Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Isn't that the truth

Zeinab Lesso, a Somali Bantu refugee living in Beaverton, Oregon after being resettled as part of a Clinton Administration program that brought 12,000 African refugees to the United States, said this:

“There is freedom here,” she says. “But you need a job to be free.”

Read the full story.


Monday, August 30, 2004

Do not put your trust in princes...

My friend David at conXian makes an excellent point. In his post, The Case for Kerry, he points out that most people are either voting for or against Bush. That was certainly the case when I wrote this post. He makes several good points and he is definitely saying something that needs to be said. That is, Kerry has significant merit as a presidential candidate besides just being someone other than Bush.

The challenge for me is that I have trouble getting behind any particular candidate. I tend to think of this line from Psalm 146:3 (NIV) "Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save." A lot of political figures that I've put my faith in (so to speak) have let me down. Particularly hurtful was the downfall of politicians like Neil Goldschmidt (he raped a 14-year old girl when he was mayor of Portland) and Frank Shields (a Methodist minister and state senator who resigned from the UMC to avoid being defrocked after his adultery was discovered). I know that they are just men and their failings show that they are indeed human.

I think another problem for me is that a surprising number of men (not my father) who were involved in my life as a child turned out to be pretty despicable people. My scoutmaster was convicted of a felony for defrauding the Social Security Administration; another Boy Scout leader very publicly cheated on his wife for years; A trusted teacher grew into an angry and abusive man; and so on. The real problem is probably the fact that I (and probably most other people too) have unrealistic expectations of the people that we look up to. When we're hurt because they fail to live up to our expectations we decide not to trust anyone.

The irony, in my case anyway, is that I yearn for someone to inspire me. I want a candidate to follow. I want to work for a charismatic and intelligent leader. But I'm unwilling to place my trust in anyone. I can just hear the evangelicals out there saying, "Put your trust in Jesus! Jesus is the only man worth following." Unfortunately, life is more complicated than that. We need leaders. We need people who are alive now to motivate us and move us to create the world we want.

This makes me think of the movie City Hall (which I happen to think is a great movie - one of my favorites). It stars Al Pacino as the mayor of New York City and John Cusack as Deputy Mayor. Cusack is very idealistic and deeply believes in what Pacino wants to do. Through the course of a major scandal Cusack discovers that Pacino is corrupt and just as dirty as every other politician. This man that he'd placed his trust (and his career) in, lets him down. As the movie ends, Cusack is running for City Council himself. The way I see it, he hasn't let his idealism be crushed by the betrayal of the Mayor. Rather, Cusack realizes that he is the person he was looking for. Rather than put his faith in someone else, he's trying to become the type of leader he believes the City needs.

But I don't feel like I'm the person I'm looking for. I doubt my ability to be the kind of leader that could really create change in my community. Am I a coward? A realist? I'm not sure there's an answer.

Here's Eugene Peterson's translation of all of Psalm 146 (MSG):

1 Hallelujah! O my soul, praise GOD!
2 All my life long I'll praise GOD, singing songs to my God as long as I live.
3 Don't put your life in the hands of experts who know nothing of life, of salvation life.
4 Mere humans don't have what it takes; when they die, their projects die with them.
5 Instead, get help from the God of Jacob, put your hope in GOD and know real blessing!
6 GOD made sky and soil, sea and all the fish in it. He always does what he says--
7 he defends the wronged, he feeds the hungry. GOD frees prisoners--
8 he gives sight to the blind, he lifts up the fallen. GOD loves good people,
9 protects strangers, takes the side of orphans and widows, but makes short work of the wicked. 10 GOD's in charge--always. Zion's God is God for good!



Thursday, August 26, 2004

The internet is very fickle...

You write posts that you think will generate controversy and hate mail, but they don't. You write silly posts and happen to discover that the camp song "Pharaoh, Pharaoh" is very popular and generates a lot of hits via google, even when you misspell it in your post.

