Friday, December 30, 2011

Get Out of Our House

There are precisely two things that make the United States of America the greatest country on earth. There are two things that make people want to immigrate here and keep people from emigrating from here:

Our constitutional republic
and our free-market economy.

Together, these two things make possible what is known the world over as the "American Dream." Take away just one of these, and you can kiss the dream goodbye.

So it is vitally important that we elect representatives who leave us and the Hand alone. There is no room for pragmatism. Pragmatism is what got us where we are today.

Get Out of Our House: Revolution! is author Tim Cox's answer to the problem we currently have with career politicians who make deals, compromise with the enemy, and take the illscratchyourbackyouscratchmine approach to government.

His system just might work. Every potential candidate must answer a questionnaire of over one hundred policy questions with strictly yes or no answers. There is no wiggle room, no mushy middle. And that's just my speed. The candidates are locked into their answers two weeks before the election and are legally bound to cast all votes in accordance with their answers. If the candidate is legitimately concerned that his answer does not represent the people, he can call for a poll to gather information in order to justify a change in his answer to the policy question.

Sort of reminiscent of the Social Contract.

My problem with the book, however, is not so much its approach, which is quite realistic, but its author. His politics are a paean to pragmatism in its grossest form. Shame on Mr. Cox for sinking to the same level as those he claims to loathe.

The 'wealthy' are arbitrarily described as those having 250 times the income of the median national income. Why not 249 times, Mr. Cox? Or 251 times? And who gets to determine that? You? The 'wealthy', thus defined, are locked out of his process. No doubt, that's to help Cox in his agenda to pass the Fair Tax, which is still a progressive tax system that taxes the wealthy at a higher rate than the not-wealthy. So we're back to where we started in the tax mess, requiring the wealthy, who worked for their money, to fund more government than the rest of us. Um, that's

Cox thinks abortion should be illegal in the second and third trimesters--but legal in the first. Be consistent, Cox. Spare us this disgusting, arbitrary 'respect' for life. You are pro-life from conception to the grave of innocent people...or you are not pro-life at all. Your attempt to stop the vicious cycle of single motherhood and poverty is not going to be fixed by throwing murder onto the heap.

And his environmental approach is absolutely bizarre. Claiming a strong love of the environment, Cox asserts that it is part of the government's job to help protect it...but(and here's where it gets really bizarre)...the government should not protect any endangered species with a mass smaller than that of a golf ball.


I'm no tree-hugger. And I'm with Vaclav Klaus who said that conservation is science but environmentalism is religion. But even I know that the food chain will be affected by even the smallest creature breaking the cycle. Again, Cox, be consistent. I'm not for saving the cave beetle of Central Texas if it interferes with human quality of life. But I'm not for saving the Alaskan caribou, either, if we need a domestic source of fuel.

Drill here; drill now, baby.

And his economics are a little too 'Chicago' for me. Cox claims to want the government to leave the economy alone--unless the GDP dips too low. Perhaps we need the GDP and everything else about the economy to reset to get us where we need to be?

In the end, we need to stick to our ideals,
to--as my friend Bev says--make our decisions based on principles, not circumstances.
The ideals that a good government will protect are the constitutional republic and the free-market economy.
If the men we elect refuse to protect these two ideals,
no exceptions,
no compromises across the aisle,
no wheeling and dealing,
the United States is done.
If the men we elect protect more than these two ideals, it will muddy the waters and infringe on the jurisdictions of the Church and the family.

"This quest stands on the edge of a knife. Stray but a little and it will fail." (Tolkien)

Maybe if he had read more Locke, Paine, Henry, Jefferson, and Madison
and less Gingrich and Hightower, Cox might have better grasped those ideals.
I may support Cox's system.
But I'm done supporting Cox's pragmatism
It's a fail, Mr. Cox,
An epic fail.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Every red/white/blue bleeding, pledge chanting, flag-waving American loves this land and the liberty it represents. We love our country, and we love the Constitution that makes our country great. Despite the national debt and the on-going recession, we are still the richest country in the world. Despite the growth of government, we remain the free-est country in the world. We have the best trained and best funded military forces in the world. So it's only right that we are entitled use that might and that wealth as we see fit.


