Monday, July 30, 2007

How Big the Split? And another "Five Things" post

Joe Carter is on the kind of roll that has made Evangelical Outpost huge. In "This I No Longer Believe: 5 Lessons Learned from the Iraq War" he responds to the request of Rod Dreher, in his post at - "Once Upon a Time I Believed" - who asked

What are five illusions the Iraq War has shattered for you?

Keep in mind, these are things you believed then you do not believe now because of the Iraq War. If you were always a smarty-pants it doesnt count here. :-) There is no implication in this question that you must be opposed to, or in support of, either the original Iraq invasion, the conduct of the war, or our continued involvement. Just - how has the Iraq War changed your views.

Rod's and Joe's lists are below the fold

[Note: I really haven't processed this much. The blockquotes are Joe Carter again, while any italics you may find are me again.]
Such exercises can be instructive, particularly when, like with Dreher's short list, the reflections reach for the significant rather than political banality (i.e., trite Bush-bashing). Still, I don’t think Dreher's list goes far enough in separating the long term implications from the naively held delusions.
Rod's List:
  1. Having been absolutely certain that the war was the right thing to have done, and that we would prevail easily, I am no longer confident that I can discern when emotion is affecting my judgment unduly.

  2. I no longer implicitly trust governmental institutions, including the military -- neither in their honesty nor their competence.

  3. I no longer believe the Republican Party is superior in foreign policy judgment to the Democrats.
    While I agree with this assessment it fails to illuminate the road ahead. Currently, the Republicans are exhibiting a level of foreign policy incompetence that is the birth-right of the Democrats. But will that always be the case or is Bush just exceptionally incompetent? A better observation would be to note that just as 9/11 proved political realism to be obsolete, Iraq has killed neo-con style idealism.

  4. I no longer have confidence in the ability of our military, or any military, to solve deep cultural and civilizational problems through force alone. I mean, I thought nothing could stand in the way of the strongest military fielded since the days of ancient Rome. No more.

  5. I have a far greater appreciation for how rare and fragile liberal democracy is, and a corresponding revulsion at the American assumption that it's the natural state of mankind. Which is to say, the war has made me rethink my ideas about human nature, and I'm far more pessimistic now than I ever was.

Joe's list:
  1. I no longer believe that our reaction to the Vietnam War was an anomaly. Instead, I view the reaction to World War II as the true aberration--the one war in which Americans had the will to fight and win (and that was only after we were attacked). During WWII we lost more than 400,000 servicemembers. In Vietnam the number was more than 58,000. In Iraq, we've lost 3,636. These numbers show that our the anti-war sentiment is due not to an intolerance for mass casualties but rather to an ingrained opposition to foreign entanglements. For better or worse, America is at heart an isolationist, semi-pacifist nation.

  2. I no longer believe that we can fight wars by proxy. During the 50-year long Cold War we preferred to fight out enemies abroad, often indirectly. One of our main priorities, a primary strategic objective, was to prevent the expansion of Soviet-style Communism. Today, politicians and military leaders cannot expect the American people to go to war for such abstract concepts as "national security." The concept of "defending America" is taken in the literal sense of defensive actions necessary to guard the homeland. The American people will now only authorize war after we have been directly attacked on our own soil -- and then the warfare must be proportional and brief, otherwise we will withdraw our support.

  3. I no longer believe that Arab nations are capable of sustaining liberal democracies. The empirical evidence for this belief is overwhelming: Arab culture is currently unable to sustain democratic forms of government. Some people will decry this belief as racist or xenophobic. But it is simply being realistic. I used to think that Samuel Huntington was an intelligent crank; now I think he's prophetic. As he once noted, the Western belief in the universality of Western culture suffers three problems: it is false; it is immoral; and it is dangerous. Thinking that freedom could take root in the blood-soaked soil of Arab culture was a naive assumption. Iraq has disabused me of such notions.

  4. I no longer believe America cares about genocide. After the crimes of the Holocaust became internationally known, the world vowed it would never happen again. Whatever the phrase "never again" once meant, it no longer has applicability after Iraq. Indeed, we no longer even give lip service to such ideals as preventing ethnic cleansing or the mass slaughter of civilians. The New York Times recently published an editorial saying that it was time to leave Iraq, even though it would likely lead to genocide. Barack Obama agrees, saying that a potential genocide in Iraq isn’t a good enough reason to keep U.S. forces there. After Iraq, the use of military force for humanitarian intervention will be all but nonexistent. Darfur, you're on your own.

  5. I no longer believe we have the will to win against global jihadism. Consider our current situation: we have the majority of our legislators and a significant portion of the American people willing to concede defeat in Iraq even though they realize such a move will empower the jihadists and lead to the murder of more American civilians. Six years into the "Long War" we are ready to withdraw into our own borders. Oddly, we are not maneuvering to "bunker down" for we chafe at even the mildest sacrifices necessary to prevent terrorism. We are opting instead to consider the death of Americans to jihadism as an inevitable cost of living in a free society. We have considered the cost-benefit analysis and have determined that until the attacks reach the levels of Israel, we can bear the cost. (Of course, when it reaches that level, it will be too late.)

