Thursday, September 30, 2004

Same-sex marriage and argumentation

I think I might not disagree about the apples and oranges point mentioned in the comments to this post. But my argument here isn't (and is never stated as such) that since marriage has been unjust in the past we should support same-sex marriage. My point is that arguing against same-sex marriage from the basis of tradition is sloppy, and to an extent, intellectually dishonest.

The implicit assumption in the tradition argument is that since the opposite-gender nature of marriage has stayed consistent over recorded human history, honoring that part of marriage is defending tradition. Further, the argument suggests that nothing of substance in marriage has changed, so why start now?

My response is that marriage today is a radically different institution than it was 25 years ago. Changes like actually allowing married women to have legal rights is a fundamental transformation of the institution. These "past sins of marriage law" are as much a part of the tradition as the man/woman nature of marriage.

If you read my original post carefully, you'll notice nowhere does it say that same-sex marriage should be legal based on the sordid history of the institution of (heterosexual) marriage. The point of the original post is to advocate for better and more intellectually honest arguments.

Personally, I believe same-sex marriage should be legal. Unless you're prepared to remove the equal protection clause from the US Constitution, I don't see how you can get around it (I'll apologize in advance to my international audience - I don't know much of anything your legal system - wherever you come from...). But I realize there are other arguments against same-sex marriage. I just don't believe that the tradition argument should be one of them.

In case you're interested, my very first two blog posts dealt with this very issue. There are, admittedly, not my finest writing ever. They are snarky, sarcastic, and kind of obnoxious. Which, with my luck, means people will probably like them.

Sanctification and Same-Sex Marriage (i)
Sanctification and Same-Sex Marriage (ii)


Wednesday, September 29, 2004

No sarcasm here

Wow! Who would have thought that a snarky, obnoxious post like this one would turn out to be my most popular post ever?

I want to deal with some issues that came up in the comments. First, an argument was made that this isn't really relevant to the same-sex marriage debate because I'm talking about legal inequities that have since been remedied. I would disagree.

Many of the arguments in favor of banning same-sex marriage are couched in terms of protecting the institution or tradition of marriage. My point is that you can't cherry-pick the parts of the tradition you like and ignore everything else. As several commenters pointed out, the idea of "civil death" for women (where a married woman essentially loses her individuality in civil and/or legal terms) is as much a part of the tradition of marriage as its limitation to opposite-gender partners.

The fact is that the institution of marriage that most opposite-gender couples enter today (in the West, anyway) is a radically different institution than it was was even 30 years ago. When we're talking about the tradition of marriage we cannot ignore the fact that for most of human history the institution of marriage has been patriarchal, oppressive, and profoundly unjust.

I'll agree that this doesn't necessarily suggest that same-sex marriage should be legal. Rather, this is a call to honesty in discussing the history of marriage. Several commenters had issues with my including marital rape in the list. As I pointed out in the comments, martial rape wasn't illegal in all 50 states until 1993. In 1976, it wasn't recognized as a criminal offense in even one. When we're talking about the tradition of marriage let's not use false, romantic visions of the past.

Thanks to the following blogs for sending hordes (for me, anyway) of traffic my way:

Alas, a Blog
Hugo Schwyzer
Maggi Dawn


Monday, September 27, 2004

Defend Traditional Marriage!

On November 2, Oregonians have to opportunity to vote on Measure 36 which would amend Oregon's Constitution to say that "only marriage between one man and one woman is valid or legally recognized as marriage." The proponents of Measure 36 frequently talk about this in terms of defending traditional marriage. But if we're really interested in "defending traditional marriage," we have to realize that the current state of egalitarian utopia us married folks enjoy has only been around for 30 or 40 years. So I don't believe the proponents of Measure 36 go far enough. Let's really defend the institution of marriage as we've known it for most of human history! Thus, I propose the following changes to Oregon's Constitution:

  1. No married woman shall be allowed to own real property, including (but not limited to) houses, land, or automobiles. If a single woman has acquired said assets, she shall be required to transfer ownership to her husband on or before the date of marriage.
  2. No married woman shall be allowed to work outside the home without the explicit written consent of her husband.
  3. Any man shall be allowed to divorce his wife for any reason. The man shall retain all assets and full custody of any children, if he so desires.
  4. Any woman shall be allowed to divorce her husband only if she can prove infidelity beyond a shadow of a doubt. The woman shall not be entitled to any assets held by the husband.
  5. Any employer shall be allowed to reasonably reduce the wages of a newly married woman now that she no longer has to support herself.
  6. Any employer shall be allowed to terminate any woman who becomes pregnant during the course of her employment. Further, no employer shall be required to hire a pregnant woman.
  7. "Marital rape" is no longer considered a criminal offense. Marriage is considered prima facia evidence of consent to any sexual activity between a married man and woman.
  8. Domestic violence will only be considered a misdemeanor offense, punishable by a small fine.