American Exceptionalism. I first heard the term from a friend about eighteen months ago. Then I read about it in a book. Then I heard politicians use the term. I suppose it means that America, and the unequaled liberty and wealth that she represents worldwide, is exceptional among all the countries in the world.

I suppose.

But I've noticed that there is a disturbing implication in the term. What it really means is that America should defend its 'interests' around the globe, despite the costs to other nations. What it really means is that while we get our panties in a wad over the United Nations being on our soil, we don't intend for national sovereignty to extend beyond our borders. What it really means is that 'collateral damage' is a small price to pay for oil that we are entitled to.

Columnist Ann Coulter once quipped, "What's wrong with a war for oil?"

Well, Ann, I suppose what's wrong is that the aforementioned oil happens be in someone else's country. And the very idea that they have to do business with us rather infuriates them. It's akin to Zimbabwe telling us that we have to sell our wheat to them...and that they're prepared to send troops if we don't.

American Exceptionalism.

When the Arab Spring was underway last year, and the world watched as Egypt's Hosni Mubarak's administration was toppled, Sean Hannity bombasted, "We have to get the right leader in there!"

Who's 'we,' Sean?
You mean America has to pick Egypt's next leader.
I'd a-thought, what with our being a constitutional republic and all, that we'd like to see other folks get to have a representative form of government as well. I'd a-thought we would respect other countries' rights to free elections, too.

American Exceptionalism.

When Hugo Chavez, our favorite South American Communist, was making idiotic comments regarding the United States, 'Christian' commentator and fruit loop extraordinaire Pat Robertson thought we should assassinate him.
Assassinate him.
As in America assassinate another head of state.
'Cause he doesn't work for us.

American Exceptionalism.

And now...what to do with Iran???
Those crazy Iranians are saying bad things about us. They might have weapons, too. And they might be pointing them at us!
So we, being the great respecters of national sovereignty that we are, would like to send in weapons inspectors--because their military is our business, I suppose. But Iran, like a difficult two-year-old, simply refuses to cooperate. I just can't understand it.
And we would like to, perhaps, take out their weapons with a pre-emptive strike.
You know...
Before they commit any act of war...
Because we can.

American Exceptionalism.
Might makes right.
This is the stuff of Arthurian legend.
And just as the Wart had to learn that 'might makes right' only served to make men animals, America should take note, too.

We installed the Shah--because that worked for us.
And the Shah set up his secret police.
And his secret police tortured and killed thousands of his own people.
No wonder the Iranians stormed our embassy.
We sold wmd's to Saddam Hussein--because that worked for us.
Hussein tortured and killed his own people.
And then we took out Hussein, not because he tortured and killed his own people
but because his regime no longer worked for us.
We took out Guatemala's Jacobo Arbenz--who, by the way, was elected by Guatemalans in a free election--in a 1954 CIA-instigated coup, and replaced him with Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas
who--you guessed it--tortured and killed his own people.

We can do that
Cause we're America, by golly.

And we're exceptional.

Ah, but are we Biblical?
Every time we interfere with another nation, innocent citizens of that nation are killed.
These are real people.
Real people with real wives and children and jobs and homes and dreams and pasts.
Real people with childhood memories and mothers-in-law and allergies and favorite colors and hobbies.
Real people with real souls.
Every time we interfere with another nation in the name of national defense--which is just horse puckey--we make widows and orphans. We increase poverty for people who never knew us or loved us or hated us or cared either way.

The Biblical jurisdiction of government is to punish wrongdoers, not to punish people who might be wrongdoers some time in the future.
Part of the Biblical jurisdiction of the Church is to take care of the poor, the orphan, the widow.
But wow.
Most American Christians fist-pump for the flag
And as long as our foreign policy works for America, we're okay with that.
Shame on you. Shame on me.

You, my evangelical Christian friend, call it 'national defense.'
I call it Widowmaker.

