Thursday, December 22, 2011

Violence Returns to Iraq - democracy and Military Action

Wave of attacks kills dozens amid Iraq's upheaval
The lesson here is to reassess how democracy promotion works. We cannot expect to be successful by enforcing democracy via military action. The entire endevor may prove to have been a total waste of lives and money.

Lesson learned: Empire isn't a good long term strategy for prosperity.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Bias Justice in Alabama: Executive arrested under Alabama immigration law

Mercedes-Benz executive arrested under Alabama immigration law

A basic premise of justice is that justice must be without bias. Laws cannot favor the poor or the rich. No one is above the law. This principle of justice, obviously, is not understood by the good people of Alabama where a law is being reconsidered because it has been found to possibly harm rich folk.
Would a false arrest of a spanish speaking tax paying maid lead to the over turn of a law in Alabama or must the person falsely arrested be rich? The answer is obvious. Poor brown skinned people have been complaining about this law and others like it for months, BUT, as it turns out, the long arm of the law is only comfortable reaching downward.
This case is a perfect example of bias and, therefore, an unjust law which should be overturned regardless of who is being falsely arrested.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

US Lawmaker Blocking Obama’s Pick for Ambassador to Russia

US lawmaker blocking Obama’s pick for ambassador

Michael McFaul is the most clear eyed observer of Russia on the planet. He has legitimate pro-democracy street cred. If anyone thinks Mike will be fooled by Putin, they are either ignorant of Dr. McFaul's history or they simply are being disingenuous. You choose.

Is Modern Capitalism Sustainable? - Kenneth Rogoff - Project Syndicate

Is Modern Capitalism Sustainable?
As we think about "The Kingdom as Justice", it is helpful to take a self-critical look at our understanding of the world's political economy. What about our political-economic system is unjust? How are people and future generations harmed by a lack of care for the economy, the environment and our debt burden? Is it not unjust to leave a world of inequality, pollution, debt and rising health care costs to our children to fix? Certainly God cares about the well being of our children and has his sights on the well being of our children's children. Can inequality continue to go unchecked? The question is how do we fix these problems that are quickly evolving into crisis due to our petty self-interests and our lack of intellectual rigor.
In the above article, Kenneth Rogoff begins to ask questions concerning the sustainability of capitalism in its current form. We too need to look objectively and without bias (especially religious bias) at how to solve these policy problems which are at the heart of the problems of injustice in God's world.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

John Rawls - Required Reading

John Rawls
It seems only reasonable to me that such great thinkers like John Rawls should be required reading for all Christian leaders AND that the church should be a central place for public reasoning.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Did the Poor Cause the Crisis?

It is hard to resist posting an article like this one. Justice compels me.
Been meditating on justice a lot lately.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Why Greece is so Important - Bailouts and Haircuts

Discussion of Greece proposing the possibility of 50 percent haircut on debt is a very important news item. For a Christian blogger to speak so much about economics might seem strange to some but consider 20th Century Europe's history of financial meltdowns.

First, I think Europe needs to take action to allow peripheral countries an orderly default. The longer the global community waits the greater the risk. My understanding of an orderly default is basically an agreed upon haircut. Banks holding Greek debt agree to write the value down and Greece agrees to pay the new payments on the new debt levels. Though a 50pc haircut seems drastic think about the options of more austerity.

Populations like Greece at some point will rebel against further austerity. Political unrest in Europe is the worst case scenario. Unrest will likely lead to a populist call for a disorderly default. The contagion of such action is completely unpredictable and likely to be more catastrophic than Lehman.

Why is this important? 1. Good policy and orderly cooperative action can avoid total catastrophe. It is vital to realize that while a natural catastrophe like a Tsunami cannot be avoided Financial Tsunamis can be avoided. The math can be done to make a balanced bailout and haircut options that equally effects banks and public services but protects all of us from wholesale disaster. As Christians, we ought to call for balanced sacrifice and wise solutions to avoid undue suffering. This is the compassionate and wise thing to do. 2. Human nature and the realities of life can cause suffering people to do horrible things. Poverty and economic collapse can lead to political instability. These things have happened before and it is unwise to believe that the 21st century is any different than the 20th.

Friday, September 02, 2011

India's Identity Project

With National Database, India Tries to Reach the Poor -

This is a great article about the India Identity Project. This is a project to register all Indians. India is notorious for leaving its despertely poor behind as it "develops". This project is an aim to monitor and measure the lives of the poor and be able to get these suffering people into the benefits process. The aim is to lower significantly corruption and the cost of India's bearocracy. This is great use of technology to move development forward.

It is also headed by the author of Imagining India, Nandan M. Nilekani. Imagining India is on my bed stand waiting to be read.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Currently Reading @ 21st Century Reformation

My current reading list on the side bar is a bit outdated I need to update BUT here is what I am reading:

1. I just finished    
The Bottom Billion - Paul Collier

2. I am now reading 
Development as Freedom - Amartya Sen

Both are fantastic...highly recommended.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Development or Charity

