Archive for the ‘thoughts’ Category
To read something like this gives me joy and hope for our political process. A self-described “brain-dead liberal” confesses his change in views, embracing a less polemical view of the world (and I’d say much more realistic). It is refreshing, honest, and thought-provoking. Even though I’m sure the author and I would disagree on many things, at least we’d both agree that everything is not “magically wrong” and the government is often not the answer. I especially appreciated his last point. The people we meet in our every day lives, regardless of political persuasions, are the ones with whom we live and on who we depend. Happy election season indeed!
Those who know me are keenly aware of my opinion of Washington drivers. Those who’ve ridden with me are keenly aware of how I drive.
I have a growing concern about the person whom I become when I get behind the wheel of my truck. All the virtues I attempt to cling to and live out in my life get left in the parking lot: patience, selflessness, forgiveness, mercy, and charity for my fellow man. I don’t know what happens, but it’s some type of Hyde-ian transformation into a foul-mouthed heathen hurtling down the highway. It mystifies me how I can make this radical change with barely a conscious thought. I’d like to think the explanation — notice I did not say excuse — is because of my perception that the collective Washington Driver is a failure at being a confident and competent driver. It is very frustrating for me, and to face this collective failure twice a day Monday through Friday may have taken its toll.
Happy Fourth of July!
As we Americans celebrate our country’s independence and history, it’s good to keep certain things in mind. Douglas Wilson at his blog has some wise words about American exceptionalism:
Advocates of the new global neo-conservatism have been pressing heavily on what they call American exceptionalism. There is a trick here, so I want everyone to follow closely. I agree that America’s founders were exceptional men, and they established our form of government on an exceptional document, unlike anything in the history of the world up to that point. So I do believe in a form of American exceptionalism.
But what was exceptional about it? Here is the trick. They knew that Americans were not in the slightest bit exceptional. That’s exceptional. A patriotic pride in your nation being the apex of whatever it is we are doing on this planet — a belief that “we” (whoever “we” might be) are somehow unique — is as ordinary as brown dirt.
Calling yourself exceptional isn’t. Recognizing that we are mortal men just like other mortal men, and that we are vulnerable to all the same temptations, is rare. Boasting in American achievements barely manages to clear that Ozymandian low bar — it is the kind of ordinary hubris nailed in a poem that was written before we defeated the Nazis, landed on the moon, built the space shuttle, and started selling iPhones that could serve as navigation systems for the space shuttle — and when we invite mighty observers to look on our works and despair, we are acting like pretty much everybody else in the history of the world.
Humbling words, especially for somebody like me. America may have accomplished many great things in this world, but it’s not because we are exceptional. And we are not destined to greater things just because we are Americans. Our treacherous path at the top of the world is just as dangerous as it has been for all nations who’ve risen and fallen in centuries past.
I’ve had a lot of profound thoughts in the past few weeks, but the profoundest of which is this: I can’t take anybody seriously while they’re picking up dog poop. I don’t care if it’s Ghandi telling me the surefire way to bring about world peace, if he’s got a little plastic baggy over his hand and he’s picking up his dog’s feces at the same time I’m just gonna cock an eyebrow and give him an incredulous look.
C.S. Lewis remarks somewhere about a pastor he knew who once saw Hitler in the flesh. Lewis asked him what he looked like.
The pastor replied, “Like all men. Like Christ.”
Shea is right: we do desperately want to believe evil and monstrous men are a different species from us. But they aren’t. They’re like us. They’re like me.
I think I’ve been struggling with this idea for quite sometime. It was never as focused or as vividly stated as in the episode above, but the general idea has been there. The question I’ve been thinking about for months now is, “What are we to do with these monsters?” I know what my gut reaction is, but I’m worried that my gut reaction might be horribly wrong and sinfully bereft of mercy. Is the answer really as simple as I want to think and hope it is? Most of the time I believe it is, but I’m also aware that these people share my humanity. Yet they are people who have been cursed with the will, opportunity, and power to commit atrocious acts against other human beings. How then are we to deal with them? How then am I to respond to them? I wish I had a black and white answer, but through my sin-scaled eyes all I see is gray.