Rod notes a couple of points from paleocon Daniel Larison's list:

2. One of my other false beliefs connected to this was that most conservatives were conservatives first and GOP partisans second (if at all), and would therefore be just as outraged by GOP government activism and overreach as they had been in the 1990s. This was the worst sort of naivete on my part, and it was repeatedly shown to be false. ...

5. Yet another false belief was that most conservatives were not nationalists, when obviously the defining feature of most Americans who call themselves conservatives is that they are, in fact, nationalists. Had I been reading more Lukacs in my younger days, I would have already known this.

The other part of my title comes from my belief that evangelicals are more and more pulling away from a general political identification with the Republican Party. It never really should have been there - but appeared to have been; and it definitely seems over now. What do you think about that as well.

My list:
  1. I would start with my belief that the sectarian leaders in Iraq would put subvent their sects interests and place the future of Iraq first. It may yet come - but it hasn't yet

  2. Coupled with that, that the sectarian leaders would place the peace and safety of the Iraqi people over their own sect's interest and power. In retrospect, why should they be different than anyone else - including us.

  3. That it would have been easier to establish a representative government in the face of the lethal opposition of Iraq's neighbors - Saudi Arabia, Iran and Syria.

  4. That we as a country would be more ethical and moral about our responsibilities to the Iraqi people. We destroyed a government, and disbanded an army, that - however brutal - maintained control of the country; and maintained a national state. We have a human responsibility to stay until there is a government, and army, capable of maintaining control when we leave - or it becomes obvious that it will never happen. That is not yet completely obvious to me, despite my first two points.

  5. Coupled with that, that we would not repeat the mistake of 1991 and leave the democratic elements in Iraq hanging out to dry by abandoning them again. We seem on the verge of doing that.

Read more!

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Florida You Tube Debate

Joe Carter at Evangelical Outpost gives his reasons for supporting the drive to pressure Republican Presidental candidates into participating in the YouTube Presidental debate:

Just as the Democrats spurned the Fox News debate, some Republicans are talking about ditching the long-planned YouTube debate. As a concerned (reluctant) Republican, I've signed on as a co-sponsor of Save the Debate in order to respectfully ask the GOP to reconsider. . . . My reason for supporting this effort may differ from my fellow co-sponsors. I believe that the last YouTube debate did made a mockery of the debate process -- and yet was still more useful than any to the others that have been held to date.
The rest of what he says is pretty interesting.

Read more!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Conscience, the Furies and Proverbs 29:1

Sweet Georgia Peach looked at

Proverbs 29:1 A man who hardens {his} neck after much reproof Will suddenly be broken beyond remedy. (NASB)
in her diary "Broken Beyond Healing"; and asked
What is this verse telling us? What is beyond God? Also tied up in this is a concept of Christian brokenness. Do we want to be healed? Do we want to be permanently broken?
For those that do not remember, I believe in natural moral law, a subset of natural law.

I did a series of posts here and at Street Prophets on natural law. Two of those posts (at least) - "The Four Witnesses" and "The Five Furies of Conscience" - speak to the issues (and the mechanism) raised by Proverbs 29:1; XT's excellent post on Judas; and actually ties into many of the Blogathon on Forgiveness posts.

After all, if I am going to be convicted of my sin, and then repent (or not) after I realize I have done wrong, it will be my conscience that drives that repentance: people can point out my errors to me all day long but in order for me to act on that I first have to agree its wrong.

Most folks believe in conscience, I just think there are two levels
According to theologians of the Middle Ages (5th century to 15th century), the conscience is divided into two parts. Synderesis (probably a misreading of suneidesis) is the faculty in human beings that knows God's moral law; this faculty remained unaffected by the Fall and the expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Conscientia is the faculty by which human beings apply the moral to concrete cases; it dictates what should or should not be done under particular circumstances. Whereas synderesis cannot err, conscientia is fallible (Encarta)
Deep conscience is the reason a person who says they do not believe in right and wrong may shrink from murder; why even a man who murders may have pangs of remorse; and why even if the man has deadened himself to remorse shows other symptoms of deep-buried guilty knowledge.
The ways our surface conscience can err are numerous (compare Aquinas's Summa Theologica, Prima Secundæ Partis, Question 94, Articles 4 and 6):
  1. insufficient experience: we do not know enough to reach sound conclusions;
  2. insufficient skill: we haven't learned the art of reasoning well;
  3. sloth: we are too lazy to reason;
  4. corrupt custom: it hasn't occurred to us to reason;
  5. passion: we are distracted by strong feeling from reasoning carefully;
  6. fear: we are afraid to reason because we might find out we are wrong;
  7. wishful thinking: we include in our reasoning what we are willing to notice;
  8. depraved ideology: we interpret known principles crookedly; and
  9. malice: we refuse to reason because we are determined to do what we want.
. . . underneath the results of this bad reasoning is still the witness of deep conscience, no matter how "twisted and falsified on its path into current awareness".
Now we get to Proverbs 29. What happens when we violate our deep conscience?
Conscience has a number of faces [teacher, judge, and executioner]:
  • In cautionary [teacher] mode, it alerts us to the peril of moral wrong and generates an inhibition against committing it

