Thursday, December 06, 2012

Israel: A Gift to the World

A traveler from outer space visiting the newsrooms of The EU, UN and USA the past few years might conclude that Israel is the world's greatest threat to human rights and world peace. Visits to most public college campuses would confirm that this little land is a center of fascism and racism, determined to exterminate impoverished Palestinians. As our extraterrestrial explorer tunes in to Al-Jezeera, images of innocents killed by Israeli missiles fill the screen, and jihadist cries of "Death to the Jews!" accost the ears. With no other images or narratives, our E.T. concludes that Israel needs containing and perhaps oversight by a more benevolent nation that will consider the plight of refugees in the "occupied territories" of the West Bank.

Alas, we do not need a visitor from another galaxy - all of the assertions above are the daily message of most news outlets around the world. Tragically, millions are being manipulated by a warped narrative that disregards ethics, history and peacemaking efforts.

The modern state of Israel is a gift to the world and a symbol of good that arises when liberty, the rule of law and sacrificial community converge.

Before I defend Israel's right to exist alongside a two Palestinian states (Jordan and a new Palestine dedicated to peace), allow me some qualifiers for this essay:
  • I am not engaging in biblical or theological discussions concerning the place of Israel in  prophecy, Armageddon or other points of religious dispute among Jews and Christians. These debates are important, but they are not the focus of this work.
  • I reject replacement theology that sees no legitimacy or need for a Jewish homeland. I also oppose extremist Zionism that will not rest until all Arabs are removed from the equivalent of King Solomon's ancient empire.
  • From the 1920s to the present, Arab and Jewish populations have been in conflict and both sides have committed deplorable acts. This said, there is not equivalence between the two sides. Very few Israelis call for policies of extermination. Multiple times Israel has made peace only to see it subverted by groups unwilling to treat the Jews as human beings.
  • In the midst of all the violence, Palestinian Christians suffer the most, distrusted by both Jewish and Muslim neighbors.
There are four reasons for celebrating and defending Israel in the 21st century:
  1. History: Israelis are living in the land of their ancestors and have the most significant continuous presence of any people group. Their claim of a small portion of land around Jerusalem is supported by history and their religious traditions. In contrast, Islamist extremists cannot cannot give significant Qur'anic support for Jerusalem as a holy city - at least until their conquest of the seventh century and rewriting of narratives. Many Muslim radicals deny the existence of an ancient Jewish Temple...along with the 20th century Holocaust.
  2. Humanitarianism: Israel emerged out the ashes of the Shoah and the devastation of World War II. Arab nations see the UN Mandate of 1947 as a Western imposition and invasion. What is forgotten is that the original grant for a Jewish homeland encompassed locations with a majority Jewish population. Most of the land was legally purchased during the previous eighty years. This U.N. action left the Golan with Syria, Gaza and the Sinai with Egypt, and most of Jerusalem and all the West Bank with Jordan. The truce of 1949 left these areas intact, with some security zones. Sadly, it also meant the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and the forced emigration of an even greater number of Jews from the Arab nations.
  3. A healthy democracy and economy: Israel is the only free society in the entire region. There is great political, religious and social diversity, including more than a million Arab citizens, squabbling political parties, vibrant entrepreneurs, a welfare state and a citizenry weary of war but determined to resist another Holocaust. The desert has blossomed like a rose as people from around the world reclaim barren and swampy land, invent new technologies and learn to live very close together. The nations that possess peace accords with Israel have fared better that groups that keep millions in forced squalor while they yell, "Jihad!"
  4. Hope: Israel is a dramatic story of courage and perseverance, with ultra orthodox and secular groups living side-by-side, forging a fragile nation and praying and working for peace with Arab neighbors suffering under oppressive Islamists refusing prosperity in favor of intolerance and violence. Under the radar, multiple peace groups are working for understanding and justice while armed forces eyes each other suspiciously through field glasses.  
The moment Palestinian leaders fully accept Israel's legitimacy and safety, peace becomes possible. Such acknowledgment will be delayed indefinitely as long as the poison of anti-Semitism continues to infest Arab and European leaders. Abbas must stop denying history and delaying hope for millions. He and his leaders must show fortitude and risk fatwas for lasting stability. Israeli leaders must willingly renew prior accords once their national existence is legitimized with unequivocal spoken and written agreements.

Israel must provide assurances and incentives for any new Palestinian state and be flexible on Jerusalem, willing to tear down most of the ugly border barriers and create economic and social partnerships for prosperity. Such actions cannot be initiated unconditionally or Israel risks emboldening radicals that see any peace overtures as weakness.

Israel is a moral, political and social good for the world, providing opportunities for her neighbors that may usher in a season of peace. The EU, UN and USA must find fortitude and repudiate anti-Semitism and calls for elimination. We are perilously close to 1938 when the West lost her moral will and tried appeasement with evil. Czechoslovakia was dismembered, Poland placed in peril, the the USSR  was driven to a demonic pact with Hitler. The result was a war that claimed tens of millions of lives.

I pray we will learn from history and live in hope, refusing capitulation to fear and intolerance. An end to innocent suffering in this troubled region would be an apt Christmas gift indeed.

Monday, November 05, 2012

The Road Ahead

Our next Administration faces unprecedented challenges and opportunities. Reversing more than half a century of ballooning indebtedness and bloated bureaucracy will be daunting. Transforming health care and retirement plans so they are stable and sustainable will require courage and sacrifice heretofore unknown among politicians. Restoring our global influence and leading the resistance to intolerance and totalitarianism will demand humility, wisdom and moral and military strength. Advocating for life from conception to coronation and affirming compassion for the broken, poor and vulnerable will summon our best character and competencies. Standing with Israel while engaging in honest dialogue with Muslim leaders calls for Solomonic discernment.

Can we chart a fresh direction, revitalizing our founding principles for 21st century realities? Or is it too late and must we "adjust" to a "new world order" and "settle" for less? There is no way forward without pain. The only question is which type of surgery and recovery creates long-term health in the patient we call the United States of America.

There are two dispositions we must eschew and two we must embrace in order to construct a better, more inclusive and prosperous future. First, we must reject fatalism and fear, with their partners dependency and victimhood. Second, we must resist the extremes of hyper-individualism and collectivism. We must reaffirm that liberty is built on virtue and truth embraced by people with freewill. We are responsible for our choices. Yes, there are second chances and opportunities for redemption. There are, however, risks and rewards, positive and negative possibilities with daily decisions. Our future rests on accepting reality and affirming freedom - to fail or succeed. Hyper-individualism forgets that others do contribute to our progress - parents and pastors, coaches, friends and mentors, partners and even competitors are all part of the social reality that makes prosperity possible. The opposite extreme, the "you didn't build that" collectivism of the last four years (and perhaps longer, truth be told), forgets that the infrastructure that sustains growth is funded by the innovation of the market that produces tax revenue! Remember, the politician's are playing with our money.

On the positive side, we must embrace hope that is fulfilled by new habits. "Hope and change" only happen with habits and character. Hope is not wishful thinking and new habits begin with new hearts. Will we joyfully embrace the truth that "we are the change" as we diligently work, cheerfully volunteer and sacrificially serve the next generation? Secondly, we must live out the paradox of self-fulfillment through selfless service. Prosperity is adding value to others, not just extracting it. Our material wealth, emotional well-being and fruitful future rest on offering products, services and relationships that honor God and bring good to others. We buy certain products because of their (perceived or real) value. As we participate in the economy, we are stewards of God-given relationships and resources.

As we pray, vote and await the changes ahead, let's dedicate ourselves to a future founded on character and competence rooted in faith, hope and love. Our salvation is from Christ. Our ultimate future is a gift from the Triune God. But our current life is a partnership with God and people of conscience to forge a loving and just community. "Yes we can" change course and one day look back on a new era of compassion, opportunity and flourishing.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

The Morning After: November 7 and January 21

"There's got to be a morning after; if we can hold on through the night. We have a chance to find the sunlight; let's keep on looking for the light..."

These words from the theme song to the "Poseidon Adventure" speak to the hearts of millions of Americans as we prepare to vote and live with the consequences. (The song was the best part of an otherwise campy disaster movie!)

We will once again be part of a peaceful continuation and transfer of power, with some officials looking for work and others placed in offices that will require creativity, discipline and integrity if we are going to move forward.

I do hope we see a complete change of direction and focus in Washington, D.C. We need balanced budgets, intelligent projection of power against Islamic terrorism, sound social policies that care for the needy without bankrupting our nation and business and energy policies that recognize reward for risk and careful stewardship of the beautiful world God has bequeathed humankind. We can be energy independent and have a cleaner environment.

