America

The Paradox of Freedom and the Christian

The history of the American experiment is making it less possible for Christians to live ignorant of the moral condition of our societal context. The Rev. Bart Day from the Office of National Mission of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, put it this way in his public response concerning the Planned Parenthood atrocities that are coming to light:

Today let us confess life with renewed vigor — to our friends over supper, through letters to the editor of our local paper, by writing our congressmen, in tweets and emails to Planned Parenthood, on our Facebook pages.

Let us pray that our Lord would bring an end to abortion altogether and that He would stop the horrible sale of infant bodies.

And let us pray that He would forgive us, renew us and bolster us to make a good confession in season and out of season: one that is always, no matter what, for life.

As I reflected on the news of the last couple of days while watching Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner’s acceptance speech after receiving the Arthur Ashe Award on the ESPY’s, my mind reeled trying to process the current zeitgeist of America. Then through the darkness, there shined a bright ray of commonality between it all. I do not just mean a commonality between Jenner and Planned Parenthood, but a commonality that traces back to the beginning of time – the idolatry of freedom.

God told Adam and Eve that they are free to eat of any tree in the Garden of Eden except the one that was in the middle. And placing freedom above divine mandate –  fearing, loving, and trusting freedom above God, if you will – they fell into sin as did the whole creation with them. So why are we surprised when the same ideas are expressed within a creation that is afflicted with the same sickness.

Throughout the entire abortion debate, pro-choice advocates cast their arguments in light of freedom. Whenever one opposes abortion, that person opposes the freedom of a woman to do with her body as she wishes. Is there anything that is more “anti-American” than opposing freedom? Whenever one speaks out against homosexuality, transgenderism, promiscuity, fornication, co-habitation, adultery, or anything else the Bible would call sin or a result of sin, that person is opposes the freedom of a person to be happy, love who they love, be true to themselves, etc. Is there anything more hateful than limiting someone’s freedom?

The hard answer to all of these questions is the fact that we are not called to be free or American (in this sense of the word). We are called to be God’s. Our freedom ends where it conflicts with the Word of God. Freedom is not all that it is cracked up to be. Freedom to ourselves means freedom from all that would confine us. Freedom to ourselves means freedom from God, and it does not take long for a Scripturally-minded Christian to see how scary of a place that is. If you want to see what freedom from God looks like, take a look at Christ on the cross. This is where God turns His back on His Son because of the sin of the world that He bears. It is where He turns His back on the one who bears our sins. All of them. It is in submission to God’s Law that we find repentance. It is in repentance that we find forgiveness. All of us. So to deify and laud those who celebrate freedom to themselves above obedience to God, is succumbing to Satan’s old tricks.

We cannot ignore this anymore. We cannot live as if we are of the world. We are not. We are of God. Let us find comfort, courage and peace in His blessings. His Word. His Sacrament. These are for you. Forgiveness and strength are found when we gather, we pray, we praise, and we give thanks. In this forgiveness there is true freedom. Freedom to be the people of God.

Some Words about Voting and Politics

The political machines of the right and the left are in full swing as the next presidential election quickly approaches. Last night, I watched the coverage of the Republican National Convention as Mitt Romney was officially nominated as the next Republican candidate for President of the United States. I watched the passionate and moving speech given by his wife, Ann Romney. I watched as Governor Chris Christie (from New Jersey) gave a very winsome and biting critique of America and the need for a change in Washington. The speeches were very good. Even the talking heads on television agreed that it was a good night for the Republican convention. However, after the speeches were done, I started to think about the whole night. I thought about the place in which America finds itself presently. I began to think about all of the political speeches that I have watched over the years. Here is a somewhat organized version of the ideas that swam around in my head.

#1 – We need to get rid of party conventions. These things are nothing but the worst of political polemics. The parties take pot-shots at straw-man versions of each other. It usually boils down to characterizing the ideologies of both parties. Now, I know that there are significant things that were said in the speeches last night, but they gave no practical solutions. It was a war of ideologies and rhetoric. I have a feeling that last night only bolstered the conviction of those on the right and solidified the hatred of those on the left.

#2 – We need to stop listening to rhetoric . The thing that I found most humorous about last night was the fact that Governor Christie blasted Obama for simply using rhetoric when Christie’s speech was all rhetoric. As a matter of fact, when we speak, we always have agendas… we always use rhetoric. Now, I have nothing against Governor Christie. I think he has done great things as a politician. I am criticizing the overarching approach to politics that we see in America today. For as much as they talked about wanting to achieve the ever-elusive “bipartisan cooperation”, there is nothing in these convention speeches, talk show/news interviews, and stump activities that reaches out a hand to foster such an attitude. The incumbents always focus on what they did that was good. The new candidates always focus on the horrific atrocities of the incumbent’s tenure. It is not constructive. It is not helpful.

#3 – Do the research for yourself. The number one issue that plagues American political conversation is that we never have a conversation. We never talk to each other. We talk at each other, and we usually just recycle points that we have heard from Glenn Beck or Chris Matthews. Very rarely do I see someone that has done the research themselves and know the nuances of the voting records of the candidates. I am pretty sure that President Obama was born in America, does not want to bankrupt our country, or turn it into a socialist regime. I am equally sure that Mitt Romney loves our senior citizens, does not want a single mother of 8 to go without healthcare, and does not want school teachers to go without pay or benefits. And, yet, these are the pictures that we get when we listen to the “talking heads” on news programs. These are the pictures that we get when we watch interviews or conventions. Find the public record of voting histories. Analyze the candidates’ ideologies. Form your own opinions. Analyze what aspects are important to you. Do you care more about fiscal responsibility or social policies? Does the military and its strength matter to you? What do you think is the best way to handle the healthcare situation in America? These are all perfectly acceptable litmus tests for whom you would like to see as President. And probably the most important thing in the tirade: NO PRESIDENT IS GOING TO BE PERFECT!!!!!! They will all make mistakes. You will disagree in some way with all of them (even Reagan). If you don’t, then you are acting like an ideologue and you’re not being honest. I know that was harsh, but it is the truth.

#4 – GO VOTE!!!!!!!!! If you don’t vote, you lose all rights to criticize the next president. You have failed to do everything in your power to get a different guy in office. Quit complaining or adding to internet polemics. If you don’t vote, I don’t care what you think. Period.

#5 – We have to learn how to listen to each other. God has given us two ears and one mouth for a reason. I have a feeling that if the bureaucrats in Washington actually listened to each other rather than trying to make polarizing characterizations of each other, bipartisan cooperation would not be elusive. It would be welcomed. When we stop listening, we stop treating others with humane respect. When that happens, it becomes easy to demonize. When that happens, it becomes easy to hate. Once we hate, it is hard to go back.

These are some of my thoughts. What do you think?