I was expecting my last post about the election would generate more comments, particularly comments of the tsk-tsk variety. I’m flattered more people have commented about my personality than my confession of civic apathy. However, there has been some discussion in the background via electronic correspondence with Greg and Jeremiah. Apparently, none of us voted, and we all feel pretty much the same way. I wonder if it’s just a coincidence that all of us young, hawkish white males who tend to be conservative didn’t vote. My guess is there’s not a coincidence. We three form a very loose-knit blog gang, and we all drink the same koolaide.
Jeremiah’s thoughts on the election can be found here. I’m not sure how I missed this post earlier. I think it was because I saw the word “pluto,” and I thought he was talking about boring dwarf planets again so I ignored the post. Jeremiah is turned off by politics because it is “disturbingly slimy,” which is a fair assessment. The dirtiness of politics does bother me, but that’s not what turns me off to politics these days. As I mentioned in my previous post on the election, what causes me to not care is it seems pointless. The two ruling parties are evenly pitted enough they balance each other out in our adversarial system of politics. So, policies coming out of Washington are never really going to do much to swing us far to the right or the left. Just some times the government will tilt left and sometimes it will tilt right. Perhaps this is a good thing, perhaps it is not. Nobody is happy with the current status quo, but neither half our country can agree on how to change the status quo. As long as the political tug-of-war is such, I don’t feel it’s that necessary to add my little bit of electoral strength to my preferred side. This is especially the case when choosing our representatives is less of a choice between the lesser of two evils and more of an arbitrary choice between two equal evils.
One of Jeremiah’s commenters pointed out that he (and by extension, me) could have at least voted on propositions. These aren’t a choice between two compromised and compromising individuals, but a choice that decides a policy that immediately affects me (usually). I confess I feel a bit guilty for not learning about and voting on the propositions on the ballot this year. Though, I’m still not convinced my vote would make the slightest difference in the outcome considering the blueness of where I live.
At any rate, the country still stands, hale and hoary, without my input.
Long time no post. Let’s fix that.
Work has been pretty crazy lately. Last week saw the end of the quarter, so lots of people are rushing to complete quarterly goals. This doesn’t affect me too much because I don’t have quarterly goals (yet); however, there was a definite intensity as projects are drawing rapidly to a close. It also hasn’t helped much that I’ve been struggling to keep my sleep schedule on a more responsible, grown-up path, meaning I haven’t been going to bed early enough. I’d describe last week as seven days of tiredness. I think I’ll do better this coming week. All this being said, work is going well. Really well. Yes, I am implying something with those italics.
Tonight, I went to a friend’s new house to watch the Seahawks get trounced by the Bears. I went for the nachos and free beer too lest anybody think I’m becoming that big of a sports fan (yet). As he was giving us the tour of his place I suddenly had a completely new thought: “Hey, I want one of these.” I was a little shocked at not only my desire’s object but also the intensity of the desire. It really was just a flash in the heart, but still it was there for a brief moment. Of course, the thought that occurred immediately after that was, “Well, I can’t live in one of these alone.” Then my mind wandered on to thoughts matrimonial, and then my general frustration with things romantic began welling up, so I set that line of thought aside. I’ll return to it later, when I’m less excitable.
Help me out here with a thought exercise. Consider the following:
A man, a faithful church-goer and by all accounts a pious man, throughout all of his adult life has emphatically stated that adultery is morally wrong and a sin causing grievous harm to the integrity of the marriage. He has never believed otherwise. One day, he falls into temptation, succumbs to the seduction of woman who is not his wife, and commits adultery. His unfaithfulness is discovered, and his friends and family have different reactions. Some argue he is a horrible hypocrite and should be treated as such. Others argue that he is not at root a hypocrite, but he is a man who engaged in hypocritical activity but is not a true hypocrite. Yet others believe he did not even engage in hypocritical behavior. They do not justify or palliate his actions, but point out that he was and is not a hypocrite but simply a man who failed to live up to the standards he believes are right.
Here are my questions:
- Which group would you fall into (if any)? Describe another group you’d fall into if need be.
