Sunday, August 23, 2009

ELEPHANTS OR DONKEYS?

A lot of Christian put their hope in party or politicians. Many white Christians have trusted the GOP to stand for the right to life, for traditional moral values, lower taxes, a capitalist economy, and for maintaining certain constitutional freedoms. Many minority and white "progressive" Christians have trusted the Democrats to stand for general fairness, for worker rights, for less intervention on the world stage, and for what they perceive as a fairer distribution of wealth.

Has ANY of this trust been well-placed? I'll let the record speak for itself. We are going through a mind-blowing time when the GOP self-destructed with absurd contradictions and the Democrats are selling the country out both here and abroad. What is a serious Christian to do?

For the longest time, many Christians eschewed politics. They saw it as dirty and irrelevant to Christians seeking to live holy and win the world for Christ. Many Christians were not registered to vote. Politics was simply a dirty word. Then change came. First, shortly after he civil war, in the African American community, huge voting drives occurred, 90% of Blacks in the south voted, and obstacles were removed and Blacks were placed into office. Then a pushback occurred with various games at the polls, violence from the Klan, Jim Crow, and massive disenfranchisement. These gains laid in a comatose state until the 1950's and 1960's when voter activism was reignited.

Meanwhile, in the majority community, while the mainstream Christians voted, many in the more Fundamental churches did not. They saw politics as hopelessly corrupt and not productive, preferring to wait for Jesus to take them away from this mess. Coming into the sixties, they were disturbed by the final ban of official prayer and Bible reading in the public schools, though at the time of those decisions, only about half of schools were still honoring God that way. I was in school out west in the 1950’s and they did not have prayer and Bible reading in the schools. In fact, at least 40% of America's schools did not. Yet to make it a federal mandate went a step further, and many say they trace the fall of our culture to that decision.

The truth be known, God had not bee honored for years. In the 1950’s, there was the epitome of Christianity without the power – platitudes, but not life changing power. In the 1920’s there was loose living and materiality. Many forget that when television first came on the scene, vile content came early and often. That is why the decency rules were made – to solve a problem. Seminaries were going theologically liberal, and the Bible was mocked in many quarters. Harvard went Unitarian in the early 1800’s and Yale was considered hopeless spiritually even as our nation was founded. Princeton was derogatively called “Princeton Bible School” because of the sound preachers who went across the grain.

There was a reason Jonathan Edwards in themed 1700’s preached his famous “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” – the people were wicked and in need of a savior. If you back another hundered years, it was actually a crime to preach “The Gospel of Jesus Christ” in Virginia! Pastors who tried were put in jail. “Churchianity was the order of the day. What made true Christianity not only legal, but also preferred, what removed children from 14-hour-a-day sweatshops, and what freed the slaves and emancipated women was the moving of God through people who affected the political system and the status quo in a positive manner.

Yet Christians in the 1960’s were convinced Christ was coming soon, believed a simplistic version of American History when things simply were going downhill from bad to worse, and all this was just another sign of the end. The truth of the cycles in American History that mirrored her spirituality was largely a lost truth. There was quite a bit of fatalism - remember "The Red Menace" and other prescient warnings of the time? There was a similar film shown in our church. The world slowly turned Red, country by country. America was he last to fall, with the whole world against her. (Hmmm - maybe I'll watch that again if I can find it!) We were waiting for Jesus to rapture us out of his mess.