I wonder if God's okay with that.
I'll bet He's not.
And if He's not...
why are you?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Dreaming of a White Christmas

One of my favorite things in the whole world.

Free of all the things I can't stand in the world
like heat
or sand
or noise.

Memories from childhood of sledding
and snowballs
and opening my bedroom dormer window and climbing out on the roof with my dad to watch as it fell.
So quiet, it makes its own music.
So beautiful, it is its own art.

No, there is nothing like snow.

"Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord.
Though your sins are like scarlet, they will be as white as snow."
(Isaiah 1:18)

That is what the Incarnation set in motion.
It gave us hope that the stain of our sin will be cleansed
and that we will one day stand in the presence of our perfectly clean God.
It rescued us from the flames of Hell that were licking at our feet and beckoning us to our own destruction.
It silenced the noise of our flesh that tries to interfere with the voice of our Father.

There's just something about snow.
It is clean and cold and quiet whether it lies in the peaceful valley or on the rugged mountain. The constance of the properties of snow just stuns me into awe at my Creator and makes me fall to my knees in worship of my Redeemer.

We still do battle with the heat and the sand and the noise.
But it's temporary.
What the Incarnation set in motion
and what the Resurrection permanently secured
will one day, once and for all,
make a tangible reality.
Until then, I remember the clean, cold, quiet snow of my childhood,
and I dream of the clean, cold, quiet snow to come.

Merry Christmas, from my family to yours.

May all your Christmases be white.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

He is the God Who Sees (Part Two)

Mom tears.
They flow for so many reasons.
When our children are little, we agonize over sleep, health, motor skills, intellectual development, growth charts, safety, nutrition, and social development.
We try not to compare, but we find ourselves asking,
Is this a normal child?
Am I normal mom?
What is normal, anyway?

It's what we want for our children.
We want them to be just right.
And we lie awake at night worrying...
Too big? Too small?
Too social? Too quiet?
Too cautious? Too daring?
Too smart? Too slow?
Too passive? Too aggressive?

Moms of little children have such a difficult season to navigate.
We run on little sleep, little food, little experience.
We get advice where we are not looking for it
Or silence where we are.

And any time something seems to be 'not right,'
We are taken over with worry that our just right world
May not be just right, after all.
Most of our worries end up being unfounded.
But not all the time.

Mother of little children,
He is the God who sees.
He has not blinked.
He has not made a mistake.
He knows how the story ends.
He is sovereign and good.
He sees me.
He sees my children.

Days and nights...
Moons and months...

And I am the mother of growing children.
I worry less about their height
and more about their stature.
Less about their nutrition
More about their worldview.
Less about their social skills
and more about their relationships.

The things that keep me up at night are the words they say that bubble up from hearts that are wrestling with adulthood
or wrestling with God.
What are they reading, watching, and feeding to their spirits?
And do they like it?
Who are they spending time with?
And are they worth it?

Will they marry the right kind of person?
Will they use their talents for God...or bury them?
Will they not forsake the fellowship of the brethren?
Will they follow hard after God
And love Him with all their hearts, all their minds, all their souls, all their strength?
When we remove the scaffolding of house rules, will this building that is my child stand because it is built on the Sure Foundation?
Or will it collapse because it's built on sand?

Moms of growing children,
He is still the God who sees.
He knows I love my children.
He loves them more.
He knows I want what is best for them.
He wants what is best for Him.

He sees their struggles
and growing pains.
He sees them wrestle with life
and wrestle with the Truth.

We see obstacles on their journey,
Obstacles that distract them...
or divert them...
or defeat them...
And our hearts start to pound.
But He sees obstacles as momentary, sanctifying afflictions.
My children are on God's calendar,
Not mine.
And everything is right on schedule.

And moms worry about ourselves.
Am I a good mom?
What kind of example am I setting?
What am I teaching them?
Forget about reading and writing.
What am I teaching them with the way I spend my time
or who I spend it with?
What am I teaching them about character or integrity or longsuffering?
What am I teaching them when I submit myself to the Word?
or don't?

