What Are You Thinking?

My friends in Topeka, Kansas, tell me they have seen a bumper sticker that quotes Psalm 109 in reference to president Obama.  It’s not funny.

Maybe I’m sensitive because of where I live.

I sometimes have coffee in Aggieville and wonder if the ghost of Timothy McVeigh is lurking in the shadows.  Aggieville was the first place America’s worst domestic terrorist was arrested.  It was just a bar room fight when he was a soldier stationed at nearby Fort Riley, but he went on to worse things.

A few years after that incident, McVeigh and his accomplice rented a big white truck and filled up with gas in Riley County  before they drove it to Oklahoma City and killed 19 children at America’s Kid’s Daycare Center, along with 150 adults.

During the nineties fanatics were speaking in apocalyptic terms about the evils of Bill Clinton and his wife.  They were talking about concentration camps in the Southwest and Blackhawk helicopters.  They were painting David Koresh as an innocent victim whose righteous blood called for vengeance.  For most it was just talk.  But Tim McVeigh was listening.

Or maybe it’s the hideous figure of America’s worst living hatemonger, Fred Phelps, whom I sometimes have to drive past.  Fred and family give hate speech a bad name.  In February I attended a conference on the Dead Sea Scrolls at Midwestern Baptist Seminary.  One of the seminary’s graduates had been murdered in church, and Fred and his pitiful band of followers came to picket.

After fifteen years of hate speech directed at physician George Tiller–someone finally listened.  The doctor who performed late-term abortions in Wichita was finally murdered.  It happened on a Sunday morning as he was serving as an usher at his church.

Late term abortion is a gruesome and traumatic procedure–and sometimes a tragic necessity.  Under Kansas law at the time Dr. Tiller was murdered, it was legal only when the mother’s health was endangered.  The law was not strict enough for some, but too strict for others.  But my point is this–murder was not the answer; but people kept chanting “Tiller the Killer” until someone took it seriously.

We have a peaceful way of changing national leaders every four years.  In the meantime, the Bible tells us to pray for our leaders–it doesn’t tell us to take a curse out of context and pray it.  You are entitled to your political opinions–but think about the effects of hate speech:

  1. It may set off an unbalanced person.
  2. It reflects on all Christians and makes us look like ignorant bigots.

In Romans 2:24 Paul quotes from Isaiah, in a passage referring to the people God chose to represent his love and goodness to the world–

God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.

How about that for a bumper sticker?

On Not Irritating People

A couple years ago I asked a good friend of mine, someone who has a lot practical wisdom, whether I should take a stand more often and be more willing to enter controversy.  I said I was afraid sometimes by failing to speak up, I let bad ideas go unchallenged.  He said there are quiet ways to make a point.  He said,

There are enough people in the world irritating other people.

The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced he’s right.  I will go on trying to make positive suggestions in a gentle way, but I think I will try to avoid sarcasm–it’s so hard to tell someone’s “tone of voice” in writing.

I also think I will avoid politics, mostly, for the next four years.  The election is over and the people have spoken.  I will write my representatives and talk to people on a local level.

I will say this: I think President Obama is doing his best to bring people together.  Politics is inherently divisive, but he has tried to extend an open hand across the aisle.  If his gestures have been met with a clenched fist, he keeps on smiling.  I thought last night’s speech was remarkably free of blame and bitterness.

No Compromise? (part 2)

Our political climate is intolerant of compromise.  Two people who tried to bring people together are finding out how hard it is to do.

Richard Cizik tried to lead evangelical Christians to compassionate action on a broader range of problems than abortion and traditional marriage.  For example, he believed that if Christians believe in creation, they should be more concerned about preserving God’s good creation than in trying to caluculate how long ago the world was made.  He also led in efforts to fight AIDS and human trafficking.

Some of his critics thought he was leading the faithful away from “moral issues”–as though issues that effect the life, death, and dignity of all people are not moral issues.  Two years ago they tried to oust him from his job as leader of the National Association of Evangelicals due to his embracing of “Creation Care.”  The plan backfired.  It turned out most evangelicals are fond of this planet.