Meanwhile, God was a Republican. After all, Little Rock was integrated because of Ike's action, the civil rights legislation of 1964 was passed because of Republican votes, with the most virulent racists being Democrats. Bull Connor, Lester Maddox - dogs and fire hoses - all wielded by Democrats. One could feel pretty good about being a Republican and not at all feel guilty about sitting in all-white churches because after all, we were doing good by everyone, and after all, didn't Black people really prefer worshipping by themselves anyway? I remember my mother saying that southern whites were good folks. They simply had this thing about race. My mom knew the Word well, but somehow that inconvenient truth in the book of James escaped her – the passage that dealt with partiality, and that if you transgressed in one area, you transgressed in all. So even if you avoided adultery and all those other nasty sins, if you were partial, you were guilty of all of it. And of course, northern whites had almost as many issues themselves. I am thankful my mom was loyal first to Jesus, because as she worked in the welfare department and interacted with our neighbors (we lived in a very integrated neighborhood in Plainfield, NJ), we came to the point she could hear God tell her not to fight him when I decided I wanted to marry a Black woman. It is only God, not politically correct education that changes anyone, Southerner or Northerner.

So I lived among Black people most of my life, saw an interracial family that lived across the street, belonged to an integrated boys organization, and went to a highly integrated an diverse high school, but as the cliché goes, 11am on Sundays is the most segregated hour in America. I remember the rehearsed response that was to be given to any Black person visiting the church - "Wouldn't you feel more comfortable" with a list of good Black churches right at hand. That bothered me a lot and I have done my best to avoid purposefully segregated churches since. Problem is - most still essentially ARE SEGREGATED. White churches by their flavor, music, etc. generally attract only minorities who actually prefer the more laid back style, with the minority of the churches (often Pentecostal) who do wear their emotions on their sleeves tending to have more diversity, even while their speech is often the least sensitive or politically correct. Black churches talk a lot about diversity and all, but the worship style, open political discourse, and "we-them" thinking often enforce segregation just about as much in practical terms as those rehearsed condescending speeches did.

Lyndon Johnson was elected in a landslide and the "Great Society was born". The observers remained observers. What brought change to the most conservative Christians in the majority community was the emergence of Roe v. Wade in the early 1970's. All of a sudden Christians saw a major change coming which attacked life itself. In the lead-up to that fateful and constitutionally flawed decision, Christians voted for Nixon even with misgivings about his other positions. This was the cause celebre in the conservative churches. All manner of Christian-based political organizations were formed and a whole lot of Christians became involved in the movement. Unfortunately, though minorities said they shared in opposing abortion, a coaliion was not forthcoming. The minority community was still prioritizing "social justice" issues that the white community saw as either being solved already or else going too far "in the other direction". If each could have supported the other, a voting block that would forever have to be dealt with would have been formed. Instead, white churches were for the most part content to be white churches and Black churches were content to be Black churches and so it is to this day, the eternal rhetoric about diversity and coming together notwithstanding.

Whites were enthralled when Reagan was elected. Though he never made more than perfunctory comments about God, not uttering the magic "born again” phrase, he did believe in his country. "God and Country". 1 1/2 out of 2 ain't bad. He seemed to have no racial agenda, and by and large, once the missteps of the Carter years worked there way out of the system, everybody prospered more. The Christians saw a lot of growth numerically, and were determined not to slip back. Unfortunately, Reagan, like so many Republicans, took a gentlemanly approach to politics. He was bamboozled and appointed two poor Supreme Court Nominees. He also had a Vice President with whom he shared little in common. Nonetheless, despite withering criticism from some quarters, a small but influential number of very intellectual and prospering Blacks were also drawn to his message, and at last there were people who regardless of color stood for life, moral standards, hard work, and a gentle leadership here while being tough abroad. From then on, divisions became more political than racial in many quarters. It wasn’t the color of your skin, but the color of your politics – Red or Blue. However, as the 17% of Blacks who voted against Bill Clinton dropped to only 5% who voted against Barack Obama,, rightfully or wrongfully, too many people saw Red as white and Blue as Black, though that was not nearly that simple.