This has been an especially good week for traffic. Chuck Currie, a former Portlander, current UCC seminarian, and popular blogger, highlighted my blog (among others) as a progressive Christian blog. Jack Bogdanski, probably the preeminent Portland blogger, generously pointed out this post and sent a lot of traffic my way. Thanks Chuck and Jack!


Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Why I am not voting for George W. Bush

As Jim Wallis says, "Faith is personal, but never private." I will not be voting for George W. Bush in the fall for a number of reasons, and some of those are influenced by my faith. I'm not suggesting that a "proper" Christian wouldn't vote for Bush. Rather, my faith has led me to think about the election this way. Hopefully it will stir up some debate and make me and others think more carefully about why we vote the way we do.

Disclaimer #1: I'm not an enthusiastic fan of John Kerry. I think he will do a fine job as President, but he's not quite my top choice.

Reasons I'm not voting for Bush/Cheney:
1.) I disagree strongly with how they have handled the war on terror. I get the feeling that they are strongly motivated by revenge. Remember Bush's comment regarding Osama bin Laden - he wanted him "dead or alive" like they did in the Old West. As Christians, Jesus implores us to turn the other cheek, to not seek revenge. Jesus puts it this way:

Matthew 5:38-45 (MSG)
Love Your Enemies
"Here's another old saying that deserves a second look: "Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.' Is that going to get us anywhere? Here's what I propose: "Don't hit back at all.' If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously."You're familiar with the old written law, "Love your friend,' and its unwritten companion, "Hate your enemy.' I'm challenging that. I'm telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best--the sun to warm and the rain to nourish--to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty.

Further, I believe the Bush/Cheney approach to the war has made us less safe. The emphasis on killing the men involved in 9/11 and the war in Iraq has distracted us from dealing with global terrorism generally. With the quote above I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't defend ourselves. But I would argue that the Bush/Cheney approach does nothing to change the underlying forces that drive terrorism. Here is a quote from Benjamin Barber, a political scientist at the University of Maryland:

And the 9/11 Report says, Bill, very clearly that unless we deal not just with al-Qaeda and with terrorism and the radical sect Wahhabi Islam that gives them their ideology, but that we also deal with the millions and millions of young Muslim men around the world who are angry, who feel left out of the new world markets, who feel engaged in defensive ways by the aggressive American consumer mentality and materialist economy being pushed around the world that I called McWorld. Unless we deal with that, even if we excise the tumor of al-Qaeda, we will find new tumors growing on this same immune defective system.

(Read more from my earlier post, More on Enemies)

So I believe Bush/Cheney are engaged in an un-Christian-like quest for revenge that will likely result in more terrorist activity against the US, not less.

2.) I don't believe that Bush/Cheney exhibit a consistent ethic of life. They oppose abortion, yes. However, Bush is also an enthusiastic supporter of the death penalty. There are also more than 40 million people in this country without health insurance. Almost a quarter of them are children. Bush has had almost four years to do something about that - he hasn't. I wish Bush/Cheney and the GOP cared as much about children out of the womb as they do in the womb.

I'm personally opposed to abortion. But I don't believe banning it will actually change anything. I believe we need to embrace a consistent ethic of life that cares for all men, women, children, and families. If we are successful, then abortion will become unnecessary. Bush/Cheney have also made life tougher for working families. One of the consequences of the Bush tax cuts and overall tax policy is that the tax burden is being shifted primarily to "earned" income (i.e. wages, salaries, tips). The result is that even though we've experienced small decreases in our marginal income tax rates, we're still paying the same in payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare. Working Americans will pay a greater proportion of their income in taxes (because of those payroll taxes) than wealthy Americans. For a President that claims to support working families, that's shameful.