The Christian Obligation to Be Generous to the Poor
Of all the teachings of Jesus certainly laboring for the well being of the poor is of the most central. Any student of Jesus has to be struck by the ethic of sacrificial love and extravagant giving. Consider this teaching recorded in Luke 12:
29 And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying. 30 For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. 31 But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you. 32 Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.33 “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
In my own contemplation of Jesus, one of the most compelling aspects of Jesus is that more than anyone else Jesus challenges me to serve the poor. Many other passages of the New Testament challenge the follower of Jesus concerning our obligation to generosity. 1 John 3:16-18 commands the Christians, 
16 We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.
Clearly, the Christian is to live by different set of values than those who are not followers of Jesus. As Christians, we are to use any discretionary resources to alleviate the suffering of others as opposed to our own luxury and pleasure. While we are called to serve the poor and suffering of the world, the question remains how ought we to go about doing this. 
Many churches have food pantries. Many churches give to emergency relief funds. Is this the limit of our obligation? Are we merely to give charity and supply for the destitute emergency needs.
While we are commanded as followers of Jesus to demonstrate our faith in the love of God by being generous, we are often troubled by the observation that often charity in the form of aid is ineffective. This observation that often charity might actually do harm is quite demotivating. The question of how we are to help and serve the destitute can be answered if we consider the difference between development and charity. 
To help understand the difference between development and charity or aid, I will make a few definitions. These definitions are not meant as being necessarily technically accurate but simply to be used as tools to help focus our efforts. 
By charity, I mean giving materially to meet the immediate needs of people. The food pantry is a great example of charity. Currently, the world is seeing a famine in the Horn of Africa which may be the worst of our generation. Certainly, in these situations charity is absolutely necessary. These people need emergency aid and to stand by and watch such suffering is cold and inhumane. Nonetheless, wisdom compels us to think deeper about what we can do to help poor communities. 
Wisdom compels us to consider the idea of development. Development is the process of growing a person or a community’s capability to provide freedom from suffering for themselves. Development respects the agency of the individual. For example, about one billion people on the planet lack the capability to provide for themselves and their family’s nutrition. In these societies, men and women lack the education or the resources to generate value which can be consistently transacted for food. In these communities, the individuals lack the freedom to avoid malnourishment. The community is underdeveloped to the extent that its citizens lack opportunity. Our obligation is to assist in developing the capacity in these communities to give opportunity to their people. When we can provide such capacities through the application of wisdom and planning and resources, it is development that is our obligation. We are obligated not just to blindly give charity but to wisely assist in development. For example, charity might see the need for medicine while development sees the opportunity to develop a health care system. A health care system includes building nursing schools and for-profit hospitals. In such a system, businessmen build businesses, local nurses gain employment and local citizens gain access to health care. This example illustrates a few important differences between charity and development. 
  1. Development requires leadership. Such a plan to develop, in this case, an improved health care system is a long term project. Intelligence is required to design a long-term plan. Emergency relief has its logistical difficulties but development of a health care system is far more complex. This involves the founding of schools and interaction with government agencies and educational institutions in the West. Such a plan is ambitious, but only such a plan for development actually brings prosperity and dignity to a community. Charity brings dignity to the giver while development brings dignity to the community being developed. 
  2. Development requires long-term commitment. Jesus taught us that when we make a plan to obey Him, we must consider the size of the challenge. Development is a commitment that requires extensive resources: time, money and intelligence. The church is an extensive institution that is prepared to make just this type of commitment. Christians are not alone in their plans to assist the poor of the world. We are perfectly situated to make long-term, even multigenerational, commitments to other communities around the globe. 
The time has come for Christians to move beyond charity and consider our obligation to bring to the poor of the world actual development and dignity. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Answers from Nouriel Roubini - Project Syndicate

Is Capitalism Doomed? - Nouriel Roubini - Project Syndicate:
This is so important to minimize global suffering. What is required is political courage:
"The right balance today requires creating jobs partly through additional fiscal stimulus aimed at productive infrastructure investment. It also requires more progressive taxation; more short-term fiscal stimulus with medium- and long-term fiscal discipline; lender-of-last-resort support by monetary authorities to prevent ruinous runs on banks; reduction of the debt burden for insolvent households and other distressed economic agents; and stricter supervision and regulation of a financial system run amok; breaking up too-big-to-fail banks and oligopolistic trusts.
Over time, advanced economies will need to invest in human capital, skills and social safety nets to increase productivity and enable workers to compete, be flexible and thrive in a globalized economy. The alternative is – like in the 1930s - unending stagnation, depression, currency and trade wars, capital controls, financial crisis, sovereign insolvencies, and massive social and political instability."

Monday, August 01, 2011

Famine and Hope in the Horn of Africa - Jeffrey D. Sachs on the Famine in East Africa

Famine and Hope in the Horn of Africa - Jeffrey D. Sachs

It is discouraging how the West, both Europe and America, are ignoring the famine in the form of Africa. The Millennium Village Project is showing some hopeful strategies that the neighboring countries are attempting to use to make efforts more effective and the Islamic Development Bank is responding. Nonetheless, it appears to me that the catastrophe will be horrible if the west does not respond. Read more here

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Human Problem and the Kingdom (Part 1)

In the last Discipleship 101 post, The Kingdom Solves the Human Problem - Intro, I introduced the revolutionary concept that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. The human problem is met with the immediate availability of the Kingdom of heaven. The motto of Christianity that “Jesus is the Christ” means precisely that a new heavenly quality of life, which was previously unavailable to human beings, is now “at hand”. The kingdom is available. This is a revolutionary claim, and, to understand the true revolutionary content of this promise, this gospel, we must see with the human problem with God’s eyes. From God’s perspective, what is wrong with human life?
To understand God’s perspective on humanity, to see with God’s eyes, we must must accept one preeminent truth: God is a God of compassion. The living God is the defender of the weak. The second truth we must accept is like the first. This God of compassion has a global perspective. The living God sees the oppression and suffering of the world’s poor, and He hears their cry. To understand the kingdom of heaven and its promise, we must see with the eyes of God and feel with the love of God or we will miss the proper application of the kingdom of God. How can we live in the solution if we do not understand the problem? Only if we know the compassion of God will our perspective look at a world of incomprehensible suffering and define the human problem as God defines the human problem. 
The human problem is suffering. This suffering is the result of man’s inhumanity to man and this violence and oppression is the result of man’s sinfulness. Looking deeper, we find that this violence and oppression is the result of man’s alienation from God. But before we dig into solutions, solutions that include a deeper relationship with God through Jesus Christ, we must look at the problem and, indeed, the problem is oppression and suffering. 
A Word on Problems and Solutions
When I speak of the term “problem”, I am using this word in an almost technical sense. By "problem", I mean the observable concrete circumstance that people find themselves in. By problem, I specifically do not mean the causes or the root causes of these objective problems. For example, war and violence is part of the human problem. I make this distinction between problems and causes because unless our theology solves these ultimate outcomes and observable problems, our theology is worthless and irrelevant. If our "solution" does not solve the "problem" how can we call our solution an actual solution. Our so-called solutions are mere theory. 
Human existence has very concrete problems which prophets and philosophers have attempted to solve for centuries. The Christian faith is that the solution to the human problem is Jesus Christ. The promise of the bible is that God will bring salvation to solve the human problem that is ever before the eyes of all reflective human beings. We are all aware that humanity has a problem. We are cruel and heartless to one another. If the 20th century taught us anything, it is that something is profoundly wrong with humanity. To say that Jesus is the Christ is to say that Jesus has the solution to these self-evident problems. 
A Quick Look at the Root Cause of the Human Problem
In the paragraphs ahead, I will look at the details of the human problem by looking at the first chapters of genesis, but for now I would like to simply outline where we are going. 
I have already stated that the human problem is suffering. I have given violence as an example. While describing the human setting, the setting of fallenness, Genesis presents the story of Cain and Able. In the prototypical human family, one brother killed another brother. Genesis is showing us that violence is an ugly problem that is endemic to the human character. Violence is part of our fallen DNA. This is a problem the Christ and His kingdom solves. 
From the Problem to the Root Cause
One way to look at a problem is to start with a problem definition and then ask ourselves “why”. We repeat the “why” question until we are satisfied that we have arrived at the root cause of the problem. Genesis both describes the human problem and answers the “why?”s for us. 
Problem: Broadly speaking the problem is suffering. 
Why: Why is there suffering? 
Cause: Suffering exists because people are fighting in order to “survive”. 
Why: Why do people fight? 
Cause: People fight because they fear the future. 
Why: Why do people fear? 
Cause: People fear because in a world of scarcity and doubt, we lack a great enough peace to overcome our fear.
Why: Why do people lack a peace about the future that is greater than our fear? 
Cause: The answer to this fear problem has to be intimacy with God. 
Why: Why do people lack intimacy with God 
Root Cause: The answer to this problem is Discipleship...
The road to an enduring conscious contact with God that is powerful enough to produce fearlessness and to grant to the believer the courage to cease fighting for one’s self interest is discipleship. Jesus teaches us how to live in this quality of life that the world needs and needs to see in the church. This courage is available because the Kingdom is available. This intimacy with God leads to courage. This courage leads to generosity and self sacrifice, and this generosity and self-sacrifice meets the problem of suffering. 

