Tuesday, May 30, 2006

I Consider Myself, the Luckiest Blogger on the Face of the Earth...

Well, no, I don't. That's partly because I don't believe in luck, and partly because even if I did I never had the fortune to step into a high-traffic-generating issue that brought down a news anchor. But that's okay. I found a niche, and was blessed enough to meet some people who were kind enough to engage in some fascinating discussions with me.

By now, the astute among you will have noted my use of the past tense. That is because this will be the final blog post at the NBB. For numerous reasons, many of which coalesced this past weekend, I am "retiring" from active blogging.

And no, there is nothing wrong with me or my family that is driving this decision. It has more to do with some (positive!) things coming up in my own life that will take up the time I was spending here, and some new goals I have. Not to mention the fact that I just feel it's time to move on. (Many Christians will know the feeling - you just "know" when God is telling you to do, or to stop, something. I have that feeling now.)

So, while I hope that you have enjoyed what you've found here (even if you've disagreed with it) I also hope you won't miss me too terribly much. I'll still read a lot of blogs, and will comment from time to time. There's just something else to which I need turn my attention.

For now and always,

God bless!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

How to Find the Northern 'Burbs - 5/25

More folks meandered here via search engines. These are some of the more interesting paths they took.

  • what disasters can happen in minnesota Well, we do have a few

  • What do you believe mans’ relationship to animals is or should be? Timely considering Tuesday's post. I think the relationship depends on the animal in question. For instance, I think our relation to cows should be eater-food. (You can read my posts on the environment to find a less tongue-in-cheek answer.)

  • northwords oogie boogie I must not live far enough north. These words aren't used around here.

  • serving the lord for woman Huh. Wasn't exactly my motivation for serving God, but I guess different folks have different expectations.

  • flood lord will provide national guard helicopter Does the Lord pay $700 for hammers to fix those choppers too, or is that just a U.S. government thing?

  • teaching in northern canada Well, Canada is the only thing further north than Minnesota...but there's

  • "70's style clothing" That was the bane of my childhood. It's also why we let our girls pick their clothes, within reason - when they look back at their kidhood pix, they can't blame us for their fashion choices.

You can also find the Northern 'Burbs Blog at this Christian Carnival - along with many other Christian-themed posts. Head on over!

God bless!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Trippin' 'Round the 'Sphere - 5/24/06 Edition

Want to know what makes me tick? Apparently my DNA:

Seems somewhat accurate, although not 100% so. And I never knew my DNA was so...colorful. Or pill-shaped.

Anyway, some text behind the picture (which you can scroll-over the various colors to find out what they mean.)

Your attention to detail, confidence, sense of order, and focus on functionality combine to make you an ANALYST.

You are very curious about how things work, delving into the mechanics behind things.

You find beauty and wonder mainly in concrete, functional, earthly things.

You are very aware of your own abilities, and you believe that you will find the best way of doing things.

Accordingly, problems do not intimidate you, as you believe in yourself.

You trust yourself to find solutions within the boundaries of your knowledge.

You don't spend a lot of time imagining how things could be different—you're well-grounded in the here-and-now.

You do your own thing when it comes to clothing, guided more by practical concerns than by other people's notions of style.

Generally, you believe that you control your life, and that external forces only play a limited role in determining what happens to you.

Your outgoing personality, your preference for order, and your cautious appreciation of others makes you GENUINE.

You aren't afraid to occasionally be the center of attention. You are comfortable and confident in social situations.

When other people are upset, you are able to think about the situation rationally, without getting too caught up in their feelings.

At times you find it difficult to understand where other people are coming from, and wish they could just see things the way you do.

You are a strongly principled person who believes in right and wrong. This helps you make decisions easily when it comes to moral issues – you don't have to waste time hedging on important values.

In your experience, people tend to get what they deserve. Because of this, you work hard and try to follow your principles in your day-to-day life, knowing that you will be rewarded for your efforts.

(HT: Jennifer.)

As you may have noticed, I don't blog about where I work, or provide personal information about other people (other than linking to their blogs, or relating things I've seen them post in their blogs already.) Therefore, I should have no problem endorsing the Online Integrity principles. Sad that we have to come up with such things, but then again I didn't have to create a comments policy and start moderating comments up until this week either.

The quibble I have with, though, is the idea of anonymity. Sure, if you want to remain anonymous, that's your right. However, I do not allow, nor will I allow, anonymous comments here. I don't publish material (or at least I try not to) not in the public domain, and I do try to shelter even my family from much of the blog content. But I admire people who are strong enough in their beliefs that they'll sign their names to them, consequences be durned.

