A Christian Vacuum and My Prayerful Vote for America

Lines at My Local Auburn Polling Place
Lines at My Local Auburn Polling Place

I have been voting since 1988, and I really can’t remember ever waiting in line, ever. There is just something a little different about the election this time around. It seems like each candidate is already resolved to their fate, but seeing this kind of turnout is awesome. If you are an eligible voter in our country today, and you didn’t vote, shame on you, go vote. Regardless of party affiliation or particular ideology, people in our country have given their life so that all of us can freely vote our conscience on this day, and it’s our responsibility to do so. My polling station was busy. As you can see from the photo above, there were a lot of people in line, but it didn’t take long, and wasn’t too long a wait for the freedom to vote.

Over the past several months I have been trying to finish one of the greatest books ever written on discipleship, The Cost of Discipleship, by Bonhoeffer and he had some really incredible things to say about our process today. If you have access to this book, go read chapters 12 and 13 and read it in context of today’s world with the understanding that he wrote that during one of the reigns of the most evil leaders the world has ever know. His other epic book, Ethics, starts off with this explanation, which I find so pertinent to our world today.

The Christian does not live in a vacuum, but in a world of government, politics, labor, and marriage. Hence, Christian ethics cannot exist in a vacuum. The reality is not manifest in the Church as distinct from the secular world; such a juxtaposition of two separate spheres is a denial of God’s having reconciled the whole world to himself in Christ. On the contrary, God’s commandment is to be found and known in the Church, the family, labor, and government, with a responsibility for the institutions of the world.

Meaning… neither candidate we see today may be our perfect choice as Christians, but we don’t live in a perfect world, and we only have one perfect candidate, Christ himself. We have to live in the world we are placed, not stick our head in the sand. This article published by Religion Today says it very well, Evangelicals Want Moral Government But are Ignorant of the Bible, and the point is we need to become as knowledgeable about God’s word as we are about Obama or Romney.

This was my prayer for our election this morning: “Lord I pray for this election, that you will make your choice clear today, that your will be done, even if that means letting this country go deeper into the depths of hell before it finds its way out, and finds its way back to you.” For some reason David’s words when we prayed for deliverance in 2 Samuel 22 seem relevant to the state of our country at this point in history. We should do as he did and earnestly “call upon the Lord.”

I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised… for the waves of death encompassed me, the torrents of destruction assailed me, the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me… in my distress i called upon the Lord; to my God I called. 2 Samuel 22.

People Waiting to Pick Up a Ballet in Auburn
People Waiting to Pick Up a Ballet in Auburn
A Man Takes His Ballet From a Poll Worker in Auburn
A Man Takes His Ballet From a Poll Worker in Auburn
The Alabama Ballet for Election 2012
The Alabama Ballet for Election 2012

I hope you voted today, or are planning on voting today. This vote has historic consequences, as all elections do, but the world seems poised, seems to be on the cusp, of a time where we are still not too far gone, but can very easily fall over the edge. That edge, or cliff, is a combination of all kinds of things from war in the middle east to an economic crisis like we have seen in Greece.

For me, the edge or cliff is the erosion of faith in our country. A country that now receives more missionaries than it sends, where we continue to move into complete pluralism, where Christians themselves no longer stand for Gospel truths, and are no longer convicted to call sin, sin.

So regardless of who you vote for, have a reason for choosing a particular candidate, and go vote. This is not something to take lightly, nor something to brush off as unimportant. As Christians we have a call to be involved in the world we live in, to be a part of the process, not just as an armchair quarterback.

Should Christians Rejoice over the Death of Osama Bin Laden?

I suppose this is as good a photo of the day post as anything. I took this shot around 11:30pm ET last night with my iPhone and it about says it all. It’s probably the biggest news to hit the “war on terror” in 10 years, but last night as we the country awaited a rare (and almost scary, unknown, speculative, bizarre) live news conference at 11:30pm on a Sunday night I did not share the overwhelming “joy” that Geraldo Rivera had or the giddy, almost tailgate-ish rejoicing, in the street in front of the white house and at ground zero. Yes, it was a victory for the United States, yes, it was necessary in the same way it was necessary to rid the world of Hitler or the like, but a time to a time to jump up and down like the U.S. just won an olympic event? No.

