A Prayer for Election Day

O Lord our truest Ruler and King, many words have been said these past months leading to this election day. Far too many of these words have been hurtful, fearful, divisive, angry, and anxious. Being able to see our nation’s policies so tangibly, it is far too easy to equate this nation with your Kingdom, and so act as if this election were of supreme eternal importance.

Lord, forgive us, we pray.

Bless the leaders of our land–those currently in office and those elected today–that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to other nations of the earth. Let this be the conviction of every leader as they model for us, however imperfectly, political relations amongst both their fellow countrymen and citizens of the world. Continue reading

An idiot defends the Patriot Act

paul-american-flag-coffee-mug-12-03Perusing around, I ran across this response to an article by Dana Milbank from 2003 on the anniversary of 9/11. The article originally appeared in The Washongton Post, but I could only find it at this odd site. Here, the commenter offers a summary of the article and an opinion:

This article is about recent comments President Bush made recently on expanding the Patriot Act of 2001.  These are surprising comments due to the fact that the Patriot Act is already one of the most controversial Acts ever passed by Congress.  The act extremely expanded federal police powers by severely restricting the civil liberties of terrorism suspects.  Under the act, federal officers need less than ever before to find “just cause” in apprehending, detaining, and punishing those accused of terrorist acts.  The “Patriot 2” as it has been dubbed, would contain clauses allowing for the issuance of subpoenas without grand juries, holding of suspects without bail, and the pursuance of the death penalty in a broader spectrum of cases, still involving murder.  Many politicians are telling the media that the Bush administration is trying to fight sudden “Anti-Patriot Act” feelings by going on the offensive: Talking of expanding the original Patriot Act.

In my opinion, the comments made by Bush were so logical and fair.  As a strong supporter of the original Patriot Act, I see nothing wrong with Bush asking Congress to give federal officers the exact same powers to apprehend terror suspects as they do to apprehend embezzlers or drug traffickers.  Many of the politicians are also putting these negative feelings on John Ashcroft, when he has apparently been doing an incredible job.  Ever since September 11th, there has not been a single other terrorist attack on American soil.  In my opinion, he needs to be given the ability to continue whatever he is doing.

The person that wrote this was me. I wrote it over 10 years ago as an assignment for my High School AP Government class, where we had to read and respond to current event articles.

If you have ever stumbled on any political post on this blog (after 2007 or so), you know that I am not of this same mind at all. In fact, this was my “one-issue” that determined my Presidential vote this year. (Hopefully, you can also see that my writing has somewhat improved–yikes!). Shortly after this was written, I sat deciding on whether to go to a large urban university or Liberty University. My decision was made when my dad told me that he thought I “grew better in thorny soil”. That’s where I went, and that’s what molded me.

So let this be an encouragement that neither the environment you’re raised in nor the zeal with which you hold an opinion can close you off from change and growth. Always keep your mind open, pursue knowledge, and doubt your doubts. And spend some time in thorny soil. Happy New Year!

If I’m right about cities, then Republicans are in deep trouble.

philly-city-hall-flagIt’s been too long since we’ve had a political post hasn’t it? Last week, as part of my “Urban Lessons” mini-series, I wrote on how cities are perhaps the fountainheads of everything that ends up in suburban and rural areas. The things that take place in cities, it seems, always ends up flowing outward into the rest of the country, even if it takes decades or generations to do so.

I had that on my mind when watching this segment of The Rachel Maddow Show from Monday night’s episode. The segment is based off an excellent piece by Alexander Burns in Politico called “GOP big-city mayors vanish”. In it, Burns writes:

Largely unnoticed in Washington, urban Republican politicians have emerged over the last year as perhaps the nation’s most severely endangered political species, as the party has either failed to compete for high-profile mayor’s offices or has been soundly rebuffed by voters. It’s a significant setback that some Republicans view as an ominous sign for the GOP in a country growing steadily more urban and diverse.

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How’d We Get Here?: An open letter to my Republican friends (gov’t shutdown, day 2)

kilroyart-Im-just-a-BillHey, Republican friend.