Hey, the season finale is tonight! For all you fans out there, here's a Lost quiz to get you through the summer.

Are you a crunchy con? Guess I should read the book to find out, but if this is an accurate description, I'm fairly close to the overall philosophy. Interesting comments too...

In light of the politics series I'm working through, here is an article kinda covering why many conservatives aren't content to "live and let live" when it comes to the social-moral issues of the day (i.e. gay marriage) - we don't get the same courtesy in return.

And RE: yesterday's post, this declaration fits my philosophy pretty well. I'm reading more about the group that compiled it to see if there is more to know, but the statement itself is very good.

I know I'm a bit older than the target audience, but I set up a myspace account. Not a great deal there, but the reference there has brought a few people to this blog. Just an idea for getting the word out to people who may not know about your blog. Now if I could just get sane people asking me to be on their friends lists instead of the folks I've been getting...

God bless!

Comment Moderation

I have now enabled comment moderation. Just an FYI, since most of you are responsible commenters. Appears one person can't live with him/herself not getting enough attention, and I don't particularly feel like providing a platform for the chronically immature.

Have a good day!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

My Politics: Faith's Place Therein (Part X)

For those who haven't been following closely, I'm in the midst (near the end?) of a series on how my faith informs my politics. The last post in the series touched on how I see the issue of poverty. Today 'd like to move on to the next topic near and dear to my heart, the environment.

For those of you new to the Northern 'burbs, I did a series (yes, I like the series format, mostly due to my tendency to carry on so) on the environment vis a vis the stewardship issue last year. I won't repeat everything in that series here, but if you're interested, those posts are, in order, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. (Now you see why I don't want to post everything here again.)

In general, I find the Bible tells me a few things about environmental politics, few of which mention the specific issues that face us today. There is no talk of global warming, mercury emissions, nuclear power, or runoff. Again I look to general principles that can be applied consistently, and thus is an environmental outlook formed.

The first thing we need to remember is that environmental concerns are not the most important thing. As noted earlier in the series, God comes first. And in reality, other priorities take precedence too. The right to life for instance is more important, since if you don't have the right to life, clean water is meaningless. Likewise, meeting the needs of the poor, and addressing poverty, also come before nature. This last point isn't only Biblical, but also practical; environmentalism is a rich country's luxury. The poor have to worry about food and shelter. It is only when basic needs are met consistently that one has the time and energy to spend on environmental worries. End poverty and the environment becomes easier to protect.

This is not to say the environment isn't important. As noted in my series of last year, we have an obligation towards stewardship. And as long as we keep things in proper perspective, taking care of the environment is absolutely an appropriate area of concern. For some ways to get involved in the politics of nature, see the original series.

I don't want to leave it there, though, as there are a couple of things I didn't talk much about last year that are important. First, Christians need to be sure that the decisions we make vis a vis the environment, as with all decisions, are informed and rational. It is easy to get caught up in emotion, especially since much of nature can be very beautiful. I love hiking in the Rockies, or canoeing through the BWCA - and I'm certainly fond of animals. I can see how easy it is to fall for arguments based on aesthetics, but political decisions are best made when they make use of available facts instead of emotional pleas.

Going along with this, we need to remember that the government doesn't have sole responsibility in caring for the environment. A community's recycling program is ineffective if residents don't participate. Considering fuel economy and high-efficiency appliances/building materials can save money down the road which can be used to help others. While other things may be more important, the environment is important to God, and He won't look kindly on those who destroy it.

Finally, we need to be sure of our motivations in determining which environmental causes to support, and how to do so. For instance, I am skeptical about humanity's influence in the global warming debate. I think the cyclicity of weather is much more important, the variables involved in modeling future temperatures too many and unpredictable (I mean, we can't really even predict accurately one month out, let alone a century), and our CO2 emissions' influence is unproven. It's also hard to believe the many current global warming adherents who in the 1970's were clamoring about an impending ice age. That being said, I am still motivated by a desire to care for the environment to seek improvements in air quality and reductions in air pollutants. We shouldn't let disagreements with certain environmental viewpoints lead us to disregard concern for the natural world. Just because I don't like PETA's methods in arguing for vegatarianism doesn't mean I should relish cruelty to animals in farming. And just because I don't think much of global warming evidence doesn't mean I should not be a proponent of hybrid cars and cleaner burning energy sources.

Keep your priorities right, and remember God wants us to care for the earth. All of creation is important to God, and we cannot give environmental concerns short shrift. Just use common sense and know that God comes first, people second. Neither of those priorities implies that the environment should be abused; in fact they demand the opposite since loving God means we obey His commands regarding stewardship, and loving people means we want to help people live in the cleanest, healthiest world possible.