3.) The Bush/Cheney campaign is misusing its ties to Christianity. The most egregious example is the campaign organization requesting church members give their directories to the campaign. Either Bush/Cheney doesn't realize or doesn't care that the church and God's Kingdom are bigger than any one candidate or country. We are not God's chosen people. America is not held in greater esteem by God than the other people in the world. I believe God mourns the death of an Iraqi child as much as the death of an American child.

I wish Kerry would talk about his faith more. But I will not vote for a candidate that tries to tell me what my faith means. I will not associate with a political party that assumes my faith means support of their positions.

Disclaimer #2: I don't believe George Bush is evil, the Anti-Christ, or out to destroy America. (But I wonder sometimes...) I do believe that he is dangerously unreflective and unwilling to admit his mistakes. I believe those traits make him a poor president, but not evil.

So I will vote for Kerry/Edwards in November. I pray that the months leading up to the election are a time of national self-reflection, courtesy, honesty, and truth.


Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Talking Theology

One of the challenges in talking about theology or even just basic Christianity is that our theological assumptions (whether we recognize them or not) are extremely different or diametrically opposed to those to whom we're speaking.

I think it goes beyond "ships passing in the night." We're not even in the same ocean. So how do we get to the same ocean? One idea that Chris (from People, Books and the Glory of Christ) and I have been discussing is that we should get to root of our theological/philosophical disagreement. For example, in a lot of quantitative academic fields, when writing a paper the authors lay out their assumptions/methods. One of the main reasons is that it makes it possible for other researchers to replicate the findings. It helps guarantee that researchers are talking about the same ideas and problems. It helps keep people in the same ballpark. One of the things Chris and I agree on is that we have different ideas about sin and salvation. So it's difficult to talk about an issue like homosexuality absent an understanding of our own underlying assumptions.

So would that work? In the end, probably not. I think the end result is that instead of having pointless arguments about issues (because we're operating under different assumptions), we'll have pointless arguments over "first principles" that people are generally unwilling to change (myself included).

For example, some of my first principles or underlying theological assumptions are as follows:

  • I believe that God was working in the lives of those that wrote the Bible, but that it is not inerrant or "divinely inspired" (in the way many evangelicals understand it).
  • I believe that many of the stories in the Bible may not have literally happened. I tend to see many of those stories (particularly the Hebrew Bible stories) as having truth that is "more than literal," to use Borg's term.
  • I do not believe in predestination. I think that we make our own choices, good or bad.
    I'm pretty sure that most everyone (even Muslims!) is going to heaven. As someone said (can't remember who), I'm a hopeful universalist. But I also believe that our salvation isn't really about heaven. It has much more to do with how we live than where we go when we die.
  • I'm not convinced that Jesus is the only way to God. I have a hard time believing that God revealed himself to a couple thousand (?) people wandering in the desert and gave up on the rest of the world. I don't think that Jews and Christians have an exclusive on experiencing the sacred and divine.

I'm open to discussion, but honestly, I'm not sure you'll be able to change my mind in a dramatic way. Ultimately, I think we're still in different oceans (or ballparks - sorry for mixing metaphors). I think what further complicates the situation is that our first principles are also tied into our whole worldview and how we see ourselves as humans. Thus it's difficult to separate ourselves from ideas that are strongly connected to our sense of self.

Are we stuck? Maybe so...


Monday, August 23, 2004

Read this blog!

I've plugged him before, but then he and his wife went on vacation for a month. Anyway, one of my very good friends, David, has started a blog called conXian. He's a seminary student at a United Methodist seminary in Denver. His thoughts on religion and Christianity are much more insightful than mine. So check out his blog if you're so inclined. Here are some greatest hits from conXian:

What's up with the name?

Indigenous Religion

Me and Jesus


Friday, August 20, 2004


I read a technology column, I, Cringely, regularly. Sometimes it is a little too "techy" for me, but it is usually pretty entertaining and educational. In this week's column, Cringely is discussing the Google IPO.