From Roe v. Wade on, though, Republicans knew what to say to white Christians to get their vote, but they seldom followed through with the social agenda in any powerful way. While to his credit, Bush did what he could to put some roadblocks in the way of unbridled abortion, and built on Bill Clinton’s Defense of Marriage Act, the GOP Congress elected in 1994 fell far short of its potential to put a firewall against the encroaching gross immorality that was building in the country. While gaining ever larger numbers of Black Conservatives because of unprecedented high level appointments of Blacks to positions with high international exposure instead of the traditional backwater domestic agenda jobs that were the grist of Democratic appointments, a dogged "race-neutral" posture developed that caused many conservatives to openly admire Blacks who agreed with their agenda, and it also appealed to Black business people who had come up the hard way and seen success. Nonetheless, because Republicans are generally inept at politics as opposed to the well-oiled Democratic machine, and because most of the media belittled them like the proverbial bully, they failed to connect with the masses. Much of this had nothing to do with policy, but perception. The most sweeping economic progress for Blacks came in the 1950's and the 1980's, and in the late 1990’s when Clinton went fiscally conservative with the GOP Congress, but with much slippage now due to high unemployment. High unemployment has hurt many Blacks worst than whites because of lower assets and reserves, so it is no picnic right now. Simply put, more conservative fiscal policy benefits Blacks because of the number of jobs and general business expansion.

So, Elephants and Donkeys. Which first? We'll flip a coin. Heads it is! Elephants have the biggest heads by far, so we'll start there.

Republicans have a long history, and by their very name, exalt the idea of a REPUBLIC. A republic is not a democracy per se, but an entity based upon having leaders that are chosen for their integrity and willingness to make decisions consistent with the founders written ideas codified in our Constitution and the thinking behind them. The idea of a pure democracy is pooh-poohed, since mob rule is not productive, and people can be stirred up to lean one way based upon the flimsiest of arguments. Remember the crowds that were so artfully manipulated in Bible days? Or in the 2,000 years since for that matter? A look at the crowd in Libya celebrating the Lockerbe bomber or the much larger assemblies in Palestine celebrating the collapse of the Twin Towers as seen in the movie OBSESSION show how crowds can get ginned up. The wildly fluctuating polls in our own country show the ease with which the masses can be manipulated. Almost as extreme as the change in public opinion during Passion Week. The Electoral College was formed precisely because of the finicky nature of public opinion. Representative democracy is meant to even out those hills and valleys, and Republican leaders by and large do what they think best and get either praise or condemnation for it. They are not driven by polls, and do little to defend themselves when attacked.

Lincoln freed he slaves, 90% of southern Blacks voted after the civil war, and Black and White Republicans had their blood shed because of this rapid progress. While the gains of reconstruction were short -lived, Blacks were loyal to the Republicans until FDR. Truman cemented the switchover by integrating the Federal Service. While Ike acted on Little Rock and the GOP provided the votes needed for the Civil Rights bill while openly racist southern Democrats opposed it, by and large Blacks voted Blue. Many do not know that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Republican until Kennedy, historically a fairly reluctant man on civil rights, helped King out. Actually, Ike received 40 of the Black vote in 1956, a number never to be repeated. Later on, Clinton managed 83% and 84% in his elections, meaning only one out of six Blacks did not vote Blue. The number dropped to 1 in 20 in 2008, where many voted based upon race to finally have an openly minority president (we actually had several others, who were not open about it).

In the case of President Bush, he was stalwart on the Iraq war, but bent on other issues, which gained him no blue votes, but huge losses in his own Party. McCain learned nothing from that, and tried to be more flexible on his beliefs, which gave him tepid support at best and a lost election despite a massive experience advantage. I couldn’t stand the guy. Obama was much more likable, but a Presidential Election should be more than a popularity contest. The obvious friction between his "soft democrat" style and Palin's more traditional Republican "black and white" way of looking at things will likely be the fodder of some new book to come.

So even though McCain was selected by Democrats in many quarters during the primaries, and anointed by so many as one who would move the Party left a bit, the sad fact for the GOP was that even Colin Powell, whose politics were a pretty close mirror to McCain’s, abandoned him for Barack Obama. Liberal Republicans keep trying to get the party to drop its opposition to abortion and deviant “marriage”, but that is insane. Most Americans oppose both. Those in favor or who believe no one can effectively deal with those issues vote Democratic. Why would anyone vote for a Democrat wannabe? And where would those whose belief is Biblical and not simply political go? They would sit on their hands or go third party.