Thursday, September 23, 2004

Blogging in Pendleton

Can you believe that the Red Lion in Pendleton, Oregon has free high-speed wireless internet access in all the rooms?

Wish me luck tomorrow in my presentation.

One addendum to add to my post on biblical inerrancy - I believe in the Bible. I believe the Bible is the witness of two historical communities of faith. The Bible matters. But the Bible is not God.


Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Tidbits from my week

This has been a crazy week. I've started taking swimming lessons to become a more proficient swimmer. We're still dealing with auditors at work. I leave tomorrow for Central Oregon to do a presentation at the annual conference for the Oregon Association of Municipal Recorders. My presentation will be a riveting discussion about fraud prevention and internal controls in a small office environment.

If you need something to read, I suggest heading over to The Paris Project where Jenell has been doing some great writing and to Hugo Schwyzer's blog where he's been inspired by Jenell.
My post on Biblical inerrancy failed to stir up the desired controversy...oh well. Maybe next time. But thanks for the comments Hugo and Rick!

As there will likely not be blogging here for a couple of days, I'll leave you with some accounting humor (from my presentation - cleverly designed to make my audience like me and thus not fall asleep during my presentation):

A patient was at her doctor's office after undergoing a complete physical exam. The doctor said, "I have some very grave news for you. You only have six months to live."
The patient asked, "Oh doctor, what should I do?"
The doctor replied, "Marry an accountant."
"Will that make me live longer?" asked the patient.
"No," said the doctor, "but it will SEEM longer."

An accountant is having a hard time sleeping and goes to see his doctor. "Doctor, I just can't get to sleep at night."
"Have you tried counting sheep?"
"That's the problem - I make a mistake and then spend three hours trying to find it."

Q. When does a person decide to become an accountant?
A. When he realizes that he does not have the charisma to succeed as an undertaker.

Q: What's the definition of an accountant?
A: Someone who solves a problem you didn't know you had in a way you don't understand.

Q: What's an extroverted accountant?
A: One who looks at your shoes while he's talking to you instead of his own.

Q: How do you know accountants have no imagination?
A: They named a firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

There are three kinds of accountants in the world.
- Those who can count and those who can't.

Accountants aren't boring people. They just get excited over boring things.


Monday, September 20, 2004

Biblical Inerrancy?

When I was looking for suggestions for churches to attend on my "church vacation," Andrew (not an anonymous cyber acquaintance, but my sister-in-law's boyfriend) suggested the Harvest Community Church, which is just down the road from our house.

While I appreciate Andrew's suggestion, I know Harvest is not the place for me. The first statement in Harvest's "Declaration of Faith" is this:

We believe in the plenary, verbal inspiration of the Scriptures and that it has supreme authority in all matters of faith and practice (1 Cor. 2:13; II Tim 3:16-17; II Peter 1:20-21).

I've blogged about this before, but I think it is important so I'll do it again. I do not believe in the "plenary, verbal inspiration" of scripture and I cannot attend a church that does. That may seem a little strong, but I think theology does matter and this is an important issue.

The most oft-quoted verse in this regard is 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NRSV):

All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,b 17so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

It is important to note that the scripture the author of this passage (that author almost certainly not being Paul) was talking about was the Hebrew Bible, which does not precisely match our Old Testament today. The New Testament did not exist when this letter was written. How then could the author be making claims about a set of books that did not yet exist?

Further, the basic claim of those who believe the Bible is inerrant is that Bible itself says that it is inerrant and divinely inspired. As I pointed out above, the Harvest Community Church cites three Biblical references: 1 Cor. 2:13; II Tim 3:16-17; II Peter 1:20-21. Read the passage from 2 Timothy above and 1 Corinthians and 2 Peter below and tell me if you think the Bible actually makes that claim. But even then, a document's own claim of its truthfulness is hardly convincing evidence.