We also need a rebirth of civil debate that focuses on solving real problems and assessing fundamental issues without descending into the quagmire of name-calling, personal attack and hoary generalizations rooted in ideological myths instead of first principles and empirical realities.

We can affirm traditional marriage and offer legal status for other arrangements, without altering the universal understanding of marriage and family that has guided every civilization.

We can stop the holocaust of abortion and infanticide and help vulnerable parents raise their children, find adoptive homes and discover a better future.

We can balance a budget if we will stop trying to maintain a federal warfare and welfare state. We do have local and state governments that work...we can learn from these examples and re-empower local and state political and social progress.

We can create a just system of federal taxation. All it takes is courage, honesty and a willingness to be a one-term official.

We can support Israel and pave the wave for a new Palestinian state committed to non-violence and reciprocal prosperity. All it takes is moral courage, calling the bluffs of radicals and demonstrating that representative democracy is the best form of government. There is no place for Temple and Holocaust denial in a peaceful Middle East.

We can care for the medical needs of all our citizens with innovative private-public partnerships that are humane, local and subject to effective ethical oversight, not a bloated bureaucracy.

All of these ideas will only work with a nation of self-regulating, virtuous citizens. Failure to regulate our own moral, economic and social behavior brings anarchy and paves the way for totalitarian control.

We need to secure our borders and create hospitality centers that welcome hard-working people from around the world. There is a place for seasonal work and permanent residency. There is a way to create a pathway to citizenship for all that come legally. We do not need to atone any longer for real and false guilt from 1848 or any other moment. We need to empty our prisons of violent illegal convicts and deport them. At the same time, we can foster new channels to welcome and integrate new friends.

Thomas More's famous work Utopia literally means "no-where." ("U" = no; topos = "land" or "place"). I do not believe we can achieve perfection in this age. I do believe we can make progress.

What about race? In 2008 we proved to ourselves that skin color did not matter. We need to do the same in 2012. Character, competence, ideals and policies, along with leadership, relational ability and a love for our founders' principles should guide our decisions. I would happily vote for J.C. Watts. Condi Rice is admirable. I wish Thomas Sowell was the chief economist - we would have greater prosperity! We need the voices of John Perkins and Shelby Steele. Race is more than a black/white issue. There are people from every culture that will contribute to an American future. Let's celebrate our diversity-in-unity instead of balkanizing.

Please pray, get informed and vote. After the parties, the lamenting and rejoicing, the real work begins.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Ready to Vote?

In twelve days, Americans go to the voting booths. We will participate in both continuity an change as we cast our ballots. Some officials will be re-elected; others will find new work. Some ordinances and propositions will become law; others will await the next cycle or become a memory. It is good for us to pause in our celebration and recognize that the American Experiment is both exceptional and hard-won.  Our founders' vision was extraordinary and the stability bequeathed to subsequent generations remains unprecedented in world history. This experiment in virtue-based liberty built on First Principles is something to celebrate.

This liberty has come with much suffering as well. It took a Civil War and Civil Rights to grant the franchise to millions of African-American citizens. Women were finally accorded the vote in 1920, after decades of petition and protest. Our soldiers suffering in Vietnam were the catalysts for opening this opportunity to 18 year old women and men. As we approach this election, we can rejoice that millions have the opportunity to shape the continuities and changes in local, state and national direction. We must also be vigilant that every legitimate vote is counted, from our military overseas to absentees at at home. We must reject all attempts to intimidate citizens as they express their freedom. At the same time, voting is the privilege of citizens, not documented or undocumented guests.

Are we ready to vote? I offer the following as a "The Twelve Days of Voting" preparation strategy that will make our nation stronger. Whether my readers agree with my opinions is less important than adhering to precepts of excellent preparation. Here are Twelve Questions, one for each day, as we prepare to cast our ballots:

Day One: Are we getting informed about our local and state issues as well as the Presidential race? Are we reading about the ordinances and propositions for our city, county and state? Are we aware of the positions of local and state candidates on issues that are important to us?

Day Two: Are we thinking about the Public Checkbook and electing men and women that will be good stewards our OUR money? We can and should argue how to spend public funds - there is much room for important debate here. But we must end the red ink at all levels.

Day Three: Are we investigating the voting records of incumbents and their connections with various special interests, regardless of party?

Day Four: Will we pause and pray for Almighty God to show mercy to a nation absorbed in her own pleasure, captivated by image, numbed by information overload and too eager to receive largess without considering its sources?

Day Five: After this pause, will we make friends with people outside our self-congratulatory circles, engage in civil dialogue and encourage others to vote?

Day Six: Will we focus on the local issues, asking ourselves which issues matter for future flourishing?

Day Seven: Will we concentrate on state issues, remembering the names of our assembly and senate leaders, evaluate their ideals and positions and prepare to cast our ballots intelligently?

Day Eight: Let's look at the larger world as we examine our choices for Congress and the President. Which leaders do we trust the most to represent America well, both in our economic and safety interests as well as our ideals of freedom? What leaders will show courage in the face of Islamicist terrorism?

Day Nine: Which congressional and presidential candidates will balance the federal checkbook better? Which women and men will consider future generations in the budgets they pass?

Day Ten: Today we pause and consider the visions and values of the candidates and how they resonate with our own. We want character and competence, but ideals matter and we hope they have some humility as well, remembering that they serve us and not the reverse.

Day Eleven: Time for a final review and much more prayer and we implore the Lord for grace, love and truth in all things. This is a good day to read some quotes from Washington, Madison, John Quincy Adams, Lincoln and others.

Day Twelve: We vote, open our homes and stay up too late watching the results, celebrating peaceful transitions and preparing to hold all officials accountable.

Let's be ready to vote with wisdom.

Monday, October 08, 2012

The Power of Our Choices

With less than one month of electioneering remaining, the battles intensify as all the candidates at every level begin their sprint to the finish line. Beyond the elected offices are thousands of local and state propositions. It can be overwhelming, but it is a historical privilege to have a real say in our future. Please get informed, pray often and vote! Our choices matter and the future of our nation rests upon responsible, virtuous citizens exercising their God-given and Constitutionally guaranteed rights.

But there is even more power in other choices we make. Who we elect is not the most important factor in our destiny. Both conservatives and progressives are concerned about our future, often for similar reasons. Conservatives are deeply troubled by the ever-expanding reach of the federal government. Progressives bemoan the increasing gaps between rich and poor. Conservatives see under performing schools and agitate for vouchers. Progressives see the same realities and opt for increased public funding. Economic uncertainly is the concern of all, with each group offering different solutions, but no one is in denial that we need change. Conservatives are deeply uncomfortable with a foreign policy that tries to accommodate enemies dedicated to our demise. Progressives want to change perceptions of America and express more humility and interconnectedness. Both groups eschew intolerance and want to minimize violence.

There are choices we can make that will alter our national trajectory, even if we keep arguing on many public policy matters. Here are a few that may unite us instead of divide us further:
  • Apart from abuse, adultery and abandonment, we can stay married and serve our children. This is the single greatest factor for future success and stability, trumping economics and education. We can make sure our children arrive at school ready to learn.
  • We can offer our companies, families and communities a full day's work, with good motives and ethical-relational integrity.
  • We can do business with the aim of adding value instead of extracting it from others.
  • We can balance our own checkbooks and hold public officials responsible for how they spend the people's money. (Yes, we will still argue over how to spend it - the key is not spending more than we take in!) 
  • We can defend the poor, broken and vulnerable, from conception to coronation.
  • We can offer our time to help others instead of just agitating. The victims of social evils need friends as well as money and professional help.
  • We can look for ways to create wealth, not just redistribute current assets.
  • We can add beauty to the world by voluntarily celebrating and supporting the arts. Not every effort needs a government subsidy.
  • We can make friends with our neighbors.
  • If we turn off technology and get physically active, we are contributing to reducing health care costs without spending any money.
  • Our prayers matter to God and the future of the planet.
  • We can pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Affirming Israel's right to exist as a beacon of democracy and supporting a new democratic Palestinian nation dedicated to peace is the only way forward.
  • We can make some new friends across cultural and generational lines. It will be fun to eat new foods, understand new ways of seeing the world and build a virtuous consensus in our communities.
  • We can reject hatred even while we critique choices and ideas. Every person we meet is made in God's image.
Our nation's future depends upon the mercy of God and the choices of millions of "regular" people. We can end the pernicious influence of pornography - there is an "off" button! We can reduce abortions by loving those already pregnant and helping the unmarried see the wisdom of waiting. By the way, the fathers need to own up to their part in this process! Civility is not passivity or just being sweet. Civility is looking for connections and choosing respect over rejection, affirmation over anger and forging new agreements when possible instead of picking up our toys and leaving the conversations.

