Archive for September, 2008

Quote of the Day

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

“Lawless memory you project
whatever you like on a screen
ignoring our expectations
Cunning one
you make false pacts with dreams
thoughtlessly confusing faces and
turning those close to us into
giving strangers unearned familiarity”

“Rebuke,” by Julia Hartwig

Of Rennaissance Men, Folkies, and Critics

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

An off-line critic says I’m not only unable to back my contention that God judges the United States for, among other things, the war in Iraq, but also that I seem once again to be picking on his pastor, Doug Wilson. Also, I unthinkingly quote young folk-rock stars. If he’s upset, I imagine others are, too, so here is my response to him, with minor editing to protect his anonymity:

I suspect that you’d like a list of proof-texts that support my contention that God is judging, and continues to judge, nations and peoples who mock Him. I don’t mean to be snide here, and I apologize if it sounds that way, but my guess is that unless I can find “George W. Bush,” “rush to war,” and “idiocy of tax cuts in wartime” in my concordance, you’re not going to be satisfied. And so I attempted, over the course of three or four long posts, to elaborate on the theology informing my contention — knowing that you, like many other readers, are Biblically literate and understand that theology is a string, a common-ness, of understanding God rather than an appeal to a few chosen passages. I suppose I could’ve pointed out most of the minor prophets, or the 40s chapters of Isaiah, or dovetailed into Jesus’ radically new teachings about how we treat enemies, and yet I had assumed you’d have seen them. I guess not.

Here’s what I find troubling. You correctly inferred that my post explaining my use of the folksinger guy’s quote was a reference to your pastor. It was. Doug Wilson claims expertise in pastoral theology, and I find much of his theology, particularly involving marriage and family, but especially the Federal Vision, to be lacking. I’m currently wading through a condemnation of FV theology that is compelling and illuminating. Yet that’s the reason we have the theological diversity in the Body that we have — if you find his theology and teaching to be in line with Scripture, which I assume is non-negotiable for you, then you’re free to attend his church. I couldn’t.

To be fair, he’s not the only minister I’ve ever run into whose theology is off base. But Wilson doesn’t stop at questionable theology, and here’s where I think he’s at best in error and, more to the point, dangerous. He’s done untold damage to the witness of the Gospel by playing historian and defending slavery. He was wrong Biblically, and he embarrassed himself in front of those who don’t care about theology but do understand historical analysis. My husband is fascinated by Lewis and Clark, and knows as much about the Expedition as anyone I know. But he is not a prominent minister of the Gospel, dabbling in history to defend the indefensible and thus polluting the testimony of the message of Christ to an unbelieving community — most of whom appear to be smart enough to recognize his foolishness but who, lamentably, have his teaching linked to Christ’s Gospel. “Playing historian” in such a high-stakes (and pointless) matter is a mark of gross immaturity, if I’m feeling generous, and irredeemable arrogance . . . if I’m not.

So he gets it wrong on theology and has a whole church confused about justification, sacramentalism, covenant, and individual regeneration. Undeterred, even shamelessly, he forges on, damaging a community’s introduction to the Gospel of salvation in Christ Jesus by deciding to “do history” to prove that he’s not “embarrassed by anything in the Word of God.” Believe me, a little embarrassment by his exegesis would be appropriate, as would a humble acknowledgment of error. And yet he marches on . . . to health and nutrition.

