He was riding a bright blue crotch-rocket, slowed down to change into the lane behind the police car.
He wore a white t-shirt, black athletic shorts, tennis shoes, no helmet covering his just-beginning-to-grey hair.
I winced as I imagined his legs pulpy from road rash, as I thought of his wife grieving because a traumatic brain injury left her husband a man she didn’t recognize.
I’ve seen the after-effects of motorcycle accidents when the motorcyclist was taking all the precautions. Seeing a biker *not* taking the precautions is excruciating for me.
I want to say something, wish there were some way to let bikers know what kind of risks they’re taking when they dress so inappropriately. But I fear the backlash.
“You just want to take away my liberty,” they might say. “It’s a free state.”
And so it is. There are no laws in Kansas requiring helmets for motorcyclists. Kansas law dictates neither your headwear nor your clothing for riding a motorcycle. You may ride however you wish.
And I rejoice that the state is not infringing upon your liberties.
But I truly wish that you would not take your liberty as a license to take risks that can cause you and your family such pain. I wish that you would use your liberty to ride safely and joyfully.
I don’t want to take away your fun–I want you and your family to enjoy long, productive, healthy lives free from harm.
That’s why I wince, that’s why I cringe, that why (on emotional days) I tear up when I see you riding bare-headed, bare-armed, bare-legged. Because I want your liberty to produce life rather than destruction.
Like many conservatives, I have been known to make a crack about “global warming” during a particularly cold day. Like other conservatives, I have remarked on the change in terminology from “global warming” to “climate change”–suspecting that the terminology change is about silencing those “global warming” cracks.
But I don’t know whether or not other conservatives have the same questions and doubts as I regarding the-phenomenon-previously-known-as-global-warming.
You see, I’m not sure about climate change.
I have no doubt that climate change is occurring-the earth’s climate has never been static. Things like sunspots, volcanic eruptions, and ice age cycles have affected earth’s climate for millenia. But I’m not sure about the current conversation regarding climate change. I have questions.
My first question is what sort of climate change is occurring. My second question is what is causing climate change to occur.
I’ve heard apocalyptic tales of oceans rising and knocking off the left coast or flooding New York City. I’ve heard discussion of how world food production will grind to a halt as formerly fertile lands turn into arid deserts. But I’ve never seen the science that indicates at what scale global climate change is occurring.
How much are global temperatures rising per decade? How many degrees does it take to cause x increase in ocean levels? How many degrees does it take for the Midwestern breadbasket to become no longer fertile? I want to know those numbers.
Furthermore, I want to know what exactly is causing global climate change. What does historic data on ice age cycles predict that global temperature should be at this point? How far does current climate differ from what ice age cycles predict? What does historic data on sunspot cycles predict that global temperature should be? How far does current climate differ from what ice age cycles predict? Ultimately, what I want to know is how much of global climate change is due to natural cycles and how much is due to controllable factors?
Why do I want to know this? I want to know this because this has important implications for action. If global climate change is primarily due to natural cycles, action should involve developing technologies to deal with the inevitable change. We must work to either build protections against encroaching water or to move ourselves further inland. We must work to develop additional drought and heat resistant crops or to transfer agricultural industry to newly fertile regions. We must take action to cope with the change that will occur regardless of our actions. Knowing how fast this is occurring will give us a sense of what our deadlines are, how we need to move technology along, what technologies to prioritize.
On the other hand, if global climate change is primarily due to human activity, whether through deforestation or the use of fossil fuels or the raising of methane-producing livestock (heh), then our focus should be on adjusting human activity to maximize the “livability” of the planet.
But instead of answering my questions, stories on climate change sound a lot like a recent episode of “This American Life”. From the tagline:
“After years of being stuck, the national conversation on climate change finally started to shift — just a little — last year, the hottest year on record in the U.S., with Hurricane Sandy flooding the New York subway, drought devastating Midwest farms, and California and Colorado on fire. Lots of people were wondering if global warming had finally arrived, here at home. This week, stories about this new reality.”
