Links: A Breath of Fresh Air

My last two posts (and, hopefully, my next one) are focused on topics that have been in the public square a lot lately. Many of my (three or four) readers are probably bored by now. So, I thought I'd give you a break. Here are some fun or fascinating links I've come across in recent days!

First and foremost, THIS is just way too cute. I can hardly wait to be a father!

This website is called detroitblog, and I think it's absolutely fascinating. If you get a chance, go back through the archives to get an amazing window into inner-city life. This post is just one example- and it's very sad. Christians need to spend time thinking about the serious spiritual problems these areas face.

I know many people don't like him. I know they regard him as a failure. But here's a neat article about a man whom, despite his failings, I will always love and respect.

Are you interested in philosophy? This website has an incredible store of key philosophy texts. I already have used it to find a lot of stuff I remembered learning from my liberal arts program in college.

This website is just awesome. It uses statistics to show the relationships of various economic and health characteristics in countries around the world. Be sure to watch the lectures to see how he uses the gapminder tool... and then try it out for yourself!

Boy... if only we had the discipline to listen to political debates like THIS these days.

This website is wonderfully helpful, but also a bit saddening. It's called We Feel Fine, and it takes a beautiful approach to searching through people's blogs. The sad part, of course, is that it highlights the incredible lostness in our world. This video helpfully explains the tool and how to use it.


Are you interested in global warming? Well, I strongly suggest you watch these lectures. I can hardly get over this silliness of this debate. If you are looking for a repository of articles representing both sides of the discussion, HERE YOU GO.

Finally, I cannot leave without at least one moment of beauty. Here it is.

Obama: Comments, Criticisms, and Further Thoughts

Wow- my last post garnered more comments and interest (both on and off the Internet!) than any other since… well, since I started sharing bits and pieces of my life on blogger in 2002. Thank you Christ and Pop Culture!

Here’s what I want to do. First, I’ll review some of the feedback I’ve gotten from comments both on and off the web. In my next post, I’ll flesh out some of my thoughts on why I am voting for Obama and how I think about some of the issues involved. Keep sending in your comments! They are very helpful to me.

First, Matt Privet agrees with my McCain frustrations, but argues that not voting at all is a better approach to the problem. As a political conservative, he sees possible dangers in supporting a candidate with a more liberal stance. From a political philosophy standpoint, he makes a very strong point. As I have mentioned in a few places, I’m trying to toss a lot of those philosophical stances out for this election, focusing on trying to vote as an extension of Christian faithfulness rather than voting for political ideology. However, the conservative in me has a LOT of sympathy for his helpful point.

Next, my friend Matt Wireman lets me know that he’s not entirely convinced… and guides us to a very helpful article (and yes, Matt, I had seen it previously) discussing some of the things a president is able to do that help control the spread of abortion. Matt is right to point to this issue; it is a key problem in the question of whom to vote for. I will flesh out my understanding of this problem more in a bit, but for now let me say simply that I just do not see it. Abortion trends seem significantly unaffected by the president in office- you would think 8 years of dominating federal politics would be enough for conservatives to make at least SOME gains in abortion reduction, but I just do not see it. Still, it is a very important aspect of the discussion to consider.

Alan agrees with the problem of single-issue voting, but is struggling with the issue of Supreme Court Justice appointments. I think he is right to do so, but I would suggest that conservatives put far too much faith in the Supreme Court. Remember, they do not make law… they merely interpret it. Also, they generally try not to take cases they have already spoken on. Though we certainly desire more conservative justices, I’m no longer convinced that voting for a string of conservative presidents to try to wait for the liberal justices to die off is viable or justifiable.

Alex Fear is a Pentecostal from England (read that twice! Are you with newfrontiers at all?). He comments that the American focus on the abortion is really quite unique- at least in England, it’s barely a political issue at all. He supports the bottom approach I’ve advocated elsewhere for addressing the abortion problem through social action and heart change rather than political change. One thing that especially struck me was when he said, “The church should be offering the answer…” Amen to that. The problem is not merely abortion- it’s all the reasons for HAVING an abortion which are widely accepted as morally ok. We as a church need to offer answers of hope, help, forgiveness, and a better way forward.

He also brings up the fairly common “what about capital punishment?” argument. I actually don’t think that’s a very helpful paradigm. Capital punishment is a right of the state. I do believe Christians should lobby for leniency, and even for abolition of capital punishment, but it is not on a moral parallel with abortion. When the state kills a dangerous criminal (who have GIVEN UP their right to freedom and even life), it is protecting society. When an individual aborts their baby (who is entirely innocent), they are usually not protecting anyone or anything other than their personal interests, even if those reasons are heartbreaking ones.

My good friend Luis chimes in, supporting again the bottom-up paradigm of going after root causes rather than bulldozing with legislation. To receive a compliment from him is a mighty thing! There are few people whom I enjoy interacting with so much as him- I think we challenge each other well, and so it’s fun to agree on something!