Friday, July 01, 2011

Water Shortages, War, and Water as a Human Right

I think it is best to treat water as a human right:
"A human rights approach to water, for Hassain, means he doesn't have to accept his fate as some inevitable tragedy," said Ignacio Saiz. "People have the right to expect access to a basic life resource like water by virtue of being human, regardless of the social situation they are born into."
(read more) Water wars: 21st century conflicts?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Democracy in The Ukraine

Europe’s Ukrainian Test

We live in an moment where many states are being tested as to their commitment to democratic norms. Just such a moment is happening in the Ukraine.
What is interesting to note is how democratic norms have become the worldwide standard and all government are under the microscope as a result of the communications revolution.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Kingdom Solves the Human Problem - Intro

“The kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” - Jesus, Mark 1:15
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” - Jesus, Matthew 3:2
The most revolutionary idea ever proclaimed is that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. In Jesus Christ, precisely because Jesus is the Christ, a new, truly happy and heavenly quality of life is within reach. This new quality of life is available to anyone who will repent and place their faith in Jesus the Christ to lead them into this kingdom life with power in this life. The promise of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the life of the kingdom. Jesus Christ has the power and authority to supply those who believe with every thing necessary to enter into this  previously unavailable quality of life. 
This is a revolutionary treatise. My intention is singular. With the clarity God grants me, I intend to articulate the means by which the believer today, in this life, can enter into this newly available quality of life. It is because of the advent of Jesus Christ, His work on the cross, His teachings and His on-going powerful work that we can live a life that was unavailable prior to Jesus’ appearance on the human scene. 
The least in the kingdom is greater than the greatest prophet that lived prior to the moment that Jesus offered the kingdom (Matt. 11:11; Luke 16:16). To enter the kingdom even a little bit is a greater and more glorious life than the life of Moses. This is our faith, a faith of high expectations as a result of the advent of the Christ. 
To understand the revolutionary and transformational message of the gospel, we must understand the human problem and how the gospel solves this problem. In fact, we must understand the revolutionary nature of the gospel to understand the message of the bible. The gospel message is that kingdom solves the human predicament, the problem of humanity. This, indeed, is the great news. To help us understand the human problem and it’s solution, first, we will look at God’s illustration of the human problem in Genesis 1-6 and, then, we will contrast this picture of human life with the the new testament picture of a new humanity living in light of the presence of the kingdom as seen in  Acts 2 and Acts 4. Genesis presents the proverbial point A, the starting point where all humanity prior to Christ lives out human existence, and Acts 2 & 4 presents the proverbial “Point B”, the kingdom community immersed in the teachings and presence of Jesus Christ. It is only after we see these two points, the beginning of the journey and the end of the journey that we can begin to unfold, principle by principle and practice by practice, the process that takes us, the people of Jesus Christ, in this kingdom quality of life. 

Next: The Human Problem: Understanding Genesis 1-6

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Understanding Obama's Foreign Policy: Democratist - Book Review of Michael McFaul's "Advancing Democracy Abroad"

Book Review: “Advancing Democracy Abroad: Why We Should and How We Can” by Michael McFaul. � Democratist

I think McFaul's book "Advancing Democracy Abroad" and McFaul's approach certainly informs the Obama administration's foreign policy. McFaul defines his approach as "Wilsonian liberalism with a realist core".

This approach considers it to be in America's best interest to make alliances with democracies and shun alliances with autocrats. The realist part would be to maintain the current alliances but place far more effort toward the promotion of human rights and democracy in these countries. Thus, changing the dymanic of these relationships. The realist approach simply makes alliances with nations without regard to regime type.

Another aspect of a more liberal approach would be that the use of military force, except in extreme examples like the obligation to prevent genocide (i.e. libya), should be avoided in order to maintain consistency with the ideals of human rights. America must maintain its moral high ground. This idealism is something that America from Reagan to Bush so readily sacrificed.

We can easily see that the idealism of Wilsonian Liberalism, which I strongly support, has led autocrats to feel far less secure and democracy advocates in these nations to become far more emboldened under the backdrop of the Obama Administration. Thus, the Arab spring!!!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Gender Oppression in Saudi Arabia

Sing Out, Hillary

I believe this is the THE issue of our time - women's rights. Gender equality under the law and in terms of economic opportunities touches so many areas from human trafficking to pornography.

Genesis teaches us that humanity has three fundamental problems the root of which is alienation from God. These issues are:
1. Material sustenance and poverty (sweat of brow)
2. Gender oppression (your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you)
3. Violence (Cain and Abel)

If we fight for a kingdom solution to these issues which are ever before the eyes of God, then our light shall break forth as the morning sun and the glory of the Lord will be our reward!!!!


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Middle East’s Slow-Motion Revolution - The Church Needs a Revolution Too

The Middle East’s Slow-Motion Revolution - Prince El Hassan bin Talal - Project Syndicate

I think when the whole blog and emergent thing started people thought, we were on the verge of a great move forward in the church BUT this has not happened as far as I can tell.