At first, these choices seem self-evident and simplistic; however, actually living this way is a challenge. Sometimes there are addictions and traumas requiring extra care. We must not have contempt for those that struggle. But we must affirm the struggle! In our world of deep wounds and pernicious narcissism, the way of civility and service is rarely navigated easily. But it is worth our effort to offer succeeding generations a world worth enjoying.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Time to Grow Up

Now that the conventions are done and we are finally in the election homestretch, it is time for serious evaluation of the issues. To clear our minds, the following cliches are NOT allowed to obscure the important issues:
  • "There are two sides to every issue." Yes, but that does not mean two equally solid or valid positions. Sometimes there is a right or wrong stance, or at least a better or worse position.
  • "Both sides play dirty." Sometimes, this is true. But this is also an excuse to avoid listening and research. If we do not like something, we call it "politics" and avoid the issue. 
  • "Wall Street and the selfish capitalists are the reason we are in this economic mess." Partly true. But federal government policies since the late 1970s contributed to our mess and institutions were coerced into poor lending practices. Have we forgotten the "golden parachutes" of Democratic Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae leaders and the special tax incentives to GM so that UAW power continues to cripple the company?
  • "The Palestinians are oppressed and deserve a state next door to Israel." As soon as their leaders stop denying the Holocaust, denying the Temple and denying the Jews' right to a small strip of territory in their ancient land, peace becomes possible.
  • "The rich should pay their fair share." OK, who decides what is fair? The top 5% in the USA pay 57% of taxes now, with 50% of US adults paying nothing.
Quick insight: Rich liberals are fine with high tax rates for two reasons. One, they know how to shelter their wealth well; and two, they regard government as their charity. Conservatives give an exponentially higher percentage of their wealth away through private channels. Both are generous - the fundamental question for our future is which agencies do we task with managing our generosity?

With these simplisms out of the way, let's look at what our nation needs in the season ahead. Both candidates admit that the road ahead is not easy. Underneath these admissions are radically different philosophies of federal government power. That alone is cause for concern and reflection.

An Open memo to all candidates running for local, state and federal offices:
  • It is time to grow up and stop behaving like adolescents, with emotional appeals, vapid generalizations and "you don't understand" as excuses for laziness.
  • It is time to balance our budgets. End of discussion.
  • If we need more revenue, we need to open avenues for the private sector to create wealth (yes, within ethical and environmental guidelines).
  • When public works are planned, a open business plan and competitive process will ensure the best service at the best price.
  • No veteran should be without care. No soldier should be under supplied. This said, there are billions of over bloated Pentagon budgets that deserve a real scalpel.
  • All deserving recipients of public aid should receive their help in a timely fashion. Our goal must be reducing this number, not advertising for more customers.
  • Success should be celebrated, from a diploma to an IPO, from getting off welfare to discovering a new drug.
  • Religious freedom is the first freedom of the First Amendment. Jewish and Muslim circumcision is not a public health threat. Catholic caregivers must not be coerced into providing services that violate their conscience. Big Brother does NOT trump the conscience of business owners! If a Muslim owner wants to pause business for Friday prayers, that is fine. If Chick-Fil-A wants to close on Sunday, that is their call. If a Jewish establishment closes for the Sabbath, Gentile employees get time off. If owners have personal convictions that  some oppose, customers can take their business elsewhere.
  • Israel is a moral and political gift to the world. This does not mean agreeing with every policy. It does mean unequivocally affirming her right to exist.
  • Freedom only works when founded on virtue rooted in timeless truth. Even if we solved every economic and structural problem in the public square, we still face our greatest challenge: our own depravity. The best leadership can only do so much.
Good and evil is not Democrat vs. Republican. Good and evil are within each person and choosing the former requires courage, faith and humility. Schools will be as solid as the families that populate the neighborhood. When husband and wife stay together, they give their kids the greatest chance of future success - yes, even greater than educational level. Here is a novel thought: If Mom and Dad cannot live together, have the parents shuttle between houses rather than the kids. Mom, Dad, why don't you pack up every other weekend or every week or two and provide your kids with the stability of one location. (Yes, counselors, I am assuming no abuse or other pathologies that place kids at risk, just the narcissism of of one or both parents.)

It is time to grow up. This begins at home. How hard is it to send kids off to school with some oatmeal inside them, clean bodies and clean clothes on them? For some, this may be hard and they deserve our help. For most, it means placing our kids before ourselves and our future before our present pleasures. This is what adulthood is all about, from parenting to politics. If we merely want present power, we avoid tough choices and honest dialogue. If we really care about our posterity, we will cleanse our double minded hearts, roll up our sleeves and clear away the obstacles to prosperity.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Some Questions for Voters

As we prepare to cast ballots in November for scores of offices and propositions, I offer these questions as a way of awakening our minds to the implications of our personal and political choices in the days ahead. I have deep convictions on what and who to vote for, and even a cursory reading of my work will hopefully convince the thoughtful that we need significant changes in the national direction.

Rather than repeat partisan opinions or offer direct recommendations, I present these queries for our reflection.

Here we go:

Democrat or Republican, Green or Libertarian: Are we prepared to help create a community and a nation that produces more than it consumes and earns more than it spends?

Are we willing to sacrifice so that we pass on a flourishing economy, educational system and social service network and sufficient national defense to the next generation, with less debt that we have today?

Are we willing to volunteer some time to serve the community apart from government incentives or programs - just because it is right?

Will we help people move from dependency to productivity through wise policies, new opportunities and personal interest in our neighbor?

Will we be friends with people of diverse cultural identity and political ideology, finding ways to work together instead of only exchanging polarizing comments?

Will we start a new trend of participation in local government by turning off our computers and actually attending city council or county supervisors meetings and speaking our minds?

Regardless of our views, will our friends and opponents speak well of our character, demeanor and service for others?

Are we ready to generously support our faith communities with our participation and our resources?

Can we find it in our hearts to support the arts that bring beauty to our world and perhaps participate in sponsoring opportunities for creativity to flourish?

When no one is looking or listening, are we praying for all in authority, asking the Lord to bless, bestow wisdom and redeem past mistakes? Or are we cursing under our breath?

When we passionately disagree with someone, can we stay on the issue itself or will we lapse into personal attack and unfounded generalizations?

Will we tell ourselves the truth about our national plight - that we are both part of the problem and the solution?

Are we able to reaffirm the genius of our Constitution, while avoiding the twin errors of making it divinely infallible or subject to the whims of ideological currents?

While working for safe borders and reasonable immigration policies, will we treat each person we meet with dignity and respect?

I hope to add to this list as the election draws near. We can create wealth of all kinds and prepare for a better future if we place the welfare of our children ahead of our own wants. Paradoxically, when we serve others without thought of reward, our lives will be happier, richer and full of lasting pleasure.

Let's start answering, "Yes" each day we are given breath.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A New Dictionary

In the interest of interpreting the current political polemics and helping humanity understand the current state of public discourse, I offer the following new entries into the OED, Webster's, and even Wikipedia (no students, you may NOT use Wikipedia in your research papers...):

Traditional Family Values: This phrase is code for homophobia, racism, sexism and oppression of millions.
(And I just thought it meant that Mom and Dad should love each other and raise their kids to be responsible citizens.)

Israel: The source of every problem in the world and the cause of all Middle East tension.
(The fact that they are a vigorous democracy and a center of creativity and enterprise is irrelevant.)

Equal opportunity, not equal outcomes: This is rapacious capitalism, trickle-down economics and unfair for the masses.
(Of course the writers of this definition live off the trust funds of someone that worked hard.)

Border and immigration enforcement: This is racism, xenophobia and injustice for all the "undocumented" that deserve a better life.
(Mexico's border with Guatemala is armed to the teeth and the mythical "Aztlan" of La Raza radicals never existed.)

Climate Change: Dubious science used to redistribute the world's wealth and anyone that is a "denier" is dooming humankind to destruction.
(Amazing how these proponents have become rich off the fear of others. Al Gore, when will you debate anyone in an open forum?)

Medicare "as we know it": Millions of seniors will be deprived of benefits and die early if Republicans have their way.
(Of course, the system needs help and we need to let it crash so Big Brother can intervene with emergency powers.)

Demanding ID to vote: This is Stone Age oppression that will deprive millions of their rights.
(The fact that ID's are free and that anyone that cannot get one may be illegally present in the nation is of no concern.)

Food Stamps: Everyone should be issued ration cards so that Michelle Obama, Chef-in-Chief, can make sure we do not eat an egg mcmuffin.
(Apologies to Gabby deserve some fun food after a lifetime of remarkable discipline.)

Oreo Cookie: Any African American that fails to align with the Left.
(I like my oreos with milk and I do not pull them apart.)

