Friday, October 29, 2004

Bush Blunders in Final Words

In an interview published today in USA Today, George W. Bush asks American voters:

"This campaign boils down to a matter of trust. Who has earned the trust of the American people? Who do they believe? Who do they believe can fight and win the war on terror?"

John Kerry. Obviously.

Therein lies your problem, Mr. Bush. No one... not even those voting for you...trusts you anymore. No one believes your words any longer. Your words are empty rhetoric, and deep down in their gut, absolutely everyone knows it.

For hundreds of good, reality-bound and faith-based reasons, Mr. Bush.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Light at End of Evangelical Tunnel

Church staff didn't notice that many worshippers were embarrassed by the Focus on the Family voter registration table on the sanctuary patio after services. People walked around it; they clearly and consciously avoided it. Its presence made them feel badly that their biblically-based views diverge from the radical conservative stances espoused by James Dobson and ilk, and apparently pushed by our pastors.

After my Tuesday morn Bible study, women shunned the church info table, due to the ultra-conservative Voters' Guide pamphlets piled on it. The table was like the proverbial dead elephant in the middle of the room that all walked around, no one even glanced at, but no one mentioned.

It's been my strong sense these past weeks that our church is turning off many members and frightening away potential members by forcing a Jerry Falwell-like agenda on parishioners. Staff make the assumption that all evangelicals think alike, or perhaps, that all "real" or "better" Christians think alike. Reality is that our congregation has a multiplicity of viewpoints, and that the church is sending an unmistakable negative message that "If you don't hold ultra-conservative political stances, you don't belong here."

And then.....Hallelujah! A ray of light in political darkness.

Today, The Los Angeles Times published an in-depth article by Paul Wallstein, "Conflicted Evangelicals Could Cost Bush Votes," that corroborates my family's experiences. The thesis is that Republican leaders consider all evangelicals a "near lock for President Bush,"....but that reality is a far cry from wholehearted evangelical support for the radical right agenda.

Here are a few quotes from that article.....

"I'm very anti-abortion, but the reality is the right to life encompasses a much broader field than just abortion. If I'm a proponent of life, I have to think about the consequences of not providing prescription drugs to seniors or sending young men off to war," says Pastor Joe Urcavaic of the evangelical Green Bay Community Church in Wisconsin.

Wendy Skroch, a 51 year old mother of 3 who attends the evangelical Elmbrook Church in Milwaukee blames Bush for failing to fix a "broken" healthcare system and for "selling off the environment to the highest bidder."

Tim Moore, a evangelical who teaches at a Christian school near Milwaukee said "There's no way I'm going to vote for Bush." He says he shares Bush's religious convictions, but is angry over the tax cuts for the wealthy and the administration's shifting rationales for invading Iraq.

The diversity of heartfelt biblically-based viewpoints has made effective campaigning to evangelical chuchgoers more complicated than GOP strategists anticipated, per the Times. Said Pastor Marc Erickson of the Eastbrook Church in Milwaukee, "If I become political in any direction, I'll become 50% less effective."

The respected Pew Research Center estimates that a full 30% of evangelical Christians do not plan to vote to reelect George W. Bush to the US presidency.

As church leaders zealously parrot James Dobson's legally-crafted terminology from the they self-righteously hand out clever guidelines pushing support for this war-happy, fear-mongering self-messianic administration, I wonder if they realize that 30% of their congregation is becoming more and more offended?

As they disrespect others' rights to differing viewpoints in this democratic society, I wonder if they know that 30% of the people are thinking, "What am I doing here?." It's odd that church staff don't correlate half-empty pews and decreased volunteerism with right-wing politization of the church.

Yes, there is light at the end of the evangelical tunnel. Evangelical Christians can't be fit into one narrow political ideology. "You can't shoehorn the Bible into one political party's ideology" comments Richard Cizik, VP of the Nat'l Assn of Evangelicals. Evangelicals do not blindly follow misguided leaders...they think and pray and care, and they love God.

