Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Memo to Alan Greenspan - The Problem Is Economic Girlie Men

Folks, don't worry about the record deficit that could take many decades to erase....that, in essence, makes the US a poor nation and a second-rate power....that more Americans live in poverty, go hungry at night, and are homeless than ever before in our history.

Never mind that more Americans than ever before have no health care insurance, can't afford any college education for their children, and are unemployed and underemployed.

Forget it that 4 more years of the same economic trend, of the same reckless lack of fiscal discipline, that the US has experienced over the last 4 years, would likely result in a near-bankrupt federal government.

The super-rich movie actor with a posse of personal employees and a trust fund wife, speaking for the Republican party, says that if we're pessimistic about this economy, then we're "economic girlie men." Wimps. Lacking backbone and perseverance.

So Mr. Greenspan, stop worrying about interest rates and the stock market, housing starts and the consumer price index. Halt your concern about inflation, social security benefits, minimum wage levels, gross nat'l products and umemployment figures.

Our only problem is our attitude. It's about us. We just see it wrong.......

And We Thought It Couldn't Get More Cynical

At the Republican convention last night, a Virginia delegate and longtime Republican activist, Morton Blackwell, handed out his entire stock of large band-aids festooned with purple hearts and the words "It was just a self-inflicted scratch, but you see, I got a Purple Heart for it."

Not American flag pins. Not pro-Bush sentiments. Not GOP paraphernalia. Not patriotic or inspiring do-dads. Nothing positive at all. But instead, an item designed to denigrate an American combat veteran who earned three Purple Hearts, a Silver Star and a Bronze Star for service in Vietnam.

Mr. Blackwell did this in support of Mr. Bush, who avoided combat duty by joining the Texas National Air Guard near his home, and then maintaining a spotty attendance record, and in support of Mr. Cheney, who avoided all military duty by obtaining four deferments.

Hard to imagine a more cynical, petty, hypocritical and undignified move. Our country deserves far better leadership and moral character than that exemplified by Mr. Blackwell and his cronies.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Tony Campolo, Me & 41,500 Other Christians

I, pastor and bestselling Christian author Tony Campolo, and 41,500 other Christians are proud signers of a petition that appears today in a New York Times full-page ad.

The ad headline reads "God is Not a Republican. Or a Democrat." It is sponsored by a non-partisan Christian organization, Sojourners, that is appalled by the claims of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson that all "real" Christians must vote for George Bush in 2004.

Among the signers of the petition are hundreds of clergy and theologians from such diverse organizations as Fuller Theological Seminary, Christianity Today, Chicago Theological Seminary, Claremont School of Theology, pastors and priests from innumerable denominations. and theology/ministry professors from the Divinity Schools at Yale, Duke, Wake Forest, Howard, Pennsylvania, Columbia, Emory and other universities.

I urge each of you to open your hearts and minds, and visit the Sojourners website. Please prayerfully consider joining the 41,500 who have thusfar signed this important non-partisan petition.

The future, and the character, of our great nation are at stake.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

The State of the Economy, Plain & Simple

The US Census bureau released its annual statistical report for 2003 this past week. Here are the plain and simple facts:

From 2001 through 2003:
- The number of children living in poverty increased by 11%, and the number of children receiving welfare decreased by 10%.

- 4.3 million add'l people have fallen below the poverty line, set at $18,660 annual income for a family of 4 in 2003.

- In 2003, 12.5% of the US population, or 35.9 million people, lived in poverty.

- Median family income, which was $44,853 in 2000, fell by $1,535, during 2001 to 2003.

- 5.2 million add'l people lost all health care insurance, bringing the total in 2003 to 45 million people.

Per the New York Times today, "A Bush campaign official suggested that the census report was misleading because it did not reflect the economic growth of the past 11 months. In fact, the report covers all of 2003. And in 3 of the 7 months of 2004 for which data is available, job growth has not been strong enough to even keep up with population growth.

"The President and Congress have largely ignored this problem, while leaving little room to address it later by ballooning the deficit with tax cuts."

Tax cuts for only the very very wealthiest, I might add.

Hmmm...what would Jesus do with his vote in this election year? I think I'll take my Bible out and research that.......

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Caution - Graphic Description of Murder

US District Judge Richard Casey today struck down the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act as unconstitutional because it doesn't contain sufficient exceptions to protect the mother's life and health.

This legislative act, passed in November 2003, bans the procedure known to doctors as intact dilation and extraction. In this procedure, a live baby of any gestation age is forcibly partially born, feet first. Just before the head emerges (i.e. live birth) the baby's skull is intentionally punctured or crushed, and its brains are sucked out. The dead baby is then allowed to be fully born.

So as of today, a woman can again choose to do this to her unborn child.

Can you imagine any decent person rejoicing at this news?