Doctors, nutritionists, scientists, and the reasonable people around us all recognize that some foods are barely “food,” and that a diet low in fat, low in animal products, low in alcohol, and low in processed foods is healthier than one that isn’t. One hardly needs a Ph.D. to determine that whole-grain toast is a better breakfast choice than a Twinkie, and yet no one whose voice is taken seriously demands — as an act of faith or a symptom of common sense — that Christian maturity is a diet-based proposition. But Doug Wilson, having made a shipwreck of theology and history, presumes now to wade into the world of Dietary Moderation and The Spiritual Vacuum That Causes it — just because, well, I guess because he can. While virtually every medical professional simply urges that people eat all things in moderation, avoid as much of the bad stuff as they can, and live a life of good health without either mindless gluttony or excessive preoccupation with diet, Wilson mocks those who are concerned about what to eat, what not to eat, where their food comes from, what it does to their bodies, and how they should best approach the groaning table. Worse, he links the normal common sense that people ought to exercise about food and, astonishingly, diagnoses both a serious spiritual hunger AND attempts to argue against the bulk of medical research over the decades, urging his followers to eat, drink, and be merry, because tomorrow, evidently, there’ll be another seemingly confusing, contradictory study about food.

People’s lives are at stake here. They HAVE to be concerned about cholesterol, allergies, and toxins. A wise pastor would urge them, if had any need to comment at all, to listen to their doctors, listen to their bodies, and listen to their consciences. And, speaking of conscience, Wilson seems oblivious to the admonishments in Romans and First Corinthians that we NEVER are to cause another believer to stumble by insisting on eating this, drinking that, or not doing either. I can’t imagine being a recovering alcoholic coming to the Christ Church communion table, knowing that my pastor believes my preference for juice — my shunning of wine — is symbolic of a feminized, weakened, “grape juice” kind of Gospel. I may very well have “promised Grandma I’d never touch a drop,” and if that’s what my conscience dictates, then how dare he proclaim that Christians have to like, and drink, wine; that wine is the issue at communion, not Christ; and that somehow my preference, borne in weakness, uncertainty, experience, or conscience, is “less than” someone else’s.

So, having mangled theology, manipulated history, made mincemeat of diet and health, he cruises on to economics, proclaiming — because he’s Doug Wilson, and he can — that buying Fair-Trade coffee, for example, is evidence of “tender-heart, tender-head” sentimentalism unbecoming the Christian. Eminent economists all over the world, and pastors and theologians who’ve researched the subject, conclude that while buying FT doesn’t solve every problem, it’s a good-faith, honest, effective way to encourage social change, prosper the poor, and even witness for Christ. Your pastor seems to spend an inordinate amount of energy explaining away the need, effectiveness, or even virtue of that “helping the poor” thing that so many of us believe to be a vital part of the Christian walk. It’s easy, I suppose, to disdain the poor and those who attempt, however imperfectly, to ease their burden. It’s harder to actually weave a theology to support that disdain — and yet, he does, regularly, arrogantly, and with careless regard for the harm he causes.

Theology, history, nutrition, economics (poetry, Latin, the classics, architecture, land development, childbirth, body image, fertility . . . ) — is there NOTHING of which this man is ignorant? Well, evidently there is. He seems to be entirely unaware of the shame he brings to the Gospel, the confusion he brings to his congregants, and the jaw-dropping arrogance of his every pronouncement.

You ask what I have done to help the poor. I’m not going to jump at the bait, thanks; I’ll just say that I believe my Lord is pleased with how Jeff and I respond to the needs of those around us and far away. My checkbook, my pantry, my calendar, my heart, my hands, and my actions are all under His sovereign Lordship. In all humility, I’m not interested in pleasing you in this area. And when I do mention the 12 years I spent working on my own, without pay, ministering to the Mexican immigrants that I worked among, please be assured that it’s to bolster my credentials in discussing poverty, immigration, education, and other areas. I got little or no applause for that work, but, again, I think Jesus was pleased. That’s all that matters.

I’ll end with this: You confuse “common grace” with Kuyperian (and others) views of the enabling grace within that causes us to wonder, perhaps, Who is up there. I am not Arminian, but I believe that the progression of grace is one of “it rains on good and evil alike” to “is there someone there?” to the Spirit’s provision of a heart able to hear and accept the gospel (a loose definition of prevenient grace). Connor Oberst, the young man I quoted, said just what he said — he neither, in saying it, acknowledged God, denied God, or indicated that God was a focus of his words. I think he was giving an interview, not outlining the state of his soul or his grasp of theology, and I wouldn’t have thought I’d have to assure you that, yes, I agree that good works aren’t salvific (the FV’ers, though, seem unsure), that Connor needs God, and that mankind is sinful.

