November 4, 2008
My hope is in Christ Jesus as he is the way, the truth and the light. In God's Grace John
The link to Dobson's letter didn't work, but I will look it up.I agreed with brother Steven's post a couple days ago, but I will respectfully disagree with Michael's quote, "...voting and getting involved in the political process can be a small part of that." I think it's more than a "small" part.Yes, I will continue to serve my Savior despite what the government does or does not do, but I think some people are throwing the baby out with the bath water in minimizing the importance of choosing our leaders. In our form of government, we are "Caesar," and our choices will affect our opportunities (and freedom) to openly proclaim and promote the cause of Christ.The balance may be difficult to discern (I'm still struggling with it), but there is a balance for which to strive...
Sorry about the link. I think it should be working now.
In your attempt to be so very tolerant by dismissing the Dobson letter, you may well be failing to see the future as it will be under Obama. Keep the letter and check things off in the next 4 years. You're going to see how prescient the letter actually is.BTW, my hope is ALWAYS in Christ. I'm just a realist.
The freedoms we have in the U.S. have been a platform from which the Gospel can be preached. If that platform (foundation) is destroyed, the church is going to find it a lot harder to accomplish its mission. Many have spent hours researching and examining the issues. I agree with Annie. Save the letter and review it in 4 years. We are blessed to live in a country where we have a say in the government. If we fail to make our voices heard, we have no one to blame but ourselves for the results.
Interesting piece of scaremongering. How about this from "Letter from 2012 in McCain's America"?:"The Chinese called in their debt last Tuesday. Yes, that debt--$25,000,000,000--the amount we borrowed from them to finance the Mideast wars because McCain thought we could invade Syria and Iran without raising taxes. Looks like the first thing they want is Taiwan; the next thing is this year's corn harvest; the last thing is a list of everybody who goes to church. And you can't exactly say "No" to someone who owns you lock, stock and barrel." I think this would be a good time for the Christian community to rethink their involvement in politics. There is a very strong argument to be made that Evangelical Christianity has been used to support some of the worst excesses of Bush and the neoconservatives, that we made it possible, largely because there are so many people who think that God is a Republican. I was one, but after seeing what the last eight years have wrought, no longer.
Amen. This is so helpful today. I must admit, I woke up really down about the election and you have reminded me that God, not government is MY hope, joy, and peace!
You know what bothers me? When people begin making prophets of themselves. Nobody knows what will happen in the future, but God. Writing that letter was a mistake. Instead of arguing about your supposed knowledge of the future, you should pray "hard" for our next president (like him or not), congress (who in reality has more power) and the Church, which will live and thrive under any ruler. Christ wasn't very involved in politics, neither did he use that as an excuse. He just worked. How about us Christians do the same. Let's just work!
A month or two ago I would have said Christianity has nothing to do with politics and should not be mixed. Today, thanks to Tom Right, I have to admit that Christianity by it's very nature counter-political in the sense that we are called to allegiance to God alone and a subversive, yet loving and sacrificual, undermining of the world's crooked values and systems. We are to remain within the law as far as possible without compromising Jesus' claim to Lordship and to remind our leaders to Whom they are answerable.Christians: Let's Get Political in the sense that we are the instruments God uses to shape the world and let us not set too much store by the promises of politicians. You can change much more by engaging and challenging the world as Jesus' did than by marking "X" under Obama or McCain!
What exactly is so wrong about FotF or anyone else expressing their fears about what our government leaders will do in the next 4 years? How is their distrust in Obama any more faithless toward God than the the utter confidence that so many have expressed in the promises and rhetoric such and inexperienced candidate? I had plenty of fears about either outcome of this election. But, to my mind, merely shaming FotF for expressing their fears does little to gain my confidence. I would rather have seen some substantive discussion that explains why those fears are unjustified. The letter from FotF did at least make an attempt to reveal the basis for their fears with footnotes. When Sojourners says things like this they are being "prophetic." When Focus on the Family does it, it's "fear-mongering". The responses you cite (from Wallis and beliefnet) don't contribute to the discussion or show why any of those fears are baseless. All they do is express their indignation that someone would dare to have such fears about the ones they vote for as President and members of Congress. My hope in Christ means that I will certainly pray for Barak Obama that God will bless his administration and that he will be a good president. But it is what he has or hasn't done, and what he will or won't do, that means more to me than anything he has said. I voted, but on the outcome I am still undecided.
I agree with John Bird's comment. I also believe that there should be a separation of church and state so that the church can retain its religious liberties. Everybody wants to pass a law for everything. Should Christians try to pass a law that forbids Mormon worship because it goes against biblical mandates? There may come a time when our country gets so fed up with us Christians that they attempt to pass laws just to get us to shut up, or perhaps worse. The Christian should not use congress to control the morality of the world, but some Christians are gifted in the area of politics and can shine their light through that avenue, yet always with the mind of a true democracy, not a theocracy.
