hours or more discussing Amway and other MLMs (he had studied several before joining his organization). He is a single man who is fanatically devoted to his group. He got a job as a taxi driver simply so he can have contact with more people to “present the business” to. He reads dozens of books, listens to hundreds of tapes and CD’s, hangs out with his “upline”, and attends lots of meetings. He makes several presentations a week and has built a substantial organization. He probably spends (or spent, when I knew him), 15 hours a week actively working on the business, but it consumed him.

I have also studied several MLM companies fairly intentionally. I’ve gone to meetings, read magazines and books, evaluated programs, propaganda, and merchandise. I’ve interviewed both winners and losers in a load of programs: NuSkin, Herbal Life, NSA, Quorum, Amway, Shaklee, Fuller Brush (yes, they went through a MLM stage) and a dozen or more others selling everything from diet plans to insurance and annuities to houses to home security systems to home computers. I’ve named Amway in my concerns above, but every single issue (or “cost”) that I raise above has been found in every single MLM organization I’ve looked at. No exceptions that I’ve yet found.

And last but not least. I have been personally involved in two different MLM programs. My experiences from the inside have confirmed everything I had observed from the outside.

Why did I join? I wanted to invest some of my “spare” time and make some money. It seemed like a good thing at the time. I had been approached by a man I respected. What did it cost? Every thing I’ve mentioned above and more. For years, I carried a sizable debt from the last endeavor. I know whereof I speak.

Conclusion:

Multi-level Marketing opportunities are everywhere, and they have a measure of truth in them. If you are willing to give your life to “the business”, you can make a lot of money in some of them. They are na├»ve (or worse) in their communication of how much work is required. That work is better spent, more cleanly spent, in other places.

Turnabout And Fair Play.

An interesting thing has happened. Perhaps you noticed an election just past? Who didn’t, eh?

Do you remember 8 years ago. When George W Bush was elected, much of the church was excited. Right or wrong, we breathed easier because we believed that we had “God’s man” in the highest office of the land. (This was more true among believers who focused more on the spiritual than on the social, of course; the other end of the spectrum was appalled.)

When the “liberal media” attacked him, demeaned him, smeared his reputation, we were saddened and angered. In the eight years he’s been in office, they have not relented, but only increased the pressure. Some would argue that this fact was foundational in the successful election of Barack Obama: we weren’t electing a black man or a liberal man or a democrat as much as we were ousting the man we had vilified for most of a decade, and everyone near him was painted with the same brush. The reality is that there was a great deal of public outcry among the more liberal among us, speaking uncomplimentary things about him as often as they spoke of him.

During the recent election season, I heard similar dismay about Mr. Obama, this time from the more conservative among us, and this includes much of the church world. Many among us were looking to John McCain as our only hope; there was much fear about Mr. Obama. Then – moments after the campaigning started – the mudslinging started. If the candidates and their campaigns were un-lovely, their supporters were less reserved; they were deceptive, bigoted, and downright vile.

Those among us who had supported Mr. McCain’s campaign – perhaps largely for moral reasons – considered him to be the recipient of the greater amount of mudslinging. We were saddened and angered at the often unfair attacks against him, but we were mostly fearful of Senator Obama: this inexperienced, pro-abortion man of unclear faith and questioned loyalty was considering leading our nation? It was hard to imagine.

Now Mr. Obama is President-elect Obama. Now what do we do?

The precedent is clear: the supporters of the defeated candidate increase the mudslinging, the civil disobedience, the vilification. That’s what this nation has done so well after so many elections before: if there was disrespect shown during the election, then there were many and awful things said against them during their office: the victorious candidate was vilified, pilloried and subverted at every opportunity.

I am proposing another response.

Barack Hussein Obama will be our president in this country, beginning the middle of next month. I propose that, beginning now, if not sooner, we treat the man with respect, if not for his own sake (though I would argue that every human being is worthy of respect), then for the sake of his office.

1) Pray for him: Pray for the man. Pray for his office. Pray for his family (I can’t imagine raising children in the White House). Paul writes to Timothy: “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.”(1 Timothy 2:1-3)

2) Honor him: speak of him with respect. Yeah, I know: the disrespect, the vilification is part of the process of preparing for the next election: don’t do it. Peter instructs us to “Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.” (1 Peter 2:17) I would go so far as to argue that “honoring” Mr. Obama (or anyone else, for that matter has a lot to do with treating them the way that God sees them more than the way his political enemies see him. That’s a far more appropriate way for believers to deal with leaders, isn’t it?

3) Seek the welfare of his government: Pray towards, speak towards, even work towards the success of his policies, his administration. In Jeremiah 29, the prophet is writing to the exiles: “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:7 NRSV) It is our job as believers to seek the wellbeing of the city that governs us, and the government of that city and this nation.

One last statement before I finish: Mr. Obama will be our president, not our king. While he deserves our honor and our support, he is not our ultimate authority. Jesus said “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” (Matthew 22:21) Paul echoed the statement in his letter to the Romans: “Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.” (Romans 13:7) There are some things that don’t belong to Mr. Obama, but belong to God.

Barack Obama will be our president. If we don’t support his administration, then we are free to work to support his opponent in the next election, free to appropriately influence our representatives and other governmental representatives. But we are not free to dishonor the man.