Pastor Bill Reichart from Georgia agrees with the trend away from a purely Republican voting line, and links to a post he’s written on God’s politics.

My friend Gracelin agrees with voting for Obama in her usual subtle and nuanced style. As you’ll see, though, she’s as smart as they come and has done her homework in a variety of areas. Can you say, “future journalist?” I say yes. Probably for the NY Times before the Wall Street Journal, but one can always hope!

Outside the Internet world, two of my church's excellent elders (I won't say which two) cornered me to talk politics. They had some very helpful arguments that should be considered.

The first argued that, as an initial step, abortion should be left up to the states. Should that happen, abortion debates would be local and presidential politics would be freed to focus on other issues. This is a great scenario, but I don’t think it could last very long if it happened. The first thing the ACLU would do is go to a poor area of a large state that outlaws abortion (say, Texas) and find a woman who wants an abortion but is financially unable to leave the state. They would argue that it if the SC has not OUTLAWED abortion, then this woman is being denied her rights merely on the basis of living in a state that is against abortion. I feel that it’s the same structural problem that slavery presented- keeping the decision in the hands of the states bears too many inconsistencies to make it last.

The second pointed out that there are a million smaller decisions pertaining to abortion that are made at a lower level- and that a pro-choice president, over time, would encourage a mostly pro-choice government work force (committee chairs, bureaucratic positions, etc.) that would have negative effects across the board. This, again, is a strong point. However, as far as I know, the majority of federal bureaucratic positions are filled without regard to political stance (specifically to prevent this type of influence from the executive). Further, this gets back to the original question about abortion- will political answers really win the day?

These comments were all helpful to me, and were excellent articulations of the various problems associated with the abortion issue in the evangelical community. Thank you to everyone! I will soon write a post on my take on the abortion issue in presidential politics.


I Will Vote For Obama

I will vote for Barack Obama.

I realize this post will not be popular. I realize it flies in the face of some strongly held beliefs, and many will feel I am doing something questionable, even wrong. However, I believe I am making the best choice I can, and that I am being as God-honoring as possible.

Let me also throw in a few disclaimers. I am a registered Republican. I currently am and have always been politically conservative. I attended a mostly liberal college within my university and remained conservative. I have worked for a Republican running for Congress (Tom Hickey), a Republican state senator (Loren Bennett), a Republican congressman (Mike Rogers from Michigan), and have voted for Republicans almost exclusively. I have credentials that would prevent me from being hired by nearly any liberal organization. Furthermore, I am a big fan of George W. Bush and some (though not all) of the hard decisions he has made in his presidency. If this race were him against Obama, I would vote Bush.

And yet I am voting for Obama. Why?

Now, this post is long. Here is my request. If you are skimming, feel free to skim away. However, if you want to criticize or respond to my post, that’s fine, but PLEASE READ THE WHOLE THING FIRST. I have spent lots of time reading the many blogs and commentators supporting or disparaging Huckabee, Romney, McCain, Paul, Thompson, Clinton, Edwards, and Obama. I do look at the major issues, the candidate biographies, and the ins and outs of the campaign. Please respect me enough to hear me out before rebuking me. If you REALLY want to be fair, I suggest you even take a few minutes to check out the things I link to.

I will first highlight some (though not all) of the reasons I find Obama to be an attractive candidate. I will then list some (though not all) of the reasons why I am willing to vote against John McCain and the Republican party in this election cycle. I will close by briefly referring to other statements I have made in the past regarding politics.

First, some of why I am for Obama.

Obama articulates a common hopeful vision.
Throughout American history, the greatest presidents have articulated a unifying vision for the country. This has been key to our sense of togetherness and accomplishment in facing various problems. More than any other candidate, Obama is thoughtful and intelligent in assessing, considering, and articulating the various struggles we face as people, and then guiding us into a sense of commonality as we deal with those things.

Obama is connected to society.
None of the other candidates has been so closely and intimately invested in the problems of local government as he. His work in inner city Chicago will, I think, help him to be more thoughtful about the effect national policies have on local communities than the other candidates. This speech illustrates my point about these last two paragraphs.

Obama has the most Christian worldview of the remaining (viable) candidates.
Though one could argue that Huckabee deserves to win this category, he is pretty much out of the race. Barack Obama has articulated a conversion experience, and has faithfully and consistently lived out his faith. You may have some theological disagreements with the African-American church, as I do, but there is no denying that his faith is much more clear and authentic than any claimed by McCain or Clinton.

Obama’s character and approach to problem solving will, I believe, be more constructive on the world stage.
He reminds me of Tony Blair in his thoughtful and articulate approach, willing to acknowledge faults and mistakes but always looking for a positive way forward. I look forward to seeing his talents on display at the international level, whereas the thought of being represented by the maverick McCain or the pandering Clinton just scares me.