God bless!

BTW, this is post #300 at the Northern 'burbs. Thanks to all who've kept me interested in this little hobby this long!

Comment Policy

Since an unfortunate troll who needs prayer more than attention has followed me from another blog, I am explicitly clarifying my commenting policy. I guess it had to happen, although I'm sorry for it.

This blog is not run by the U.S. or any State/Local government. As such, I feel no compulsion to operate according to the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech. That being said, I will allow for comments that are interesting, civil, provocative, cantankerous or even offensive (well, to others...as noted earlier, I'm not an easy person to offend.) What I will not allow are the following:

  1. Swearing that is not necessary for the comment's purpose

  2. Racially, religiously, or sexually offensive material

  3. Spam

  4. Ad-hominem, or insulting, attacks on other people

If I see any such comments made (and I reserve the right to add other items to the list) I will delete them and, if I'm in the right mood, ban the author from making comments to this blog. If I start seeing too many comments that need to be removed, I'll enable comment moderation.

It's sad that some folks have decided that free speech doesn't mean debate, it means insulting/slandering/debasing others. We should all accept that free speech means disagreement. It doesn't mean boorish behavior.

If you ever see something on this blog that strikes you as offensive, please let me know. I strive above all else to keep the discussion respectful.

Thanks, and God bless!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Just to let you know, I'm taking a blog break for the rest of the week due to life circumstances. Nothing bad at all, just things a'goin' on. Thought I should alert you in case you felt like checking back every day wondering why you were wasting your time. I'll be back Monday!

God bless!

Monday, May 15, 2006

My Politics: Faith's Place Therein (Part IX)

The next topic in this (interminable/fast-paced) series is poverty. It seems that separating politics and money is as hard as separating anything else from money. And the politics of poverty is always contentious. In general terms, conservatives want the private sector to take on alleviating poverty via charities, while liberals are more apt to seek government-led approaches. (Of course most people prefer a mix, just slanted one way or another.) There are, of course, pros and cons to each. The government, in theory if not always in practice, has more resources available and can help more people. Charities, usually, can be more efficient in distribution and local charities know their "clientele" better than distant beuracrats.

Part of the problem, though, is that instead of using rational analysis in deciding the optimal approach to reducing poverty (it won't ever go away completely) people let emotions get in the way. I know I do. The love of money is indeed the root of all evil. This love leads to one of two reactions: we want to tell others how to spend their money (i.e. tax everyone more) or we want to hoard our own money and not spend it (lower taxes, don't give to charity.) In both cases, the Biblical approach is being missed. While the secular arguments can be debated ad nauseum I'm going to focus on what I see as the Biblical approach to poverty, and its place in politics.

First of all, a society that treats the poor...um, poorly (sorry), is a society earning the judgment of God. The prophet Amos lists maltreatment of the poor by the comfortable as a great transgression. No political policy should ever exacerbate poverty.

Second, helping the poor is something all Christians should do; it's not just a matter of avoiding making the problem worse, we have to actively do something to help. This even goes back to the ancient Israelites, who were commanded by God to to provide an opportunity for the poor to have some portion of the harvest. Jesus demonstrated to the rich young ruler that giving to the poor was a way to show whom the rich young man was serving (either Jesus or money.) Jesus also said that helping those in need would be something that separates the righteous from the unrighteous.

Third, scripture doesn't say that the responsibility for caring for the poor is a government obligation. This is perhaps the most controversial statement. Well, okay, God did tell the Israelites to leave gleanings for the poor, but unless you think the U.S. should be a theocracy along those lines the analogy doesn't quite work. We are not to abdicate our responsibility to the poor by passing it off on the government, or on those "rich" folks we like to talk about taxing. No, our responsibilities are personal and very clear.

Now, this doesn't mean that I'm against government assistance for the poor. As noted above, there are some things that the state can do better than I can do due to larger size and reach. But I believe strongly that the need for governmental intervention should be minimal; the private sector, led by Christians, should do the heavy lifting. So, from this I tend to support policies that increase governmental efficiency (thereby leaving more money for the poor), tax deductions for charitable giving (which encourages charitable giving), and reduce corruption (a problem especially in some third world nations that keeps people poor while leaders live in luxury.)

Government is a blunt tool, not always so good for enforcing morality (not that we should give up the fight for a moral society, using politics when necessary.) Laws that redistribute wealth are as bad as hate speech laws - they mask symptoms, and the canny will always find a way around them. Better to speak to the hearts of others and convince them that giving is the right thing to do.