  • In accusatory [judge] mode, it indicts us for the wrong we have already done. The most common way this happens is through the first fury: remorse . . . this is the least of the furies: we do not always feel remorse when we do wrong, and some people never feel it. Even if we do not feel remorse, guilty knowledge
    generates objective needs for confession, atonement, reconciliation, and justification. These other furies are the greater sisters of remorse: inflexible, inexorable, and relentless, demanding satisfaction even when mere feelings are suppressed, fade away, or never come
  • This leads to the most harrowing mode:
  • In avenger [executioner] mode, it punishes the soul that does wrong but refuses to read the indictment. How this works is easy to grasp. The normal outlet:
    1. of remorse is to flee from wrong;
    2. of confession is to admit what one has done;
    3. of atonement is to pay the debt;
    4. of reconciliation is to restore the bonds that have been broken; and
    5. of justification is to get back in the right
    If we do not do "feed" the furies the right way; then they will be fed in some other way - driving our lives further out of kilter. For example:
    1. we do not flee from wrong, but just from thinking about it;
    2. we compulsively confess every detail of the story but the moral;
    3. we punish ourselves again and again offering every sacrifice but the one demanded;
    4. we simulate the broken bonds of intimacy by seeking companions as guilty as ourselves; and
    5. we seek not to become just but to justify ourselves.
What happens if we continue to ignore that indictment - if we "harden our necks against the reproof" of the furies?
. . . the greater purpose of conscience as not to inform us of moral truth, but to motivate us to live by it - driving our lives out of kilter is the exhortation of last resort. Therefore, "pursued by the five furies, a man becomes both wickeder and stupider in a progressively downward spiral: more wicked because his behavior becomes worse, more stupid because he tells himself more lies."

Of course, he intended to become wicker and stupider - that is what obstinacy and denial are all about . . . the persons only hope is to become even wickeder and stupider than planned - to become so wretched that they come to themselves - or God.
In other words, they become broken and, either they then feed the furies correctly, or . . .

Read more!

Christian Carnival CLXXXII (182)

There is no theme this week for the Christian Carnival - just enjoy the rides as they come to you in the order they came to me.

A little "meta" though:

  • If you wish to be in the notification loop about upcoming carnivals, and when they are posted - go and join the Christian Carnival Google group; and make sure you sign up for some version of email notification. Typically, you will receive one email around Friday, one on Tuesday, and the notification the Carnival is up. This is not reserved for folks who have blogs and who intend to post - it is for anyone that wants notification about the Christian Carnival.

  • You submit your posts, if you want to post, to either the Submission Gmail address, or through the Blog Carnival submission form. The latter is the most user friendly for you and the host.

  • There is an under-used resource - the Christian Carnival Forum - that, I think, we need to explore how to use. This week I have placed in the Daily Carnival topic a couple of posts that was submitted that did not meet the criteria for inclusion in the Carnival. Whether that was a good idea or not you can tell us in poll, but let's do try to find a way to utilize the forum.
Now, on to the Carnival:

Martin at Sun and Shield submits "Why God created" based mostly on Psalm 136, which tells us, in poetic language.

Diane R., at Crossroads: Where Faith and Inquiry Meet, thinks we need to start "Thinking Postmodernly" to understand the great shift taking place today in the evangelical church.

Lingamish finished off a week of ranting about Biblical Greek and Hebrew with a tribute to the people God has chosen to impart his truth to the next generation: Not Pastor and Professor but Mom and Dad.

Jon Swift thinks "Harry Potter is a Brat" - a petulant, self-pitying brat who routinely breaks rules that he believes don't apply to him.

Jack Yoest presents "The Dreamer Goes To Peru...Without Her Mao Bag." posted at Reasoned Audacity:

I asked the woman why she wanted to work for us. "The Terrorists are trying to kill me." I knew this was not to be an ordinary job interview. Charmaine and I were hiring a...
Michael at Chasing the Wind knows it is too hard to do what God asks - which is precisely the point. It is too hard for us, but not for God - so when we live in "Dependence" on God's strength, God's purposes will be fulfilled.

J Archer presents "Liturgial reflection" posted at Tin and Copper considering the liturgical role of cultural engagement.

Tom at Thinking Christian looks at "P.Z. Myers's Neurons Give Talk" and argues
They claim to have disproved a position that they don't even address. If they intend to show there is no soul, they ought at least to pay attention to what they're trying to disprove. They are ignorant of it, or they blithely assume it's safe to ignore it
Ali presents "Jesus in Genesis - Creation" posted at Kiwi and an Emu. He thinks there are some interesting parallels in the Creation story with the Gospel.

Mark Olson presents "Habermas and Ratzinger" posted at Pseudo-Polymath. It is a short review/discussion of a fascinating book. Useful for anyone interested in apologetics

Ian presents "Notes for the Simply Christian Sunday School Class on Justice & Spirituality, God, and Israel" posted at Philosophical Orthodoxy. These notes are based on N.T. Wright's book Simply Christian.

Ched presents "The Storm Front moves in, and the King of Glory passes by" posted at Says Simpleton.

Richard H. Anderson presents "Access to Salvation" posted at dokeo kago grapho soi kratistos Theophilos.

Don Bosch at The Evangelical Ecologist continues his series called "The Uniqueness of Christian Ecology" This week's post is on "Tithing".