There is light at the end of the evangelical tunnel...but sadly, that light is not coming from churches actively and exclusively promoting far right political agendas.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

2004 Reasons to Boot Bush

Late night comedians are drawing record ratings with jagged political humor. They make us laugh long and hard so we won't cry over the painful corruptness of this presidency. While jogging around blog world, I found this tragi-comic list of 2004 Reasons to Boot Bush. Enjoy! Here are a couple to whet your appetite....

Kicking off Iraq's program of reconstruction by blasting radioactive ammunition all over the place was a pretty dim idea.

Would you trust this guy to water your plants while you were out of town?

While American soldiers put their lives on the line to pursue the Bush-Rumsfeld policy of pre-emptive war, the Bush administration tried to cut those same soldiers' benefits. (source - Stars and Stripes, August 23, 2003)

Corporate welfare erodes the moral fiber of the rich.

On the eve of war against the nation of Iraq, a war that has cost tens of thousands of lives, Geroge W. Bush pumped his fist for the camera, smiled and said "I feel good!" American news media edited this footage out. (source - Chicago Tribune, March 20, 2003)

If you loaned this guy fifty bucks, would you count on getting it back?

Are you better off than you were 4 years ago?

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Radicalization & Isolation of American Evangelicals

Fascinating food for thought excerpts from the Oct 2004 issue of Sojourners Magazine, from the Christian organization that originated the "God is not a Republican. Or Democrat" campaign and the interfaith political website.

"Americans have long been 'divided by a common language' from our friends in the Commonwealth. What is new is that evangelicals in the United States are increasingly divided by a common faith from evangelicals elsewhere. The growing divide isn't primarily theological---it is political. Why do US evangelicals tend to hold such a different view regarding a broad range of political issues---including the war in Iraq---than their evangelical counterparts in the Commonwealth?

Part of what has changed the character of American evangelicalism is that leaders of the Religious Right---such as Jerry Falwell, Tim LaHaye, Pat Robertson and James Dobson---took over the leadership from more moderate evangelicals (as Billy Graham) in the 1980s. When they did so, they fundamentally redefined the key issues in the United States and what the response of the evangelical faithful should be to these issues.

American evangelicals tend to subscribe to a revisionist understanding of the US founding story that encourages them to view the United States as God's unique redemptive agent in the world. Not surprisingly, this view of messianic nationalism makes it very easy for many American evangelicals to support the neoconservative doctrine endorsing the pre-emptive and redemptive use of violence to make the world a better place. Very few evangelicals around the world support either this view of American exceptionalism or this imperial use of pre-emptive violence to 'improve' life on this planet.

Sociologist Donald Kraybill of Messiah College offers an important word for American evangelicals who have allowed right-wing fears and nationalistic dreams---rather than teachings of a biblical faith---to shape their Christian worldview. He wrote, 'When public piety is surging, Christians must be careful to distinguish between the god of American civil religion and the God revealed in Jesus of Nazareth. The God of Jesus sends the rain on the just and the unjust. This God urges us to love our enemies, to bless those who curse us....for this God, there is no east or west, no political borders, no pet nations.' "

Friday, October 22, 2004

Waiting for the Electoral College

Electoral college vote watchers are predicting that, as of now, Kerry has exceeded the 270 target by a healthy 24 votes.

I want to relax and believe it, but anything can happen in 11 days. Anything.

Early voting is a blessing, as it relieves you of the pressure of last minute preposterous manipulations, nasty tricks and slanderous, untruthful advertising. You have no further control. Your part is done.

Ron and I have cast our ballots for John Kerry, and pray daily that our country will return to integrity, compassion and fairness....return to our forefathers' vision of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all men and women of our nation, rather than Bush's aristocracy with freedoms and vast privileges for few, and an ever-decreasing quality of life for the masses. And a return to respect for all people of faith, not just a narrowly-proscribed ultra-conservative fraternity.

The waiting is hard.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Dangerous Delusions of Messianic Self-Faith

The founder of the US Christian Coalition said Tuesday he told President George W. Bush before the invasion of Iraq that he should prepare Americans for the likelihood of casualties, but the president told him, "We're not going to have any casualties."

Pat Robertson, an ardent Bush supporter, said he had that conversation with the president in Nashville, Tennessee, before the March 2003 invasion. He described Bush in the meeting as "the most self-assured man I've ever met in my life."