In “Hot in My Backyard”, we learn that Colorado’s main climatologist has recently decided to “come out of the closet” that he believes in climate change. The instigating factor? Last year’s wildfires. Which makes for a wonderful story, but not a convincing impetus for decision. One event does not a burden of evidence make. Give me facts, I say. In the second and third parts of the episode, we learn of a Republican and a Democrat who are trying to change the national conversation on climate change–except that they’re skipping my questions and going right to “what we should do”. The Republican is trying to convince conservatives that they should take action on climate change using a carbon tax. The Democrat is trying to stir up old-fashioned (er, 60s-era) social activism to make oil companies a pariah.
I’m open to the idea of climate change. I’m open to the idea that climate change is man-made. I’m willing to discuss making changes to improve the livability of the planet. But I’m not willing to make changes until someone gives me some facts instead of just emotion.
Does anybody know of any fact-based articles, podcasts, books, etc. that can help answer some of my questions?
On this day in history 38 years ago, a court decision legalized the genocide which has since killed over 40 million unborn babies.
In 1973, my cousin Danny was a baby. 615,831 of his peers were murdered.
In 1974, my cousin Donna was born (I estimate). 763,476 of her peers were murdered.
In 1975, my cousin Shiloh was born. 854,853 of his peers were murdered.
In 1977, my cousin Judah was born. 1,079,430 of his peers were murdered.
In 1979, my cousins Sarah and Janalynn were born. 1,251,921 of their peers were murdered.
In 1980, my cousin Jamin was born. 1,297,606 of his peers were murdered.
In 1981, my cousin Adam was born. 1,300,760 of his peers were murdered.
In 1983, my sister Anna was protected in our mother’s womb. 1,268,987 of her peers were murdered.
In 1984, my sister Anna and cousin Ariann were born. 1,333,521 of their peers were murdered.
In 1985, I was born. 1,328,570 of my peers were murdered.
In 1986, my brother Joshua was born. 1,328,112 of his peers were murdered.
In 1987, my cousins Joseph, Vicki, and Luke were born. 1,353,671 of their peers were murdered.
In 1988, my cousin Joseph and sister-in-law Debbie were born. 1,371,285 of their peers were murdered.
In 1989, my brother Daniel and cousins Elizabeth, Becca and Christine were born. 1,396,658 of their peers were murdered.
In 1990, my brother John and cousins Matthew and Paul were born. 1,429,577 of their peers were murdered.
In 1991, my cousins Patrick, Joanna, and Jennifer, and sister-out-law Joanna were born. 1,388,937 of their peers were murdered.
In 1992, my brother Tim and cousins Joel, Jesse, Jeremy, and Caroline were born. 1,359,145 of their peers were murdered.
In 1993, my cousin Eric was born. Another cousin, Melinda, was born stillborn and grieved for by a loving family. 1,330,414 of their peers were murdered.
In 1994, my sister Grace, cousins Michael, Aaron, and Naomi, and brother-out-law John were born. 1,267,415 of their peers were murdered.
In 1995, my cousins Dominique and Kyle were born. 1,210,883 of their peers were murdered.
In 1996, my cousins Ben, Joel, Clayton, and Hannah were born. 1,225,937 of their peers were murdered.
In 1997, my cousins Caleb, Bethany, and Susannah were/was born. 1,186,039 of their peers were murdered.
In 1998, my cousin Lauren was born. Over 884,273* of her peers were murdered.
In 1999, my cousins Isaac and Tabitha were born. Over 861,789* of their peers were murdered.
In 2000, my cousins Megan and Brett were born. Over 857,475* of their peers were murdered.
In 2002, my cousin Anthony was born. Over 854,122* of his peers were murdered.
In 2004, my cousin Brooke was born. Over 839,226* of her peers were murdered.
In 2006, Ezekiel was born to my cousins Shiloh and Janalynn. Over 846,181* of his peers were murdered.
In 2008, Lexie was born to my cousins Sarah and Byron. 1,212,350 of her peers were murdered.