"The Poor Are Not The Enemy" (For Bryan Fischer)

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

As some of you know, I used to drive around town with a license frame that said, before someone tore it off, “The Poor Are Not The Enemy.” I wish I had it back. I’d send it to Idaho Values Alliance’s Bryan Fischer, who opines that the mortgage crisis is the fault of bleeding-heart liberal Bill Clinton and the poor Blacks and Hispanics he tried to introduce into the housing market.

Fischer, who seems to embrace as traditional values race-baiting, bigotry, and the uttering of absolute nonsense, says that the federal government, under Clinton’s directive, gave “logic-defying,” “race-based” loans to people who, in turn, forfeited on their mortgages. In Fischer’s world, the current economic crisis is the fault of lower economic classes attempting to solidify their financial and societal standing via the purchase of their own homes. Greed, corruption, reckless deregulation, predatory lending, and a nation strapped by the burden of a war and shackled by tax cuts evidently play only a minuscule part of the crisis; the real culprits are first-time homebuyers who dared to avail themselves of the American Dream, and did so with the understanding that they might even be treated fairly, if not exactly welcomed.

“Race-based loans” were actually federal programs designed to build on a largely stable economy by expanding home ownership to people who historically were either discriminated against or otherwise cut off from their share of the financial pie. These programs were intended to help lift lower-class people out of economic disenfranchisement, achieving their goals through the free market, the sacred temple of the Religious Right. But Fischer and his ilk see only dunderheaded liberalism and the slimy societal goo of affirmative action-type programs, and the chance to add ammunition to the cultural wars and the tension between the Haves and the Have-Nots proves irresistible once again to Idaho’s Vicar of Values. That most of those losing their homes to foreclosure are not ethnic minorities seems lost on him, as does the undeniable connection between the Reagan-era drive to almost completely deregulate the economy and the sorry mess it’s in now.

I’m not sure how Fischer defines “values,” but sidling up to the greedy and powerful while blaming the victims of the housing collapse doesn’t seem to illustrate a real commitment to all that’s good and right and decent, while shameless race-baiting tells us much more about Fischer than about moral values or economics. Clearly, some people took loans they shouldn’t have; clearly, some banks provided loans that virtually guaranteed default. Until we want to make this crisis a product of white male greed, let’s leave the race of those suffering out of it.

Why A Quote From Connor Oberst?

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

Why, indeed — after all, the teen-dream leader of the neo-folk/rock group Bright Eyes is young enough to be my son, hasn’t left a legacy of profound music or writings, and isn’t even someone most of you have ever heard of. I have never heard any of his music. As far as I know, he also doesn’t identify as Christian.

And that’s my point here.

If a young, non-Christian man like Connor Oberst can innocently suggest that maybe most people have an inclination to try to help others and would do so if shown how, then we as Christians could take it a step further and not only model kindness, but not knock people who attempt it on their own. Perhaps we could refrain from mocking as “tender-hearted and tender-headed” those who endeavor to buy fair-trade coffee or non-sweatshop apparel, or not accuse of them of paralyzing “father hunger” when they try to live lives of moderation and probity. Maybe we could even stop hurling epithets at people who disagree with us, thus making the Gospel — a necessary offense — less needlessly so.

Kuyper called it common grace; Arminius gave us prevenient grace. Either way, there’s no threat to the Biblical doctrine of original sin when we acknowledge that there is that of the Spirit working in each one of us, and that when someone wants to do good, or at least not do bad, the Lord who loves them desires to gently lead their hearts and minds into greater light and truth. Not just to facilitate their good works, but to be found by those who seek Him. The Scriptures say that God takes no pleasure in the loss of any soul; it would be nice if we imitated Him in that, or at least got out of the way when someone tries to reach out for God.

