A fairly famous person just admitted that his blunt and polarizing statements (which included using the term “crusade” in reference to a military incursion into the Middle East) weren’t very wise. Though he moved quickly to cover the possibility of it looking anything like a real confession.
Before I say anything really substantive, I should say this. As of July 12th, 2008 at 9 a.m. in the morning, I knew virtually nothing about Ralph Nader. I had heard a little about his consumer advocacy, but I thought he had primarily carried the auto industry effort out against Chrysler Corp, not General Motors. I had seen some pictures of him, but never known what he stood for. I had heard the nasty rhetoric from Democrats in 2000 when they claimed he “lost the election” by tipping the balance from Gore to Bush. And that’s all I knew.
July 12th, 2008 was the day that changed.
Bethany and I happened to be in Richmond for a church annual meeting, and had the morning off. To kill some time and relax a bit with each other, we ate at a diner, then browsed around in a local bookstore with lots of dusty books and a dog named Copyright (I’m not kidding). While we were browsing, I happened to see a flyer on a corkboard towards the middle of the bookstore that advertised a Ralph Nader rally taking place at the Virginia Holocaust Museum downtown. I was immediately intrigued, and though Bethany was initially reluctant at first, she agreed and off we went.
I won’t go in-depth into what Nader had to say, but I will give you a link to a Youtube account that recorded his speech (in 7 parts, I believe); it’s well worth watching. The man is brilliant, an example of integrity, and very accessible. I am much less cynical about the possibilities of America now than before. I also had an opportunity to ask a question (after debating whether to stand up, clammy hands, shaky voice and all) to Ralph, and he graciously responded (I’m the disembodied voice).
And yes, sadly, I rambled in my question, but I was N-E-R-V-O-U-S.
I admit. I am a naive person when it comes to a good number of things in my life, and that includes the legislative record, press releases, and supposed statements or non-statements. So when I watch a political debate and hear the same “he-said, she-said” stuff you’d hear in a divorce court, I get confused and frustrated. If I really want to know the truth, I’d act on my frustration and direct in in healthy ways (say, choosing to go deeper into the issues rather than lazily saying “Politics is meaningless and stupid”); but it sure helps when others do that investigation and help us naive voters with some further wisdom.
That’s why I love fact check websites after debates or on certain issues and claims. While they certainly can be spun a political direction as well, they offer something deeper.
CNN has their own fact check website. And factcheck.org has a good one as well that may carry a little less spin than CNN as a self-confessed “non-partisan, non-profit consumer advocate for voters” (though the liberal bias stuff is much more political rhetoric and perception than anything else). *update* I found the site politifact.com today, which has a more wide-angle look at political quotes and stances; also non-partisan. *update*
Let’s go deeper than buzzwords as we consider our vote.
Kucinich offers some good, sound bipartisan thinking on the economic crisis. He has really done a number on me to be one of the very few politicians that I trust doesn’t put spin on what he says. He speaks forthrightly, strives for a government accountable to its citizens, gained Fox News’ Neil Cavuto’s grudging respect (Neil said in this interview “you have a good gut on this”…”you oftentimes blame and go after many in your own party and the other party”),
…and he said axiomatic.
Here’s another video where Kucinich offers good, sound thinking on health care and foreign policy in an entertaining conversation with Bill O’Reilly. Both refused to back down and Kucinich called out O’Reilly when mischaracterized, taking the conversation beyond buzz words and into substantive dialogue.
O’Reilly: You represent a soft approach to Iran, al-Qaeda…
Kucinich: Soft, are you kidding me?
O’Reilly: You don’t want to confront them militarily.
Kucinich: When is the truth soft?
O’Reilly: Well, I don’t know what the truth is…
Kucinich: The truth is, we shouldn’t have gone into Iraq.
O’Reilly: Iraq’s a different thing. We won that.
Kucinich: Where’s the soft approach?