This week, they finally got him.  On an interview with Terry Gross on NPR, he said he was opposed to same-sex marriage–but maybe civil unions weren’t a bad idea.  His enemies demanded–and got–his resignation.  Nicholas Kristoph called Cizik a “huggable evangelical” and said his resignation made for a sad day.

On the other side of the fence, supporters of gay rights are furious with president-elect Obama for asking Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration.  Why?  Because Warren is opposed to gay marriage and abortions that are not medically necessary.  Obama’s stated position is that he does not favor same-sex marriage, but he does favor civil unions.

Rick Warren has raised millions of dollars to fight AIDS in Africa, and has encouraged the faithful to support progressive causes.   In fact, he helped get Obama elected when he invited both candidates to a forum at his church.  The president is returning the favor and strenghtening the personal friendship and political alliance he has made (more).  What some would call compromise and bringing people together, others would call betrayal.

Yes We Can!

Bob the Builder

Bob the Builder

Here’s the link to Bob the Builder’s official website.  My grandson has been listening to his theme song for about a year now:

Can we fix it?

Yes we can!

Here’s a little tidbit my daughter passed on: President Obama website:

You can submit you ideas and be part of the “change we need.”

http://www.change.gov/

This is pretty neat, I hadn’t heard about this Web site until my friend Melissa mentioned it yesterday. It’s the Obama web site for the transition. It’s supposed to have a lot of information about appointments in the future, but it already has a lot on different issues and places to submit ideas.

Here’s the energy environment page too: http://www.change.gov/agenda/energyenvironment/

Soldier and Mom

Our friend Margaret passed on this exchange of emails she had with her son Klint, who is stationed in Iraq, regarding the election of Barack Obama as our next president.

Mom to Soldier the day after the election

Klint,

I got your message yesterday evening on my cell phone voice mail.  Did you send it on Tuesday?  Anyway, good to hear your voice!

Don’t know how you feel about the elections, but I am so excited, I could “pee my pants” so to speak.  I’m so tired of “Old white men” running the country  This is an incredible breath of fresh air.  Hope Obama lives up the my expectations!  What a chance for change!  Feels like the 70’s!

Love, Mom

Klint Replies and Mom Answers

Mom,

I will try and call again later this week. I am running a school that includes driving, shooting, sneaking around in the woods etc. There is a tremendous amount of labor put into this thing and lots of moving pieces all coming together at once, so I am stupid busy and not getting much sleep. No probs though.

The elections. Hmm, I like Obama and I think there will be a lot of positive things that come from his presidency especially as far as international relations go. My concern is a democrat controlled house and senate to go with him.  I feel that socialism is a threat to liberty and as far as I am concerned it is fascism in disguise, a wolf in sheep’s clothing so to speak. So, having all three houses controlled by people who view government as a redistribution center for others peoples money greatly greatly concerns me.

As far as “old white men”, umm if we are going to use racial terms to describe culture then it should be noted that old white men are the reason that our country has one of the highest standards of living and has generated the most wealth and the most stable govt in the history of the world.

The colonial settlers created a cultural blend of entrepreneurship, egalitarianism and protestant work ethic that was unique in the history of the western world  and they formed that culture into a government.

Those principles should not be thrown out nor should they be mocked by those who do not know history or just how horrible life is in so many other parts of the world.

But as with any complex system, there is room for improvement.  This financial crises has exposed the flaw in under-regulation. That does not mean the whole concept is flawed, it just means that the system needs a tune up. Its a matter of not throwing the baby out with the bath water i suppose, but im afraid that populist rhetoric and mentality will give the three branches too much power to change the system towards socialism and we will end up like England with a 50% income tax rate and so many public funding programs that the govt can not keep track of them.

This type of system by its nature can not generate wealth, it only stifles initiative to create wealth or to excel, especially if you know that the govt will strip you of your earnings in order to fund more govt programs that are staffed by people that can not be fired and are not subject to the standards of achievement that are inherent in private enterprise.

