Thursday, August 28, 2008

Bill Clinton is a Great Communicator

Bill Clinton helped Barack Obama when he gave his speech at the Democratic Convention.

His speech obviously moved and motivated the crowd. He brilliantly outlined a vision that all Americans will support, appealing to their fears and sense of insecurity. He will make us more secure by making us nicer on the national stage, and by using government programs to solve our problems here at home. Rich people and corporations are the enemy lurking just off stage.

Mr. Clinton is such an effective communicator that most people finished listening to him believing that he has no enemies, and no ideas with which a reasonable person can disagree.

I suppose this is one characteristic of a great political speech in such circumstances. The speech provided inspiration with few details. It provided a vision articulated in broad generalities.

If I didn't do what I do for a living I'd love the Democrats and Bill Clinton. His tone and style just make me feel really good inside, kind of like I felt as a young child ... safe and secure under the watchful eye of my parents.

If I want to put my faith in a more meddlesome government then I need to move in the Democrat direction. If I want to see Christianity increasingly hollowed out by moral relativism I need to think deeply about Bill Clinton's lofty ideas.

If, however, I choose to believe that abortion and homosexuality are a significant threat to our civilization, I will question Mr. Clinton's vision and priorities. Foreign policy and the economy are to the issues of home and hearth what Saturn is to Three Mile Pond. While Saturn is big, far away and bursting forth with Star Wars-like fantasy potential, the pond near my home is where I swim. I have dreams about the pin prick in the night sky that is Saturn. I immerse myself in Three Mile Pond. I dream about peace with all nations. I snuggle into bed after 26 years of marriage with the mother of my three sons who were not aborted, and who now anticipate snuggling with their wives after they fall in love and get married.

Mr. Clinton is one of the best speech makers I've ever heard. He is still a man and his morals, character and policy positions on social issues matter. He is right to care about struggling Americans. Both political parties work to address our concerns.

Politics won't save us, and political ideology shouldn't tuck us in at night. Politics shape and mold our culture and nation. Because the U.S. is so powerful our politics also shape and mold the world.

Mr. Clinton closed his speech declaring God's blessing on America.

Good for him.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Tone, grace and sensitivity

Peter Wehner wrote about Rick Warren for the publication First Things. He wrote, "Because of the tone, grace, and sensibilities with which he approaches politics, Warren is replacing the 'religious right' model with a new, better, and, I think, more Christ-based paradigm."

Wehner mentions the "combativeness" of the religious right later on in his essay. He also recommends reading a Wall Street Journal interview with Warren.

As one who has suffered his fair share of "combativeness" critiques over the past couple decades I am, of course, interested in this topic. I enjoyed reading the WSJ interview.

A pastor once publicly contrasted himself with me allowing that he does not seek publicity, like I do. He later apologized, and continues to emphasize how important it is for individual citizens to speak out. He is right about urging individual citizens to speak out. I strongly agree with that sentiment.

Related to this idea that leaders will organize individuals while holding their own counsel, and avoiding publicity, is the commitment that Warren has made to not endorse either John McCain or Barak Obama this fall.

While I respect these strategies I also honor the view that pastors and leaders can and should speak plainly about those who aspire to lead us politically. It is good for people to speak their mind. It is also often wise for leaders to hold their counsel, or to listen instead of speak.

My dad told me recently that he found that it was often helpful for him during his career to simply listen during a meeting, instead of speak out. It isn't always necessary to shout from the rooftop. Sometimes it is appropriate and necessary to listen. I often find it helpful for someone I respect to listen to me think out loud with the understanding that I probably will change my mind later on. I like to think this can lead to a better decision.

Wehner's emphasis on tone, grace and sensitivity is important. Jesus was once questioned by a lawyer. He was asked to name the greatest commandment. He replied, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." He added a second, "Love your neighbor as yourself" and concluded that all the law and prophets hang on these two commandments.

Our witness to the world must fulfill these truths. Just as we are painfully aware of our own state of sin and fallenness, we must allow that our neighbor is fallible. It is this charity and grace that makes Christianity special.

Having applauded the virtue of grace and charity I want to quote my very good friend Peter LaBarbera who heads up the important project, Americans for Truth about Homosexuality. In an email this week he wrote (referencing the liberal church's embrace of homosexuality), "For the record, I will never have a 'welcoming' attitude toward homosexuality or its celebrants, although as Christians we should of course point homosexuals toward the love and forgiveness offered through Christ."

I was glad to see Rick Warren admit to the WSJ reporter that he and Dr. James Dobson agree on everything of significance. It is helpful to the world for a wedge not to exist between these two courageous, and supremely relevant, leaders.

I've no doubt that all of us agree that loving the sinner means hating the sin.

Oh ... and for those of you who are wondering who I'll be voting for in November I will only say .... keep checking in.

Friday, August 15, 2008


A Maine Newspaper charged a local politician with gossiping recently. The local political leader commented on the admitted sexual affair of a fellow politician while appearing on a radio talk show. There is speculation that the politician fathered a child with the mistress.

The local politician said on the radio, "I feel sorry for his family because, how horrible." This comment would have been fine if it hadn't gone any further. It did, however, go further with the leader asking the host of the radio show, "But also don't you think he is the father of the child." The leader continued, "Would he go sneaking into a hotel in the middle of the night to see a child who is not his? I don't think so."

Is this gossip? The dictionary defines gossip as, "idle talk or rumor, especially about the personal or private affairs of others." Also, "light, familiar talk or writing." A gossiper is "a person given to tattling or idle talk."