God bless!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Trippin' 'Round the 'Sphere - My Daughter's Birthday Edition

Trippin' 'Round the 'Sphere - 5/11/06 Edition

Christian Carnival is up at Something Epic. Go. Read. Think. (And next week, contribute!)

Speaking of thinking, Ed says ceasing to do so makes living without Jesus easy. That's not really a good thing.

USA Today had a recent article apropos to my current series. Why not campaign from the pulpit? Read it there, perhaps we'll discuss it here...

If the reasons he does this are prioritized as in the headline, this engineer has it right.

My eldest daughters' sixth birthday is today! (Hence the break from the series as blogging time is minimal.) Jeff's was a few days ago. Best wishes to both!

Chad The Elder warns guys like me (i.e. those who have daughters) about, well...guys. I've long known my most important job as father, besides teaching them about God, is teaching them about the ways of boys and men.

There is some good news regarding air quality. And apparently there's another environmental stewardship declaration. I'm not for 'em or against 'em, but it does seem they're a-poppin' out rapidly lately.

Okay, when did ER jump the shark? The show is getting worse each episode. And it seems a bit preachier than it used to be back when, you know, it was about like, doctors in a hospital and inetersting patients and stuff.
God bless!

How to Find the Northern 'Burbs - 5/11

A good number of people of late have arrived here via searches for things like "euthanasia" or "Dalits" - which are things that I've posted on lately, and make sense. A couple of searches, though, befuddle me.

  • god position to sex: This blog is NOT the Kama Sutra blog.

  • submission and authority submission is higher than our work how has submission or rebellion in your work affected us : Not really odd, just the longest search string I've ever seen

  • This Guy Falls Down Christian who is proud to fall: I'm assuming this is someone looking for Mark Lee's blog, but I think it's a bit of "not getting the point" to think Christians are "proud" to fall...

  • the lord nick bubs: Nick Bubs is not a title for the Lord I remember from the Bible

  • married guy sex blog: I repeat, this it NOT the Kama Sutra blog.

Tune in next week when searches will include "Kama Sutra blog" and "Nick Bubs falls down in submission to higher authority position."

God bless!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

My Politics: Faith's Place Therein (Part VIII)

Yesterday I left off with the questions of how I justify using religiously-motivated reasons to engage politically, and what politically activities are acceptable.

The first question is often asked in one of two ways: "Who are you to try and push your morality on me?" or "Why can't you just leave your church thoughts in the parking lot and vote on purely secular grounds?" Actually, in the abortion and euthanasia discussion (and in most political discussions) I also have secular reasons for my political views. But I find the questions themselves to be broader in nature, and therefore want to address them.

The first form, regarding "pushing your morality on others" type queries, is a question born of, IMO, a lack of self-awareness. The fact of the matter is, EVERYONE who acts politically is trying to "push his/her morality" on those who disagree. Pro-choicers push their moral view of abortion on the unborn children who are aborted, on fathers who may want to keep the child, and on families that may want to adopt a child. Not to mention pro-lifers who are thereby forced to live in a society that espouses moral values with which they disagree. People pushing for tax/spend policies that emphasize education over military expenditures try to force their views on people pushing for fiscal policies that emphasize national security over other issues. Every time you vote, or advocate, on behalf of a cause you are trying to get your views sanctioned and/or enforced by society: ergo, you are trying to force your views on those who disagree with them. To say Christians can't have this right the same as anyone else is a form of bigotry.

The second question, the "why can't you leave your faith out of it" type, is born more of ignorance of human nature. Faith is a part of one's worldview. You act according to your worldview, and all your political views are formed from your worldview. You can't separate what you believe from who you are. To pretend otherwise is intellectually ignorant or dishonest. Everyone's faith (or lack thereof) informs their views on moral, social and political matters. It may not be overt or conscious, and in many cases faith isn't the only factor in forming those views. But it plays a part. Asking someone to disregard that crucial aspect in defining their political views is to ask them to be someone they're not.

Besides, the free exercise clause of the First Amendment kinda guarantees the right of folks to exercise their religion as they please, including using it to inform their political activities.