In 2010, Mackenna was born to my cousins Ariann and Mike, and Carter was born to my cousins Adam and Theresa. A thus far unnumbered multitude of their peers were murdered.
In 2011, my nephew or niece will be born. How many of his peers will be murdered this year?
and take action
to end abortion
Are you or your children survivors of this genocide? Would you like your name to be listed within these rolls? Please leave a comment or send me an e-mail and I’ll add you/them to the list. And please, please pray for the end of this genocide.
*Statistics were not reported by the states of California or New Hampshire from 1998 to the present. Alaska did not report from 1998-2002. Oklahoma did not report from 1998-1999. West Virginia did not report from 2003-2004. Louisiana has not reported from 2005 to the present. The children in these states murdered through abortion remain unnumbered, but not forgotten.
I’m still working my way through Greg Boyd’s Myth of a Christian Nation with my Monday night book club–but as so often happens, one book spawns another. When I saw Jon Meacham’s American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation, I was curious to hear what he had to say about religion in America. I’ve only read the introduction so far, but it appears that this could be a VERY interesting treatment of the topic.
Meacham clearly sees the United States as unique and exceptional (I’m a bit of an American exceptionalist myself), but attributes this exceptionalism neither to a Christian founding of the nation nor to a non-Christian founding of the nation (as many might). Rather, he seems to attribute this exceptionalism to the interesting balance that the founders merged between secular government and religious freedom. I’m most intrigued by the potential of this book.
On America’s early years:
“America’s early years are neither a golden age of religion nor a glowing hour of Enlightenment reason. Life was shaped by evangelical fervor and ambitious clergy, anxious politicians and determined secularists. Some Christians wanted to impose their beliefs on the rest of the country; other equally committed believers though faith should steer clear of public life. In the fulcrum stood the brilliant but fallible political leadership of the new nation. The Founding Fathers struggled to assign religion its proper place in civil society–and they succeeded.“
On opposing claims made regarding the Founding Fathers:
“The right’s contention that we are a ‘Christian nation’ that has fallen from pure origins and can achieve redemption by some kind of return to Christian values is based on wishful thinking, not convincing historical argument….Conservatives are not alone in attempting to appropriate the Founding for their own ends. Many Americans, especially secular ones, tend to stake everything on Jefferson’s wall between church and state….The wall Jefferson referred to is designed to divide church from state, not religion from politics.
On how religion has shaped America:
“Taken all in all, I think history teaches that the benefits of faith in God have outweighed the costs….Guided by this religiously inspired idea of God-given rights, America has created the most inclusive, freest nation on earth. It was neither easy nor quick: the destruction of Native American cultures, the ravages of slavery, the horrors of the Civil War, and the bitterness of Jim Crow attest to that. And there is much work to be done. Yet while the tides of history are infinitely complex, other major Western powers have had a worse time of it than America, and our public religion, with its emphasis on the supremacy of the individual and its cultivation of moral virtue, is one reason why….Religion alone did not spare America, but the Founding Fathers’ belief in the divine origin of human rights fundamentally shaped our national character, and by fits and starts Americans came to see that all people were made in the image of ‘Nature’s God,’ and were thus naturally entitled to dignity and respect.“
Quoting Robert Ingersoll (in what I view as the most provocative statement yet, especially in light of our discussion group):
“Our fathers founded the first secular government that was ever founded in this world….our fathers were the first men who had the sense, had the genius, to know that no church should be allowed to have a sword…“
I’m interested to see how Meacham develops these thoughts throughout the book!
Collect more quotes from throughout the week with Barbara H’s meme “The Week in Words”.
I’ve been reading and discussing Greg Boyd’s The Myth of a Christian Nation with a book group here in town. The reading–and the discussion–has been intellectually and spiritually stimulating. Some of my assumptions have been confirmed–but far more have been challenged, forcing me to think through how being “in but not of” the world informs a Christian’s political involvement.