Yeah, I’m writing to you. Not to the pundits or the politicians (not that they’d read this anyway), but you: the everyday Joe (or Jane) that considers themselves a Republican, who reads these headlines about the government shutting down and wonders how it got here and whether or not the people you most agree with are actually at fault here. This post is a long one, but hopefully it’s a helpful one.

But first let me say that, on a grand scale, I’m with you politically. I consider myself a center-right pragmatist. I think the government should be dedicated to very few things, the private sector should be utilized whenever possible, and that States–rather than the federal government–are the greatest laboratories for democracy and the greatest vehicles of government to their people.

But there’s a bigger context to this showdown that I fear is getting lost in all the noise. Everyone seems to be focusing on a series of events in the past month or so that led to this, but it actually goes back a little further than that.

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Why was Obamacare necessary? Christians, it seems.

nyt-flowers-medicine-bw{abstract: My point in this post is pretty simple. Christians seek radical end-of-life care dramatically more than non-religious people, and this accounts for a huge portion of American Health Care cost. In this piece, I ask if this drove prices up, therefore creating the situation where, ironically, Obamacare (a policy Evangelicals widely despise) was necessary.}

I wrote a while ago about my own current preoccupation with my fear of death. It caused me to read several related things, including the amazing book, The Art of Dying. In it, Rob Moll carefully helps guide Christians back toward embracing death for what it is: our greatest enemy, yes, but an enemy whose sting has been turned into a doorway to Glory Itself.

And so, as the horror-turned-beauty that Death is, the book encourages us to spend our energy preparing for Death more than avoiding it. He encourages Christians to recapture the doctrine of the “good death”.

And yet, it seems that American Christians are prone to do everything but that.

Moll talks of a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that found that Christians were three times more likely than those without religious faith to pursue aggressive end-of-life care, even though they fully understood they were dying and that the treatments would most likely not add any time to their lives.

One researcher told Moll, “patients who received outside clergy visits had worse quality of death scores than those who did not.” And if you have problems with this particular study, know that the book is full of research, studies, and interviews that lay out the pretty clear case that American Evangelicalism widely avoids preparing for death.

Now, we can talk about why this is and whether or not this is a sound Christianly posture another day (I happen to think it is not). Hopefully I’ll write a full review of the book in the weeks ahead. Today, though, I wanted to point out a huge irony this made me think of.
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a prayer for election day

O Lord our truest Ruler and King, many words have been said these past months leading to this election day. Far too many of these words have been hurtful, fearful, divisive, angry, and anxious. Being able to see our nation’s policies so tangibly, it is far too easy to equate this nation with your Kingdom, and so act as if this election were of supreme eternal importance.

Lord, forgive us, we pray.

Bless the leaders of our land–those that have been and those that will be, after today–that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to other nations of the earth. Let this be the conviction of every leader as they model for us, however imperfectly, political relations amongst both their fellow countrymen and citizens of the world.

Lord, keep this nation under your care.

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Why even being open to attacking Iran is stupid & counter-productive [QUOTE]

Iranian dissident Akbar Ganji, imprisoned for six years for writing articles accusing Iran of ordering political assassinations (from an interview quoted in All The Shah’s Men by Stephen Kinzer):

The Iranian state is certainly guilty of violating manv of its citizens’ basic rights…. But a military attack is not a just or effective response…. An attack would be calamitous for the innocent people of Iran and the region…. It would foster the growth of fundamentalism in the region [and] reignite the conviction that the Judeo-Christian West, led by the United States, is assaulting the world of Islam, from Afghanistan and Palestine to Iraq and Iran…. The current U.S. military threat has given the Iranian government a freer hand in repressing Iran’s budding civil society in the name of national security, and so eclipsed democratic discourse that some Iranian reformists see themselves caught between domestic despotism and foreign invasion. Political change in Iran is necessary, but it cannot be achieved by foreign intervention….

Most Iranians, I believe, share a broad outlook on American foreign policy…. They think that Iran is valued only for its vast energy resources and its role in regional politics, and that Iranian culture and economic development, and the peace, welfare and basic rights of Iranian citizens, are largely irrelevant to American policymakers….

Iranians will never forget the 1953 U.S.-supported coup that toppled the nationalist, moderate, democratic government of Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh and ushered in a closed, dictatorial political system. Iranian society lost one of its most important historical opportunities for the establishment of a democracy [because of these past U.S. interventions].