Scripture tells us we're to be just as careful with our world as we are with our wealth. Both are from Him and belong to Him. So how do we get that right balance between wealth and ecology? How do Christians avoid the same sort of environmental hypocrisy that Al Gore and Madonna are being accused of lately? As you might expect God's word goes straight to the root of things, and from a surprising source!
Brent presents "Simplistic Theology" posted at Everyday Liturgy. He thinks that theology should be normative and deal with consistencies instead of exceptions.

Leticia Velasquez presents "Our Special Children in Church" posted at cause of our joy.

We have had a couple of spam filter victims: for some reasons some submissions end up there; and the future hosts (and the moderators) need to keep a better eye on that folder - myself included.

The first is Doug at Bounded Irrationality. He has tried to submit for three weeks and we missed two of them - and almost this one. His post this week is "A Christian Definition of Human Rights" - looking at how Christians can view human rights Biblically.

Next is Weekend Fisher with "Psalm 19 and the Word of God" and ponders what Psalm 19 says about the Word of God -- from beauty and transforming power to its relationship to the presence of God.

Jeremy Pierce presents "The Problem of Waste" posted at Parableman where he examines an argument from Ken Miller against intelligent design that turns out to be just another instance of the problem of evil, and it happens to apply just as much to Miller's view as it does to intelligent design. Also, thanks to Jeremy for getting the submissions transferred to me - I have been brain dead with my two jobs; and for being the one to pull those two submissions out of the spam filter.

Adam presents "Psalms 1-50: The Links" posted at The Faughn Family of Four.

Henry Neufeld continues his series with "Notes on Mark 11:20-26" posted at Participatory Bible Study Blog.

Jody Neufeld looks at "Harry Potter Mania!" at Jody Along the Path, and has some ideas on how to set standards for your children's reading--and why you should!

Matthew Anderson is "Responding to Readers: Article 6 on 'The Romney Dilemma'" posted at Mere Orthodoxy. He contends that those who claim that asking whether Romney's religion affects his politics is bigoted are misguided.

William Meisheid presents "Borgislam" posted at Beyond The Rim... .
It is a hard look at Islam using an analogy that is well known to most modern blog savvy Christians. Some may not like this
Rodney Olsen presents "The Gospel of Homer and Harry" posted at The Journey.
Some people are saying that they are seeing Harry Potter as some kind of 'Christ figure' in the latest J.K. Rowling book. How far should we go in drawing spiritual parallels from contemporary culture?
Jennifer in OR presents "The French Atheist Still Wanted Jesus on the Cross" posted at Diary of 1.

Finally, my post - and a suggestion for the next couple of weeks. At Street Prophets where I cross post quite a bit I kicked off a blogathon on the topic of forgiveness. My initial post - "Forgivenss in My View" - has been crossposted to Brain Cramps for God with a few alterations. Anyone want to have a Christian Carnival Focus on Forgiveness? It doesn't have to be everyone, but the next two hosts could set aside a section for posts on forgiveness from our various perspectives. We can establish an index to all the posts at the Christian Carnival Forum for future reference. Game? It could be the start of many such topical focuses.

Read more!

Forgiveness in My View

I suppose the first general thing to say about forgiveness from a Christian perspective is that it really isn't optional. The Gospels alone make it clear that God just takes a dim view of us, who have been forgiven so much, refusing to forgive those around us - really dim. I will not blast you with scripture, but these word searches should make the point. Just try to find a way out of forgiving:

I will hammer the point home with this key parable:
Matthew 18:21 Then Peter came and said to Him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" 22 Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. 23 "For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 "When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25 "But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. 26 "So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, `Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.' 27 "And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. 28 "But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, `Pay back what you owe.' 29 "So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, `Have patience with me and I will repay you.' 30 "But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. 31 "So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. 32 "Then summoning him, his lord said to him, `You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 `Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?' 34 "And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. 35 "My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart."
Brothers and sisters - that means your enemy.

Now, there is a reason for forgiveness other than not pissing God off - it is better for you. After all, your enemy doesn't really feel a thing because you haven't forgiven him - you do. That "root of bitterness" will rot your heart. It will be a beachhead from which evil can gain a foothold in you. C.S. Lewis on forgiveness:
I said in a previous chapter that chastity was the most unpopular of the Christian virtues. But I am not sure I was right. I believe there is one even more unpopular. It is laid down in the Christian rule, 'Thou shaft love thy neighbour as thyself.' Because in Christian morals 'thy neighbour' includes 'thy enemy,' and so we come up against this terrible duty of forgiving our enemies.

Every one says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive, as we had during the war. And then, to mention the subject at all is to be greeted with howls of anger. It is not that people think this too high and difficult a virtue: it is that they think it hateful and contemptible. 'That sort of talk makes them sick,' they say. And half of you already want to ask me, I wonder how you'd feel about forgiving the Gestapo if you were a Pole or a Jew?'

So do I. I wonder very much. Just as when Christianity tells me that I must not deny my religion even to save myself from death by torture, I wonder very much what I should do when it came to the point. I am not trying to tell you in this book what I could do - I can do precious little - I am telling you what Christianity is. I did not invent it. And there, right in the middle of it, I find 'Forgive us our sins as we forgive those that sin against use' There is no slightest suggestion that we are offered forgiveness on any other terms. It is made perfectly clear that if we do not forgive we shall not be forgiven. There are no two ways about it. What are we to do?