I am, however, excited by the prospect of some real change in environment regulation, because as far as that goes the environment is one of those public arenas that affect everyone and is within the realm of govt to monitor and regulate. I am also happy to have someone that is not in the business of personal morality legislation as i feel that what consenting adults do in their own property is their business and should not really fall within the scope of govt regulation.

Anyway, we shall see, I know that the Iraqi army guys are scared to death that we are going to abandon them before everything has become stable.

The changes this year are amazingly dramatic and for these guys it is night and day. Last year they basically expected to die in combat. They almost viewed it as inevitable. Now, they are buying houses and planning weddings and thinking about life other than violence and death. They view Obama’s win with great concern because they think that if we go home now, then it will be back to the meat grinder for them if the Sunnis decide to try and re-take power.

I for one have spent too much of my time and effort over here to see it fall apart because we decided to leave the job 90% finished.   So, these are my concerns here, and I hope they are ill founded.

And you will have to excuse me for not viewing the late 60s and 70s from a viewpoint other than tragic.

I’m sure it was fun, however. At least you weren’t in China or Russia then.   Wow, umm so that’s my rant.   I will try and call this week if my connection is worth a crap.

Love, K

Ok time for Mom’s rant.

First,  while the 60’s and 70’s were definitely scary militarily, i.e,. Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam war, etc.  It also had some incredible leaps in science and humanity.  Space travel, men on the moon, civil rights – holy cow!  As a kid can you imagine what it meant to watch the space program evolve!  As a black person I can’t even begin to fathom their coming into a new era of equality with all they had endured in the past.

Alright, “old white men” might have been a bit harsh and yes, our founding fathers were “old white men,” but they had a dream and a plan.  I haven’t seen that since Kennedy.  Time for some new ideas.

As far as socialism and redistribution of wealth, Klint, you’re smarter than buying into that bunk!  Taxation, that we have had since the beginning of the civilized world, is about redistributing the wealth, to the causes that keep a civilized world.

It builds infrastructure, builds programs to help the less fortunate, funds our entire social structure from the local police, firemen, schools,  . . .  and so on.

And the problems we are having with the economy, I believe in part is because the government didn’t get involved and put a kibosh on some of the loan programs.  There is a place for government intervention and yes it is a fine line, but it is still needed.

In some ways we are very similar to the 30’s and the President at that time made some far reaching decisions to turn the nation around that probably looked very “socialistic” in it’s scope, i.e., Social Security, public works programs, banking.  But it worked and we are not a socialist  society, at least as far as I can tell.

Yes, having a president and congress all of the same party could have the potential for bad decisions, but in the same light it could have the potential for passing some far reaching reforms.  Let’s hope that is the case.  I do understand your concerns about Iraq, and undoing what we’ve accomplished. Hopefully Obama will listen to his military advisers, unlike the last president!

Ok I’m done, gotta go to work.  Take care,

love these discussions, can’t wait to have them around the dinner table when you get back!

love,

Mom

love,

Mom

Soldier and Mom Reply

Good reply mom, but i would also point out that

American taxes were not meant to “redistribute the wealth”.  Taxes were implemented to meet the infrastructure needs of a civil society.

On that note, most of the examples you listed are things that should be taxed at the local or state level to meet the needs of that particular area, not redistribute.

Yes, some of the financial problems would have benefited from a lot more oversight, especially the loan insurance programs. That is why we have a flexible government, we see a problem, we take measures to correct it. It won’t get any better as technology keeps progressing, new problems that we havnt’ even thought of will happen. And we will react. Keep in mind however that the government pushed the banking industry to give sub-prime mortgages in an effort to get the poor into homeownership roles. Good intentioned idea, but great example of why “Good ideas” by the government do not always translate to smart economics.

Just because some taxation is necessary to provide social infrastructure does not mean that we should say “well, while we are at it, lets go ahead and become socialists”. Its not really “bunk” to be bought into. Its just a different philosophy. The amount of government intrusion into our lives and pocketbooks has steadily increased since Roosevelt. It would seem to me, that there should be a stopping point somewhere along the way. I know how government budgets work, if there is money there, it will be spent. It would seem to me it would be better to limit the budgets and force the programs to accomodate or become more efficient. You can see how the opposite attitude would easily lead to lots and lots of wasted money and bloated ineficiency.