Quote of the Day

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

“I still believe there are more good people in the world than not, and that human beings want to help each other if it’s presented in a way that’s understandable and achievable.” Connor Oberst, folk/rock musician

Obama on Abortion

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

From a July, 2008, interview with Relevant magazine (issue 35, Sept./Oct. 2008), Barack Obama discusses late-term abortion:

“I have repeatedly said that I think it’s entirely appropriate for states to restrict or even prohibit late-term abortions as long as there is a strict, well defined exception for the health of the mother. Now, I don’t think that ‘mental distress’ qualifies as the health of the mother. I think it has to be a serious physical issue that arises in pregnancy, where there are real, significant problems to the mother carrying that child to term. Otherwise, as long as there is such a medical exception in place, I think we can prohibit late-term abortions.”

There is no question that Barack Obama is largely pro-choice. Further, there would seem to be no question to him — to most of us — that a third-trimester fetus is sufficiently a “person” and deserving of protection. Therefore, it seems that calling him a fan of infanticide is not only illogical, but inflammatory. Finally, it is not the province of Christian pro-life activists to do so.

Now, if only we could all hear that without getting so emotional about it . . .

Emotional Arguments and Abortion

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

Just a couple of weeks after praying for God to hurl a curse down upon me, only to offer what seemed to be a heartfelt apology, a reader joins in on Dale Courtney’s blog, accusing me of senseless emotionalism in my pursuit and defense of truth — or something; I was too upset to grasp it, I guess. Mine is a charitable interpretation, of course, and this gentleman may want to correct it before anyone becomes unsure of how he feels about me. I won’t use his name here, and I do wish he’d re-think his impulsive outbursts, but his comments illustrate to me how emotional and uncharitable the abortion debate has become. Anyway, Courtney’s Right-Mind blog yesterday took me to task for my Vision 2020 post suggesting that it was wrong to call Barack Obama someone who “favors infanticide.” Dale didn’t think much of my response.

Whereas Dale only refers to me as “Moscow’s most famous evangelical” before he excoriates me (and, going out on a limb here, I’m guessing no flattery was intended), the other man prefers to join in with his mocking assertion that, golly, Dale should just let it go, because facts don’t matter to “Mrs. Mix.” It seems, he says, that I’m able only to muster emotional arguments — the kind that Dale has often referred to as “breathless” and “mixed up,” if not hysterical.

I’m beginning to think these guys don’t like me.

There is a wee bit of irony in someone who very recently spewed a curse on me, only to immediately beg my forgiveness (which he already had), snidely commenting on my alleged propensity for thought-deficient, emotional outbursts, and I wish that just once he would be willing to talk with me in person. The invitation has been extended a zillion times, as it has been to other Kirkers Who Hate Keely, and it never seems to come about. But he’s entitled to his emotional outbursts, and so here’s the gist of my Vision 2020 post yesterday that precipitated it.

I did mention, as I also have on this blog, that I’m opposed to abortion and believe the unborn child to be a person known and loved by God, and I also said I thought it was wrong to call Obama a fan of “infanticide.” Sorry, but even at my most hysterical, I don’t see a contradiction here. I don’t think that the most liberal pro-choice advocate can truly be said to be wildly exultant about the death of unborn children. I think reason suggests we conclude that such a person doesn’t believe the fetus to be a person; it’s only reckless emotionalism that brings us to presume evil in their intentions. Screaming “murderer” at pro-choice politicians, clinic operators, and desperate pregnant women seems not only unloving, un-Christlike, and unnecessary, but probably not real effective — if we’re thinking rationally.

