Diseased Obamacare

Americans are living in an age unprecedented government growth, growth that has made the government the largest employer in our nation. Many have proclaimed Obama a near transcendent figure, a messiah come to save our nation from that evil cowboy’s policies that preceded him.

Others are now seeing that failed health care reform will be the down fall of Obamessiah’s reign, and one can only hope this sets the stage for people to look away from the government for salvation (in any sense). His absurd assertion that we can have universal coverage without increased costs has now been called out by the Congressional Budget Office which has said it increases them by over $1 trillion.

The vote on this insanity has been pushed out until October when one of two things, I suggest, will happen. The plan will either be scaled down enough for the gullible to swallow and vote for it, or the worsening economy and the failure of the administration to do anything significantly different than the Bush administration (Gitmo, war policy, privacy policy) will sink in further and tank the entire effort. I lean toward the former but believe it will have similar effects to the latter. Health care reform was one of if not the central issue that Obama ran on. Failure to deliver on a universal, cost-effective system, and by that I mean failure to make water run uphill, will confirm what many have always known: supreme self-confidence and prolific autobiographies have little to do with the ability to govern, make sacrifices, understand economics, or turn a wayward nation around.

Disunified Right

Last week the Seattle Times published a front page article claiming the Christian right wing movement in Washington state is tubing and evangelical pastors are reluctant to engage in partisan politics. Cedar Park Assembly of God pastor Joseph Fuiten went so far as to say “As a political movement, [the right] is a leaderless army milling about the field.”

Fuiten doesn’t like the way opponents of homosexual marriage are vilified as intolerant bigots, so he has come out against Referendum 71, the 121,000 signature-needy petition that went to the Secretary of State’s office on Saturday for an official count. If the required number of signatures are obtained, a statewide vote will ensue and I’ve not heard anyone predict that gay marriage benefits in Washington State stand a chance–only elected officials impose that sort of stuff thus far. Continue reading

Lousy Preacher Paul

In the early chapters of 1 Corinthians, Paul says he came to them “in weakness and with much trembling.” He refused to employ the rhetorical methods of his day in order that his preaching would be “a demonstration of the Spirit’s power” (2:4). In his helpful book Basic Christian Leadership, John Stott comments on this passage:

I fear that these words would not be an accurate description of many contemporary evangelists. Weakness not their most obvious characteristic. No, seminary homiletics classes aim to inculcate self-confidence in nervous students. If Paul had enrolled in one of our seminaries today, he would have been regarded as very unpromising material. Since he was supposed to be a mature christian,we might even have rebuked him, saying “Paul, you’ve no business to feel nervous. Don’t you know what it means to be filled with the Spirit You ought to be strong, confident, bold! …

According to a second-century tradition he was unattractive, small, even ugly, with bald head, beetle brows, bandy legs and a hooked nose. Moreover, his critics said that his bodily presence was weak and his speech contemptible (10:10). So he was nothing much to look at or listen to. These disabilities would have disqualified him from succeeding as a sophist or rhetorician, or as a popular evangelist today.

All Christians should ask themselves: If Paul showed up preaching in your town or at your church, his eagle-beak nose and bad eyes and lack of rhetorical flourish, would you recognize the power and truth of his message? All preachers should weigh their methods against Paul’s. It’s clear that he made himself a servant to all and became all things to all men so that he might win some, but “all things” did not mean he compromised the message or the humble method of communicating the message.

Not For Long

N.T. Wright has come out, well, if not swinging, at least with his dukes up, and for this we can be thankful. He rightly notes that the recent move by the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church (TEC) in the United States to ordain homosexuals to all orders of the clergy does not stem from the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson. He sees the floodgates opening in 1996 when a church court acquitted a bishop who had been ordaining active homosexuals.

From my vantage point, just because the floodgates are open, it doesn’t mean that water has to be pouring out. Say for instance you have a church that is happy with homosexuality, wants to see queer marriage accepted, serves communion to anyone with a pulse “spiritually” inclined, but has yet to allow the effeminate guy in the robe to celebrate an open homosexual lifestyle. Is Jesus, you know, the dude with a white robe dipped in blood and that sharp, shiny sword, any less upset than if homo ordination is on the loose? I think not. I’m not really arguing with Wright here, but without an effective process of discipline–along the non-complicated lines of Matthew 18–the floodgates are always open and it’s just a matter of time before the flood is upon us. If 1996 was the year the homo clergy toleration began, when did integrity, courage, and discipline go out the window? Long before that. This point must be understood by anyone who wants to keep a lampstand. Faithfulness (love, courage, boldness, integrity, and more) in little things prevents this sort of circus from ever getting off the ground. I think it was Luther who said that he who refuses to discipline can have a church, but not for long.

Not Businesses At All

The idea that the federal government can run a public health care system well is laughable. Find someone who would,if they had the choice, choose to “invest” their retirement money in social security, and that person and his two friends ought to be the ones to fund pubic health care for any takers. Obama is culpably foolish when he says that a public option ought to be available to compete with private health care, when anyone who has come within five feet of reading Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson knows that the one thing governments don’t do is compete. If they did, your social security dollars wouldn’t be spent on programs (and therefore non-existent nor recoverable in the foreseeable future), government controlled education wouldn’t cost way more per student with much worse results than private education (though of course anyone schooling their children are paying double, both for the public schools they don’t use and the private ones they do), and the US Postal Service would be more efficient than their “competitors” or have gone out of business.