He makes an interesting comment about smart people and mistakes:

There's an interesting effect here that I've noticed over the years -- smart people don't make the same mistake twice while REALLY SMART people don't make the same mistake three times. Since they tend to make fewer mistakes to start with, really smart people tend to repeat the mistakes they do make because they are initially convinced that the outcome was someone else's fault or perhaps because of cosmic rays.

That creates some interesting questions for me: How does my sense of my own cleverness/wit/smarts blind me to mistakes I might be making? How does my strong belief in my ability to make decisions keep me from recognizing or accepting the consequences of my actions?

If you like technology, read Cringely's column. If you don't, read it anyway. It will be worth your time.


Welcome Lars Larson Fans!

I got a ton of hits (for me anyway) earlier this week from people googling "Kerry and Goldschmidt." To refresh your memory, Neil Goldschmidt was Governor of Oregon, Transportation Secretary under Jimmy Carter, and Mayor of Portland. Goldschmidt confessed to having a sexual relationship with a 14-year old girl while he was Mayor of Portland. He only confessed because a Portland alternative newspaper was about to publish the story. Personally, I call Goldschmidt's actions RAPE. 14-year olds don't engage in sexual relationships with 35-year olds.

Anyway, apparently when John Kerry was in town last week, he ran into Goldschmidt in a restaurant. Depending on who you talk to, it was either an extremely brief conversation or more involved. Apparently local conservative talk radio host Lars Larson is alleging Kerry and Goldschmidt had a serious conversation. I haven't heard him talk about this, but my guess is that Lars is going insane considering the possibility that Kerry (who not high on his list of favorite people) is associating with admitted (liberal Democratic) rapists.

So I'm guessing all of those hits from google were Lars Larsen listeners. Welcome! I'm bet you were shocked when you ended up here! Yes, I'm a bleeding heart, Christian liberal. But at least we can agree on our disgust for Neil Goldschmidt!

Previous posts on Goldschmidt:


Thursday, August 19, 2004

Extreme Makeover: Blog Edition

I'll apologize for the title of this post right off the bat. I just couldn't resist.

Welcome to the new and improved The Faithful Skeptic!

What you'll find:

  • I may be the last person on Blogger to take advantage of the new templates, but that's ok.
  • Permalinks actually work now! I finally realized how to set that function in Blogger.
  • I cleaned up the sidebar.
  • Not much else.


How do we even talk about this?

My "Tired" post was inspired by a lot of things, but also by this post at by Chris at People, books and the glory of Christ. It is very frustrating to me that rather than having a dicussion about why we disagree on the important social issues of our time, the speaker at the event Chris attended instead suggests that liberal Christians are just assimilating to the culture and abandoning Christian values.

That seems to me to be a convenient way to reject the argument of someone you disagree with without having to engage the substance of the argument. As a "liberal Christian", I would suggest that honoring all people, including gays and lesbians, is an example of faithfully living the gospel of Christ.

How do we talk about these issues when, for some people, holding certain opinions disqualifies you from even participating?


Wednesday, August 18, 2004


I have a discovered a travesty that I feel compelled to share with the world. Here it is: Women can wear sandals to work and still be considered to be wearing "business casual" attire, while men cannot. Rather than being comfortable, I'm stuck with socks and shoes.

I know, this is perhaps not the most pressing issue of our time, but shouldn't all Americans care about releasing us hapless, male office workers from the shackles of non-ventilated footwear during the summer months?

Sad to say, but deep thoughts are scarce for me today.


Tuesday, August 17, 2004


This weekend was the 2004 Oregon International Airshow in Hillsboro. The main attraction was the Blue Angels. We did not actually attend, but as our house was more or less under the flightpath we got to see quite a bit. It was an incredible display of skill that was enjoyable to watch and hear. The roar of the jets was incredible.