Im also not sure how Kennedy plays up as this ideal to be compared to our founding fathers who would be considered Libertarians by todays standards. He was in office a very short amount of time and other than his handling of the cuban missile crisis did not accomplish very much as very few of his programs were passed by congress. Not to disparage the man, but he really was more of a romantic ideal than someone who dramatically changed society.

Worthy of note however are the facts that he proposed tax cuts, not an increase, created the space program, and, he directed the CIA to support the Baath party in Iraq as they conducted a coup against their leadership. This resulted in the executions of thousands of educated Iraqis who were suspected of being leftists based on lists given to the Baath party by our government, as well as Saddam Hussein taking over the party shortly after. This was done in order to maintain Iraq as a stable oil producing region.

He spoke well and was a very romantic figure. Inspiring as well. I would say Obama meets at least those criteria. I am not really concerned as much about those attributes though. Abe Lincoln was one ugly dude. But he did have the fortitude to see our country through its darkest hour by making cold, callous, calculating and very unpopular decisions. Also very necessary.   Anyway, you are right, there is a line to be balanced, and in the end, that is the goal of most of us in the middle of the country. For me the line is not as thin, that’s all.

Chat with you later

Mom Replies

Well Klint as usual you have some very well thought out responses, and you are taxing my brain, as I am not a trained historian, but I did live during the time periods you talked about, and have some comments based on my observations.

To start with, Kennedy may not have lived long enough to implement some of his programs, but in the short period he did have, he accomplished an amazing amount.  lf all he accomplished was the “Space Program” that would have been substantial.

His info from the CIA was apparently misleading or “warped” about Iraq, I can only say that his decisions were based on what he thought was accurate info at the time, and  history lessons have led us down a path that were twisted to say the least based on “intelligence info.”  Perhaps you have more insight into this particular matter, but it doesn’t change the outcome.

As far as my remarks about Kennedy, I was trying to capture a “feeling” at the time of his inauguration that I believe is somewhat similar to Obama’s election.  We have a  relatively young president with a young family and what appears to be some new and refreshing ideas.  Kennedy gave us that “breath of fresh air” and new ideas and hopes and  dreams that Obama seems to also have; only time will tell.

As far as taxes and redistribution, I believe by definition redistribution means to reallocate, which pretty well sums up taxes.  I do believe the military and “your salary” are funded by federal taxes, but I’m sure you can correct me if I’m wrong.

Was the government pushing the poor into home ownership based on sub-prime interest loans, or was it the lower middle class that perhaps could have used some government funding to help them into home ownership?  This is the class that is usually working with two incomes and no health care, unlike the poor (Medicare) that can walk into any medical institute and receive health care at any given time and you and I are paying for it.

I have some very bitter feelings about our health care system, and yes I am very ready for change when it comes to health care.

I believe we can take the best from all the different systems out there and make something that works so that all our citizens are covered, and if that is socialized medicine then I am all for it!   I have talked to too many individuals that have experienced “socialized medicine’ in other countries that have had wonderful outcomes to say that “it doesn’t work.”

Well those are my thoughts at the moment,

later,

luv,

Mom

Income Redistribution (Voodoo Economics -3)

In spite of the claim by advocates of Reaganomics that “the rising tide raises all ships,” the poor and middle class have seen their incomes fall during the recent economic boom.  Several policies of the “Reagan Revolution” have led to this kind of income redistribution from the poor to the rich.

The War on Unions:  Corporations are organized and the power structure is centralized; and in an economy with any substantial rate of unemployment, they have a tremendous power advantage.  Organizing and representation gave some power back to the workers.  During the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s union membership was strong enough to create a healthy middle class.  Even non-union workers benefited from the prevailing wage standards negotiated by the unions.

While many city and state governments during this period were rife with corruption, no one called for the abolition of government.  Yet anti-union forces used the fact of corruption in union leadership to discredit the concept of collective bargaining.

