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Archive | Politics

You’re Not Electing a Pastor-in-Chief

It’s campaign season. That either excites you, frustrates you, or–if you’re like me–a little bit of both. On the one hand it’s fun to follow along with the political debates, columns, and commentaries. On the other hand, the over-the-top rhetoric, inconsistencies, self-congratulatory spirits, and drama can be the source of a lot of angst. I have generally tried to avoid being too political in public. To be sure, there are issues I hold to uncompromisingly and others for which I adopt a more laissez-faire attitude. There are candidates I appreciate and others who make my blood boil. I do my best to be semi-informed on domestic and foreign policy and our contemporary social issues. I try, when conscience allows, to participate in elections and maintain that a principled vote is always better than a pragmatic. But despite being an armchair political junkie, I don’t make it a habit to speak or write much about political issues. This post will be, most likely, my only exception to that.

One of the things I have found most fascinating about this election cycle is the place that has been given to character. Maybe I’m too young or haven’t been involved in the political process […]

Of Christian Courage, Contemptible Candidacies, and COFFEE

How much of our Christian courage is a function of the comfort and convenience of our surroundings?  How much of our boldness in Christian witness would wilt if the cozy accoutrements of a wealthy modern culture were taken from us?

Imagine if our words in praise of Christ no longer had the internet as an outlet, if every word of public witness had to actually be spoken in public, or at least in private to a living, breathing, and potentially hostile human being.  Imagine if there were no more church conferences to attend, no more family camps, no more youth group outings at which to find Christian fellowship.  And, perhaps worst of all, imagine if there were no more coffee shops – !!!!!- at which to study Scripture, write sermons and do theological cyber battle with Christians from different denominations, all comfortably and anonymously as one among  many happy, well-caffeinated people.

Lord, Save Us From Some of These Christian Politicians

It makes me so sad to see Evangelicals heaping praise upon Donald Trump and abusing the Bible to do so.  “You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7) has to be one of the most misused texts of Scripture in our day.   Politicians and their supporters use it to tell Christians to look past the commandment-breaking lifestyle of their choice for President, as if Jesus taught that someone’s doing some benevolent things in addition to blatantly evil things was sufficient proof of authentic faith. 

Women in Combat, Presbyterianism, and Cases of Conscience

Presbyterianism has its advantages. One of those advantages is giving the church a framework by which to answer difficult questions. Last Thursday Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that all U.S. military combat positions–infantry, armor, reconnaissance and special operations units–will be open to women, with “No exceptions.” As this new policy goes into effect and women begin to be integrated into these jobs there will be significant ramifications. Already, Army Secretary John McHugh has suggested that if the goal is “true and pure equality,” then Congress will need to decide if women will have to register for the draft. Josh Earnest said on Friday that the White House is trying to figure out “if additional reforms or changes are necessary in light of this decision.”

This is a huge decision. Since at least half the population is female, since many of us are parents of daughters, or have served in the armed forces, or amuse ourselves by playing armchair politicians, or are citizens of the U.S., I imagine we have some strong feelings about this issue. But how should the church approach this topic? At this critical juncture we’re going to need to answer some important questions. There are two that immediately […]

Western Myths About Pluralism:The Real Basis of Civil Rights

“On the 30th of April, 1999, during the Nato bombing of Serbia, Vaclev Havel, Czech president/philosopher, addressed both houses of the Canadian Parliament.  And in his speech Havel shared his conviction that the greatest political challenge of the 21st century would be to get all the nation states of the world to recognize limits on their national sovereignty; that all states need to submit to the rule of international law, based on the concept of universal human rights.  At the conclusion of Havel’s speech, he said these words, ‘I have often asked myself why human beings have any rights at all.  I always come to the conclusion that human rights, human freedoms and human dignity have their deepest roots somewhere outside the perceptible world.  These values make sense only in the perspective of the infinite and the eternal.  Allow me to conclude my remarks on the state and its likely role in the future with the assertion that while the state is a human creation, human beings are the creation of God.’”

Thus begins Mr. Ramachandra’s well articulated and provocative lecture given back in 2002 at Berkeley.  If you are a fan of Ravi Zacharius and enjoy his style of speaking, […]

Reaching a Boiling Point

What do the Planned Parenthood videos, two mothers on the campaign trail, and an obscure Old Testament law have in common?

The videos from the Center for Medical Progress have roused government officials, political candidates, and the media. They can no longer obfuscate their positions like they once did. Sure, they can try to do so, but the attempts now ring hollow. The difference between those who believe that harvesting unborn baby body parts from abortion is evil and those who do not is becoming quite clear.

