Friday, July 16, 2004

The National Council of Churches has released a Guide to help Christians pick a presidential candidate. The guide makes the following 10 points:

1. We look for political leaders who will make peace a top priority.
2. We reject policies that abandon large segments of our inner city to hopelessness.
3. We look for leaders for whom a foreign policy based on cooperation is an urgent concern.
4. We look for leaders who will seek to reduce the disparity between rich and poor.
5. We look for leaders who promote racial justice and equal opportunity.
6. We look for leaders who recognize the earth's goodness and champion environmental justice.
7. We look for leaders who will pursue fair immigration policies.
8. We look for leaders who support adequate, affordable and accessible health care for all.
9. We look for leaders who seek a restorative, not retributive, approach to criminal justice.
10. We look for leaders who will advocate equal opportunity and abundant funding for education.

May I ask, who would run for president who
1. Doesn't want peace
2. Promotes the abandonment of the inner cities to hopelessness
3. Does not seek the assistance of foreign governements
4. Desires to increase the disparity between rich and poor
5. Seeks racial injustice
6. Seeks an increase in dirty air, dirty water and extinction of species
7. Desires unfair immigration policies
8. Seeks illness and disease to afflict the poor
9. Hopes criminals remain criminals forever
10. Desires poor education for the country's children.

I realize the National Council of Churches wrote their list believing all of the above about President Bush, but I also believe they really do seek solutions for these problems. They seek, however, immediate solutions. Peace now!, after all, doesn't care about peace in the generation to come. As welfare reform has shown abundantly, hand outs do not equal hand-ups. There is no hope generated by being on the public dole. There is a sharp and distinct difference between seeking cooperation from foreign governments and seeking permission from them. In what world will everyone be equally wealthy? In the next world.

All candidates for president desire resolution to all 10 items, those who say otherwise are being political, not religious.

Update: Here's a picture of an anit-bush car on my street. If you can't read it, it says, "Know your enemy" and there's a picture of President Bush in profile with the large caption "MURDERER." On the other side of the car is the same message, only "MURDERER" is replaced with "LIAR." That's the type of hate the current rhetoric in the public schools, colleges, late night comics and Democratic speeches (like Al Gore's "He betrayed our country") is yielding in America.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Despite the optimistic "We'll fight the good fight" rhetoric coming out of the Republicans, I believe the 48 votes in the Senate yesterday for the Marriage Amendment is the closest Congress will ever come to putting such an Amendment up for a vote.

I find, strangely, that though I am against gay marriage, I've crossed some kind of boundary and find myself in a place that's OK. The vast majority of children in America from here on out will learn that homosexuality is OK, but my oldest kids are beyond my control now and my youngest are safely out of public school and into our rather conservative Catholic grade school. Most businesses will eventually, even in the heartlands of America, be forced to provide services and benefits for gay spouses, but that's OK, I work with many people now and have no idea what their home lives are like. Those who marry, over time, will most likely have less and less respect for what marriage is, but hey, look at how little respect for marriage there is now, and I'm getting along OK because I have respect for it. More and more people will join the sinking scales that believe me to be Archie Bunkerish on the issue of homosexuality, but, you know, what do I care what people think of me? I don't go out on stumps and call gay people or girls in short shirts or guys with low-hung pants spawns of Satan or anything, I just think my own thoughts (except for this RCIA blog, that is) and try to remember to pray for them.

I don't think Christians, historically, have sought to petition governments in the countries in which they lived to legislate their beliefs, did they? They left that up to God... and if the stray leader, here or there, saw a shining cross up in the sun, well that just made things easier. I don't think having our tack turn into the wind for awhile will do Christianity in America any harm, and it may just do us some good... make us stronger, make us get to know each other a little better, make us meet a little more often... make us share those knowing, Christian glances across crowded rooms full of fallen angels.

