“You’re What the French Call ‘Les Incompetents.'”

You disagree with the Affordable Care Act? Terrific. It is the constitutional right of every American, and therefore every Congressman, to oppose and work to overturn laws they find unjust or immoral or unwise. But trying to overturn or defund an existing law by tacking a rider onto a spending bill without which the entire government will shut down is like a toddler holding his breath so mommy will let him watch another hour of TV.

Government shutdown isn’t just some abstract thing. It means servicemen and women might not get their paychecks. It means regions that depend on tourism to their national parks are losing that revenue. It means federally-funded research hospitals have to stop doing their research. It means “essential workers” still have to go to work even though they aren’t getting paid. Oh, except for congressmen — their paychecks are written into permanent law and not dependent on the stopgap spending bills they’ve been passing for the last two years because they can’t seem to pass an actual budget. No WIC during the shutdown — sorry moms and kids! No federal civil trials — sorry, citizens’ right to a speedy trial! No DHS immigration checks — sorry, business owners who want to verify citizenship of prospective employees! Oh, and sorry, taxpayers; it’s going to cost you way more money to fix this than if the government hadn’t shut down, because once this debacle is over, we not only have to pay all the back paychecks that would have been paid anyway (ahem, that is, if Congress feels like doing that), we also have to find a way to fund the fines for contract delays and other administrative fees that are inevitable after a circumstance like this.

This should not be happening. So what do we do about it?

I heard two suggestions today that I really like. The first is that, if congress allows a government shutdown, their pay is immediately suspended for the duration of the shutdown, and they face serious fines if the shutdown continues past a certain date. The second is that, after a certain date, states may call emergency elections for all seats in the House, Senate, or both, depending on who’s dragging their heels. How much do you want to bet they would try harder for a solution if they know THEIR paychecks were on the line, not just the paychecks of 800,000 hard-working Americans?

Dear Congressmen: The functioning of the agencies and arms United States of America is not a bargaining chip. When it comes to laws, you are free to disagree, negotiate, bargain, play “Let’s Make A Deal” into the wee hours of the morning. But I did not send you to Washington to let the government shut down. Thanks.

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Reasons/Excuses/Fear

So. I started and stopped and started and stopped writing a series last year about feminism and the church and Christians and how we’ve historically been so opposed to the negatives of feminism (and caricatures of feminism) that we’ve thrown out the stuff we could really stand to learn from feminists and ignored the beliefs we share with them. I would read something exciting, get pumped to write the series, do some research, and then freak out because… well, for the following reasons in no particular order.

  1. The Internet is not known for its ability to understand subtle, nuanced arguments; trolls are no fun to deal with.
  2. I don’t want people to think I’m some lefty wacko, or that my views on this subject mean I’ve abandoned historic Christian teaching on God’s will for human sexuality and gender.
  3. (REALTALK:) I don’t want dudes to read this and say, “Ew, I don’t want to marry some man-hating feminazi.”
  4. Not a lot of people want to read about things like sexual abuse, objectification, the male gaze, and other five-dollar terminology that tends to populate the syllabi of Women’s Studies classes at universities across the country… no matter how much I absolutely believe they need to believe rightly about those things.
  5. It’s easier to write about Downton Abbey and the Bible study Methods class I’m teaching and the fun stuff I do on a Friday night (HA!) than about deep, complex issues.

Are those reasons? Are they excuses? Are they nothing but manifestations of my own fear of man? Am I basically permanently walling myself off from marriage by writing about feminism? (No, seriously, am I?)

Anyway, I feel really strongly about this stuff, and I think I’m going to go for it. So I guess the alternate title of this post could be “In Which Laura Psychs Herself Up.”

Christians Cannot Condone Torture. That’s All.

A nationally-known Christian author whom I respect a whole bunch commented recently that he was disappointed in a particular presidential candidate because the candidate spoke in favor of waterboarding. He said it shouldn’t be a tough call for Christians to oppose torture. The responses were… well, disheartening to say the least. Several people agreed with him, but more said stuff like, Well they’re stoning and beheading people, why shouldn’t we waterboard them, and If it saves lives, I’m all for it. You know what that is? It’s anti-gospel, man. It’s tit-for tat retribution, and it’s pragmatism.

This was my response:

Y’all, you know where the best pieces of actionable intelligence have come from? Not from waterboarding, but from cups of tea, a place to sleep, decent food and human conversation. (Note: read that brief article and listen to the story if you’re not convinced — “enhanced interrogation techniques” didn’t work where rapport-building DID, time and again.)

