Friday, October 26, 2012


In a comment on my previous post, Barbara said (among other things):  I, too, am dismayed at the outpouring of vitriolic messages from the right.  To me those messages speak of a deep seated fear.  A fear of living life as it comes; a fear of their neighbor (in the widest sense of the word); a fear of their faith being challenged.  A question for you:  What are your thoughts on this fear being racist based?”

            Thanks.  I always appreciate hearing from my (and Uni’s) long-time friend.  I recognize that you have “had some practice” in facing whatever life sends your way.  And I believe that practice has given you some discernment.
            I totally agree with your summation of fears quoted above.  I’ve heard these fears expressed in many ways:  through conversation, through reading, through listening to commentary on radio and TV (though I can’t take much of that at one time).  And I believe that all of these fears are, as you seem to imply, facets of the one deep-seated fear, “A fear of living life as it comes.”  So here are some of my thoughts.

Life has been coming at all of us pretty fast.  Most older Americans, I suspect are going through what Alvin Toffler wrote about decades ago when he coined the term “Future Shock” – a continual state of culture shock, due to constant change in our environment, whether it is in the areas of technology or other aspects of our culture.  Change seems to occur more rapidly than we are able to assimilate it.

Most of the people I rub shoulders with – my neighbors, family, and fellow church people – look, behave and even think a lot like me.  We’re all part of the largest sub-culture in America and in Oklahoma where I live, we’re the majority.  We’re white, “Christian,” middle-class, hard-working and patriotic and we’re afraid because we see that our group is rapidly shrinking in relationship to other groups.  And so we’re afraid of losing control.

Please note:  I write the following as a member of a group.  When I say “we,” I am trying to speak as one of the members of this group would, even though in much of my thinking I have separated myself from them.  And of course, I am speaking in generalities.

There are two broad areas of change that I believe have drawn the greatest negative reactions and have moved many of my contemporaries radically to the right.  Of course, these changes and the fears they engender overlap.  One of these two is the vast change in the religious makeup and thinking of our country.

Barbara spoke of the “fear of their faith being challenged.”  I hear this all the time.  “The trouble with America is that we’ve forgotten God” or “we’ve lost our Christian heritage” or “This all started when we eliminated prayer in school,” etc., etc.

This fear is fed by a number of sources.  One is the threat of science.  Many of the current scientific theories call into question our religious theories and biblical interpretations.  Instead of recognizing that all truth is God’s truth and attempting to understand and reconcile truths, we have declared war on science (even though we describe this war as science’s war on religion).

Another feeding source for this fear is what is perceived as “revisionist history.”  Historians, both popular and scholarly are calling into question our mythology about “Christian America.”

Another perceived threat to our faith is the huge influx of immigrants who don’t worship as we do.  Our new neighbors may not be “Christians.”  They may be Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs or something else.  They have different religious symbols and wear different garb.  And even some of those who are Christians, don’t worship God in the same way that we do.  (Isn’t it great that God brought the mission field to our own country?  Now we don’t have to go abroad to do “The Great Commission” – Uni)

And, of course, these new neighbors don’t look like us, which brings up Barbara’s question about my “thoughts on this fear being racist based.”  Yes!  This I believe is the second area of change that threatens.

Whites (males) have always been the dominant group in our country.  They were our Founding Fathers.  They wrote our great documents and fought our early wars.  While there were those in America of other races, they “knew their place.”  It mattered not that some were in this land before we were and others were here because we brought them here to serve us; we were still “top dogs.”

But now things are different.  This past year there were more non-white babies born in the United States than white, for the first time since white people took over.  The majority of immigrants (documented or undocumented) is non-white.  In many of our major cities whites are a minority and it is projected that by mid-century, if not sooner, whites will be a minority in the entire U.S.  It doesn’t require a great knowledge of math to understand that one day we will no longer be the ones in charge.

And now we have an African American president!  I recognize that not all opposition to him is race-based, but I know that racial fears have much to do with the downright hatred expressed toward Barack Obama.

The racism sometimes slips out in some of the rantings against him.  The ideas that he was not born in the USA or that he is a “secret Muslim” are not simply the contentions of a few kooks like Donald Trump, they are actually held by many ordinary people.  The accusation by the Republican presidential contender that more people are now on food stamps is not simply a statement about the economy, it is a subtle implication that the President is doling out our tax money to his lazy Black friends.

And, of course, there are the facts that white-supremacist hate groups have multiplied dramatically in our country since President Obama was elected and that gun sales have increased dramatically.  My acquaintances on the right would, of course, sincerely and honestly deny any connection with the extreme edges of right-thinking, but at the same time little is spoken of this evil.  Muslim terrorists are feared and hated, but “Christian” terrorists are ignored.

Again, please note that I am speaking in generalities.  I am not speaking of particular individuals.  I recognize that there are many sincere Christians who are Republicans by conviction.  I am not accusing them of sinning.  But I am asking that they recognize what is happening in our country.