On a side note… this “War on Terror” is unlike previous wars where we can clearly define a victor, or a even when victory has occurred. That’s because this war is not a war over territory, or resources, but ideologies and ultimately at it’s base root, it’s a holy war. Those who don’t see the religious side can parse out the war to a way of life, or political freedom, but ask an Israeli and you might get a different answer than the average Joe Smith waving a flag in front of the White House. Because of this, the war on terror will not end until the second coming of Christ.

The Wisdom of the Psalms

So, from a Christian perspective, I just don’t see anything that teaches us to be joyful in the death of an enemy. In fact, it says just the opposite in Proverbs 24:17-18. This section of Proverbs represents the “Thirty Sayings” of “the wise” as clearly indicated in Proverbs 22:20, which covers from Proverbs 22:17 to 24:22. Proverbs 24:17-18 is the twenty-eighth saying, and where 15-16 are aimed at the wicked over the righteous, 17-18 is talking about the righteous gloating over the downfall of the wicked. Maybe rejoicing in the street or on TV isn’t gloating but to me that’s just semantics.

17 Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, 18 lest the Lord see it and be displeased, and turn away his anger from him. (ESV)

On the practical side, verse 17 tells us not to rejoice when our enemy falls and verse 18 tells us why, because God may turn around and bless our enemy, making us even more miserable. If that isn’t enough, God actually tells us that He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11), and if God takes no pleasure in the death of Osama Bin Laden, than neither should we. The bible clearly indicates that God will “punish sin and vindicate his holiness and justice… but God also feels sorrow over the punishment and death of creatures created in His image” (ESV notes on Ezekiel 33:11). God would rather the wicked repent of their sins and live than die in their own sins without forgiveness.

Although this must be an almost impossible task for those who had family members killed on 9-11 (or the USS Cole or any of the other terrorist acts) by the hand of Osama Bin Laden, I find it hard to rejoice over the death of a (seemingly) lost and unrepentant soul. Rather we should love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). As impossible as this may sound, Jesus gave us the example and did this very same thing as he went to the cross.

Air Force One Photos and Obama's Inauguration

Air Force One in Las Vegas

Continental Boeing 777

British Airways Boeing 747

Some of you may not know that I was once (and still in a different way) an aviation nut, buff, fanatic, whatever you want to call it.  I did get my private pilot’s license, and I did work for and was hired by several airlines earlier in my life/career.  One of my most favorite types of photography that I ever attempted was aviation photography (made almost impossible after 9-11).  I started while I was still shooting film and moved into digital SLR’s to enhance my aviation photography.

Air Force One is probably one of the most recognized aircraft in the entire world.  I love the plane and have been to Boeing field north of Seattle to see the older Boeing 707 that Nixon and Kennedy flew on as President.  That plane is no longer in Washington state (I think it is now in the Smithsonian), but even at 30-40 years old it still evoked feelings of pride in a country that is still one of the only countries in the world that has a fleet of aircraft for its leader.

I use to watch Tony Blair get on a commercial British Airways 747 and think what a disgrace to put the Prime Minister on a commercial aircraft but I guess it did save quite a bit of money for the British people, but didn’t do a thing to create an iconic air force fleet like we did with the Presidential aircraft.

One of my favorite shots I ever took was a shot of this British Airways Boeing 747 about to take off for London in the middle of a storm with a Boeing 777 landing right in front of it (if you look at the close up, you can see the Continental B-777 at the end of the runway in front of the BA 747).  It was no different than any commercial BA flight that Tony Blair would have flown on if he was in Houston at the time.

I can’t really recall a time in history when the press or anyone else questioned when, why, or how, we used the military fleet like they are now.  For good reason, it costs a heck of a lot more to fly the military fleet than a commercial flight, but even so, I would never want to see Mr Obama get on a commercial flight while he is still in office.  Now that Air Force One is officially part of the Obama administration, it has been taken for a ride, and because of the economy, more and more people are starting to question why we are spending money in ways that just isn’t necessary any more.