O’Reilly: You don’t want to confront Putin militarily in Georgia, you don’t want to confront Iran militarily, you don’t want to do all that.
Kucinich: (laughing) Why have a war if you don’t need it?
O’Reilly: Ok, but if Iran develops nuclear weapons, you’re ok with it.
Kucinich: Oh, no…
O’Reilly: Well, what are you going to do to stop it?
Kucinich: What I’ve said is we need to get rid of all nuclear weapons.
O’Reilly: Well, that’s not going to happen.
Kucinich: Well, it must happen…we have to come to a point where we realize that these weapons threaten our existence.
Ron Paul sparring with Bill O’Reilly. Aside from not getting a chance to make a reasonable argument at length, Paul says some very honest, challenging things in this interview. I’m impressed by him. Thanks to John Daubert telling me I MUST check out Ron Paul, I have really, really been impressed by him.
Family, fellow disciples of Jesus, and friends;
I received an email forward today that raises an important issue regarding our daily life, and I had some thoughts in response to it. We were encouraged to write a message in support of the thought behind the email, but I wanted to go deeper to write some thoughts that would challenge us to go beyond what most people rant and rave about in our society. Here is the basic message I received;
As I was listening to a news program last night, I watched in horror as Barack Obama made the statement with pride. . .”we are no longer a Christian nation; we are now a nation of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, . . . As with so many other statements I’ve heard him (and his wife) make, I never thought I’d see the day that I’d hear something like that from a presidential candidate in this nation. To think our forefathers fought and died for the right for our nation to be a Christian nation–and to have this man say with pride that we are no longer that. How far this nation has come from what our founding fathers intended it to be.
I hope that each of you will do what I’m doing now–send your concerns, written simply and sincerely, to the Christians on your email list. With God’s help, and He is still in control of this nation and all else, we can show this man and the world in November that we are,indeed, still a Christian nation! Please pray for our nation!”
That italicized section was the message I received, and I appreciate the thought behind this email, and the desire in whoever wrote it that the United States be a people who follow Jesus. I also had some thoughts in response that I’d like to share, as well as a simple question that might help us walk through this issue seeking wisdom rather than easy answers.
We need to talk about issues like this in ways that value the voice that each of us has; and we must, WE MUST do it without turning our backs on one another when we disagree.
My first thought is this: Has America always, for all time, 100% of its citizens, been “Christian”?
I can’t quote long sections of the founding fathers of America, but I do remember one of the fundamental things they remembered that led to them wanting to separate from British rule. That thing was the memory of how western Europe and Britain were completely shredded by wars that had started for religious reasons; some were between “Protestants” and “Catholics”, some were between “Christians” and Muslims, and some were between “Christians” and pagan barbarians.
In England’s case, when different rulers came to the throne, they would claim to be either “Anglican” (Protestant) or Catholic, and then a bloodbath would follow to silence or kill anyone who disagreed with their commitment. As I recall, King Henry started the Church of England because the Pope wouldn’t let him divorce his wife and marry someone else like he wanted, and Queen Mary, a later ruler and Catholic, was called “Bloody Mary” because of how ruthlessly she killed Protestants.
So this is what America’s founding fathers saw; religious disagreements leading to bloodbaths. And that was a major reason why they, in the First Amendment to the Constitution, stated, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
What that meant was that the government would not stick its neck in religious conflicts and intervene with force behind one group or another; that the government was officially neutral unless it was a matter of law. So Catholicism and Protestantism or any other “ism” wouldn’t be the official “religion” of America.
And while disciples of Jesus may agree that the Christian faith impacts everything (or should impact everything) we think about, and creates a way of life that everyone on earth would benefit from, I think we also can agree that it’s a good thing that the government has created a protection against someone killing us because of our religious practice (or lack thereof).
What I’m saying, specifically, is that Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, Christians, or whatever other faith have the protected right to practice the “free exercise” of their faith, as long as it doesn’t break the law of the land.
