Monday, June 29, 2009

Ambassadors for Christ

The third commandment given on the tablets at Sinai is, "Do not misuse the name of the Lord your God." (Exodus 20:7a) This means more than just how you carry your speech, but it means "Do not mis-carry the name of the Lord your God." Put another way, it means "Do not bring dishonor to the Lord through your words and deeds, because you bear His name."

It means so much more when you understand the law was given to the Israelites who were to carry His name and to be witness to Him amongst the nations.

It means much more to us Christians who literally represent the Lord as ambassadors to the nations. Martyrs of the Word of the Lord; representatives of the Kingdom of God.

We understand this to a degree through contemporary corollaries of employment. The term "employee" is out of favor, but we're often referred to as an "associate." When on the clock we represent the brand - or the product - through the way we talk, and the way we treat our patrons. We become the brand.

We are the Jesus brand. More than that; we have a new family name. We are Christians, named for our Lord. We are adopted into this family, and are co-heirs with Christ.

We should be mindful of the way we carry the name of our Lord. The way we represent Him through words and deeds. "...for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name." (Exodus 20:7b)

And this is a big job, we have become "Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us." (2 Corinthians 5:20a)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

My dad

I'm not ready for my dad to go. Unlike most of my friends, my dad is actually old enough to be my grandpa. And I don't really know him.

Part of this is because we had a large family, with five children, so he had to work long hours to keep us fed. He has worked in low-wage non-profit jobs up until last year as well.

Part of this is because his personality is a lot like my own - introverted and closed off to all but a few. When he was young he was the into the nerdy things like building his own radios and listening to shortwave channels from all over the world. He would build his own ham radios. I was never into these things, sow e didn't share a lot of common interests.

We tried though. We went to amateur radio licensing classes together, and took the test together for certification (I failed the first time). But I'm not very good at small talk, and making friends, so ham radio wasn't a hobby that lasted long for me. I had approximately two CQs to anyone besides my dad or brother (who also got licensed).

Plus everyone that knows me knows I'm not a very serious person. I'm always sarcastic, and will throw jokes in the most serious of conversations. My whole family is like this, but I'm probably the worst. It is hard to learn about my dad because either he'll joke about his past, or before he has a chance to answer a question someone else will joke about him going to high school with Fred Flintstone.

If we're lucky, I'll have my dad around about twenty more years, but by then he will have outlived both his parents. He's still lively and working as hard as ever, but when you get up in age like this deterioration goes at a brisk pace, as I witnessed when my grandfather moved in with us.

I want to know him. But I have terrible communication skills. The only thing I can get by with talking about with most people is music (of course with me it can be as intense as politics and religion). With my dad we fumble around computers, and random nerdy stuff.

I know he wants to be closer. I know he's been trying for the past few years to build a relationship. Maybe our family is just so disfunctional we keep trying to avoid the parts of our psyche that hurts to think about - or at least the parts that would divide if we talked about.

I have been thinking about this for months, but I scheduled this post to come up on Father's Day just because I think it seems appropriate. Maybe this year I'll get somewhere.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Correlation does not imply causation

You may have heard this quote from George Washington. Many people have been using it to suggest God purposed the United States and miraculously spared her first leader in the French and Indian War.
But by the all-powerful dispensations of Providence I have been protected beyond all human probability or expectation; for I had four bullets through my coat, and two horses shot under me yet escaped unhurt, although death was leveling my companions on every side of me!

But what are we then supposed to make of this quote?
Only He can relieve me of this duty Who called me to it. It was in the hand of Providence to snuff me out by the bomb that exploded only one and a half meters from me on July 20, and thus to terminate my life's work. That the Almighty protected me on that day I consider a renewed affirmation of the task entrusted to me.

Or this one?
The bomb which was planted by Colonel von Stauffenberg exploded two meters to my right. It seriously injured a number of my colleagues who are very dear to me; one has died. I myself am completely unhurt apart from a few minor skin abrasions, bruises and burns. I interpret this as confirmation that Providence wishes me to continue my life's mission as I have in the past.