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

This week, Mr Obama flew Air Force One to Colorado and Arizona just for the sake of signing a bill.  As far as everyone can tell, the estimated cost for Obama to fly to Arizona (don’t know about the Colorado trip) on Air Force One to sign the so-called stimulus bill was about $700,000.  $700,000 for a flight that didn’t have to take place to sign a bill to spend $787 billion.  So I guess just a drop in the bucket compared to $787 billion, so who cares.

Well, the very next thing Obama said was that American’s needed to start living within their means and at the same time he told us to turn down our thermostats.  We have officially entered the “do as I say, not as I do” time.

My Utmost for Politics and Religion Indifference

I will say right off the bat that this post will be totally uninteresting to some and all of my 10 readers may dislike it, but I feel like change is coming to my blog and I am writing this post to map it out for myself. There are a lot of random thoughts here and I jump back and forth, but I will try to tie them all together over the next few months through different blog posts, so for now, just roll with me if you can.

The two taboo topics of discussion in the workplace (politics and religion) are now taboo everywhere, which slowly makes us indifferent to either which in turns makes us unwilling to discuss, learn, and grow in the history that makes up topics like politics, religion, and government. Have we forgotten in this country (the U.S.) that there are countries in this world like North Korea, China, Cuba, and parts of Africa where they can not openly discuss opposition to their government or religious ideas?

I just love websites I go to that say no talking about politics or religion. In some cases that may be appropriate, but that has bled over into everything in everyday life. I am tired of hearing and seeing fellow Brothers and Sisters that avoid talking about politics (and matters of “other” faiths) because it is divisive. Newsflash, if you call yourself a Believer in Christ, you have chosen a side. Although Christ is open to ALL who believe in Him, we know not everyone will. It is hard to think of God as a God of love, and who leaves people out of his Heavenly kingdom but we also can’t even start to think we understand God from God’s point of view. On the flip side, there is “the world” (that would be those who don’t choose Him) that also refuse to talk about religion because it is divisive in nature.

We are quickly becoming a socialist society that no longer wants to listen to an opposing side and are guided to lean towards a muddy middle ground on everything. In the “can’t we all just get along” world, we move to the center of the undecided’s (those who can’t seem to make a decision until someone tells them how they should feel about the topic at hand) where we can all come together and get nothing done. Problem is, that is the most boring and uninformed place to sit, and is not only a cop out, but dangerous.

We have to be careful to not speak badly about another “religion” like extremist Muslims who’s plan is to do harm, and ignore comments by people like Helen Thomas of the White House press corp when she says things at Mr Obama’s “press conference” like “so-called” terrorists when speaking about people who terrorize other people. Don’t know what I am talking about… you could be guilty of political indifference yourself.

Why does this matter? It matters because we are now so far removed from our government, those who make the laws, and how it effects our lives, that we have become indifferent. Indifferent to a government that doesn’t blink an eye to spend $800 billion (about the size of our current national debt, in other wards, doubling the size of the national debt) for things like Frisbee golf courses and digital TV converter boxes, that we don’t even take notice. We just go merrily about our business and hope it doesn’t eventually intrude on our own life.

What did Jesus come to this earth to do? Reach over the isle and make friends, being careful not to be divisive? No, he came to fulfill the Torah, the law. Many times as Believers we ignore or are indifferent to politics because it is divisive. We want to make sure we don’t exclude anyone we could proselytize to by saying the word Democrat or Republican, or liberal or conservative like either of those determine who we are as a person. As one conversation went today, Jesus was not a Methodist, I promise. He was a person who spoke about principles, ideas, and how to change the status quo of thinking.

When we choose to ignore (by ignore I mean not discuss openly for means of not offending someone) divisive people, comments, or conversations, I don’t think we can grow. I am more than happy to listen to an opposing side to my own beliefs if it can be presented in an intelligent manner. I can talk to or converse with right wing religious fanatics and atheistic agnostics until if they can speak intelligently about their own point of view, but it is hard to do that if you don’t know why you stand where you do.