"You remember Mark Twain said, 'He looks like a contented Christian with four aces.' I mean he was just sitting here like, 'I'm on top of the world' " Robertson said on CNN show Paula Zahn Now.

"And I warned him about this war. I had deep misgivings about this war, deep misgivings. and I was trying to say, 'Mr. President, you had better prepare the American people for casualities.' "

Robertson said the president then told him, "Oh, no, we're not going to have any casualities.", October 20, 2004

We now realize that Bush's excitement for the Iraq war was because he would at last destroy his family's fierce enemy, Saddam Hussein. His messianic belief that our troops would incur no harm.... like Moses parting the Red Sea and the Israelites crossing without harm....was deluded and frighteningly disconnected from reality.

Bush's words and actions in our attack on Iraq, and in most of his presidential actions, reveal not faith in a prophetic messiah, but faith in himself as Messiah.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Jon Stewart for President

Jon Stewart, of The Daily Show, for President! He is exhibiting more clarity, courage, intelligence, morality, passion for fairness and love of our forefather's America than any candidate running for office today.

"All late-night talk-show hosts make jokes about politicians. What distinguishes Mr. Stewart from Jay Leno and David Letterman is that the Comedy Central star mocks the entire political process, boring in tightly on the lockstep thinking and complacency of the parties and the media, as well as the candidates. More than other television analysts and commentators, he and his writers put a spotlight on the inanities and bland hypocrisies that go mostly unnoticed in the average news cycle.

Mr. Stewart is very funny, but in the vein of 'a plague on both your houses' indignation that has made his show a cult favorite. Many young yoters are turning to 'The Daily Show' for their news analysis, and are better served there than on much of what purports to be real news on cable."

-- New York Times, Oct 20, 2004

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Stupid Cheating

What kind of person wears hidden wires to secretly obtain the correct answers for a test or debate? A cheater, that's who. What kind of person wears hidden wires that can actually be seen if you look carefully? A stupid cheater.

And if that cheater was a student at any school, he would be expelled in disgrace.

Don't ever vote for a cheater. You'll get what you deserve. Cheated.

Albuquerque Takes a Stand for Kerry

Excerpts from the lead editorial today in the Albuquerque Tribune:

"From the war in Iraq and the acidic sections of the Patriot Act, to global warming and national energy policy, Bush's foreign and domestic policies have been based on secrecy, fear, distortion and misinformation. For these reasons, we urge independent and undecided voters in particular to double-check what Bush says against what he has done. Bush continues to insult American intelligence with his:

- Mistaken and unreal views of the war in Iraq, with its mounting costs in American and Iraqi lives, money and good will;

- Failure to focus US military might on pursuing our real enemy, the terrorists;

- Willingness to compromise American freedoms, in contrast to a resistance to develop and implement safeguards to protect our people, borders, ports and infrastructure from future terror attacks;

- Unabashed flip-flop of the conservative fiscal ideal, turning a balance federal budget---indeed, a huge surplus---into the largest deficit in US history;

- Unrelenting attack on 30 years of environmental promise to benefit political friends in the fossil fuel and utility industries;

- Willingness to accept a $422 billion federal deficit, a ballooning $7.42 trillion national debt and grossly unfair tax cuts.

These all come at the expense of ordinary, hard-working, taxpayng Americans--and our children's children, who will be stuck paying the bill.

In very sharp contrast, Kerry has demonstrated tested qualities of leadership and imagination. The hallmarks of his Senate record and presidential candidacy are less partisan and more fundamentally democratic and moderate.

And moderation, in an increasingly polarized nation, is absolutely vital.

Kerry embraces transparency, consensus and compromise. As does our constitution, he will seek to include, not exclude. Although labeled a flip-flopper, Kerry represents the essence of statesmanship. Unlike Bush and Cheney, he has the courage to alter political positions and courses when he finds he was mistaken. "

"...he represents a more realistic plan to end the US occupation (In Iraq), transfer power to the Iraqi people and extricate our troops as soon as practical. He has promised to rebuild our international alliances, embrace alliances and treaties, and lead by example, not threat."