And, most of all, we can find ourselves worrying about their eternity.
But as surely as God alone raised dead men to life, He raises my children, who are dead in their sin, to eternal life through Jesus' work on the Cross.
And when I remember that,
When I preach the Gospel to myself and remember Who is in charge of that Gospel and responsible for that Gospel, I remember that He is El Roi...
The God Who Sees...

and I rest.

Monday, December 5, 2011

To Live Below With the Saints I Know

I'm an introvert. To my close friends--introverts all--that is beyond obvious. To those who are only acquaintances, that is a surprise. I think it's because of all the things I get my hands in. But, really and truly, I need to recharge at home.

All by my onesy.

Suffice it to say, I'm not a team player--which is probably why the only sports I participate in are cross-country and golf. But even those can present a challenge. A few months back, I was jogging with my 13-year-old. I could hear her steps landing in a different cadence than mine. It threw off my breathing; it threw off my pacing. I finished my two miles more exhausted than usual.

The next day I had a plan. "Since I'm a little faster than you are, how about if I give you a five-minute start?" I suggested happily. "Then I'll probably catch up to you about halfway, and I'll be able to keep an eye on you from further back." Grace looked a little doubtful but headed out. And I could breathe. And I could run at my own pace. Man, that was a great idea!

So when Brett later preached on the disciples, I was intrigued. This was a bunch that must have been like a powder keg. Can you picture Simon the Zealot in the same fellowship as Matthew the tax collector? Can you see cynical Thomas breaking bread with Bartholomew, in whom there was no guile? Can you see them all ready to throw James and John under the bus for wanting the best seats? Or Peter, who can't open his mouth except to put his foot in it (how I identify with Peter!)?

And then the crowds come. And they are pressing in around him.
And they were touching him.
I'm not a naturally touchy person.
I wish I was, but I'm not.
So I have to remind myself to hug the people I love.
And the thought of crowds pressing in on Jesus, well, it just gives me the willies.
When the woman who had been bleeding touched Jesus, he asked, "Who touched me?" as if He was just gathering information.
Not me.
I would have turned around and said, "Hey! Who touched me? Geez, can't you people keep your hands to yourself? Didn't your mother ever teach you about personal space?!"

Needy crowds...
No relief at home with the boys--who were probably ticking each other off--when they managed to remain on speaking terms.
No wonder Jesus went frequently to be alone!

For me, the challenge of the Christian walk is spelled p-e-o-p-l-e.
And just like running, I find it is much easier to run by myself than with someone else.
They breathe too fast.
Or too slow.
They make too much noise when their feet slap the ground.
They hit me with their elbows.
Or make my shoe come off by running into the back of my foot.
They forget the route.
They forget to start the clock.
Or they clock ME.
And I'm sure I return the favors.

I read a poem a few years back that set me to howling because it was so true:

To live above with the saints I love,
How that will be a glory.
To live below with the saints I know,
Now that's a different story.

Is it not true sometimes that you can't wait to meet saints of the past
like John the Baptist
or Peter
or Elijah
or Moses...
...but present-day saints like Jane Christian or Joe Bible drive you crazy???

I think a large part of sanctification is learning to run the race with the saints I know.
Extending grace,
Caring less about head-coverings on one side or nose-rings on the other
Or politics
Or flip-flops...
And more about their lives.
I think running the race with the saints I know is about Romans 14.
It's freedom holding hands with timidity.
It's strength carrying weakness.
It's intellect being patient with ignorance.
It's high standards softening the rebuke to low standards.
It's less pride
And more humility.

And as I write this, I am cognizant of the fact that I am really, really bad at this.
I still find that running alone is much easier than running on a team.
I don't play well on committees or leadership teams. I'd rather do it all by myself--or not at all.
But I have to think that living below with the saints I know
will bring God more glory than pining selfishly for Heaven.

The bad news is that the Lord has much work to do in me.
The good news is that anytime you see me getting along well with others, it's all Holy Spirit...
all the time.