Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Leading Through Derision?

“Last week, the other party, they gave their pitch. … What they offered … was an agenda that was probably a little better suited for the last century, … you might as well have watched it on black-and-white TV, put some rabbit-ears on the convention hall.”
President Barack Obama, Addressing an Iowa campaign audience,
regarding the 2012 Republican National Convention

How disappointing is this? Our nation is facing countless overwhelming challenges. Our people are deeply and pretty much equally, divided over the best approach to meeting these challenges. Instead of getting the leadership we look to our President for, to draw our efforts together, we continue to get derisive comments like this … comments that are more likely to come from a Community Organizer, to incite agitation.

Presently, the nearly-equal political halves of the U.S. population are most easily illustrated through the opposing views of the DNC and the RNC, on solving our nation’s current problems. These include our lagging Economy, our incredible Debt, the stance on Abortion, Energy policies, Environmental policies and National Security. To illustrate my point about the counterproductive nature of President Obama’s derisive leadership style, I want to take a look at how that applies to just one of these topics. Hopefully, if I can get you to understand my views on this issue, you’ll see how it applies to the many others.

Tax Relief has been a consistently contentious issue that I think serves well to share my perspective. A very condensed version of the GOP's Platform on this is:

We reject the use of taxation to redistribute income. Our goal is a tax system that is simple, transparent, flatter, and fair. A reformed code should promote simplicity and coherence, savings and innovation, increase American competitiveness, and recognize the burdens on families with children. To that end, we propose to extend the Bush tax cuts-pending reform of the tax code, to keep tax rates from rising.

Of course, the unabridged version of this has many other facets, with several of them being understandably arguable. With that understood, it still seems to me that, in order to draw together the opposing halves on this issue, our nation needs a leader willing to say something like, "Though I don't agree with your stand on this, I can see where you're coming from and I want us to sit down together, to find a solution that works for us all." However, what we continue to get is our President leading the endless drumbeat, stating that all Republicans care about is further enriching "Millionaires and Billionaires." I find this derision to be personally offensive. I'm not a Millionaire or Billionaire. But, thanks to getting the sort of opportunities mentioned in the GOP Platform, I have been able to earn a lifestyle that is well beyond the dreams of a kid (me) who started out as the youngest of three kids, raised by a single-Mom in a time (the Fifties) when that title wasn't even in use yet. Thus, I pretty much resent the implication that I and others like me, are so intellectually and morally inferior that we get up every morning thinking, "What can I do today, to benefit America's Millionaires and Billionaires."

Additionally, I have to say that I find these specific derisive comments from the President to be particularly aggravating as a result of his using "the last century" and "black-and-white TV" as negative connotations. I was born in the middle of the last century and there were some pretty great values that I was given then, foundational values for my life, that I'm deeply disappointed to say have not survived well into this century. For me, a great example can be seen when I tell people, "I'm confident that on the first Sunday after I was brought home from being born at St. Anthony Hospital, my Mom and my Grandma Ray took me to the Second Avenue EUB Church, along with my Brother and Sister. On my first Sunday, I was shown the value of Faith, Family and Community. They remain my life's priorities. Sadly, in this century, fewer and fewer children are even exposed to these great values. And, why disparage black-and-white TV? Are Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech or Neil Armstrong's first step on the surface of the moon any less valuable because they were broadcast utilizing the best medium available at the time - i.e. black-and-white TV?

I guess, if the derisive comment I'm addressing was an exception, it wouldn't be so bad. That certainly isn't the case, though. It continues to be central to the demeanor of the Obama-led Democrat Party. Sad example after sad example can be cited at this week's DNC in Charlotte, NC. Case in point, former Ohio Governor, Ted Strickland, stating that, "If Romney were Santa, he would fire the reindeer and outsource the elves."

As I said at the outset; our nation is facing countless overwhelming challenges and our people are deeply divided over the best approach to meeting these challenges. Another man who called Illinois home when he was elected President, Abraham Lincoln, sized up this situation by looking to wisdom expressed by Jesus Christ, when he said,

"A house divided against itself cannot stand."

