Sunday, August 19, 2012

Voter ID laws -- an affront to God

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
    for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
    defend the rights of the poor and needy. 

-- Proverbs 31-8-9

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

-- Philippians 2:3-4

I have come to the sad conclusion that the voter-ID laws recently been enacted in states by and with Republican-dominated legislatures represent sin against Almighty God.

I know what you may be thinking:  You need a photo ID to, among other things, cash a check, board an airline flight or buy liquor.  Why not to vote?  Remember, however, that those are not rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.  (Indeed, the law enacted in Wisconsin was voided by its own constitution.)  Voter fraud?  Virtually non-existent, thank you, Chicago notwithstanding, and even the supporters of such laws admit as much.  Illegal aliens?  Sorry, but for obvious reasons they tend not to vote anyway.

Let's cut to the chase:  This is really about vote suppression, more accurately an attempt to keep people likely to cast their ballots for Barack Obama away from the polls; the Republican Party can't fairly make its case in such communities, so this represents a last-ditch effort to regain power.  The late culture-warrior Paul Weyrich said in 1980, "I don't want everyone to vote," and here in Pennsylvania, GOP state Rep. Mike Turzai even bragged that this state's law was intended to "deliver Pennsylvania to [Mitt] Romney." 

Here's the problem:  The conservative ethos, which is ultimately about concentrated power and wealth at the expense of everyone else, directly counters the aspirations and interests of the poor and especially African-Americans -- hear me, folks, directly.  There are reasons why 90 percent of blacks support Democratic candidates generally, with 95 percent voting for Obama in 2008, and they're not about "welfare goodies" or any of that stuff.  (And his race has nothing to do with it, either.)  Do you think that the Fox News Channel went after ACORN for no reason?  Remember, ACORN sponsored a major voter registration drive targeting the poor.

The law here, upheld last week by a Commonwealth Court judge, is especially onerous because you need a state-required ID with an expiration date -- no store, work, college or military ID would be accepted.  (Many poor folks do not have driver's licenses, which is why it's an issue.)  You can get free state ID cards fairly easily, but, as newspaper reports have indicated, even workers at the state Department of Transportation, which issues them, are a tad confused about the new law and likely to be overwhelmed with requests.  And considering that the political right despises bureaucracy anyway, PennDOT probably won't be able to hire enough workers to process the crush of applicants.

You see the diabolical genius in all this.

But here's the rub:  If liberal Democrats were trying to suppress your right to vote, wouldn't you scream bloody murder?  Heck, you might even consider it "anti-Christian."  So where is the outcry among God's people, especially since many of those being potentially disenfranchised are fellow Christians?

Because I've heard those complaints, I already know that many Christians consider the current president a socialist (nonsense, according to the real socialists) and even a Marxist (ridiculous, because Marxism ignores the spiritual and Obama doesn't do that).  I must warn you, however:  If you ignore the concentration of economic power in the hands of fewer and fewer people, and especially justifying such rapacious capitalism as Godly, you will help to create conditions under which Marxism can occur -- a self-fulfilling prophecy, if you will.

The Pennsylvania law has been appealed to Superior Court, and I don't know when a ruling will come down.  Needless to say I hope it will be struck down, but even if it isn't it still qualifies as an unjust law -- and we all know, or should know, just how God feels about unjust laws.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Why "abstinence" doesn't work

This may or may not surprise you, but I don't hold out much hope for teen abstinence programs such as "True Love Waits" or the "Silver Ring Thing," the latter taking place at my church several years ago, having any effectiveness in keeping Christian teenagers from becoming sexually active. Believe me, I don't condone sexual conduct outside of marriage.

But the programs, from what little I've seen of them, leave one major issue out of the discussion: How we as fellow believers in Jesus Christ regard each other.  Without that, the ceremonies become nothing more than just that -- ceremonies to make people feel good but eventually turn to naught.

Indeed, I don't think that a whole lot kids are having sex.  But here's the problem:  The popular kids are, especially male athletes -- which should make sense, because they're the ones that attract girls in the first place.  Many of these same Christians who fear teens having sex will watch these same boys play football on Friday nights and even glory in their victories.  And when you get that kind of near-worship on a consistent basis you often end up not feeling accountable to anyone.  (I'm not saying that all athletes act this way, but those Christians that do play will tell you that the temptation is always there.)

But I digress.  It seems to me that, rather than trying to keep kids out of the sack, we should teach them to regard each other as "brothers and sisters" -- and model that behavior.  Say if some guy tried to hit on your sister -- his name is seconds to live, right?  And if someone picked on your brother, you would rush to his defense, right?  So why don't we treat people in the household of faith like that?  I personally experienced considerable rejection from Christian women because I wasn't what they wanted, and I'm not alone in that.

