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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Coming Political Tsunami

The Coming Political Tsunami

In 1928, the Republican Party assembled in Kansas City, Missouri to choose their candidate for President of the United States.  Calvin Coolidge had announced the previous year that he would not be a candidate for President in 1928.  The GOP turned to a man who had never previously run for political office, Herbert Hoover, who had been appointed as US Secretary of Commerce by Coolidge.  Hoover was nominated on the first ballot.
The Democrats held their first national nominating convention in a Southern state since the Civil War and they selected Alfred E. Smith, Governor of New York.  Smith was a product of the Tammany Hall machine, a Roman Catholic, and backed repeal of the Prohibition amendment to the US Constitution.  Meeting in Houston, Texas, the convention chose as Smith’s running mate a Southerner, Senator Joseph T. Robinson of Arkansas, a “dry.”
The 1928 election marked the first extensive use of the medium of radio by national political candidates.  Hoover was elected in an overwhelming landslide, receiving more than 58% of the popular vote.
In 1929, the Stock Market crashed and the economy spun downward.  The situation was exacerbated when Hoover signed the strong protectionist Smoot-Hawley tariff bill in June 1930.  With the economy struggling, the Democrats made strong gains in the 1930 off-year elections, but failed to take control of either the US House of Representatives or the US Senate.
With the economy in a tailspin by 1932, the Democratic Party nominated New York Governor, Franklin D. Roosevelt, as their presidential nominee to run against Herbert Hoover.  In a dramatic turnaround, Roosevelt received 57.8% of the popular vote.  His victory was both wide and deep. 
The Democrats not only won the White House and both houses of Congress, but also captured control of a majority of state houses and state legislatures for the first time in several decades.  They won city council races, mayor races, county government races—almost everything from coast to coast and border to border.  It was a wipe out.
History is about to repeat itself next Tuesday. 
In the most dramatic turnaround in political sweepstakes since 1928 to 1932, the Republicans, with the critical help of the Tea Party, are about to achieve the most dramatic election victory of the last 75 years.  It will be both broad and deep, reaching from the Congress to counties to city councils across the nation.  The Republicans will end the day in control of more state houses and state legislatures than they have had since 1928.
Barack Obama came into office winning nearly 53% of the national vote and was buttressed by enormous good will.  All America celebrated the election of its first African American President. 
The race itself was lackluster on the Republican side.  Vietnam War hero John McCain appeared old and unimaginative.  His policies were Democrat light.  In the mold of Willkie, Dewey, Ford and other losing “moderate” Republicans, the outcome of the election was a foregone conclusion.
Unfortunately for the Democrats, Obama, together with Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, decided to govern against the wishes of the American people.  Obamacare was rammed through the Congress, trillions of dollars were spent, and political shenanigans abounded as the Democrats drove the nation to the brink of bankruptcy.
Predictably, the American people revolted.  A spontaneous Tea Party erupted nationwide in a hundred different variations but with a simple theme—stop the spending, repeal Obamacare, shrink government.  Instead of listening, the Democrats plowed forward with the most radical agenda in American history.  They ignored polls showing that the electorate as a whole was much more conservative than liberal.  They even ignored the election of a Republican governor in New Jersey and incredibly the election of Republican Scott Brown to fill the US Senate seat formerly held by Edward Kennedy.
Today, just a few days before the election, they face the wrath of the voters.  Sure, they may win the New York Governor’s race (just as FDR did in 1928) and the Senate races in Connecticut and Delaware, but it’s going to be slim pickings for the Democrats on election night.
It looks fairly certain that the Democrats will lose at least 60 seats in the US House of Representatives and possibly as many as 75 or even 90 seats depending on how the undecided vote falls.  While the GOP may not win control of the US Senate, it’s likely that they will not only pick up nine seats, but equally important, elect a number of principled conservatives to replace establishment Republican candidates.  New Republican stars will emerge such as Rubio in Florida, Paul in Kentucky, Lee in Utah, Johnson in Wisconsin, Buck in Colorado, Raese in West Virginia, Toomey in Pennsylvania, and Rossi in Washington State.  The GOP will also pick up other US Senate seats in Illinois and California.
It’s going to be a great night for America and for the ideals of America’s Founders.  Obama has taken the nation to the brink of disaster but Americans are rising on November 2nd to say, “No more!”
Now get out and vote and make sure it happens.  It’s a critical first step in restoring America to greatness.  Let’s make sure that 2010 was the high water mark of American liberalism, progressivism or whatever would be American socialists call themselves today.  The name changes, but their game is the same—more government, less freedom.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Patricius of Ireland