Nonetheless, a dramatic change in theology (hopefully toward a coherent kingdom theology that understands what it really means that Jesus is the promised Christ) and discipleship practices is needed to revolutionize the church.

I believe more that ever that the church is to be a new social order as expressed in Acts 2 and 4. These early pictures of possibility have been hijacked by a theology of other worldliness that seems to hope for Christ to come in the future more than a celebration of the revolution that already happened. It seems to me we feel our death will be more liberating than Christ's death. Christians still live in bondage and yet they are the only free people on earth.

Our new freedom is to be expressed in a lifestyle of simplicity and generosity, and, yet, we lack the distinction that living in a kingdom social order prescribes. Are we able to say as the early church did that there were none who lacked? Do we live in a social context of daily interdependence in the church? A new definition of family? Are we immersed in the presence of God as a people?
Instead, we wait.

Today, the Arab world is struggling to find its voice and its ideology. So too, the people of Christ remain locked out of the kingdom by a lack of imagination and courage.
peace, brad

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Notes on: The New Social Order Called the Church

The following are my notes/abstract on my intro to a Section on Kingdom Theology in Discipleship 101. 
POINT: If we see the goal of the Gospel as an observable Morally Beautiful Community (an earthly expression of the kingdom in this age), then we submit all discipleship and mission to this goal. The root cause is spiritual and the outcome is a new social order called the church. 
Key idea: A person must see the observable problem of violence, man’s inhumanity to man, marital strife and poverty as the problem and the kingdom as the answer to this observable problem. Therefore, if the kingdom has come, then the solution to this observable problem is being displayed in the church. Human society in its common state is the problem and the church in it’s glory in this age is the solution. 

I will used the simplest of illustrations to explain the main point of this chapter to understand the true extent of the goodness of the good news. The illustration is a simple arrow going from the proverbial point “A” to point “B”. The principle is that we must begin with the end in site, We must know where we are and where God intends to bring us here in life in this age. The proclamation that the kingdom of heaven is within our reach is stating that humanity is at a place of great need and the kingdom of heaven meets this great need. Humanity, all human beings, have a problem and the kingdom of heaven is the solution to this problem. 
How we define this problem will determine how good we see the good news. How we define this problem will determine what problem we have faith for the Gospel to solve.
A Description of the Goal. 
The biblical description of the end to which we aim to arrive at is most clearly and practically depicted in Acts 2 and Acts 4. I will begin the passage with the conclusion of Peter’s sermon. 
Acts2:36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.”
37 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” 40 And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” 41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. 42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
 43 Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. 44 And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; 45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. 46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Acts 4:32 And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. 34 For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales 35 and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.
36 Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), 37 and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
Thesis: The Church, the eschatological expression of the in braking of the kingdom, is a community with a radically distinct social order. The church is to be a clear and distinct expression of a new social order. This social order directly and distinctly solves the fundamental human problems of alienation from God and alienation from one another. The church as the community of the Christ vividly presents to the world a clear solution to the problem of wealth inequality and greed as the outcome of the rule and reign of the Christ in the life of the believers. 

Friday, June 03, 2011

Food and the G8

Food for Revolution by Harold James - Project Syndicate

One thing I am beginning to study is global food prices and their effect on the poor. This article makes a great point that food price instability has historically been the greatest source of revolutions in recent history. The revolutions in France in 1789 and Russian in 1917 were triggered by food shortages. The current Arab spring finds its immediate spark in rising food prices. Globalization and changes in monetary policy have a very inelastic relationship with food prices. Therefore, it is the responsibility of policy makers who set financial and monetary policies on a macro level to keep food availability and food prices in different regions of the globe at the forefront of their thinking when they make these policy decisions.

As Christians, it is our responsibility to keep the welfare of the poor at the forefront of our thinking and activities. It is time for us to become more knowledgable of these issues in order to advocate for the poor of the world.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Extent of the Kingdom - What Quality of Life Ought We to Expect? Opening Paragraph

That the kingdom is at hand is not such a revolutionary idea. What is revolutionary is to find the means to actually enter into the kingdom in this life. When one person says the kingdom is immediately available, “the kingdom is at hand”, he means something quite different than someone else proclaiming the same message. One has a high expectation of a new and beautiful quality of life, while the other expects merely an assurance of heaven and only a future deliverance.  Yet, still another believes something in between these two options. The question is whether or not the coming of the kingdom in our life can have a truly revolutionary effect. Can we be free of all self interest and hoarding to such an extent that we live a simple and generous life, a life of daily faith in the provision of the Father? Is the life of communion with God, a life set free by grace and love, available? Is this the life of the few or is this blessed life available to all the followers of Jesus, the single, the married, the young and the old? Can our temperaments be tamed? Can we live without concern for the opinions of others, undisturbed by their judgments and slanders and threats? Can we love our enemies, our enemy-neighbors, even in the midst of the conflict? If we picture the highest ideal, a  life fully delivered from the human predicament, and then believe for something even greater, are we describing the kingdom that is available in heaven or the kingdom that is available on earth? To what extent is the kingdom available to us in this life? This is the question. How we answer this question defines the nature of our faith? How we understand the extent of the kingdom that is available in this life determines the trajectory of our life, our expectations, our approach to the faith. 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Discipleship 101 - An Outline (Part 1)