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

These Charges Are False - an LA Times Editorial

A "must read" editorial in the August 24, 2004 Los Angeles Times, a Pulitzer-Prize winning newspaper, entitled "These Charges Are False....It's one thing for the presidential campaign to get nasty, but quite another for it to engage in fabrication."

"The technique President Bush is using against John Kerry was perfected by his father against Michael Dukakis in 1988, though its roots go back at least to Sen. Joseph McCarthy. It is: Bring a charge, however bogus. Make the charge simple: Dukakis "vetoed the Pledge of Allegiance"; Bill Clinton "raised taxes 128 times"; "there are (pick a number) Communists in the State Dep't." But make sure the supporting details are complicated and blurry enough to prevent easy refutation.

Then sit back and let the media do your work for you. Journalists have to report the charges, usually feel obligated to report the rebuttal, and often even attempt an analysis or assessment. But the canons of the profession prevent most journalists from saying outright: These charges are false. As a result, the voters are left with a general sense that there is some controversey over Dukakis' patriotism or Kerry's service in Vietnam. And they have been distracted from thinking about real issues (like the war going on now) by these laboratory concoctions.

It must be infuriating to the victims of this process to be given conflicting advice about how to deal with it from the same campaign press corps that keeps it going. The press has been telling Kerry: a) Don't let charges sit around unanswered; and b) stick to your issues: Don't let the other guy choose the turf.

At the moment, Kerry is being punished by the media for taking advice (b) and failing to take advice (a). There has been plenty of talk on TV about what Kerry's failure to strike back said about whether he had the backbone for the job of president---and even when he did strike back, he was accused of not doing it soon enough. But what does Bush's acquiescence in the use of this issue say about whether he has the simple decency for the job of president?

Whether the Bush campaign is tied to the Swift boat campaign in the technical, legal sense that triggers the wrath of campaign-spending reform law is not a very interesting question. The ridiculously named Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is being funded by conservative groups that interlock with Bush's world in various ways, just as MoveOn.org, which is running nasty ads about Bush's avoidance of service in Vietnam, is part of Kerry's general milieu.

More important, either man could shut down the groups working on his behalf if he wanted to. Kerry has denounced the MoveOn ads, with what degree of sincerity we can't know. Bush on Monday---finally---called for all ads by independent groups on both sides to be halted. He also said Kerry "served admirably" in Vietnam. But he declined an invitation to condemn the Swift boat effort.

In both cases, the candidates are the reason the groups are in business. There is an important difference, though, between the side campaign being run for Kerry and the one for Bush. The pro-Kerry campaign is nasty and personal. The pro-Bush campaign is nasty, personal and false.

No informed person can seriously believe that Kerry fabricated evidence to win his military medals in Vietnam. His main accuser has been exposed as having said the opposite at the time, 35 years ago. Kerry is backed by almost all those who witnessed the events in question, as well as by documentation. His accusers have no evidence except their own dubious word.

Not limited by the conventions of our colleagues in te newsroom, we can say it outright: These charges against John Kerry are false. Or at least, there is not good evidence that they are true. George Bush, if he were a man of principle. would say the same thing."

Friday, August 20, 2004

The President and the Patriot

If the President of the United States will savagely smear the good name of an American patriot who is a decorated war veteran, with 5 hard-won medals, and has a 20-year record as United States senator, a wealthy man who could have spent those 20 years in leisure, what would the President and his bully cronies do to you or me if we got in their way?

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Left Behind .... by Paranoia

The silly, bestselling Left Behind fiction book series (over 100 million copies sold) is singularly responsible for the unhealthy paranoia-ization and rampant joyless, God-like judgment of all others by its readers....most of whom are politically conservative evangelical Christians.

Clearly, Bush/Cheney administration leadership subscribes to the Left Behind school of thought, without exception or hesitation. And they press the public buttons of Left Behind fear, paranoia, and damning judgment of others (and entire cultures and countries) with constant not-so-veiled threats and panic-inducing scenarios. Cynical political manipulative technique at its finest. Cheney, Ashcroft and Ridge have honed it to political high art.

It's no coincidence that Tim LaHaye, co-author of the Left Behind gold mine, was a founder of the infamous Moral Majority, the largest ever ultra-conservative political action lobby, which was absorbed in the 1990s by Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition. LaHaye was also one of the master strategists and major fundraisers behind the political rise of Ronald Reagan and later the elder Bush.

It's sad and alarming to see this well-meaning population polarized into an angry, irrational, militant sect-like mentality, separated from appreciation of the beauty and richness that all of God's creation, as a whole, has to offer to those with eyes to see. ("God saw all that he had made, and it was very good." Genesis 1:31.) Many have taken these nutty fictional stories to heart, and it's poisoned their real-life perspective.

