Sunday, July 30, 2006

Developing a Political Philosophy

I have, at least for today, decided to consider for the first time in my Christian life that maybe, just maybe, it might be necessary to develop a political philosophy. I come to this task with the fear that I could become something that I despise and that something is becoming a partisan. From my perspective there is nothing that has harmed the witness of the church more than political partisanship.

It is possible that the word partisan is not the right word. What I so loath is the emotion-ridden belief that those who hold a different views of policy are either stupid and irrational or immoral. So often a person’s policy views are translated by the opposition into a judgment of a person’s moral character that does not necessarily follow. Can a person hold a view that supports advocacy for the illegal immigrant and still be pro-American? Can a person hold a view that supports homosexual rights to marry and still see homosexuality as morally wrong? Can a person believe in the separation of church and state and be against government funding of faith based institutions and still believe that Jesus is Lord of All? In each of these examples, if one holds a view contrary to the mainstream of the church, one could be seen as fighting for the wrong team. This is partisanship. Might one, like myself, hold a political philosophy that defends the civil liberties of all Americans and still be fighting for God’s will in all of life? Might I hold a political philosophy that articulates that people are free to pursue happiness any way they please so long as it doesn’t interfere with the rights of others? Dare I, as a Christian, develop a political philosophy that sees all legislation of morality as an establishment of religion by means of law and, therefore, contrary to the establishment of the kingdom by grace alone?

Another possibility is that I develop a particular view of human flourishing and come to believe that all the institutions of life ought to promote this understanding, a biblical understanding, of human flourishing. From this standpoint, one not of civil liberties but of a biblical understanding of human nature, could I develop what really is not a liberal democratic view of government at all? Is it possible that the human story shows that as cultures sanction the normalcy of certain behaviors that these cultures self-destruct? What if I develop a learned view of history which convinces me of the need to use government to regulate human insanity in the realms of racism, nationalism, sexual behaviors, and anti-Semitic and anti-Christian bigotry?

What about the role of government indoctrination with respect to religious relativism and sexual norms? What does a citizen do when the government considers it necessary to indoctrinate a philosophy regarding self-esteem, sexuality, gender, and many other issues which constitutes a worldview contrary to mine and even contrary to common sense? How can a political philosophy answer such questions as what is the proper bounds of the curriculum of the public school?

How does my religious understanding of the kingdom inform this philosophy? I believe in a morally beautiful church, but is Jesus only working to build His church or is He using government to build His kingdom as well? Where do we look for such answers? Is political philosophy an issue to be discovered through the study of special revelation or general revelation? Do the classics inform my political philosophy or the bible or both?

Lastly, is such wisdom even relevant to the kingdom? Is politics a huge diversion to kingdom advancement? Or is politics an important realm of Christian activism? Is the fact that Christians are becoming politically active a reason to develop a political philosophy for the sole purpose of arguing for Christian disengagement from political activism in the name of Christ?

Or is the fact that politics is so central to the life of the non-Christian and because Christians have become engaged, has this development requires the missionary in the America to be able to discuss these topics with some nuance and understanding of the various camps within the culture and within the church? Does the Christian need to know where he or she stands politically?

Personally, as a poor beggar who is just trying to show another beggar where to find bread, I have avoided politics as simply off topic, but, of late, I have been in relationship with people of many stripes and feel obligated to contemplate these questions. Thus, a journey into the development of a political philosophy has come to me and asked for answers.

Do you know where you stand and why? Are you partisan in your attitude to those, especially other Christians, who differ in their views of proper policy? Do you study the classics or the bible or both? Are you more libertarian or do you see the realm of politics as a possible realm for developing a righteous society? As we continue to ask these questions, I hope the Christian community can be gracious towards myself and others as we dialogue, reflect, and eventually arrive at conclusions. And in so doing, I hope we discover the way of Jesus in these times of change.

God Bless, brad

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Meek Politician - The Christian in Politics Pt 1

The church in America, I believe, is in crisis. The last twenty years of seeker sensitive tactics for evangelism and similar church service methods has only exasperated the already apparent shallowness and superficial spiritual life of the American Christian. One area where the lack of spiritual wisdom and shallow discipleship has expressed itself much to the detriment of the church’s witness is the realm of politics. I have made the decision to be a contributor to RedBlueChristian in an attempt to surface the relationship between a lack of discipleship under the teachings of Jesus and how this has expressed itself in the political theatre.

A key or possibly the key text regarding the effectiveness of the witness of the church to the reality that Jesus is the promised Messiah is Matt 5:13-16:
13"You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. 14"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."

Jesus administers His Lordship over our lives through His teachings, and it is our incarnational application of these teachings in every area of our life that defines our “saltiness”. The Moral Attributes of God are revealed to those around us as we follow Jesus’ teachings in the power of the Holy Spirit. As we love and forgive in every area of our life, we are, in that moment, distinct from the world. We live by kingdom principles and not the principles of the world. If, through our ignorance, we play by the world’s rules and our character is not distinct, our interaction with the world will actually harm the cause of Christ.