Obama is by far the most thoughtful and reflective candidate regarding the role of faith in politics.
If one is to be fair to him, you really must listen to his Call for Renewal speech (you can READ IT too, but seeing and hearing it is more effective). Though you may disagree with the conclusions he has come to, he has clearly put much consideration into the way he approaches such a large and contentious issue.

Now, here is why I am prepared to vote against the Republican party.

The Republican party has squandered its opportunity.
Though there is much I like about George W. Bush, the party on the whole has been given every advantage in the world and they cannot seem to get anything worthwhile done. They have not found ways to create good policy, they have not found ways to work helpfully with Democrats, and they have done more to hurt the nation’s view of conservative political policy than they have to help it.

The Republican party is no longer listening to Christians.
We have become a voting bloc for them, a monolithic single-issue creature that will support ANYONE so long as they agree in one key area. I have worked in the United States Congress, heard their conversations, seen the way they make decisions, seen how they talk about evangelicals, and seen the results. I tell you plainly; for the most part, the party is not listening to us. They pay us verbal respect because we are large, but they are not responding to our desires so long as we guarantee them our votes in exchange for the lip-service of being against abortion.

Since when is coming down hard on illegal immigration something for Christians to get fired up about? What has happened to our compassion for the foreigner, the outcast, the exile? And yet we allow the party to tell us how we should think about that and many other topics… so long as they, “are pro-life,” an issue which most politicians can’t influence anyways. (note: I speak generally here- I realize some Christians do have good reasons for wanting a tougher stance on the problems of illegal immigration. However, I do think it’s an area many Christians just follow the party line on, rather than researching it carefully)

John McCain is an immoral man.
Do you remember when the big Republican argument for supporting Bob Dole was, “Bill Clinton is immoral and unrepentant”? McCain is very much in the same vein. He has had multiple affairs. The most recent led to his divorcing his wife and remarrying less than a month later. Any, “repentance,” he has displayed was over hurt feelings, but not over the sin itself. Does this disqualify him from the Presidency? No. However, Christians who argued that morality was reason to vote for Dole and against Clinton should check themselves carefully in this race.

John McCain is a bad policy maker.
The laws he has helped write are mixed up gobblygook; they were not thought through clearly, they were not written well, and they are not making our country a better place. Nothing about his career suggests that he will ably handle the highest administrative office in the land. This is a big problem to me, as you’ll see in THIS POST on this topic.

John McCain is not a leader or a consensus builder.
For his entire career, he has played the part of maverick. He revels in challenging convention, and rather than work with others he takes his case public to wedge his opponents into a rhetorical corner. The whole campaign finance fiasco, for instance, was a case in point. He made a big moral issue out of campaign finance, made his party look bad, and then wrote a bad law to the sound of thunderous applause from the public and meek acquiescence from the rest of the Senate. The result? There’s even MORE money in campaign finances, it’s even EASIER to get support from questionable sources, and individuals have even LESS influence than they used to as compared to larger lobbying organizations. Why should I trust him as a leader? HERE is an article describing some of the problems of McCain's signature legislation.

Overall, I believe my role as a Christian voter is to vote for the person I feel will best lead the country, so that the name of Christ can most easily be proclaimed to everyone. To me, that candidate is Barack Obama.

Of course, it is fine that many (if not most) Christians disagree with me. I understand and appreciate the case made by most evangelicals regarding abortion, just as I understand and appreciate the arguments made by most African-American churches regarding social justice (by the way, they really DO have some helpful things to say that we evangelicals should consider carefully).

I certainly would never say that to vote for John McCain because of a single issue is wrong- I know that we are all just trying to work out faithfulness as best we can. If you want to see the other side of this question from a man much more intelligent and articulate than I, check out Owen’s post HERE. For my own thoughts on that particular issue, you can look HERE.

But this is the place I’ve come to. I’ve been into politics since I was in high school, and in all that time I have never before supported a Democrat for president. However, I believe that this is the best possible time for Christians to declare to the world that we will not be pigeon-holed, that we are not an automatic voting bloc for the secular leaders in the Republican party, and that our aim and goal is of a much higher and more lasting importance than the advancement of the conservative party agenda.

For me, this means I am voting for Barack Obama. My hope and prayer is that we evangelicals can continue to carefully consider and discuss these things as the campaign continues, without disparaging each other for taking one side or the other.


Two updates

Hey folks,

Two quick updates for today. First, would you believe that I changed the starter on my car? My mechanically-inclined friend Drew seemed to think I could do it, so I took a shot at it. My car has been completely dead for a week, but it's worked perfectly since I fixed it! What a thrill.

The second update is that a new YouTube video has entered my list of "Top 5 favorites." I'll have to give the full list another day, when I've decided what the new order is. However, I think it will be very much worth your time to watch THIS. Enjoy!