This second one might give away its source, Chancellor Adolf Hitler of Germany.

Morality of dress

The dress of women in Islamic countries is certainly a cause célèbre here in the USA. After Barack Obama's speech in Cairo there was a parade of people, both men and women, on radio and television commenting on Obama's mention of women's dress, usually saying he didn't press the point enough. When I hear of people talking about the Islamic rule countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Afghanistan, etc one of the first things they talk about it women's dress. The other day I even heard on the radio a whole segment talking about the dress of women in Iran leading up to their elections.

I'm sure there is legitimate concern over this. But as I listened to the radio concerning the Iranian election they mentioned the "morality police." This is a negative, because they're prosecuting immorality in dress. But is this not done in our own country as well? We just have a different moral line. We're a liberalized nation where women can wear pants! (scandalous even up to the 1980s).

We're really not all that different, because we also have cultural dress mores. But there is a difference in purpose. Muslim dress is often apologized by claiming it liberates the women from the oppressive eyes of men. (Men also have a dress code, though it gets less press.) While in the west our dress code isn't meant to protect the wearer, but to protect the sensibilities of others.

I'm not trying to say anything is right or wrong here, It was just a casual observation.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

One or more kingdoms?

I was having a discussion on Facebook about the church and gay marriage. The discussion revolved around if the government was necessarily supposed to affirm a certain religion's beliefs regarding marriage, or if the State should remain neutral. Of course some said we should not "legislate morality." This is a silly position because everything from murder to minimum wage and affirmative action is a moral decision. But what position should the Body of Christ have? There is clearly a tension between not judging those outside the fellowship, and working for the peace and prosperity of this land we're sojourning in.

In this country there is a myth that is being perpetuated by history revisionism (like Focus on the Family's Truth Project) that removes this balance outright. They think America is the Kingdom, and we're supposed to be (as a nation-state) the "City on a hill." The editor of the recent American Patriot's Bible said we send out American Christian Missionaries around the world "so that other nations may know the God who has so richly blessed us."

They don't see a balance. The Catholics have their saints in martyrs, and these civic-religionists have their saints in soldiers and Presidents.

Most mainstream denominations would find a balance through Luther's "two kingdoms." Of course many people give this lip service, but actually promote something else (much like they do with just war doctrine).

And then there are others who see the Church enacting the new Kingdom now as a living witness to the coming Kingdom. This is much how the early Ante Nicene church lived. They did not participate in civic functions (preventing believers from entering magisterial positions), they did not participate in civic duties (like allegiance to the Caesar). They were called "atheists" for this.

They lived as strangers in this world, citizens of a "new country" with only one Lord, the Christ Jesus.

They looked to Abraham who was promised a land but did not ever posses it. They viewed the Church as such, striving for this land in faith. (Acts 7, Philippians 3, Hebrews 11)

1 Peter is full of references to the Church living as "aliens and strangers in the world." We're to be peculiar.

Israel in exile is another example the leaders pointed to. They were in pagan lands and would not live as they lived, and remained separate. But they sought peace in this land (Jeremiah 29:7), they didn't just help those in need within the fellowship but also without.

But one passage I look at and struggle with on finding my own balance is 2 Corinthians 6

"We put no stumbling block in anyone's path, so that our ministry will not be discredited." (v.3) But the world sees so many Christians hunger for power, they don't see us as genuine. We sell out our beliefs to gain political power.

This American church is hardly described as Paul goes on through vs. 4-10. If we don't fight back "in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots" it would be uncommon, when we should respond "in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God." And there are very few fellowships who are "poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything."

And then vs. 14-18 is an indictment on our involvement in the democratic system. "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?"

This is not in the context of relationships between men and women, but in the Church and the world. Can a Christian and non-Christian co-operate a business and not feel these words? Can a believer and unbeliever have commonality in the voting booth?

"What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?" Does this not speak to us who have Democracy itself as an idol? We swear allegiance to a man-made flag, swear oaths to defend a man-made document, and affirm the rulings of elected and appointed officials. Are these not idols? What are these graven images in our nation's Capital? These stone men in temples of granite and marble.