All that to say I am going to be doing some minor changes to the categories on my blog to speak my mind about topics of religion and politics. I am moving my photography category into Media since it is a media form, Faith will be Religion, etc etc. Like I said, if you don’t like politics or religion, stick to my Journal or Media categories.

Anyone who really knows me, knows that I have a great desire to please everyone all the time, so this is a pretty big change for me, but I hope this brings more transparency to my blog and my way of thinking. I am tired of being politically correct in my speech and writing and tip toeing around on my blog. I don’t plan on doing so from this point forward. If you don’t like divisiveness (meaning standing, and knowing where you stand), then read my “journal” section and ignore the politics and religion posts, I will keep those posts to the activities in my life.

If you would like to know where I come from, I do have some starting points, and as stupid as I thought Facebook’s “25 Things About Me” goes, I think that is a starting point to getting to know someone. I mention these things so you know the very basis of where my future opinion may stem and how I come to certain conclusions. I will list these on Facebook shortly (I think), but to get rolling…

  1. I am not for a political party, but I am for certain principles and ideas like smaller government and lower taxes.
  2. I do not consider myself to be part of a denomination but part of the body of Believers of Christ. I work at a Methodist church but I am currently a member of a Baptist church in Dallas. I don’t care much for non-doms because often they don’t know what they Believe
  3. I watch and read news and politics from all over the place, not just one single source or location
  4. I believe the solutions to the problems of this country are going to be solved by people, not government
  5. I think people forget all about what history teaches. I am slowly trying to relearn what I did not learn in school when I found it useless but now find it priceless

I picked up this book the other day called “I am a Christian” by Jesse R Wilson, written back in 1935 and as I flipped through the book and read a passage to a friend of mine who said “good call” sarcastically. Point is, we don’t always have to just scratch the surface. Everything is up for discussion and debate except the death and resurrection of Jesus, that I hold to be an uncompromising Truth.

Obama Inauguration is $150 Million Appeasement Party

I don’t do many political type posts, but that is all that is going on in the news today.  I can never remember when an inauguration got so much coverage.  It is well deserved, but nothing has stacked up to this $150 million party that Obama is throwing that finalizes tomorrow.  Obama has managed to create this show of shows by outspending Bush ($40 million) and even Clinton ($33 million) by bringing out all the biggest names in Hollywood and making such a spectacle of the whole thing and I will be glad when it is finally over and we can collectively get back to the work of the country.

This particular inauguration is turning out to be the ultimate part of appeasement for Obama.  He and has been playing both sides and there is no better example than what John Piper gave on a recent blog post How Barack Obama Will Make Christ a Minister of Condemnation.  From Gene Robinson, an openly non-celibate homosexual bishop in the Episcopal Church who will deliver the invocation to Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in California scheduled for Tuesday, back to Bruce Springsteen standing on the same stage with Garth Brooks (although Rick Warren and Garth Brooks do seem to be the exceptions).

Does anyone remember from back in highschool when you tried to date two girls at the same time?  It never worked and more times than not you would lose both girls in the process.  That may be a bad analogy, but I hope that doesn’t happen to Obama and he ends up loosing both sides.  All he will be left with are the ultra moderates who can’t ever make a decision about anything.  Nothing worse in my book than indecision and luke warm.  Even scriptures talk about being against Christ is better than not having an opinion at all.

The discussion in our house lately has been if we want to see Obama succeed as president or not (a question Mr Bill has posed on his show lately).  I do in fact want to see America become stronger, more prosperous, better educated, and succeed in general (of course that has different meaning to everyone).  If it takes Obama to do that, great.  No matter if we voted for him or not, he is our President now, we should get behind him, even if we disagree with him.