Terrorists prepare themselves psychologically for all kinds of real torture if they’re captured — electrocution, having their fingernails pulled out, having bones broken and body parts cut off, being raped. They’re told that Americans are monsters. The best way to get them to cooperate is to destroy that preconception of us. In other words, we win when we treat them with dignity, not because their actions deserve it, but because it’s what dignified, civilized people do. We don’t avoid torture because we’re “soft” — we refuse inhumanity because it reflects Truth about our common humanity and OUR commitment to what’s right.

A last thought: even if torture worked (which it doesn’t, as a whole), it’s the way we treat our enemies that tells us who we really are.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” — Jesus

?!??!?!??!?!??!

Believe it or not, in 2009, renewable energy sources had a smaller share of U.S. primary energy than they did back in 1949. Sure, wind and solar have grown dramatically in recent years, but in 1949, renewables—almost all of it hydropower—provided 9.3 percent of the country’s energy needs. In 2009, renewables—again, much of it supplied by hydropower—provided 8.2 percent of U.S. energy.

via Oil and gas won’t be replaced by alternative energies anytime soon. – Slate Magazine.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRGH!!!

Chilling Out About Politics

Here’s one of the major problems with the American political system.  We measure a politician’s pre-election success primarily by his ability to whip his listeners into an ecstasy of high-flown patriotic sentiment, to the point that we seem to vote for the most exciting candidate rather than the most qualified, or the one with the best ideas.

This is frustrating to me.  Do we not understand that (soundbytes that elicit cheers from huge crowds) < (intelligent ideas skillfully presented by a qualified person)?

And here’s where I love Jon Stewart, really: despite the fact that I largely don’t agree with him about politics, I love that he’s encouraging people to turn off the caps lock and stop trying to fit their entire political philosophy onto a t-shirt or a protest sign.

I think it’s a good word for pretty much everyone, honestly.  I’m not saying that you should cherish your political opinions with less fervor.  I’m not saying you need to become more politically moderate.  I’m just saying that, if the people you get your political news from make your blood pressure rise more than they make you think deeply and critically, you probably need to shut the TV off and read some Rousseau or something.

No, I’m Not a Traditionalist.

It ticks me off that people refuse to see the difference between Traditionalism and Biblical worldview.  I kind of get it when we’re talking about non-Christian folks.  But they’re not where the trouble lies.

The trouble is, we haven’t been bothered to separate the two.  We’ve been content to conflate the teachings of Scripture with Traditionalism, which is why people still think, among other things, that Christians hate women.  Um, hello?  Remember that guy Jesus chillin’ with all the ladies, from the rich patroness to the prostitute?  Remember how in the Gospels the eejits who don’t get it are a bunch of dudes, and the clever interlocutor, some of the few left at the cross, the one who gets to the tomb first, are women?

We’re ill-equipped to encounter that nonsense.  We can’t discern the absurd and wicked elements of Traditionalism because we think it’s what we believe.  We’ve been hornswoggled by our own equivocation.

Traditionalism sucks.  Traditionalism sucks because it’s an ideology that controls, that masters.  But tradition, like most ideas, is an all right servant.  Scorn for the past isn’t my thing.  It isn’t God’s thing.  But idealizing the past, idolizing the past, that will get you nothing but 40 years of wandering in the desert while you pine for the good ol’ days in Egypt, or 1955, or the Reagan years, or whatever.

We do it with politics too, we let some movement or institution or organization tell us what we believe, or at least what we can believe publicly.  Oh, you’re just like us because of whatever.  Jump on board the tea party express, or the hope and change bandwagon.  Christianity is a tool that political parties can wield.  Right?

Knock it off.  The Gospel is not a talking point to be hammered on, a political agenda, a social reconstruction plan.  It’s nothing to be co-opted and subsumed by a larger, another ideology.  There is no larger, no other ideology for the Christian.

In Which I Tell The Kids To Get Off My Lawn

Like I’ve said, this is my third year teaching at a classical school.  At this point in their education, most of my older students could wipe the floor with your average basement-dwelling twenty-something atheist (and sundry other contrarians), and don’t even get flustered when people try to challenge their firmly held beliefs.  They just bust out a syllogism and a few well-honed rhetorical flourishes and then graciously bandage their opponent’s wounds, without breaking a sweat.

Coming up to this election season, though, I sort of wish they could go to Washington and teach logic classes to politicians and pundits.  What do they teach in Ivy-league poli-sci classes these days?