Patricius of Ireland 

I just finished reading the book, St. Patrick of Ireland, by Philip Freeman (Simon & Schuster), and I highly recommend it to you.  This biography of the man known in history as St. Patrick is well written, well-documented, and tells an inspiring story of one of the greatest Christian missionaries in world history.  The book is based primarily on the letters of St. Patrick, Letters to the Soldiers of Coroticus and Confession.  These letters, combined with excellent research by Professor Freeman, give us a reliable picture of the man and the times in which he lived.  The story separates fact from legend, yet the picture it paints is no less inspiring and exciting.
I don’t want to ruin the story for you, but just imagine a 15 year old boy born into nobility in Roman England just prior to the turn of the 4th century AD who is seized by Irish raiders in the dead of night and forced into slavery in a brutal, pagan land with little hope of escape.  It is a story of a world turned upside down, a story of re-energized faith in God, and a story of dedication to the will of God.
It was a hard and brutal world into which Patricius (Patrick) was born, even though he was the son of nobility.  Slavery was present everywhere – in England, in Ireland, and throughout the world.  It was considered to be a “natural state,” even by church leaders.
Patrick, however, had, for his day, a bright future in front of him.  Listen to this description by Patrick himself from one of his letters…
“My Father was Calpornius, a deacon of the Church, and my grandfather was Potitus, a priest.  His home was the village of Banna Venta Berniae, but he also had a country estate nearby.”
He would be well-educated in learning and would live a privileged life.  But that was not God’s plan for Patrick.
As early as 55 B.C. Roman warriors crossed the English Channel in an attempt to subdue the Celtic tribes who then ruled England.  Although that attempt failed, in 43 A.D. Roman legions cross the Channel again and this time the effort was successful, although the conquest of England, Wales, and Scotland was not completed until 84 A.D.  It was into this Roman England that Patrick was born. 
But he was thrust from this world of peace and privilege into a life of slavery in Ireland.  While such an event might have led you and me to be bitter and angry at God, Patrick looked around him and saw the devastation that a life without faith in Jesus created.  He was not angry, but instead he took pity on his captors and drew closer to God. 
His incredible escape from slavery and his even more incredible call to return to Ireland as a missionary is a story that will captivate and amaze you.  This imperfect vessel of clay was used by God to do great things for the people of Ireland and for the world.  It’s not an exaggeration to say that the world is a better place today and that tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, took the path to heaven thanks to Patricius of Ireland.
You know the legends and the stories, but I encourage you to take a couple of enjoyable hours to read the facts about the amazing life of Patricius of Ireland.  It’s a story that will inspire, amaze, and encourage you.  Wherever the Gospel is told, and whoever God is pleased to choose as His instrument in sharing the Gospel, it is always a story worth reading.  It’s a great story of love and compassion and grace.  It is story that gives hope and life to those who embrace it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Your Actions Betray Your Words

Your Actions Betray Your Words
Last Saturday a rag tag group of left and further left miscreants assembled on the Mall to counter the rally held by Glen Beck a few weeks earlier.  Even the Communist Party USA was proudly in attendance.  While the “One Nation” rally was totally political in nature, the Glen Beck rally was not.  Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally celebrated the greatness of America and gave awards to those who had served their fellow man (and woman) through Faith, Hope and Charity.

The Faith award went to the Rev. C.L. Jackson, who has lead Houston's Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church for 40 years.  Reverend Jackson was present on the National Mall 48 years earlier when Dr. Martin Luther King gave his famous “I have a dream” speech. 

Albert Pujols, the super star first baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals, received the Hope award from Beck for his many charitable endeavors in the St. Louis area.