Also as pointed out earlier, our nation is crying out for the leadership we look to our President for, to draw our efforts together. It's obvious, from the behavior addressed here, that Barack Obama either doesn't have the wisdom or the interest (or both) to do this. That, however, remains the sort of leadership we need. For this, I recommend Mitt Romney. A guy who was born in the same year I was, who grew up with Faith, Family and Community as his life's priorities, who watched MLK Jr. and Neil Armstrong on black-and-white TV and celebrated their victories, as we all did.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Opposing Views of “Like-Minded People on “Fair Marriage”

In the debate on legalizing “same-sex marriage”, I’ve encountered instances where, at least on the surface, it has appeared that “like-minded people” have differing views on the topic. Namely, these like-minded people are “People of Faith” and/or “Conservatives”. Here’s what I’ve found in my effort to gain a deeper understanding of these puzzling situations.

Differing Views Among Christians

These have been the cases I’ve found to be most surprising. For me, they’re exemplified by my ongoing dialog with a dear Catholic friend.

Since most would label me as an Evangelical Christian, of course, I have doctrinal differences with my Catholic friend. But, I’m confident that our beliefs match up on fundamentals, including the Holy Trinity and the infallibility of God’s Word. And, I’m just as certain that she is devout in her Catholic faith. Knowing these things and knowing that the Catholic Church’s position on this has been stated as “opposes gay marriage and the social acceptance of homosexuality and same-sex relationships”, I was bewildered when I noticed her making comments that seemed to imply her support for same-sex marriage, referring to it as "Fair Marriage". With that, I started exploring the topic with her.

Her first points to justify her position were that she has homosexual friends who she loves dearly and that she just hates to think that, if one of them, who is in a same-sex relationship, were to get sick, their partner wouldn't have the same rights for hospital visitation as a married couple would have. My first response was to commend her for being loving, as Jesus commands us to do and to let her know that, though we may disagree on the topic at hand, I too have homosexual friends who I love dearly. But, I went on to say that, at least where we live, the hospital visitation concern is a straw-man argument. In 2007, the State of Washington enacted the "Everything but Marriage" law, creating State Registered Domestic Partnerships and making them the equivalent of marriage under state law. I, also, pointed out to her that, when that legislation was passed, proponents claimed that was all they wanted, that they would never ask for legalizing same-sex marriage.

However, none of our discussion seemed to persuade my friend to change her position. And, she offered validation for her stance by saying, "God is love." Certainly, that is true. I acknowledged that with my friend. I also noted that there are additional aspects of God to take into consideration. Before delving into that, though, I asked my friend, since her Priest opposes same-sex marriage, if she believes she has a better understanding than her Priest does of the truth that "God is love". With that, her demeanor changed and I sensed that not only was it unlikely that continuing our conversation would cause her to reconsider her position, it was likely that our relationship might be damaged.

What I would have liked to discuss with my friend is that, in striving to lead our lives according to God’s will, we can be misled by only taking into consideration one dimension of an omnipotent God. I think this is a common tendency with Christians as we confront a sensitive issue. It’s true of me. And, I think it’s especially true in a case like this, in light of the fact that, when Jesus was asked, “What is the great commandment in the law?” He said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself." But, just as we can be misled by only taking into consideration one dimension of an omnipotent God, it can be misleading to take one line of Scripture out of context. The context for this Scripture is:

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

In my words, this means that, in striving to lead our lives according to God’s will, we must follow these “two commandments”, not just one of them … perhaps the one we find easiest to follow. And, if we are to love God, in my words, with all we’ve got, this requires considering more than just one dimension of God … perhaps the one we find most appealing.

Another aspect of God that I see as being very important to bear in mind here is that He is a God of order, not of disorder. And within God’s order, there are things He finds to be virtuous and things He finds to be sinful.

In an article entitled Opposing All But One Man/One Woman Marriage, I offered the following quotation from my own Pastor to provide a summary of the order God established for marriage:

“… the first institution that God created, defined, and established for mankind was Marriage. Marriage was established by God for the development, well-being, and advancement of healthy (spiritually, emotionally, and physically) human relationships. These relationships – particularly when united in fellowship with God – would then be the foundational building blocks for future generations (children/family) and the backbone of local communities and culture. God was quite intentional and specific when He created that first marriage as being between one man (Adam) and one woman (Eve). Because God is both gracious and wise, then we know He wasn’t experimenting with marriage in the beginning – He was defining it!”