The following was published in Salon.com, the MSN online magazine, on August 2, 2002, fully 6 months prior to our invasion of Iraq to allegedly avenge 9/11 and to find Hussein's WMDs.

"I am an ordained Christian minister troubled by two key elements in the (Left Behind) series. One : the scenario of chaos following the sudden disappearance of all true Christians is a fabrication not found in the Bible. 'One taken, the other left' in Scripture is a prelude to martyrdom rather than an easy escape. 'Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.' Two mass resurrections of the faithful are mentioned in the Book of Revelation, but the reading of 'the rapture' into one ambiguous verse before the Tribulation begins is wishful thinking on a grand scale.

Two : The series endorses lying, cheating, stealing, killing, gun-running, computer hacking, evading arrest, misappropriation of gov't property, sabotage and conspiring to commit illegal acts. Any action can be justified if one's enemy is identified as the antichrist.

This rationale can be expanded too easily to bombing abortion clinics, committing violence to homosexuals, and expanding the war on terror from Osama bin Laden to Saddam Hussein and anyone else who gets in the way or dares to resist. Such thinking is so far from the life and teachings of Jesus, that I believe the spirit of Antichrist is at work in the Left Behind series and its writers." ------- Keith E. Clark

Certainly profound food for thought with an eery element of truth. Such "the end justifies the means" thinking has been used by this administration to justify thousands upon thousands of horrific abuses and lies of all sorts in the Iraq debacle. This is the heart of George Bush political doctrine, and Left Behind devotees are buying into it.

My friends, it's fiction. Fiction designed to sell a lot of books and make lots of money. It's no more real than Danielle Steele romance novels, Harry Potter's magic or Tolkien fantasies. It's not real.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

George Bush Hides His Evangelical Mistress - Friends

"Some prominent evangelical Christians say they have not been invited to participate in or attend the Republican National convention less than three weeks before the event is to begin. Analysts said the move likely reflects a GOP desire to sideline its more polarizing supporters during a tight presidential race....The Rev. Franklin Graham, who delivered the invocation at President Bush's inauguration, has had no request to attend so far, said Graham spokesman Mark DeMoss.

'People who are not part of the religious right might be alienated if they put too many conservatives as the public face of the party' said Merle Black, a political scientist at Emory University in Atlanta."

--- Reuters news service, August 12, 2004

Also not invited to attend the Republican National Convention are Dr James Dobson of Focus on the Family; Rev. Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition; and Rev. Jerry Falwell, who offered a prayer at the 2000 confab. Not Christian leaders and authors Charles Stanley, Max Lucado, Greg Laurie or Rick Warren.

Ralph Reed, Bush strategist and former executive director of the Christian Coalition, now paid political consultant and lobbyist, said yesterday that "invitations for evangelical figures just started going out," but he would not release any religious right invitee names.

So let's see....I want to make sure I understand. George Bush loves and identifies with conservative evangelicals.....champions and lives conservative evangelical values....says that his core political base is evangelicals....uses lots of evangelical lingo in his speeches.

But he doesn't want to be seen in public with them. Doesn't want to be photographed with them. Certainly doesn't want them speaking, or even seen, at his Republican Convention.

Sounds like the way a married man treats his mistress, not his wife, soul mate and lifelong partner.

The mistress always thinks she truly knows the man and owns his heart, but who does he go home to at the end of the day? And who loses out in the end? Who gets taken in by his sweet, seductive words and empty promises while he reaps the benefits?

Mistresses survive on coded messages and furtive meetings. When they see him with his wife, they convince themselves that, secretly, he loves them more. They trust that he doesn't really care for his wife....she's just for show (the convention?) , the children (the votes?) , her inheritance (the contributions?).

Mistresses survive on self-delusion. Truth is that men seldom leave their wives for mistresses.

Does George Bush treat conservative evangelicals like a hidden-away mistress? Hmmm...when was the last time we saw him attending an evangelical church service? Playing golf or boating with religious right leaders? Inviting the Grahams, Dobsons, Robertsons, Falwells or even the Reeds to one of his innumerable Texas-style barbecues at the Crawford ranch?

I only remember him exiting Episcopal and Methodist church services. Occasionally. When cameras are present. Christmas and Easter, too, with the family.

And the evangelical feel-good lingo and I'm-one-of-you code words. He does have those mastered. And he supports some of the no-brainer requisite sexual sin issues.

As for the rest, God only knows. God and Mr. Bush's political strategists, this is.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

God's Plan for Lava Lava Unity

The church we attend announced that this Fall, we will join 2,500 other Christian congregations in simultaneously reading "The Purpose-Driven Life" by Rick Warren, a cautious, smartly-worded Christian book. The congregations will be non-denominational and from all denominations.