Businessman John Huntsman, a cancer survivor and philanthropist who has given away much of his fortune to finance cancer research, was the recipient of the Charity award.

Hundreds of thousands gathered for the giant Restoring Honor rally that was positive in every respect.  While former Governor Sarah Palin spoke, it was as the mother of one who was serving in the military.  There were no political comments.

I attended the rally and it was indeed a good natured group.  One fellow from Tennessee said that he came home from work on Friday night and asked his wife, “Do you still want to go to that rally in DC?”  When she said yes, they immediately packed up the car and drove all night to make the rally.  Another couple I met flew in from Dallas the previous evening and arrived on the Mall at 3:30 in the morning to get a good view.  There were hundreds of thousands of Americans from every state and from every walk of life.  All races and nationalities were well represented.

I’ve been to a number of events on the Mall, and with the exception of 4th of July events, it was the biggest gathering on the Mall that I have ever personally witnessed.

And when the rally was over, everyone picked up, packed up and returned to their homes leaving our National Mall no worse for the wear. 

What a contrast the event held last Saturday was.  While everyone paid their own way to the Restoring Honor rally, big unions picked up most of the tab for the attendees at the One Nation rally.  They not only paid for the busses, but even paid out of work union employees $60 apiece to attend.

By all accounts, the number of people who attended the One Nation rally amounted to just a fraction of those who attended the Restoring Honor rally.  And while all was positive and good natured at the Beck rally, that was not the case at the One Nation rally.  At the Restoring Honor rally Americans of all races and economic levels were celebrated as being a blessing to our land.  Indeed, the speech by Dr. Alveda King was in many ways the highlight of the event as she inspired those in attendance with her humility and courage.  The niece of slain civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, and the daughter of Rev. A.D. William King, Sr., who was murdered for his support of civil rights, Alveda King spoke of God’s forgiveness through His son, Jesus.

There was no talk of harmony and unity among Americans at the One Nation rally.  And there was no talk of reconciliation and forgiveness as there was at the Beck rally.

Sadly, the One Nation rally was about getting even and about condemning everyone who did not agree with them.  There was no sweetness and light.  Anger was the best word to describe those who gathered at the National Mall for the One Nation rally. 

There was also great irony.  The keynote address for the rally was given by Van Jones, a self proclaimed Communist and the former Environmental Jobs Czar appointed by President Obama.  This is the same Van Jones that believes the U.S. Government flew planes into the Pentagon and the twin towers in New York City.  Jones predictably lamented the state of the environment and cited green jobs as the only hope for the future.

Mark Twain once said, “Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits.”  Twain must have been thinking of the comments made by folks like Jones and others at the One Nation rally.  They wanted reform now.  Socialism, not capitalism, because you and I need to reform.  They know better how to run our lives than you and I do.

But their actions betrayed their words.  They expressed great, great concern for the environment, but the mountains of trash they left behind at the Lincoln Memorial and at the World War II Memorial belie their true concerns.  It was the biggest trashing of the National Mall since the grand inaugural bash of Barack Obama.  There were piles of signs, placards, and propaganda everywhere.

While the giant Tea Party rally folks and the Beck rally folks left the Mall the way they found it and picked up after themselves, the angry lefties at the One Nation rally exposed their true colors regarding their concern for others and for the planet by their actions.  They discarded their trash for others to pick up.

What is the spark that should give you and me genuine concern for others as well as for the planet upon which we live?  Could it possibly be because we realize that we have a loving God who not only created the heavens and the earth, but also sent His only son, Jesus, to rescue us from our sins so that we can spend eternity with Him in a perfect place, heaven?  Could that possibly be the reason that conservative Christians volunteer and donate more than any other group of Americans?  Could that be the reason we care about God’s earth and pick up after ourselves?  Could that be the reason we strive to treat others gently and kindly?  Could that be the difference between the majority of those who attended the Restoring Honor rally on the National Mall and those who attended the One Nation rally?  You be the judge.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Counterfeit Gods