We were standing outside when one of our neighbors made a comment about how terrifying that sound must be to Iraqis. Imagine hearing it all day and all night along with the sounds of explosions. Imagine wondering if that next bomb was going to drop on your house? It reminded me that as much fun as it is to watch the show, these machines were designed to kill people. It is something that they do incredibly well and for much of the world, our air power is a tool of death and destruction, not entertainment. At the very least, it should give us empathy for the innocent Iraqi civilians who lived (and those that didn't) through our air assault.


Monday, August 16, 2004

Top ten reasons I'm not like Bill O'Reilly

A commenter in my previous post where I renounced being nice (at least temporarily) argues that my forceful statement of political and religious beliefs (they would probably call it a rant...) is on the level of Bill O'Reilly. I strenuously disagree and hereby offer this top ten list in response:

10. I have more hair.
9. I am not getting rich being mean to people.
8. Sadly, I do not have a radio and tv show in addition to this blog.
7. I freely acknowledge that this is a "spin-zone."
6. Liberals do not make documentaries about my employer's pro-GOP bias.
5. In fact, no one makes documentaries about me. I might add though, I think I'd be a magnificent subject.
4. I self-righteously pontificate, but no one listens.
3. I have never engaged in a shouting match with Al Franken. If I did though, I would kick Franken's ass. (Nothing against Al Franken, but O'Reilly seems like kind of a wimp when he can't cut you off.)
2. I'm actually interested in your opinion.
1. If I were like O'Reilly, when you tried to leave a comment my blog would interrupt you and call you names.


Friday, August 13, 2004

I'm tired

I'm tired of being gracious. I'm tired of being polite. I'm tired of being understanding. Not in every area of my life, just a couple very specific ones: religion and politics. I'm tired of trying to politely explain my point of view and express my understanding of other viewpoints to people and have them not return the courtesy. I'm a pretty good debater. When I was in high school, my partner and I were in the top 10 teams in the state. I'm tired of not using those skills. So, for today anyway, no more Mr. Nice Guy.

What brought this on? I was having a polite discussion with Chris over at People, Books and Christ. He commented in a post that he thought liberal Christians (anyone who isn't opposed to homosexuality) is just assimilating to society and ignoring the core values of Christianity. I tried to explain that liberal Christians (not my term of choice) see the issue differently. After some back-and-forth, he made a comment that something I said, "made him wonder about the spiritual life of [my] congregation."

I'm astounded by the stunning arrogance he just displayed. Based on one comment, he's suggesting that my church community is not authentic, not adhering to Biblical principles, etc. Further, he's suggesting that he's qualified to evaluate the spiritual health of other communities of faith. The hell he is.

Why is it when discussing basic theological issues with some conservatives their first response is to question the quality of your faith? Why do they jump in using words like "false teacher" and questioning the integrity, honesty, and faithfulness of another group of people? I've had enough.
Comments like that make me wonder about the intellectual life of his congregation. Is it a place where people aren't allowed to think? As soon as you start expressing any sign of independent thought your faith is questioned? How is it that our society has created a whole church sub-culture that is only interested in reinforcing the sketchy theology that underlies it?

This attitude mirrors the conservative political ideology that labels anyone who questions Bush as a traitor. Unflinching deference to authority is the order of the day. You may not question your pastor or your president. I refuse to accept that. I refuse to be part of a church where I cannot ask basic questions. I refuse to be part of a political or religious tradition that does not allow independent thought.

I do not believe homosexuality is a sin. I believe the United Methodist Church (and others) should joyfully ordain and marry all human beings. I believe that religious opposition to homosexuality is based primarily on fear, discomfort, and a simplistic understanding of biology, history and scripture. I believe that Christian fundamentalism is a horrific distortion of Christ's message and a plague on the church. I am disgusted how political conservatism distorts and manipulates the message of the gospel in promoting a social policy that is anything but "compassionate" and Biblical.

I believe George Bush and his administration value political power over the truth. They will do or say almost anything to get what they want. We have killed over 11,000 Iraqis in a war we have no idea how to win. Bush has inflamed our enemies, driven off our allies, and disenfranchised millions of Americans. Four more years of Bush/Cheney would be disastrous for the world.