Some Totally Random Thoughts About Politics on January 19th

  • The word “Obama” is NOT in the wordpress spell check database
  • I am sick of hearing the news ask someone if they thought they would ever see a woman or African-American as President, I DON’T CARE.  I want to see the most qualified person for the job, ANY job, and I don’t care what race, nationality, or genger the person is.  If Bill Lester is the best person to put in a race car GREAT, if he can’t win races, get someone else in there.
  • What is the reason we have to spend $150 million on a party and not think about how this translates into his Presidency?
  • Thoughts on #2 :: Bail-out?  Auto industry, economy, people out of work, consumer confidence?
  • Bush put everything he had into his job over the last 8 years, we should be glad someone kept us safe
  • Pelosi and Reed should be totally ashamed at everything they have tried to do in prosecuting Bush administration officials
  • I am waiting for my check in the mail from the Obama administration (never got one from Bush)
  • Keith Olbermann is possibly the worst excuse for a journalist that MSNBC has ever hired (and they have a lot who fit in that category)
  • I personally don’t deserve said check from #8, I didn’t pay any taxes over the last few years because I didn’t make enough money

I wish the Obama administration well, and I hope they can keep American safe while turing around the economy, but most of all, I will be glad when this $150 million party you paid for is over and people can get back to work.

Results of Rick Warren Interview With Obama and McCain?

Sure, this is old news by now since the interview was a few days ago, but I am still thinking about the how and why of it all. From Saddleback Church in Lake Forrest, CA on Aug. 16, 2008, pastor Rick Warren interviewed the two Presidential candidates (AP Photo/Alex Brandon of McCain, Warren, and Obama left) on live, nationally broadcast television.

On a night that had just about nothing on other than the Olympics, Fox News and CNN both carried the interview live from Saddleback Church (see full written transcripts from the interview here). From other fellow faith based blogs, I knew the interview was coming, but I think it ended up being larger than anyone originally thought. So what was the result?

Prior to the interview, Warren contacted many of his fellow pastors to ask their opinion of what questions he should ask the candidates. Those pastors then blogged about it, asking their readers what they thought Warren should ask. I read a ton of blogs (see my faith based blogroll here), so watching this progress through the Internet was interesting.

I have read everything from pandering from the evangelical far far right to blasting of corruption of everything by Rick Warren from who knows what side, to down right condemnation of Warren and his life (see Rick Warren warranted). [The only reason I actually referenced that post is to show a point of view that is how some feel in the “mainstream”, from outside a faith based circle. His statements are by no means backed up by fact and basically is just a dig at Warren, but he isn’t alone.]

Did We Learn Anything from the Warren Interview?

So, did we learn anything from this. Was your vote changed? You still had two choices before and two choices after, and I have to admit, I was flipping on the commercials over to the rip roaring woman’s marathon (shown in its entirety). I have to say, the questions were not the typical stump speech softballs. There were some softballs thrown, but the questions were different, as they should have been, but I don’t know if I really gained any insight into McCain or Obama that I couldn’t have already guessed.

The initial results show that evangelicals were favorable of McCain’s answers. Well that is hard hitting news there. I did like several of his answers to questions I probably wouldn’t have heard without the interview, but does that change a person’s vote, or was it even supposed to?

So, What’s The Point? Did We Change Our Minds?

Constantina Diá-Tomescu of Romania I guess what I am trying to figure out is, what is or what was the point? I know Warren said to be able to fairly show the sides of two people running for the most powerful office in the world that we don’t normally get to see… but is it going to change your vote?

I have a lot of respect for Warren, and I don’t always agree with him or some of the other super-star pastors of our time, but he did get a commanding audience, he pulled at least a solid few hours of prime time news, his church got a lot of publicity, he probably sold a few more books, and Constantina Diá-Tomescu of Romania became the oldest woman to ever win the gold in the woman’s marathon.

Rick Warren has done something that many churches are just unable to do, reach an audience capacity on a nation wide level, even internationally on this venue, and for that, I think his work with this interview and other avenues he has followed are well worth it.  There are many people that have a smaller reach, but a reach that I couldn’t possibly have (one example being Ragamuffinsoul, he just does things I couldn’t do in the faith).