It is going to be hard enough, anyway, but I think there are two things we can do to make it easier. When you start mathematics you do not begin with the calculus; you begin with simple addition. In the same way, if we really want (but all depends on really wanting) to learn how to forgive, perhaps we had better start with something easier than the Gestapo. One might start with forgiving one's husband or wife, or parents or children, or the nearest N.C.O., for something they have done or said in the last week. That will probably keep us busy for the moment. And secondly, we might try to understand exactly what loving your neighbour as yourself means. [the whole chapter is linked if you want point two here]
The real test is this. Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad ass it was made out. Is one's first feeling, `Thank God, even they aren't quite so bad as that,' or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally, we shall insist on seeing everything - God and our friends and ourselves included - as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.

Now a step further. Does loving your enemy mean not punishing him? [again, the answer rests within the link above]
and finally
I imagine somebody will say, `Well, if one is allowed to condemn the enemy's acts, and punish him, and kill him, what difference is left between Christian morality and the ordinary view?' All the difference in the world. Remember, we Christians think man lives for ever. Therefore, what really matters is those little marks or twists on the central, inside part of the soul which are going to turn it, in the long run, into a heavenly or a hellish creature. We may kill if necessary, but we must not hate and enjoy hating. We may punish if necessary, but we must not enjoy it. In other words, something inside us, the feeling of resentment, the feeling that wants to get one's own back, must be simply killed.
Nothing here said we have to trust, indeed there are many scriptures to the point having wisdom, discernment, being fruit inspectors, etc. We do not have to place trust in people who have proven themselves unworthy of trust.

We just cannot hate, and we must forgive. You do not have to start with the "Calculus" of your worst enemy right now. Start with whoever comes to mind when you ask this question of yourself :

Who do I feel resentment toward right now?

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Christian Leaders and Politics

This could broaden the discussion on the intersection of politics and faith. Here is the (start of I hope) a dialogue between Dr. David Gushee and Joe Carter. A little background on the players in the following diary.

Dr. David Gushee is involved with Evangelicals for Human Rights, an organization that has called on President Bush to end practices it believes crosses the line into torture. He is/was involved with the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity (CBHD) where he gave his working definition of the "sanctity of life":

The concept of the sanctity of life is the belief that all human beings, at any and every stage of life, in any and every state of consciousness or self-awareness, of any and every race, color, ethnicity, level of intelligence, religion, language, gender, character, behavior, physical ability/disability, potential, class, social status, etc., of any and every particular quality of relationship to the viewing subject, are to be perceived as persons of equal and immeasurable worth and of inviolable dignity and therefore must be treated in a manner commensurate with this moral status. [I think this is an incredible definition]
Joe Carter has a blog - Evangelical Outpost - which is arguably the biggest of the Evangelical blogs. Joe has said he is a "single issue voter" when it comes to abortion; and worked at the CBHD before he took his present job at Family Research Council. He also came out in opposition to torture.

These guys worked together, and do not disagree on two issues that are touchstones on the left and right: torture and abortion. Both have been politically active on these issues. The main thread is David Gushee's proposed rules of political engagement posted at David's blog Counter Culture. The block quotes are Joe Carter's comments on the points. Italics are me.

  1. Christian leaders must not officially or unofficially endorse political candidates or a political party.
    This legalistic rule could lead to results that are absurd and or un-Christian. For instance, should ministers in 1930s-era Germany have avoided showing approval or support of the republican political parties that were running against the Nazis?
    Someone pointed out in the comments at EO that we are not 1932 Germany, yet some on the left have placed the need to remove the Republicans on this kind of level; as some on the right have implied the same about electing Democrats - folks on both ends seem to think civilization as we know it rests on the next election (in nearly every election)

  2. Christian leaders must not distribute essentially partisan or single-issue voter guides that purport to be apolitical or nonpartisan.
    One of the qualities I admire most about Dr. Gushee is his commitment to the sanctity of life. So it seems odd that he thinks that National Right to Life shouldn’t be able to distribute voter guides on this "single-issue." Shouldn't Christian choose to support candidates who will uphold what Gushee considers to be a "moral conviction?" What would be the reason for such a prohibition?

  3. Christian leaders must not publicly handicap or comment upon the political horse race.
    Conversation between a congregant and her pastor (c. 1932):
    Congregant: "Herr Bonhoffer, what do you think about the Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party."
    Pastor: "I cannot speak of such matters, for it would be imprudent for a minister of the Gospel to comment on this particular political horse race."

  4. Christian leaders must not provide private or public advice to particular politicians, parties, or campaigns concerning how they can strategize in order to win evangelical or Christian votes.
    If this rule is a prohibition against providing Machiavellian advice, I'm in agreement. But I see nothing out of line with providing prudent counsel on politicians, parties, or campaigns on how best to appeal to a group of their constituents. I see nothing untoward, in saying, "If the GOP is stupid enough to nominate a pro-choice candidate in '08, then they should expect evangelicals to abandon their support for the party."
    Up to now, I think Joe has asked some incisive questions that will spur debate; and here he misses the point. Gushee doesn't think Evangelicals should be "on board" with the Republican Party (or the Democrats) so why would he advise the GOP on keeping us from not supporting the party. How can we abandon that which we are only in tactical, and not strategic, alliance with?