Over the past month or so, I have been meditating on the theology and principles that make up a kingdom approach to discipleship. It is the church’s primary job to deliver a kingdom quality of life, a truly happy and heavenly quality of life, to those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, the path into the kingdom is rarely, if ever, mapped out in the church’s ministry program. As I wrote earlier, Dallas Willard says, “I know of no current denomination or local congregation that has a concrete plan and practice for teaching people to ‘do all that I commanded you’”. In other words, Willard knows of no church that has a discipleship program that leads people into the kingdom. This is a bold claim but it has been my experience as well. 
The quality of life which Jesus offers, as those who have tasted it know, is significantly distinct from the quality of life one can attain apart from the Gospel. When the power of the Kingdom comes upon us we have a significantly higher quality of life in terms of righteousness, peace and joy. I am not saying that the believer abides in this place continually or even consistently, but as one learns and grows, we can learn how to pull ourselves out of our forgetfulness and revive the presence and power of God in our lives. 
What follows is a very brief outline of, first, a kingdom theology and, subsequently, a kingdom approach to discipleship. My intension, though I rarely am able to follow through on my original intentions, is to write multiple posts on each postulate, hypothesis, and principle using this post as a basic outline. At some point, I will write a post with the remainder of the outline of the principles that give the believer a more complete understanding of the teachings of Jesus. So, in fact, what I hope to accomplish is a somewhat complete mapping of a discipleship process. These principles have been of great spiritual value to me and to others who I have had the privilege of walking with as friends and co-workers in the kingdom.
I will outline this path using terminology that works for me. The terminology may or may not be best, but, certainly, that is not the point. It is our practices that make any approach to the faith actually work especially when we define “working” as bringing to people the promised kingdom quality of life. So here we go: 
Postulate 1: Jesus is the Christ
In the Old Testament, God promises His failing people that He will send a Christ who will usher in a new covenant. This new covenant will not be like the old covenant which they could not follow. Instead, this new covenant will empower the people of God to obey his ways. The believer will be given a new heart, a tender heart. No longer will one person say to another “Do you know the Lord?” for every one will have an intimate and conscious awareness of God. This experiential knowledge of God will enable the people of God to obey God and, ultimately, this new covenant will enable the people of God to become the morally beautiful people that God has envisioned for His people. They will become a light on a hill and a city that cannot be hidden. Faith for the fulfillment of these promises, in our lives and in our churches, is what it means to believe that Jesus is the Christ. 
Postulate 2: Since Jesus is the Christ, by definition, the kingdom of heaven is within our reach. 
The kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven is best described as a truly happy and heavenly quality of life. This kingdom quality of life is the quality of life available in heaven. This heavenly quality of life is available today through faith in Jesus Christ. The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. This quality of life is available because the best part of heaven, God Himself, is available to us today. The kingdom is the answer to every evil that plagues humanity. The human plight, the dread of human existence, the existential angst of human experience, finds its resolution not in our death, but in the death of Jesus on our behalf. We have access to a significantly superior quality of life because Jesus, the Christ, has died and is alive, and His kingdom is immediately present to those who repent and believe this Good News. 
Hypothesis 1: We enter the kingdom quality of life by putting into practice the teachings of Jesus. 

This is the basis of all discipleship. Jesus’ call to His disciple in the bible and to His disciples today is “follow me”. To believe that Jesus is the Christ and that we are to enter the kingdom through faith in Jesus means that we are to follow Jesus and he will lead us into this kingdom quality of life. All the centuries of confusion regarding faith and works is solved when we begin with a theology of the kingdom and the promise of an altogether superior quality of life. Faith is to follow Jesus into the kingdom. Because the kingdom is the solution to our present living, to have faith in Jesus is to believe that through the grace of God we can behave and live differently today. To experience victory in life, we must follow Jesus’ program and teachings. This truly happy and heavenly quality of life is founded entirely on faith in Jesus’ teachings and His modeling of who God, the Father, is. Therefore, as we will see, following Jesus begins and is immersed in an understanding of the love and grace of God. We learn to immerse every aspect of our lives with this love as we learn to follow Jesus into a life of infinite forgiveness, fearless faith, and unconditionally love. 
Hypothesis 2: The source of power which enables the believe to walk in the kingdom quality of life, that is in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, is conscious contact with God. 
The bible teaches us that the joy of the lord is our strength. We are morally strong when we are joyful. We can only have a morally powerful joy when we are in living from the presence of God. The power to be meek when we are tempted to be angry is the real knowledge of God and ourselves as His child. We can trust Him because our affections and emotions have been transformed through our life in the presence of God. No other path gives us the moral strength to be generous and loving and gentle and calm. There is only one thing needful and that is a close walk with God. 
Hypothesis 3: Conscious contact with God is maintained through an orientation of absolute surrender with respect to the teachings of Jesus. This is the life of repentance.
The path to conscious contact with God is repentance. The key to maintaining the witness of the Spirit that we are children and therefore heirs is repentance from the heart. This absolute surrender is not merely an orientation in prayer but a commitment to follow through with obedience. This life of repentance requires a life of rigorous honesty and the cultivation of a tender heart. The life requires the work of the Holy Spirit, humility before the Word of God, and intimate, authentic community with other followers of this path of discipleship. Jesus taught us that the kingdom of God suffers violence and violent men take it by force. This zeal requires a life of rigorous honesty and confession. This life of rigorous honesty is the narrow road that, in reality, few are willing to follow in order to experience the kingdom life in this life. 
Principle 1: The first teaching of Jesus, a teaching which must remain an element of every Christian practice, is that without the provision of God’s power and grace  we are spiritually poor. All the resources we need to attain to this kingdom quality of life are a gift of His grace. This grace is needed moment by moment if we to experience righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 
Jesus taught and lived and told parables about the grace of a loving Father. Jesus began His teaching life by saying, “Blessed are the spiritually bankrupt, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. We are all without the ability to take one step toward God apart from His provision. He pardons, and He enables. All the theology of Paul is to be understood as an exposition of the teachings of Jesus. Jesus taught us through His words, His religious symbols, His life and ultimately in His death and resurrection that we need God’s grace and loving power toward us who believe. Baptism, the Lord’s supper, the parables, and the life and death of Jesus are all elements of the story of the Father’s provision for His children. Of all the teachings of Jesus, grace must remain front and center. Without being immersed in grace, we will fail to live a beautiful life. Of all the practices we need to learn receiving forgiveness and grace is first and foremost. As disciples, receiving grace from God needs to be a well worn path. 
This kingdom life is attainable and God intends for us to understand how to follow Jesus into a truly happy and heavenly quality of life. Principles and theology help us to develop a daily cycle and an approach to life and prayer that we can learn and live. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Israel and Covenants - Just Saying

Man...I need to write more. So many issues to clarify...For example, I think Obama is being gracious with Israel by saying peace should be based on the 1967 (pre-war) borders with land swaps. Yet, evangelicals sound like kooks thinking that this is a deal with the devil. This is a theological issue with implications to the role of the Kingdom and the OT law etc. Some smart guy needs to use this moment as a launching point for a big theological dissertation on covenants.....not that it would do any good!!! As for me I gotta go to work and then Lacrosse with James then a banquet with David, then a daddy date night with Mercy and Lily...I'm swamped.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Christ, Our Leader and Term Limits on Pastors

I have learned a great lesson in life that in organizations you have to provide practical value to the person in power. We can approach relationships this way in the church too. It works, in the church like the world, because in most churches a man is in power and it is not so hard to bless him. 
Wouldn’t it be nice if instead in the church, Jesus was in power, and these power games were not played. A great way to make this a reality is to have term limits on pastors. The goal is to have the word and the Lord rule the church. A person has gifting and input into the life of the church but not power and leadership. All leadership is in Jesus and all power and authority is in Jesus. A great way to assure this is to follow the model of how the United States does it. In the United States, we have a constitution and term limits on presidents. These term limits are in place to assure the rule of principle over the rule of man. So this being true, I think the best model for the church is shared leadership and no leader should remain in leadership for more than say about 8-10 years in the same church. 

