Election 2008: I voted

Reports of long lines at many polling places had me wondering if I would be in for a wait to vote this morning. But, at least at my polling place at the neighborhood church in Hiawatha, there was very little line. I signed the register, then signed the book next to my name, then filled in our lovely two-sided scantron form.

The whole thing couldn’t have taken more than 10 minutes. There were contested races for several local positions and I found myself voting for candidates of both parties. I voted to retain a few of the local judges I’m familiar with. When I deposited my ballot into the scanner, the readout showed that I was ballot #548 for the day so far. I can remember voting in previous elections where my ballot number was only in the 200’s late in the day… so yeah, we’re seeing high voter turnout.

Tonight I have my first work league basketball game of the season, at 7:50 pm. I’m betting that by the time I get home and watch the election coverage, it’ll be all over.

I will not fear

On an internal discussion board at my workplace today, a co-worker (who is a Christian, though a bit of the far-right cynical type) posted this:

Full up your gas tank today. And any other necessary purchases. Once the elections are over, anything that they’ve been holding off on can now be done. I expect that the repercussions of this economic meltdown have been held at bay and international moves that will make us unpopular have been tabled until after the election.

To which I have (and posted) this response:

I refuse to live in fear.

Political parties, bloggers, cynics, and conspiracy theorists of all stripes use fearmongering as a motivator to try to get us to do what they want. If you’re on one side, it’s fear of gays, liberals, taxes, big government, and athiests. If you’re on the other side, it’s fear of theocracy, invasion of personal privacy, neocons, and big oil.

No more.

A reminder from Romans 13: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”

Election Eve

It seems like this election cycle started a LONG time ago. We had our caucuses in Iowa back in January, and even at that point it seemed like the campaign was getting long. By tomorrow night, though, (Lord willing,) it’ll all be over except for the mopping up.

We’ve managed to avoid most of the pre-election harassment that comes in the form of door-knockers and phone calls; either Iowa is polling too strongly Democrat to make it worth canvassing or our party affiliation makes us unappealing targets for last-minute solicitation. Whatever the reason, I won’t complain.

Tomorrow we’ll walk over to our neighborhood polling place (at a church only three blocks away) and cast our ballots. I’ll cast the most mixed ballot I’ve ever cast, supporting Obama at the top of the ticket and a mixture of Democrats and Republicans further down.

I’m mildly optimistic that our local House race might go Republican; the incumbent, Dave Loebsack, took the seat two years ago by running out the political equivalent of a check-swing ground ball, and making it in safely as the voters kicked out long-time nominal Republican Jim Leach in a fit of anti-Bush pique. I heard the Republican candidate speak back at the caucus in January, and she’s a fireball. While Dr. Marianette Miller-Meeks has a name that might (unfortunately, for a politician) suggest that she has strings to be pulled, she would be a fine representative for Iowa in Washington.

That’s the end of Chris’s endorsements for the election. Now, just because it’s more fun this way, a prediction or two.

  • Obama will win the election handily, with massive voter turnout making the difference.
  • The Democrats won’t quite hit 60 seats in the Senate, driving them to woo Joe Lieberman back to the Democratic caucus in spite of the fact he endorsed McCain.

In the end, regardless of who wins, I will pray that God grant our new leaders wisdom and integrity. There is peace to be found in knowing that God is sovereign.

The Church Search, Week 4

We had plans to go to church on Sunday. And the best of intentions. But even though we were all up quite early thanks to the time change, the cold and cough situation at our house made it seem prudent to stay home. As much as we’d like to attend, everyone would probably appreciate not being infected by Addison’s runny nose and my cough.

Next week, Lord willing.

Reason #264 Best Buy is Evil:

I need a SATA cable to hook up a new (to me) hard drive to the motherboard of a new (to me) computer. It looks something like this:

SATA cable

I found them online from a reputable retailer for $1.99 each. I bought two. The retailer has a First Class USPS shipping option that only cost me $2, so for $6 I have two cables on my way from North Carolina.

I stopped at my local Best Buy over the lunch hour to see what they have, and sure enough, they have a SATA cable in stock. (Probably the only place in town that does.) Their price: $19.99.

I rest my case.

The Church Search, Week 4 Preview

This week our plans have us heading to Maranatha Bible Church. We know the Maranatha pastor and youth pastor and their families – good folks all around. From their website I see that Pastor Aaron is working through a series in Isaiah, which should be interesting. 10:15 AM on Sunday. Always tough to go someplace new, but a little easier when there’s familiar faces.

Oh, the other place I’m familiar with Maranatha from: church softball. Guess there might be a few more familiar faces there than I was originally thinking.