Which brings up a point I find frustrating at times: there are some people out there who actually believe the tenet of church/state separation applies to everyone, and that religion should be kept inside a house or church. Once you leave the house and are "in public" you have to shut down the God-thoughts. Such foolishness needs to be stopped. The Constitution says NOTHING about limiting the free expression of religion in the public sphere by individuals. The only place such expressions may be limited is when the expression is offered by a government agent on behalf of a government institution. Ergo, teachers in government-run schools can't lead the class in prayer, but teachers in private schools can. The mayor can't, in her capacity as mayor, call a press conference to preach to the state, but a pastor can use the capital grounds to hold a revival rally (assuming he keeps to the regulations and is given no more/less rights than other private persons.) (As an aside, I think it generally more beneficial to keep the state out of the church's business than vice versa; and it seems somewhat odd to me that the state can tell the church what not to preach - like political advocacy - legally. Not that I think church services should be political in nature, but that's on scriptural grounds, not legal ones. Seems odd that the church has to be completely removed from the state, but the state still gets to dictate limits to what a church can do. 'S all I'm saying. Back to the topic at hand...)

This segues into the second question I was going to discuss. What types of political activity is appropriate, from a Biblical perspective. As I noted earlier in the series, activity needs to be legal in order to submit to authorities. That makes it much easier in this country than in some others, where speeking the wrong thing can get you arrested or killed. The only time we are allowed, scripturally, to violate the law is when to obey the law would directly violate God's law. So, this leaves us with prayer, protesting, running for office, voting for candidates that share our views, writing advocacy pieces (in blogs, papers, books, etc.), supporting advocacy groups or politicians financially and/or trying to persuade your elected officials through personal contact of some sort.

What is not allowed are things like killing doctors who perform abortion. That is abhorent. Making threats against the health or safety of those who don't share your views, bribery, and trespassing is also verboten. Figuring out what is right and wrong isn't difficult; if it violates law, don't do it unless you can build a very, very solid case that to refrain from doing it would violate God's commandments. And then, take whatever consequences are coming from the government. Notice, the Apostles used the legal system to their advantage where possible (e.g. Paul appealing to Caesar) but they only disobeyed Rome when to obey meant disobedience to God. And they also accepted the imprisonments and executions to which they were sentenced.

Taxes were oppressive in that time (living in Minnesota, they only seem oppressive now) but Jesus said to pay them. Withholding taxes from corrupt government didn't meet the threshold for acceptable political involvement. It isn't worth time wasted in jail, or paying money in fines better used doing good for people, to break the law without a very, very good reason. It helps to know the Bible too - that way you can discern what constitutes a very, very good reason.

And as I mentioned here we need to keep our activities and speech respectful, truthful and loving. Even if we have the best of motives, hateful speech, disrespectful actions or deceitful practices are all inappropriate. They also hurt the causes we support more than help them. Keep it passionate, sure, but keep it civil and honest.

The next post in the series will move on to another issue. 'Til then,

God bless!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

My Politics: Faith's Place Therein (Part VII): Life

Okay, here's where the proverbial rubber meets the proverbial road. I'll start talking issues with the one that I prioritize highest: life (for the reasons mentioned yesterday - without life, other rights mean diddly. Dead people can't exercise their right to free speech.) It's also one of the few issues for which I find the most compelling evidence is on the pro-life side, both biblically and secularly. This being a Christian-themed series, though, I'll focus on the Biblical for now. (Though I'm always, also, more than happy to discuss the scientific and legal arguments surrounding life-rights questions.)

First of all, life rights issues in politics encompass two main areas of debate (as I see it): abortion and euthanasia. Some people would add the death penalty and war, but I consider those separate from these two, and I'll discuss that a bit later in the series. For some history, I've addressed these issueshere, here and here.

So, tackling these two issues as much as one as possible, the process I worked through to come to my political views worked something like this. As noted earlier in the series, my primary driver is to align with God on the issue, and then decide how best to engage in the politics surrounding it. So obviously prayer for wisdom plays a part. But then I also look to scripture, from whence comes God's wisdom, to see what God says. And honestly, He says nothing directly about abortion under that name. Ditto euthanasia as we know it. The terms "abortion" and "euthanasia" aren't to be found in any translation I've seen (though I'll concede that I've not read every translation all the way through.) Some might argue that this silence means we can come to our own conclusions about the morality of abortion, and our attitudes towards it, without worrying about scripture at all. The problem is, God doesn't allow for this. If we expand our reading away from a narrow view of looking for specific words, and instead look to scripture with an eye towards principles that show us how God feels about life and treatment of other people, we can come away with some pretty compelling evidence that abortion and euthanasia are not Biblically approved (ergo are not in line with God's will.)

What are these principles? And how do they demonstrate abortion and euthanasia are not acceptable to God?

  • First of all, God made us in His image (Gen.1:27.) Any human being has God's fingerprints all over Him/Her, regardless of stature, station or status. Human life is precious because we are created in the image of God Himself. It doesn't matter the stage of life we are passing through, be it fetal or senior citizen; we are all special enough in His eyes that He sent His Son to die for us.