Interviewer: So, your plan proposes decreasing the size and power of the federal government.  What programs will you cut to accomplish that?

Politician: Well, I think the American people will notice right away looking at the plan, that we’re blah blah blah capping discretionary spending blah blah a savings of over $100 million blah blah!  That’s a lot of money!  I think the American people are too stupid to follow an actual argument, so I’m going to throw around a lot of patriotic-sounding buzzwords and tell everyone that my plan will guarantee a sparkly unicorn to every family in the country AND set us on the path to financial solvency.  Except I won’t use the word “solvency” because I think Americans are idiots.

I: Are discretionary caps enough to result in that kind of savings?  Which programs in particular will be impacted by that discretionary cap?  Also: you’re a jerk.

P: Well, again, a $100 million savings in just the first year blah blah financial blah blah gibberish blah.  I think that the American people blah blah times of hardship blah blah lack of compassion blah blah.  Oh, and all those bleeding-heart liberals want to force every American to marry a unicorn and then agree to have no more than one unicorn-human-hybrid baby.  All I can say is, they’re just out of touch with middle America.  Midwesterners love unicorns, they support unicorns.  But if they’re going to have to marry unicorns, they’d better be able to have as many freakazoid humicorn offspring as they darn well please. It’s a constitutional right!

How inconceivable would it be for the conversation to go:

Interviewer: So, your plan proposes decreasing the size and power of the federal government.  What programs will you cut to accomplish that?

Politician: This plan eliminates approximately 220 federal programs.  It does not eliminate the services provided by those programs, however.  It turns their control over to the individual states.  Our Constitution grants all powers of government to the states, and we’re very serious about implementing a plan that accords with the law of the land! Besides which, it’s just common sense. Rather than the federal government trying, inefficiently, to manage these hundreds of programs, in the future, states will manage them.  This allows states to refine and personalize each program based on the needs of its citizens.  A more efficient system ensures that each citizen receives the services he or she needs without unnecessary delay.

Interviewer: That was… remarkably lucid for a politician.  Wow.

LOVE IT


The “Prime Minister’s Questions” part of C-Span coverage of the House of Commons, that is.

Here’s how it goes down: The MPs don’t address the PM directly, but ask the speaker, “Mr. Speaker, will the Prime Minister do such-and-such, or will he do such-and-such?” To which the PM replies, “Mr. Speaker, the Conservative members should remember this and that.” And during all this, the MPs are shouting “No!” or “Hear, hear!” depending what they think of what’s being said. They laugh loudly, boo loudly, insult each other (in the third person, since they don’t speak directly), holler, and shout each other down, while the Speaker chastises them if they go on too long, all with the utmost of British structure and politeness.

It’s brilliant.

Clinton Loyalty in the Obama White House

A fascinating chart of Obama staffers, plotted by experience and by loyalty to “Clintonism.” Obama’s made several good moves over the last couple of weeks as he vets potential appointees; he’s shown a prudent desire to surround himself with “prickly, semi-autistic, and egomaniacal” geniuses, as this article states, and he seems unafraid to work with smart, hard-working people, even if they hold very different positions and opinions than his own.

Chill Out, Praise God, and Let’s Pray

OK, so it looks like Barack Obama is the next president of the United States. Lemme ‘splain the title.

Chill out: Let’s all just take things down a few notches — liberals, dems, and Obama Girls, brotha is NOT Jesus. Conservatives, republicans, and Palinites, brotha is also NOT Satan. We’ve had a republican president for the last eight years; now we have a democrat. K. Let’s roll with that.

Praise God: He’s in control. “There is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Romans 13:1-2

Let’s pray: “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone–for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Stuff

Random list time!

Stuff Christians should stop freaking out about:

1. Halloween. Dude. What a bunch of wasted energy is poured into the anti-Halloween lobbying that happens every year!! Is Samhain a pagan holiday? Yup. Is Halloween a pagan holiday? Uh, no. It’s primarily the Eve of All Saints, and secondarily a cutesy Hallmark-perpetuated candy orgy/ excuse for little kids to dress up and show off their dressed-up-ness. Let your kids trick-or-treat, don’t let them trick-or-treat. Whatever. But please don’t try to convince me that the Bible says it’s wrong for Christians to let their kids put on Superman capes and go door to door asking for candy. Please.

2. Disputable issues like consumption of alcohol, R-rated movies, tattoos and piercings, birth control, etc. Read Romans 14, and remember that we’re not to look down on people who don’t feel freedom in these areas, nor judge those who do.