I believe that many around Bush (and himself, possibly) believe that he is appointed by God. They have no objection to twisting religious imagery and language in support of base political opportunity. God is but another tool for Bush and company to make the rich richer, and the powerful more so.

So, those of you religious and political conservatives, I fully support your right to your opinion and your right to express it. But I think you're wrong. Absolutely, no doubt about it, dead wrong. Feel free to argue with me. Feel free to tell me that I'm wrong. Debate is healthy. But if all you've got is to say I'm a false teacher or not a real Christian, then bug off. That's not debate. It's an anti-intellectual ploy designed to stifle debate and rational thought by invoking God.

I may regret this later, but I feel good now.


Wednesday, August 11, 2004

More from Jim Wallis

Here are a couple of quotes from a commentary from Jim Wallis published in the Boston Globe. One of the things that worries Wallis is the "loss of religion's prophetic vocation." In my opinion, as long as Wallis is around, it's not completely gone.

The best public contribution of religion is precisely not to be ideologically predictable nor a loyal partisan. To raise the moral issues of human rights, for example, will challenge both left- and right-wing governments who put power above principles. And religious action is rooted in a much deeper place than "rights" - that being the image of God in every human being.
It is precisely because religion takes the problem of evil so seriously that it must always be suspicious of concentrated power - politically and economically - either in totalitarian regimes or in huge multinational corporations, which now have more wealth and power than many governments. It is indeed our theology of evil that makes us strong proponents of both political and economic democracy - not because people are so good, but because they often are not and need clear safeguards and strong systems of checks and balances to avoid the dangerous accumulations of power and wealth.
In an election year, the particular religiosity of a candidate, or even how devout they might be, is less important than how their religious and/or moral commitments and values shape their political vision and their policy commitments. Understanding the moral compass they bring to their public lives and how their convictions shape their political priorities is the true litmus test.



Tuesday, August 10, 2004

More on enemies...

Reverend Ref+ pointed me to an interesting blog post about Imprecatory Prayer. According to Webster's, to imprecate is "to invoke evil on" or "to utter curses." I'd suggest reading the argument in favor of imprecatory prayers posted at The Family Letter and coming back to finish this.

The author of the post, Doug Giles, makes an argument in favor of Christians using imprecatory prayer as a defense against radical Islam. He states, "Radical Islam is incorrigible, period. So… face it and embrace it. We are not going to convert or appease these cats. We have nothing they want. There is nothing to negotiate. They want us exterminated. Capisce?"

After suggesting several courses of action, including unwavering support of President Bush, he concludes with, "As people of faith, dust off and use what’s afforded to the believer within the Old and New Testaments, namely the imprecatory prayers."

How does he describe imprecatory prayers? Like this:

It is a prayer asking God to crush a clear enemy of His, an enemy which is an aggressive adversary of freedom and peace loving people. Yes, Mr. and Mrs. Precious Moments Figurine Collector, the Bible is filled with maledictions prayed by saints and speedily answered by God against violently impenitent enemies of liberty and righteousness.
So… start tossing imprecatory prayers heavenward and watch what God does to militant implacable Islam. The celestial spanking of terrorists is no big deal for God. And our prayers could save thousands of our soldiers’ lives, our citizens’ lives and the lives of innocent, moderate Muslims and others who get caught in the freak boys’ villainous crossfire.

As I said in a comment at the Family Letter, this is all fine and good if you're operating under the assumption that God is on your side. I think you have to be supremely confident that your view of the world, of the Bible, and God is absolutely correct. The unfortunately reality is that the world is an extremely complicated place and seldom can one extremist position accurately convey what's at stake.

We can construct our view of the world as an "us versus them" situation and pray ferverently that God will destroy our enemies. But that worldview ignores our complicity in creating the conditions that allow "radical islam" to thrive. I think it is a normal and very understandable reaction to want the terrorists dead. But that misunderstands the world that creates them.

