Secular Politics and the Church

September 18, 2007 by · 7 Comments
Filed under: Religion 

I’m a bit concerned.

I have said in some places, but perhaps not this blog, something about my feelings on secular politics and the church.  The short version is that I feel that the church should teach its members how to make moral judgments, but that the church should NOT be involved in advocating a position on current secular political events.  In other words – the church should be for peace, but not for peace in the Middle East by creating a Palestinian state (to give one example).  The church is in the field of giving us moral toolkits, but should not be instructing us on exactly how to apply them to specific situations.  Otherwise, at some point we stop asking people to make proper personal decisions on secular matters and start dictating those decisions – we create essential tenets that have little to do with God but much to do with the country or world.  I know that my opinion is in the minority among church leaders, though I’m not so sure about the pew sitters in general.

My pastor said something in his sermon this past Sunday about the church and politics.

I want to ask us to consider a kind of variation on that Peter Drucker question [mentioned earlier].  To ask whether the business we’re also in as a community of faith is about changing our Common Life … our life together as a people … our participation in the body politic.  Does this message have something to say about how we participate in the political realm and in the social realm?

Also, the church has scheduled an event for the church to give their feedback on this issue to our pastor before he delivers a sermon series on the topic.

People to Preacher Symposium on Faith & Politics –

Convener: Jeff Vamos. Two Sections (choose one)

Tuesday, October 30, 6:30-9:00 pm (dinner); or Saturday,
November 3, 9-11:00 am.
What does the Bible say about the relationship between faith and politics? How have Presbyterians dealt with that issue? Is it appropriate to speak of politics from the pulpit? What did Jesus have to say on this? These are questions we will discuss in this symposium. Each one-time conversation is designed to provide Jeff with “grist for the sermon mill” before a twopart sermon series on Faith & Politics in early November.
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Please call the church office, 896-1212 or email to register for one of the sessions. Preparatory reading material from the Book of Confessions will be expected.

I don’t think I’m alone – after he made this statement (and a few others) in the sermon the couple sitting next to me got fidgety and wrote a few notes to each other on their bulletin.  I got the idea that the pastor’s words made them uncomfortable.

This concerns me because I sense a desire for our church to make more political pronouncements and to become involved in political causes.  Other churches do this – some on the left and some on the right.

When I came to Lawrenceville, one of my concerns was the political strife in the church and beyond and the degree to which it would affect me as a member.  The church and society as a whole has been polarized into two sides:  The Right – evangelical, conservative, fundamentalist, Republican and the Left – progressive, less religious, tolerant, diverse, Democrat.  The leaders of government – particularly Republicans – have co-opted the Christian religious establishment as a voting block.  I was assured by the Interim Associates for Pastoral Ministry (temporarily filling the Associate Pastor role) that the culture of the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville intentionally chose to embrace members from all parts and ends of the political/religious spectrum.  That the congregation was willing to discuss controversial issues openly (as opposed to some congregations that avoid them) but in a manner where all points of view are respected.  Discussions, not fights.  Very even tempered.

What concerns me is that I based my decision to join this church on many factors, and chief among them was this “Big Tent” philosophy.  I know that Jeff Vamos (and apparently Mary Alice Lyman as well) falls on the left end of the political/theological spectrum.  The church in general tips towards the left end as well.  But there is still a respect for those who disagree, and an unwritten agreement that the congregation as a whole (and the Session too) will not take a corporate position on secular political issues.  It is probably impossible to impose a similar moratorium on theological positions, though the church does try to be inclusive of all in at least membership.

So I’m worried.  Is the church trying to change in a way that goes against one of the bigger reasons that I chose it?  Do we stop being the church where all are welcome and become the Church of the Left?  Do I need to leave if that happens?

I have signed up for the “symposium” described above.  We’ll have to see where it goes.

Washington State Marriages – Children Required

February 6, 2007 by · 16 Comments
Filed under: Life, Religion, Shoot Yourself in the Foot 

(My alternate title:  The Gay Rights Movement Loses A Supporter Again)

The gay rights folks in Washington State have gone too far.  Once again, they have found a way to piss off straight supporters in their bid for gay marriage.

The Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance is proposing a ballot initiative (957) that would:

  1. Require that heterosexual couples prove that they are able to have children before they can receive a marriage license, and
  2. Automatically annul any Washington marriage that fails to produce children within 3 years, and
  3. Require proof that couples married outside of Washington state file proof of procreation within 3 years of their wedding, or be labeled “unrecognized”, and
  4. Establish a process to prove procreation, and
  5. Make it a crime for people in an “unrecognized” marriage to receive marriage benefits.