One of Ronald Reagan’s first acts as president was to destroy the air traffic controllers union.  Reagan had a legal and public opinion advantage in that the controllers were public employees and their strike was illegal.  Still, it was an impressive victory; people thought it couldn’t be done, because the air traffic controllers were a small corp of highly trained professionals, and the nation’s airline industry depended on their work.

The victory over this professional union emboldened private employers to break unions.  Frank Lorenzo took over Continental airlines and used the bankruptcy courts to cancel that airlines union contracts.  Now after more than thirty year of union-breaking activity, the percentage of employees in unions has fallen to 12 percent, down from 12.5 percent in 2005. Those figures are down from 20 percent in 1983 and from 35 percent in the 1950s.  (NY Times)

One union that remains strong, the teacher’s union (the NEA) is the constant target of attacks from conservatives, including candidate McCain.

Exporting Jobs. Under “free trade” agreements, factories have been closed and jobs have been shipped overseas.  According to Jim Webb of Virginia,

Because of a perverse part of our tax code, moving manufacturing plants overseas is actually a profitable exercise for companies that wish to avoid paying corporate taxes (Roanoke Times).

Much of this “free trade” is hardly free or fair.  Countries such as China are unencumbered by enforceable environmental or child labor laws.  We export jobs to China and they export smoke and smog to California.  Further, many other competing countries have national health care, in effect subsidizing one of the highest costs American manufacturers face.

The result is that the ratio of the pay CEOs receive to that of average workers has skyrocketed in comparison with our own past history and international standards.  In 2007 the compensation for top executives “averaged 344 times the average U.S. worker’s pay. Thirty years ago, the ratio was about 35 to 1″ (Kansas City Star, Thursday, Sep 25, 2008).

“According to The Wall Street Journal, in 2006, the CEO to average worker pay ratio was 11 to 1 in Japan, 15 to 1 in France, 20 to 1 in Canada, 21 to 1 in South Africa, and 22 to 1 in Britain” (Pepperdine).

What’s a Pro-Life Voter to Do?

The archbishop of Denver criticized Nancy Pelosi for misrepresenting catholic teaching on abortion (here).  She claimed that the church was ambiguous on the question of when life begins.  Archbishop Chaput answered that the church has never been ambiguous about abortion–it has always condemned the practice.  Archbishop Chaput even quotes the Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who said,

“the destruction of the embryo in the mother’s womb is a violation of the right to live which God has bestowed on this nascent life. To raise the question whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue. The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of his life. And that is nothing but murder.”  (From Bonhoeffer’s Ethics)

Candidate Obama has voted against restrictions on late-term abortions and even against a law protecting infants who survive unsuccessful abortion procedures.  A nurse from Chicago has testified under oath several times that she has witnessed this phenomenon several times.  Babies (that’s what everyone calls fetuses after they are born) have been left to die after surviving induced abortions (here).

We are not talking about subtle nuances here–whether a fertilized egg is a person–we are talking about near-term fetuses or even babies surviving outside the womb.

So how can a pro-life voter support a candidate who opposes any restrictions on late-term abortions?

But there is another life-issue–war.  The other candidate says he will keep us in Iraq for one hundred years, if necessary.

Looking back on these two issues, we are really talking about elective abortion and elective war.  No one on the pro-life side wishes to deny abortion when it is medically necessary to save the life of the mother. What bothers so many is when abortion is not necessary, but a choice, an elective option.

The same is true of George Bush’s war in Iraq.  It was an elective war.  We were not under attack, nor were we in imminent danger of attack from Iraq.  Even had it been true that Saddam Hussein was still trying to develop Weapons of Mass Destruction, no one believed he had a missile ready to launch.  So this was an optional war–not a war forced upon us but a war chosen to accomplish a good cause–eliminating a tyrant, bringing democracy to the Middle East–but not a war undertaken for immediate self-defense.

Only one candidate had the judgment or courage to vote against that war.

Help me out readers.  Am I being selfish to think of my own family? In sixteen years my grandson could be sent to Iraq.  Maybe he will be told that the Iraqi government is almost ready to stand on its own–they just need a little more time.  Right now we don’t have a draft–but the current system is unfair to those who enlisted, and there have been senators calling for a reinstatement of conscription.