Counterfeit Gods 

Counterfeit Gods (Dutton © 2009) is another in a series of books by Pastor Timothy Keller that makes you think.  It’s not a perfect book—there’s only one of those—but it is a powerful book that sometimes painfully exposes the counterfeit gods in our lives.  We all have them, whether they’re money, sex, success, status, power, or even our sanctimonious moral rectitude.
Keller was a bit of a maverick growing up.  He passed through a couple of denominations and spent some time outside the organized church before being ordained as a Presbyterian minister.  Upon ordination he set about to establish a church in New York City.  His friends thought he was crazy and no one gave him any hope for success, but he ignored them and established Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan.  On a typical Sunday, Redeemer has more than 5,000 in attendance!  Although an orthodox Christian, Keller makes no secret of the fact that he is a political liberal. 
I have purchased and given away many copies of his excellent apologetic, The Reason for God.  If you are a doubter or have friends who doubt the existence of God then be sure and read this book.
Counterfeit Gods is a plainspoken book.  For instance, in his chapter titled, “Love is Not All You Need,” which discusses making your spouse your idol, you will find this simple summary…
“If you get married as Jacob did, putting the weight of all your deepest hopes and longings on the person you are marrying, you are going to crush him or her with your expectations.  It will distort your life and your spouse’s life in a hundred ways.  No person, not even the best one, can give your soul all it needs.  You are going to think you have gone to bed with Rachel, and you will get up and it will always be Leah.  This cosmic disappointment and disillusionment is there in all of life, but we especially feel it in the things upon which we most set our hopes.”
In another chapter titled, “Money Changes Everything,” Keller writes…
“According to the Bible, idolaters do three things with their idols.  They love them, trust them, and obey them.  ‘Lovers of money’ are those who find themselves daydreaming and fantasizing about new ways to make money, new possessions to buy, and looking with jealously on those who have more than they do.  ‘Trusters of money’ feel they have control of their lives and are safe and secure because of their wealth.”
Keller follows up this observation with an absolute truth…
“God’s salvation does not come in response to a changed life.  A changed life comes in response to the salvation, offered as a free gift.”
This is, of course, the essence of the Christian faith that our salvation comes as a free gift brought about by God’s only son, Jesus, dying for us on the cross for our sins.  It’s free to us, but was very costly for God.
In his chapter titled, “The Seduction of Success,” Keller says…
“More than other idols, personal success and achievement lead to a sense that we ourselves are god, that our security and value rest in our own wisdom, strength, and performance.”
He goes on…
“If your success is more than just success to you—if it is the measure of your value and worth—then accomplishment in one limited area of life will make you believe you have expertise in all areas.  This, of course, leads to all kinds of bad choices and decisions.  This distorted view of ourselves is part of the blindness to reality that the Bible says always accompanies idolatry (Psalm 135:15-18; Ezekiel 36:22-36).”
In the chapter titled, “The Power and the Glory,” Keller observes…
“We can look upon our political leaders as ‘messiahs,’ our political policies as saving doctrine, and turn our political activism into a kind of religion.” 
As one who has been involved in politics for many years, I would agree that this is completely true.  Politics offers no ultimate answers.  But Keller, due to his political bias, gets a bit off track with his equivalencies and facts in this section of the book.  They are minor, but still worth noting.
His basic premise is absolutely true, politicians, no matter whether left or right or Republican or Democrat often make political success their idol, their god.  Where I believe the book goes a bit off the rails is when he endeavors to draw a moral equivalence between liberalism and conservatism in America.  While both sides come in for some justifiable criticism for making political victory their god, the fact is that the American left has strayed so far left that their ideology has little which resembles the limited government view of the Founders.  The Founders who signed the Declaration of Independence were, by a wide majority, followers of Jesus and students of the Bible.  They understood the corrupt nature of man and that any concentration of power would lead to those in power using it to control the lives of American citizens.
While Keller criticizes politically concerned Americans for acting out of fear, these are indeed times to be fearful of those who seek a powerful, centralized government.  Indeed, our Founders would be fearful if they were alive today.
Keller rightly condemns the tyrannical dictatorships of the left that committed unspeakable atrocities in the 20th century—the National Socialist Party (NAZI) and the Communist Party.  However, he ignores the possibility that such a threat could and perhaps does exist in the United States today.  Somehow his justifiable condemnation of dictatorships from the past still does not let him see similar threats from the present time.