CS Lewis said, "The time is always ripe for reunion. Divisions between Christians are a sin and a scandal, and Christians ought at all times to be making contributions towards reunion," in response to a question about denominational divisions within the Christian church. (God in the Dock - 48 Essays on Theology and Ethics , published in 1970 by Lewis' estate. Should be required reading for all Christians.)

The coming-together of 2,500 somewhat disparate Protestant congregations for 40 days is a wonderful first-step toward focusing on the 95% that all Christians have in common, and defusing the 5% that divides us.

I was pleasantly surprised yesterday to realize that this theological coming-together has already occurred for children's Sunday School. For its summer Vacation Bible School, our church used a tropical-themed curriculum package purchased from a Colorado Christian publisher. As I drove about town, I first noticed that the fundamentalist church down the street is using the same Lava Lava materials....then later saw that a Presbyterian church in the next town is also using the tropical VBS package. Once home, I searched the internet, and found Episcopal, Lutheran, Baptist and yes, even Catholic churches using Lava Lava VBS curriculum this summer.

I can't think of a logical reason for this ecumenical trend. My guess is the publisher simply creates the best materials for a reasonable cost.

Or maybe it's more than mere coincidence. In chapter 21 of the Warren book, he says, "It is our job to protect the unity of our church. Unity in the church is so important that the New Testament gives more attention to it than to either heaven or hell. God deeply desires that we experience oneness and harmony with each other."

Hmmm...perhaps part of God's plan?

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Evangelical Liberal Agrees with Vatican on Women's Roles

I self-labelled as a "liberal" evangelical, but I will disappoint those expecting wholehearted buy-in on all the traditional "liberal" stances. Here's one....the Vatican released a 37-page document on July 31 addressed to Catholic bishops on the role of women in the church.

Some women's groups have lashed out, calling it "a throwback to the 1960s and Archie Bunker," "written by an imam of al-Azhar," a Sunni Islam institute of learning in Cairo, and like "passing through a time warp." One Catholic activist commented, "Such observations could only be made by men who have no significant relationships with women."

"... the Vatican said women should be respected and have equal rights in the workplace, but differences between the sexes must be recognized and exalted. The document said that many women felt they had to be 'adversaries of men' in order to be themselves. It criticized feminism's attempt to erase gender differences, saying that it had inspired ideologies questioning the traditional family structure of a mother and a father and making homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent.

The document said women should not be stigmatized or penalized financially for wanting to be housewives. 'Indeed, a just valuing of the work of women within the family is required.' But it also said that women who chooose to work should be granted an appropriate work schedule and 'not have to choose between relinquishing their family life or enduring continual stress.'

'From the first moment of their creation, man and woman are different, and will remain so for eternity.' "
--- Reuters, August 1, 2004

Please understand....I have no idea whether or not women should be Catholic priests. I am Protestant, and believe that women make gifted pastors, just as men do.

As for the rest of this issue, I say..............Amen, and Viva le Difference!

The Vatican's stance sounds logical, fair and...well, obvious.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Would Jesus Be Republican or Democrat?

A woman in our Friday Family Fellowship group shook her head in disgust, "Why are all those Democrats mad at George Bush? What do they have to be mad about?"

"Yeah....like he's some villian," another nodded in angry assent. "Did you hear that speech last night (at the Democratic Convention) ? Don't get me started...." Many sighed in agreement. Some were strangely silent.

"Uh....is everyone here Republican? Aren't there Democrats here too?" asked a puzzled first-time visitor. "Isn't it Republicans and Democrats here?"

Two women looked around. "No Democrats here.... at least none that would admit to it." They laughed and laughed. They failed to notice embarrassed discomfort on several faces. It's a family church group.... people don't want to cause a fuss, even in the face of ideological prejudice and bullying.

Besides....it sounds like they have inside info that Jesus is a Republican, and that real Christians are Republicans.

I vote both sides of the political aisle, depending on the candidate and the issues. I've been known to switch parties merely to vote in particular primaries. I believe that automatic voting strictly along party lines is an abrogation of our civic duties. and sad disrespect for the precious right to vote. It's lazy, too. Like putting your brain on vacation.

So after the womens' self-assured remarks, I started wondering.... would Jesus choose to be Republican or Democrat?

Here is my heartfelt conclusion....if our Savior had to choose, He would join the Democratic Party. The party of compassion and mercy....the party that champions the downtrodden....the party that actively fights poverty, racism and lack of health insurance....the party that pushes for peace, not war.

"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth....Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy....Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God...."
--- excerpts from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5

But of course, it's outrageously selfish and silly to imagine that Jesus would join a particular political party. Jesus Christ, son of God, part of the Holy Trinity, is far bigger than trivial human matters.

Initially, my feelings were hurt by the arrogant remarks of a few. I pulled the visitor aside, and assured him that Democrats also attend our group, and that this is not a group with a proscribed political agenda.

I hope it's not, anyway. I was always taught, and teach, that God loves us all.