And I must confess that I too have fears.  I fear for my country.  I fear that the gap between rich and poor will continue to grow and that the economics being advocated on the right will contribute to that growing gap.

I fear the racism that lies beneath the surface which rears its ugly head too often.

And I especially fear for the church.  As great portions of the church become associated with right-wing politics our witness to the gospel of Christ becomes more and more compromised.

I recommend “Racial Politics” by Jim Wallis, Sojourners, 11/2012.

Monday, October 22, 2012


According to the statistics and the experts who do the math, my vote in the upcoming election is completely predictable.  I’m a 75 year old married white male, evangelical Christian who lives in the red state of Oklahoma.  I should be voting for Mitt Romney and the whole Republican ticket and platform.  Most of those who are my contemporaries in age are voting accordingly.

So why am I not going to do so?  After all, I am reasonably financially conservative; I hold to and attempt to live by biblical moral standards.

Well, of all of the above listed terms used to describe me as a voter, I feel that only two are of any real importance in influencing my vote – my age, and more importantly, my faith.

First, let me talk about my age.  I was born during the great depression, though I can’t remember it.  I grew up during the Second World War, the Cold War and the Korean War.  I have seen presidents and political parties come and go.  I have lived in the industrial North and the growing South.  I am now observing the 18th presidential campaign in my memory and will soon cast my 14th presidential ballot.  I long ago learned that promises made are not necessarily promises kept and that the fears held by those who voted for the defeated rarely come true.

I have also learned that a president is, to some extent held captive by various entities:  Congress – whether a majority of his own or of the opposing party – and the various special interest groups and lobbies that control much of the cash needed for election and reelection.  The president does not stand alone.  He is a member of a party and for him to accomplish much he must have the backing of his political party.

I have also learned that a president’s ideals and moral posture are not always in the same proportion as his qualities of leadership and the ability to get things done.  Some of our most brilliant leaders have been moral failures while some of our most moral have been at best second rate.

And I have learned that while nearly every candidate presents him (or her) self as some sort of populist, not all are.  An appeal to “the people” is just one of those necessities for election.

So I must say that my age, my experience, my simply living through it and my study of political history, especially that of my lifetime, have definitely affected my hopes for any one man.  I am, to a certain extent skeptical, perhaps even cynical.

However, the most important factor influencing my vote is my understanding of and submission to a biblical worldview.  I believe that God, through the Bible, makes demands on me as a follower of Jesus Christ – demands which I cannot, in good conscience, ignore.  There are certain biblical doctrines that especially bear on my vote.

First is the doctrine of original sin and/or its related doctrine of total depravity.  As Ecclesiastes 7:20 says:  “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins!”  Or as Paul says (Romans 3:10):  “There is no one righteous – not even one!”  This means that our choices will always be between sinners – fallible persons.  There is not and never will be a great champion riding in on a white horse – that is, until Jesus returns!  (Revelation 19:11ff)

A second doctrine we must remember is the doctrine of the two kingdoms.  While we as followers of Christ are ultimately members of the Kingdom of Heaven, we are also members of whatever earthly “kingdom” God has placed us in and have certain obligations placed on us as member of that kingdom.  And as citizens of a representative democracy, we have the obligation of voting – of taking part in the selection process, whether or not a president or his party is totally to our liking.

Whether we call this a choosing of the greater good or of the lesser of two evils, it is not as many see it, a clear choice between good and evil as many of my friends on the right perceive it.

Which brings me to my first disagreement with my right-leaning Christians friends – the absolutist painting of all who disagree as evil while ignoring the flaws and inconsistencies of their own party.  The fawning over hate-mongering talk radio and TV hosts and conspiracy theorists.  The passing around of rumors, lies and half-truths on the internet (which I receive regularly).  It is of no avail to defend these actions by claiming that the other side does the same.  (“Nya-nya - he hit me first!”)

Those on the right claim abortion as the number one sin of America.  While I may not agree that it is number one, I do agree that it is horrible.  It is the taking of an innocent human life.  But in the nearly 40 years since Roe vs. Wade, little has been done to limit the practice – by either party.  I suspect that the pro-life position has been cynically used by many on the right as a rallying cause merely to get votes.  Especially when their presidential candidate has vacillated on his position.  And I fail to see what can actually be done to prevent people from making the wrong choice.  Remember the 18th amendment?

Their other rallying cry is the so-called homosexual agenda.  Again I agree that the Bible clearly teaches that homosexual sex is sin; but it also lists adultery, extra-marital sex and easy divorce as well.  We in this nation long ago realized that laws against such sexual behavior were unenforceable.  Why are we hung up on this one?  And while I feel that “gay marriage” is a contradiction in terms, I see no advantage in denying them some legal and financial protection, call it what you may.