Free Enterprise: Allowable only with government approval and subsidies. GE, GM and Solyndra, anyone?
(I thought it was part of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.")

EPA: Enforcing (the) "Progressive" Agenda through hyper-regulation, armed officers and onerous fines during any dispute.
(They are supposed to help us ensure clean air, land and water for future generations.)

And finally, "fairness" - someone in Washington DC decides how to redistribute wealth and maintain power through largess distributed to dependents.
(I assumed fairness meant a level playing field, the rule of law and protection of rights ...silly me.)

Enough humor for the day. As we engage in debate and discussion, let's demand accuracy, honesty, and no deflection from the issues through personal attack or irrelevanm appeals to emotion. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Real I%

The Occupy Movement and the their accomplices in the media enjoy separating themselves from the "one percent" and identifying with the "99%" that represents "the people." Progressive politicians and pundits gleefully pounce on any conservative gaffes. The academic, chattering, governmental and financial leaders benefitting from current policies congratulate themselves on their enlightened views. They throw charity balls and make public appearances in their Chevy Volts (after deplaning from their Gulfstreams). They celebrate Che Guevera, Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, embrace Islamicist radicals, casually call Israel an arpartheid nation and subject the Chick-Fil-A company to merciless abuse. They are silent about the treatment of women in Islamicist states, mute about the impending destruction of American economic and political liberty and willfully ignorant about what it takes to run a small- or medium-sized business. They screamed for the closing of Guantanamo in 2008 - today there is deafening silence. They basked in their pride as the first biracial President came into office, but they marginalize any African-American that stands for traditional marriage. They love dismissing the Tea Party as homophobic, racist and out-of-touch, while never considering the Tea Party platform has nothing to say about marriage, race or other fashionable concerns. This group ignores the thousands of thefts, and hundreds of assaults and rapes that are part of Occupy events while conservative events are orderly. These self-syled revolutionaries ignore the violent anti-Semitic activities of the Muslim Student Associations on college campuses. Any call for voter ID is deemed repressive and citizenship is considered optional. They excoriate Catholics, Evangelicals and Mormons, but remain silent in the face of totalitarianism in China and Russia.

Who are the "one percent"? It is not the mechanic trying to keep his shop open or the veteran rercovering from wounds. It is not the investor who is risking life savings on an idea. It is not a beleaguered public school teacher that cannot get parents to care. It is not the Walmart greeter or the oil rig technician. The real one percent are not the busy pastors helping people find peace in tragedy or the dedicated volunteers that read for the blind.

Yes, there are global, multinational cabals that value only their wealth and power. Oddly enough, many of these folks are funding the radical causes listed above. It suits their purposes to destabilize nations and encourage anarchy so they can make a profit and install their puppets. 

The pagan-secular Left is the real 1%. They can mobilize the dependent and disaffected, appeal to class warfare, play the race card when convenient and position themselves as the interpreters of all language. Did you know that words like initiative and personal responsibility are actually code for oppression and racism? You see, we foolish folks that cling to our guns and religion are too stupid to understand the "systemic" ills that keep people from prosperity. The real enemies of progress are the free market, traditional moral values and the intransigence of Israel. If we would just yield control to their self-anointed, self-appointed intelligensia, all will be well. We will live in "planned" communities, drive "smart" cars, breed only "worthy" children and enjoy maximal personal pleasure while having all our basic needs met by our benevolent despots. After all, we cannot take care of ourselves, can we? While we are at it, let's divide the USA into many nations, restore the mythical "Aztlan" in the southwest, give reparations ro all slave descendants and return all the land to the first nation tribes. Anyone of European origins can go live in...Kansas. 

This parody is fun...except that it is all true. The American Experiment in liberty based on virtue and truth is being exchanged for a subversive libertine-totalitarian vision where the bureaucrats and approved intellectuals and technocrats rule while the rest eat from the public trough (a trough without cetain ingredients or portions, of course.). 

The upcoming election is the most important since 1860, for it symbolizes a choice between living up to our founders' ideals of self-regulating, truth-based liberty or a globalist-socialist future that will diminish human flourishing and restrict freedoms - all in the name of "fairness."

But America's future is not determined by the occupant of the White House. Our future rests on the active, comnpassionate and intelligent involvement of all our citizens. We must awaken from our moral and spiritual stupor and choose a better future through reverence for the Almighty, respect for our neighbor and responsible work. Let's argue about policies while we cooperate on compassion. Let's debate civilly while we rebuild our infrastructure with private-public partnerships of integrity and transparency. Let's bring our troops home with dignity while deploying anti-terrorist forces effectively. Let's honor the miracle of modern Israel while inviting Palestinians to foreswear violence and share in Mideast prosperity. Let's celebrate marriage and permit other arrangements without rancor. Let's welcome millions of immigrants - legally. And let's vote and make sure only live citizens' ballots count. Above all, let's end the polarism and replace it with critical thinking grounded in love. At the end of the day, desiring the best for my neighbor and serving others with no thought of return will do more to change the world than any other affections or actions.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

More Theater of the Absurd

As I counsel leaders and speak throughout the nation, I urge thoughtful people not to overreact to the political polemics and nonsensical diatribes that fill the 24/7 media space. It is really difficult to exercise patience and respond graciously to the follies that infect the airwaves and the web. In recent weeks, there are allegations and assertions that unveil the mental anarchy of our age and the childish communication that masquerades as civil discourse. Here are a few of the inanities we must endure in our 21st century Age of Solipsism (Create your own reality!):

The President of Chick-Fil-A affirms his belief in traditional marriage. There is no evidence of any discrimination in the company's hiring practices and no harsh words for those that choose other lifestyles. This simple assertion of moral conscience unleashed a firestorm of venomous attacks as the kindest CEO in the country is now portrayed as a homophobe and even the Muppets are breaking ties with the company's efforts to feed the hungry.

The hyprocricy of these "progressives" is clear. It is fine to bash Christians. It is OK to excoriate defenders of traditional marriage - as long as they are not Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu or any other non-western culture! African-American pastors that oppose Obama on marriage are ignored or called "oreo cookies." If a conservative criticizes the Muslim Brotherhood or CAIR, she must be racist, xenophobic, ignorant or a victim of an all-powerful Jewish lobby. Passionate disagreement is fine - part of our American heritage. Character assassination and prejudice toward traditional folks is not noble. It is petty and exposes ignorance and laziness. It is easier to repeat talking points than do original research.

Michelle Bachmann and other congressional leaders are expressing concern about the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical groups upon the current Administration. The reaction? Even well-meaning Republicans excoriate this call for inquiry, worried that they will be perceived as intolerant.

The only intolerance in this drama is from Keith Ellison and others that cannot abide honest scrutiny of their real agendas. The Muslim Brotherhood and its radical partners are dedicated to the destruction of Israel and the subversion of western democracy. These values are in their public documents and no amount of "hope and change" wishful thinking will alter the facts. When a major Muslim leader unequivocally affirms full freedom and plurality of perspectives and expresses admiration for the US Constitution and the right of Israel to exist securely in recognized borders - THEN I will believe what they say, but not before.

Language matters. Israel's control of "occupied territories" will end with real peace initiatives. Nobel Peace Prizes have been subverted by terrorists that refuse to give up their dream of Israel's annihilation. "Right of return" is absurd for millions of descendants of the original half-million Palestinians displaced by the 1948 war. More than half of these original refugees were deceived by Islamicist propaganda and unnecessarily left their villages. Many of their Arab relatives are full citizens in Israel - the only real democracy in the region.

There will be peace in the Middle East when Palestinian leaders fully recognize Israel's legitimacy, reject violence and share resources to build a new Palestine. Israel is a moral good for the world, a beacon of hope and redemption and a source of creativity and innovation. Can anyone name any new ideas, technologies or scientific breakthroughs emanating from Islamicist states? it is sad to see lands that were once home to thriving civilizations become enslaved to fatalistc, misogynist ideology.

We need a return to reason, a revival of reflection and a renewal of responsibility. It is time to exit this matinee of the theater of the absurd and enjoy the daylight of honesty, integrity and the sincere pursuit of truth. There are legitimate debates we need to have on medical care, infrastructure, military spending and deployments, public pensions and many other issues. People of conscience and faith can radically disagree (think William Jennings Bryan and William McKinley) yet still forge solutions that create a better future. We do need effective federal oversight of many things while retaing gretaer power locally. Real progree is possible when we bring humility and openness to the table and leave the sound bites behind.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Happy Birthday to the USA

July 4 is our nation's birthday. We are an experiment in virtue-based freedom that is now 236 years old, one of the longest eras of national stability in global history.