A WELS Lutheran church I often attend, although I am not a member, and probably could not become one, has Dr. Dobson's Focus on the Family Q&A in the bulletin once a month. It provides such excellent, down-to-earth, common sense, morally grounded advice on a variety of family life questions. I cannot understand how the same man could make such a raving, maudlin fool of himself when he tries to comment on national politics. (This is also the guy who asked Christians to pray that it would rain on the closing night of the Democratic National Convention -- and IF God heard that prayer, or cared to answer it at all, we know what the answer was. I suspect God declined to be bothered.) The contrast is humongous. I agree that we should not try to prophesy, but more than that, we should not lend the eternal truths of the Gospel to short-term political agenda. That same church has stopped distributing Pat Robertson's Christian Voters Guide, because the "issues" it covers read more like a Capital Investors Voters Guide. As the recently retired pastor observed "Lutherans don't expects to control the state like the Calvinists do." By all means allow your faith and moral understanding guide your vote, but don't be so arrogant as to think that there is a uniform "Christian" way to vote. We had a Civil War dividing us once, and both sides prayed to the same God for victory. I thank God for our new president and the positive opportunities for our nation opening up. Incidentally, this should be good for our faiths also. I agree with John Bird and Elizabeth K.
A more balanced view is available from Rev. Greg Boyd's series, "The Myth of a Christian Nation," one of the very few sermon series I have gotten on tape or CD. He condemns both those who wave American flags behind three crosses in 3-D displays and those who claimed that George H.W. Bush is anti-Christ. Boyd mentioned that staff for the campaigns of two different U.S. senate candidates were members of his church, and both were welcome. Boyd also tells a moving story of a woman who votes pro-choice who is "more pro-life than I am" because she counseled the daughter of a close friend, who was pregnant, to consider all options, gave her assistance and a place to stay, with the result that she decided to carry the pregnancy to term and raise the baby. But FotF's propaganda has a shrill quality which conveys "We are the way, the truth and the life, any politician we are doubtful of must be shunned by anyone of one accord with us." I'm not a big fan of Sojourners, but they are not so demanding, nor so arrogantly certain that "God is on my side."
Actually, the gospel is not at all dependent on American freedoms. And I don't think it makes it harder for the church to accomplish it's mission-we just may not be as comfortable as we've become used to (something we need to take a look in the mirror on). Throughout history, the gospel has gone forth with the most power, and the church has grown, during times of persecution and during times when the church has operated from the places of least power (the margins of society). But the Church struggles and fails when it gets power or tries to accumulate it. This has been the problem with the religious right's plans for the past few decades--they have wanted power, and placed way too much hope in government power. This is why that letter is the wrong approach, and frankly a disgusting attempt to scare people into their way of thinking. It is not fair, and it is not accurate. Our country just elected a Christian man as it's president. You may not agree with all of his policies (who agrees with every aspect of a candidate?), but it is never right to slander someone.I agree with you that we are blessed to "have a say in the government". But also keep in mind that we must make sure our allegiance is to God first and not to Caesar.
That woman is more pro-choice than many who claim that position. It's largely been pro-life organizations like Alternatives to Abortion International, Heartbeat and there Pregnancy Decision Health Centers that support choices other than abortion and birth control (e.g., Planned Parenthood and NARAL). If Boyd thinks he's a typical pro-lifer because he doesn't support such things, I think he's mistaken. (If he doesn't think he's typical, what's his point?)The point I was trying to make in my previous comment is that arrogant certainty has two sides. Accusing FotF of being such without paying much attention to what they are saying and why is just the other side of the coin, being arrogantly certain that God is not on their side. FotF's critics in this instance are really playing the same game they accuse FotF of playing. FotF and other conservative Christian groups have been as much fodder for "fear mongering" on the liberal side as they have been producers of it:http://www.beliefnet.com/News/...
I was having fun finding we fundamentally agreed in another discussion a few weeks ago, but you are so all over the map here that I can't make sense of it. "That woman" (her name is Dorothy, I didn't provide that earlier, but it is easier to follow than "that woman")... Dorothy votes pro-choice, as do I, so I'm not sure what "than many who claim that position" means. The fact is, by providing assistance to the young pregnant woman, so the pregnant woman could relax, become informed, consider all options, she facilitated the pregnant woman CHOOSING to have the baby. It is true that many pro-life organizations offer similar support on an institutional basis. In fact, I believe that is the ONLY legitimate pro-life practice. I am sick of people trying to pass criminal legislation or rig the Supreme Court. People who want a woman to carry a pregnancy to term should offer all the support she needs to make that decision. Put your time and money where your mouth is, not your vote. I respect those who do so.Arrogance does come in many incarnations. Most institutions, demographics, movements, organizations, exhibit some. However, I don't need to catalog all the other arrogance in the world to condemn FotF for its very own peculiar arrogance, which I find revolting, and a marked contrast to the very appropriate advice they offer in their genuine field of expertise, family life. I'm not a member of NARAL, Planned Parenthood, Sojourners, and I'm not a liberal. I'm not playing balancing games. I'm talking about a specific brand of speech in the name of Jesus which I don't embrace. If you do, that's your choice. We are each responsible to God, not to each other. We can, however, benefit from exchanging perspectives.