Boyd on the calling of the church to be “set apart”
“We utterly trivialize this profound biblical teaching if we associate our peculiar holiness with a pet list of religious taboos…No, the holiness the New Testament is concerned with is centered on being Christlike, living in outrageous, self-sacrificial love. If you make this your life aspiration, you will certainly be peculiar–about as peculiar as a Messiah dying on a cursed tree! You will be a ‘resident alien.'”
Although I might disagree with Boyd over how involved a Christian can be in politics, I sincerely appreciate Boyd’s emphasis that the kingdom of God is not about promoting a certain political or social agenda but about being Christ-like (the culmination of course, of Christ-likeness being exemplified in the cross.)
“So over the Fourth of July weekend—and all year—be appreciative of your country. Be patriotic. But make sure your patriotism pales in comparison to your sacrifice, commitment and allegiance to the Kingdom of God.”
I was glad I saw this article linked by a friend on Facebook. From where I’m at in The Myth of a Christian Nation (Chapter 4), Boyd appears to be bashing any “proud to be an American” sentiment. I’ve been relatively cautious about making conclusions based on just these few chapters, but I’m glad to have this notice that Boyd doesn’t have a problem with patriotism in general, just overemphasis on patriotism at the expense of the Kingdom of God. :-)
Collect more quotes from throughout the week with Barbara H’s meme “The Week in Words”.
Whenever a Christian enters into the realm of politics, he must realize that in doing so he is stepping out of his native land into the affairs of the land in which He is a sojourner.
A Christian belongs to the kingdom of God–a kingdom firmly established on mercy, love, and nonaggression. This is the kingdom whose people decry self-defense, instead offering their cheeks to be struck. This is the kingdom whose citizens give to those who steal from them. This is the kingdom whose people would much rather be cheated than go to court.
The kingdoms of this world, on the other hand, are kingdoms (established by God) for the carrying out of justice. They are responsible, first and foremost, (at least inasmuch as Scripture reveals God’s plan for the kingdoms of this earth) for the punishing of wrongdoers and praising of the righteous.
The two kingdoms could not be more different.
The kingdom of God recognizes that Christ has borne the whole punishment for all sins–against God and against mankind–and therefore demands that citizens extend mercy to all. The kingdom of the world still labors under the fallenness of sin–and must punish wrongdoers lest injustice prevail.
The question, then, is how a Christian is to go about dealing with the political world. How is a Christian to navigate these opposing worlds of justice and mercy?
There are three common “takes” on a Christian’s involvement in politics.
Some take the conservative view, demanding justice on this earth–politically and personally. People should get what they deserve and nothing more. This is the view of the harsh disciplinarian, the uncompromising taskmaster, the down-with-the-welfare-state-up-with-the-military-state politico.
Others take a liberal stance, arguing for mercy at all costs. These are the bleeding hearts, the fairness police. They want redistribution of wealth, equal access to everything, a mother state who babies her citizens, and a non-aggressive foreign policy.
Still others urge avoidance. Best to stay out of politics, they say, lest you forsake the kingdom of God in your involvement with the kingdoms of this world.
But are these the only options for Christian involvement in the world?
My personal take lies outside of each of these. I believe that inasmuch as God’s revealed will for the governments of this world is that they be ministers of justice, I as a Christian should work to promote justice in political affairs. And inasmuch as God’s clearly revealed call to His church is that they be ministers of mercy, as a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, I should seek to live a life marked by mercy.
What does this mean for me?
In my political involvement, I fight for justice–laws that reflect just practices, punishments that befit crimes, honest court systems. Yet as a citizen of the kingdom of God, I would never dream of making use of these courts to demand justice for myself. I am called to extend mercy to those who misuse me.
As an American citizen, I support just war (of course, the definition of just war is fuzzy and must be considered carefully) entered into by the state, whether preemptive or retaliatory. But as a citizen of the kingdom of God, I clearly recognize the call to never take justice into my own hands and wage war on my own accord. I could never bomb an abortion clinic or assassinate even the most evil of characters.