We are a self-correcting nation, with the Civil War of 1865 and the Civil Rights of 1965 correcting the birth defect of chattel slavery. Women finally voted in 1920 and 18-21 year old soldiers that could bleed were able to fill out ballots by 1972. We are still wrestling with our broken covenants with the First Nation/Native American tribes and our war with Mexico in 1848. In the midst of all the deserved criticism for Manifest Destiny and continental imperialism, people forget that no one north of the Rio Grande wanted (or really wants today) to be ruled by Mexico City and that thousands of leaders of conscience opposed the policies of rapapcious settlement.

We are the freest land in the world for people of all faiths or none to practice and preach their ideas without fear. Apart from tax issues and proper public permits, we are free to gather and express our ideas without prior permission. This was and is a unique reality of the USA.

We have amazing foundations of faith, freedom and sacrificial service. We have fractures of hedonism and enthnocentrism to repair and redeem. We still have too many unborn that are unwelcome and too many aged that are in oblivion. We have too many unemployed urban adults and too few political leaders with the courage to call for moral responsibnility. We are still a generous people, responding to crises with affection and alacrity. We are also spoiled, forgetting that even the (too) many that live in poverty in the USA are wealthy compared with half the world.

As we move into our 237th year, we aagain face "times that try men's (and women's) souls." Our future rests on recovering the humility, reverence and tenacity that built the land we enjoy. If we will choose life in all its dimensions, including caring for all from conception to coronation, there is hope. If we commit to empowering suceess through free markets under the rule of law, there is hope. If we can learn civil debate and roll up our sleeves and become an answer to the prayers and problems, there is hope.

In 2008 we were sold a slogan, "Hope and Change." In 2012, we need to become these words by doing and speaking the truth in love. If we will fear God, live within our means, stand up to intolerance and fear, affirm the central values of a virtuous society, and keep our marital and material covenants, there is hope.

Happy birthday, America. You are not a melting pot or a salad bowl. Your are a beautiful mosaic from every corner of world. Sometimes you are a crazy quilt with loose threads. But you remain a land worth praying for and serving well.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Tax is a Tax

Obamacare is a tax. For those of us that object to its goals and structures, the solution is simple: repeal and replace as soon as possible.

Today's ruling was not a mandate for the Administration. It was a narrow ruling on constitutionality and taxation, not an endorsement of one of the worst bills in U.S. history.

Attorney General Holder was found in contempt of Congress, with 110 Democrats acting like silly undergrads and refusing to vote.

Democratic leaders were gleefully tweeting obscenities at their Republican losers. The only losers are the productive part of the American populace that will be forced to pay higher prices and receive poorer service for their medical care.

I am channeling my anger to action, my frustration to faith. 10% of Catholics switching their vote and 5% more pro-life people voting and we have a change of Administration in November.

Yes, I expect this desperate Administration will try to generate some kind of October surprise to sway the 10-15% of voters that decide at the last minute. Our best hope is humility, truth, vigilance and relentless prayers as we face the most important election since 1860.

By thw way, we are also voting for Congressional leaders, governors, mayors, city/town councils and thousands of other offices and statutes...politics is still (in spite of Obama's narcissism) local.

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Petulant President

Today the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Arizona law enforcement has the right to check the immigration status of persons under arrest for other crimes. It is important to note that no one of any culture or race can simply be stopped and asked to "show their papers." In fact, the Court struck down much of the Arizona law, but the retention of this one provision has provoked a series of responses that reveal the true colors of our petulant, power-hungry despot-in-chief. Within minutes of the Court's ruling, the Administration declared that they would no longer cooperate with Arizona in any matter pertaining to this law. Obama's minions went further and set up a hot line for folks who feel mistreated by this law.

At first glance, this seems to smack of election-year pandering for Hispanic votes. While this is true, the insidious nature of this response to our legal process unmasks a nefarious agenda that reaches well beyond a few swing-state votes. What we are observing are the strategies and tactics of statism, practiced by totalitarians for more than a century. At the heart of the Obama Administration is contempt for the average citizen and the genuine belief that they know what is best for the masses. The strategy is to mobilize the disaffected that believe in more federal largesse and cultural elites that desire maximal private excess. When a leader unites these two groups and has a few business folks in her or his pocket, the stage is set for dictatorial rule. Contempt for the Constitution, the rule of law, traditional virtues, private enterprise and conservative religious traditions (except Islam) are all part of the package and provide direct parallels with another era: one dominated by the evil twin towers of Hitler and Stalin.

Add to these offenses the Imperial cloak of "executive privilege" for concealing needed documents and buying off cronies and the stage is set for the end of the American experiment in virtue-based liberty.

In foreign policy, the offenses are even more destructive for the forces of liberty and truth. The Arab Spring has devolved into the Islamicist winter, threatening any sparks of democracy and the very existence of Israel. Obama's strategy of outreach to Islamic groups and networks is more than failure - it has opened the door for aggrandizement by the radicals that lurk just beneath the surface of so many cultural and economic networks.

The upcoming election is the most important moment in American political history since Abraham Lincoln assumed the presidency. Lincoln faced a divided Union and the consequences of the founders failure concerning slavery. Today we have a nation unable to engage in civil debate, with fortunes made through victimhood, wealthy power-brokers appearing to care for the poor they never encounter and disdain for the checks and balances of our great Constitution.

Our petulant President deserves defeat in November. But the key to our future is more than the current occupant of the White House. "We the People" must be a civil, infomed citizenry taking responsiblity for our nation's future.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Encountering Immortals

Everyday we encounter immortals. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, every person we meet is on a trajectory to everlasting glory or eternal shame. They will either dazzle with dignity or repulse with reprobation. We are (mercifully) not the judge of anyone's destiny and we are called upon to offer hope for the best eternal and and temporal life possible as each person decides which path to pursue.

Part of America's greatness rests upon liberty of conscience and religion and limited governmental or social interference in private adult behavior. We argue passionately about ethics and religion, but we do so safe in the knowledge that our Founders secured the freedom to practice any or no faith and live peaceably with our deepest differences.

In a future essay I will comment on the importance of a pluralitic nation defending heterosexual monogamous marriage as a vital economic, moral and social institution. In this brief work, I want to encourage greater civility and mutual respect by reordering our thinking about one another. This does not mean a compromise of deeply-held values or suppression of debates over public policy.

To my friends in the GLBTQ movements: Your adult choices are yours, but insisting that everyone approve all of them is a form of intolerance just as onerous as the traditional prejudice you have been subjected to by others.

To my traditional friends: Some of your neighbors have feelings and make choices contrary to your beliefs. But they are more than their choices in some areas of life. They are artists and engineers, laborers and professors, the folks that serve your lunch or send out your paycheck.

The immortals we encounter are first human beings with a vocation from God to care for the community and planet and use their gifts well. Second, these neighbors are men or women. Third, they have histories and hopes worth exploring. Fourth, they have feelings and thoughts on life worth listening to. THEN, fifth, they have their particular orientation. If we can learn to think in this order, life will be more enjoyable even as we debate the nature of personal and social choices.

Recently a friend commented that our sex-obsessed culture has made erotic passions more important than ethical choices. Whether bi, gay or straight, being human means we are more than mere instinct. We are creative, moral, relational and spiritual beings able to channel affections and actions in ways that create a better future for others.

Let's never lose the wonder of the immortals we meet every day. Let's live the words of I Corinthians 13 bearing and believing, enduring and hoping, exercising patience and rejoicing in the good. Such love that seeks God's glory and the good of others is the only foundation for civil debates and decisions affecting millions of people and our civilization's future.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Laughter and Tears

We need to laugh more.

Not the cynical chuckles of the chattering classes or the derisive digs of cable TV narcissists. I am speaking of joyful, spontaneous, from-the-belly laughter that comes when we are with good friends observing and reflecting on the human drama. Life is just funny sometimes. Watching children play in the mud, teenagers try to impress each other and the not-so-subtle rituals of daily life evoke smiles and guffaws. Hearing a good pun - intended or not - is a cause for grinning. Great comedic acting and physical comedy, from Dick Van Dyke to Robin Williams, helps us forget our stress and marvel at what our brains and bodies can do.

We need more tears.

There should be a lump in our throats when "Taps" is played and we remember our fallen soldiers. Watching soldiers reunite with their families moistens our eyes. When we hear or see the oppression of the vulnerable anywhere we ought to taste bitter tears flowing from a heart of compassion. Joy can bring tears as unexpected kindness comes our way. Self-control is a noble discipline. It does not mean the absence of tears, but the ability to guard our reactions to the tears. America needs to weep for the missing 55 million since Roe v. Wade. But tears are also in reserve for the desperate ones looking for a way out of poverty and violence. It is good to cry during happy endings and weddings.