So while many good people are not convinced that the fetus is a person, deserving of rights and protection, other moral distinctions of personhood are glaringly obvious, which hasn’t necessarily prevented Christians from committing horrendous violence against the subject of “person or not?” debates. Specifically, while no sane human being genuinely doubted the personhood and full humanity of African slaves, many kidnapped and enslaved them anyway, often doing so with nary a thought of the inconsistency of faith in Christ and participation in and benefit from the Southern institution of slavery. The personhood of an eight-week-old embryo isn’t real obvious; the personhood of a human slave is. I find it beyond comprehension that one can assert that the one questioning the former is automatically a fan of murderers, steeped in evil, while at the same time defending and embracing the one assured of the latter, who, knowing his slave to be fully human, debases, beats, and kills him anyway.

But that’s just me. And you know how I get.

What Do I Mean By "Under Judgment"?

Saturday, September 20th, 2008

Thanks to the candid observations of two dear Christian friends, I’ve come to believe that I need to clarify further what I mean by both God’s judgment and my contention that we, as a nation, are under it.

There is a sense, of course, that God’s omniscience IS his judgment — that is, what God declares is what God knows, and He knows perfectly. In this case, then, “judgment” is used in the way we use the word when we imperfectly conclude or discern between one thing or another, such as judging that now is a good time to buy a house and not such a good time to sell one. But we are not omniscient, nor are we sovereign. That makes Him and only Him able to pronounce, prescribe, or diagnose lightning bolts of judgment when and if His occur. I condemn hateful declarations that this catastrophe or that tragedy was God’s “judgment” on such and such, particularly when some oppressed group is blamed either for precipitating it or for having suffered from it. It may well appear that I’ve done in the last couple of posts what I loathe. That is not what I intended, and I regret that some have taken it that way. Please bear with me here — not, perhaps, with my final conclusions, but with the process by which I’ve arrived at where I’ve arrived, particularly in what I mean by “judgment.”

My definition of judgment, as I said above, is God’s wisdom, God’s sovereignty, and God’s declaration of displeasure at the course of our actions, corporately or individually. Nonetheless,I’ve stated previously that I believe it is almost always the case that His displeasure with sin is evidenced in normal, natural, logical consequences, the kind of things we refer back to when tempted to the same bad thing again, or the outcomes that confirm to others that we’ve blown it. Without equivocation, I believe we as a nation have “blown it” in this and in many other instances, and even if there were no God to be displeased — to chasten us and provoke our repentance — we would still be reaping, as we are now, the horrible consequences of the course we’ve chosen to pursue.

However, there is evidence in Scripture that God’s judgment is not so much in the form of actual harm befalling a disobedient, hateful nation or person, but in His sovereign removal of protection and in a warning not to presume on His blessing. It isn’t necessary here, nor accurate, to depict God as hurling lightning bolts and calamity at us; we’ve proved more than adept at hurling them ourselves. In this case we have. I do think, though, that this nation’s thirst for war, contempt for the poor, and apathy in the face of injustice — with the encouragement and approval of a culture-conformed, impotent Church — is behavior for which God might well remove His protection from us as a people, if He hasn’t already. My contention is that we are reaping what we’ve sown NOT ONLY as a consequence of our national sin, but ALSO because God has, in effect, “given us over” to the bloodlust and yearning for unjust power that marks not only too much of America’s foreign policy, but in recent years much of our domestic policy. It’s hard for me not to conclude that that “giving over” has in it an element of judgment — and I recognize, belatedly and regrettably, that I was not clear in how I used the word in my initial point.

If you hear only two things, please hear these: One, God doesn’t hate Iraqis, soldiers, or Americans. Two, what I’m saying doesn’t mean that if another terrorist attack strikes American soil, it’s our fault — aggression is always the fault of aggressors, an assertion that applies not only to our enemies but to those we have unjustly treated as enemies. I grieved over 9/11 and I would grieve over any other attack against us. But here’s the point: I grieve also over the devastation of Iraq and its people, the nourishing of a newer, angrier Taliban in Afghanistan, the incalculable loss of life and well-being to our soldiers and theirs, the rubble of Iraqi cities and the decay of our own, and to the very real consequences that this war has wrought on our poor, our infrastructure, and our values as a quasi-Christian nation. We don’t need another attack — and may there never be one — to conclude that perhaps God has removed His blessing from us. Millions of people in our own country are living every day in devastation and chaos — and their suffering isn’t alleviated one bit because it wasn’t brought about by terrorism, and perhaps exacerbated by having been brought about by a nation presuming to call itself “Christian.”

