Simple political question
May 22, 2009, 9:18 am
Filed under: politics

Quick post here.  I haven’t paid a tremendous amount of attention to politics lately.  But I’ve heard enough to know there’s been some back and forth between President Obama, and former VP Dick Cheney.  I retain my usual ambivalence about nationalism and politics here, so I’m not going to take sides, but my question goes a little something like this:

If Cheney were so interested in continuing to speak out on issues, as he’s been doing, why didn’t he simply run for President? That would have given him lots and lots of airtime.  For him to be publicly contentious right now makes me think, “You had your turn.  You had the opportunity to try for another turn and didn’t take it.  So please, really, just go away.”


Dissertate This! pt. 2

Here’s my second post taking a trip through the dissertation that kept me busy over the past few years.  In my previous post, I talked about the rapid spread of Christianity in the global South and East, even at the same time as there has been a noted downturn in Christian practice here in the Western world.  While asking questions about what “we” in the West can learn from our sisters and brothers in other contexts, I thought it was also important to address one of the essential realities of our time – globalization.  <PAUSE: I just got THE biggest guilty pleasure inserting that link for globalization – the link is to Wikipedia.  Citing Wikipedia as a source in academia is a major no-no, so I had to do it here for kicks>

Thomas Friedman brought the topic of globalization to the masses in his book The World is Flat, talking about how technology and commerce have brought everyone in the world closer together than they ever have been before.  An obvious example of this is the call centers in India that process many of our customer service phone calls in the U.S., but it goes much farther than that.  Friedman does a good job at helping people connect the dollars they spend with the people who produced the products being purchased.

Friedman is a pretty big proponent of globalization and the benefits it brings.  The rise of a middle class in China and India are often cited as the up-side to all of this.   However, there’s another side of the story.  Globalization also brings about some pretty dark things that we don’t often hear about.  The global economy is operated on the strength of a large number of transnational corporations – note that I didn’t say “international” or even “multi-national.”  Transnational corporations are multi-national, but they are frequently able to avoid being overly-identified with any single nation of origin, for the purpose of not complicating trade treaties.  Some are so big and economically powerful that they are “bigger” than many countries in the developing world.  This means that if a small, struggling nation has some natural resources that one of these corporations wants, the company has a major advantage when it comes to negotiations.  The country desperately needs the money and jobs the company will provide, so they give in to extremely low pay, poor worker conditions, environmental devastation, etc., all with very little retribution if the corporation violates any of its terms of agreement.

Tons of books are written on the complexities of globalization, so trust me, there’s no way I’m going to do justice to it here.  But there are some dynamics to living in a globalized world that are positive and some are negative.  Being concerned with Christian movements, my concern is to accept the reality of our situation – globalization isn’t going to go away, and the Church is in a position to utilize the positive aspects of it, and speak and act boldly to blunt the negative impacts wherever we are able.

I’m not sure what I’ll get into next time, but I’ll probably start by framing things up from a church-historical point of view.  One quick note for those who commented on my previous dissertation postings – I am will to make a .pdf of my dissertation available by request, but I have some last minute minor edits to clean up this week before it goes off for printing and binding.  Once I’ve got that final version locked down, I’ll put it out.

Baptists and Gay Marriage
November 19, 2008, 7:51 am
Filed under: culture, denomination, politics

Juxtaposed on the Baptist Press website yesterday, Nov. 18, were two stories having to do with annual meetings of regional Southern Baptist denominational bodies.  One story had to do with the California Southern Baptist Convention, which adopted a resolution to “affirm and applaud California voters’ affirmation of traditional biblical marriage.”

“[T]he California Southern Baptist Convention expresses its appreciation and heartfelt gratitude to the ProtectMarriage.com coalition that spearheaded the effort to restore and protect biblical, traditional marriage in California and throughout our nation,” the resolution reads. It further states that the convention “strongly encourages its churches and their members to pray for, promote and uphold the biblical model of marriage.”

In contrast to this is a story of the Baptist General Association of Virginia’s annual meeting, at which Tony Campolo was a key speaker.  While he’s not a Southern Baptist himself, and the story mentions nothing of the response to his remarks, Campolo waded in to the gay marriage debate.

Campolo called himself “a conservative on the issue” of homosexuality, but said he opposed Proposition 8. Describing homosexual behavior “contrary to the teaching of God,” he nonetheless questioned what was gained in passing the ballot initiative.

“What did we win? … I’ll tell you what we won,” he said. “We won tens of thousands of gays and lesbians parading up and down the streets of San Francisco and New York and L.A. screaming against the church, seeing the church as enemy.