My 1 Domestic Policy Suggestion for the President

Earlier today, I posted my 10 suggestions for changes the President should make in our foreign policy. Now, I want to offer the one thing I’d ask to change about our domestic policy.

But first, why only one thing? Not only do I think that our legacy and history is far more shaped by foreign policy, but to me, these domestic issues are a lot less certain. I hear great arguments on all sides for all of these issues. Countries all over the world have prospered and waned in both high and low taxes, in both high and low employment, and in both bigger and smaller government. There’s simply no inherently “right” way to run a nation. And so, to me, the best thing we can change domestically is systemic rather than particular. So what’s that one thing?

Steal Britain’s brilliant idea and institute “President’s Questions” here in the States.

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I don’t care that Holder’s contempt vote is politically-motivated

English: Official portrait of United States At...Earlier this week, the House Oversight committee voted to recommend (more here)that Attorney General Eric Holder (pictured) be held in contempt for not turning over documents pertaining to a botched (and idiotic) mission that led to a U.S. Border Patrol agent being killed by U.S.-supplied guns. The contempt vote fell on strict party lines. Next week, the House will take up that vote.

The documents speak to how the Department of Justice (and the White House, it seems) discussed how to communicate this matter to Congress. I think the assumption/concern/fear is that Holder (or perhaps Obama) instructed (or was instructed) to lie to Congress about any knowledge of the mission.

To protect Holder, Obama (in unprecedented fashion) asserted executive privilege over the documents on behalf of the Attorney General.

It is very, very clear, in my (and others‘) estimation, that this is politically-motivated. I have no doubt that if there were a Republican in office, none of this would be happening. Heck, they had two terms of a President wielding precisely these same powers and pulling these same tricks without them nary saying a word. (In fact, most all of our Americans dying in Afghanistan are being killed with weapons that were given to them by the Americans years ago to try and fight the Russians. Oh irony.)
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Obama’s War on the World (and Americans) vs. the War on Women

No, this isn’t a full post (I’m still not blogging). Just wanted to vent. A week ago, a damning piece of journalism was published in the New York Times. Or at least, it should have been damning. It was a piece by Jo Becker and Scott Shane on Obama’s free use of, and unilateral decision-making authority in, Executive “kill lists” against those he uses secret intelligence to deem as “threatening”, including American citizens. Times editors, commentators, and blogs were writing about this all last week.

And nobody cares.

I was shocked that this article made barely a ripple in the media, the blogosphere, the twittersphere, facebook, and our societal conversation in general. As others have wondered, have we really let this nation go this far down this path, that it no longer phases us? These actions by Obama are a neo-conservative’s wet dream, and liberals don’t want to–under any circumstances, it seems–criticize their guy whom they, perhaps, feel is the “lesser evil”. After all, it’s an election year.

But what does phase us as a culture? What causes the blogosphere and editorials to go crazy? A New York Times article about a tech lawsuit with this golden opening line: “Men invented the internet”. (It also has a few other gender offenses.)

Is this article insensitive and silly? Yes. Should it be talked about and criticized? Yes. Is there consistent inattention and inaction given to the needs, abilities, rights, and presence of women in our national story (and Church)? Absolutely.

But is this “War on Women” worse than Obama’s War on the World, our civil liberties, and American citizens themselves? I challenge you to answer that yourself.

(And once again: no, I don’t consider this blogging.)

On Post-Partisanship, Conservative Condescension, & Hope | Patrol Magazine

I love this post from Patrol last week, where Jonathan D. Fitzgerald replies to a recent post by David French at Patheos. In Fitzgerald’s piece, he encourages us to keep our post-partisanship and hope, no matter what “real life” might throw at us.

One point of dissent, though: what he calls “Idealism”, I think is a lot closer to “Realism”. Post-partisanship is very earthy, ground-level, and pragmatic, not simply conviction to an idea; it’s a commitment to the world that actually is, rather than a world conformed to pre-conceived “ideals” of right and left.

Christ isn’t pushing us to an idealized world, but rather a realized one. Just as in God’s Word and on Christ’s body, in the New Creation there will still be scars and grit and paradoxes–hardly an “ideal”–but there will also be the full realization of all the intention, promise, and telos of Creation.