No, I'm not giving up the fight for America, I'm returning to my Christian roots... I'm becoming a religious minority.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Second RCIA Class 

Tonight was my 2nd RCIA meeting. We were to study the 2nd chapter in Michael Pennock's "This is our Faith" which is a chapter titled "God: Our Loving Creator." I thought the chapter did a good job touching the major characteristics of God, relying on St. Thomas Aquinas' nine qualities that seem to comprise God's nature. The chapter talked about original sin and Adam and Eve and convenant history and the books of the Bible. Several decent summary questions ended the chapter, including a reflection on next Sunday's readings. I felt prepared.

Our class consisted of three students tonight and three sponsors. My sponsor, like me, is an ex-Methodist, very grounded in past Bible Studies. One sponsor is mid-fiftish, a lifelong Catholic who once considered becoming a priest. The last sponsor is in his late sixties, another lifelong Catholic. We never got beyond discussing the books of the Bible... just the initial few paragraphs of chapter 2. Our teacher began with discussing the difference between Bible stories (like Adam and Eve and Noah and Jonah and the splitting of the Red Sea) and historical facts. None of these things, the teacher said, actually happened, they are stories meant to communicate deeper truths. Right away the older, lifelong Christians began asking questions with puzzled looks as traditional Bible stories were relegated to myth. Whether God let life evolve until Man was ready to be chosen or whether creation took 7 days or 3 billion years, what does it matter? We looked at a map of Egypt and the Red Sea... why would they have gone down south instead of crossing up north? Couldn't the Red Sea have been the Reed Sea? Couldn't the wind have dried the marshy land? We know, today, that no fish could swallow a man, the story of Jonah is about being true to your calling. But if these are all stories, who's to say that the life of Jesus isn't a story? If crossing the Red Sea is a story, does that make the plagues against Egypt a story? Why would the Jews celebrate passover for thousands of years... well, says the instructor, that's why we have Bible scholars, to tell us which parts of the Bible are myth, stories and which are true, facts, it's not something easily done, it takes years of study and collaboration...

Being Protestant all my life, I was used to these kind of discussions, we used to have them all the time, all my life we talked like this, "Is it true, does it matter, is it real, is it myth, who can say." But I felt bad for our older, lifelong Catholic sponsors, I got the feeling they wondered what their purpose was, if not to witness their faith.

Not the best meeting. Once again, we sat in a circle on card table chairs with our books and papers on our knees... despite the familiarity of the discussions, it was both physically and emotionally draining.

I've been following, rather unfaithfully, the doings of Jeopardy whiz Ken Jennings. He's been on the show for five or six weeks, he's won 28 times in a row. I was pleased, in the article above, to here him say,

"A lot of it is just God-given memory that I
can't take any credit for"

It's always good to have people, in the midst of a media storm, credit God for their success, don't you think? But, then, he was a member of Brigham Young University's College Bowl team in the 1990s. That makes Jennings, I believe, a Mormon. And here's your Jeopardy Answers in the Category "Mormons", see if you can supply the questions:

For $200: In 1820, he claimed to have received a divine revelation from God that all existing creeds were wrong.

Answer: Who is the founder of the Church of Latter Day Saints, Joseph Smith.

For $400: This book is claimed to be the most correct book in existence, even more so than the Bible.

Answer: What is "The Book of Mormon," written by Joseph Smith (well, actually he found it on golden tablets and translated it).

For $600: Mormons believe this Man was the father of Jesus.

Answer: Who is Adam (although this is disputed)

For $800: He came to America from Jerusalem in the year 600 B.C.

Answer: Who is the prophet Lehi

For $1000: He is the current chosen prophet of God.

Answer: Who is Gordon B. Hinckley and here.

And a special question for $1200: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints won't tell you this.

Question: What is the Truth, Alex.

OK, so even though I'm a fan of Ken Jennings, I am not a fan of Mormonism, which one of my cousins married into and had one heck of a time getting away from. Does Mr. Jennings believe all of the above? Just how smart is he, really.

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