But people a lot smarter than me have put together very good articles on the subject. Here are two excellent sources of information from

- INERRANCY: Is the Bible free of error?
- BIBLICAL INERRANCY AND INFALLIBILITY: Description, problems & implications

Also, Maggi Dawn, an Anglican priest, university professor in the UK, and blogging star, is in the process of writing an excellent series of short articles titled, Words and the Word.

- Words and the Word (i)
- Words and the Word (ii)
- Words and the Word (iii)
- Words and the Word (iv)
- Words and the word (v)
- Words and the word (vi)

Some have said they believe the Bible is divinely inspired, if by divine inspiration you mean that God was working in the lives of those that wrote the various books of the Bible. That makes sense to me. I can believe that God was working in their lives as God works in ours. But I think the message of plenary, verbal inspiration is damaging. I believe it says that God was active in the lives of people living thousands of years ago, but now we're on our own. God spoke directly to people in great length, but no more.

I can't believe that. I believe that God continues to work in our lives and the writings of contemporary Christians can be inspired as well. They have yet to stand the test of time and lack the power of witness to events in the time of Christ, but I think God can speak to us through our contemporaries.

Marcus Borg describes the Bible as a sacrament. It is something that lets us experience God and become closer to God. But the Bible is not God. I think the idea of Biblical inerrancy takes us dangerously close to that. Biblical inerrancy leads us closer to worshipping the Bible (bibliolatry) rather than God.

I don't believe that the sum of God is wrapped up in a few thousand pages of text written down a couple of thousand years ago. God is both bigger and more complex than can be reflected in human writing. I believe that part of our legacy as Christians is that we will continue to try to understand and know God using the Biblical witness of our ancestors as the beginning of the story, rather than the end.

Other verses:
1 Cor. 2:13 (NRSV)
And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.

2 Peter 1:20-21 (NRSV)
First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.


Sunday, September 19, 2004

Is this for real?

Unfortunately it is. West Virgina Republicans have sent out a mailing claiming that Democrats will take away their Bibles if they win the election. Wow! Congratulations to the Republican National Committee for being a voice of reason and integrity in this election. Oh wait. This campaign is dishonest fear-mongering. What was I thinking?

Read Chuck Currie's comment on this campaign. Chuck is much more calm and insightful than I.

I just wonder - how far will the Republicans go to convince voters that God is on their side? Campaign ads featuring W and Jesus?

I don't think Republicans are evil. I don't think Democrats are innocent little angels either. However, I yearn for a campaign where we actually talk about the issues, not bullsh!t claims about Kerry and Edward's supposed religious bias.


Thursday, September 16, 2004

Cheating & Spiritual Renewal

So next weekend I'm planning on committing some denominational adultery. I think I'm desperately in need of some spiritual renewal, so while Sarah and Claire are out of town next weekend I'm going to go to another church. There are some other Methodist churches around I wouldn't mind checking out, but it is very likely I'd run into someone I knew which could raise some uncomfortable questions about our new pastor, switching churches, etc. I'd like to avoid that and just be able to go somewhere and worship.

The churches I'm thinking about are listed below. What do you think? Vote in the comments or suggest somewhere else.

First Congregational United Church of Christ - Hillsboro, OR
Bethel United Church of Christ - Beaverton, OR
St. Gabriel's Episcopal Church - Portland, OR
Trinity Episcopal Cathedral - Portland, OR
Holy Trinity Catholic Parish Community - Beaverton, OR
St. Pius X Catholic Church - Portland, OR


Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Doing church

I have a confession to make. I'm sick of church. Sarah and I's responsibilities at church have increased dramatically in the last couple of months. I'm the lay leader. Sarah is the treasurer, though because of my financial experience, I'm getting pretty involved in the church finances also. I'm so involved in the business of doing church that I don't feel like I have time to actually appreciate and engage in church. The business of keeping the lights on, water running, trash emptied is consuming a significant portion of my energy and enthusiasm.