Do you see the difference in thinking there? Of course Christians want the entire world to be disciples of Jesus, but we can’t force them at the point of a gun or sword to do that, and when we try to, we end up staining the name of Christ, angering God, and living a lie rather than the truth.
So we win Buddhists, Muslims, Jews (and people who think they’re Christians but aren’t) over with our integrity, our courage, our love, and a deep commitment to our communities of faith (churches).
The protection of religious expression is part of what I thought was very wise in the thinking of the founding fathers of America. Can we agree that it’s a good thing not to kill off Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, and our falsely Christian neighbors for not agreeing with us?
I think the answer to my first question is this, “No, America has not always, for all time, with 100% of its citizens, been Christian.” What that means is that there are Christians living in America, and that the laws of the land reflect some Christian commitments, but America is a nation of a bunch of different persons who think different, live different, and practice different faiths, and always has been.
I believe part of the reason the founders of America fought and died for America was that there could be a place in the world where religious disagreements wouldn’t turn into a bloodbath. I also believe part of the reason the founders of America fought and died for America was the fundamental belief that we can live alongside persons of all different beliefs and be in relationship with them without being shredded by our disagreements.
And I also believe that when Christians are willing to kill others because they disagree with us, we have left the side of our Lord who calls us to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” The kingdom of God is much more than the people of this world often settle for.
In the Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency on August 16th, I found one section interesting (I haven’t listened to/read the whole thing), and that was when Rick Warren asked about how to approach evil in the world. I have Warren’s questions and the candidates’ answers in full. So I’d like to pose the question without giving my own perspective for whoever might want to interact: which candidate’s response was more deeply Biblical, in your view?
Rick Warren interviewing Barack Obama:
Warren: Does evil exist and if it does, do we ignore it, do we negotiate with it, do we contain it, or do we defeat it?
Obama: Evil does exist. I mean, we see evil all the time. We see evil in Darfur, we see evil sadly on the streets of our cities. We see evil in parents who have viciously abused their children and I think it has to be confronted. It has to be confronted squarely and one of the things that I strongly believe is that we are not going to, as individuals, be able to erase evil from the world. That is God’s task. But we can be soldiers in that process and we can confront it when we see it. Now, the one thing that I think is very important is for us to have some humility in how we approach the issue of confronting evil, but you know a lot of evil has been perpetrated based on the claim that we were trying to confront evil.
Warren: In the name of good?
Obama: In the name of good. And I think one thing that’s very important is having some humility in recognizing that just because we think our intentions are good doesn’t always mean that we’re going to be doing good.
Rick Warren interviewing John McCain:
Warren: How about the issue of evil? Does evil exist and if it does, do we ignore it, do we negotiate with it, do we contain it, or do we defeat it?
McCain: Defeat it. Couple points. One, if I’m President of the United States, my friends, if I have to follow him to the gates of hell, I will get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice. I will do that and I know how to do that. I will get that done. No one should be allowed to take thousands of American, innocent American lives.
Of course evil must be defeated. My friends, we are facing the transcendent challenge of the 21st century; radical Islamic extremists. Not long ago in Baghdad, al-Qaeda took two young men who were mentally disabled and put suicide vests on them, sent them into a marketplace and by remote control detonated those suicide vests. If that isn’t evil, you have to tell me what is; and we’re going to defeat this evil and the central battleground according to David Petraeus and Osama bin Laden is the battles of Baghdad, Mosul, and Iraq, and we are winning and we are succeeding, and our troops will come home with honor and victory and not in defeat and that’s what’s happening. We have, and we face this threat throughout the world. It’s not just in Iraq. It’s not just in Afghanistan. Our intelligence people tell us al-Qaeda continues to try to establish cells here in the United States of America.
My friends, we must face this challenge. We can face this challenge and we must totally defeat it and we’re in a long struggle, but when I’m around the young men and women who are serving this nation in uniform will do it. I have no doubt. None.