Monday, May 26, 2008

Obama: Don't Betray Iraq!

I don't write about politics very much, but now it is pretty clear (barring some unforeseen upset) that Barack Obama will be the Democratic Party's nominee. If he becomes president he would be the commander in chief, which means that he can do whatever he wants with the military pretty much without congressional approval. And what he proposes to do is very troubling.

So I want to address any Obama fans out there.

The Democratic Party claims to be the party of "compassion," but Mr. Obama has indicated on his website that he'd immediately "remove one to two combat brigades each month" from Iraq, until our forces are all out, apparently regardless of whether the Iraqis are ready to stand on their own. In light of that commitment I have to ask how compassionate it is to abandon millions of Iraqis to the mercies of terrorist militias, both those home-grown in Iraq and state-sponsored terrorists from neighboring countries?

How compassionate is it to put Iraqis at the mercy of butchers who saw prisoners' heads off and then post videos of their barbarity on the Internet, or who set off bombs in marketplaces in an effort to kill as many civilians as possible?

Iraq's military is performing better and better, terrorist attacks have been way down and the country's legislature seems to be doing about as well as our own Congress, which is not saying much, but it's progress.

Yet even as the Iraqis are getting steady on their feet, your candidate wants to yank the rug out from under them, leaving nobody but a few guards for our embassy and maybe a little force somewhere in the Middle East for "targeted strikes" if al Qaeda happens to set up a base in Iraq. (What? It hasn't already?)

In other words, he wants to betray those who believed that we would help them.

He wants to desert those who worked and fought beside us! God help those Iraqi soldiers, police and politicians if we leave before they're ready.

He wants the United States to put its tail between its legs and run away, and let the families of fallen soldiers know that their sons' lives were lost for nothing, that nothing was accomplished by their sacrifice. And that on the brink of success.

This is not compassion. This is betrayal!

I know. You'll tell me too many American lives have been lost. Any lives lost is too many, but compared to most wars we've fought, 4,000 deaths in five years of war is insignificant. Many times we've lost far more than that in a single day of war. Our casualties could hardly be fewer!

I know. You'll tell me that America has committed crimes in Iraq. So the logic is that since we've committed crimes that means we should commit the additional crime of abandoning the Iraqis. Yeah, two crimes are better than one. That makes perfect sense.

I know. You'll tell me it is an "illegal" war. Well, just so we don't get stuck on the point, let's say that it is completely illegal. So, because it's illegal that means we should commit the additional crime of abandoning the Iraqis? Yeah, that makes perfect sense, too.

I'd never have thought that I'd want a politician to be a liar, but if Barack Obama is elected, I sure hope he's been lying about abandoning our friends before they are ready to stand on their own. And if he's not lying, and you vote for him, the shame of our betrayal and the blood of abandoned Iraqis will stain your hands as well.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Generational Baseline

I think one of the big problems in the church today is that children from Christian households are falling away from their faith.

There are undoubtedly a number of reasons for this (lack of preparation for the arguments against Christianity that they'll hear in college is a big one), but I'd like to speculate about one reason I haven't heard explored, and it is this:

I think that every generation sets a new baseline for the following generation.

Let me give an example.

Let's say a man and woman have been involved in some bad behavior (take your pick), but they come to know Christ and begin following Him, living as good a life as they can, and then they marry and have children.

The problem is that while the parents remember how Christ saved them and how he set their lives straight, and while that is powerful for them, it's just ancient history to the children. The children don't see the change in their parents' lives; they simply experience having fairly nice parents and they tend to assume that this is normal and is no particular evidence of God. In fact, they will see that the parents do not always live up to their faith and may take that as evidence against Christianity.

And, of course, some parents are just plain awful, which simply makes the contrast between the parents' words and their professed faith even more damning.

So its a bad situation if you're a good parent and a worse situation if you're a rotten one.

I wish I had a simple answer for this. I don't, but two thoughts come to mind: be the best parent you can be, and ... pray.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

You're Not Welcome

It is my sad observation in rubbing shoulders with other Christians and in reading publications and hearing reports of children drifting away from the faith, that much of the U.S. Church is in the process of losing its soul and just becoming a part of the world. And I'm not talking just about liberal churches; I mean evangelical churches as well.

