Thursday, August 28, 2008

How Husbands and Fathers Should Model Citizenship

One of my friends wrote and asked why I hadn't been blogging about the presidential candidates and exciting conventions. "There's loads of material!" he needlessly pointed out.

Here's the thing: part of me wants to, and I think a wiser, more mature part of me decided not to add redundant thinking and ascerbic commentary. Besides, the focus of this blog is not politics, but about encouraging husbands and fathers.

So in the hope of encouraging husbands and fathers as they model citizenship to others in their family and community, I offer some observations and predictions:

The US economy has many, many parts and interconnections. There is not a single economy, however much people may want to boil it down to a handful of numbers. The US economy is incredibly interwined with the larger global economy.

The falling value of the US dollar relative to many currencies is a symptom. We do not know the full extent of the disease(s), nor are there simple cures.

There is a desperate need for voters to be thinking carefully, and critically about the "facts" presented, their source, how they are presented, and what might be missing. Be particularly careful about statistics. (Mark Twain remarked about the man who had one arm in the icebox and the other in the oven, and on average was comfortable.).

Likewise, work forward from proposals offered, and consider possible consequences. Who benefits and who does not? By what degree? There is no free lunch. What is the timescale for results? I think a primary reason why systems thinking is not taught effectively is that this knowledge framework could undermine a lot of flimsy leadership authority. Oh, and it takes more thinking effort than swallowing sound-bites.

No matter whom is elected, he will be tested by terrorists and foreign powers (especially Iran, Russia, Syria, North Korea, and China). They will want to evaluate the words-deeds match, and how much they can cross lines and get away with it. And I think it will happen soon -- probably while many positions in the executive branch remain unfilled, and foreign power relationships are still being established.

Speaking of positions, whom the president selects as cabinet members and other principals is crucial. There is effectively no forecasting of choices during the campaign itself. There is a little more forecasting about judicial choices.

Nearly all professional politicians are sincere, and believe what they are saying. Sincerity is not a measure of truth.

Whomever is elected will have roughly 1/2 the country upset with him. All the time. That's 150 million people in the US, and more millions around the world. He should be very, very nice to the Secret Service.

Given the challenges and risks, anyone who actually wants to be President has disqualified himself or herself. I'm about half-serious on this.

The United Nations will remain the U.N., irrespective of whom is President. It is a macro-system unto itself. I think they have resolutioned themselves into irrelevancy.

Currently less than half of potential taxpayers in the US pay any federal tax at all. Irrespective of which party controls the executive and legislative branches in 2009, there will likely be increased taxes on a subset of potential taxpayers. As much as I would prefer a flat tax or national sales tax, I believe there is far too much political power invested in our current tax system to be abandoned by the same people whom benefit the most from manipulating it.

The serious breakdown of families across generations opens up an apparent need for more government action. Where husbands and fathers strive to do the right things, honoring God, serving their families and communities, you have progressively less need for government solutions. This strength can endure.

We've been fortunate in many ways that the current US House and Senate have passed very few bills or significant resolutions. It would seem that they have a greater appetite for waiting and positioning for 2009, than actually working through difficult decisions now. Expect gridlock to continue. Even with a filibuster-proof Senate (60 Democratic seats), I think the president will still be challenged to fulfill the big-ticket agendas.

By fall 2009, I predict the total number of issues and challenges and complaints about American politics will be unchanged. Emphasis may have shifted, but not the total. Americans simultaneously expect too much of government and government leaders, and love to complain about shortcomings and inadequacies. It's a near-perfect reinforcing loop. It's sport.

With all our struggles, poor trendlines, up and downs, the U.S. remains a remarkably blessed country. We deserve much judgment, but have received much, much more mercy.

We should be grateful that we serve a sovereign Lord to whom "the nations are like a drop in a bucket" (Is 40:15) We should be good citizens (which means paying attention and making careful voting decisions) and remember the perspective that no government or leader is a substitute for the lordship of Jesus Christ.

