Sunday, September 30, 2012

So What's a Brother to Do?

Yesterday we challenged the notion that the upcoming general election could be reduced to one or two issues. Two posts back I suggested that many Ron Paul supports (including yours truly) will sit out this election, refusing to go along with the "lesser of two evils" paradigm. So what does one do? How does one, particularly a Christian, uphold the better ideals of the republic (without being completely stained by the things of this world)?

The first thing is to not give in to fear. "[F]or God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control" (2 Tim. 1:7). Whatever we choose to do should not be driven by fear. Politicians play to voter fears on a number of issues. Fear fuels Americans' acceptance, for example, of the growing security/surveillance state. Participation in the political process through voting or simply expressing a position should flow from rational consideration.

Since voting isn't an option for me in this presidential election, I focus my efforts in other areas. I was pleasantly surprised when the congressman representing my district, a mostly-liberal Democrat (definitely not a "blue dog"), voted to support the Audit the Fed bill. I had emailed this gentleman three different times regarding this bill and got the usual canned responses. But obviously his office received enough pressure on this subject to move him from "unlikely" to supportive. Congressmen do read their mail, and they respond to the winds of their districts. The same applies to Senators, where the Audit the Fed bill faces resistance.

Another piece of legislation that would go a long way toward economic equity would be the Free Competition in Currency Act, on which subcommittee hearings have been held but no action taken. This bill would repeal legal tender laws and allow other media of exchange to compete with the dollar in the market. The pressure on the Federal Reserve to strengthen the value of the dollar would increase its purchasing power and store of value for middle and poorer class savers.

Tip O'Neill famously quipped that "all politics is local," and to some degree the most effective changes are made locally. One issue close to my heart involves the plight of taco trucks (las loncheras) and street vendors. In Charlotte local retail owners have sought help from city hall to restrict these kinds of enterprises. Having worked in the field for many years as a property appraiser I appreciated the taco trucks that moved through residential neighborhoods at lunchtime as I was working. The food is authentic and delicious at a price that can't be beat. While I don't frequent street vendors (I'm not much of a retail shopper) I've read stories of people using this kind of business to put their kids through college. In a difficult economy it is unconscionable for the power of the ordinance to be brought to bear against initiative and an honest living. A Christian concerned with real social justice (as opposed to Jim Wallis-style state-sponsored dependency) can write or speak on behalf of those who stand to be hurt by such restrictions. Let's not forget that Paul used the agora as a place to sell tents and preach the gospel.

I could go on, but ultimately a proclamation of the gospel in any venue includes a witness to what is true, righteous and just. Above all -- and most importantly -- we are called upon to pray for those in authority (1 Tim. 2:1-2) so that "we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way."

Monday, September 24, 2012

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

9/11: This is The Day

This is the day.

I remember the day. I remember how blue the sky was, how clear it was, as I stood on the bow of the ferry as it crossed the Hudson from Jersey City to lower Manhattan. I remember how bright the sun was. I remember the walk from the ferry slip, through the Winter Garden, up to the 28th floor of Three World Financial Center. I remember turning on my computer, sitting down to work when there was that noise. The noise I still cannot describe. I remember stuff on fire, great big pieces of building, falling outside. I remember standing in the corner conference room with Deborah Kinirons, Susan Burns, Scott Reeves, gawking at the great big hole ripped into the north tower belching fire, and smoke, and paper.


I remember American Express telling us not to evacuate. I remember trying to call my wife and finding there was no cell phone service. I remember a sound, that second plane. I remember seeing it bank, seeing the sun shine through the windows, hearing the engines roar. Watching it disappear into the south tower only 30 floors above our heads. I remember fire, and smoke. A sound I can never describe.

I remember running down 30 flights of stairs and not being winded. I remember the look of fear, glass and debris on the streets, people covered with blood. Terror. Panic. Chaos. I remember standing in a crowd in front of the New York Mercantile Exchange, looking up at the burning towers.

Watching people die. Oh, I remember that.

I remember getting my radio out, turning to the CBS station. Listening. A crowd gathering around me. Another plane had crashed into the Pentagon. More jetliners were unaccounted for. This must be the end of the world, someone said.

It did feel that way. In that place, it did feel that way.

More than anything, I remember being met by God that day. The risen Jesus, who in the midst of the fire and the fear and the death told me: "My love is all that matters." And: "This is who I am."

"This is who I am." In fear, and death, and absolute powerlessness. "This is who I am."

This is the day. This is the day.

~ Charles H. Featherstone responded to faith in Christ during the 9/11 tragedy.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Peter Leithart: Between Babel and Beast

I'm not as familiar with Peter Leithart as I probably should be. He is a Presbyterian theologian. I seem to recall that he was embroiled in the "federal vision" controversy.

Regardless, Leithart recently gave an interview at the Gospel Coalition. These remarks I found particularly relevant against the backdrop of the heat and froth of the party conventions, especially where "God" and "Jerusalem" language is being batted around:

Americanism has a way of reading the Bible (with America sometimes playing a prominent role in the biblical story as the “new Israel”), an eschatology (America is the “new order of the ages” and the “last best hope of mankind”), a doctrine of political salvation (everyone becomes like us, and all will be well), and, since the civil war, a view of sacrifice (American soldiers give their lives, and take the lives of enemies, to make the world peaceful and free).

For many American Christians, American exceptionalism involves some degree of adherence to Americanism. Americanism is a heresy; in certain respects it is simply idolatrous. Jesus, not James Madison, brought in the “new order of the ages.”

The practical effect of Americanism is that it blinds Christians to the real evils that America has perpetrated and also obscures the central importance of the church as God’s empire on earth. Americanism encourages Christians to support the American cause no matter what, because the future of the world depends on America. Even when we’re bombing civilians or sending billions of dollars in military aid to Muslim dictators, Christians still wave the flag and sing America’s praises. And for some Christians, criticism of America is almost tantamount to apostasy.

...teaching the Bible means teaching Christians that they are Christians first before they are Americans; it means teaching them that their Christian brothers in Iran and Iraq are closer “kin” than American unbelievers. Teaching the Bible means attacking the idolatries associated with Americanism. Teaching the Bible means teaching people not to kill, even if the American government says it’s OK.

Another obvious thing is to cultivate the communal life of the church, and that means putting the Lord’s Supper at the center of Christian worship. The Supper is where we who partake of one loaf are made into one body; by participation in the Supper, we are formed into God’s rival empire.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

You Better Sit Down...

In current political discourse, it is common to think of the Democrats as the party of entitlements, but long-term trends seem to tell a somewhat different tale. From a purely statistical standpoint, the growth of entitlement spending over the past half-century has been distinctly greater under Republican administrations than Democratic ones. Between 1960 and 2010, the growth of entitlement spending was exponential, but in any given year, it was on the whole roughly 8% higher if the president happened to be a Republican rather than a Democrat....

As Americans opt to reward themselves ever more lavishly with entitlement benefits, the question of how to pay for these government transfers inescapably comes to the fore. Citizens have become ever more broad-minded about the propriety of tapping new sources of finance for supporting their appetite for more entitlements. The taker mentality has thus ineluctably gravitated toward taking from a pool of citizens who can offer no resistance to such schemes: the unborn descendants of today's entitlement-seeking population.

~ Nicholas Eberstadt, Wall Street Journal

Read it all here.

Told ya so.