As usual, I’ll do some analysis/review on Sunday or Monday.

Book Review: How Would Jesus Vote? by D. James Kennedy

cover artHave you heard that there’s an election coming up soon? So has WaterBrook Publishing, apparently, because they timed this blog review giveaway to fall just before the 2008 presidential election. Which brings me today to review How Would Jesus Vote? A Christian Perspective on the Issues, written by the late Dr. D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe. Kennedy was the senior minister at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, and Newcombe is a television producer for Coral Ridge and a frequent co-author. I will admit to being skeptical about the book when I was invited to do the review; in general I feel that the “Religious Right” has done far more harm to the name of Christ than it has accomplished with its political machinations over the past 20 years. But I figured it was worth a read.

Chapter One of HWJV? asks, appropriately enough, would Jesus even have His followers vote at all? Unsurprisingly, it concludes that yes, He would, based primarily on the “render unto Caesar” command in Luke 20. Taking it even a step further, the authors claim that it is primarily the Christians’ fault that America’s morality has taken a downturn in the past century; if only Christians had been more involved politically, they say, and been more effective at “legislating our morality”, things would be much different today.

Part Two of HWJV? addresses “The Issues”, devoting a chapters to:

  • Matters of life and death (Abortion, stem cells, suicide, euthanasia)
  • The Death Penalty
  • War – can it ever be justified?
  • Education and the schools
  • Economic Concerns
  • Health-care issues
  • The environment and climate change
  • Immigration and racial predjudice
  • Protection of marriage
  • Judicial Activism

This is a pretty fair swath of topics that surround most elections, and I was looking forward to having them dealt with in a thoughtful manner. I was quite disappointed, then, to read the chapters and find that they are little more than a regurgitation of the “Religious Right” talking points that you would hear from Focus on the Family, the Christian Coalition, or any similar religious conservative political group. Some examples:

  • After telling us in Chapter 3 that he will never tell folks who he’s voting for, Dr. Kennedy says in Chapter 4 that he “cannot support [a] person” who is “for the pro-choice position”, saying that “this one issue of life trumps all others”. Doesn’t leave much question who he’s supporting now, does it?
  • After saying, though, that the “issue of life trumps all others”, he goes on to conclude that the death penalty is an appropriate deterrent for crime and that “only by misunderstanding the Bible… could one conclude that Jesus would oppose the death penalty.”
  • In the chapter on education, the authors detail the decline of the public education system in America and stunningly conclude that “as long as God continues to be barred from our public schools, the public-education system will continue to falter.”
  • On health-care, the authors conclude that Jesus would “be concerned” about the plight of the uninsured, but that He would not favor government involvement in health care, not only because of government inefficiency, but also because it would “impose an anti-Christian ethic, such as forcing abortions on handicapped unborn children or forcing euthanasia on the weak”.
  • On the environment, I’ll give them credit for a slightly more nuanced position than I would’ve expected; the authors say that it’s important we care for our environment, but suggest that there are more practical ways to do that than the massive programs proposed to stop “global warming”.
  • On immigration, the authors pull a fair number of examples from the Old Testament claiming that God had Israel deal with two groups of immigrants differently, treating those who came to adapt and become Israelites as Israelites, while opposing those who came in as “aliens”.
  • On judicial activism, the authors speak harshly against the Senate that railroaded Robert Bork and tried to destroy Clarence Thomas, but in the end conclude that they can’t say “whether Jesus would prefer judges who hold strictly to the constitution”.

One of the most disturbing things to be in HWJV? was the way the authors mangled Scripture interpretations in support of their views. No place was this more evident than in the chapter on the economy and taxes. After arguing the standard Republican platform (that big businesses are good because they create jobs, and that it’s damaging to tax them more heavily) for the better part of the chapter, they then stunningly support this by quoting Matthew 23:11: “The greatest among you will be your servant.” So, they say, look at Henry Ford as an example. He was a great, rich man, but in doing so he enriched the lives, and thus served, many others.

I want to explore that a little bit more. Matthew 23 is a chapter in which Jesus chastises the Pharisees and religious leaders for their pride, ambition, and hypocrisy. In context:

8″But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. 9And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ.[b] 11The greatest among you will be your servant. 12For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

– Matt 23:8-12, NIV

That’s right, the authors picked a single verse from a chapter in which Jesus is telling us that the values of the kingdom are inverted, that status and position don’t matter, but that humility and servanthood do… and they use that single verse to try to prove that God would have us reduce taxes on “big business”, because those rich are doing us all a service. Did they completely miss the irony here?