  • Second, God doesn't just grant us personhood at birth. Multiple times scripture talks about how "God knows us" in the womb (Psalm 139:13-16, Luke 1:15 for starters - there are more.) Some argue that this only applied to certain "special" people, like prophets and apostles. But this argument falls flat; God is no respecter of persons in that way, and He wouldn't devalue the average Joe by saying, "sure, I knew Jeremiah in the womb, but for you I waited until you were born to start loving you."

  • Third, we are to protect the weak and vulnerable (Acts 20:35, I Thes. 5:14.) And none are more vulnerable than the unborn, the sick or the elderly (the group most talked about, aside from terminally ill children, in the euthanasia debate.) This, by the way, counters the idea that men can't speak to abortion issues. " Following that logic, the rich shouldn't advocate for the poor, the healthy shouldn't speak up to help the sick, and gays shouldn't argue that divorce harms the institution of marriage.

  • Fourth, suffering is no reason to harm others (2 Sam. 1:1-16) or to seek death (I Cor.3:16-17.) There is a purpose for suffering, and we miss out on that when we take a life to end that suffering, be it a woman's emotional suffering in pregnancy or an invalid's suffering from illness. God doesn't provide, in scripture, for suicide or killing to end personal suffering. God sanctioned killing for purposes of justice, self-defense and war only. While many places in the Bible talk about how "it would have been better if so-and-so hadn't been born" the next step isn't taken to end that person's life (Job 3, Matt. 26-24.) Suffering is not pleasant; nobody likes it. But there's no biblical backing for ending suffering through mercy killings or taking the life of another.

  • Finally, God is sovereign over life and death (Eccl. 8:8.) We have no right to usurp His authority, and doing so is sin. I will make the distinction that I am talking, in reference to abortion and euthanasia, about individual actions. Societal actions (justice, war) are separate issues, and separate biblical principles apply.

There are additional texts and arguments, as well as more details on these ones that I've brought up. A couple of places that provide such info are here and here.

So if I accept these principles as true, it should seem obvious I believe that abortion is wrong, euthanasia is wrong, and that the victims of both are almost always vulnerable in some way (some euthanasia victims actually aren't vulnerable, and make their own choice - but I see now scriptural backing for that choice.) So, being compelled to speak on behalf of the vulnerable, I feel compelled to speak out, and act against, abortion. And as I said yesterday, life issues are of primary concern because if someone else can take your life, be it at a very early developmental stage (i.e. fetal) or a very late developmental stage (i.e. octegenarian), the other rights mean little.

This brings up two questions: what right do I have to base political arguments on scripture (i.e. the church/state separation question), and what are the political activities that are valid for use? As this post is getting long, I'll talk about those tomorrow. I'll also concede that the principles I've laid out here aren't convincing to someone who doesn't have a high view of scripture, or who doesn't accept it as authoritative/inerrant. Fortunately, God gave us other tools and "secular" arguments to use. But for Christians, building a worldview needs to rely first on scripture. If you can't trust scripture enough to use its authority in all aspects of your life, then I don't think you can say you trust it at all; pick and choose faith is a foundation of sand, and political views built on such are liable to fall when tested. Best to trust the wisdom of God, and not the folly of our own preferences.

God bless!

Monday, May 08, 2006

My Politics: Faith's Place Therein (Part VI)

Friday I more or less wrapped up the theory I take with me to politics, and now will start getting into more how I apply that theory to my political involvement. The next part of this series, therefore, will talk more about specific issues and political organizations. You've been warned.

As I noted in that last post, we need to prioritize our time/energy/support for political causes as none of us have infinite resources to spend backing everything with which we may agree. Of course I have to do this too. As noted in earlier parts of this series, my priorities, as a Christian, need to align with God first, then with the interests, gifts, talents, resources and abilities He's given me.

So how do I prioritize, as an example of how this theory plays out in "real life"? I start where God did in Genesis 1: Life. We have enumerated rights guaranteed by the Constitution (and, according to the Declaration of Independence, were granted by God Himself, ergo not up for debate - but that's a different matter.) However, not one of these rights means anything (anything!) if we can be deprived of life by others. What good is it to be able to speak or pray freely if I'm not even given the chance to live to enjoy those rights? It all starts with life. Without it, the remaining causes and rights mean nothing.

Without going into particulars (I'll post on life/death questions later in more detail), I will say that killing is not always wrong - but in matters of politics, I gravitate towards the life-supporting and life-affirming side of issues.

Following life, I prioritize issues of poverty (as God is very clear about helping the poor and vulnerable.) Next are social morality and environmental concerns, as stewardship matters, followed by matters of international affairs, economics and fiscal policy. Don't get me wrong; I'm not in favor of wasteful spending or "big government." I just don't find my strengths in that arena, and think others are better suited to argue there.

