Archive for July, 2011

Thank You, Jon Stewart

Friday, July 29th, 2011 by JEL

I hate to inject anything approaching humor into the tragedy in Norway, but Jon Stewart’s take on the Fox News “rapid response team” is something to behold. Fact-based, showing clearly the blatant hypocrisy of the reporting, and adding enough humor to avoid anything approaching shrill. This man is one of the few “fingers in the dike” keeping this country from losing its collective mind. Watch on:

An Oasis

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011 by JEL

I’ve been a daily reader of Andrew Tobias’s blog for many years. Financial pundit, DNC Treasurer, extremely rational and thoughtful man, Tobias is often an oasis of fact-based sanity amidst an ocean of nutballs. Yesterday’s post dealt with a survey from the Christian Family Coalition:

I got an email from the Christian Family Coalition asking me to take part in a survey.  The survey question was:  Should House Republican leaders cave in to President Obama’s demands and raise the debt ceiling again?

The Christian Family Coalition?  I’m frankly not sure this is the loving way Jesus would have framed the question.  For one thing, everyone is demanding we raise the debt ceiling, not just President Obama, for the simple reason that Congress has already incurred this debt.  The alternative is for the United States to default on its commitments, wrecking its credit.  By the tone of its question, is the Christian Family Coalition saying that’s what we should do?

Apparently so.  When the results of the poll were revealed, 85.2% said, no, we should not raise the debt ceiling (and another 3.2% were “unsure”).

It seems to me that “bully pulpit” has in recent years come to take on a whole new meaning.  It’s bullies, preaching from the pulpit.  In this case, preaching on behalf of those who would cut aid to the needy in order to protect millionaires and billionaires from having to pay even one cent more in tax on dividends and capital gains than they are paying today (15%) – let alone the 28% they paid under Ronald Reagan.

85%! Given that Jesus devotes so much of his teaching to helping the poor and needy, I think the Christian Family Coalition should find a new name.

The Real Marriage Problem

Monday, July 25th, 2011 by JEL

So New York becomes the sixth state in the nation to allow homosexual marriage. Given that the other five states haven’t tumbled into the fiery abyss since their laws passed, we don’t anticipate New York getting uncomfortably warm, either. At least not from gay marriage.

Gabe Lyons, evangelical leader and author of The Next Christians, isn’t concerned either. He thinks the problem with marriage today has nothing (or at least little) to do with the gay/lesbian community:

“This degradation of marriage is due, not to the 2.8 percent of those who identify as LGBT in our society, but to the heterosexuals with spoiled marriages and the increasingly popular hook-up culture in the younger generation.”

He also said Christians should be talking not just about a Biblical definition of marriage:

“but also how to choose a spouse, how to maintain healthy marriages, and how to weather the storms of marriage that every couple must face.”

Sounds reasonable to me. Besides being reasonable, Mr. Lyons also sounds downright optimistic.


So Refreshing

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011 by JEL

One of the articles I linked to yesterday, the one about proseltyzing, referred to a You Tube video of Penn Jillette, the famous magician/comedian (and atheist) talking about receiving a book of Psalms from a fan after a show. It’s really nice to see how Penn thinks about this interaction. He’s open-minded, sincere, and respectful even though he doesn’t believe in the same things his fan does. As Penn says in the video, if you’re a Christian who believes in heaven and hell…

“how much do you have to hate someone to NOT proseltyze?”

Anyway, give the video a look:

Tuesday Smorgasbord

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011 by JEL

There were a bunch of items in the news today that caught my eye, so rather than make a decision, I’m presenting the variety pack:

1. Herman Cain, presidential candidate on the Republican side, believes that towns and communities should have the right to prevent the construction of mosques in their neighborhood. Very interesting. Would a Buddhist church be okay? How about an ashram? Or a center for white supremacists?

2. I’m a big believer in keeping your religion/faith to yourself, but Greg Stier wrote a piece in the Christian Post regarding “Bible believers are obsessed with converting people from their belief systems to Christianity. If they’re not they should be. Here are 3 reasons why:” And he lists them:

  • Jesus told us to. Stier uses Luke 24:47-49 as his reference, but I think there are clearer examples. Heck, Jesus is always out telling people to spread the word.
  • It’s good news. “Proseltyizing gives us a pedicure in a way we could never imagine because our feet are carrying good news to everyone we meet.”
  • It saves people from hell.