So I can understand the appeal of house churches and those that want to worship outside of the "institutional" context. It would be great to not have to worry about the bills and to focus on learning, teaching, praise, and prayer. But at least for our congregation, I think what is missing from that picture is mission. In many ways, our "place" is at the center of our mission in our community. We provide space to a preschool. We host several AA/NA meetings every week. We provide worship space to two other congregations. We host a food pantry that feeds several families every week. We provide sanctuary to homeless familes several times a year through a cooperative ministry with other area churches.

Place is important. I just wish we didn't have to pay the bills!

Update: Read Sarah's post on this topic. I'm having trouble getting along with our new pastor too. I was going to bring it up later, but Sarah nailed it.


Monday, September 13, 2004

Gun control or education?

One of the discussions raging in the comments here is over gun control. The argument was made that we should invest in gun education rather than gun control. This reminded me of an interesting article I saw in Harvard Magazine. The article is an introduction to the book, Private Guns, Public Health, by Harvard public health professor David Hemenway.

He makes an interesting argument. He suggests that gun control vs. education is to some extent a false dichotomy. As a result of his research he argues that there are some simple technological changes that could make guns safer.

He says that gun deaths (about 30,000 in 2001) fall into three categories:
- Suicide - 58%
- Homicide - 37%
- Accidents - 5%

He doesn't argue that the prevalence of guns in the US (about 35% of households have guns) increases suicides or homicides - the research doesn't support that claim. Rather, the prevalence of guns tends to make suicides more successful and crimes more lethal. For example, suicide attempts using drugs succeed only 2-3% of the time. With guns, suicide attempts are successful 90% of the time.

In terms of homicides, guns allow fights to escalate to lethal violence, where they might not if there was not a handgun present.

He suggests a couple of relatively simple technological changes that could reduce accidental deaths. One is magazine safety - if there is not a clip in the handgun, it will not fire even if there is a round in the chamber. Children are frequently involved in these types of accidents because they don't realize a gun can still fire even if the clip is out.

Secondly, even 100 years ago gunsmiths had developed handguns that required the shooter to apply extra pressure to the grip before it would fire. This prevents small children from being able to fire guns.

He also suggest manufacturing guns that they will not fire when dropped.

To deal with the problem of guns involved in crimes, he suggests making it more difficult to remove the serial number from guns. That would allow law enforcement to track handguns and enforce existing laws.

One interesting study he talks about looked at the efficacy of gun education for children:

Many times a teenaged boy will find a gun such as a semi-automatic pistol in his home and, after taking out the ammunition clip, assume that the gun is unloaded. He then points the pistol at his best friend and playfully pulls the trigger, killing the other lad with the bullet that was already in the chamber. "People say, 'Teach kids not to pull the trigger,' but kids will do it," Hemenway says. In a 2001 study, for example, small groups of boys from 8 to 12 years old spent 15 minutes in a room where a handgun was hidden in a drawer. More than two-thirds discovered the gun, more than half the groups handled it, and in more than a third of the groups someone pulled the trigger—despite the fact that more than 90 percent of the boys in the latter groups had received gun-safety instruction.

One of the problems in dealing with suicides and homicides is that there is a lack of data on gun deaths. He's involved with the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) that is collecting detailed information on violent deaths in the US. One problem is that the center is not adequately funded and is currently only collecting data from 13 states. Once researchers have access to better data, they can figure out what actually works.

I think this is a fascinating article in that he approaches the issue of gun violence from the perspective of public health. He has no particular partisan axe to grind and he's only interested in solutions that actually work.


Friday, September 10, 2004

More on John Kerry

More from Andrew (in italics) -
the fact that he has one of the worse Senate attendance records ever does not strike you as something to take notice of?

Frankly, it doesn't tell me much. Maybe he was doing something more important while he wasn't in washington. Maybe he was connecting with constituents. I don't get any indication of the consequences of his absences. Are you suggesting he wouldn't do his job as President? George Bush is known for taking a lot of vacation and being away from the White House. Would you argue that he's unfit? Probably not. Tell me why I should care about Kerry's record. Then track down Bob Dole's senate attendance while he was running for President in 1996.

and don't forget that the catholic church is refusing to give Kerry communion becuase of his position on abortion and same-sex marrage (which means its more than a few bishops)

That's actually not true. A couple of Catholic Bishops have said they would refuse Kerry Communion, but Kerry has taken communion several times since then.