"Kerry embraces ideas. He seeks to represent the most fundamental of American values, ideals and hopes. He is committed to a government contract based on the premise 'of, by and for the people.' "

"The Tribune endorses John Kerry for President of the United States.

He has earned the job---and the chance to return security, prosperity, freedom, concensus and the American identity to a nation at odds with the world and itself. The United States has lost its way under President Bush, who too often has failed on both foreign and domestic fronts."

Monday, October 11, 2004

The Anguish of Christopher Reeve

Christopher Reeve's death today from heart failure is painful to us, even though we instinctively knew his body was not healthy. Doctors reported that he outlived by two years the life expectancy of a man with his traumatic injury.

His death is painful to us largely due to Mr. Reeve's obvious and public anguish at his situation. We felt his pain. He was a fit, handsome, wealthy man when tragedy befell him in the form of a balking Chestnut thoroughbred on May 27, 1995. Before the accident, he held all life had to offer....except God. He had a beautiful wife, three loving children, a successful career and an Ivy League-educated intellect. And he was an avowed atheist.

Mr. Reeve broke his neck, severing his spinal cord, and he became a quadriplegic. He had no bodily sensation or control below his neck. He considered suicide, until his wife convinced him that he was more than merely a physical body. He found strength and motivation to live in hope....hope that he would once again walk, feel, breath independently and regain his former life. He found hope, but he didn't find solace or peace.

With steely determination, he fought the medical establishment, he fought the political system, he fought conventional wisdom. He became a modern-day hero for his victories in fundraising for medical research to aid spinal cord victims. He became a tireless and effective advocate for the disabled. He became a role model of courage for all who face challenges.

But he never became content. He also fought God. "Even though I don't personally believe in the Lord, I try to behave as though He was watching," he told an interviewer in 1996.

He told Larry King in May 1998, "But I think that---while I don't believe in God, per se---I believe in spirituality....there is a higher power, there is more than just us, there is an inner strength, there is something, y'know, that comes from---I don't know where exacty it comes from, but it's---it really is the best that humans can be."

For the first time in his life, he began to sporadically attend a church two years ago. He said in an October 2004 Reader's Digest story," I think we all have a little voice inside us that will guide us. It may be God. I don't know. But I think that if we shut out all the noise and clutter from our lives and listen to that voice, it will tell us the right thing to do."

Christopher Reeve had begun his journey of faith. Of course, only God knows if Mr. Reeve reached the destination of his journey.

What we know is that Christopher Reeve was in anguish, not just because his body was broken, but also because he never seemed at peace. We hurt for him because we admired him, and we sensed his anguish. His was a restless, fighting, angry drive to find wholeness, and he didn't appear to find it. He never seemed to grasp that, as his wife expressed, he was more than a physical body. He also had a soul.

As the Apostle Paul said from a jail cell," ... for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances....I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength." -- Philippians 4:11-13

God bless Christopher Reeve, and everyone else who has not yet absorbed the meaning of Paul's words.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Cheney Does Good Cop Role on Gay Marriage

At the VP debate last Tuesday, Dick Cheney got to play the "good cop" role to George Bush's "bad cop," for a change, instead of the usual vice versa. Cheney sent the administration's positive comment half of their intentional mixed message about gay marriage. One of Cheney's daughters is gay, so he was the natural candidate for the "good cop" role to reach out to less conservative Republican and moderate voters.

He spoke positive words about his daughter's lifestyle, and then indicated that he does not support a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. He mumbled something unclear about states' rights, and then issue closed. Done. All this in direct contradiction to George Bush's earlier (now invisible) indignant public proclamations.

Later that evening on MSNBC, a Republican guest commentator openly chuckled with Ron Reagan about how gay marriage is a low priority issue for Bush and Cheney. They actually said (on camera!) what most voters now realize.....that Bush is using this issue only to "pander to their base." It's a low priority compared to Iraq, tax cuts for the very wealthy, privitization of social security to benefit the stock market, etc.

As I write this, I have my right hand on my Bible. Honest, they said it.