Benjamin Barber is a professor at the University of Maryland and author of several fantastic books including Strong Democracy, Jihad vs. McWorld, and Fear's Empire: War, Terrorism and Democracy. In an interview will Bill Moyers on NOW, he had this to say:

BARBER: And the 9/11 Report says, Bill, very clearly that unless we deal not just with al-Qaeda and with terrorism and the radical sect Wahhabi Islam that gives them their ideology, but that we also deal with the millions and millions of young Muslim men around the world who are angry, who feel left out of the new world markets, who feel engaged in defensive ways by the aggressive American consumer mentality and materialist economy being pushed around the world that I called McWorld. Unless we deal with that, even if we excise the tumor of al-Qaeda, we will find new tumors growing on this same immune defective system.

MOYERS: But there is a school of thought which holds that al-Qaeda and the terrorists that everyone takes so seriously come not from conditions in the world but from a radical ideology embedded in Islam itself.

BARBER: But the problem with that argument is that it assumes that ideologies, whether it's Communism or radical Islam, grow in isolation from the conditions around them. Communism became a radical and virulent and dangerous ideology. But it came out of three centuries of class warfare.

It came out of the abuses and difficulties and contradictions of capitalism in the 18th and 19th century. That grew the ideology that in time grew Bolshevism and all the terrible costs that we paid because of Bolshevism. And radical Wahhabi Islam is very much the same. I mean, there's a good way to define a radical religious movement.

Radical religion is normal religion under siege. When people feel threatened in their normal religious beliefs, they become radical. So we have to do something about normal religion under siege if we're going to deal with radical Islam.

As much as we'd like to deny it, we helped created radical Islam. So as much as I believe God mourns all of the deaths at the hands of terrorists, I believe God also mourns the economic, political, and social systems created and perpetuated by the United States that result in global povery and inequality. As much as we'd like God to punish the sins of radical Islam in righteous anger, we need to acknowledge our sin in our relationships with the world.

So, Doug Giles, you're right. The Psalms are full of imprecatory prayers. But I believe as Christians we're called to greater responsibility. It's easy to pray for the destruction of your enemies. It is much harder to acknowledge your role in creating the conditions the bred your enemies. So while I hate what al-Qaeda does, I'm not going to pray for God to destroy them. I'm going to pray that our society will have the courage and humility to approach the Muslim world with grace in seeking justice and peace for all people.

I'd also suggest reading a sermon Tony Campolo posted at The Church of Fools, "Why many people in the world hate America."

That Jesus guy had a couple of things to say about this too. I think it's important to note that what many Jews wanted in their Messiah was a holy warrior that would drive the Romans from Israel. They (and we) got something completely different. We should remember that.

Matthew 5:38-48 (MSG)
"Here's another old saying that deserves a second look: "Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.' Is that going to get us anywhere? Here's what I propose: "Don't hit back at all.' If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.

"You're familiar with the old written law, "Love your friend,' and its unwritten companion, "Hate your enemy.' I'm challenging that. I'm telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best--the sun to warm and the rain to nourish--to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

"In a word, what I'm saying is, Grow up. You're kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.

Luke 6:41-42 (MSG)
"It's easy to see a smudge on your neighbor's face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, "Let me wash your face for you,' when your own face is distorted by contempt? It's this I-know-better-than-you mentality again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your own part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.

If you'd like to read more of Doug Giles' wild, somewhat incomprehensible rants, visit ClashRadio.com.

This is long, sorry. If you've gotten this far you must be a glutton for punishment.


Monday, August 09, 2004

Camp Songs

Pharaoh, Pharaoh
(sung to the tune of Louie, Louie)

Pharaoh, Pharaoh Oh baby! Gotta let my people go! HUH!
Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!
Singin' Pharaoh, Pharaoh
Oh baby! Gotta let my people go! HUH!
Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!