  5. Christian leaders must not calibrate their public teachings or writings in order to affect the outcome of political elections or to gain and hold the support of politicians.
    Again, this rule would be dependent on context. For example, if the Sunday before an election a Catholic priest were to remind his congregation that to vote supporter of abortion would be a sin, he should be commended -- even if it might prevent the pro-abortion candidate from gaining office.

  6. Christian leaders must not attend political rallies or campaign events of one candidate or party unless they are prepared to attend rallies and events of all candidates and parties.
    Should Abraham Kuyper, founder of the Anti-Revolutionary Party in the Netherlands, have attended the rallies of the Socialist parties, groups that he considered a threat to the Christian worldview? Why should Kuyper--or any other Christian--attend a rally for a group whose views are antithetical to their beliefs?
    And how far do we carry this principle? Should Republicans attend Green Party debates? Should Democrats sit in on Communist rallies?
    Again, I think Joe misses the point - Gushee doesn't think Christian leaders should be attending rallies of political parties. Also, this is a two-party country right now - let's leave this to the Democrats and Republicans for now (perhaps the Constitution Party on the right and the Green's on the left if you must broaden

  7. Christian leaders must not invite political candidates to speak in church pulpits or on church grounds unless they are prepared to invite all political candidates of all parties to do so.
    Legally speaking, this is already a requirement. Morally speaking, there is no reason why a church should be required to give "equal time" to political candidates who hold positions that they find repugnant.

  8. Christian leaders must not identify the potential or actual victory of any politician as a victory for God or God’s kingdom.
    Admittedly, it might be presumptuous for a Christian leader to claim to know whether an electoral victory is a victory for God's kingdom. But it is also presumptuous for a Christian leader (in this case, Dr. Gushee) to make a blanket prohibition about what others might know about God or his kingdom.
    Sorry Joe, have to go with Gushee here for sure.

  9. Christian leaders must limit their direct contact with politicians or staff in order to avoid even the appearance of undue loyalty or involvement.
    This presumes that loyalty and involvement are things that must always be avoided. Last year Dr. Gushee wrote:
    President Bush’s veto on Wednesday of any change in his stem cell research policy was derided by many as a sop to his conservative base. But the price that the president and his party are sure to pay for this decision leads me to the conclusion that, whatever the politics of the move, the president actually has been persuaded by the moral argument against embryonic stem cell harvesting
    What if it was a "Christian leader" that had provided the persuasive moral argument that had convinced Bush of this grievous harm? Would they have been acting unethically since that level of familiarity and contact could have been construed as "undue involvement?"
    Certainly, that same argument could be made about a candidate's position on Iraq, feeding the poor, rebuilding New Orleans, or support for gay marriage. Are we really going to cut politicians off from their spiritual advisors if those advisors are also Christian leaders?

  10. Christian leaders must not engage in voter registration campaigns or get out the vote efforts aimed at mobilizing the voters of one political party rather than another.
    Why not? Should abolitionists not have mobilized voters in an effort to end the great sin of slavery? Should '50s-era civil rights leaders not have engaged in voter registration campaigns since it might have led people to vote against pro-segregation candidates?

  11. Christian leaders must not direct the funds of their churches or organizations toward direct or indirect support for a particular political candidate or party.
    In practice, I would tend to agree, though I wouldn't make this a moral absolute. While following this rule would certainly be wise here in America, there might be instances where it would be more prudent to directly fund a candidate who faced a corrupt or evil party organization.
    I would be more morally absolute here. When I give money to my church it is for the church and its ministries. If someone wants me to fund a candidate who faces a corrupt and evil party organization they should approach me for a separate donation

  12. Christian leaders may not sidestep these rules by drawing a distinction between their activities as a “private individual” over against their service in their public role.
    Let's combine #1 and #12:
    1. Christian leaders must not officially or unofficially endorse political candidates or a political party.

    2. Christian leaders may not make a distinction between their activities as a “private individual” and their public role.
    3. Voting in an election is a form of official endorsement of a political candidate.

    4. Voting in an election is a form of official endorsement of a political candidate. [oops] Therefore, Christian leaders must not vote in elections.

    If applied consistently, the logical conclusion would be the Christian leaders should not vote or do anything else that they would be prohibited to do in their "official" capacity.
    The problem with this logic chain is #3: endorsement must imply that someone else know your vote; and really that a lot of people know your vote - and before the polls close. A secret ballot does not constitute endorsement either official or unofficial. Joe has given some good arguments above about why Christian leaders left and right might support issues and candidates - this isn’t one of them.

