Hope and Relief

I really appreciate this article, which describes the near unanimous hope and relief around the world regarding Obama’s victory. I think it says a lot about what the past 8 years of “neocon” rule in the U.S. has done to our reputation and standing on the world stage, and I continue to thank God that the American people had the sense to repudiate “the Bush doctrine,” among other things, by voting Obama into office. Moreover, as a Christian, I continue to be appalled by many things about the  McCain/Palin campaign, including their choice of a campaign slogan: “Country (America, presumably) First.” While I recognize that the U.S. is a secular state and so it does not offend or surprise me when it behaves as such, it’s incredibly troubling when so-called “Christians” (especially the Religious Right) fail to appropriately distinguish between their identity as Christians and their identity as members (and even/especially as servants) of this secular state. This “civil religion” serves many purposes (most notably, perhaps, winning elections!), but as Scripture reminds us, “you cannot serve two masters,” but I digress. 

Anyway, as a Christian, I, for one, do not put “country first.” Quite simply, I put Jesus first. He is the only One to whom I can with good conscience “pledge allegiance,” for He is my only Lord. Furthermore, this notion of “America First” is, I think, not only wrong-headed and double-minded for would-be Christians, but is, in fact, dangerous for the U.S. and the world. Unfortunately, the record is clear that when you think you’re #1, you start acting like it. You make unilateral decisions and treat the rest of the world like they’re second-best, if not unimportant. The evidence for this, again especially over the past 8 years, is so overwhelming and egregious that it’s hardly worth mentioning, but for the record, it is summed up nicely by the article linked above: 

“Obama’s election offers most non-Americans a sense that the imperial power capable of doing such good and such harm – a country that, they complain, preached justice but tortured its captives, initiated a disastrous war in Iraq, turned its back on the environment and greedily dragged the world into economic chaos – saw the errors of its ways over the past eight years and shifted course.”

Dear God, for the sake of the U.S. AND the world, let it be so!

What?! Socialism in the Bible? Say It Isn’t So!

So I’m still mired in a Facebook debate about the election, this time in response to this article:


I probably get a bit pointed in my responses below, but like I say, it’s been a long election season.

(Working hard to give a measured response here…) It still shocks me how often “Christians” are double-minded about this stuff. “Conservative Christians” seem to like treating the U.S. like a theocracy (which, last I checked, it’s not) when it comes to “moral” issues like abortion and, from their point of view, gay marriage, but are outraged when more “liberal” Christians want to use the power of the state to bring about justice, included the much maligned- but entirely Biblical- “spreading the wealth around.” Ever hear about Jubilee, folks? That’s in your Bible too. If all Christians focused as much on loving and serving the “least of these” as Jesus and Scripture do, we’d have little to disagree about.

  • My friend replied on 3:43pm November 4: “Please Robert, show me some scripture from the Bible. I would like to know where you are getting this. I do not see in the Bible where the government is spreading the wealth. I do see the Lord wants you to give to the poor.”

I then go on to say:

Here you go: Exodus 21:2-6, Exodus 23:10-11, Leviticus 25:1-7, 18-22, and Deuteronomy 15:1-11, 12-18. In the theocratic society of the First Testament, God’s special concern for the poor was so pronounced that provisions were made in the Law for a Sabbath Year. After six years of working the field, God’s people were to let the land lie fallow. This served a number of purposes, including taking into account what we would now call “environmental concerns” (apparently God’s a tree-hugger; go figure), and more importantly, providing for the poor. During the Sabbath Year the poor were permitted to harvest whatever grew of its own accord, thus insuring they had something to eat. More importantly, all debts among neighbors were to be forgiven (there’s that pernicious” spreading the wealth around” by “government”- since it was written into the Law, after all).

Oh, but that’s not all. God really shows his socialist colors (sorry, it’s been a long election cycle) when he doesn’t just stop with the Sabbath Year, but also calls for a Jubilee Year. The Jubilee was to occur every 50 years (after 7 Sabbath Years, interesting, eh?). In the Jubilee Year, not only did all of the above occur, but also the following:1) compulsory restoration of ancestral lands to families that may have lost control of the land, and redemption of land by other family members; (2) the emancipation of all Israelite indentured servants whose term of servitude was unexpired; (3) the emancipation of all Israelite indentured servants who had opted to become long-term “slaves” to their Israelite “masters” even when their original term of servitude had been completed (apparently an additional regulation to insure that servitude of one generation would not become multi-generational); (4) land allocations for Levites.