Our sacred U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights have absolutely nothing to do with recreational considerations, except of course, the general right to pursue happiness, which for tens of millions of American families includes a sundry of shooting sports activities. The second amendment is all about our individual right to defend ourselves. Period. Both from foreign and domestic threats, whatever form it may take. case closed.

Here is what the second amendment actually says: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

I don't want to get into a second amendment debate here, but realize that a lot of legal scholars (though certainly not all) argue that the second amendment says something very different than what you say it does. They believe that the framers intended to protect the right of the state to keep and maintain a militia. They argue there is no explicit right for an individual citizen to bear arms.

The point I'm trying to make is that reasonable people disagree with you. John Kerry is one of those people. Don't vote for him if you agree with his position. But it's naive to assume that he's simply ignorant and controlling because he doesn't agree. I also don't believe that John Kerry wants to ban the right of citizens to own guns.

In fact, look at this picture.

This is from the Kerry website. I'd be a bit more skeptical of NRA propaganda:

Protect Gun Rights And Stop Gun Violence
John Kerry is a gun owner and hunter, and both he and John Edwards support
the Second Amendment right of law-abiding Americans to own guns. Like all of our
rights, gun rights come with responsibilities, and John Kerry and John Edwards
support mainstream measures to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and
terrorists: enforcing the gun laws on the books, closing the gun show loophole,
and standing with law enforcement officers to extend the assault weapons ban.

Again, I'm not saying you have to agree. But lets actually debate the issues with real facts, not made up ones.


Dialogue on the 2004 Election

This is a dialogue that started in the comments to my post, "Why I am not voting for George W. Bush." I'm posting it here because it was a getting a little long comments and because the original post is buried a ways back.

Andrew - I'll respond below your comments.

so how as a christian can you vote for Kerry? you can't use his faith, he has none, he claims to be catholic but afraid to come out against abortion or same-sex marraige because he wants those votes and knows that anti-abortion right to life and man and woman marraige proponents will vote against him already.

Your statement, "you can't use his faith, he has none" isn't an argument. It's a personal attack. Neither you nor I know anything about Kerry's heart. I would hesitate to question another man's relationship with God based on what you think you know about him.

But further, you mischaracterize Kerry's positions. Kerry opposes same-sex marriage. Though he believes that a constitutional amendment is unneccessary. A position that Dick Cheney happens to hold. Kerry's position on abortion isn't that complicated. He personally opposes abortion, but he's not willing to impose his belief on the roughly half of all Americans that disagree with him. Despite the proclamations of some conservative Catholic Bishops, Kerry's position is in line with many other American Catholics.

George Bush is a United Methodist. The United Methodist Church opposed the war in Iraq and opposes the death penalty. Does the fact that George Bush disagrees with the Methodist church on those issues make him not a Christian? I don't think so. It simply makes him a Christian that disagrees with his church, which is a pretty common thing in the US.

But I'd also be very hesitant about questioning someone's faith based on two of their views on hot-button social issues. Are the only people who can be authentic Christians the ones who happen to share your views on social issues? Are you suggesting that you cannot be pro-choice and in favor of same sex marriage and still be a Christian? There are a lot of American Christians who'd not take that well.

a few notes about Kerry/Edwards
Poor senate attendance

I'm not going to take the time to look it up, but I suspect that if you checked the attendance of many Senate Republicans you'd discover the same trend. The reality is that there are hundreds of votes and hearings every month and very rarely is every Senator and Represenative in attendance. Watch C-Span for a couple of minutes and you'll see.

voted 51 time out of 55 time against the second ammendment (aka 100% of the time he was in the senate to vote on the subject)

Basically your argument here is that he disagrees with your opinion, so everyone should disagree with him. Kerry feels different about gun control than you do. So don't vote for him. It's not a moral failing however. You have to understand that reasonable people can disagree about gun control and the second amendment.