There are other issues that can probably come into play, and many "sub-issues" in each of these that would drop (or rise) in my priority list were I to detail out every tiny things. Each of us has different priorities, but Biblically speaking I see life, morality and poverty as more important than stewardship, economics and foreign policy. This doesn't mean I see the latter group as unimportant; indeed, they are all very important. But God has given others a much better platform, and greater talent, to argue for those items with passion.

Once I've decided which issues to support (and this is an ongoing process as it seems that new causes, issues and debates pop up perpetually), I get involved to the extent my resources allow. First and foremost, this means prayer. I'll concede here that I need desperately to get more consistent with praying for leaders, and over issues. I think that's an area many of us slip to the back burner in favor of day-to-day matters. But in our political activities, prayer for discernment and for self control is important. And not just for us, but for those with whom we disagree.

Starting next time, I'll start talking more about given issues, just to let you see how this process works out in my life. I'd be curious as to how you prioritize and act in your lives too. Feel free to post a comment or send an email.

God bless!

Friday, May 05, 2006

My Politics: Faith's Place Therein (Part V)

Okay, so far in this series, I've talked about how we need to place God first, submit to authorities, and engage in politics with love, truth and respect. So far so good, and on paper there's little there with which to quibble. It's easy to pay lip service to these things, and truth be told violating any of these principles can often enough be rationalized so that we can believe we're still following them even when we've long ago ceased to do so. But I'm not going to set where those lines are; that's between each individual and God. I'll let it rest that I've seen too many people ignore the lines altogether, and blatant violations are easy for anyone to notice if they care to pay attention.

If we know, then, the general principles for engaging in politics, and we have some interest in doing so, are there other considerations to make before we dive in? Well, there are a few. In practical terms, learning before doing, and observing before critiquing are good things to do. At the very least it minimizes the chances you'll make a fool of yourself by taking on topics or activities that you're not quite ready for. I've learned many a hard lesson that way, and if my advice is worth anything, I'd offer the counsel that entering a political debate woefully uninformed strengthens your opponent even when, in reality, your position is ultimately a better option.

But Biblically there are some additional steps to take too. First is to seek wisdom and God's will, second is to set priorities, and third is to figure out your gifts.

In all things we are to glorify God, and politics is no different. That means, though, that we need to make sure we're also aligning with God's will. Doing our own thing contrary to God's will, no matter how well intentioned we are, does little to glorify Him. That sets us up as allegedly better arbiters of our time and energy, diminishing God as we raise ourselves up. We need instead to seek God's will, and ask that He'd give the wisdom to do what He wants us to do in the area of politics.

We all have limited time, energy, money and talents, although some of us have fewer limits than others. We also have varying demands that compete for those resources. Devoting 100% of our non-sleep hours to politics leaves nothing for family, church, friends, rest or anything else. Devoting zero time to politics leaves us at risk of having our views unheard (and for some people, this is acceptable, and I don't want to make it sound like we have a duty to be politically active; God calls some of us to ministries elsewhere.) We need to prioritize. As I said in the first post, God is necessarily first. After that, we need to make sure that our political involvement is placed in proper perspective and priority, not inappropriately superseding our responsibilities elsewhere. Jesus' priority was prayer. That's not a bad place to start in setting ours.

God gave each of us different gifts of talents and abilities. If we don't know what those are, we will not likely make best use of our time. Just as knowing our gifts is necessary to make best use of our time serving in the church, knowing our abilities and talents is necessary to make best use of our time and energy in politics. Someone with good organizational skills is better suited to running a campaign than someone without, and one with good people skills is a better candidate than someone who is a jerk. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and we have them for a reason. We can accomplish much more by matching our gifts to our work, as much in politics as in the church or the family.

Engaging in politics is like engaging in any other aspect of life. We need to seek God's will before jumping in, finding wisdom to set priorities and choose the right role to play. We do not do ourselves favors by letting our political involvement screw up our priorities so we miss out on other aspects of life. Nor do we bring glory to God by choosing our own way instead of listening to where He wants us to focus. We may have strong views on an issue or cause, yet do that cause better by focusing our attention elsewhere so that those more capable can see to the defense of the cause. Seek God and use the gifts He's given to be most effective, and use wisdom to find the place where we can be of best use - to God and to our political views.

God bless!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Trippin' 'Round the 'Sphere - 5/3/06 Edition

Excuse my break yesterday. We had company out yesterday evening. The series returns tomorrow. In the meantime...