I assume that all those who enlist for active duty or in the reserves are motivated by the desire to serve their country.  I assume they believe they will not been sent into optional or elective wars.  They will not be called upon to enter harm’s way unless it is absolutely necessary.  In that case we will want a president with a proven record of good judgment.

So here is my problem.  How can I vote for a candidate who supports elective, optional late-term abortion?  How can I vote for a candidate who supports elective, optional war?

You might say the answer is either don’t vote or vote for a third party candidate.

The problem with that for me is that it would be avoiding my responsibility.  Barack Obama or John McCain will be our next president (of course, barring unforseen tragedies or divine intervention).  I have a responsibility to choose one of these candidates.  Which pro-life issue is more important?  Or do I call it a draw and vote on the other issues?  In that case, the choice to me is clear enough.

That’s Not Journalism

Cousin Eric documents the lies and wild conjectures presented as facts in the best selling book Obama Nation (here). The antidote to bad journalism is better journalism.

By the way, good for Rick Warren for presenting a civil forum for the two presidential candidates to express their positions and answer. Pastor Warren called both candidates his friends, and later on the Larry King show, he called the talk show host a good friend. Warren has taken some criticism for advocating progressive causes such as fighting poverty, AIDS, and global warming. I think his ministry is a good model of what the church should be doing, bringing people together rather than causing divisions.

On the CNN interview both candidates gave direct answers to some tough questions. A lot of questions are very important, but as I see it, the most important questions are those that relate to life. And here’s the dilemma: war and abortion both relate to the value of life and both candidates express different views on both issues.

(For more on the interview, click here.)

Dobson and Obama

Dobson from MSNBC

Dobson, Photo from MSNBC

It used to be common for ministers to neglect their wives (ministers used to be mostly men in most denominations) and children while they were out doing “the Lord’s work.” James Dobson taught a generation of evangelical men that attending to the need of their wives and children was the Lord’s work, their first responsibility.

Dobson was a professor of Pediatrics at the medical school at USC before he began his career as an author and lecturer, and eventually founder and head of Focus on the Family ministries. His first book Dare to Discipline came out in 1970. In it he advocated gentle but firm and consistent discipline in raising children. He taught a generation of evangelicals the importance of nurturing self esteem in children. He taught that the goal of raising children is to prepare them to be independent and to make responsible decisions.

When the song “Cats in the Cradle” came out, Dr. Dobson heartily endorsed it. That song and Dr. Dobon’s teachings taught us to take time to be involved in our children’s lives–or at least to feel guilty when we neglected to do so.

One of Dobson’s other popular books was What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew About Women. In it he encouraged men to be responsible, considerate, thoughtful, and romantic. In addition to Dobson’s books, Focus on the Family ministries has produced video series, magazines, conferences, and a high quality talk-show format radio program.

Dr. Dobson bristles when he is referred to in the media as Rev. Dobson. Although he speaks in churches, he is not ordained and has no formal theological training. That–the lack of theological training–is one thing Dobson has in common with Oprah Winfrey, and also with a man he has recently criticized, senator Barack Obama.

Faith and theology are two different things. Faith means trusting in God, keeping one’s commitment, being confident in the ultimate triumph of God’s will, continually depending on the mercy of God in awareness of one’s shortcomings. Theology is the systematic articulation of the content and meaning of one’s faith. One may have a strong faith and a weak theology. I assume that Dr. Dobson and senator Obama each have a strong faith.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Back in the 1970s Dobson and the directors of Focus on the Family decided that teaching in the churches and on the airwaves was not enough. The family was under attack from powerful cultural forces, so Dobson decided to fight back and to enter the cultural wars. He became associated with other leaders in the religious right, Jerry Falwell and D. James Kennedy (both of whom have lately gone to their eternal rewards) along with others.

Dobson has been a staunch opponent of pornography, “radical feminism,” abortion, and “the radical homosexual agenda.” Dobson also sees the military as modeling positive family values and considers a strong national defense to be a pro-family issue. Likewise, he sees keeping taxes low, keeping business free of onerous regulations, and debunking the “myth” of global warming as pro-family issues. Dobson has always been surrounded by successful professionals: university and professional coaches, colonels, business executives, and physicians.