The antidote for all the anger we observe - from political rhetoric to the uncomfortable verbal joust next door - is a renewed commitment to live fully and well each day. If we will wake up and think about the glory of God and the good of others, we will laugh and cry more. If we defer some gratification we will enjoy the rewards of our sacrifice at the proper time. If we turn off the gratuitous nonsense and tune into great literature and music, the deepest wellsprings of our being are liberated.

Yes, we must work, vote, and fulfill other duties. We face enormous personal stress. But we can decide to live from the inside out, directing our affections and actions toward transforming our world instead of just surviving another day.

Let's laugh more. And cry more. When we do, we will love more as well.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Tribute

Memorial Day began as Decoration Day, honoring the dead soldiers on both sides of our American Civil War. As with any holiday that becomes a three-day weekend, the original vision becomes obscured as feasting and travel overtake memory. The celebrations should continue - but they must be joined with solemn reflection on the many men and women who have died in our nation's service. Regardless of politics or policies, this is a good day to reflect on the fallen and remember the sacrifices of our service women and men. Here is my tribute.

Thank You

We do not know why the bullet found you
And your buddies made it home
But we remember.

Your red cross did not stop the shrapnel
But a another soldier lives today
Because you were there.

You jumped on the grenade
And saved all the platoon
These flowers are for you.

In two days you were going home
To meet your new daughter
And the sniper found your heart.

We buried you with honor
Handed a flag to a tearful clan
Thank you for loving us more than life.

We will recall your smile
Through misty eyes we will wait
Until the Day we see you again.

Left or Right, Black or White, rich or poor, we are all enjoying the freedom secured by the brave. Let us take a moment of silence, listen to Taps and offer prayers of peace for the families picking up the pieces of dreams shattered by the visit of a chaplain. And let us labor daily for a world without war.  

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Looking Beyond Ourselves

As I listen to the political debates, there is a missing component in the "retail" politics that fluctuate hour to hour in our data-saturated (but wisdom-deprived) world. There is much talk about Obama inheriting a terrible situation and "how much worse things would be" if he had not racked up $5 trillion in new debt. The Obama machine attacks the Romney record at Bain Capital incessantly because they have nothing significant to show for their amateurish efforts of the past four years.

The Romney campaign is a bit clearer, especially on deficits and foreign policy; however, they are also missing the larger point, though it leaks out in apocalyptic phrases.

The missing issue is, "What needs to be done for a better long-term future?" Yes, we need immediate relief for many. What is being lost are the strategic and structural decisions that will empower a future that is bright for our nation and global community.

Private-public partnership opportunities abound to rebuild infrastructure, truly reform health care, open new energy markets with both current fossil fuel resources and advanced research and unleashing ethical and effective decentralized education reform.

We can ensure the pensions of public employees by embarking in a determined and fair process of privatization with public oversight.

With best practices employed, we can save 15-20% on domestic spending programs without depriving a single person in need. We can realize the same savings in our military without harming our hurting veterans or weakening our ability to respond to crisis.

If we ask what is best for our future, we will be fiscally-disciplined, unleash entrepreneurs, shore up our infrastructure, insist on educational effectiveness and stand with all people of conscience against Islamofascist global terror. We will preserve traditional marriage while allowing all citizens to arrange their domestic situation justly. We will stop the holocaust of the unborn and open avenues of domestic adoption to qualified people. We will hold fathers and mothers legally and morally accountable for their decision to welcome a child into the world, while offering compassionate, non-judgmental care to all in need.

President Obama, and Governor Romney, how are you going to lead us into this healthier future? Do you have the courage to do what is necessary or will you continue to take the easy road of cliches and polemics? Please inspire us...but inform us as well.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Questions for Our Nation

The Presidential campaign season is here. Even before the conventions, we are subject to hourly pronouncements and trivia created to distract us from the compelling issues that demand a referendum in November. I do not care about high school pot-smoking or pranks; I am deeply concerned about the constitutional, economic, moral and social issues that demand attention from all our leaders in all branches of government. Rather than regale my readers with polemical profundities (smile), here is a series of questions for all the candidates as thoughtful people consider their choices. These queries are addressed to the women and men that aspire to "public service" - a notion that I hope can be revitalized from its current permanent ruling class. "Ms. or Mr. [insert title and name here], what are your plans for... ...creating a hospitable environment for all people desiring to come here legally, while ensuring that only citizens vote? ...reducing government waste (including over-bloated Pentagon budgets) while making sure the poor and vulnerable are served? ...delivering health care in a just, decentralized fashion where doctor and patient are the focus, not a massive redistribution of wealth? ...facilitating private-sector economic growth without unnecessay regulation and totalitarian legal tactics, while refining a 21st century understanding of environmental stewardship? ...respecting the rights of those with deeply-held moral and religious convictions as well as those who differ greatly? ...supporting the fundamental institution of heterosexual, monogamous marriage while creating ways for adults in other living situations to care for each other and enjoy legal rights? ...confronting radical Islam and the insidious dhimmitude perpetrated by those who insist of separate rights and promote violence against their critics, while respecting our moderate Muslim neighbors? ...supporting Israel's right to live in peace and security while creating a democratic Palestinian state that renounces violence and unequivocally acknowledges Israel as a legitimate state? ...restoring power and responsibility for more governmental functions to the cities and states and reducing the size of the federal governnment, thus reversing an 80-year trend that saps our resources and effectivness? ...reigning in the power of public employee unions and privatizing pensions so we can actually afford to care for the elderly? ...insisting on a full audit of the United Nations' budgets and programs? ...balancing our federal budget and stimulating equitable global trade? ...confronting China, India, Russia and the 57 Islamic states concerning their human rights abuses? ...creating a hopeful view of the future?" Thoughtful women and men are not looking for bumper stickers and cliches. We have proven to ourselves that minorities and women are equal partners; therefore, let's make November about ideals and issues, principles and practical work, values and vision. Our wonderful nation deserves our best, Ms/Mr. Candidate!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A New Direction

The news is painful to observe. We see human tragedy on a massive scale in Africa, with little attention given to the loss of an entire generation to AIDS, genocide and religio-political warfare. In the Middle East, unveiled threats from all sides keep Israel in a state of high alert, while a dormant West criticizes the Israeli government for their refusal to accept gradual self-annihilation. Economies around the world are struggling to sort out the consequences of massive global speculation. Our Campaigner-in-Chief is doing what he does best: using our money to agitate and cover up his utter lack of leadership and skill. The Republican campaign is down to a dull roar as conservatives express concerns, evangelicals struggle with a Mormon candidate and the other leaders stay on the sidelines and position themselves for a 2016 run. Underneath the surface, there are ominous signs of our American experiment in liberty-rooted-in-virtue eroding even further. The Obama Administration's defiance of Congress and the Supreme Court - in direct violation of their "post-partisan" 2008 ideals - does not bode well for our democratic future. If populist Executive Orders can trump judicial and legislative balances, what is left but a descent into the totalitarian abyss? Meanwhile, Republicans offer little vision to galvanize alienated constituencies that share most of their values. Our fiscal house remains a disaster. The Ryan plan may not be the answer, but it is a starting point for a painful discussion we must stop avoiding. We need a new direction. Our current trajectory posits survival (for a few years) at best, subversion and anarchy at worst. What can we do to reverse course and restore susbtantive hope? I want to offer four keys to unlocking a better future. They will not be popular with elites in both parties, so they may be rooted in reality! First, we must promote a moral and spiritual awakening that restores reverence for the Almighty and personal responsibility for individuals and families. Yes, there are structural issues of class and culture, religion and race, economic and educational opportunities that must be addressed. But change in all of these arenas begins with transformation of the heart. Schools will only be as strong as the families that send their kids off in the morning with a full stomach, clean clothes and an affirming hug. Bill Cosby's exhortations for parental responsibility need to be magnified in all communities, regardless of economics or race. Unless a critical mass of people embrace the call to love sacrificially, turn off the toys and pay attention to their children, no amount of government spending or private charity will resverse our self-destruction. Second, we must stop spending money that does not exist. An immediate 15% cut across the board in federal spending and serious budgetary recalibration will kick-start our economy and transform local and state governments as well. This means cuts everywhere, including defense. No, we are not showing weakness when we scrutinize the fat in defense contracts or reduce our presence in some sectors of the globe. We also need to reverse the trend of incresaing food stamp usage and eliminate ads that promote them! It is time to privitize public pensions (with government oversight of investment ethics) and stop creating six-figure jobs for government employees while working-class folks struggle. Third, we must overhaul the tax code, creating a two- or three-tier system that caps at a rate low enough to stimulate investment while being as fair as possible to different income levels. Ending most deductions and special-interest breaks (like the ones that enable rock stars to call their estates "farms") and rewarding domestic investment will keep us the leader of the free world, not by force of arms but by creativity and innovation. Fourth, we need an immigration policy that is hospitable, just and submissive to the rule of law. Voting is only for citizens and ID checks are not a violation of civil rights. Every citizen's vote must count and corruption reduced. Why are the Democrats so afraid of confirming the identity of voters at local precincts? Why was a white man able to pose as Attorney General Eric Holder and given a ballot, even when he offered three times to show ID? If we do not confront these core issues, our disintigration will accelerate and our nation will be one more collapsed civilization on the ash heap of history. Our demise is not inevitable if we reverse course today.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Day(s) After Easter

Easter is the most important day in the Christian calendar. The Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth and the subsequent missionary efforts of his followers continue to impact the world. A small band of Jewish believers becomes a global, multicultural faith touching billions. Frightened disciples become fearless martyrs and proclaim forgiveness, reconciliation and hope. The agony of Good Friday is now seen as atonement for sin. The despair of death has been overcome by a preview of the future as believers see in the Risen Lord their eternal destiny.