I'd also suspect that the source of your information on the votes is the NRA. Understand that they are a very strong lobby and not particularly interested in competing points of view. Most interest groups (liberal and conservative) present facts in a light that is favorable to them. I wouldn't take much the NRA (or most other groups, for that matter) says at face value.

claims to be pro-Life but always supports abortion

See argument above.

voted for budget cuts on defence and intelegence after significant events such as the Oaklahoma City bombing

So did a lot of Republicans. After the end of the Cold War there were significant reductions in defense spending. Remember that for most of Clinton's presidency Republicans controlled the House (starting in 1994). The House had to approve any defense cuts. The reality is that during that time there was a lot of pressure to focus on domestic needs. It's really unfair to cherry-pick votes without looking at the context. Also remember that George Bush never served in a state legislature or the House or Senate. He conveniently has no voting record to critique.

attacks Bush's background (vietnam) but is hurt and defensive when the same happens to him

This isn't really an argument. I don't think you can prove Kerry is acting "hurt and defensive." The truth is that the Swift Boat Veterans have been largely discredited. Their own military records disprove their claims. In fact, Bush has said that "Kerry served honorably." Frankly, I don't think we need to fight the Vietnam war anymore. As John McCain said, there's a real war going on with American men and women dying every day.

as a trial lawyer Edwards' goal has been to sue america's principal source of private arms and ammunition into oblivion

I doubt that's true. I'd look it up, but I'm tired. I suspect the truth is somewhat less inflammatory. I doubt you believe everything the Democrats say about Bush. So I'd hesitate to believe everything the Republicans say about Kerry/Edwards. I don't believe much that comes straight out of either party.

on another note, what do you think about the fact that supporters of Kerry (13 democrates) actually asked the U.N. to provide international election monitors to watch over novembers election? the whole idea of bringing people from countries like North Korea, Iran, Syria, China, and Cuba - people who have never seen ademocratic election in thier lifetime - to monitor elections here would be laughable if it hadn't actually been proposed by these "represenatives". (lets not forget that UN officials are elected, not by the people, but by governments. many of them dictatorships, not democratic)Fortunately for all, the U.N. turned down the request

The motive here was concern that Bush unjustly won the 2000 election. Democrats wanted to ensure that the 2004 election was fair. Personally I think that they're overreacting. I don't think that the 2000 election was stolen. But I think your criticism of the UN is unfair. The UN supervises elections all over the world and the US supports that role. There are many democratic nations in the UN and I doubt the democrats really wanted monitors from North Korea, Iran, Syria, etc.

The purpose of my post wasn't to say that all Christians should vote for Kerry. Rather, as a Christian I feel led to vote in a particular way. I believe that people can and should vote their conscience and their faith will influence them in various ways. I was trying to articulate how my faith has affected my perspective.

I think that we should have discussions about these issues, but that they should be based on facts, not propaganda and innuendo. Rather than resorting to personal attacks (against Kerry or Bush), we should discuss the issues. I think that both Kerry and Bush are decent men who could serve the country well. The fact is that have different ideas about the role of government and our country's future. Let's talk about that.


Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Theology Doesn't Matter

I'm not sure I actually believe that theology doesn't matter, but sometimes I wonder. I had a discussion yesterday with a coworker about church. He and his family are leaving their small United Methodist church and going to a large, evangelical, non-denominational church. The main reason is that their daughter is participating in the choir at the new church and they don't like the minister much at the UM church.

Another family left our small UM church because they wanted a church with a rock band and more young adults. They ended up at a foursquare church. We had a family show up at our church that had been attending a LDS (mormon) church. I'm glad they're coming, but that's quite a change.

People seem to change churches all the time for reasons that have nothing to do with theology. It amazes me that people can step from a liberal Methodist congregation to a conservative/fundamentalist congregation without blinking. What does that say about the theology of our church?

What it tells me is that of all the reasons people go to church, theology is probably not near the top of the list. People go for social activities, support, companionship, worship, music, etc. What bothers me is that I think theology is really important. What we're about as a church is more than the sum of our activities or the format of our worship. What we believe matters a great deal. How is it that our message is making so little impact? Do we have a coherent message?

Is it the destiny of our churches to be judged by the production values of our services and our ability to market our activities? Are churches going to become like health clubs, only with live (religious) music and preaching?

What's the point?


Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Neocons Gone Wild: The Bush Doctrine

The debate between Bush and Kerry over the question of whether the war in Iraq was justified is getting a lot of attention lately. I'm not particularly interested in their debate - neither of them is probably very interested in the truth.