P.S. I do like Peggy Noonan's description of how the Democratic and Republican parties take different sympathies:

"Democrats in the end speak most of, and seem to hold the most sympathy for, the beset-upon single mother without medical coverage for her children, and the soldier back from the war who needs more help with post-traumatic stress disorder. They express the most sympathy for the needy, the yearning, the marginalized and unwell. For those, in short, who need more help from the government, meaning from the government's treasury, meaning the money got from taxpayers.
Who happen, also, to be a generally beset-upon group.
Democrats show little expressed sympathy for those who work to make the money the government taxes to help the beset-upon mother and the soldier and the kids. They express little sympathy for the middle-aged woman who owns a small dry cleaner and employs six people and is, actually, day to day, stressed and depressed from the burden of state, local and federal taxes, and regulations, and lawsuits, and meetings with the accountant, and complaints as to insufficient or incorrect efforts to meet guidelines regarding various employee/employer rules and regulations. At Republican conventions they express sympathy for this woman, as they do for those who are entrepreneurial, who start businesses and create jobs and build things. Republicans have, that is, sympathy for taxpayers. But they don't dwell all that much, or show much expressed sympathy for, the sick mother with the uninsured kids, and the soldier with the shot nerves.
Neither party ever gets it quite right, the balance between the taxed and the needy, the suffering of one sort and the suffering of another. You might say that in this both parties are equally cold and equally warm, only to two different classes of citizens."

That fairly sums up a lot about domestic politics, though does not address fundamental differences on foreign policy.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Teach the Jesus Way

If you do any Bible teaching, you might be interested in "Teach the Jesus Way."

Recommended: Wild Goose Chase

Mark Batterson's new book, "Wild Goose Chase: Reclaim the Adventure of Pursuing God" is delightful, accessible, and just the thing God could use to speak to you.

If you aren't yet where you need to be, get this book.
Highly recommended!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Wild Goose -- Chase It Down!

Mark Batterson's new book, Wild Goose Chase: Reclaim the Adventure of Pursuing God, will be released tomorrow. The free "Yawning Angels" chapter from this new book has whetted my appetite!

I've been blessed by Mark's Evotional blog, his book "In the Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day," and his sermons.

Postmodernism, Explained

You see the word 'postmodernism' a lot. Can you define it? I'm completely serious -- can you explain it to someone else?

This J.P. Moreland explanation of postmodernism vs. modernism is excellent, and only about 2 pages. Recommended.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Dangers of Politicized Science

Michael Chrichton's novel "State of Fear" includes an appendix essay on the "Dangers of Politicized Science." I also recommend Chrichton's speech on the problems with a religous approach to environmentalism. He has posted the text from several other speeches on complexity theory, science policy, and genetic research.

Fair warning: Mr. Chrichton is not writing from an explicitly Christian perspective. He does work from a moral framework. I do not agree with all his recommendations.

The reason I recommend his material to you is because I want to encourage efforts towards clear thinking, dialogue that comes out of humility rooted in our incredibly limited understanding of complex systems, and a perspective that does not ignore our human fallibilities in working together. Chrichton has done his homework and critical thinking, and is more practiced than most writers at systematic integration of data across fields. So I believe he is worth listening to.

Keep in mind that our children and grandchildren are growing up in a technologically-sophisticated world. They need our help to learn how to assess options from a biblical framework, and how not to be snookered by sound bites and politicians who have developed an ability to smile even as they straddle a barb-wire fence.

Churchill on Books

"If you cannot read all your books, at any rate handle, or, as it were, fondle them--peer into them, let them fall open where they will, read from the first sentence that arrests the eye, set them back on their selves with your own hands, arrange them on your own plan so that if you do not know what is in them, you will at least know where they are. Let them be your friends; let them at any rate be your acquaintances."

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

"And What Does Your Daddy Do?"

You don't hear much about them in the news, but we have many brothers and sisters in Christ living amidst the muslim Palestinians. Here is an amazing story of the son of a Hamas leader who rejected Islam and is following Jesus. May our Lord magnify His name through him!

It's important to reinforce to ourselves and our children, that the Lord can save anyone. No heart is too desperately wicked, no one is too angry, no one is beyond redemption. If he saved you, then He can do it again.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

There's a Whole Lot of Space

We've just returned from a long driving visit to see relatives in distant states...and I'm grateful for God's traveling mercies.

One overwhelming impression: there is a whole lot of empty space in the US!