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Carolyn and I have decided not to have children, for reasons that I don’t feel the need to go into here.  This would directly affect us if we lived in Washington.

The WDOMA folks clearly recognize that this is absurd.  They are hoping that challenges to this law would cause the Washington Supreme Court to overturn their previous ruling.

What this move fails to do is take into account the degree to which gay rights folks can anger their straight supporters.  Making my marriage illegal in order to try to make yours legal is not a good strategy.  It angers me.  I’ve been a strong supporter of gay rights, but if this type of move were to propagate across the country, I would drop that support – because MY marriage would be under attack by those whom I support.

Let’s face it – homosexual people are at most 10% of the population.  In order to have laws changed to support gay marriage, the support of a significant portion of the straight population is required.  This move – by directly attacking all heterosexuals INCLUDING YOUR SUPPORTERS – is doomed to fail.  Worse than that, it will erode the support of the gay rights movement among straight people.

Drop this attempt.  You are dangerously close to losing my support.  You NEED the support of straight people in order to achieve your agenda.

Saudi Arabia wants to be your friend

September 3, 2004 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Current Affairs 

This morning on the way to work, I heard this radio ad on WMGK-FM. (Commercial MP3 from KFI-AM – it’s identical).

Clearly, the negative publicity is getting to Saudi Arabia somehow. Maybe they’re losing some money. Maybe they’re afraid that Bush will lose (Pennsylvania is a swing state – I heard this on a Philly station) and Kerry will change the US policy towards Saudi Arabia. Maybe they’re worried that we’ll stop buying their oil once we switch our cars to hybrids or fuel cells.

At any rate, I’m not buying it. This parody from KFI’s John Ziegler pretty much explains it. The Saudis are not our friends – they are still being two-faced. Teaching hatred of Americans at home and then trying to look friendly to us. Shoot, these are the same people who 3 months ago were giving amnesty to terrorists who “gave themselves up”.

UPDATE: I sent a note to WMGK about this advertisement, stating that it was full of lies and that they should pull the ad.

Here’s their response:
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Truth in advertising is one of many important issues to the people of WMGK. We work hard to ensure that listeners hear valid messages from our entire spectrum of advertising clients. Notice that these spots air with an opening disclaimer. We also work hard to adhere to the guidelines given us by the Federal Communications Commission in executing our reponsiblities concerning the public airwaves. All points of view are given equal consideration as per federal law. The message to which you object is airing on many radio stations and quotes from public documents. I apologize that it appears to have offended you and hope your loyalty to WMGK will not be affected in the long run.

(Roy Perry for) Jim Brown, General Sales Manager WMGK

Now, I know that they COULD pull the ad if they wanted to. I guess this is a fair cover-your-butt answer to my response. I just hope that they heard the message that I was sending them.

NJ Primary Election

June 8, 2004 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Current Affairs 

Today, New Jersey holds it’s annual primary election.

NJ’s primary is one of the latest (if not THE latest) in the whole primary season. As such, it’s worthless for the purpose of choosing a Presidential candidate.

Turnout tends to be low, because it’s meaningless. Something like 1/2 of NJ voters are registered as independents, so they can’t vote at all in the primary. Even for Democrats and Republicans, there are very few contested races.

This year, the Republicans have ZERO contested races. You just walk into the booth, push all the buttons (we’re on digital voting machines now), hit the red button and walk out. It takes longer to get signed in by the old ladies than it does to actually vote.

For the Democrats, only the US President race is contested. The choices are:
John Kerry – a man who seems to change his mind a lot
Lyndon LaRouche – a man in prison (or at least he used to be – I’ve lost track)
Dennis Kucinich – a man who looks like a space alien (and is so far from center that he might as well be one)
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Some choice, eh?

The polls open at 6am. My wife usually votes about 7:30am and I follow her at 7:45am on the way to work. In hotly contested races, there are often 30 or 40 people ahead of us.

Today, I was Democrat number 001. Republican 001 was the only one torn off of that book, so I suspect it was my wife. The old ladies got to sit around from 6am until 7:30am before ANYBODY showed up.

What a waste.

Polls are open until 9pm, if you want to bother.

The Gangs of Boston

March 26, 2004 by · 5 Comments
Filed under: Current Affairs 

Tyler, another blogger, posts his harrowing tale of being pummeled by union anti-Bush protesters at Bush’s speech in Boston last night. Read it and come back here – it’s a wild story but not unexpected.

I’m not much of a Bush supporter. In fact, this election is going to be a really tough choice for me. However, I hate unions even more. Only in a union can you be praised for not exceeding the average ability/work ethic/productivity. Only in a union can you make more money than your manager through overtime pay.

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The price of democracy and freedom of speech …..