Gay marriage is a no brainer, no sweat political issue for Bush and Cheney, and nothing more. Bush may personally be opposed to gay marriage, but that has little connection to the ambitious, political man.

No brainer because it takes no strategic thought on their part. Bush pays lip service to supporting a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, and he automatically draws conservative evangelical support. And apparently, he also draws a free pass on all other moral, financial and social issues.

Cheney has the gay relative, so he deliberately plays the other side of the street, thus signaling to others that they don't really mean it (i.e. Bush's words).

No sweat because everyone knows that a constitutional amendment will never pass, and that the issue will be decided in the courts. By judges who are already on the bench. So outside of lip service, their hands are tied. They can't...they don't have anything. And whatever comes to pass, they can claim to be victims.

Bush and Cheney are clever politicians. I'll give them that. On the gay marriage issue, they've pulled off that most coveted political coup.....they are keeping their cake and eating it too, and their political base is blindly swallowing it.

It's sad, though, that millions of good, well-meaning conservative evangelical Christians believe their political hogwash, and plan to throw their votes away on this doubletalking good cop/bad cop twosome.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Gandhi's Seven Deadly Social Sins for Today

Mahatma Gandhi listed Seven Deadly Social Sins that he considered to be most spiritually damaging to humanity. This list is more relevant today than when he wrote it more than a half century ago.

Politics without principle.
Commerce without morality.
Science without humanity.
Knowledge without character.
Wealth without work.
Pleasure without conscience.
Worship without sacrifice.

Gandhi's remarkable words say it all.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

The Sad Truth About Bush and Cheney

What frightens me most about George Bush and Dick Cheney as leaders of our country is their capacity and proclivity to lie......continuously, compulsively, shamelessly, consistently, effortlessly, convincingly, purposefully, completely. They lie about everything, including verifiable statistics and auditable financial data. They just say it's wrong and partisan, and move on to their next fabrication. They have been caught in hundreds of lies and shadings of the truth. They even lie about their own words.

For example, in last night's VP debates, Cheney flatly stated that he never suggested that there was any link between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 attacks. NBC fished out a recent "Meet the Press" appearance by Mr. Cheney insisting that there was a direct link. We all remember many times when he and Mr. Bush have pointedly claimed such a link.

Leaders don't lie. They are not above or afraid of the truth. As children, we were taught to admire George Washington because he could never tell a lie. As adults, we came to admire Abraham Lincoln because he faced hard truths with courage.

Bush and Cheney are liars, and cannot be trusted. Their actions and words have proved it publicly on innumerable occasions.

It's a sad truth, but one that the American people must face and correct this election day, in order for our great country to get back on the track envisioned by our founders and forefathers.

"Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body." --- Ephesians 4:29

"Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men,
from men whose words are perverse....
whose paths are crooked,
and who are devious in their ways." --- Proverbs 2:12, 15

"...the truth will set you free." --- John 8:32

Monday, October 04, 2004

Stem Cell Dilemma - Sanctity of Life for Whom?

Last night, my 13 year old daughter asked about my views on stem cell research. I admit...I hadn't given it deep thought. We all know who supports it and who doesn't, but it's vital that we each read and understand for ourselves sanctity of life issues, so that we can arrive at coherent, non-political conclusions. So I did some reading....

Per my cursory review of the National Institutes of Health website, useful embryonic or fetal stem cell lines may be obtained from fertilized human eggs that are no more than a few days old, and from "fetal tissue" more than 8 weeks old. (Life begins at conception, to my mind. Anyone who says differently is denying obvious reality.)

Scientists believe that stem cells hold particular, dazzling promise to help us understand and develop cures for such diseases as Parkinsons, spinal cord injury, stroke, burns, heart disease, diabetes, various arthritis conditions and cancers. (If I hadn't read this list at a respected scientific org's site, I would consider it suspiciously over-hyped.)

First, I want to state that if obtaining stem cells from "fetal tissue" more than 8 weeks old destroys or harms it in any way the "fetal tissue," then it's wrong and shouldn't be done. It's a baby. Killing babies, or anyone, is wrong. It's against God's will, and all laws of morality and decency.