I disapprove of the governmental redistribution of wealth in order to secure social programs as an injustice to the deserving and the undeserving alike (punishing those who have earned their money justly and rewarding those who have failed to justly earn money). But as a citizen of the kingdom of God, I seek to liberally give my own money, goods, and services indiscriminately.
From my conception of God’s plan for the kingdoms of this world and for the kingdom of heaven, I am politically conservative and personally liberal. I work to promote a political system that is founded on justice–and seek to always live a life marked by mercy.
Of course, I like all people, am fallen–and regularly fail to live up to this goal. Too often, I demand justice for myself when I ought to extend mercy to others. And too often I request mercy of the political system, when I ought to accept and promote justice. But the above is my ideal–and I pray that by the grace of God, I might grow more and more to walk mercifully as a citizen of the kingdom of heaven–and to promote justice in this nation in which I am an alien.
It’s the catchphrase that’s taking the American church by storm. Maybe it’s taking the entire nation by storm.
Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to define.
Clearly, it’s involved with social issues. Social justice is applied to social issues from poverty, hunger, homelessness, sexual exploitation, and lack of access to medical care.
And it’s somehow related to justice. At least, that’s what the name implies. It implies that it seeks to apply justice to these social issues.
The problem is, the name “social justice” is often misleading.
Sometimes the things that are lumped under “social justice” are truly justice issues. Sexual exploitation is the result of someone doing a wrong to another. Justice argues that the one who does the wrong be punished. Justice–wielding the sword to punish wrongdoers. In other cases, people are unjustly denied things they rightly deserve. Justice says that they should be given what they deserve. Justice–rewarding the one who does good.
But many of the things considered to be “social justice” are not justice at all. “Social justice” argues for feeding the hungry, giving homes to the homeless, providing money to those without money. Truly, some of the hungry, the homeless, and the impoverished are there because injustices have been done to them. Others are there because circumstances outside of their (and any others’) control has placed them there (medical conditions, children born into poverty, etc.) Others are there because they have placed themselves there via drug use, laziness, or lack of discipline.
Justice demands that we work to ameliorate the suffering of those who suffer unjustly–those in the first category. But justice does not argue that we make any effort to improve the conditions of those in the second and third categories.
Does this mean that we should not interest ourselves in the social concerns of the undeserving?
As Christians, we are called to live lives not of justice but of mercy.
“But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.
But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.”
Every Christian has received a great gift that he is completely unworthy of. While we were squandering our lives, abusing every gift that God had given us, God chose to give us grace upon grace–salvation of our souls, right standing before God. God poured out the judgment His justice demands on His own Son, while pouring out His mercy and grace on us.
We have been called to live in the same manner–absorbing the costs, pouring out the benefits. We have been called to live lives marked not by social justice, but by mercy.
Read my thoughts on justice and the purpose of government and continue checking back to hear me wrestle with how the issues of justice and mercy should inform a Christian’s political and non-political life.
Last night, my siblings were discussing the apparently dead-in-production film version of The Hobbit and Peter Jackson’s lawsuit against New Line.
Several siblings remarked that Peter Jackson didn’t really NEED more money.
Their remarks struck me wrong for whatever reason and I added my comment: “The question isn’t whether Peter Jackson needs more money, but whether he deserves more money.”
It’s not an issue of who needs what or of “fairness”. It’s a matter of justice.
(Please realize that I know VERY little about this particular court case–I cannot even begin to answer the question I posed. That’s not the point.)
The point is that even in some of the most conservative of us (my family is pretty conservative as a whole), there lurks a secret socialist.
Now, it may well be that I am completely blowing this out of proportion. My siblings weren’t necessarily saying that Peter Jackson shouldn’t win this lawsuit because he didn’t need the money. Rather, I am almost certain that they were asking why he was pursuing the lawsuit, as though he needed more money.
But the conversation (along with my reading of Boyd’s The Myth of a Christian Nation) got me to thinking about the purpose of government.