Meanwhile, though the party has high loyalty by small business, which feels the brunt of wasteful spending and useless regulation more than anyone, the party is perceived as the pawn of BIIG business. Ironically, BIG business has actually worked hard to mirror government goals and profits the most from government programs. The recent money given to banks was gladly accepted, some to be used within days to buy other banks, as PNC did. If banks were in such trouble, who would want another one?

To be sure, tax policy was seen to benefit the rich. Well, there is no denying it did. While it is true that the rich pay the preponderance of taxes, mot people do not see why those over one million should get any breaks. Actually, it was the GOP tax cuts that took so many off the tax rolls that they built a coalition against them. Why would people envy themselves anything if someone else is paying for it? The GOP has never figured out how to build up small business while keeping everyone invested in the system and no real or perceived favoritism to the rich. God says we are not to show favoritism to the rich OR the poor, but simply be fair. While many believe the rich are paying more than their fair share, it is uneven. Perhaps if they all paid according to the rates it would be one thing, but a trip to Bermuda or other havens will show that the rich are resourceful in greatly reducing their tax burden. The people most effected right now, and where the opposition is trying to milk the most whether in raising or eliminating the social security cap or outright tax increases are the small business people. They provide the most jobs and are the backbone of so many local communities. They have felt current policies more than anyone and flock to the GOP simply to survive.

So often, the GOP has not been forceful. Bush let himself get trashed daily and kept the “bully pulpit” in mothballs. When making statements, too many GOP people still trust the media not to edit what they say to make hem look like fools. Time and time again they are not politically smart. They are often their own worst enemy

Are the Donkey’s any better? Well, I am a Donkey – officially that is. Back in 1970 it was practically unheard of for any college kid with half a brain to register GOP. We were taking over buildings, protesting the war, and in general looking for a better and more just society. Democrats have always been inspirational on that score. Mario Cuomo’s soaring rhetoric. Barack Obama’s 2004 speech. However, is anyone better because of Cuomo’s speech? Was it more than words? Words are what Democrats like – “just” sounding words, “fairness” sounding words, “hope” sounding words, They seek to control speech to filter out what they find offensive. Is the motive bad? No, of course not. It I GOOD! Words do hurt. Insensitivity does matter. I cringe when I hear what some folks say. I strive to be sensitive and caring and race neutral in what comes out of my mouth. Do words actually mean someone is right, though? Of course not! Some of the most racist insensitive people I know are the most hair-trigger about anything they perceive as not politically correct. A change of heart in the most important, and all the words in the world without action men nothing. When it comes to action, Democrats, like Republicans, have taken unpopular stands and suffered for them. They have stuck their neck out and unselfishly tried to make the world a better place.

I certainly was one who voluntarily served my country in VISTA seeking to give people a voice and to stand up for the poor and disenfranchised. I was a conscientious objector and did not and still do not believe that Christians should be fighting in wars. I was trained by the Quaker Project in non-violent passive resistance. I worked in the most liberal atmospheres imaginable, while still be stalwart about LIFE, about MORALITY, and about all the rest of the social issues. The liberals who worked with me sometimes looked at me askance, but the people I served loved me. It was great to hear a rather nationalistic young lady tell me, “I forgot you were white!” The fact is, what was perceived was that I was doing what I was doing from my heart, not for any ulterior motive. I was serving Christ by serving the people, and was sharing some of the skills God had given to me to supplement the skills God had given to the people so all could advance.

