Saturday, May 24, 2008

McCain’s Defense of Hagee

OK, there wasn’t one. As a result of controversy that was raised up about Pastor John Hagee within the past few days, Senator John McCain rejected the endorsement Hagee had given his presidential candidacy, without any apparent attempt to come to Hagee’s defense.

At the center of the mentioned controversy is an argument Pastor Hagee included in a late 1990s sermon. Those who unearthed this sermon, sum up Hagee’s argument as saying, “… the rise of Adolf Hitler was part of God's plan to help the Jews reach the Promised Land.” If that’s an accurate summary, I think Pastor Hagee is wrong. I’m a man of faith and I believe that God does know the end from the beginning so I would agree that God knew what Hitler would do. I, also, believe the Bible and what it tells us about the nature of God. As an example, in Romans 8:28, we’re told, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose.” In other words, though God knows of the evil that men will do, He sees to it that it leads to good anyway, for His people. So, while I can see that applying to the mind-boggling evil that Hitler did, it isn’t in God’s nature to raise up that evil Himself. With that said, I guess I can see how Hagee could get carried away and come to the conclusion he did but I don’t agree with that conclusion and I would agree with McCain in rejecting that conclusion.

However, it wasn’t just that conclusion that McCain rejected. He rejected Hagee’s endorsement and in doing that, he rejected Hagee himself. In order to understand McCain’s character and his fitness to be our next President, I think it’s appropriate to ask … Why was there no apparent attempt to come to Hagee’s defense?

Of course, I can understand why it was politically expedient for McCain to reject Hagee’s endorsement. Especially, in light of how McCain’s detractors have relentlessly dug for anything they can find to counter the Rev. Jeremiah Wright stigma that McCain’s opponent, Senator Barack Obama, carries. But doesn’t Hagee deserve better? McCain actually sought out Hagee’s endorsement. And this past February, Hagee stood up for McCain, in the way McCain wanted. I trust that Hagee did this, fully aware that McCain has his flaws. McCain admits to this, himself. A good example came this past MLK Day; when McCain appeared at the site of MLK’s assassination and stated, “I was wrong. I was wrong.” And “We all make mistakes. We all make mistakes”, regarding his original opposition to establishing MLK Day, as a National Holiday. Perhaps McCain’s original opposition to MLK Day was out of some well-intended but misdirected over-exuberance. Whatever the reason, McCain, himself, now rejects that position and yet, he asks that we not allow this admitted error to cause us to reject him or his presidential candidacy.

Why, then, isn’t Senator McCain extending the same consideration to Pastor Hagee that he asks for himself? Perhaps Pastor Hagee wouldn’t admit to being in error. I don’t know. What I do know is that it troubles me that McCain rejected Hagee without any apparent attempt to give him that opportunity, so he might continue to stand up for him. It makes me wonder how the “Captain of the Straight-Talk Express” will stand up for me, in spite of my flaws. Although I’m, presently, a McCain supporter, I have to wonder if I can count on him once he finds out that I voted for Ambassador Alan Keyes for President, in California’s 2000 Primaries. I heard Keyes speak at my church and every time he spoke, he uttered my views. Since then, Barack Obama beat him like a drum, in the Illinois race for U.S. Senate and with his few appearances in the current presidential campaign; I’ve been embarrassed for Keyes. Maybe I was just overly enthusiastic about Keyes’ speech at my church but, considering what I’ve witnessed since then, I have to conclude that my judgment was flawed, in casting my Year-2000 Presidential Primary vote for him. Does that mistake, with or without admitting to it, mean that Senator McCain would reject my support and thus, reject me? Maybe so and maybe I’d understand it, in a way. Maybe that would be the politically expedient thing to do. But is that what we want our nation’s character to be founded on? Political expedience?! Shouldn’t we be willing to stand up for those who stand up for us … At least to the extent that, before rejecting them, we give them the opportunity to acknowledge their mistakes so that we can continue to stand up for them? I’ve done that for Senator McCain and so did John Hagee. But, that’s not what Hagee got from McCain, in return. John McCain is an unquestionably-genuine national hero. My gratitude for all he’s done for us and our nation is undying. Regardless, I’m disappointed that I didn’t see the courage of an unquestionably-genuine national hero in the way he dealt with this recent controversy, that was raised up around John Hagee. My hope is that he will revisit this in a way that assures me that we can continue to count on John McCain to courageously stand up for us all, imperfect though we are.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

CA Voters Should “Recall” Why Prop 22 Was Abandoned

In 2003, California held a statewide circus known as the Gubernatorial Recall election. That election actually considered two questions … Yes or No, should their sitting Governor, Gray Davis, be recalled? … And, if Yes, who of the 154 candidates should replace him? The slate of candidates included Actors, a Lieutenant Governor, a State Senator, Business People, a Porn Star, a Comedian, etc., etc.