Christianity is more than a personal faith or religious tradition. The Judeo-Christian worldview reflected in the Bible is the foundation for liberty, prosperity and stability. Even people of other faiths or no faith at all are the beneficiaries of the values and vision inspired by the call of Abraham, the legislation of Moses, the leadership of David, the courage of the prophets, the example of Jesus and the insights of the Apostles.

It is vital to assert that people of all worldviews bring much good to the world. Christianity does not have an exclusive claim on universal values such as love, compassion and justice. In fact, a biblical understanding of humankind affirms that all women and men are made in God's image. Though we are effaced by sin, God's image is not erased. In the providence of the Almighty, every person can bring good to the world.

The Judeo-Christian ethos has, however, led the planet in fostering particular values that all thoughtful people embrace. Here are just a few of the ideals that are part of the heart of our civilization:
* The dignity of all people, regardless of gender, race or status. This was new in an Empire that devalued the lowly and practiced infanticide.
* Compassion for the broken, poor and vulnerable. Medical care, hospitality, food for the hungry and advocacy for daily bread are the legacies of belief in a loving Creator and Redeemer.
* Free markets, natural prices, private property, community welfare and the entrepreneurial spirit are the overflow of biblical principles.
* Universal human rights rooted in the dignity of all people, the rule of law and transcendent moral principles.

Many more ideals can be enumerated. Consider the social progress of the last millennium, including emancipation movements, suffrage campaigns and private and public welfare provisions. Prison reforms, fair labor laws and equal opportunity under the law are consequences of reverence for God and respect for all people. Leaders across cultures and epochs share the convictions that produced the courage to change the world, from William Wilberforce to Martin Luther King, from St. Francis to Mother Teresa.

Art and music that refresh our lives flow from faith. Bach's majestic orchestrations and Marc Chagall's unparalleled images inspire creativity and nobility. Mozart's masses and the literary genius of C.S. Lewis refract Divine luminosity. Makato Fujimura's illuminated Gospels and inspired paintings grace 21st century venues around the world. The heartfelt and insightful lyrics of singer Sara Groves inspire millions to believe and continue their journey toward love and truth.

Easter is the day of hope. The days after Easter continue to make our lives rich with meaning. It is interesting that agnostics and atheists thrive in lands deeply affected by biblical values. Liberty of conscience, our most precious natural right, is the direct consequence of Judeo-Christian precepts that call for voluntary belief and mutual love and respect. We have a noble history and great hope if we will renew our fidelity to enduring ideals.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The End of Civilization

As I teach church history to spiritual leaders in Singapore this week, my students are intrigued by the rise and fall of civilizations and institutions. Examining the stories of ancient, medieval and modern empires is instructive as we consider the future of the USA.

It is easy for melodrama to overtake sound reflection, as recent media circuses testify. From unwise comments about a narcissistic student to inflammatory cries about a tragic shooting, we are experts at outrage and comeuppance, but afraid to face our issues and find partnerships to solve them.

Civilizations collapse for many reasons, from environmental disasters (both human error and natural events) to invasion/deportation to internal anarchy leading to implosion and totalitarianism. Historians such as Arnold Toynbee have made valiant attempts to systematize the rising and falling of cultures and empires, with some success. Other thinkers, with less-than-hidden agendas, weave narratives of the past with that foster present activism.

In these paragraphs, I have a more modest aim. The end of the American experiment is immanent unless millions of thoughtful people act quickly and wisely to reverse the current trajectory. Here is why we are on the precipice:

* Moral and spiritual anarchy that is in practice and principle undermining social stability. When we argue about the human identity of babies, the nature of marriage and refuse to respect faith, we are in serious trouble.

* Immigration chaos that prevents solid folks from pursuing citizenship and fosters defiance for the law among those that have no desire to sustain our American ethos.

* Fiscal inanity that stifles creativity, increases dependency and furthers the erosion of markets that can ethically generate new wealth.

* A political process that rewards bluster and fabrication and alienates the thoughtful.

With God's help, "we the people" are the only way to a better future. The warfare-welfare state must yield to ethical enterprise, social responsibility and new neighborly concern. Voting is for citizens with ID. And reverence for the Almighty and respect for Life are paramount if we are going to enjoy Divine favor and foster justice.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Signs of Hope

In the midst of global crises, domestic politics and information overload, there are some wonderful signs of hope. Right now there are unspeakable tragedies occurring; there are also amazing triumphs of the Spirit. While we wrestle with who will be the next President of the USA, millions of people around the world are finding common ground is the battles against AIDS, hunger and slavery. Internet blogs abound with accusations and ad hominem attacks; however, people of diverse backgrounds are finding hope for their communities as they work for justice.

This week in Nashville, Tennessee I joined with scores of Christian leaders from across the nation and from around the world for a time of worship, reflection, discussion and partnership in mission. Leaders from almost every tradition and all continents were represented at this Messenger Fellowship Summit. We diverged on some areas of theology and politics and engaged in intense conversations about moral and theological integrity. All of us expressed respect for the authority of Scripture and how to walk in unity even while we disagree on issues. Leaders from Columbia, England, France and the Ivory Coast helped us see our faith with new eyes, instead of an American-centric lens. There was profound agreement on the core of the faith, the call for holiness and the need to empower all church members for living in a world of change. My faith grew, my hope increased and my love for God and others was revitalized.

A few days earlier I met with seminary professors from diverse Evangelical traditions concerning integrating faith and economics, worship and work. We were from different denominations and geographies, but we discovered profound points of unity as we shared about preparing our students to serve their churches. This Kern Family Foundation moment provided another boost to my innate hopefulness. When thoughtful people gather with humility and a common mission, great things can happen.

Watching my colleagues and students at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary learn and serve inspires me every day. The creativity, faith and insights of women and men from their 20s to their 80s helps spur me forward. There is a good blend of idealism and realism as the challenges of missional living are explored.

The stories from my facebook friends offer hope as well. Even as we wrestle with the loss of loved ones, financial and physical challenges, it is encouraging to see the prayer, support and mutual respect that connects thousands of people around the world. Friends in all spheres of life are bringing so much good to the world for the glory of God.

Today is a Sunday. It is a good moment to be thankful. I will continue to comment incisively on events. I will be unsparing in exposing evil and uncompromising on some crucial issues. But it is right to unveil the greatness found in the acts of service carried out by so many humble friends. It is healthy to pause and remember the faithfulness of so many moms and dads even as we redeem the victims of divorce. it is honoring to God to remember that we are part of a global family as well as citizens of the USA. Let's look for signs of hope - and perhaps place one in the soil of our community as we serve others.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

We The People

Some pseudo-scientists from Oxford and NYU recently published another "groundbreaking" paper positing human re-engineering as one solution to the crisis of global warming. Part from the muddled state of climate change research, the proffered ideas are startling for their irreverent hubris and utterly inhumane worldview.

The notions that smaller stature, an anti-beef patch and drugs to reprogram behavior will change the environment have no basis in anything approaching objective research. Added to these audacious suggestions are the numerous violations of any ethical boundaries, along with a view of humanity that is supremely utilitarian.

Ethicists have been battling eugenic fantasies for almost two centuries. From insane notions of racial hierarchies to social Darwinism to the awful classist and racist notions of Margaret Sanger and the Nazis, modern humanity has attempted to turn advances in knowledge that can heal into the formation of master races and designer persons.

The secular Left claims to champion the causes of the poor and vulnerable while espousing abortion, infanticide and radical economic policies designed to limit population and ration medical care. To give any of these notions serious consideration is a violation of slop the progress we have moade during the last two millennia.