3. Politics. Christians can vote, be involved in their community political processes, argue passionately for their political positions, and even (in some circumstances) run for office. Should they hang all their hopes of their country being transformed for the better on a political party, politician, or ideology? Definitely NOT. The Kingdom of God isn’t Republican or Democrat or Green or Labour or any other such thing, and it won’t be advanced by the (conscious) efforts of secular political machinery. God will advance his Kingdom.

4. Anecdotes that “prove” our points. We’re so eager to latch onto this or that bit of scientific or archaeological or historical or sociological evidence that confirms our positions (like in this Boundless article), but we roll our eyes when pagans and atheists do the same (like with the ossuary found a few years ago containing the bones of a dude named Jesus son of Joseph). We ought to take an attitude of quiet confidence when it comes to these sorts of discoveries. Of course history, archaeology, and the like will confirm and support the Scriptures — God did, after all, create everything and all truth belongs to him — but that’s not why we trust the Scriptures. We trust them because God has, by his incomprehensible grace, enlivened our hearts and enabled us to see in the Scriptures the testimony of Christ, his perfect Son and our atoning sacrifice. So we should be glad, knowing that the Scriptures are true, when some new affirmation of their historicity comes to light, without placing our hope or confidence in those discoveries.

Stuff Christians should get more fired up about:

1. Nominal Christianity and twisted “Gospels.” Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen, TBN, Katharine Jefferts Schori, Ann Holmes Redding (the Muslim Episcopal priest), and Jeremiah Wright should not be given a free pass by Christians and pastors around the world. Just because someone claims to be a brother in Christ and uses churchy-sounding words does not make him a Christian. And don’t even get me started on hip-hop artists who give a shout-out to Jesus when they win a VMA for their hit single about making sure one ho don’t find out about another ho.

2. Manhood, womanhood, and families. The Scriptures we (supposedly) hold dear are full of instruction about and examples of what godly men, women, and families look like. Something is not right when people who call themselves Christians divorce with impunity, reject and despise God’s blessing of children, and in all other ways look just like the world in the way they live as men and women, and the way their families work. Early apologists and historians appealed to the morality and purity of Christian families as evidence for the truth of the Christian faith. Pretty tough to do that now, huh?

OK, that’s enough ranting and randomness for the day.

Maybe one more thing. I’m watching NCAA basketball RIGHT NOW. AWESOME.

And Now For Something Completely Different…

Michael Pollan’s beautiful, sweeping, joyous, practical, intense, inspiring, provocative, stunningly magisterial open letter to the incoming president (whoever he may turn out to be) in the Sunday New York Times Magazine section, all about revolutionizing and returning to our agrarian roots.

It’s nine pages long, wordy for a newspaper article, but is so thrillingly visionary that you’ll be finished before you know it. Can’t recommend it highly enough.

Abraham Lincoln: February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865

From Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address
March 4, 1865

It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

(ht: Craig)

Just to Clarify

I still think Obama is going to be the next president (…which, I guess isn’t all that bad. I like the guy’s earnestness and vision. Better than four more years of Billary, the Power Couple President. Ugh. And I told mom yesterday or the day before that I think he would be this generation’s JFK — a traditional democrat, and handsome, charismatic, earnest, personable — with all the “issues” that would raise) but I think the odds took a major turn with yesterday’s announcement. Before yesterday I would have laid 5-to-1 against McCain, or any Republican, getting elected. Now, I would say probably 2-to-1.

And now I have this stuck in my head.

WHAAAAAAA!?!?

OK, so I usually don’t get too into politics on this blog… or, well, at all, really. But when I heard this on NPR, I almost had to pull over, I was so flabbergasted. Dig it:

Mitt Romney suspended his faltering presidential campaign on Thursday, effectively sealing the Republican presidential nomination for John McCain. “I must now stand aside, for our party and our country,” Romney told conservatives.

“If I fight on in my campaign, all the way to the convention, I would forestall the launch of a national campaign and make it more likely that Senator Clinton or Obama would win. And in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign, be a part of aiding a surrender to terror,” Romney told the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.

Romney’s decision leaves McCain as the top man standing in the GOP race…

–AP

Pretty wild times in American politics, y’all. I wonder what had to have happened behind the scenes to precipitate such a radical decision? What sort of maneuverings and conversations took place amongst the Republican candidates that led the strong second-place candidate to drop out so suddenly?