The Judge of all the Earth will, indeed, judge fairly; we who call on Him must recognize that He may well, in time, judge against what we’ve wrought in His name. And while our vindication is secured by Christ’s atoning death and resurrection, we are cautioned in 1 Corinthians 3 to build our Christian lives with precious stones and jewels — not wood, hay, stubble, and certainly not with armaments and firepower. May we be a people of peace and worshipers of the Prince of Peace, and not a people whose works are burned as ugly and useless, with bitter souls near-singed in the fire.

My thanks and love to my sisters in Christ, A.E. and C.S.C, for their candor.

The Sequence of Judgment and Consequence

Friday, September 19th, 2008

A correspondent who read my previous post on judgment and the Bush administration wonders if I might clarify what I mean by “judgment” and how it differs from, say, “natural consequences.” I’m happy to do so. And while I talk about a national “we” here, I mean the Christian church primarily and the American citizenry only secondarily.

I abhor talk about God’s judgment against the “immorality” of New Orleans by unleashing Hurricane Katrina on millions of poor people along the coast. I was disgusted by Falwell and Robertson claiming that 9/11 was a judgment against the United States by an angry God. Further, I am virtually always going to assume that when bad things happen — to good people, bad people, or any mix thereof — it’s either a reminder that we live in a fallen world, or it’s a consequence of bad choices and behavior. When a tree fell on our tenant’s car a couple of years ago during a windstorm, it was a reminder of how puny we are in the face of weather and a confirmation that in a fallen world, things don’t always go so well. But if, for example, I were to drive recklessly and then either hit another car or get a ticket, those things are consequences of bad behavior on my part, behavior that God and humankind would judge as “bad,” but whose resulting circumstances are simply a consequence of a sinful, stupid choice. I would neither benefit nor be further condemned if someone wrongly suggested that what happened was “God’s judgment.” Consequences tend to speak much more loudly and clearly than do judgments from on high.

In short, then, I reject that horrible scenarios are always, even rarely, a judgment from God. However, I do believe that God, in His judgment (providence, justice, omniscience), can allow to NOT intervene favorably for us when we rush to do wrong, and I consider that decision of His not to intervene — to not rescue or deter us from our own madness and sin — a choice that He makes as a way of chastening or disciplining us.

I believe that this country is harvesting the fruit of unrighteousness, and that both the initial damage and suffering as well as the weight of its realization are permitted by God to spur us to repentance. We clamored for war, and we got it. Our suffering, and the suffering of the Iraqi people, is a consequence of our sinful priorities and un-Godly actions. We were sure we had it right, even when it bore no resemblance to the Gospel, and we were secure in our rightness instead of seeking individual and national righteousness.

So our country is seriously off track — which, I believe, may be the greatest understatement I’m likely to ever make — and it’s certainly a consequence of our having placed our hope in our armaments, our strength, and our anger. Still, whether the judgment of God simply allowed for the full brunt of those consequences, or actively brought them about, there is no doubt in my mind that we are nation under chastening, reaping the bitter fruit of our warmongering and still far from recognizing our own culpability in doing so. God didn’t “make us” start the war, and He takes no pleasure in the death of even one soldier or Iraqi citizen. But we chose to turn away and ratify that choice at virtually every turn, and perhaps there’s no need to suggest a curse from the Holy One when we’ve proved time and time again that we’re quite able to curse ourselves. It seems to me that this is how a people either wandering away from God or already bound by His condemnation acts. That He judges our failure for what it is and chooses not to rescue us is a judgment that, better stated, is a consequence permitted for a nation hell-bent on ripping the Fruit of the Holy Spirit away from public policy and grinding the faces of the poor into the rot.