As I understand it, Bush's justification for the war at this point is that Iraq and specifically Saddam Hussein could have been a threat at some point in the future. Bush's own people (the CIA, Pentagon, State Department, etc.) admit that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. I think Bush's exact words were that Iraq had "weapons of mass destruction related program activities."

So at this point the Bush Doctrine of Preemptive War can be invoked against nations or terrorist organizations under these conditions:
1.) Any country or terrorist organization that is threatening the United States or its allies; and 2.) Any country that may at some point in the future threaten the United States or its allies.

The other argument I hear is that Iraq under Hussein was an awful place to live (particularly in terms of human rights) and that the quality of life for most Iraqis has improved or will improve with Hussein out of the picture. That may well be true, but that seems to me to be a dangerous extension of the Bush Doctrine.

So here's the final Bush Doctrine as I understand it:

The United States may unilaterally attack:
1.) Any country or terrorist organization that is threatening the United States or its allies;
2.) Any country that may at some point in the future threaten the United States or its allies;
3.) Any country whose human rights' conditions do not meet the standards of the sitting US President.

So in order to help out President Bush, here's a place to start working on #3.

Amnesty International 2004 Human Rights Report Areas of Concern - Full Country List

If that list is too long for any of you hawks to bite off at once, Amnesty has conveniently summarized the list by region.

Asia Pacific
Europe and Central Asia
Middle East and North Africa

We're going to be very, very busy. Better ratchet up that draft...

This is not to say that I necessarily endorse Kerry's position. I don't know what his position is. I'd like to see a more coherent statement come out of that campaign.


Country Church

We attended church this past weekend with Sarah's grandparents in Hunters, Washington. Hunters is a very small town, northwest of Spokane, Washington, and pretty close to the Canadian border. Sarah's grandparents at one time owned a 2,500 acre cattle ranch in Hunters, but since their retirement they've sold about 2,000 acres. Sarah has more details about our trip here.

Anyway, they attend the Cedonia Community Church. It is a great little church and the pastor is very nice. I suspect if we had an in depth conversation we'd discover that we're eons apart in terms of our theology. His sermon was interesting though. He made one point that I thought I was pretty good. He said that if you love someone, you'll get to know them. Thus, as people who claim to love Jesus, we should know him. He challenged the congregation to get a red letter Bible and spend time studying the words of Jesus. He acknowledged that you have to read things in context, but as followers of Jesus we should know what he said during his time on earth.

That's not exactly earth-shattering, I know, but it is profound in an obvious sort of way. It's easy to talk about Jesus, but I know that I don't spend enough time really thinking about what he said and did in his ministry. I don't know that I need a red letter Bible, but it's a good point. As followers of Jesus we should be deeply interested in his life and his words. There's obviously more than that to being a Christian, but you've got to start somewhere.


Words of wisdom from people smarter than me

From The Ekklesia Project
The church must be an ever-new, living incarnation of the nonviolent Christ in a world terrorized by the pain and suffering of its own making. Striving no longer to become masters of our own destiny, as ministers of reconciliation disciples must live and work to bring all people into union with God and one another-our Pax Christi.

"That's utterly naïve," my friends and students respond. "Forswearing coercion in an age of lethal competition is not only the surest way to get yourself killed, it is also stupid." In the light of reigning political philosophies they are right. But on Good Friday, Christ's ethic looked especially naïve, inept, and futile. It was no quick fix. Christ did not employ a plan of action that allowed him to control the Passion events and promote his own safety and security. Like Christ, we renounce the coercive tactics that might enable us to control events and force our desired outcomes. So, I cannot offer any guarantees that an imitation of Christ's agape love will immediately staunch the flow of blood. Yet, just as God triumphed by raising Jesus, the church's ethic for living in the 21st century is illuminated by the glorious light of Easter morning. The church must confess that although it will seldom control the course of events, that is alright. As Archbishop Romero noted, "The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is beyond our vision. We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own." (emphasis mine)

- Prof. Richard Goode, Lipscombe University

From In These Times
Our beloved land has been fogged with fear—fear, the greatest political strategy ever. An ominous silence, distant sirens, a drumbeat of whispered warnings and alarms to keep the public uneasy and silence the opposition. And in a time of vague fear, you can appoint bullet-brained judges, strip the bark off the Constitution, eviscerate federal regulatory agencies, bring public education to a standstill, stupefy the press, lavish gorgeous tax breaks on the rich.