Now, let me look into my crystal ball. Here are my predictions for the events of the next few weeks:

McCain will release a statement about the unity of the party, and declare Huckabee as his running mate, thereby securing the Southern Republicans and social conservatives he’s had a hard time courting so far (and simultaneously consummating their heretofore only hinted-at relationship). Once Huckabee is on the McCain ticket, Romney will formally endorse them, and go into hiding for awhile to let the spotlight be on “McCain/Huckabee for President!” which will consolidate and strengthen their position and put pressure on Clinton and Obama to present a united Democratic front while still competing against each other (uhh… don’t hold your breath for that one). The big Republican line for this upcoming election will then be one of the unity, cooperation, and like-mindedness of conservatives contrasted with the divisiveness and infighting of liberals.

Oh, and look for Romney to get a pretty cushy position somewhere in the McCain/Huckabee staff if they end up moving their digs to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave in early 2009.

The more I think about this move of Romney’s, the more I think he (or somebody!) is crazy like a fox to do this. This party consolidation and momentum is absolutely the only thing that gives the Republicans a snowball’s chance in Gehenna to get their man in the White House. Just think how a unified McCain/Huckabee ticket this early in the race puts the Dems on the defensive. This is a strategic move that was brokered by some incredibly savvy politicos.

Communing with the Anglican Communion (MORE UPDATES)

CHECK OUT THE LINKS AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS ARTICLE!

I am a Baptist. I strongly identify with historical Baptist roots, by which I do NOT mean the temperance movement or the “freedom” (read: rank individualism) so many Baptists claim while attempting to ordain homosexuals or something like that. By historical Baptist roots, I refer to that community of believers so committed to what they believed to be the Biblical pattern of believers’ baptism that they were willing to risk excommunication and even death by withholding infant baptism from their children and by being baptized as adults.

All that being said, it is a joy to be friends with Presbyterians, Anglicans, and others whose practices in the area of paedo-baptism I do not share, but whose beliefs in so many other areas I DO share!

But I have grown up and lived most of my life in America, where the Episcopal Church USA has shown itself time and again to be the Oholah and Oholibah of biblical revisionism and flat-out heresy! The World Anglican Communion, of which the ECUSA is a part, has repeatedly called for repentance from its straying daughter; the election of an openly homosexual bishop and the instating of a woman as Presiding Bishop over America were merely the latest in a long line of efforts on the part of the ECUSA to alienate millions of faithful Anglicans worldwide.

The actions of the ECUSA have shown them to be (as a denomination, of course — this is not to say that faithful, believing Episcopalians do not exist within local bodies across America) presumptuous, arrogant, elitist, narrow-minded, and, dare I say it? Racist. They cavalierly make decisions anathema to the vast majority of their brethren in developing nations, assuming that whatever choices they make will be lauded by those poor, ignorant, third-world bishops and priests. For the ECUSA to flaunt its faithlessness, ignoring the pleas of African and Asian bishops to return to Scripture, is nothing less than what I said above: elitism and racism. We in the West know SO much better than you, they seem to say. We’ve successfully rubbed out any remnants of a medieval view of sin and are now liberated from feeling bad about ourselves! We’re free to make our god look however we want him or her to look! Catch up with the West, you poor, backward savages!!

This week, 35 Anglican leaders are meeting in Tanzania. I will be praying for the Lord’s hand to be on these men as they again extend a call for repentance to the ECUSA. May they all be stirred to spread the Gospel anew, and to root out the evil influence of man-centeredness. May this meeting be a turning point in the Anglican Communion, and a corporate return to Biblical faithfulness. Lord, pour out a spirit of repentance and grief for sin! Do not abandon these brothers or give them over to a depraved mind, but instead stir up renewal among them and re-visit them with your Holy Spirit!

And may “Bishop” Jefferts-Schori not hear her alarm clock and miss the whole meeting!

UPDATE: Seven Bishops from the global South, who collectively represent over 30 million faithful Anglicans, refused to receive the eucharist with Katharine Jefferts-Schori Friday. These men have declared that their provinces are in a state of “broken” communion with the Episcopal Church. 6 other bishops have stated that their provinces’ communion with the Episcopal Church is “impaired.”

Please continue to pray that God’s perfect will is done through this difficult meeting. For more info, check out Virtue Online and CAPA.

UPDATE #2: Sorry to keep harping on about this, but you all have GOT to read this article from Virtue Online about biblical vs. unbiblical “reconciliation.” Fantastic! I have a feeling this site is going to become one of my regulars.