I had hopes for How Would Jesus Vote?, hopes that it would be a thoughtful consideration of the issues, a step beyond the talking points that are rehashed on the radio and the blogosphere every day, hopes that the authors would acknowledge and consider that there are Christians, deeply devout, serious, thoughtful Christians, who disagree with nearly every “Religious Right” tenet. Instead the book turned out to be just more of the same stuff we hear every election cycle from those would would have us believe the lie, as Derek Webb wrote, that “Jesus was a white, middle-class Republican”.

The link to Amazon is included here because it’s part of the reviewing agreement; however, I’d suggest you spend your money and time on some other, more thoughtful book.

[How Would Jesus Vote? on amazon.com]

Gilbert & Sullivan & an embarassing admission

During an online conversation with Lydia this morning I was chiding for her unfamiliarity with Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Three Little Maids from School Are We”. Just to get everyone on the same page, here it is:

But then I got to thinking about my familiarity with Gilbert & Sullivan, which leads me to an embarrassing admission: most of my familiarity with the music of Gilbert & Sullivan comes from two sources: the movie Chariots of Fire, and the “Cape Feare” episode of The Simpsons.

In Chariots of Fire, as I recall, one of the main characters is interested in an actress who is playing one of the three little maids in The Mikado. There’s also a scene when the olympic team is traveling on the ship and they’re singing Gilbert & Sullivan songs around the piano. (The scene always sticks in my mind because the audio is just off – the piano chord sounds a split-second before the actor’s hand hits the keys.)

In The Simpsons, the villain Sideshow Bob tracks down the Simpson family (who were living on a houseboat in a witness relocation program), ties up the parents, and is just about to kill Bart. Bart stalls Sideshow Bob by challenging him to sing the entire score of The Pirates of Penzance H.M.S. Pinafore (thanks for the correction, Jamie!). Bob can’t resist the challenge and so sings and sings and sings while the boat floats down the river, into town, and to the authorities.

I really should take some time to become more familiar with these guys.

[Edit: I found a good version of the Simpsons’ scene.]

They are soon gone, and we fly away

It always seems to be the bitter, cold, rainy days. Yesterday morning I took my familiar perch behind the piano at Noelridge as an aging group of family and friends gathered to remember the life of a dear lady who passed away last week. Save for a few grandchildren present, at age 31 I was easily the youngest person in the room, and my position at the piano gave me forty minutes’ opportunity to study the faces of those assembled.

It was a wrinkled and care-worn group gathered yesterday; five pews filled with family grieving a loss forseen for some time now during battles with cancer, a dozen more pews of friends, each remembering happier times. Fairlene was remembered as a “feisty” woman whose love for family and desire to serve could be seen in the faces of her sons as they sang “Amazing Grace”, and in the pulpit that she and her husband hand-crafted for the church sanctuary. Her death was in many ways a sorrow – as deaths always are – but in many ways a relief; Fairlene is now free from her pain and suffering and is rejoicing in the presence of God.

As I looked around the room I saw faces that reminded me of other similar gatherings. There in the back was Dave, who sat in the same front row grieving a wife lost to cancer seven years ago. A row nearer sat Wanda, remembering her husband who has been with the Lord for several years now. Each one came in quietly, shared the sorrow and memories, sang the hymns of trust and assurance, and then bundled up to face the bitter wind at the grave site.

My schedule forced me to make an exit at this point, but I knew how the day would continue. Soon they would return to the church for the lunch awaiting them in the basement fellowship hall, and as the sandwiches, salads, jellos, and desserts were eaten the quietness of grief would slowly be replaced by the happier babble of life, the telling of stories, the shrieking of small children, the laughter at the memory of times past. And this, too, is life. Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.

This morning the sky was clear as the sun came up, and it gave a hint of hope to the cold air. Fairlene’s hopes were fulfilled on Thursday night as she left us to be with her Savior. In the words of the psalmist that were read yesterday: “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.” We can though, like Fairlene, have hope in the God who has been our dwelling place in all generations.

Yet another reason I love my brother…

Lately I’ve had a quote from Chuck (a rather fun TV show on NBC Mondays) set as my IM status message. (Oh, it’s also at the top of my blog header.) In the show, Chuck complains that it’d never work to have a relationship with his hot love interest Sarah, because she’s a CIA agent, and he says he’d try calling her, and she wouldn’t be available because she’d be “off somewhere in Paraguay quelling revolution with a fork…” I loved it. What a great line.

So it’s been my IM status for a week or so now. And every time Ryan starts a chat, he starts it out this way: “viva! viva! viva!”. (The first time he followed up with “fork that!” 🙂 )

For Ryan, I have but three words, and I’ll even make ’em Spanish: ¡Si se puede!