There is a stink drifting through this election year. It isn’t the Florida recount or the Supreme Court decision. No, it’s 9/11 that we keep coming back to. It wasn’t the “end of innocence,” or a turning point in our history, or a cosmic occurrence, it was an event, a lapse of security. And patriotism shouldn’t prevent people from asking hard questions of the man who was purportedly in charge of national security at the time.

- Garrison Keillor



Blogging may be light this week as our auditors are here doing their annual fieldwork. Don't worry (or go ahead and despair, depending on your point of view), I'm not going to be hauled off to jail. As a local government we get audited every year to ensure our financial statements are presented fairly. It is a lot of work, but routine. It is also not very interesting, but that's another issue altogether.


Wednesday, September 01, 2004

So much for my integrity...

This week is the Republic National Convention for those of you living in a cave in Wyoming. Watching what little coverage I've been able to stomach has probably increased my blood pressure to dangerously high levels.

According to what I've seen on the news, the theme for yesterday was "Inclusion and Compassion." The GOP is also working like crazy to highlight party moderates like John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, and Arnold Schwartzenegger.

This should be the real theme:
The 2004 Republican National Convention: Desperately trying to convince America that we're something we're not - Moderate, Inclusive and Compassionate.

Here are some helpful excerpts from the 2004 GOP Platform:

We oppose school-based clinics that provide referrals, counseling, and related services for contraception and abortion.

In the federal courts, scores of judges with activist backgrounds in the hard-left now have lifetime tenure. Recent events have made it clear that these judges threaten America’s dearest institutions and our very way of life. In some states, activist judges are redefining the institution of marriage. The Pledge of Allegiance has already been invalidated by the courts once, and the Supreme Court’s ruling has left the Pledge in danger of being struck down again – not because the American people have rejected it and the values that it embodies, but because a handful of activist judges threaten to overturn commonsense and tradition. And while the vast majority of Americans support a ban on partial birth abortion, this brutal and violent practice will likely continue by judicial fiat. We believe that the self-proclaimed supremacy of these judicial activists is antithetical to the democratic ideals on which our nation was founded. President Bush has established a solid record of nominating only judges who have demonstrated respect for the Constitution and the democratic processes of our republic, and Republicans in the Senate have strongly supported those nominees. We call upon obstructionist Democrats in the Senate to abandon their unprecedented and highly irresponsible filibuster of President Bush’s highly qualified judicial nominees, and to allow the Republican Party to restore respect for the law to America’s courts.

We strongly support President Bush’s call for a Constitutional amendment that fully protects marriage, and we believe that neither federal nor state judges nor bureaucrats should force states to recognize other living arrangements as equivalent to marriage. We believe, and the social science confirms, that the well-being of children is best accomplished in the environment of the home, nurtured by their mother and father anchored by the bonds of marriage. We further believe that legal recognition and the accompanying benefits afforded couples should be preserved for that unique and special union of one man and one woman which has historically been called marriage.

We oppose school-based mental health programs that include recommendations for the use of psychotropic drugs.

As Republicans, we support President Bush’s principled position that the current embargo on trade with, and restrictions on travel to, Cuba must remain in place as along as the Cuban government refuses to hold free and fair elections, ease its stranglehold on private enterprise, and allow the Cuban people to organize, assemble, and speak freely.


The Blogger's Dilemma

I may be unusual, but my fragile self-esteem rises and falls with comments on my posts. I've also observed a pattern of commenting on my blog. This observation is not exactly rocket science, but bear with me. The more inflammatory and unreasonable my posts, the more comments I receive. My well thought-out (for me anyway) posts where I diligently try to be reasonable, sensitive and understanding rarely receive comments.

I think there are probably two possibilities here. First, my reasonable posts are so well thought-out there's simply nothing left to say (sarcasm alert!). Second, and probably more likely, my reasonable posts are just boring.

So do I utilize my natural talent for gross exaggeration, misrepresentation of facts, and distortion to increase my comments thereby sacrificing what little intellectual integrity I have remaining? Or do I take the moral high ground and bore my audience in absolute submission? Some people seem to be able to find a nice middle ground. I'm not nearly a good enough writer, I suspect.