For a while, there was some tolerance for people like me in the Democratic Party. People like me were “Caseycrats”, in the mold of Pennsylvania’s late governor Bob Casey – popular then, despised by the current leadership now because he did not tow the line on issues of conscience where he let his faith govern. While Carter seemed not totally satisfying on the issues, he did claim to be born again, and a whole lot of people, even my Republican family, voted for him, figuring any born again person would do right in the end. Carter rapidly proved himself unsuited to the job – with the disaster in Iran sapping his strength, and extremely poor judgment in selecting people to surround him resulting in him changing drastically in office. Eventually, he wrote in his book that Jesus was no longer the only way, and today he is one of Israel’s worst enemies in the irresponsible things he says. One now wonders how our country survived his presidency. Carter was put out on a rail, and from then on, the Democratic base became far more openly left. With that, came the dogmatic “holier than thou” attitudes of sixties radicals. Hey, I felt that way! We honestly believed that other people simply did not get it and that our ideas were superior in every way. We actually very often WERE right, but the pride of those days continued when the agenda went south.

I mean, who could argue with peace, justice, and brotherhood? Particularly if you were also a “Jesus Freak”? As Christians, we eschewed drugs, promiscuity, and the other sinful behaviors which eventually captivated so many from that generation who are now in charge. Radical environmentalism, non-biblical variants of feminism, and eventually homosexuality became mantras of a movement that lost touch with the significant numbers of Christians that were part of it (except the compromisers who now take their cue from it instead of from God) and became openly hostile to the sensibilities of many never in that movement. That brought some serious consequences to bear.

Historically, Democrats like to think of themselves as the party of the people. They want their leaders to be responsive to polls. That leads to a lot of discontinuities. It is a trap to follow popular opinion when there is far more to leadership than popular opinion. Democrats feel uncomfortable about waging war, though they often found themselves doing so, often with less than satisfactory results. Hesitation greatly increased WWII casualties, and a certain naiveté about the nature of evil continues to this day.

Like all parties, they respond to lobbyists, which often work at odds to public opinion. There is huge influence by Big Labor, particularly with the Card Check legislation, Planned Parenthood, Trial Lawyers who often keep the lion’s share of any settlements, and more recently, Wall Street, who is creative about finding opportunities to profit. When you combine this with extremely wealthy backers such as George Soros and Hollywood Elites, a fawning media, control of the educational system, cutting off debate, AND the aforementioned self-righteousness that places their ideas as supreme and other ideas as unworthy, trouble brews.

This confluence brought about the so-called “Stimulus” bill that was largely payback of political favors that most people oppose. Then the Health Care “Reform” which was trotted out quickly and with huge flaws and unfundable mandates. Again the people were opposed, just as they are to Card Check. However, the superiority complex at work in the Party is making them tone deaf to the people, which is never a good idea before an election year. It is probable that the Democrats will tank in 2010 if they do not relent on an agenda that is not the agenda of the people. If in fact they go back to the drawing board and act in ways more in line with their heritage, they could enjoy a long stay in power.

After all, the vote in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America was left in its permissive and even advocacy-based attitude toward ordaining homosexuals. People are leaving in droves, just as hey did the Episcopal Church. The ivory tower attitude of the left is out of touch and really damaging to the church and the country.

There is a pride that refuses to learn. After all, The UK coddled labor until they were brought to their knees with ill-considered strikes. The government took over the car companies, which quickly became non-competitive and a joke in terms of their cars’ lack of reliability. Big government lead to stifled enterprise and initiative, and a bloated National Health Service, the world’s THIRD largest employer in a country far smaller than our own, has brought cries of reform. Yet Democratic leadership thinks they can do better than the UK and every other country that has tried Socialistic ideas. Even the Russian media is mocking us for trying a bondage that took them decades to free themselves from. Tanzania is trying to recover from a disastrous socialistic experiment.