The adulterer claims he is NOT the father of the child. A campaign staffer claims that he IS the father. That is all anyone, except for those directly involved, know at this point. Everyone might be lying. This is true. If they are the lies are likely to be revealed in this matter.

I would feel guilty over the charge of gossiping. Any Christian should. It is not easy to suffer the glare of public scrutiny. I have failed to speak appropriately at times as leader of the Christian Civic League of Maine. It is good that leaders are called to account for their public speculations. Leaders should be held to high standards.

I like what I read in a leadership email that I received the other day. The email offered some lessons that are made accessible to us by public failures like the one that engulfed the philandering Senator. The writer of the email observes, "While our outrage at disgraced leaders may be justified, we fail to realize how quickly 'they' become 'us.' The distance between beloved leader and despised failure is shorter than we think. Like anyone, these fallen leaders never set out to sacrifice their integrity, abandon ethical behavior, or exploit those they led. But it happened anyway. Their failures should be our cautions."

A popular scripture verse is rendered in Eugene Peterson's Message, "It's easy to see a smudge on your neighbor's face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own." This idea is contained in a sermon by Jesus. Earlier in the sermon Jesus comments on sexual infidelity. He teaches, "You know the commandment pretty well, too: 'Don't go to bed with another's spouse.' But don't think you've preserved your virtue simply by staying out of bed. Your heart can be corrupted by lust even quicker than your body."

We must allow the failings of others to challenge us. I remember being taught as a youngster, "There but for the grace of God go I."

The wayward Senator is being punished, and there is surely more to follow. It is best for us not to pile on. We must see all of this as an opportunity to learn how not to lust and gossip ourselves. Then, we will become better Christians ... better people.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

What's love got to do with it?

My wife reminds me occasionally of how cheerful and fun-loving I was when we were dating over 25 years ago. Not to be contrary, but I like to think that I haven't become less happy. I rationalize my glum countenance by thinking that I'm more mature now. It is true, however, that I have become, over the years, less fun-loving and carefree. Paulie has a point, I'm sure.

I have mixed feelings about this.

God called me, and the ministry He called me to lead, to stand for a simple proposition. Here it is: Sex outside of marriage is wrong. We go a bit further with that and allow that civil laws should discourage sex outside of marriage. Civil laws should celebrate and protect the traditional, biologically-related family.

This idea is falling into disfavor now, as we all know. It is being replaced by the idea that all sex is good sex as long as it is consensual. The traditional, biologically-related family unit is breaking down. Government social services, and an overly "nurturing" version of christianity is replacing it here in Maine.

So maybe I have cause to be glum. Pray that God will give me more joy in the midst of these challenges. Paulie will appreciate that.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Some sort of chicken little

A newcomer to politics characterized the ministry I lead as appearing homophobic recently. Calling the Christian Civic League of Maine a sort of chicken little the candidate for the Legislature wrote, "There appears to be some sort of 'chicken little' homophobic emotion underlying your behaviors."

I don't think this is the case.

He admits that Maine's liberal mainstream media is the source for his harsh and unfair judgment of the conservative century old Christian ministry.

I believe this candidate is just as wrong as many in the Mainstream Media. No ministry in Maine is more loving than the League. No courage is required to support abortion and homosexuality in Maine. None. It takes true grit to publicly object to immoral sex, and that is the behavior that is at issue here -- not the League's. The men and women who shape our politics have placed us in this predicament. They believe that Christianity's deficiencies are healed by bisexuality's sufficiency? Not hardly.

It is only a matter of time before the conflict boils over. Liberals who are teaching 7 year olds to appreciate lesbianism are doing my work for me. The only direction for this social experiment is down. The end will be conflict, unless God's grace prevails.

Everyday I thank God for the restraining power of the Holy Spirit. The most forgiving, gracious and decent people I meet are Christians who hold to a conservative view on sexual morality. They are victimized daily in Maine. In the workplace they are silenced. Their speech is increasingly censored. They are ridiculed. Their beliefs are trashed. Their historic churches are taken over, destroyed and closed.

Yet, they relentlessly believe. They fiercely love. They humbly forgive. They are God's people.

The gay totalitarians will lose. The only question is when and how. Will their experiment cost us our civilization? It wouldn't be the first time in history.

One last point regarding emotion. This debate CAN be reasonable. It is possible for those who disagree to reason together. While it may make the candidate who is quoted above feel better about his argument to characterize the League as emotional, the truth remains the same. Homosexuality is unreasonable. That has nothing to do with emotions. Male bodies don't fit together. That is a fact.

It is unreasonable to force them to fit together, regardless of how one feels about it. It may be Christophobic to suggest otherwise.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Solzhenitsyn dies

While my wife was singing her wonderfully simple and lyrical song Make Me Pure to the Christian people at the East Wilton Church last night a literary hero of mine lay dying in Moscow. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn crossed over last night at the age of 89.

His first book A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich caused me to admire the writer. I read it years ago. I remember feeling a strong connection, maybe sympathy is the right word, for the characters in the book.

Seventeen years ago the political system that exiled him to America came crumbling down. While Soviet-style Communism lies in ruins the literary works of this great man will continue to inspire, reveal and challenge.

Doug Phillips wrote a fine personal reflection on Solzhenitsyn.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Back to blogging

I had a blog a number of years ago. I am going to try going at it again. Keep checking in if you're interested.