While I strongly believe that the government, Federal, state or other cannot eliminate or even regulate these perceived evils, there is another evil or more exactly group of evils that I believe government can and must bring under control – that is the oppression of the poor and underprivileged.  In fact, I believe that, to some extent, human government is responsible in a positive way for care of the poor.  While the New Testament statements in the Epistles regarding government do not specifically mention care of the poor, there is much to point to as an aspect of what Paul says, “it is God’s minister to you for good … they are God’s ‘liturgists,’ devoting themselves to this very thing” (Romans 13:4, 6).

Jesus’ judgment of the nations in Matthew 24:31-46 points to His heart concern for the way the nations treat those in need.  Or we could take James’ blistering attack on the oppressive rich in James 5:1-6.  The Old Testament is full of God’s heart for the poor and those in need.  Passage after passage in the Mosaic Law, as well as the prophets illustrate God’s compassion for the poor, the alien, the widow and the orphan as well as His blazing anger against those who mistreat them.

“You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.  You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child.  If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.

If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be like a moneylender to him, and you shall not exact interest from him.  If ever you take your neighbor’s cloak in pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down, for that is his only covering, and it is his cloak for his body; in what else shall he sleep?  And if he cries to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.”  (Exodus 22:21-27 – ESV)

Where are those on the right who cry out against these injustices?  Instead we hear anger against the so-called “welfare frauds,” against those who receive “entitlements,” against “the 47%” who allegedly receive and don’t pay their fair share, ignoring all the while the fact that it is the large corporations with their over-compensated officers that receive the greatest amounts of government largesse.

Our economy crashed for a number of reasons, but it did not crash because of too much government aid to those in need.  One major factor was the financial transactions of banks and Wall Street firms – companies and individuals, who made big money by manipulating it, while contributing nothing.  (See:  THE BIG SHORT and GREED.)

I am not an economist.  But I can see that for me to vote for a party that wants to take us back to the financial policies that brought us down, that is more concerned for the wealthy than for the poor and middle-class would be more than irresponsible – it would be a sin.

Saturday, October 6, 2012


I know that this would appear to some to be a strange question and most persons I know would answer it with an “Of course not!”  (Although some would probably add a “However …” to their reply.)  And I don’t suppose that there’s a church somewhere whose members picket funerals with signs claiming that He does.

But from some of the correspondence I’ve received and the conversations I’ve heard, I have reasons to suspect that many of those who claim to be God’s followers really believe that He does hate Democrats.  It’s not just that these folks disagree with the Democrat party and what it stands for, it’s that they really hate Democrats and believe God does too.

I suppose that I hear more of this because:  I am an evangelical Christian and most of my friends are as well.  Because of our mutual religious convictions they assume we have mutual political convictions.  So I get to hear and read their fears and loathings and prejudices.

Here’s a sample, an e-mail I received not long ago from a Christian friend who is involved in an evangelistic ministry:

”_____ and I are fed up with the President, his Democrat colleagues, and those who hold to or vote for the Democratic Party. Why? Because they are in open rebellion against God’s Word and principles and are leading our country away from God.

How? They support killing of babies, support the homosexual lifestyle (including same sex marriage), make government the god, steal from people who have earned it and give it to those who refuse to work, lie and deceive, and support Islamic countries over Israel, God’s chosen people. (And woe be to those who curse Israel, said God in Genesis 12.)

_____ and I are both sickened over this and many other things, as I imagine the majority of you are. But what we both fear is that some will feel that they cannot support a non-Christian for President and not vote at all. That would be like a vote for Obama. … Having a non-Christian with good morals and character is better than having a ‘so-called’ Christian president and party who are openly defiant against God’s Word and the principles this country was founded on.”

Please notice that the first paragraph not only attacks our “President and his Democrat colleagues,” it also attacks me as one who “vote(s) for the Democratic Party.”

Our President has been the object of slanders and half-truths since even before he was elected.  I realize that to a certain extent this goes with the job, although sadly much of the slander has come from those who claim to be followers of Christ and it usually has a tone of (self-) righteous moral indignation.

I have felt very strongly that those on the religious right were sliding farther and farther from anything that looked like a Christ-like manner of dealing with disagreements, whether religious or political.  I have defended our President and tried to clarify some of the issues and my positions from a biblical perspective.  I have also rebuked some of the slanders I’ve read and heard.  And as I have done this I’ve alienated a few “friends.”

But this e-mail pointed out to me something that I should have realized before.  The folks who say such things aren’t just angry and hateful toward Barack Obama – they have the same feelings toward me for voting for him.  According to them, I and all who vote for the President and/or the Democrat party are guilty of the evils – real or imagined – listed in the second paragraph quoted above.

And, of course, this makes complete sense.  If the claims about our President are true, then I am a supporter of this evil conspiracy.  My Obama/Biden bumper sticker might as well be the mark of the beast!

There is much discussion about why people “drop out” of church.  I believe more thought should be devoted to this matter.  If people are stigmatized and condemned or at best “tolerated” by their supposed brothers and sisters for holding political views which they have conscientiously arrived at, how can there be any fellowship?

Have we forgotten Paul’s exhortation to the Romans:  “Therefore receive one another, even as Christ received you” (Romans 15:7)?