Of all the virtues of Christ, none is so distinct and beautiful as His meekness. Jesus taught us that the wise and blessed man is the one who is meek and that it is the meek that shall, through faith and suffering, inherit the earth. The Christian is a person who is both filled with the life of Christ and under the Lordship of the mind of Christ. Such a person has the unique wisdom of both knowing and understanding the ways of Christ. Meekness is central to this morally distinct way. The Christian, to bear witness to the power of the Gospel in all his affairs, must make it his or her ambition to be meek.

The Question We Must Ask Ourselves
Is meekness a virtue that is seen in the Christian community’s political life? If we as a community are not generally meek in this arena of life, then, can we confess that Jesus is the Lord of all our life? If this is not our confession, we must change our approach to how we bear witness to the Gospel in the arena of politics. It is precisely our meek approach to life and our loving approach to all our adversaries that we, as Christians, are mandated to bring to the political process of our nation. To answer the question, “Are we meek in this area of life?”, we first must define meekness.

Meekness is the acceptance that in all our labors for righteousness God is in control of the results and that we need not be disturbed by the outcomes which God chooses to ordain. The meek boldly proclaim the truth and their positions, but they proclaim it without being disturbed by their adversaries. The foundation of our meekness is our knowledge that we are seen by our God and that He is able to act to vindicate His justice whenever He pleases. The meek never resort to any compromise of their integrity nor do they waver in their love for their adversaries. In short, the meek labor for righteousness, but they do not stoop to “fighting”. As followers of Jesus on the road of meekness, we maintain, like Steven, the face of an angel because, in our hearts, we behold the Lord seated at the right hand of God. Jesus was the meekest man ever to live, for, while He spoke the truth with boldness, He simultaneously did not defend Himself. Before His adversaries, He was like a lamb led to the slaughter. We are to be like our Lord in the arena of politics.

For the sake of brevity, I will limit my use of examples to but one.

The meek do not take matters into their own hands. The meek do not devise ways to obtain or maintain power which are less than honorable. In other words, the meek do not participate in gerrymandering. But, the Christian politician of our day responds, “that is politics, and, well, gerrymandering is allowed under the law”. “Gerrymandering is the prerogative of the ruling party, and, anyway, if we don’t do it ‘they’ will.”

It is precisely here that our Christian principles enter into the Christian’s politics. Meekness and love for that matter are only tested when we and our dreams and agendas have something to lose. Gerrymandering is a subtle and maybe sometimes not so subtle abuse of power. The Christian’s political behavior must be antithetical to abuse of power. Gerrymandering is but one example which surfaces one’s approach to politics. A Christian’s approach to politics, win or lose, is to follow our Lord in the way of meekness.

So, as citizens of another Kingdom and servants of another King, how do we live by these principles, the first being meekness? My prayer is that this discussion begins to answer these questions as another political season approaches.

May our witness be filled with grace and meekness to the Glory of God.
God Bless, brad
Cross posted at:

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Warnies and the New Warnie Aggrgator

A little Sunday Lite
To get a sense of the magnitude of the Warnie and the reaction of the BBC to the upgrades at Adrian's site go to Pyromaniacs. Or go straight to the source.

The bottom line is Adrian has dumped the aggregator and went to a list at the top of his blog to highlight Warnie winner recent posts. WOW! what a blessing.

I am constantly amazed at how my blog is so ugly and Adrian's blog and Dan's blog are so pretty. God Bless you are great bloggers.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Treasures on Earth, Repentance, Being Critical, and Why Prophets are Persecuted?

I was having a discussion with a few friends of mine over the last few days. One of these men is my best friend from high school. He lives in Tanzania and has work most his adult life with the peace corps and with USAID. The other man is a quite successful business man. He is in real estate and owns a business with about a dozen franchises. That’s pretty big bucks. As we were talking one of the men said, “I am a generally good person”, and in fact, he probably is generally a pretty nice guy with good values.

It is funny the topic of religion was brought up by them and not me. Bringing up religion is not something the follower of Jesus really needs to do very often. I find everywhere I go people are constantly bringing up religion. I go to lunch with non-christians every day, and I never bring up religion. Nonetheless, the topic is probably the most dominant of all topics. I can even say, “Now, I didn’t bring this up ya know” and, at their initiation, launch into some scripture filled explanation of the beauty of the cross of Christ.

Anyway, so this man contends that he is a pretty good guy generally speaking. I would bet that he is, in fact, much "nicer" than I am. In fact, by the world’s standards, I am not particularly nice at all. It is this not being nice that constantly surfaces the religious questions people have. My rich friend's statement about being a generally good person was a natural self defense against my answer to another question he had asked.