I think the process has been going on for a few decades, but has accelerated recently. It began as an admirable attempt to reach out to the world by casting aside unnecessary barriers, such as by using more broadly-understood words instead of "Christian" words ("redemption") and by meeting in non-churchy buildings such as restaurants and old warehouses, and by setting aside non-Biblical prohibitions (not playing cards). The idea was to strip away any stumbling blocks that would prevent people from coming to Christ, and I approved (and continue to approve) most heartily.

But now I think it has gone too far.

After having thrown out all the unnecessary baggage we find that lots of people still don't want to be Christians. Why? Because we're "judgemental" or because nobody should go to Hell, or, "Hey, there are lots of religions in the world." Or because it isn't "relevant" to my life.

So, to address these objections we've started throwing out the necessary baggage. We deemphasize sin and emphasize how welcoming we are "wherever you're at in life;" we downplay Christ and instead talk generically of a loving God while not mentioning that this loving God wants us to stop sinning. And Hell? Uh, well, we prefer to focus on the love of God at this church.

These days all we want is to be accepted and loved by the world, to be "part of the community."

The sight of a wonderful reform movement that has gone too far discourages me immensely and I think it is a sign of the church's slide into irrelevance. A church that does not differ from the world around it has nothing to offer that world.

But I don't think this applies to all the church.

I think there are those who are equally disheartened by this movement, and I think some churches that see the coming evil will put the brakes on, and some new churches will arise that will turn their focus back to Christ.

I think those churches will say, "We love you no matter what, but if you are going to attend this church you need to be making a serious effort to battle sin in your life. If you're stuck in adultery or homosexuality or theft or lying or hatred or cheating or greed or any other sin, you need to be fighting against it. If you do, we're here for you. If you are not, we want you to leave. You are not welcome here. Go away and come back when you are willing to follow Christ."

And I think those churches will say, "You're right. Hell is awful. For God's sake, don't go there!"

And I think they'll say, "We're sorry that you don't think this is a sin, but God said it is."

And I think they'll say, "That there are many religions in the world is irrelevant. The question is: What is true? If another religion is true, go follow it; if Christianity is true, then follow Christ. Don't be a wus!"

And I think that eventually this new church will go too far, and some will emphasize "separation from the world" to an exagerated and un-biblical extent, and then this church will become unnecessarily isolated, and then we'll need yet another correction.

But in the meantime, in general, I think Christians are going to feel increasingly lonely even within their own churches, and I think any notion they may have that they represent a large segment of the population is doomed to disappointment. We are a minority.

But on the other hand, as things continue to slide I think these isolated Christians will find each other and will enjoy sweet fellowship in their mutual devotion to Christ and in their attempts to live for Christ in their lives.

Of course the media and the slip-sliding-away church will not approve of this movement and will do a lot of harumphing about it, but that's fine. Wear it as a badge of honor.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Surveyors for Christ

I suspect that one of the main causes of poverty in the world is the lack of clarity about who owns what. For example, if a poor person in a poor country is living on a piece of land, I can't imagine that he would put much effort or expense into fixing up his home if he is not certain that he owns it. If the boundary lines are fuzzy, improving his property could simply make it more attractive for someone else - who claims to be the true landowner - to take it away.

I know it is not sexy and is certainly not as dramatic as some other forms of development work, but as a Christian I would think that some amount of Christian development effort should be directed toward helping poor but reasonably honest governments survey and record and make available property records. I think it would be a great ministry for a Christian development group, not that it would get much publicity and likely not much praise for its efforts, but I suspect that in a quiet way a ministry like that could have a tremendous impact.

In the book Measuring America, by Andro Linklater, which I review here, Linklater says that property lines in the southern U.S. states were less clear than those in the North, and that those vague lines hindered southern economic development. I have to think that better surveying and clearer boundary lines would be an economic blessing around the world.

This thought occurred to me on reading this most excellent article by Peter Huber about the need for governments to make available on-line each and every legal document relating to ownership, meaning all laws that apply, all maps and court records, contracts, etc. In other words, he goes beyond the simple lines-in-the-dirt surveying I'm advocating to make the point that there are other boundaries on property rights as well, and those too should be as clear and as easily available as possible. Amen! One of the best points I've heard anyone make in a long time.