Although my Catholic friend and I, presently, disagree about legalizing same-sex marriage, I’m confident that she would agree that this is a good summary of the order God established for marriage. Furthermore, I’m certain she would agree that relationships meeting these criteria are virtuous and that relationships outside this standard are sinful. The remaining question then is, how does a Christian lovingly address this matter?

I think the answer is found in a well-known story from Scripture that involves sexual sin. It’s the story of Jesus’ encounter with a woman who had been “… caught in adultery, in the very act.” This is the story contained in John 8:3-11 where the woman’s accusers bring her to Jesus, saying that according to the law she should be stoned and asking what He says to do with her. God’s loving grace is dramatically demonstrated when Jesus says, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first" and when, after her accusers have left, Jesus says to the woman, “Neither do I condemn you …” Generally, these are the parts of the story that get the most attention but that’s not how the story ends. It ends with Jesus telling the woman, “… go and sin no more.” Though He did it lovingly, Jesus acknowledged the woman’s sin and he told her to not continue in that sin.

Frankly, I think the stance of the Catholic Church on same-sex marriage follows this model pretty well. As mentioned earlier this stated position has been “opposes gay marriage and the social acceptance of homosexuality and same-sex relationships.” However, their accompanying statement teaches that “homosexual persons deserve respect, justice and pastoral care.” This should be helpful in providing the best answer for both me and my Catholic friend, as well as for other Christians who have been struggling with the question, how does a Christian lovingly address this matter?

The Differing Views of Other People of Faith

It's, also, puzzled me when I've run into others who describe themselves as "people of faith", who also favor legalizing same-sex marriage. For me, the most illustrative example of this involves a State Representative who I first met at a Meet the Candidates event sponsored by our local Christian Chamber of Commerce. Considering this and that he presented himself as a person of faith, I was surprised to later learn that he is openly gay. After learning this, I wasn't surprised to see him promoting the legalization of gay marriage. Since these things seemed incongruous with what I think of as the expected conduct of a person of faith, I continued to wonder about it. My wonder was increased by having my Pastor tell me about he and his wife going to observe a local Gay Pride event and finding booths there sponsored by "churches". When I saw that the State Representative I mentioned was featured as a speaker at a "Marriage Equality" event at a local church, I decided it was past time for me to investigate this incongruity, as it appeared to me.

Although I had puzzled over this matter for more than two years, I didn't have to look too far to gain understanding. I found that the church that had hosted the Marriage Equality event described itself as "A Liberal Religious Alternative To Christianity." That, alone, made it clear that this is a church that does not share the faith that I share with my Catholic friend. Looking further, I found that, unlike my Catholic friend and I, the beliefs of this church have nothing to do with a deity greater than themselves. In fact, the only apparent focus of their worship is themselves. With that as the foundation of their ideology, it's no wonder that they should conclude that whatever their desires are should be OK.

Differing Views Among Conservatives

Last but not least, when I've encountered others who call themselves "Conservative", who support legalizing same-sex marriage, that too has seemed contradictory. When I've questioned it, the typical answer I've gotten is, "Well, I'm a fiscal-Conservative, not a social-Conservative." As far as I'm concerned, that simple answer results in there being little light between fiscal-Conservatives and people of faith, as described above. The only difference is, whereas the above mentioned people of faith worship themselves, these fiscal-Conservatives worship the almighty dollar. Furthermore, that simple answer doesn't change the contradictory nature of the fiscal-Conservative's stance. In fact, it's very illogical. Although their first love is money, not God, they acknowledge at least one truth of what my Pastor says about God's definition of the marriage relationship - i.e. It is "the backbone of local communities and culture." Without that foundation, the goals of the fiscal-Conservatives are not just unattainable, they wouldn't actually exist. When communities and culture come apart, so does the related economy.

Summing Up The Differences

With fellow-Christians, I've found that we are, in fact, pretty like-minded. As we help each other look at this issue through the fully unfiltered lens of our shared faith, I'm confident of our finding agreement.