Moreover, in a chapter about power, he fails to recognize contrast between liberalism and conservatism.  While liberals seek increased power over the lives of individual American citizens via a more powerful government, conservatives seek less power by reducing the reach and scope of government.  After all, the conservative goal is constitutional, limited government with equal justice for all, and a strong national defense.  In stark contrast, liberalism seeks an expanded role for government over the lives of American citizens, intentionally distorts the meaning of the Constitution, and is quick to ignore any law with which they disagree.
Where is the moral equivalence between a party that advocates the original sin of seeking to be like God by gaining power over the lives of others and one that seeks less control over the lives of others?  It is the failure of liberalism to understand the sinful nature of man that leads them down the wrong path.  It is the mistaken belief that man’s nature can improve and become more benevolent if only they have power.
Indeed, while there are those on the left who are well-intentioned, it is the following observation by Keller, in my opinion, which accurately describes the failing of a far left ideology that ignores the law, seeks glory, accumulates power, and suffers from an overblown pride of intellect.
“One of the great ironies of sin is that when human beings try to become more than human beings, to be as gods, they fall to become lower than human beings.”
This is the reality that Dietrich Bonheoffer realized too late in Germany and which threatens all civilized peoples.  No civilization is free from the threat of a dictatorship.  There is evil in the world.
Ronald Reagan defeated the “evil empire” because he recognized it as evil and he used the might and power of the United States to bring the Soviet dictatorship to its knees.  But just as with Presidents, Democratic and Republican before him, he did not use American power and might to gain power over people or to expand American territory.  Instead he extended the hand of freedom and peace to the long enslaved people who had long suffered under the heavy yoke of the Soviet dictatorship.
Keller also suffers from a factually incorrect but common impression that American liberals are compassionate.  Bleeding heart liberal is intended to characterize the compassion of political liberals in America.  Unfortunately the facts tell a different story.  Keller would do well to read the book, Who Really Cares, by Arthur C. Brooks.
Evidence of real compassion is how much an individual volunteers his or her time to help others and how much they personally give to help others. 
Based on that measurement, the truly compassionate in America are, according to research of Professor Brooks, Christian conservatives.  Indeed, Brooks began work on his book with the assumption that it is liberals in America who donate their time and money most generously to help others.  He was shocked to learn that it’s simply not true.  While there are liberals who donate both their time and money to help others, according to the surveys conducted by Brooks…
“Religious people are far more charitable than secularists; and religious people are disproportionately political conservative.  Conversely, relatively uncharitable secularists are especially likely to be liberal.”
In short, the term, “compassionate liberal,” is an oxymoron. 
Nevertheless, in spite of this shortcoming, I still endorse and encourage you to read Counterfeit Gods.  This is a serious book that will make your shoes pinch.  I have counterfeit gods and yes, you do too.
As Keller points out, there are even counterfeit gods that exist within the religious community… 
“Idolatry functions widely inside religious communities when doctrinal truth is elevated to the position of a false god.  This occurs when people rely on the rightness of their doctrine for their standing with God rather than on God himself and his grace.”
Keller ends with the accurate observation that everyone has counterfeit gods.  He says,
“The human heart is indeed a factory that mass-produces idols.
“In Romans 1:21-25 Saint Paul shows that idolatry is not only one sin among many, but what is fundamentally wrong with the human heart:
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him…They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator.—Romans 1:21, 25.
“Paul goes on to make a long list of sins that create misery and evil in the world, but they all find their roots in this soil, the inexorable human drive for ‘god making.’  In other words, idolatry is always the reason we do anything wrong.  No one grasped this better than Martin Luther.  In his Large Catechism (1529) and in his Treatise on Good Works he wrote that the Ten Commandments begin with a commandment against idolatry.  Why does this come first?  Because, he argued, the fundamental motivation behind lawbreaking is idolatry.  We never break the other commandments without breaking the first one.”
I’m just like everyone else.  I put many things before God.  I have my own multitude of counterfeit gods.  It’s hard to turn loose of them.  My use of time and my patterns of spending reveal my idols.  How about you?
The question is:  What will I do about it?  What will you?