Look at the two mothers running for president for instance.

Carly Fiorina has spoken clearly on this matter. Though technically a stepmother, Fiorina helped raise the two children from her second marriage as her own. During her run for California senator in 2009, which she eventually lost to Barbara Boxer, Fiorina had two personal crises. She battled breast cancer, suffering through a double mastectomy and chemotherapy. In the midst of this serious health matter, her eldest daughter tragically took her life. During this awful time, she testifies that she turned back to the Lord. Her rediscovered faith appears to help fuel her passion on the issue of abortion as seen in the second presidential debate:

Despite the media’s attempts to derail her, she […]

A Fresh Approach to Political Involvement

It is Independence Day in these United States. Many are questioning the way forward in light of recent political upheaval. The following is a guest post by Matthew Barnes charting at least one part of the way forward for Christians. He is a good friend and fellow servant of Christ. He minsters with Capital Commission Indiana and Public Servants’ Prayer. Though he writes for an Indiana audience, the principles can be applied across these United States.

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I have been ministering in the Indiana Statehouse for more than 10 years. God has opened more doors than I would have ever imagined, and it all started with God impressing on my heart to pray for leaders. I found that it is impossible to hate someone for whom you earnestly pray. I can honestly say that I love politicians! Politicians are simply people who hurt, feel and bleed the same as you and I.  Some of them know Christ, others do not. The political arena has a vacuum of pastoral care.

Many people want to influence politics and politicians. Every time there is a perceived political loss for people of faith, there are passionate calls for pastors and churches to engage. This is true of churches […]

A Lament for Sally (and the rest of us)

There is a difference between freedom and autonomy (literally, self-law).  Freedom allows flourishing within a defined context conducive to life.  To bloom bright and beautiful, flowers are “constrained” by their need for water, good soil, and sun.  Autonomy demands the right to redefine terms and refuse any restraint.  Pop culture and political activists in black robes have made it clear:  We demand autonomy.  No fixed definitions for social institutions and therefore none for us as individuals.  We demand the right to self-define, no matter whose freedom gets trampled in the process and no matter who gets hurt, including ourselves. As we will increasingly see, but will likely keep refusing to learn, self-definition is self-destruction.

The following satire is barely hyperbolic.  As these recent articles show – doctors in Belgium to kill healthy 24 year old  and  Aggressive pursuit of the right to die – this scenario is now nightmarishly close to materializing.    

Where Faith Goes to Die

It’s an old joke among Christian leaders to “accidentally” refer to seminary as cemetery.  “Back when I was in cemetery…er, seminary…” Or to a young prospect for the pastorate:  “So, you’re heading to cemetery…er, seminary, eh?  Well, hang in there.  You’ll be involved in real ministry eventually.”  The joker’s purposeful subliminal slip assumes that theological education and vital, faith-filled ministry are in tension with one another, if they’re not outright enemies.  Well, if seminary is where an aspiring minister’s faith goes to die, then Presbytery meetings must be purgatory.

For Presbyterian denominations within Christ’s church, Presbytery is the deliberative assembly of elders from a particular geographical region that gathers to make decisions which will guide the local congregations within that region.  The Synod (or General Assembly) is the Presbytery meeting of all Presbyteries in the denomination.  All the stereotypes, the alleged faith-killing aspects of seminary – dry discussions of dust-accumulating documents written by dead theologians who were barely interesting in their own day – are made to live again in debates among seminary graduates and other church leaders.  Any vitality from fresh ideas in these debates is short-lived; soon those sparks of life are laid to rest in the coffins of […]

Indiana’s Opportunity

Those of us living in Indiana live at a rare juncture in history. We made big news a month ago with our Religious Freedom and Restoration Act in the statehouse. The waters have calmed for now, and many people wish the whole episode would just disappear. Maybe the whole attempt to pass the RFRA was unwise on the part of the Christians who authored the bill. Whether it was or was not, proponents of LBGT rights have promised to press for more comprehensive protections in next year’s general assembly. Rare is the occasion when a people have the promise of a spotlight and the opportunity to prepare for eight months before taking the stage.

Fellow Hoosiers of various persuasions should take time to serious think through the possibilities and implications that are before us. Whether you are convinced that your side will win or lose the political contest, you will have many open doors for discussion if you live here that could powerfully impact our lives and the lives of those around us. Rather than run from the discussion, let’s embrace the opportunity set before us.

Marvin Olasky has long argued that Bible-believing Christians today are less like the ancient Jews in […]