Christian Carnival is up at Daddypundit. Early favorites include Jeremy Pierce's piece on ID and a post on Biblical Inerrancy (and how you may as well head to the pub w/out it) at The No Kool Aid Zone.

And speaking of the Carnival, there is new info regarding the mailing list. Check it out if you want to be/remain in the loop.

I'm pretty sure Kristin and I serve the same God, which is why I agree wholeheartedly with her on this post. Love of money and bling ain't where our hearts should be at. (Did I just completely violate seventeen grammar rules in one sentence?)

I'm don't read Jonah Goldberg often, so missed this, but STR quotes him making a very astute point.

A few random sports opinions:

  • The new Vikings uniforms aren't as nice as the last batch. But at least they didn't mess w/the helmet. I'm still not buying any.

  • I'm not in favor of giving money to billionaires. They want stadiums, they can pay for them.

  • The U is a different story. That's a public institution, and while people may disagree with funding a stadium over, say, a bio-tech research building, at least the U has a case for public funding.

  • Dude, that Vikings draft was not impressive. I hope I'm eating my words in three years, but so far I think the new regime isn't an improvement. Then again, I haven't been impressed by much that organization has done in years, on or off the field.

Now, off to enjoy the nice weather. Hopefully it stays nice this weekend so our softball league isn't rained out two weeks in a row.

God bless!

Monday, May 01, 2006

My Politics: Faith's Place Therein (Part IV)

Friday I talked about how Christians can engage in the political process in this country, even to the point of expressing disagreement with government officials - and that this does not conflict with the Biblical injunction to submit to authority. Today I want to start talking a little about what that means for Christians, and after that I'll be talking about more personal things, like why I hold certain political views.

Christians are to be salt and light to a world bereft of both. This goes for politics as well as life in general. Rare is the politician nowadays who fully discloses both pros and cons of policy and makes impassioned pleas backed by facts and analysis. Rather common is the official who fails to disclose information that strengthens an opponents point. Name calling and innuendo take the place of reasoned, respectful discussion. And interest groups and celebrities are pitted against each other in order to draw the most attention possible from a media interested in conflict.

Of course most people have favorite politicians, and are less likely to see such flaws in their own favored leaders. But I think few would deny this is a problem that is far too extensive. The reason it looks so common, though, is that there are too few (although there are some) who stand in stark contrast to base politics: there is little salt and light in politics, too much of the "everyone's doing it." And unfortunately, some who share the faith can't be told apart from the rest because they play the game the same way.

What does it look like to be salt and light in politics? It all starts with love and truth. God leaves us no outs - we are to love our neighbor and our enemies both. There is no in between. Political allies and political opponents both need to be treated with love. And when you love someone, you don't smear their name, you don't make misleading accusations, and you don't dishonor their reputation. It means helping those in need, even if those in need have different approaches to policy than you. And it means you engage in politics out of concern for others rather than for your own glory or enrichment.

Christians also need to be truthful, speaking truth in love, and refraining from deceit. Practically speaking, this means honestly addressing weaknesses in one's own position instead of covering them up. It also means acknowledging the strengths of opponents' ideas, and honest disagreement when you can't be convinced. Christians need to treat people fairly, which is impossible if you're not dealing honestly and truthfully. Being truthful also requires you be accountable and responsible, owning up to mistakes and spreading credit to those who help you out. Seek out answers from all sides (or as many of the major ones as practical) instead of reacting, knee-jerk like.

Finally, Christians engaging in political activities need to treat everyone with respect. This goes along with loving others, of course, but it needs to be called out specifically. The Bible tells us to give respect and honor to people to whom respect and honor are due. Notice it doesn't say "give respect and honor to people you think have earned it." No, respect and honor go to the position of authority as much as the character of the person holding that position. In my own life, this means that I try to use honorifics and titles when speaking of a leader (e.g. President Bush, President Clinton) instead of just using his or her last name - a recent social phenomenon that would have been unquestionably viewed as disrespectful in years past. Some people refer to this as respecting the office, not the officeholder, and there is some truth to that.

Regardless of the views others have, Christians are called to conform to a high standard. This standard is greater than that demanded by the world. When we don't live up to that standard (and I'll be the first to admit I fall far short far too often; God's working on me too) we don't look any different from anyone else. Nothing about us is attractive to a world looking for a difference maker, the ultimate one of whom is Jesus Christ. We are obligated to love, honor, and respect people in all aspects of life including politics. Our responsibilities do not end only with those who agree with us; they carry over to all people with whom we interact. How refreshing it would be if everyone's political activities reflected love, truth and respect both to friend and foe alike.

God bless!