My comments about arrogance were not pointed at you. I think that as Christians we have to respect others' when they speak out according to their convictions, even when we disagree. Christians will often see their convictions as being derived from Jesus' teaching to the best of their knowledge of it. Both Focus and Sojourners do this and it doesn't offend me when they do it because they believe that Jesus feels about these issue they way they do, indeed that they feel this way because they believe He does. I think that respectful disagreement recognizes this and will focus on the actual argument and reasons the other side has for believing what they do. Dismissive belittlement of the other side just for voicing those convictions does no good. And that's all I saw in Wallis' response to the Focus letter.As for the pro-life perspective that you are sick of, I understand it this way: The legal status of abortion on demand is a problem because by it abortion is promoted as a solution to unwanted pregnancy. Unfortunately abortion is a choice that undermines all others because it "eliminates" (kills) the problem at its "source" (unwanted fetal humans). If we were to legalize and accept euthanasia for the poor, where would be the incentive to alleviate poverty? If human lives are only worth protecting if someone "wants" them, we are in serious moral decay. Not long ago I saw a teenage mother on the TV news being sentenced to 10 years in prison for shaking and severely injuring her 7 week old daughter. Why such a severe punishment when a few months earlier she could have aborted the girl with no questions asked? The question of where we draw the line here is a serious one because it is a line between life and death. While legal means are not the whole answer, or even the primary one--we must primarily provide support for life choices--the legality of killing the unborn severely undermines other choices. It also undermines child support (if the abortion decision is completely up to the woman, the pregnancy is completely her responsibility), parental involvement (because minor daughters don't require parental knowledge or consent to get an abortion), and protection from sexual abuse (because abortion is the easiest way to hide one the most obvious unwanted consequences of such problems). The list goes on... abortion accommodates and creates more serious problems than it solves. More and more women are starting to realize this. Read The Cost of Choice: Women Evaluate the Impact of Abortion (edited by Erika Bachiochi) for a sampling.
I had not read Wallis's reply, and did so after reading your last post. I agree, it is not very impressive. It has the same strident, angry, dismissive quality found in many of Dobson's own utterances. If I were a Christian uncertain of how my faith should lead me through my nation's politics, I would find neither very inspiring. Dobson's letter did infuriate me, as it apparently did Wallis, but I took it in a "more in sorrow than in anger" sort of way. Poor man. Does he really think people still think this way? Does he really think anyone will take this vision of the future as a likely result of Obama's election? (Of course some do, but Dobson is at best preaching to his own choir, not winning hearts and minds. So is Wallis, of course.)I don't want to append a comprehensive discussion of abortion onto a discussion of what is Our Only Hope in light of the recent election. We know that no president is Our Only Hope. We know that many who sing "My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus blood and righteousness" voted for Barack Obama. I frankly don't think abortion is a significant ELECTORAL issue. The voters of South Dakota have TWICE rejected legislation on the subject. I personally do not believe that a human being with all the legal and moral rights of a person exists immediately after conception. I acknowledge that if you do, then there is no logical distinction between administering RU-486 and shooting a grown man through the head. Given that we do not have anything close to a consensus in our nation, we should refrain from trying to impose criminal legislation as a solution. By contrast, very few people would argue for, e.g., legalizing honor killings. We DO have pretty near a consensus on our current homicide laws. (I might quibble about the severity of punishment imposed upon a woman who kills a brutally abusive husband.) Your account of ways in which access to abortion can be abused is well taken. There should be ways to minimize those abuses.
Once again we come to some substantial agreement but I think it's very important to answer the question of when "a human being with all the legal and moral rights of a person" does exist. The criteria for defining nonpersons shouldn't be arbitrary or easily applicable to anyone else. In years of discussing this with thoughtful pro-choice people, I haven't found a satisfying answer. Without this it's hard to tell what you call abuses of access to abortion on demand from its natural and logical consequences. Greg Boyd has seriously suggested that we apply an end of life criteria of the absence of measurable brain activity to the beginning of life as well. This is confuses what is assumed to be permanent in one case with what we know to be temporary condition in the other, justifying the fatal intervention that is abortion based on a temporary condition because it can be a reasonable indicator of when it is futile to try to preserve the life of a dying person.As far as this not being an electoral issue, I don't see how you can blame people for making it one, for trying to "pack the Supreme Court" when it was the Supreme Court rather than the legislative process, that was used to overturn laws restricting abortion in most of the United States. What did consensus matter then? But when any Supreme Court nominee has to all but promise a Senate confirmation committee that they will uphold Row v. Wade in order to be approved, I don't see why anyone should be worried about packing the Court.