The governments of this earth have a God-ordained role to administer justice:
” Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.” Romans 13:1-7
The God-instated role of government is to reward the one who does good and punish the one who does evil. In other words, governments are intended to administer justice.
The problem is that justice…well, justice isn’t always very NICE. Justice is often pretty “unfair”. Justice means that the poor man who steals from a rich man–even if he’s stealing just so that he and his family can eat–is punished and required to repay what he has stolen–even though the rich man has no need for the stolen money.
“People do not despise a thief
If he steals to satisfy himself when he is starving.
Yet when he is found, he must restore sevenfold;
He may have to give up all the substance of his house. ” Proverbs 6:30-31
The mercy of the onlooker means he does not despise a thief who steals to satisfy himself when he is starving. The justice of the law demands that he restore sevenfold, regardless of the personal cost to himself.
Sometimes, even we conservatives look at the law and desire for it to be merciful–but that is not the purpose of government. The purpose of government is not the administration of mercy but the administration of justice.
Please don’t write me off as a hard-hearted conservative yet! I’ll be exploring this issue further in the upcoming week. Stay tuned to hear my thoughts on social justice and the role of the church in society (which is quite different from the role of the government in society.)
I told myself I wasn’t going to stress. Wasn’t going to watch the news. Wasn’t going to follow the play-by-play’s online.
So guess what I’ve been doing this evening?
If you guessed stressing and following the play-by-play’s online, you’d be right. Bonus points if you included an Excel spreadsheet with my own predictions for the winner.
I have to say I’m disappointed that the presidential race is leaning at Obama (I have little doubt that the networks have already proclaimed him the winner.) But, at least in Nebraska, there are small victories to celebrate.
Mike Johanns beat out Harvard boy Scott Kleeb in the Senate race–keeping one of Nebraska’s Senate seats in the Republican fold. (And Johanns is a much more conservative Republic than Hagel, who he’s replacing.) Jeff Fortenberry has been re-elected to the House of Representatives. I was also pleased to see Adrian Smith be re-elected. I enjoyed listening to him when he visited UNL’s college Republican’s a couple of years ago when he was running against the aforementioned Hahvahd child.
Even more exciting is the triumph of Tim Clare over Earl Scudder in the University of Nebraska’s Board of Regents race. Scudder made his support of embryonic stem cell research a main player in his advertising campaigns, euphemistically calling it “support for life-saving research.” Clare took a more ethical stance and proclaimed his support for the TRULY life-saving (and life-enhancing) adult stem cell research, but his opposition to the death-dealing embryonic stem call research. If you didn’t already know, adult stem cells are already being used for life-saving and life-enhancing therapies. Despite many years of research (and tons of research dollars spent), embryonic stem cells have failed to produce even one mildly successful therapy. YAY for CLARE! I’m glad you (and life) won.
Another big woohoo for Nebraska is the passing of an initiative to ammend the Nebraska constitution for the prohibition of Affirmative Action by any government entity. Equal Opportunity triumphs at last! Down with discrimination–up with getting the best guy (or gal) for the job!
But the biggest reason to not kill myself come January 19th (and perhaps even to celebrate despite the impending destruction of a nation I love) is what I read this morning in Revelation 19:6 “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!” And what I read this evening as I was copying Obadiah 21 “And the kingdom shall be the Lord’s.” I am temporarily a citizen of this earth, and a citizen of the United States of America. Despots rise and fall here, and every so often, a decent ruler comes into power. But I have a permanent citizenship in a kingdom whose ruler has never been voted out of office, never been overthrown by a coup’d’etat, never had a veto overruled by a two-thirds majority of senate and house. I have a king who has never cut military spending, who always keeps His men clad in the best of defensive armor and fighting with the most up-to-date offensive weapons. I have a king who has never taken from me what is rightfully mine to give it to another who does not deserve it–instead, He has taken what was rightfully His and given it to me (who cannot even begin to deserve it). The United States may be going to hell in a handbasket–but I’m not going with it, because I don’t belong here. “The Lord God Omnipotent reigns!”