In the lead-up to this election, it seemed likely that Davis would be recalled. This gave the Republicans the opportunity to capture the Governorship of the nation’s most populous State from the Democrats. In my opinion, it was unnecessary emphasis on this that led the California Republican Party to make a tragic error. Dana Rohrabacher, the U.S. Congressman for the California District I lived in at the time, took the lead in the party’s effort to support Actor/Businessman Arnold Schwarzenegger. It was obvious that this endeavor was founded on Schwarzenegger’s popularity, making him most likely to garner the plurality of votes needed to be Davis’ replacement. It was just as obvious that, for the group led by Rohrabacher, the subject of “Who is the best Gubernatorial Candidate for the future of the State?” took a back seat to the issue of popularity. To many, the answer to the question of “Who is the best Gubernatorial Candidate for the future of the State?” was State Senator Tom McClintock. He seemed to be very clear on every issue, as it pertained to what was needed from a California Governor for the present and the future. However, he wasn’t widely known in the State and he is far from being a flashy politician. Of course, it’s impossible to say that, if Rohrabacher’s efforts had been invested in McClintock, he would have won and the Republicans would still have secured the California Governorship. As you know, Schwarzenegger became “The Governator”. However, since McClintock received more votes than any Republican besides Schwarzenegger, it seems quite feasible that, with the Rohrabacher group’s support, McClintock could have won the Governorship.

So, since that circus took place nearly five years ago, what’s its importance now? Especially, at a time when the political “hot topic” is the May 15, 2008 Headline - California Supreme Court Overturns Gay Marriage Ban - i.e. The overturn of California’s Year 2000 ballot initiative Proposition 22 which, by a vote of 61.4% in favor, prevented California from recognizing same-sex marriages. Of course, there’s ongoing heated debate on this issue. I’m not writing to add to that fire. I will say that there are people who are dear to me on both sides of this matter and my prayer is that we all can keep our related discussions, no matter how inflamed, from singeing those treasured relationships. I’m not even writing to address the matter of seven unelected officials forsaking the will of 61.4% of the California Electorate … though that seems pretty obviously wrong to me. I’m writing to address the matter of choosing style over substance – i.e. in 2003; the California Electorate let themselves be led to choosing popularity over ability. The current political “hot topic” just helps to illuminate that folly and its result … You may end up with just what you asked for, a likable “leader” who isn’t able (or willing) to respond in a way that reflects the will of those he represents. Specifically, in a statement responding to this California Supreme Court ruling, Governor Schwarzenegger simply said that he respected the ruling and did not support a constitutional amendment to overturn it. By contrast, State Senator (and now, U.S. Congress Candidate) Tom McClintock said, "Today's Supreme Court ruling is a travesty of judicial activism and is based not on California law - which is crystal-clear - but on the social views of the individual justices. Fortunately, the initiative process allows voters the opportunity to overturn this ruling by adopting the Marriage Protection initiative this November," McClintock said. "I intend to do everything in my power to campaign for this initiative."

Certainly, the outcome of the 2003 California Recall Circus isn’t unique, in terms of a population choosing style over substance, leading to travesty. As with most things, the best example is in the Bible, when Israel demanded a King. They first chose Saul, described in 1 Samuel 9:2 as “… a choice young man, and a goodly: and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he: from his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people.” … He was a good-looking tall guy who was a disaster, as King. On the other hand, David, Israel's first great King, who God instructed Samuel to anoint to replace Saul, was initially not included with the sons of Jesse who Samuel was considering. He wasn’t even present … as the youngest and the least, he was the one assigned to be out in the field, shepherding the flock.

So, what can we learn from this? Obviously, though we were given the “choosing style over substance” lesson in Saul and David, thousands of years ago, in Israel, it seems we still haven’t fully learned that lesson. Hopefully, the voters of California are learning from the results of their having elected (and reelected) “The Governator”. But, I no longer live in California so I’ll leave that to present-day Californians. My hope is that we will apply this lesson to what lies before us, as a nation. In the current Presidential campaign, as in most political campaigns, there is much to consider, in terms of what is style and what is substance. I’m not going to tell you, here, which of the Presidential Candidates I see as having more substance. With this, I just want to encourage you to seriously consider the matter of “a population choosing style over substance, leading to travesty.”

Friday, May 9, 2008

“Legal Dramedy”, is how Wikipedia defines the format of the TV series Boston Legal. Living TV describes the show as a “… critically acclaimed and Emmy Award-winning quirky legal drama …” That is a good summary of why I first became enamored with this brilliantly entertaining program. Unfortunately, it has become increasingly common to hear the production characterized as “shamelessly liberal”. With that, Boston Legal’s brilliance and entertainment value has continued to decline and its charm is rapidly fading for me.

Ironically, in a recent episode, entitled “Tabloid Nation”, Boston Legal, itself, addresses my very concern. In that episode, during one of his much ballyhooed “arguments”, James Spader, as Attorney Alan Shore says, “… today you can switch back and forth between the right-wing news and the left-wing news. Whatever happened to Huntley? Brinkley? John Chancellor? To news that was just the news? Now we have partisan junk appealing to the lowest common denominator …” I want to ask something very similar … Whatever happened to Seinfeld? Frasier? Tony Soprano? To brilliant entertainment that was just brilliant entertainment?