Silly God, here he is in the Jubilee freeing slaves and disrupting hard-fought land gains by making everybody give everything back to the original owners. It’s no wonder the people wanted a king like everybody else rather than having to abide by all this goody-two-shoes share and share alike nonsense. But hey, thank goodness (not God, naturally) that smart Westerners finally came up with free market capitalism by which we can entrench minority groups in cycles of generational poverty and insure a form of economic slavery more than a century after Christian slaves and northern liberals finally had the good sense to overthrow their Christian masters. Sorry, I’m ranting there against my “Christian” private school Texas education that inculcated all that nonsense about state’s rights, etc.

Anyway, hopefully you see my larger point. I’m saying you can’t have it both ways. If you want the U.S. to act like a theocracy by legislating Christian mores (according to some) regarding abortion and gay rights, you better be prepared for the same argument to be made about equally valid (and perhaps more Biblical, even!) mores concerning the Biblical call for economic justice through government redistribution of wealth (property). It’s still amazing to me that rock stars like Bono have more of a prophetic voice about this stuff than many Christians, but I digress. For more, see:   



Just a Few of the Many Reasons Why I’m Excited to Cast My Vote for Barack Tomorrow

I posted the following on Facebook a few moments ago, and thought I’d share it here:

So a high school buddy of mine posted a link on Facebook recently about the election, and then there were several responses. As I’ve been looking for that post and the related comments tonight, strangely they appear to be gone. Anyway, after I suggested that I couldn’t cast my vote based on “one issue” (abortion) alone, my friend said, “I differ with Obama on more than just one issue: Sanctity of Life, Federal hate crimes, ENDA, Federal DOMA, and Iraq withdrawal.”

So here’s what I really, really struggle with. I can understand a Christian saying that he disagrees with Obama on the “sanctity of life” as it relates to abortion, but as I said in the original thread, I think this limited view misses the larger point. If, as Christians, we are to value life, then we should do so fully and consistently. If murder is wrong, then killing the unborn child is wrong, yes, but so is state murder of criminals and the state murder of combatants (lawful or otherwise). And this, of course, says nothing of the slow murder of children and the mothers who carry them to term but who, for whatever reason, are ill prepared to raise and support them and receive little support from the government- let alone the so-called “Church” as they struggle to do so. I sincerely believe that if all Christians worked as hard at ending poverty as they do at ending abortion, there’d be so few abortions in this country that ending them might finally and actually be a viable option.

Moving on to “federal hate crimes,” I can only assume that my friend was referring to the failed Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which Obama was a co-sponsor of. For more on the proposed act, go here: http://obama.senate.gov/press/071206-obama_statement_106/. This one really baffles me. This legislation would have “strengthen(ed) the federal government’s ability to assist local authorities in the investigation and prosecution of crimes motivated by hate and which would provide additional funds to states to develop hate crime prevention programs. The Act would have also expanded the definition of a hate crime to include those crimes perpetrated because of sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and disability.” Now, while I may disagree mightily with their interpretation of the very few passages of Scripture which may or may not be referring to homosexuality as we know it today, I can nonetheless understand the Christian who says homosexuality is a sin. Still, by any definition I can come up with, I’m pretty sure that hate crimes, according to Scripture, would be sinful too. So, why, how, could anyone who says they have or want to have “the mind of Christ” possibly be opposed to legislation which seeks to punish those who would do evil to homosexuals?! One sin does not cancel the other one out, and it would seem to me that violence is the far more egregious of the two. Since we’re on the topic, the Federal Defense of Marriage Act should come into play here too. According to his website, Obama believes it should be repealed, and frankly this seems utterly consistent with the above. While some Christians may make the case that homosexuality is wrong according to (a few scattered passages in) the Bible, the matter is far from settled even for many Christians. So it’s a bit presumptuous, at the very least, to seek to impose this belief on an unwilling populace in a secular state, especially when doing so often goes hand-in-hand with oppression and violence toward the GLBT community and/or those who support them. Again, two wrongs do not make a right, and after all it’s not all that long ago that “well meaning” Christians made eerily similar arguments about slavery and women’s rights. We’re on a roll here so let’s tackle ENDA too. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (go here:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Employment_Non-Discrimination_Act) “provides employment protections similar to those of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (also known as ‘Title VII’), but specifically directed to gay, lesbian, bisexual (and under HR 2015, transgender) employees.” I think all of what I’ve said above about GLBT should suffice for refuting this “disagreement with Barack” too. One final point is in order, though, for too many Christians these two “hot button” issues are just that- issues. I challenge any so-called Christians who would take the positions of my friend above against equal rights under the law- in a secular state- for the GLBT community to actually take the time to get to know and, dare I say, love (as Christ commands!) a GAY person. It is only, I believe, when such matters are decided relationally rather than in some abstract, remote fashion that God’s will can even come close to being done. 