Concerning People of Faith, as described above, I recognize that we're not like-minded at all. And, I have little, if any, hope for a constructive dialog with these folks. Washington State's "Everything But Marriage" law would not have been possible without folks like me being willing to listen to those in favor of that legislation and working with them to find a solution that worked for both sides. But, understanding that this group's faith is based on a worship of themselves, I fully expect that they will continue to hatefully label people like me as "homophobes", along with their relentless insistence on having their desires OKed and a complete lack of interest in finding a solution that is acceptable to all.

And, finally, regarding fiscal-Conservatives, I've come to understand that we are like-minded on fiscal issues but it is my second Conservative priority while it is their only Conservative priority. However, I'm hopeful that they will discover that supporting my social-Conservative views serves their best interests in attaining their fiscal-Conservative objectives.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Opposing All But One Man/One Woman Marriage

Redefining Marriage?

For several thousand years, throughout the Earth, marriage has defined a special relationship between one man and one woman. This month, February 2012, Washington State's House, Senate and Governor enacted legislation to redefine marriage as a special relationship between two people regardless of their gender. These lawmakers took this step, legalizing “same-sex marriage”, without any apparent compulsion to verify whether this action was in line with the views of the majority of their constituents. Although the state office-holders who supported this legislation may attempt to position their stance on this as "acting for the greater good" - i.e. They know what's best for us even if we don't know that ourselves – In fact, it's just one of the most recent examples of a tyrannical ruling class imposing it's will on the masses.

Having Your Say

Thankfully, there is an Initiative and Referendum Amendment in the Washington State Constitution. As it applies to this “same-sex marriage” legislation, that means there is an automatic stay on enacting the legislation, to allow time for a related petition process, potentially leading to a referendum being placed on a statewide ballot, to provide for registered voters having their say on the matter. Although proponents of this legislation are likely to present this as standing up for the rights of the “LGBT community” versus the antiquated attitudes of the “Religious Right”, this matter goes well beyond those boundaries. I believe all who are determined to see the United States continue as a “government of the people, by the people, for the people”, should support the referendum to reject this legislation.

Standing Up For Liberty

Yes, I’m saying that it’s not just people of faith, who hold the Biblical view of marriage, who should support the referendum to reject this legislation. I believe it should also be supported by those who are ambivalent regarding the definition of marriage and even those who are in favor of “same-sex marriage.” To illustrate my belief, I ask you to simply consider the following question:

When the tyrannical ruling class comes after one group today
and you don't stand up against them,
who will stand up against them tomorrow,
when they come after your group?

Standing Up For Your Faith

Of course, the passion that the vast majority of Americans of faith have for this surpasses their fervor for liberty, due to their beliefs regarding marriage. The following statement that was included in a recent message from my Pastor, Daniel Gettemy, of Calvary Chapel Vancouver, provides an excellent summary of my related beliefs:

“… the first institution that God created, defined, and established for mankind was Marriage. Marriage was established by God for the development, well-being, and advancement of healthy (spiritually, emotionally, and physically) human relationships. These relationships – particularly when united in fellowship with God – would then be the foundational building blocks for future generations (children/family) and the backbone of local communities and culture. God was quite intentional and specific when He created that first marriage as being between one man (Adam) and one woman (Eve). Because God is both gracious and wise, then we know He wasn’t experimenting with marriage in the beginning – He was defining it!”

My hope, in offering this statement, is to facilitate broader understanding, if not agreement.

What To Expect In Taking Your Stand

A classic approach that you should expect from proponents of the “same-sex marriage” legislation was demonstrated in a message I got from a friend of my youth, who said,

“Gay marriage cannot hurt anyone represented by your Representatives. Gay marriage WILL HELP many who are ALSO represented by your Representatives.”

The above statement from my Pastor should make it clear how I see redefining marriage as being harmful. Furthermore, I don’t see who it helps. In 2009, without redefining marriage, legislation was enacted in Washington State to extend the rights and responsibilities of domestic partners to include the same rights and responsibilities as those extended to married couples. So, when a “same-sex marriage” proponent asks, “When one person in a domestic partnership is ill, shouldn’t they have the same rights as a married person to be visited by their domestic partner?”, understand that they already have that right. These arguments are empty.

