Wednesday, February 06, 2008

God Hates John McCain (no, really, some important religious guy told me so!)

So Dr. James Dobson admitted today that if he had to, he'd vote for either Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee. Twist his arm if you have to. If you haven't been keeping track, right before Super Tuesday Dr. Dobson said that he could not in good conscience vote for John McCain and that if he won the nomination the general election "will offer the worst choices for president in my lifetime." And is "convinced that Senator McCain is not a conservative and... has at times sounded more like a member of the other party." Dr. Dobson vowed that he would not vote for the first time in his life.

I'm not sure what Dr. Dobson's beef is with Governor Huckabee, a former minister whose policies, while in some respects could be described as populist, is the only candidate who most closely matches the "social conservativism" that is so important to the Religious Right. At the same time, Governor Romney has been claiming all along he's the most in line with staunch conservatives, although his record as governor would beg to differ. Evangelical leaders have been hesitant to support Romney outright because he's Mormon. Yet, all evidence from primaries so far show that Huckabee and Romney are splitting the self-described "conservative" and "evangelical" voters.

One thing that is clear though, the evangelical political mouthpieces like Dobson and Tony Perkins absolutely hate John McCain. And this got me thinking, especially after reading Dr. Dobson's comments. What is so bad about John McCain?

I understand some evangelicals don't forgive him for calling them "agents of intolerance" in his last run for the White House. But that was more focused towards the "God hates fags" crowd, and in that respect I whole-heartedly agree with him. He also opposed President Bush steamrolling Supreme Court nominees whose sole qualification was what church they went to (Harriet Miers) or that they opposed Roe v Wade. Personally since a Supreme Court justice is on the bench for life, there's a pretty good chance he or she would hear more cases about subjects other than abortion than on that one issue alone. Yet there's the clear "lithmus test" that's existed for Supreme Court justices for years now. I guess as a Christian I should be upset he didn't vote to restrict embryonic stem cell research (a very grey area ethically, no matter what religion you are), opposes a Constitutional amendment defining marriage (which I believe is an insult to the spirit of that living document), and opposed President Bush's tax cuts.

Waitaminute. Tax cuts? That's a religious issue? I guess it is to Dr. Dobson. But I think the real nail in the coffin for McCain is that he is responsible for the McCain-Feingold campaign reform bill. What does campaign reform have to do with religion? Well, opponents claim that it prevents groups like Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council (hmmm, I see a connection) from spending obscene amounts of money in political campaigns. Supporters note that it applies to all special interest groups, and restrictions keep candidates from promising favors in return for financial backing. By the way, to put this in perspective, last week leading up to Super Tuesday it was reported that Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama were each spending $1 million A DAY on TV adds. And it was reported today that Clinton "loaned" her campain $5 million. That's a lot of money that comes from somewhere. And I'd much rather see evangelical organizations spend those kinds of sums on mission work, philanthropy, and local ministry. But Dobson and others feel differently.

There's a lot of evidence that Dobson and the like don't have the same influence they had getting President Bush elected. Even so, it's a dangerous stance for an Ambassador of Christ. Especially considering one of Dr. Dobson's critiques of John McCain was that he more often than not resembled someone from the "other" party. As if the whole Democratic Party is a bunch of Baal worshipers.

For more on this see this article at Slate and these at the God-o-meter blog at Beliefnet.

To close, I want to remind Christians of their citizenship.

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as
his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was
going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a
foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with
him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with
foundations, whose architect and builder is God....

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not
receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a
distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People
who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If
they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had
opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a
heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has
prepared a city for them. (Heb 11:8-10, 13-16)

Our true citizenship is in heaven and we're only renting space here. Our political allegience should be to no party, no special interest, no race or gender, but to God alone.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Love Boat

This was from the sermon a couple of weeks ago and I've been saving it for a prelude to Super Tuesday. Here's a quote from Mike Huckabee, when asked by Time Magazine why he left the ministry for politics:

"In my early years of ministry, I was quite idealistic, thinking that most
people in the congregation expected me to be the captain of a warship leading
God's troops into battle to change the world," he writes. "As the years passed,
I became increasingly convinced that most people wanted me to captain the Love
Boat, making sure everyone was having a good time."
It stands to reason in today's age of 24-hour news cycles, embedded reporters, and an endless number of political blogs, that we'd think that there is a better chance to "change the world" in politics than in ministry. That's certainly a condemnation of our Church in America, but also highlights that we rely too much on our civic leaders to be our ministry for us.