Friday, May 06, 2011

Matthew 5:43-48 - Pray for Those who Persecute You

The teachings of Jesus are so very practical. Matt 5:43-48 defines for us what spiritual maturity looks like. 

 Matt 5:43"You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.'
 44"But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
 45so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
 46"For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
 47"If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
 48"Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Jesus is calling us to love our enemies. This teaches us to give and serve and bless those who are not giving and serving and blessing us. The actions of these people, our adversaries, make us less secure and less at peace, and, yet, we are to assist and to help secure their peace and well-being. Secondly, we are to pray for those who persecute us. For me, this command has proven to be ultra-practical. This command tells us that if another person is harming our reputation, we are to act to bless their reputation. So if, for example, a person at work goes to our boss and maligns us, we, the Christian, are to resolve in our heart, through prayer, to only say positive things about this person. This act of surrender is the way of peace. We surrender to God’s will and resolve to speak highly of everyone. We are to never speak ill of anyone. This is our goal and here in lies the path to conscious contact with God. 
peace, brad

Monday, May 02, 2011

Discipleship 101: The Church as a Disciple-Making Community

“Who are you discipling?” “Who is discipling you?” “What method do you use?” and specifically “what method of prayer do you teach?”
How we and the members of our church community answer these four questions reveals quite succinctly the health of the discipleship program in our churches and the intentionality of our lives as followers of Jesus. Often when preaching in churches, when I ask these questions, my point is simply to reveal to the church that they do not have a discipleship process at all. People look bewildered. “Who am I discipling? Ahhh...?? one I guess. I have never looked at it that way.” “What method do I use? We don’t use methods. What is he talking about? And who does he think he is anyway?” “What method of prayer do we teach. What??? We aren’t buddhist. What is he talking about?” 
So I ask you, the reader, “Who are you discipling?” “Who is discipling you?” “What method do you use?” and “What method of prayer do you teach people?” 
The fact that most christians cannot answer these questions in detail nor carry on a discussion about what methods of discipleship work and do not work reveals to us that we have a crisis in discipleship in the church of the master discipler, Jesus Christ. Dallas Willard in the book “The Great Omission” speaking on the topic of the great commission concludes by saying, “I know of no current denomination or local congregation that has a concrete plan and practice for teaching people to ‘do all that I commanded you’” (72-73). Dallas Willard, after mentoring pastors and preaching in conferences around the world for his entire life, came to the conclusion that not one congregation has a definitive discipleship plan that attempts to fulfill the great commission to “make disciples of all people teaching them to obey everything I commanded you”. It has taken maybe centuries to get to this place of total abandonment of our calling. This maybe a harsh observation but I contend, and with Dallas Willard as my witness I am utterly convinced, that the church is in crisis with respect to the process of discipleship. 
Jesus often used economic analogies to make his point clearer. The economic system of the day was almost exclusively farming. For example, to bring clarity and urgency to His followers, Jesus told parables that depict His followers as farm workers working for a farm owner. The owner, Jesus taught us, expects a profit from his farm. When the farm owner returns, he will say to us “show me the money”. 
I have spent my career in the aerospace industry, so let me make a more modern economic analogy using airplanes. Picture a incredibly complex organization like an airplane manufacturer. The organization has literally 1000s of engineers and 100,000 employees. The process of designing and building an airplane takes years. When everything comes together the plane is sold to a customer and the plane does one thing very well: it flies. Imagine that this incredible endeavor produced a product that was perfect in every way except for one detail. The planes could not fly. Picture the first test flight. ABC manufacturer produces a plane, but it cannot fly. Imagine the press conference. The CEO steps up to the microphone and says, “ We do not consider this to be a problem. Our airplane is beautiful. It seating is state of the art. Every seat has its own private entertainment system. The interior sound levels are unrivaled. We have come to the conclusion that flight is not possible and therefore not to be a primary characteristic of airplanes nor a realistic goal for the airplane manufacturer.” This illustration describes the current state of the church. We are a disciple-making community and yet we do not know how to make disciples nor do we see this as a terribly urgent problem. 

Sunday, May 01, 2011

There's Gotta Be a Million

There’s gotta be a million. Maybe a few 100 thousand 
that are feeling like me
We are losing our jobs. 
Some ass hole thinks he knows how to make this shit float
we are the scape goats
About a few hundred thousand 
know the way I feel
There has gotta be a million
We read about the billions
Money makin money 
Usury's a crime
Some boy with a spread sheet and a fountain pen 
Just shipped my life to India
And his son is getting married and the party is in full swing
I wish I was married into money and I wish my parents were still alive
Maybe me and the kids could move in 
with them 
Cause there has gotta be a million