Now, it’s Boston Legal that gives us one-sided “… partisan junk appealing to the lowest common denominator …” Worse yet, its cloaked in the pretense that it’s still really just entertainment. There’s a Biblical caution about this … In what is known as The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:15), Jesus says, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” And, there’s a Biblical caution about the results too … in Revelation 3:16, the Lord says, "So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” If Boston Legal wants to be brilliantly entertaining, I believe it still can. If it wants to be a “shamelessly liberal” public policy advocacy group, it can probably do that too. By trying to be one while pretending to be the other, it squanders the significant value it once had and that makes me want to vomit … or, at least, tune out.

Although the waste of what Boston Legal once was is a shame, what it has become is aggravating a wound that our nation desperately needs healed. In a more recent Boston Legal episode, entitled “The Court Supreme”, more one-sided “… partisan junk appealing to the lowest common denominator …” is featured in another Spader/Shore “argument”. This has received much acclaim from those to whom this sort of thing appeals. For me, it was another glaring example of the continuing political decline of our nation – i.e. the politics of fully pitting ourselves against those who don’t agree with our views, based on any difference we can find. As I said in an earlier posting, entitled Rediscovering America's Strength, our nation needs urgent care for this wound, through “… rediscovering the strength that made America great in the first place ... the synergy of the best of our differing ideas.” With that in mind, reluctantly, I plan to start tuning out of Boston Legal, as well as other programs that choose a similar route.

Friday, May 2, 2008

God’s Laughter

The opening line in the movie “Bella” is, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” As I’ve reflected on our plans, about three years ago, to move from Southern California to the Pacific Northwest and consider how that matches up with how things have actually gone, this thought has seemed most fitting.

Our present circumstances are quite different than what we had in mind and some might look at this and say, “Yes, God’s laughing … in derision.” That isn’t the way I see it though. First, that isn’t accurate of God’s nature. There’s nothing to indicate that He would laugh in derision at anyone, especially not at His own children. I think a more correct understanding of God’s laughter is along the lines of my spontaneous laughter when I’m working in my home-office and I turn to see our Corgi/Pug in the easy chair behind me, laying upside-down, displaying total inhibition and relaxation. I laugh because his sweet, innocent, unconditionally loving nature lightens my heart and I delight in loving the little character. Second, while having our plans not work out as we had in mind can be challenging, we rejoice in knowing what God tells us about His plans for us - For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11. We’re thankful that God is in our lives and that His plans are far better than we can begin to imagine.

For me, the best example of this, in our present circumstances, is how things are working out for us in our jobs. Basically, our plan was for me to find a job where my years of experience could “make a difference” in a Consultative Sales organization. For Ruth, our plan was for her to be in a position to not work unless she just wanted to.

Frankly, I don’t have an understanding of the “end-game” that God is going for in His plan for my work but I can see that He is doing a lot more than I had in mind. With my plan, I would’ve found the right job within the first couple of months and I would only have developed relationships with my coworkers, as well as with my company’s business contacts. Instead, God’s plan has led me to enthusiastically strive to become more and more a part of the local business community. In the process, I’ve become a part of several local business and social organizations, I’ve developed relationships with hundreds of people in the local business community, I’ve refreshed many existing relationships and I’ve renewed numerous relationships where I’d been “out of touch”, in some cases for many years. I’ve, also, honed skills and done a lot of learning, which will enable me to perform on the job in ways that I couldn’t have without having gone through these circumstances.

For me, what has happened with Ruth’s work has been the most exciting though. I suppose that’s because God’s “end-game” with this is easier to see. At first, Ruth decided that she wanted to work in sort of a “Temp” capacity, because she was getting bored. Then, as I’ve continued to struggle in finding a “right fit” job for me, she decided to accept the offer of a full-time position, to provide some hedge against my circumstances harming our financial future. The position she accepted has her working with elementary-school-aged children who have chronic emotional and behavioral problems. Of course, the nature of that work means I must be very circumspect in sharing information about it. Let it suffice to say that, when we discuss her day, we often find ourselves responding to the circumstances that these kids live in by saying, “Without God, he/she doesn’t stand a chance.” To me, its clear that one way God is making sure they get a chance is by touching them through Ruth and that He has much more in mind with this than just guarding our nest egg.

So, we’re pretty sure that the plans we made have resulted in God’s laughter. Since, unlike God, we can’t see the end from the beginning, that makes some days more challenging than others. But, in general, it keeps us reminded of a personal slogan I pulled out of a song that a wonderful Christian Sister sang at our wedding, years ago, in Huntington Beach. The slogan is, “I don’t know what tomorrow holds but I know Who holds tomorrow and we’re safe in His hands.” Knowing this and that God’s laughter is really the result of His love for us, lightens our hearts and keeps us moving forward, in faith.