And if you don’t agree with the message of the proponents of the “same-sex marriage” legislation, rather than attacking our message, you can expect them to attack the messenger – i.e. me and you. However, this isn’t about any of the personal accusations they will make. It is only about whether the unilateral redefinition of marriage by the tyrannical ruling class should stand.

Additionally, expect that taking your stand will require you to do so for the long-haul. My Wife and I chose to move from California, to make Washington State our home, nearly seven years ago. In 2000, as Registered Voters in California, we supported Proposition 22, an Initiative legally defining marriage as a relationship only between opposite sex couples. It passed easily. However, here we are nearly 12 years later and nothing along those lines has been implemented, as a result of the unendingly insistent actions of the minority represented by the “LGBT community”.

Taking An Appropriate Stance

First, I want to address what not to do. When considering this, the examples I immediately think of are a couple of local “conservative” bloggers known as The Pissants. Like their namesakes, these are beings that thrive in filth and darkness. Like the proponents of the “same-sex marriage” legislation, their primary tactic is to attack the messenger rather than the message. Innuendo and outright lies are their stock-in-trade. And their response to any disagreement is to engage in lengthy tit-for-tat arguments (until, of course, they believe they’ve had the last word), laced with more personal attacks and no constructive dialog.

What I recommend doing is pretty much the opposite of what I described immediately above. Personal attacks are counterproductive. They just harden the position of the opposition and overhearing it is a turnoff to any undecided person who might, otherwise, listen. Just thoughtfully state your views to anyone truly willing to listen. It’s a waste of time to get into lengthy debate with those who want to use the opportunity to personally attack you or to end up believing they had the last word.

An Admonition In Standing Up For Your Faith

Coincidentally, this year’s National Prayer Breakfast took place in Washington D.C. at the same time as Washington State’s legalization of “same-sex marriage” was proceeding. The Keynote Speaker for this event was Eric Metaxas, the author of the current best-selling books BONHOEFFER and AMAZING GRACE, the story of William Wilberforce. I listened to his entire speech and as I did, I was pleased in knowing that President Obama was sitting on the dais and hearing Metaxas’ message. In fact, during his speech, Metaxas gave the President a copy of BONHOEFFER and he committed to reading it. My prayer is that he will do so and that it will work to change his heart. However, in the later part of his presentation, Metaxas delivered a Spiritual message that was aimed right at folks like me and it convicted me deeply. It was an admonition that certainly fits in this discussion for my fellow-Christians and I want to share it with you. I do recommend listening to Metaxas’ entire presentation but I’ve paraphrased his admonition, as follows:

Essentially, Metaxas pointed out that, unlike most around him, Bonhoeffer was able to see the greatest evil of the 20th Century, Nazi Germany’s attempt to exterminate the Jews from Europe. Likewise, he noted that Wilberforce was able to see the wrong of the British slave trade when nearly all of his contemporaries believed it was OK. The answer that Metaxas provides for the question, “How could these men see the truth when others couldn’t?” is: “Because, through His Holy Spirit, Jesus opened their eyes.” With that, Metaxas went on to point out that today, when we find ourselves able to see things like the Biblical view of sexuality or that the unborn are persons, we need to remember that we are commanded by God to love those who do not yet see these things and that without God we would find ourselves on the other side of these issues.

So, beyond my earlier recommendation to “Just thoughtfully state your views to anyone truly willing to listen”, for my fellow-Christians I would add, do so in love and to know that you’re doing so by praying for those who come against you.

Taking Your First Step

In order for a referendum on this matter to be on the statewide ballot this coming November, there must first be a successful petition effort. Petitions are likely to become available in the first week of March. To stay tuned into this, I recommend the Preserve Marriage Washington Website. And, I encourage you to get involved in this effort as soon and as enthusiastically as you can.

Taking A Step Beyond

Supporting the referendum to reject the legislation legalizing “same-sex marriage” in Washington State is Step #1. Step #2 is eliminating the tyrannical ruling class who passed this legislation. So, check the voting record for the State Legislators who have been elected to represent your Legislative District. If they supported this legislation, find out when they’re up for reelection and then find an opponent to vote for whom you believe you can trust to verify whether their actions are in line with the views of the majority of their constituents.