But… did anyone make a meaningful commitment to Jesus Christ? Well, I guess that wasn’t the point.

Should I Vote According to Dr James Dobson?

Do You Vote According to Dr James Dobson, that is, against Barack Obama? Criticism of Obama came in the form of the radio address that aired Tuesday on Dobson’s Focus on the Family radio program.

In this address, Dobson accuses Obama of distorting the Bible and the Christian faith (see the CNN story, and see the Fox News story also see video). Obama makes some very interesting statements throughout the speech, but the news of course is only going to show small excerpts like they did with the Reverend Wright issue. Doesn’t mean it is any better or worse, just that I think context is important.

“Which passages of scripture should guide our public policy?” Obama asked in the speech. “Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is OK and that eating shellfish is an abomination? Or we could go with Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount?

He is bringing up things that are far more complex than can be answered in a town hall type meeting, but it isn’t my campaign and he speaks for himself.

Dr. Dobson’s Focus on the Family Ministry

The speech is interesting to say the least but it brings the question to my mind, who do we listen to when it comes to placing our vote? I have great respect for Dr Dobson. His work with Focus on the Family is really an incredible ministry, but I know, there actually are brothers and sisters in Christ who are Democrats as well. I might agree with what Dr. Dobson says, I might not, but he has been quite politically charged this primary season, and actually, I don’t really recall off the top of my head who he has been for, just that he has been against several.

“I think he’s deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own world view, his own confused theology,” Dobson said, adding that Obama is “dragging biblical understanding through the gutter.”

I am not going to re-hash the ins and outs of the speech and what Dobson said, there are two very good blog articles about it already, see Dobson on Obama from Jesus Creed, and James Dobson Accuses Obama of ‘Distorting’ Bible from the Christian Post. But I am interested to know who influences your vote now?

Those Political Guides Churches Hand Out

I use to belong to a church that handed out political “guides” during the election season. I never minded these because they were pretty much exactly how I was going to vote anyway, so I didn’t give it much thought. They never mentioned who you should vote for, they were just those pamphlets that said where each candidate stood on what issues.

These are hated literature by the left but pretty common and accepted among the suburban churches. I really didn’t pay much attention until a discussion from a fellow blogger I respect (Ragamuffinsoul), a Believer, and voting for Obama (see Reason #42234 I Love My Team and Caption Please – You Knew It Was Coming for a laugh).

There Are Politics Galore in the Bible

It isn’t new to mix politics with faith, or Christianity, the Bible has scripture all over the place about the Kings and taking land from here or there, but we are no longer in a divide and conquer kind of time period anymore either. I am not saying it isn’t important, it is. Being able to live in a free country is something we sometimes take for granted, especially here in the U.S., so regardless of how you vote, I think it is an important process. What influences our vote is something else altogether.

Radical Ideology or Conservatism / Liberalism at Work?

The more radical someone or some entity gets I think the less weight I give them. I do objectively look at the issue at hand and try to decide for myself, but I really don’t think that is how many approach the media blitz that occurs daily. Some don’t care, there isn’t enough time (there really isn’t), they do like this person, don’t like that person and so on. What I don’t like, no matter what side they are on, is when a church specifically says I should vote for this person or that.

Shouldn’t Churches Do What They Do Best?

I would no more want Obama’s “former” church leaders, i.e., Reverend Jeremiah Wright giving a sermon at Trinity United Church of Christ, than the Southern Baptist’s here in Alabama telling me to vote for McCain. If I think Rev Wright’s wrong for doing what he does, I have to think it wrong on the other side of the coin too.

I want to see a church focused on Jesus, the Gospel message, as it is written in the scriptures. The extent to which the involvement should be from the official voice of the church, to me, is to encourage their parishioners to vote. Who am I voting for? Well, I am taking a real strict issues view about the election, I am voting for the fellow left handed candidate. I found out there are four pervious left handed Presidents. Ford, Bush (41), Regan, and Clinton. What are the odds we would have so many left handed Presidents, I was thrilled.

What about you? What role does the church (that is church with a little “c” not a big “C”) play in the election process.