  13. Christian leaders must offer Christian proclamation related to that large number of public issues that are clearly addressed by biblical principles or direct biblical teaching.
    Here is where Dr. Gushee's reasoning goes completely off the rails. For example, biblical principles would warrant the protection of innocent life, the prohibition of abortion, and the denial of the legitimacy of homosexual behavior, including the manufacturing of "gay rights." To offer Christian proclamations on these issues, however, would directly conflict with the official position of the DNC and/or specific Democratic candidates.
    As the proclamations both Joe and Gushee have made against the use of torture might affect Republican ones. So what? We cannot be silent on issues for Christ's sake (that was serious and not in vain) - and that falls where it falls on parties and candidates. This ability to speak openly and loudly on issues mitigates some of the problems above about opposing evil organizations and candidates

  14. Christian leaders must encourage Christian people toward active citizenship, including studying the issues and the candidates and testing policy stances and candidates according to biblical criteria.
    Again, this rule could directly conflict with many of the others on this list.
    I do not see why.

  15. Christian leaders must model and encourage respectful and civil discourse related to significant public issues as well as political candidates.
    Finally, a point on which we can completely agree.

  16. Christian leaders must model and encourage prayer for God-ordained government, its leaders, and their policies.

  17. Christian leaders must teach and model respect for the constitutional relationship between religion and the state as these are spelled out in the First Amendment.
    Based on whose understanding of the First Amendment? My interpretation differs from Christian leaders of various stripes, including David Barton, founder of WallBuilders, and the Rev. Barry Lynn, president of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. Whose interpretation should we teach and model?
There you have it — seventeen rules for Christians and politics. Who will offer some revisions? Who will come up with the other three to make it an even twenty? Who will join me in committing themselves to these rules for the 2008 election?
While Dr. Gushee's intentions are noble, the last thing we need in the electoral process is legalistic rules that transform conscience-driven politics into political correctness.
[End dialogue]

In discussing this, do not get bogged down in Joe's opposition to abortion as a key to his criticisms - it might just as well have been the war in Iraq, torture, or any number of issues.

What do you think of these rules for - please note - Christian leaders (as opposed to Christians in general). Incidentally, I disagree with Joe - Christian bloggers are not Christian leaders for the sake of my definition.


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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Everybody is All a Vitter About Hypocrisy

Pastordan at Street Prophets talked about the theologically conservative Christian view of the Vitter scandal. A couple of folks I read a lot have chatted on the subject, and I thought y'all might like to hear what my ilk herd is saying. The first is Joe Carter at Evangelical Outpost: "Larry Flynt vs. David Vitter: Examining the Difference Between Hypocrisy and Moral Inconsistency". A couple of points he made that I find interesting:

Indeed, the American Heritage Dictionary defines hypocrisy as "The practice of professing beliefs, feelings, or virtues that one does not hold or possess; falseness." The British literary critic William Hazlitt once explained, “He is a hypocrite who professes what he does not believe; not he who does not practice all he wishes or approves”

By all appearances Sen. Vitter does indeed believe in such "family values" as marital fidelity. Where he has failed is in behaving in a way that comports with those values; a matter not of hypocrisy but of moral inconsistency. Such consistency is essential--particularly for democratically elected representatives--for establishing and maintaining trust. This is why private behavior has such public implications. The marital infidelity of a legislator, for example, is strong signal that they are untrustworthy: If a man cannot be trusted to keep a sacred vow to an intimate, how can I trust him to keep his word to me, a stranger?

What we desire in a representative is that they be a person of integrity--that their character be a morally consistent whole. A person who is free of contradictory ethical impulses and actions is likely to behave in a manner that is trustworthy. Even if we disagree with their views, we can deduce how they will act and make our judgments about them accordingly.

This is why both Vitter and Flynt agree about the significance of integrity. What separates the two men (besides the fact that Vitter is a man of weak character while Flynt is a despicable pervert) is where they put the emphasis on this trait.
I could post the whole post - but go read it; because the difference he posits between Flynt and Vitter is whether they believe there is anything objectively immoral, or whether all morality is subjective and internal.

The next guy to weigh in is Jeremy Pierce at Parableman with his take on the "Hypocrisy" in this story. There are not particular money quotes in the post, but it to is worthy of a read. He, in talking about moral inconsistency, pointed out a whole 'nother issue brought up by a third place I read: the conservative (ala the law) Volokh Conspiracy quoting Ann Althouse:
I hate seeing people publicly humiliated for the sexual things they do in private. But the government is criminally prosecuting a woman, Deborah Jeane Palfrey, for what it says was a prostitution ring. These are federal charges, and the senator, David Vitter, has some responsibility for the laws that make this prosecution possible.

Vitter situates his misdeed in the realm of religion and private morality: ... "Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wife in confession and marriage counseling... Out of respect for my family, I will keep my discussion of the matter there -- with God and them...." ...

Palfrey can't say God has forgiven her and walk free. In fact, Vitter's statement hurts Palfrey because it strongly implies that Palfrey was doing what she's accused of. Vitter's confession -- intended to move us to mercy -- links him to criminal activity, but only she is facing criminal punishment.... It's not a matter to be resolved within the realm of church and family as long as Palfrey is being prosecuted.
Is there objective immorality, or are morals subjective and internal?

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Need a Laugh?

One of my work managers is a Christian, and after I showed him this video - he forwarded me this email.