Just consider whom we choose as elders, pastors or "leaders" in the church -- not always the most spiritually qualified but often those that give off the right vibe, have the right resume, display the right "image."  That's just like the world, frankly, and shows us to be at times hypocritical.

I've been fortunate to have experienced a better way.

My first year in college, at Georgia Tech, I fell into a campus ministry sponsored by a downtown Atlanta church, with many of the women attending Agnes Scott College, a women's liberal arts school located in a suburb.  Let me tell you that there wasn't a woman in that group that rated below a 7 -- yes, they were that pretty.

But I never even thought about asking any of them on a date.  There were several reasons for that, mostly due my own immaturity, but even beyond that the group felt like a true family.  To wit, looking back I really did feel as though these women were my sisters, not pieces of meat or playthings.

That sense of belonging was so strong that, at the beginning of a square dance that the fellowship sponsored at the church, I invited what I considered the homeliest woman there to be my partner.  Out of pity?

Honestly, no.  She simply was the one closest to me, and I didn't give it a second thought.

And that kind of attitude is missing in fears about teen sexuality.  Rather than focus upon the consequences of such for themselves, it seems to me that we should teach kids to learn to care about each other to the point that they would want the very best for each other (think "I just couldn't do that to her/him").  That's the kind of selfless love that not only nurtures but also that the world finds attractive, if for no other reason than it's different.  And then we wouldn't need all these programs to attempt in the flesh what should come naturally by God's Spirit.

Monday, August 6, 2012

A prayer that God can NEVER accept

May his days be few;
    may another take his place of leadership.

May his children be fatherless
    and his wife a widow. 

-- Psalm 109:8-9

It should never cease to amaze me just how much hate goes on in the name of Jesus Christ, but this has broken through the floor.  The above verses have been directed by resentful conservative Christians toward President Obama in the hopes that God will remove him from office later this year; there's even a T-shirt available for sale with that Scripture reference.

Well, I've got bad news for you:  God isn't pleased with that attitude -- at all.  And I would go so far as to say that if you subscribe to it, you will be sorely disappointed in November.

The reason should be simple:  God raises up and takes down leaders for His own purposes, not to suit anyone's private agenda.  Moreover, he will never long allow any ideology to be tied to His Kingdom.  That's why things have occasionally gone well under liberal presidents and poorly under conservative ones -- even when, according to a conservative worldview, they weren't supposed to.

Recall that a similar attitude of "Christian" contempt was displayed 20 years ago toward Bill Clinton.  The Binghamton, N.Y. home church of Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry was so frightened that it went so far as to take out full-page ads in USA and the New York Times imploring Christians not to vote for him.  (Improperly, as it turned out, as under IRS law churches are not permitted to endorse or oppose candidates.)

Not only that, but it gives the impression that "conservative" principles are required to "save" this country from perdition, economic, political or otherwise.  Trouble is, the facts put the lie that notion.

Under Clinton, who was in fact far less liberal than he was accused of being, the economy was relatively good.  (Which is one reason he survived his impeachment.)  And besides, he knew how to run a government.  Indeed, had he not been term-limited out he might still be in the White House.

Under George W. Bush, however, those same conservative principles, coupled with imprudent but conservative-supported military action in Iraq, tanked the economy and he had to abandon such principles to right the ship.  As much as you may have despised the auto and bank bailouts, keep in mind that (at least with the former) the collapse of GM and Chrysler would have had a ripple effect on the rest of the economy.  To wit, they may have saved your job.

But back to Obama:  I guess that I shouldn't be surprised with all this hatred toward him, which frankly is based on envy -- which, of course, is sin.  After all, it seems that many conservatives believe that being in power is their birthright and that anyone who doesn't support that agenda to the letter must be illegitimate.  But since they can't sell that bile to much of the rest of the country, especially in urban areas, they simply denounce him, raise dubious issues surrounding his birth, call him divisive and even a racist ... the list goes on.  They really need to get over themselves.

Moreover, other Republicans who ran for the presidency this year represented a joke.  Remember Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum?  Can you imagine God endorsing any of these folks, whose only claim was that they oppose everything that Obama does?  Is that any way to run a country?

I believe, and have often said, that Obama is guaranteed another four years at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. -- if for no other reason than to show conservative Christians that He does, and they do not, run the show.  But also remember what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount:  "Bless and do not curse ... "  Seems that some folks haven't read that part of the Scripture.