It is on the cultural issues that the lines are most drawn in the modern Democrat party. The big backers generally are either hostile to anything Christian, whether is comes to funding obscene art by the NEA, open religious expression. right to life, the rights of parents to raise their children according to the dictates of their conscience, the exaltation of heterosexual marriage, following traditional morality, having the right to work without joining a union, having their children educated without being proselytized by those insisting evolution and man-made global warming are indisputable facts when in fact the opposite is the case, slimy TV and movies with crass profanity and hatred of people of faith, and those who want a fair media that does not interpret everything from one point of view and ignore all evil from their own side. While many Democrats may believe all these things, in practice they refuse to take a stand or demand their party recognize them. They give their votes without asking ANYTHING in return. If someone doesn't listen to me, I don't vote for them!

I was driving by Gary Barbera's dealership, which like many others had lots of "clunkers" on the sidewalk with tons of signs.
This really bothered me. People got $3,500 for vehicle getting only TWO miles per gallon more than what they were buying.
These vehicles had acid poured in their engines and were hopelessly defaced. It looked chilling. I have printed out the so called Death Manual instituted by Clinton with the VA, withdrawn by Bush, and now reinstated by Obama. Before you dismiss Sarah Palin's mocked-at comments, READ this thing. When you look at bills in Congress, you have to look at the total perspective of the sponsor to see where it will take us, since endless regulations and interpretations use the bill simply as a starting point. Dr. Emmanuel, who is a close adviser, is deeply into who lives and dies and prioritizing life. I am a German, and I don't need an interpretation on this. Social engineering is back - it starts with abortion and moves to Euthanasia and other places I really don't want to look, but HAVE to.

Beyond that, we need to look at smaller venues before committing to changes in the larger one. When one looks at the most troubled large cities, the one thing they hold in common is long-term single party rule - in this case Democrat. They have massive problems and corruption, and there is little hope there. While the GOP had its share of corrupt regimes in the past. those machines are almost entirely gone. When one looks at the current corruption in Washington and in the biggest support groups, it certainly gives one pause - faithful in little, faithful in much. If not faithful with little, keep the much from them!

So where do we go? Obviously, neither party has all the answers, and they never will. That is what the Kingdom of God is about. Sinful people corrupt any party or any system. That said, we need to earnestly review the platforms of each party and the character of each candidate as we select those who we feel can BEST approximate the ideals we would like to see in our nation.

It always troubles me when I hear party loyalists demonize each other. I also troubles me to hear messianic pronouncements on individuals who hold positions that are in absolute enmity with God and his word. I have heard these pronouncements from both GOP and Dem folks, and that is not helpful. Only Christ is the Messiah, and anyone who works against the principles of the kingdom of God should be seen exactly for what they are – a worker of iniquity. We honor those who lead us per Romans 13 and other Biblical mandates, but disagreement with the person in power is no reason to make movies about his assassination as they did with the vile movie on George W. Bush, or the caricatures made of Barack Obama. We should be better people than that.

We should make our arguments in civil discourse, and most of all know that every four years, the parties come around saying what they will change, but the rhetoric may as well have been recorded from the last election, because the problems never seem to go away. Incremental change for the better is always to be celebrated, but remember that Christ would not have had to come and die for us if any political party could bring us salvation. Let us put our primary effort into God’s kingdom and not be deceived by the wiles of the devil, whether spoken through Elephants or Donkeys.

2 Comments:

At 1:43 AM , Anonymous Foxwood said...

Do you believe the Constitution is the rule of law? Do you believe in the original intent of our founding fathers? Do you want to reform Congress? If your answer is yes, we have to work together to make this happen.

http://animal-farm.us/change/constitution-project-575

 
At 5:00 PM , Blogger John said...

I certainly do. As a Christian, our Constitution is the Bible, I see the same forces working in our faith in trying to pervert the original intent of the infallible Word of God. While the Constitution was not perfect as the Bible is, and needed a Bill of Rights and other Amendment, it is uncanny how much of what we see happening today was foreseen by these visionaries.

If we don't guard the Constitution carefully an abide by it. we will find ourselves at the whim of those whose God is their appetite and themselves. We have seen that in our Country from time to time and also in the church. Vigilance and hard work is needed on both fronts.

 

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