A burnin' bush told me just the other day
that I should come over here and stay.
Gotta get my people outta Pharaoh's hands
Gotta lead my people to the Promised Land.


The Nile turned to blood! There were darkened black skies!
Gnats and frogs! There were locusts and flies!
The first born died, causing Egypt to grieve,
Finally Pharaoh said, "Y'all can leave!"


Me and my people goin' to the Red Sea
Pharaoh's army's comin' after me.
I raised my rod, stuck it in the sand
All of God's people walked across the dry land.


Pharaoh's army was a comin' too.
So what do you think that I did do?
Well, I raised my rod and I cleared my throat
All of Pharaoh's army did the dead man's float.


The trip this weekend was better than I expected, but worse in one major way - inadequate preparation (on my part) for below-freezing temperatures at night. Ugh! However, friends who had an extra bed in their cabin at the camp shared with us and saved us from another night of cold.

On a loosely related topic - if you've ever been to a Christian summer camp, you've probably sung Pharaoh, Pharaoh. I may be taking this too seriously, but the song really bothers me. Basically the song teaches kids to rejoice in the knowledge that God murdered the enemies of the Israelites. Is that the message we really want to send?

Is that what we hope for as Christians? Are we waiting for God to murder our enemies? I would hope not. I think the song also encourages us to see things in black and white, good and evil. Israelites = good, Pharaoh's army = evil. Is it really much of a leap to Americans = good, Iraqis = evil?

I'm not a pacifist (yet), but I think we need to set higher expectations for our relationships with other human beings, including those who we decide are our enemies. And I think we also need to really think about the subtle messages we send kids about violence, even in wacky, fun camp songs. Our hope should not be that God will annihilate those who oppose us, but rather that we will be reconciled through the power of grace and God's love.

Or maybe I should just lighten up...


Thursday, August 05, 2004


We're going on an intergenerational mission trip this weekend. I hate to admit it, but I really don't want to go. I feel like I need to relax and I don't imagine this trip will be conducive to that. The trip is led by our church's youth minister, who is a fine person.

I hate to admit this too, but our youth ministry makes me crazy. She's always trying to guilt trip me into doing something that I don't want to do. I feel like if I say no, she's going to say, "do you hate Jesus?" I should get over it... Who knows, maybe I am a bad Christian. If I just give up all of my waking hours to her youth program I'll be well on my way to heaven! She doesn't ask that much...


Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Updated Blog

Sarah, my wonderful talented and beautiful wife has updated her blog. Check it out. She writes a lot about her experience as a new mother. She's a fantastic mother, and I'm awed by her love for our daughter and her incredible patience.


Hey, it's the small victories that count!
So, me and my blog are moving up in the world. My insightful, thoughtful commentary on the Democratic National Convention and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is getting noticed on the internet.

I am now the #8 hit for "goat-ball licker" and the #10 hit for "turd miner." Yea me!


Monday, August 02, 2004

Grief, Anger, Fear, and ... Hope?
I went through a cycle of grief, anger and fear dealing with cancer here and here two weeks ago. This weekend I learned that my father's wife has breast cancer. The optimist in me says that God was preparing me for this news. The pessimist says that the world is a just a really crappy place sometimes.

My father's wife is not my mother (I've never known her that way), but she is a mother. She's a grandmother to my daughter. She's also a daugther, a sister, an aunt. She is a wonderful, loving, nurturing person who is a joy to have in my life. I know that right now she's scared, but she also gives hope through her strength. She received the news after spending time last week comforting, nurturing, and being present for two friends fighting losing battles against cancer.

Her prognosis is very good. She says, "I want to get it over with and get on with life." My dad says, "It's just the crap you deal with in life." So while I'm scared for them, they give me hope. It amazes me that in this time of need, she is still giving. So I thank God for her presence in my life. I hope I can learn something about what a ministry of presence really means from someone who just plans on living.