The Conversation
So what have you been doing lately?”, he asked. As you will see simple warm and pleasant conversations just tend to touch upon kingdom principles sooner or later.
Yeah, we just moved into our new house”, I said.
We just got a new house too. We live in La Canada. I bought my mom and dad’s house on Nice Street. Does your mom still live in Newport.”
No, she has moved a few times. She has done pretty well for herself. From Newport to Corona del Mar to San Marino to Altadena and now she cashed out and lives in a Condo in Old town.”
“Same with us, with housing prices going up and all, we have done real well
Yeah, Jane and I are looking to do some down grading. I have a vision I call from Cerritos to Compton. We started in Artesia (which is near Cerritos and is a pretty upper middle class neighborhood) and now we down graded to Bellflower. The goal is to live as simply as possible until it feels very natural to move our family to Compton or some similar underdeveloped area. Part of being a Christian is to live as simply as possible to be a witness against materialism and to be free to give sacrificially, but at the same time we struggle to perfectly live out the vision.”
Our company does some charity work. Last year we raised 100,000 dollars for local charities.
That’s good money.”
So you believe that only Christians go to heaven? I am a generally good person.”

Now, analyzing this actual conversation. From whence on God’s green earth did that question come from bout only Christians going to heaven? Well, the fact is it naturally came as a self defense from the conversation. I made a statement about my view of righteousness. Saying that my vision is to live simply. I am intentionally implying that simplicity is a virtue and that to walk with God one must seek virtue. In order to enter the kingdom, our righteousness must exceed that of the successful in life even the successful people who cloth their self-centered pursuits in religious clothing. All of this perspective is behind my natural and smooth flowing discussion about life. But such a subtext, told in story but not yet explained in principle, puts this rich man on the defensive. Without even being aware of it, his inner person is saying, “He seeks to be simple and I just spent $40,000 on a kitchen remodel”.

To his question, I answered, “It is not what I believe that matters, but Jesus did say, 'It is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.'”

Now this answer might not be the best. The best answer might be (probably is) what Jesus said in a similar situation and which I have only thought of in retrospect. Maybe, I should have said, “Would you like to go to heaven?” Hopefully, he would answer. “Well I imagine it is better than the alternative.” Or maybe, a healthy American, “yes”. To this Jesus, I think, would reply, “If you want to go to heaven (inherit eternal life) then sell all your possessions and give them to the poor and follow me.” Or in our case, “Sell all your possessions and give to the poor and become a follower of Jesus, and, today, you will enter a new life that will be indestructible even by death.

This is the proper call to salvation for these friends of mine. This call of salvation is quite different than the call we have been taught, but it is how Jesus, our Lord and Teacher, our only teacher and leader, would have addressed my friends. This is how Jesus addresses all of us today.

Today, is the day of salvation, and, apart from any work, we can have His kingdom today. Today, if we hear His voice and if we do not harden our hearts, we can enter the kingdom. The prophet, Jesus, speaks to us today. He stands and says, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is within reach, today!!”.

Lord, grant us courage and power to live this life today. Let your power and your life and your faith fill our hearts and minds that we may know life and have a witness to Your present kingdom and the life of following the King of Kings - a life that is truly called "blessed".

God Bless,

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Kalin Block Party - Long Beach

More Pictures

This party was just wonderful. Our goal, at least mine, is to do this kinda thing at least monthly. For some reason, as a pastor, this kinda thing never materialized, but, now that we are just a small group, we seem much more flexible.

A Simple Map of Free, Partly Free and Not Free Countries

Center for Religious Freedom...

(HT: Gideon Strauss)
"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free". The idea that true virtue only follows freedom and internal motivations is central to Christianity as opposed to Statist ideas of virtue or for example Islam's actual effect of social driven or honor driven virtue. Social and political fear does not produce virtue.

I am celebrating not being "the Man" this fourth of July. The hope is that the freedom from all social obligation and pursuit that is central to the cultivation of virtue just may have a sanctifying effect on my soul.

The Gospel like no other mesage centers on the sancifying effect of freedom. "The Law Paul says is not for the righteous but the unrighteous". Dallas Willard says God desires for us to do whatever we want. The point is the same, since we are filled with God's Spirit, if we are free of all fear of any reprisal we will be free to be truly virtuous as we follow our first love in the Spirit. Let the love out!!!!

God Bless,

Monday, July 03, 2006

Adrian's Blog on Blogging and On Blogging from Me

Adrian's Blog

As is obvious, I do not blog as intensely as I used to...but maybe that could change. I read this post by Adrian and see how he has some good things going:
1. He uses technology very well: lots of tags and lots of categories. This allows him to have numerous projects going on simultaneously. This is how the 21st Century mind works. We have many projects in the air at the same time and we move some of them forward every day and others forward on other days. Ultimately, the projects get done. So too with blogging IF WE ORGANIZE PROPERLY!!! Adrian uses organization tools and technology to help his efforts have more focus and effectiveness.

2. Adrian has an administrative assistant. So to run his blog Adrian uses a helper to do all the work of getting links and beefing up his organization of his projects. WOW this is a powerful combination. So ....

If anyone in LA thinks they are interested in helping me change my blog and start utilizing technology and all that is needed to have a good blog...well maybe the reformation would be better for it...