Therefore come out from them
and be separate, says the Lord.
Touch no unclean thing,
and I will receive you.

So I struggle with this. The Church, not of this world, seems so much a part of it.

Monday, June 8, 2009

What's in a pet?

I was listening to This American Life on Sunday and there was a story by Jay Allison trying to figure out what he needed to get to make his new house a home (15-minutes well worth spending if you have the time). His children suggested a dog to keep him company. This was a very illuminated story.

Mr. Allison told a very captivating account of his three children explaining what kind of dog he should get, and why he needs a dog. He then called a few people selling dogs and talked with them about why they have dogs, and why he should have a dog. Most of the responses were about the dog filling an emotional need.

One man said his father was overbearing, and his dog was a steady source of affirmation. Another woman said she was in a marriage where he husband beat her and she sometimes went to bed not knowing if she would wake in the morning, and her dog gave her the love she needed to survive. All of them talked about the unconditional love and companionship one gets from the animal.

Now I understand utility animals, so I'm only talking about companion animals - pets.

I love animals. I love both cats and dogs. I've had both my whole life until I was married. But I'm married now, so why do I need a pet? I have all the acceptance and love I could possibly want.

I think this is why my attitude has changed over the past few years. I've been offered pets (even a purebred golden retriever puppy!) and I've turned them down. I think I've been justifying it from a monetary standpoint - I don't need to spend the money keeping an animal, nor the time to care for it. But listening to these interviews I think it's because I don't need the companionship of an animal anymore. Instead of what I could get from a relationship with a pet, I have been looking about what I would have to give. I've never done that before.

I've always known having an animal was work, but but it payed off in the companionship. But a marriage is also work, and it pays off more than any pet could ever give.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Progressive tax code and affirmative action

The famous capitalist Adam Smith said those who benefit more from society have a greater debt to society. This is in the form of a progressive tax code. But I've been thinking a bit about societal benefits and wonder how we can address race. Whites (especially white males) have greater opportunities from society than minorities. Should they also not give more back, or should minorities be given a little help for equity sake?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Going Galt

I recently wrote "capitalists are talking about bringing all-out war against the laborers." Let me continue this discourse.

While some conservatives (and myself) cite Frederic Bastiat saying, "everyone seeking to live at the expense of everyone else" to invoke a response against government intervention in these hard economic times, they are turning more and more towards Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, espousing an objectivist ideology of selfishness and self-interest at the expense of everyone else.

The talking heads on the radio and television, including Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh and other nonsensical figureheads, have been talking about "going Galt." Saying, "Atlas will shrug."

This is a threat. But this is only the outrageous idea of "a day without a CEO."

I said the capitalist class is talking about taking class warfare up a notch. It starts with trying to put salary caps on factory workers while fighting diligently against salary caps against investment bankers. But there's more.

They talk like "the market" has a mind of it's own and it thinks and feels. It was falling because of Obama's budget (not because it has been falling since 2007, that's silly). So they're talking about holding Washington hostage.

It's called extortion. The capitalist classes are intimidating lawmakers through threats of taking their capital elsewhere if they don't get their way. They don't like expanding medical care, so they want to punish everyone through withholding capital from the markets.

Of course when you say something like this, the talking heads say you're one of Rand's moochers who hold claim to their capital. This is ridiculous because the capital these bankers hold was loaned from the proletariat and bourgeois so that they could reinvest it and turn a profit. Instead, the capitalists took the money and ran.

The financial markets were seeing 40% growth for the last few years. Banks should not grow faster than the rest of the market. Not by principle but for mathematical reasons. They speculated this money to make themselves rich while destroying the wealth of everyone else.

That's class warfare!

And now they're talking about "going Galt" and reducing their own tax liability to hurt the government's revenue. The only way to do that is to withhold investing their capital, or by placing it into overseas markets. This is ridiculous because reducing their liability by $50,000 only reduces taxed paid by only about $2,300.

I have more to write on this topic, but it will have to wait.