Sunday, April 24, 2011

My Christian Friend - A Positive Testimony

Let me begin by saying that Joe is a good friend of mine. I admire his capacity to have a  solidly evangelical friend like myself. He is truly a great friend, but this post is about another friend of mine, Dan. I was going to write a post that covered three of my best friends but I realize that in the world of blogging most folk do not have the time to read a lengthy post, so I decided to limit this to one friend instead of three. 
I met Dan in 1999. He is the pastor of a local church in Bellflower, CA. Nineteen years ago he came to Bellflower from Michigan for a job interview at our church. He said to the council, “if you want someone to cater to the current culture of the church. You are looking at the wrong man. My vision is to build a multi-ethnic church that displays in a tangible way God’s love for all people and be a symbol in this city of community in the midst of diversity.” Nineteen years later, Dan has made good on his promise. 
If you know anything about organizations, resisting the status quo and attempting to implement change on principle without regard to politics is a difficult and courageous act. Men and women who take this path are heroes. These people are those who suffer real loses and endure real hardship and real heartache for the sake of their principles. In light of recent American history, building bridges between cultures and amongst diverse people is the great task of our generation. Men and women like Dan developed vision for this work to build beautiful community in their youth in the 1970’s, and some, like Dan, had the wisdom, patience, and conviction to bring their vision to fruition. 
I would not betray Dan’s friendship, but I know he has shed countless tears as his passions and convictions have been misunderstood through the years. Being an agent of change is lonely work, but it is worth the difficult times in light of the internal witness that you are on the right side of history. Just last year,I remember at an all nations service representatives from over 20 nations from the congregation stood up on stage and spoke a word of blessing over the congregation in their native tongue. 
Personally, my friend Dan has been a source of comfort for me in some of my deepest trials. He has believed in me when it seems like only my wife and my very closest friends stood by me. Even greater, my friend has let me encourage him and stand by him in his times of need. Though in many ways, Dan is my superior, he has humbled himself and been a peer to me and shared the journey, as a friend. 
I am not saying that only Christians can be friends like Dan is to me or that only Christians labor to make the world a better place, but throughout the world many, many Christians labor to build beautiful communities and those of us who participate in these communities find ourselves deeply indebted to the witness to ‘all that is good’ that these communities communicate to ourselves and our families. All of us, likewise, owe a debt of gratitude to the men and women that labor to build the institutional church in order that this witness will abide for future generations. 
peace, brad

Friday, April 01, 2011

Capitalism and The Export of American Culture

Being a card caring member of the evangelical church, I often hear the rant that America "has changed so much in the last so many years". The sense is that our cultural values have changed from innocence and honesty to selfishness and sexual promiscuity. It would be a good study to determine to what extent this perception is true, but, for now, let's assume that things have changed culturally. Why is this so?

The reason for this I believe is obvious. Capitalism caters to our appetites. Couple this basic fact with the rise of media in the home and in all our culture, and you end up with a culture that is immersed in images that cater to immediate gratification and our lowest selves. So, if you judge the culture by media and teenager fascination with all that is celebrated in the media, you will inevitably believe that the culture has radically changed.

Pop media is a tool of what sells, and what sells will always point to the least common denominator. I think it is best to realize that this "for the masses" approach is the way markets work. For a company to be BIG, it has to sell to all of us and appeal to what we all have in common. We all have in common our appetites and our weaknesses with respect to our appetites. Therefore, privately owned, profit driven media will necessarily and always target shallow and emotion driven content. Media has to be big to effect us all. Therefore, what effects us all will always be shallow and sexualized. That is just the way a profit driven media works. 

Think about it. When I was a kid, we used the term "sell out". To sell out meant to go pop. To go pop means to change your content to sex. Competition has driven a rush to the bottom. Think about talk radio. The more black and white the discussion the higher the ratings. To succeed, a person has to be dumb enough to preach passion without nuance. Nuance and analysis doesn't sell. 

So the moral to the story is that pop culture is simply a reflection of our appetites. What has changed is the volume of media not us. This process has been evolving for a long, long time. We haven't changed but the capitalist market has become a greater part of the cultural noise. 

The solutions are simple. We need to fast from pop culture and media in the home. We all need to take back the home from the market place. We need to teach our children that what you see on TV and in pop culture by definition represents only what is the least common denominator of our nature. If we desire to have dignity and to stand above the crowd by being honorable men and women, we must become distinct from pop culture. We need to simply realize that all that media is the market not our identity. We are people not merely consumers. 
enough for now,
peace, brad

Monday, March 28, 2011

Prep for Tonight's Libya Speech

Perils and Opportunities for Obama in Libya They seem to agree with my post from yesterday. The only twist is a bit more on the perils for this intervention for Obama. The word on the street is that if the intervention is short and successful Obama wins but if it is long or unsucessful then real bad. Sucess is determiend entirely by the democratic bona fides of the Libyan oppostion.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

R2P - The Responsibility to Protect and Its Intentional Misunderstanding in US Media and Politics

The Dilemma of Humanitarian Intervention - Council on Foreign Relations

UN Security Council Resolution 1973 was based on the doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect. The genesis of this doctrine was the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Security Council Resolution 1973 is, it appears, a good use of the doctrine and represents a use of military force that is not essentially an act of war. It is this unusual circumstance that has caused confusion, intentional or otherwise, in the US political scene this week.

A few points can be made to clarify the situation:
1. The use of R2P is intended to save civilians from gross human rights violations and violence. Certainly, Ghadafi has proven that he is acting violently against his own people. The world has called his rule illegitimate due to his recent response to protests in Libya. The scope of "protection" of the citizenry through a no fly zone is intended to be very limited. To the military establishment and the media, the military action is depicted as both confusing and in danger of scope creep, but if the Resolution is followed and its use of the R2P approach then much is clarified and the limited scope is protected. My advise is that the administration be clear and uses the threat of a Rwandan type situation as the reason that we are willing use force and also to use very limited force in implementing the no-fly zone. The scope is limited yet we may stay "in the area" so that we are available if the Libyan regime attempts again to slaughter its citizens.
2. We need to beware of supporting protestors who do not appear to have much democracy credentials. Of course, none of us know the make up of the Libyan opposition. Talk is of tribalism more than ideological credibility. It is precisely the backing revolutions and opposition groups who do not have a strong resume with respect to democracy that has resulted in so many long term problems for both American interests and our reputation. This is the reason we cannot give wholesale support of the protestors. Without strong pro-democracy credentials, we have no idea how the end game will play out.
3. We need to explain this approach in the context of the other rebellions in the Middle East. Yemen, Syria, Bahrain, etc. We must balance each situation with respect to the prospects for humanitarian catastrophe and the long run promotion of indigenous democracy in the Middle East.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Hugs From Libyans - Libya Policy Politics

Hugs From Libyans

I so wanna be Nichlas Kristof when I grow up. Kristof's article so clarifies the politics and scuttlebutt in Washington. I am of the opinion that all this chest pounding about the Libyan intervention is just that - chest pounding. The options in Libya are very limited and the mission was clearly limited to implementing a no fly zone. These limitations mean that the end game is intentionally unclear. Congress knows this and as always is playing on people's passions and ignorance. The populus does not have the time to think this through. Therefore, to intentionally play with people's passions and gut feelings about war and patriotism is irresponsible. We have played this perfectly, and it only seems responsible to applaud our nations wisdom.