- Do other factors come into play in evaluating this scenario (e.g. contrition, forgiveness, the man’s future intentions regarding adultery, etc.)?
- What is your operating definition of “hypocrisy” and/or “hypocrite”? Please, no dictionary definitions.
I’m most interested in answers to question 3 but would appreciate the other answers as well.
An interesting article from the NY Times about a pastor of a megachurch drawing the line between faith and politics. Personally, I found the reporter’s efforts to describe the pastor’s theology to be humorous because they seemed to hint the reporter is completely ignorant on matters of theology and doctrine. Anyway, here’s the gist:
Before the last presidential election, he preached six sermons called “The Cross and the Sword” in which he said the church should steer clear of politics, give up moralizing on sexual issues, stop claiming the United States as a “Christian nation” and stop glorifying American military campaigns.
“When the church wins the culture wars, it inevitably loses,” Mr. Boyd preached. “When it conquers the world, it becomes the world. When you put your trust in the sword, you lose the cross.”
I can’t speak for other Christians, as I feel I have little exposure to the political thoughts of conservative Christians since finding a conservative Christian in Seattle is like finding cheap beer at a ballgame, but I know I struggle with the general idea this pastor is teaching his congregation. There is a very real danger when faith and politics are intermingled too much. As Rev. Boyd put it, it is the danger of losing the cross and becoming the world. The specter of this coming to pass disturbs me deeply. However, this world is full of dangers, and the temptation to flee to one extreme or another to avoid the dangers can result in even more danger. As with many things, it seems the safest route is the one down the middle.
I find it impossible to believe a sincere, consistent Christian would not allow his faith to inform his politics. It seems to me, a sincere Christian faith will affect all aspects of one’s life, and to segregate the faith into it’s own little box is dishonest and foolish. So, there should be some degree of intermingling between faith in politics. Now the question remains is what should this intermingling look like. I believe it’s safe to say it’s dangerous territory when politics start to hold sway over the faith. Only a one way road, going from faith to politics, should be open between the two arenas.
I guess the real question that I think needs to be answered is how is faith-informed politics lived out in the real world. This is a question I’ve been pondering for a long time now. I’ve written down some of my thoughts, but I haven’t gotten anything substantial written. So far I’ve come up with two (unoriginal) distinctions that should guide my political thinking. The first is the goal should not be to win political battles but to win disciples for Christ. Ultimately, this is probably the highest calling a Christian has in the world and should be in the forefront of my mind (usually it is not). Second, political solutions are very different from — I’m cringing as I say this — heart solutions. It seems to me political solutions are too often used as a replacement for virtue and the inappropriate application of Christian morals. Let me give a quick example to illustrate what I mean by the first. I believe taxes and welfare to a great degree to supplant the moral virtue of charity. There’s no charity to be found in an individual who lets all of his feeding of the poor be done through the forcible taking of money which is then anonymously dolled out by a governmental bureaucracy. I believe no Christian escapes this responsibility via Big Brother’s “charity.” Tax sponsored welfare may do a lot of good in the country, but it is a poor, impersonal, and even less efficent replacement for personal charity. So, I would argue this political solution to poverty (taxes and welfare) is not the Christian response to poverty. Obviously, to just ignore those in poverty is even less Christian.
I find this to be a difficult subject. I struggle with a lot of the concepts, many which are frustratingly vague. I would also describe this as a Big Idea for me. Once I get this subject sufficiently fleshed out, it will be a framework around which I will make many important decisions in my effort to both live out my faith and be a good citizen.
I believe this article (via an IM by Greg) offers a good explanation for the weaknesses of SPU’s, my old college, student body. I was fairly involved in my time at SPU with many extra-curricular activities, and I think it’s safe to say I stirred up more than my fair share of trouble while there. So, I think I have a fairly well-informed opinion of the SPU student body. Generally, I think SPU students share three negative characteristics: unduly passive, overly sensitive, and highly intolerant of “bad behavior.” I think all three of these characteristics could be the result of the coddling parenting the article describes. Here are a few noteworthy snippets from the article.
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