Personally, if I were starting a religion, I would include lots of orders to proseltyze in my manual and mandatory 2-year missions and any other such built-ins I could think of that would help grow and perpetuate my religion.

3. 74% of Americans believe in heaven and 60% believe in hell. Who goes where? Kim Lawton has a nice summary piece.

“Strangely” Religious

Friday, July 15th, 2011 by JEL

This is a follow-up to Wednesday’s post, pulling in another voice to discuss all this God-channeling in our elections. Cliff Schecter wrote a piece called “For God’s Sake – Stop Talking” which I found re-assuring. Here’s a snippet:

The US takes pride in its separation of church and state, but the current political scene is “strangely” religious.

Lately, there would seem to be a whole lot more people who have a direct channel to the Big Guy Upstairs than one could have humanly thought possible.

It is oft said that “God works in mysterious ways.” But when Michele Bachmann hears voices telling her to run for president, am I the only who thinks the most likely explanation is a batch of bad clams or one too many nights role playing “The Book of Eli” with her equally demented husband Marcus?

Read the whole thing. Patriots fans will enjoy the David Tyree inclusion.

Dreaming of a Religion-Free Election

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011 by JEL

I think it would be delightful to have a presidential election where no one questioned or cared about the candidates’ religious beliefs. Alas, that election is not going to happen in 2012. I think the next 16 months will be filled with, among other things, each presidential hopeful trying to prove that he/she is more Christian and loves God more than all the others.

Many of the candidates say they ask God for guidance. I wonder what the response is?

Tim Pawlenty put the following video together. No need to talk about the debt or climate change or inflation or two unending wars or unemployment, let’s run a 6-minute video on your faith.

(Now) True to Its Name

Monday, July 11th, 2011 by JEL

Focus on the Family is an organization founded by James Dobson that over the years seemed to stray a great distance from its mission. They went after gays and gay marriage, fought the so-called “attack on Christmas,” and dove headfirst into the worlds of politics and policy.

Dobson is out and a new leader is in place. His name is Jim Daly and he’s actually pushing the organization back to the Family. Go figure. He’s even changed the dress code for women in the Focus on Family office: they no longer have to wear burkas dresses, skirts and pantyhose. The employees are happy:

“God bless Jim Daly. He has launched us into the 21st century.” She pauses to reconsider. “Or the 19th.”

Sarah Pulliam Bailey has written an interesting profile on Daly and the organization. Check it out.


Friday, July 8th, 2011 by JEL

Gay marriage is now legal in New York. Some people are thrilled, others think it’s one more sign of the world’s collapse. I think you can safely put John Piper in the latter category. He’s the pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis and the author of several books. Here are his thoughts:

“Homosexuality has been here since we were all broken in the fall of man. What’s new is not even the celebration of homosexual sin. Homosexual behavior has been exploited, and reveled in, and celebrated in art, for millennia. What’s new is normalization and institutionalization. This is the new calamity.”

Racism has been around since the fall of man, yet slowly progress has been made. Women forever found/find themselves second-class citizens merely by being born, yet slowly, at least in some countries, progress has been made. Ask any homosexual since the fall of man whether he or she was gay by choice. They’d probably give you a funny look and reply something to the effect of “why would I choose this persecution?”

The calamity is not the normalization of homosexuality. It is the rejection of Jesus’ message of love and tolerance and acceptance by people who, judging from their job titles, should know better.

Moral Choices in the Budget

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011 by JEL

Congress is working on a debt agreement and let’s hope they come up with something thoughtful and substantial very soon. $14 trillion is a lot of money to be in hock and borrowing more to meet obligations seems scary, stupid, and immoral. What will we be leaving our children? A trashed planet and hyperinflation?

There are two sides to every budget equation: income (taxes) and expenditures. Like any business, America will have to try to push both levers by raising taxes and cutting spending. But who and how do you tax and what programs do you cut? The military and healthcare are the biggest cost items in the budget. Getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan seems not only moral, but prudent.

The video below is of interest to us all:


Watch the full episode. See more Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.