“I don’t know how we’re going to reach these brothers and sisters,” he said, “but I’m an evangelical and I’m going to win them to Christ…. And we’re not going to win them to Christ if we keep sending them bad messages, and we’ve sent them a bad message. I think the decision in California was in agreement with how I believe, but sometimes you’ve got to consider the person before you bang them over the head with your principles.”

Again, Campolo’s remarks weren’t necessarily endorsed by Virginia Baptists – in fact, I’d be surprised if he had much support in that room.

I’m not going to weigh in on this issue.  Others have been more articulate on the issue than I could be, and there’s a lot of very unhelpful rhetoric on both sides of it.  If anyone cares about pinning me down, I’ll just say that I’m inclined toward Campolo here, but I’m open to sensible, compassionate, respectful dialogue.

An addendum for the record
November 6, 2008, 4:22 pm
Filed under: culture, politics, social action

In all of the big talk about the election of Barack Obama to the presidency this week, I, along with a few others I’ve read, made reference to the obvious significance of this – “This historic time for us brings up the pain of our national sins, but does so in a way that demonstrates a spirit of redemption.”

While this may be true, I’ve also been remembering that there are other sins for which we’ve not fully made restitution.  In particular, I’ve been thinking about the Native American nations.  We enslaved and killed many African slaves, but we also massacred many many native peoples (including Mexican natives).  It’s a different situation, with a different set of problems and attempted solutions . . . nevertheless it remains unresolved.  May we continue to exercise humility and grace as we live into the reality of redemption.

A new day
November 5, 2008, 8:02 am
Filed under: culture, globalization, politics, social action

During the election season, I posted a few times about my ambivalence toward this  year’s presidential election, stating repeatedly that in all the hype and emotion regarding the changes ahead, we as followers of Jesus must not forget where our highest allegiance lies.  And while that is still firmly in my mind, I feel the need to congratulate USAmerica for making a really important step last night.  The truth is, Jesus can’t be president, so someone else has to be.  As I watched the reaction to Obama’s victory on TV last night, I was pleased.  This historic time for us brings up the pain of our national sins, but does so in a way that demonstrates a spirit of redemption.  Our standing in the world just shot up – for the right kinds of reasons.

Economic disparity will persist, the terrorists will continue to hate “us,” and transnational corporations will still hold the reigns of power.  We need to keep in mind that nearly half of the people in this nation did not vote for Obama.  And frankly, I hope that on January 21, all the Christians who did so enthusiastically endorsed Obama, will be ready to hold him to his campaign promises, call him to even higher standards, and protest with righteous indignation if he gets caught up in petty political partisanship that fails to address real issues of justice.  But that part comes later.

For now, we can celebrate.  We do so with a view toward the Kingdom that is yet to come in all its fullness, and we pray for a vision and reality of earth as it is in heaven.  But we can hold our heads high.

Election ’08, WA Style
November 4, 2008, 8:31 am
Filed under: politics

When Michelle and I moved to the Seattle area from San Diego, on December 31, 2004, the election for governor of Washington was still going on – two months after election day.  Counts, recounts, re-recounts, etc.  The Republican who won in the first count eventually lost to the Democrat on subsequent recounts.  Now the same two candidates are vying for the same position, four years later.  They are both evil, and I refused to vote for either.  The Democrat apparently hasn’t done anything of note in the past four years, because all of her TV ads are aimed squarely on tearing down her opponent, rather than bragging on her own accomplishments.  Her opponent took the high road by responding with exactly the same kind of attack ads.  Four year olds have better social skills than these two.  Is this the kind of leadership they really expect people to respond to?

Soooooo glad this race is almost over.  Of course, the polls show this one as too close to call, so it may not be settled today.  At least the media ads will stop.

Tweet of the week
October 31, 2008, 7:43 am
Filed under: friends, politics, twitter

Lots of the clever and pseudo-clever bloggers out there have themes they post on – “Music Monday,” “Top 3 Tuesday,” “Phriday Photo,” etc.  I don’t have the creative energy to maintain something like that week in, week out.  But if I did, I think I’d do a “Tweet of the Week” . . . or perhaps I’d call it “Tweek” for short.  This would just be my favorite post by someone I follow on Twitter.  I know, a lot of you don’t do Twitter, which is fine – I’m not trying to convert you (but if you are on Twitter and want to look me up, here I am).  For the uninitiated, a post on Twitter is referred to as a “tweet,” and must be 140 characters or less.  So here’s my favorite tweet of the week:

From my friend, Eliacin (Twitter here, blog here):

reflecting on the imagery that is painted in how different the levels of enthusiasm are among Xians btween Easter & Election day