OK, count me as a thoughtful pro-choice person who is willing to try again. I am pro-choice without respect to whether abortion is ever, or in any specific situation, a good or appropriate choice. My concern is how and by whom that choice should be made.There probably is no way to reach 100% perfect consensus on when human life begins. There are some individuals, and some religious hierarchies or assemblies, who sincerely believe that from the moment a sperm fertilizes an egg, a human life is formed, which has all the rights to protection that any new-born baby, five year old, twenty year old, or eighty-one year old, also is entitled to. There are others who find that absolutely ridiculous. There are a much smaller number of people who believe that if a baby is hours away from healthy vaginal delivery, it remains the property of the mother, who is entitled to destroy it. (I don't call that an abortion, I call it a delivery, and unless the mother's life is in danger, or her health in a genuine sense of permanent disability, the delivery had better be performed AS a delivery). If we were summoned to gather at the base of Pike's Peak, where God Almighty would, among other things, inform us of exactly when human life begins and what laws and rituals this knowledge imposed upon us, there would of course be nothing to argue about. But that hasn't happened, and to my very limited knowledge, no summons to such an event has been issued.It is precisely because there is no satisfying answer, that we need to stop demanding the law to provide one. The political and legal question is, given the great diversity of opinion on this subject, what exactly can we write into human, secular, political law, what actions can we entrust the STATE to make, with regard to the development of a fetus and consideration, if any, of whether to abort? In a democratic republic, that means, when may we, collectively, as a community, direct an individual what course of action they will follow, and what penalties we will impose upon them if they do not.I find Roe v. Wade to be a very conservative application of well-established constitutional law to a specific question of state intervention vs. individual privacy. We all understand that the federal constitution bars the state from intervention in our personal lives. Considering the many difficulties you point to in defining when human life begins, the court made a reasonable division, recognizing that at the beginning, the fetus is far from a fully formed human being, and at the end, the new life ready for delivery is far from being a mere appendage of the mother. The court did not say abortion is a good thing, or particularly worthy of protection, it simply said that the government may not intervene in the decision in the first trimester, or prohibit outright in the second.Distorting our political life prioritizing whether a president will appoint to the Supreme Court justices committed to overturning an existing precedent is very corrosive. The court is a coequal branch charged with protecting us from unconstitutional acts of both the legislative and executive branches. I would suggest that anyone who is on record either that any given precedent MUST be overturned, or MUST NOT be overturned for any conceivable reason, is unfit to sit on the court. They might play a valuable role as attorneys arguing before the court. Remember that the justices who decided Brown v. Board of Education were NOT grilled at their confirmation hearings as to whether they would overturn Plessy v. Ferguson, and if they had said they would, undoubtedly would not have been confirmed. It wasn't even on their minds at the time they were nominated. Same for Roe v. Wade in fact.I would like to see the entire subject removed from politics. Every state already has laws prohibiting third trimester abortions unless the mother's life is in danger. Telling a woman "you must carry this pregnancy to term and raise the baby" is imposing considerable responsibilities -- I believe anyone who calls themselves "pro life" should step up to the plate and offer whatever support the woman needs to make that decision.
You've made a good response. I disagree with most of it. I won't argue at length here except to say that I don't think it's really all that difficult to tell when an individual human life begins and those who think it "ridiculous" that fetal humans don't deserve at least our protection from being deliberately killed, ought to bear some burden for the defense of the position. The reason I find pro-choice answers to this question unsatisfying is because they are inconsistent, seemingly arbitrary (for a matter that involves permission to kill another human being) and entail special pleading. Or, they don't really answer the question, arguing that it isn't answerable. Why is a 100% consensus or a special revelation from "God Almighty" so important for our own laws to speak to this matter when that doesn't seem necessary to support other laws that protect human life and rights? I also disagree with some of your factual statements as well as your argument from them, but I can't take the time now and don't want to take the space here to respond at such length. I would be interested in continuing this discussion privately. If you are also, send me your e-mail address at [email protected] If not, that's fine. I'm not trying to obligate you. It's been a good discussion, but I doubt anyone else here is interested.
I agree. Discussion removed. Perhaps we will post the results later, if it seems worthwhile, and provide a link for anyone interested.
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