Barack Obama got his experience in grass roots organizing with a different clientèle. Naturally, his experience has led him to see different sides of the problems facing American families.

The alliance between Dobson and other conservative evangelicals helped elect George W. Bush president twice. To be precise, I might say their votes got him close enough to allow the election to be decided by the courts–but regardless, Bush’s policies and Dobson’s politics mirror each other perfectly.

Senator McCain has not been conservative enough for Dobson, so he announced he might sit this election out–at least as far as the presidential vote. Voting for a democrat was out of the question. Senator Obama has been appealing to people of faith and to moderate conservatives. The right wing doesn’t believe him, doesn’t trust him.

Obama says faith will have a role in his presidency, but that doesn’t mean the imposition of any particular religious interpretation on the nation. He illustrated by referring to laws in the book of Leviticus that no one follows today. He was not ridiculing Scripture but pointing to the difficulties in interpretation and the need for a historical awareness. On the historical matter, he was right. The commandments in the book of Leviticus were given to Israel as part of God’s covenant with them and as part of their law while living in the Land of Israel.

The commandments never were given to Gentiles or Christians as such. One can find expressions of universal principles in these laws, such as “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But one also finds laws against blending two kinds of fabric in a single garment, for example. An individual is free to follow his or her conscience in the choice of fabrics, even free to meditate on the spiritual meaning–for example, one’s heart should not contain a mixture of contradictory motives–but it would be divisive to try to make it the law of the land.

I don’t see Obama’s remarks as being a “fruitcake interpretation.” I see his comments as being in line with sound principles of biblical interpretation and the American heritage of freedom of conscience, speech, and religion.

C. S. Lewis, who was an expert on literature, once remarked that when Sigmund Freud ventured into literary criticism he was “quite ignorant.” Lewis said he should have stuck to what he knew best, curing neurotics. Maybe it’s time for Dr. Dobson to get back to doing what he knows best: teaching parents how to raise children with self esteem and teaching husbands and wives how to understand each other. Maybe it’s time for him to retire from politics.

Every Idle Word

Michelle Obama
“I meant to say, as proud”
There’s is a verse in the Bible that says we will have to give account for every idle word we say.
It is true in politics. Sometimes words matter.

I find it interesting that sometimes a single idle word can destroy a political career, while at other times politicians have recovered from a faux pas.

Back in the 1976 campaign, Jimmy Carter remarked that sometimes it is desirable to preserve the “ethnic purity” of a neighborhood. To some that sounded racist, like an endorsement of segregation. Candidate Carter recovered by saying, “I meant ethnic heritage.”

Some politicians are so famous for slips of the tongue that, like Yogi Bera (“Half the lies they tell about me aren’t true”) they are given a pass. Purists cringe when they hear the pronunciation nuc-you-ler, but it never cost George W. Bush a vote. Dan Quayle was quoted as saying, before a trip to Latin America, “I wish I had studied Latin harder in high school.” He was ridiculed, but his lapses like that, or inability to spell potato, are probably not what cost him and George H. W. Bush the re-election.

Jesse Jackson’s political ambitions were hurt by a careless ethnic slur. Trent Lott was forced to resign when he made a flattering comment at Strom Thurmond’s one-hundredth birthday party. He said if Thurmond had been elected president in 1948 the nation might have been spared “all these problems.” He forgot that Thurmond had run on a segregationist platform; and some journalists fluent in Southern speech detected a veiled euphemism in the cirumlocution “all these problems.”

The most striking case of a careless word derailing a promising career was Howard Dean’s “I have a scream” speech. He was not undone by a racial slur, or in fact by a word that offended anyone. It was the rising intonation of his “Yeah!” at the end of a geographical litany, that seemed undignified. For his exuberance, he was ridiculed into oblivion.

Maybe Michelle Obama simply left out a word. Maybe she meant to say, “I’ve never been as proud of my country as today.” Will she recover? Evidently the remark didn’t hurt her husband in the elections yesterday.