We need to champion excellent science that can heal. We must also declare that each human life is a gift that must be received and
nurtured. We must recover transcendent ethics and values that will give us discernment so that all scientific and technological breakthroughs find their proper place.

If we open the door to such manipulation, the day that we start limiting procreation to the "fit" and medical care to the "worthy" is not far off.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Vote the Future

One of the wonderful things about my faith is that the future inspires the present. The Christian message is is uniquely hopeful, with the resurrection of Jesus as the preview of our future, a promise that death does not have the last word. Whether all who read this share my particular faith or not, I think it is time that we evaluate our political candidates on their future visions as well as past statements and votes. Yes, history matters and can be an indicator of patterns and principles for the future. But people can change their minds. When someone adopts our position on an issue and we like her or him, we say she or he is wise and has seen the light. Conversely, if a candidate we do not like very much changes a position, we call her or him a "flip-flopper." It is time to dispense with such immature thinking and ask our candidates, "What is your vision of the future and what are the concrete actions you will undertake to lead us toward the vision?"

The current Republican candidates for President have all done and said things that open them to attack. Each opponent selects certain statements - in or out of context - and goes on the warpath toward the others. This is politics. Politics becomes statesmanship and visionary leadership, however, when the future can be articulated and new pathways presented. The future is more than vague hopes or talking points. How we see ahead sets the trajectories we choose today. I want our candidates to not only talk a balanced budget, but declare the disciplined decisions needed to get there. It is great to say that job creation matters, but reversing a generation of government interference while maintaining ethics will he a historic challenge. Confronting radical Islamicists while engendering real respect and toleration requires masterful sensitivity and wisdom.

I am going to vote the future. Any of the less-than-perfect Republicans (other than Ron Paul) are superior to our current regime; however, victory in the general election will require cultural, intellectual, moral and political courage. Please inspire and instruct us, Mr. Candidate. Please rekindle our dreams even while we restrict momentary pleasures for the common future. Please expose current follies while unveiling insights that will engender positive action. Please rise above the name-calling and call on the Name for help from above. Please be a person humble enough to change your mind, courageous enough to stand your ground when needed and wise enough to know the difference. Our future depends on it.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Ethical Murder

Oxford medical ethicists announced today that newborn babies do not have a right to life and should not be considered persons in the normal sense of the word. These inhuman elitists declare that parents should have a right to an "after-birth abortion" if their newborn is not to their liking! Such notions have been hinted at by a few fringe thinkers, but today's pronouncements unveil the anti-life, dehumanizing agenda of the elites that want their version of scientism to overrule millennia-old ethical principles. As the left caricatures Santorum and other Republicans as anti-contraception and the oppressors of women (ignoring freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed by the Constitution), this dystopian vision is obscured by shrill demands for freedom, choice and government subsidies for any and all medical procedures.

What kind of world are we in when Catholic health care providers are forced to violate their faith, while governments pay for sex-change operations for prisoners? What perverted notions of family lead us to abortion-on-demand without parental approval? Roe v. Wade has deprived our nation of 54,000,000 people. What happened to welcoming children as our beloved hope of the future?

There are no "good old days" and our compassion and knowledge of the complexities of human identity are important. We must not prosecute adults for consensual, private behavior. At the same time, we must not force people of deep convictions to celebrate activity they disagree with. We must live with our deepest differences and continue to understand all that makes us fully human.

Today's pronouncement by these "ethicists" crosses a line and must be universally condemned. If we allow any form of infanticide we are opening the door to a nightmare of inhuman and totalitarian behaviors. Why should we pay for the care of an imperfect child at all if they are not really "persons"? Who decides which babies live or die? Mom? Dad? Both? What about a "woman's right to choose" once the baby in completely out of the birth canal? If the government is paying for care, what is to prevent budgetary considerations from compelling many "after-birth abortions"? At the other end of the spectrum, why not actively rid our world of "unproductive" aged or infirm adults?

I am pro-life, from conception to coronation and every point in between. A Judeo-Christian ethos places equal, eternal value on every human being because s/he is created in God's image as a unique being. People can disagree about the technicalities of when life begins, but from conception we have the reality of a human. Even if one wants to allow for abortion in special cases or argue about personhood during gestation, no reasonable person can say that a newborn is not a human being! We are reverting to the horrific practices of ancient Greece and Rome as unwanted (mostly female) babies were left exposed to die. How can one be pro-choice while condemning gender-specific abortions? Radical activists face a moral conundrum. If the individual has absolute sovereignty over the death or life of her child, then she cannot be condemned for keeping one gender while aborting another. Yet activists in many countries, after winning abortion rights, are now bemoaning "femicide" as little girls are aborted in larger number than little boys.

The response to today's declarations must be absolute, universal condemnation, regardless of political or religious affiliations. If we open the door to killing the unfit and/or the unwanted, no one is safe.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Preparing for the 2012 Election

I have the honor of addressing spiritual and political leaders in a variety of settings. Here is a summary of some of my thoughts as we prepare for voting in November. The importance of this election cannot be overstated. I am not simply advocating an "ABO" (anyone but Obama) strategy - this is the same shortsightedness that led to trouble in 1976 with Carter and 2008 with Obama. it is important that our voting locally and nationally is proactive and not reactive, and a response to vision and values.

We need clear discernment of the key issues and proper dispositions for lasting change to occur. We must not allow propaganda and deflection to sidetrack clear thinking. Big lies will be sold as truth. Caricatures will be presented as accurate pictures of reality. Statistics will be twisted to validate either progress (the Dow Jones is up this week) or the need for austerity ($5 gas prices prove we need a "green" economy). Religion will be used to promote more or less federal government action. When presented with uncomfortable facts, candidates will fall back on slamming their predecessors or rivals.

Our founders limited the role of government, especially at the federal level and left sovereignty with the people and the states. The last century has seen this fundamental principle reversed, with many people thinking that government bestows liberties and rights! Our founders and all thoughtful people know that liberty requires virtue and self-regulation. America's birth defect of slavery (thank you, Peter Friedman, for this insight) is healing slowly, but the combination of latent racism and institutionalized victimhood keeps us from more progress. It is possible to affirm the lasting principles of our Constitution and enjoy 21st century innovation and insight. Justice Ginsburg is flat-out wrong to suggest that nations should not look first at the US Constitution as a model. She is obsessed with the imperfections (that Amendments have and can address) and fails to see the underlying brilliance of the authors. We are in a new battle between the totalitarian vision of Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan that controls all facets of life and meters out a few benefits and John Locke's works on civil society and the role of government that protect life, liberty and property.

Discernment means that we must recognize ideology as the enemy of theology (for those of faith) and sound critical thinking (for those of all faiths or none). When we are captive to any word that ends in ISM, we place ourselves in a straight jacket. For example, though I am considered "conservative" on many subjects, I refuse to allow the lens of conservatism to be the first refractor of truth. My carefully-considered positions on issues may place me in or out of particular ideological 'camps." For example, I am pro-life and also against the death penalty for civil crimes. I think we have a moral obligation to offer health care to all, but not deliver it as a single-payer program of an inefficient federal government.

Discernment affirms that policy compromises can work, such as the Clinton-Gingrich deal on welfare, work and the budget in the 1990s. Public-private partnerships are salutary for large infrastructure projects. Budget restraint has to include military and social welfare spending. There are "deals" that can happen that maintain the integrity of all parties.

Discernment means that we strive to find a healthy balance between individual rights and community well-being, especially concerning property use. There is a way forward that transcends the petty despots that push extreme environmental agendas or their counterparts that are on the take allowing rapacious development with no thought to ecological concerns.

A Culture of Life means that the vulnerable are cared for, from conception to coronation and that private and public groups work together to ensure that children are welcome, the aged are respected and the hurting are treated with dignity.

Discernment means that people of faith see God's common grace in others. Partnerships across cultural and religious boundaries are possible as we celebrate shared values and visions for the future.

Dispositions of humility and hopefulness, reverence for God and respect for all people and prayerfulness and personal kindness will build a better future. Our new dispositions can forge new alliances as conservative groups work with more liberal groups to combat sex and work slavery and ameliorate poverty.

When we love our enemies and return curses with blessings and refuse to get in the gutter of deceit, sterling character is forged and specific competencies will shine. When we live within our means and work to create wealth for ourselves and others, we will find more moments of joy and peace.

We have the opportunity to create - one conversation and one relationship at a time -a better future for our nation and the world. Yes, we must vote. Yes, we must debate. No, we cannot compromise crucial beliefs. But we can be known for our love and integrity, our humility and respect for all and our willingness to listen deeply, think well and find ways to work together.