What do all of these government run “businesses” have in common? They’re not businesses at all or else they would cease to exist because they simply don’t compete but rather are backed with more government allotted greenbacks. I know lots of people who need but can’t afford health care. Instead of making the system worse for everyone, I suggest those who would vote for other people to pay into the public system simply give their money to those who need services. This way money would be allotted, case by case, without the inefficiencies of bureaucracy. All you have to do is find your nearest food bank and I guarantee you’ll into those 30 million uninsured Americans who could genuinely use the care.

Provocative Palin

Sarah Palin ticks off all the right people. And while it’s true she wasn’t ready for the presidency while running with John McCain, her naivete and inexperience would’ve done far less damage than the inexperience, supreme confidence and foolishness of the Obama administration. Not that I’m interested in that debate. It is fun to see even Politico recognizing Palin’s disregard for political establishment procedure, left and right alike.

The Beauty of Modesty

It is often remarked how quickly societal standards for decency and modesty have change, and it makes feel old to say I see the differences between how girls dressed when I was in high school and how they do now. In the late ’90s, mid riffs were just showing up (at my school), and more rarely did you see the shiny belly button ring. Now, it’s the modest girls that stand out to me.

I’m halfway through David and Diane Vaughan’s The Beauty of Modesty, and while not endorsing everything they say, it is excellent thus far. Anyone engaged in the act of recovering a Christian culture where propriety and modesty exist for women and men, this is a great resource. Many of the points are familiar to those who have done some thinking on the subject, but the material is well organized and accessible to give to those who haven’t. Men with daughters need to hear things like this:

But what about the adult woman, whether single or married, who is ostentatious or exposing too much flesh? Is she simply ignorant? Well, when we did our unscientific survey, we were struck by the fact that every woman we asked said the same thing: “An immodest woman knows exactly what she is doing. She wants attention.” If this is true, then a woman who intentionally dresses immodestly has one or more of the following problems: insecurity, vanity, or sensuality. Continue reading

A Qualified Patriotism

These thoughts come a bit late after our 4th of July independence celebration (or “Happy America!” as my enthusiastic four-year-old son puts it), but I’ve been both on vacation and mulling these things around the gray matter before committing to pixels.

While on vacation, in a sandy-duned coastal town of northwest Michigan, I attended, wife and offspring in tow, a worship service in the Reformed Church of America following July 4th. In said worship service, the call to worship was decent, given by a gray-crowned gentleman full of faith and gravitas, a balancing contrast to the late-twenty/early-thirty-something pastor who would share the sermon later. What followed is what startled me. We proceeded to open worship with American the Beautiful, a song I like (once or twice a year, anyway) and remember learning in grade school choir along with Home on the Range and other musical Americana. The song in itself is healthily patriotic, praising the abundance and natural beauty of the US, and asking God to shed his grace upon her. If one was to complain about it, perhaps it would be for the line “crown thy good with brotherhood”, if this referred to some sort nationalistic brotherhood that trumped the waters of baptism. But such a complaint would be too fussy, even for me, since we take our oaths in God’s name and put it on our money as we should. There is a constitutioal separation of church and state, not of religion and state (nor can there be). We are hypocrites as a nation, but only hypocrites because we have a  standard to be hypocritical to. This is better than no standard at all. Continue reading

Religion Externalized

Ken Myers of the Mars Hill Audio Journal is featured in this month’s issue of the PCA magazine byFaith. Here is a wonderful quote describing the disconnect so many churches, PCA and otherwise, between theology and culture. Go here to read the entire interview.

My work is really about producing thoughtful Christian faithfulness. If you start to think carefully about how you eat, how you spend time, how you think about place, all those things, some people may think you’re trying to achieve salvation by works. So my sense is that people with that kind of tendency–not just in the PCA–accept conventional ways of living from secular culture because they regard the effort to think thoughtfully and live deliberately as a kind of semi-Pelagianism [A view that man is partially depraved and capable, by his own free will, of cooperating in God’s work of grace]. And the idea that living deliberately is semi-Pelagian just baffles me. Because when you don’t, you end up living in accordance with a very post-Christian, and in significant ways, anti-Christian culture.

It seems to me that a large number of PCA pastors are really committed to theological rigor, and they want to nurture people’s enthusiasm about theology, as if that were the end of discipleship. But theology is a means more than an end. Orthodoxy serves to inform how we live, and God cares how we live. So if all of our theologizing never challenges the cultural conventions that we have uncritically assimilated from the world around us, then our theology isn’t doing what it should.

At the same time there are some in the PCA who, for the sake of evangelism, want to accommodate contemporary culture in significant ways, as long as no biblical law is broken. My sense is that a lot of those people don’t realize the meaning of the cultural changes they’re endorsing. They tend to think that culture’s just a matter of meaningless, arbitrary style. So basically what matters is getting people saved, but there doesn’t seem to be a vision of Christian discipleship that would include challenging how people live from the bottom up.