Church Bulletins:
Thank God for the church ladies who type them. These sentences actually appeared in church buUetins or were announced in church services:

  • The Fasting and Prayer Conference includes meals.
  • The sermon this morning: "Jesus Walks on the Water." The sermon tonight: "Searching for Jesus."
  • Our youth basketball team is back in action Wednesday at 8 PM in the recreation hall. Come out and watch us kill Christ the King.
  • Ladies, don't forget the rummage sale. It's a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.
  • The peacemaking meeting scheduled for today has been canceled due to a conflict.
  • Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our community. Smile at someone who is hard to love. Say "Hell" to someone who doesn't care much about you.
  • Don't let worry kill you off - let the Church help.
  • Miss Charlene Mason sang "I will not pass this way again," giving obvious pleasure to the congregation.
  • For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs.
  • Next Thursday there will be tryouts for the choir. They need all the help they can get.
  • The Rector will preach his farewell message after which the choir will sing: "Break Forth Into Joy."
  • Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on October 24 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their school days.
  • A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall. Music will follow.
  • At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be "What Is Hell?" Come early and listen to our choir practice.
  • Eight new choir robes are currently needed due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.
  • Scouts are saving aluminum cans, bottles and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children.
  • The church will host an evening of fine dining, super entertainment and gracious hostility.
  • Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person you want remembered.
  • Potluck supper Sunday at 5:00 PM - prayer and medication to follow.
  • The ladies of the Church have cast off clothing of every kind. They may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon.
  • This evening at 7 PM there will be a hymn singing in the park across from the Church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin.
  • Ladies Bible Study will be held Thursday morning at 10 AM. All ladies are invited to lunch in the FeUowship Hall after the B.S. is done.
  • The pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday.
  • Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 PM. Please use the back door.
  • The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare's Hamlet in the Church basement Friday at 7 PM. The congregation is invited to attend this tragedy.
  • Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM at the First Presbyterian Church. Please use large double door at the side entrance.
  • The Associate Minister unveiled the church's new tithing campaign slogan last Sunday: "I Upped My Pledge - Up Yours"

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Some Ministry Tools

and a bit about the church plant.

Paul (the pastor not the apostle) has been in a series called "In" launched from

Mark 16:15 And He said to them, "Go in to all the world and preach the gospel to all creation."
There have been four messages [as I post this the audio of yesterdays isn't up yet] in the series on the subject of Christians at Westport getting in to God's agenda in the world: in short it has been a series on evangelism and being involved in the Body of Christ. The recurring theme has been:
Someone [influenced you, invited you, got involved with you and for you]
In the case of this series, this has been about following Christ - but it is true in all walks of life. Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, you were brought there by someone else influencing you, inviting you, and getting involved in your life. Go and do likewise. That said, it isn't why I started the post . . .I started it because the church played a great video as part of the ministry fair we had this week - showcasing the work that must happen for church to occur each Sunday; and the places people are needed to get in-volved. Go watch this and come back.

That is a bit over the top; but anyone involved in a church, or a group of any kind, knows the folks who come each week expecting it all to happen for their benefit - and then complain if you get it wrong. Politically, folks expect their neighborhood association, city, county, state, nation, etc. to run for their benefit as well - and complain if they get it wrong - without even the minimal involvement of voting. It is not about me.

Igniter Media Group has a number of great videos that can be made a part of your services. The next one that was played when I was at Cedar Mill. Only go look at this if you do not mind a straight up Gospel message about Jesus Christ. The last video was cute/funny, this is awesome with the incredible voice and passion of Shadrach Meshach "S.M." Lockridge: "That's My King"

For those involved in Christian ministry, I hope this is a source of video tools for you.

The next tool I discovered when I attempted to link the text of the seminal book series The Fundamentals
usually regarded as a signal of the beginning of the organized fundamentalist movement, was one of the sources for the movement’s name...The authors of the essays were mostly respected Bible teachers. A few were widely recognized conservative Protestant scholars, such as Benjamin B. Warfield and James Orr of Scotland. Not all the authors were dispensationalist. Rather, they were chosen to present a united conservative “testimony to the truth” (as the subtitle to the volumes put it).

Of the ninety articles bound in twelve volumes (bearing no systematic organization), about one-third defend the Bible, usually against higher criticism. Another third are either presentations of basic doctrines or general apologetic works. The rest include personal testimonies, practical applications of Christian teaching, appeals for missions and evangelism, as well as attacks on various “-isms.” Some of the articles had been published previously.

The essays were generally moderate in tone and a mix of both scholarly and popular interests and styles...The central themes of the volumes...were that conservative evangelical Protestantism could be defended on two major counts. First, its affirmations of miraculous divine interventions — as expressed in fundamental doctrines such as the inspiration of Scripture, the incarnation, the miracles and the resurrection — were fully compatible with modern science and rationality. Second, the testimony of personal experience was also important in confirming Christian belief.

The Fundamentals represented an early stage in emerging fundamentalism, an alliance of a variety of conservatives alarmed particularly over the spread of false doctrines. After the 1920s fundamentalism generally became more militant. Eventually, when in the 1940s and 1950s the main part of interdenominational fundamentalism broke between “neo-evangelicals” and stricter separatist dispensationalists, that split reflected a tension that had been present in the alliance that The Fundamentals helped forge.
at Street Prophets - and blew the guys bandwidth out. In looking for another linkable copy, instead I found Logos Bible Software with their Logos Digital Library System (LDLS).

There is so much cool stuff in here I feel like a kid in a candy store (regretfully I only have lint in my pockets)

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