This is all semantics, probably, but I think many in Church History (especially Neibuhr) would agree with this re-phrasing. Either way, read the post:

We Will Not Give in to Pessimism: A Response to David French by Jonathan Fitzgerald

Memorial Day: American Malaise & Christian Skepticism

Update: Shortly after writing this, I ran across this amazing quote in Ross Douthat’s Bad Religion and posted it on the blog.

In America, today is Memorial Day. This is the day Americans pay tribute to the soldiers that have served in our nation’s military and in our various wars. I grew up in Dallas, Texas, ostensibly (as you can see to the right) the most Patriotic state in the Union (Hmm… I can hear cries of “damn right!” ringing through the air from the South….). Of the Unquestionable Cultural Orthodoxy I was raised with, the glorification of the military sat right there next to Jesus, George W. Bush, and any anti-abortion and anti-evolution efforts there may have been.

And indeed this was the pattern I observed in this nation in this past one score and one year I have been around. No matter how anti-war some “crazy wack-job” liberal was (because who could possibly be against any war we–The Great Good–were fighting), they were quick to say “but I support the troops!”

Reading the various blogs and articles throughout the interwebs, though, it seems the past year has seen a shift. As our disenchantment with every other American institution has grown, the military does not look to be exempt from this.
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Thoughts on Recent Voter ID Laws (including Pennsylvania)

Update: the ACLU of Pennsylvania has joined with some other groups in filing a lawsuit against the Commonwealth for the Pennsylvania Voter ID law

Yesterday, Conservative activist James O’Keefe pulled a clever prank on Attorney General Eric Holder.

There has been a wave of voter ID laws passing across the country. These laws create the requirement that residents must show a state-issued photo ID before they can cast a ballot in an election.

Attorney General Holder (not my favorite guy, I might add) has said in the past that there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the U.S., and so these laws are unnecessary. Yesterday, O’Keefe made a video of a man clearly not Eric Holder, going into Holder’s own voting precinct, asking for Holder’s ballot, and being offered it with no ID needed. The point? Voter fraud can happen!

Conservative blogs went nuts yesterday; it seemed like the ultimate “gotcha” moment against the Department of Justice. But was it?
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Too Big Not To Fail [1]: the limits of Big-Corp

[A little while ago, I wrote a little essay I never put out there on the virtues and troubles of sheer “size” when it comes to the entities that seem to govern most of our lives. I’ve decided to split it up into a couple of posts to get everyone else’s thoughts. Our nation was meant to be a nation of discourse and was built on the idea that with friction between ideas, something beautiful might happen. Let the friction begin…]

The Shortfalls of Big-Corporate

To begin, let’s use Obama’s health care law as a little case-study. A while ago, I was sent an 8-part series by Ann Coulter entitled “Liberal Lies About Health Care”.  The first article opened with these lines:

[Liberal Lie #](1) National health care will punish the insurance companies.  You want to punish insurance companies? Make them compete.  As Adam Smith observed, whenever two businessmen meet, “the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.” That’s why we need a third, fourth and 45th competing insurance company that will undercut them by offering better service at a lower price.”

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I’m a one issue voter: some responses & clarifications {Pt.2}

“Free people, remember this maxim: We may acquire liberty, but it is never recovered if it is once lost.” –Jean-Jacques Rousseau

[UPDATE: Part 3, “specific abuses of Executive Power” is up]

Yesterday, I wrote a post about how I’ve become so burdened by the abuse of civil liberties by the Executive branch, that I have decided that this is a big enough of a deal–and the time is crucial enough–to warrant this being the one issue I use to determine who I’m voting for this Presidential election.

I knew I was brief yesterday, but wow. That post ended up causing a lot of emails, texts, comments and Facebook posts from people really cautious about what I had said, and had a lot of clarifying questions for me. Some issues will become clearer as I continue to write about this, but I wanted to address some crucial things up front.

First, some definition

As Wikipedia puts it: “Civil liberties are simply defined as individual legal and constitutional protections from entities more powerful than an individual, for example, parts of the government, other individuals, or corporations.” To put it another way, our “civil liberties” are what is clearly laid out in the Bill of Rights.
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