The fact is we are saving the lives of Libyan civilians.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Rural Poverty Report - 2011

Global food prices have sky rocketed since the 2008 global financial crisis. As a result 100 million people have been driven into poverty. Read the World Poverty report of 2011 to learn more.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Libya Status - Rebels Lose Key Battle of Ras Lanuf and The Arab League Votes for No Fly Zone

Arab League Backs No-Fly Zone Over Libya
This situation in Libya seems to be going from bad to worse. The rebels are quickly losing strength as they retreat from towns and as the Gadhafi's troops move further east.

Meanwhile, the Arab League voted to impose a no fly zone but will not be taking any military action. This seems to be a move forward but it still seems dire for the rebels. I could not imagine the fear these men are facing having rebelled against a diabolical dictator and now to be looking at defeat. It just shows how brave these men are. Lord have mercy on them and come to their aid. Maybe the UN will act more militarily. We can only hope.

Al Jazeera staffer killed in Libya

Al Jazeera staffer killed in Libya

This is the kind of work that needs to be heard by the public at large. Objective reporting and journalism must be a stable institution in any society that calls itself free and open. Obviously, the Libyan regime does not want openness and truth. The promotion of democracy and freedom demands the support, in any way possible, of those who expose the suffering and civil rights violations of the autocrats of the world.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

A Blow to Fundamentalist Paranoia - Free Speech Wins in Snyder vs Phelps et al

As much as I deplore the speech of the Westboro Baptists, I nonetheless defend their right to free speech.
What I like about this decision most is that it puts to rest the paranoia that Christian speech in America is being or moving toward being censored.

The court is as conservative as it has ever been and our free speech is safe as ever.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Democracy and Al-Qaeda

This audio is worth a good listen. This report supports the proposition that the demonstrators in Egypt and elsewhere undermine Al-Qaeda's narrative of the Arab struggle. Al-Qaeda's use of violence and rhetoric that only violence can over throw autocrats has been an utter failure, and, instead, moderate students did what the terrorists could not due. Now, the heros of the middle east are not the radicals but the moderates.

Listen here:

Why Is China Nervous - Is a Good Economy Enough

Room for Debate -

This article begins for me an investigation into the various positions American policy makers have had in recent memory with respect to Democracy Promotion. Here, is a debate about whether China should be nervous. Does a good economy protect an autocratic regime from revolt? If yes, can America promote stability by just promoting economic growth or is democracy the best path to stability? Of course this is an extremely complex discussion and therefore, time to put our thinking caps on as we enter a new era of reflection on democracy promotion and ultimately what America's role and policy should be.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Al Qaeda and The Fall of Terrorism Through Non-violent Democracy Movements

Al Qaeda Finds Itself at a Crossroads
This new reality in the middle east deserves in-depth academic and journalistic analysis, but, at first glance, it appears the fall of terrorism is at hand. This reality which we have fought so hard and spent so much money to achieve is likely to happen at the hand of indigenous democracy movements.
Democracy gives people a means other than violence to air grievances and promote their own self-interest. Of course, disappointment is bound to follow and some democratically elected leaders could become strong men and refuse to leave power. The end game and stability is a long way off.
What excites me as well is how this just might prove, once and for all, that radical Islam was just a flash in the pan. Time to find another bogeyman.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Libyan Professionals and Intellectuals Ruling 80% of Libya and Controlling 80% of Libyan Oil Fields

The future is looking more democratic and stable in Libya as the NY Times reports:

They said the city was now under the control of a committee of prominent citizens — doctors, lawyers, judges, engineers and the like — who were organizing its public services and continued defense. “We are really suffering for 42 years, and people are asking here for the same things as other people of the world — they want the real democracy,” said Ahmed el-Hadi Remeh, an engineer standing in the square.

Uganda Police Outlaw Planned Election Protests

Uganda Police Outlaw Planned Election Protests

If you know much about Uganda and I am just learning, the president of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, has been in power for 25 years. The opposition has called for protests of the recent elections, Feb 18, 2011.
This call for real substantive democracy is getting serious everywhere. We are experiencing a tectonic shift in people's expectations of representation. This is the late 1700's all over again.
Consider how this speaks to the psychological power of truth. The truth is that a group of demonstrators has overthrown Western supported and thoroughly entrenched dictators in Tunisia and Egypt. This single fact has captured the minds of millions of oppressed people.
Change is great and change is needed. But, too much change is painful. Pray for all these people and for the work of NGOs and experts in democracy promotion.

Dallas Willard on Scripture Memorization

I wrote about our family's two primary disciplines, reading the bible one page a day and scripture memorization at a pace of 2 verses a day. We have revised this to 10 verses a week, but anyway. Often people think scripture memorization is too "elementary" or too rote. Isn't bible discussion and bible story telling more effective and, well, cool?
Dallas Willard is a pretty smart and critical thinking kinda guy, and this is what Wilalrd says about scripture memorization in The Great Omission, p 58:
Bible Memorization is absolutely fundamental to spiritual formation. If I had to - and of course I don't have to - choose between all the spiritual disciplines of the spiritual life and take only one, I would choose Bible memorization. I would not be a pastor of a church that did not have a program of Bible memorization in it, because Bible memorization is a fundamental way of filling our minds with what we need, "To have the book of the Law ever before us" (Joshua 1:8)
Simple as it sounds, a few verses a day and rehearsing these verse to and from wherever we are going is fundamental to spiritual transformation.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's Recipe for Corruption

From Paul Krugman, Shock Doctrine, U.S.A.,
For example, the bill includes language that would allow officials appointed by the governor to make sweeping cuts in health coverage for low-income families without having to go through the normal legislative process.
And then there’s this: “Notwithstanding ss. 13.48 (14) (am) and 16.705 (1), the department may sell any state-owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state. Notwithstanding ss. 196.49 and 196.80, no approval or certification of the public service commission is necessary for a public utility to purchase, or contract for the operation of, such a plant, and any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest and to comply with the criteria for certification of a project under s. 196.49 (3) (b).”
What’s that about? The state of Wisconsin owns a number of plants supplying heating, cooling, and electricity to state-run facilities (like the University of Wisconsin). The language in the budget bill would, in effect, let the governor privatize any or all of these facilities at whim. Not only that, he could sell them, without taking bids, to anyone he chooses. And note that any such sale would, by definition, be “considered to be in the public interest.”
That doesn't sound right considering the Governor's primary campaign contributor is the largest privately owned energy company in America....