Finally, regarding the war, I get the argument that says an abrupt U.S. withdrawal from Iraq would prove terribly destabilizing to Iraq and the region and may even lead to increased terrorism on U.S. soil, etc. Still, it seems to me this is a weak argument for continuing an unjust, self-serving, hypocritical war whose greatest toll has been on the “least of these” in Iraq! I wish “W,” who says he is a Christian, had read his Bible a bit more thoroughly. For starters, the passage about “counting the cost” comes immediately to mind, not to mention some on lying, greed, etc. To declare victory on a ship (at incredible taxpayer expense!) just weeks into what is now a 5-year-old war, as President Bush did on 5/1/2003 seems ill-advised, to say the very, very least. To justify the war on the basis of alleged WMD’s, which- as we all know- were never found, and to do so somehow in response to 9/11, is simply preposterous. It is now generally accepted that the link between 9/11 and Saddam was tenuous at best, though the more likely scenario is that this alleged link was an outright invention by the Bush administration. In hindsight, it seems clear that 9/11, in highly convenient fashion, was a mere pretext for what the administration had it in mind to do all along; that is, finish the job that Bush, Sr. failed to complete in the original Gulf War. That, however, says little about securing U.S.’ oil interests, which is an all-too-convenient “unintended consequence,” to put it optimistically. There are many, many reasons why I, as a Christian, am compelled to oppose this war, but I’ll try to keep this brief. When Michelle Obama said that for the first time in her life she was “proud to be an American,” I could really understand where she was coming from as an African-American in this country. Relatedly, for the first time in my (post Watergate, post Vietnam) life I’ve been truly ashamed to be an American as it relates to this story. Whatever my opinion on the theology of “just war,” I might have felt at least some measure of pride at being from the country that sacrificed so much in wars past to rid the world of great evil, with World War II coming notably to mind. Naturally, we entered that war in self-defense with a clear picture of who the (state) aggressors were, etc. I’ve even joined the chorus of those who bemoan the actions of many German Christians who failed to do more to check the violent aggression of Hitler as he invaded and occupied state after state, whatever his justifications were. So imagine my shame at seeing my country become such a violently aggressive state. Obviously, the events of 9/11 are horrific and demanded a vigorous response, though if our leaders had exercised a bit more wisdom in seeking to understand why we were attacked and in the meantime got some actually viable intelligence about who was responsible and who was (and was not) connected to them, I think the entire world would be a much, much safer place today. By the way, this is why I love Obama’s call to national service in the Peace Corps (not just the “war corps”), and I strongly believe that this is just the type of leadership that should have been exercised in the wake of the 9/11 tragedy. If we as a country worked as hard at winning the “hearts and minds” of our enemies as we do at bombing them into submission, they might not be enemies. Anyway, “the Bush doctrine” (of pre-emptive war), in this Christian’s opinion, is not only a recipe for a more violent and dangerous world, but is flat out wrong, evil, and un-Biblical. If murder is wrong, it’s wrong. Sure, God gives the state the power of the sword to restrain evil, but “restraining evil” seems to have had little to do with the administration’s rush to war, and for the sake of all those who now suffer because of our ill-advised haste, it is imperative that we end the evil (our violence and the violence it has begotten) as soon as possible.

So for my friend who says he disagrees with Barack on “more than one issue,” it seems that it’s not more by much. Really, I count two: (1) the sanctity of life and (2) whether or not to love the homosexual and fight for his rights as a “neighbor,” and my friend’s stance on issue (1) seems terribly inconsistent, both in regard to abortion/murder generally and in regard to all the state murders being committed in the name of (a very unjust) war.