Arresting the development of a newly fertilized human egg is a sanctity of life issue, but so is developing cures for life-threatening or life-shattering diseases and disabilities. Jesus, as well as many of his disciples, frequently healed people. God wants us to be cured of our diseases.

Many many so-called right-to-lifers defend unborn or newborn life, but have negligible respect or regard for adult life. Death penalty, war, disease, environmental toxicity.....not sanctity of life issues of concern to them. For them, it's all and only about preserving the life of babies.

After some thought, here's what I told my daughter.

When a person is on life support systems.....their lifeless body, with no brain waves and no hope of recovery, is being kept alive only by machines....most people deem it acceptable with God to disconnect the machines. The person no longer has meaningful life. Their body is being kept alive artificially.

To me, a few days old, artifically-fertilized egg in a laboratory is not meaningful life. Like the body attached to life support equipment, it is being kept alive by artificial means. Like the body on life support, the egg has no feeling or sense of being.

People suffering from horrible, debilitating dieases have God-given meaningful lives. They have feelings...they have senses of being. And they have greatly diminished qualities of life without new research and ultimately, cures.

The common sense Christian answer to this sanctity of life dilemma is to allow use of newly fertilized human eggs in stem cell research. The sanctity of meaningful, engaged life must be weighed against the sanctity of the fertilized egg's life. There are no easy answers, but this is the reasonable solution.

I admit...I am neither trained ethicist nor doctor. But I do love our Lord, respect all God-created life, and have a heart for those who suffer needlessly when a solution could someday be at hand. During His earthly ministry, Jesus had a heart for all who suffered, and He still does.

To deprive men, women and children of this medical hope is cruel hair-splitting.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Hot Collectible DVD - Bush as Second Coming of Jesus

Can't wait to get my hands on multiple copies of a new DVD being released next week. It'll be a hot seller on eBay in a few years. You of those manias that seemed reasonable (to some) at the time, but we look back later and wonder.....What were we thinking?

I'm referring to a DVD being released on Oct 5, "George W. Bush: Faith in the White House," being offered for $14.95, although 300,000 free copies have been sent to conservative evangelical churches.

Excerpts from the New York Times about this film: "More than any other campaign artifact, it clarifies the hard-knuckles rationale of the president's vote-for-me-or-face-Armageddon re-election message. It transforms the president...into a prodigal son with the 'moral clarity of an old-fashioned biblical prophet.' Its Bush is not merely a sincere man of faith, but God's essential and irreplacable warrior on Earth."

"A towheaded child actor bathed in the golden light of an off-camera halo re-enacts the young George comforting his mom after the death of his sister; it's a parable anticipating the future president's miraculous ability to comfort us all after 9/11. An older Bush impersonator is seen rebuffing a sexual come-on from a fellow Bush-Quayle campaign worker hovering by a Xerox machine in 1988; it's an effort to imbue our born-again savior with retroactive chastity." (Anything to yank the smug conservative evangelical chain of someone else's sexual sin as worse than all other sins....)

"As for the actual president, he is shown with a flag for a backdrop in a split-screen tableau with Jesus. The message isn't subtle: they were separated at birth."

"Will George W. Bush be allowed to finish the battle against the forces of evil that threanten our very existence? ...Anyone who stands in the way of Mr. Bush and his godly battle, of course, is a heretic. Facts on the ground in Iraq don't matter. Rational arguments mustered in presidential debates don't matter. Logic of any kind is a nonstarter."

"Past presidents have rarely, if ever, claimed such godlike infallibility.Mr. Bush never admits to making a mistake. After all, if you believe that 'God wants me to be president" -- a quote attributed to Mr. Bush by the Rev. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention -- it's a given that you are incapable of making mistakes."

(When people are genuinely convicted that they're the Second Coming, don't we usually classify them as delusional and often dangerous?)

So I 'm saving my money to invest in some of these DVDs. Mark my words...these will be nostalgic eBay moneymakers someday, alongside mood rings, polyester leisure suits and Joseph McCarthy paranoia memoirs.

One question....what kind of pastors get sucked into such emotionally-hysterical, supremely arrogant, downright silly campaign nonsense? What does it say about their judgment?