It's my conviction that the reason we need welfare, social security, and inevitably some kind of universal health care in this country is that we, as individuals in God's Kingdom, don't live up to God's expectation to take care of the poor, the orphan, and the widow. Jesus specifically condemned not taking care of our own parents in their old age:

Jesus replied, "And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, 'Honor your father and mother' and 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.' But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, 'Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,' he is not to 'honor his father' with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:
" 'These people honor me with their lips
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are but rules taught by men.'" (Mt 15:3-9)

Let me paraphrase in today's terms:

Jesus replied, "And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your culture? For God said, 'Honor your father and mother' and 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.' But you say that it's the government's responsibility to take care of the elderly. That our money is to spend on whatever we want, gifts devoted to ourselves. Thus you rely on your government to take care of your responsibilities. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right about you..."

So are we really surprised that a minister feels he has a better chance to affect change in our culture by running for the highest office in the land?

But what about you? Why are you voting for who you're voting for on Tuesday (or whenever your primary might be)? Are we expecting our leaders to do what we can't, yet should as members of Christ's Church? Are expecting our government to legislate our values instead of sharing them through personal evangelism? Are we living our lives defined by our culture, or are we striving to define the culture around us?

Gong back to the first quote, are we sailors on a warship in God's navy, or vacotioners on a cruise ship just enjoying the sights?

Friday, February 01, 2008

A City on a Hill

Two nights ago was the last Republican debate before "Super Tuesday" on the 5th. The debate was held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library with the wife of the late president, Nancy Reagan, sitting right in front. The debate asked the usual generic questions which elicit the same stump speaches from the candidates. Until the end, when it was asked of each of the remaining candidates, "why would Ronald Reagan endorse you?"

Both Mitt Romney and John McCain gave the expected lines on lower taxes, strong military, blah, blah, blah. Ron Paul talked about how he had Reagan's support in his campaigns for Congress and how he supported Reagan for governor of California. But Mike Huckabee, the former minister, spoke last and didnt' talk about policy or politics. Instead he talked about the inpiration Reagan gave to America.

He was set up from the start. A former minister, asked if one of the most openly religious presidents in our lifetime would support him. And Gov. Huckabee started out alright, discussing hope and patriotism. But he never said those words that I was sure he was set up to say. Quoting Reagan, paraphrasing Jesus, the dream of an America that is a City set on a hill, a light to the world. A statement, a vision, that inspires hope in a better America, a more peaceful world. Reagan said it in the context of the Cold War but it would still apply today in the context of the War on Terror. An attitude that America can be better than it is. More righteous, more hopeful, more prosperous.

But while Gov. Huckabee touched on all those points, he never said those words. "A city set on a hill cannot be hid." (Mt 5:14) I guess it's ok to talk about faith and religion in states like Iowa or South Carolina, but not in California.

And for those who say there is no place to quote the Bible in a campaign--heaven forbid we mix religion and politics--here are some quotes from Reagan himself, a man who before allowing doctors to proceed in a surgery to save his life after being shot, would not ask for God's healing hand before first forgiving the man who shot him.

"I've always believed that there is a certain divine scheme of things. I'm
not quite able to explain how my election happened or why I'm here, apart from
believing that it's a part of God's plan for me. "

"God has a plan for each one of us. Some with little faith and even less
testing seem to miss in their mission, or else we perhaps fail to see their
imprint on the lives of others. But bearing what we cannot change and going on
with what God has given us, confident there is a destiny, somehow seems to bring
a reward we wouldn't exchange for any other."

"We have it within our power to begin the world over again. We can do it,
doing together what no one church can do by itself."