Judgment and George W.

Friday, September 19th, 2008

It’s been a few days since I’ve posted — I’m afraid the germ-filled air on my flight home as well as a lingering visit by the Back Pain Fairies had me not feeling so well. But it’s given me time to formulate an argument supporting my contention that the United States, through the sovereignty of a just and holy God, has experienced eight years of judgment under the George W. Bush administration.

We elected Bush in 2000, the crest of a new millennium and a clear break, to conservatives, from the sex and scandal-laden years of the Clinton era. I’m not a fan of Bill Clinton; I think he was a largely immoral, hypocritical user trading far too much on charm and wit and not nearly enough on intelligence and principle. However, spending a few hundred million bucks exploring the vagaries of his private sex life seems to me to have been unwise — the public funding of a GOP vendetta against an economically and societally successful president, disguised as a quest for truth, morality, and traditional values. Nonetheless, all sides can agree that the dawning of the Bush 2 administration was a new start, albeit one that terrified liberals as much as it comforted conservatives.

(I also believe that Bush’s cronies stole the election, period. But they’ll have to face God on that one, and face Him they will).

Bush’s first term, marked as it was by 9/11, could have lifted up the people of the United States, elevating our finest ideals and enacting policies that stood firm against evil without responding in kind. Bush may have been unprepared for the attacks of 9/11, but he and his neo-cons were certainly prepared to wage war against Iraq. It made no sense before the attacks, made even less afterwards, and remains a testimony to the evil in mens’ hearts, displayed on an international level and realized in the tears of every American and Iraqi parent grieving the loss of their child. Bush came into office either too dumb or too malleable to avoid war at any provocation, and when 9/11 came, the door, hinges greased in eagerness, swung open for an unprovoked attack and an immoral invasion of a country that did us no harm.

The first few years of the Bush administration, then, were fruit from a poisoned tree, and the stench of war was augmented by the rotting economy his fund-war/cut-taxes policy brought about. Indifference to the poor is the kindest possible description of what could bring about such insanity; I prefer “utter contempt” and “shocking dismissal.” The middle class suffered and the underclass shattered, and the war against the poor at home continues unabated, just as the war against Iraq thunders along today.

And, astonishingly, the American people rejected a genuine war hero and decent man and elected Bush again in 2004.

The Brits asked how so many millions of people could be so dumb. Perhaps the question is how so many supposedly God-fearing voters could vote not only against their own self-interest, but for the very things that the truly religious ought to reject with fervor. It’s difficult for me to accept that Bush won his first term largely because of people whipped into a frenzy by illicit sex in the Oval Office, but it continues to boggle the mind that American voters cast their lot with him again — when evidence of Bush lies, pre-9/11 war planning, an economy beginning to skid, and the multiplying hardships endured by the poor on whose backs the rich enjoyed tax breaks were all startlingly in view. The wealthy Right got what it wanted, and the Religious Right handed it to them in a chalice.

I believe that the evil perpetrated by Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, et al, is unprecedented in American history. And, after reading eminent prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi’s “The Impeachment of George W. Bush on Murder Charges,” I’m also convinced that he is at best a war criminal and more accurately a common thug whose indifference to life, blind faith in his own gut, stunning anti-intellectualism, and mission to please those smarter and more evil than him informed his every presidential move. The thuggish and the thick generally aren’t too dangerous to too many people; the thuggish and the thick given enormous power have brought us and Iraq to where we are today.

Because I believe in a sovereign, personal and holy God who knows all and is thwarted by nothing, I have to conclude that He allowed the United States to suffer as it has under two terms of a Bush presidency. I don’t know why; further, I don’t know why the Iraqi people were allowed to be slaughtered and to slaughter our own men and women forced to fight an unwinnable, immoral, unneeded war. But God doesn’t exercise His sovereignty in ways that are always pleasant for us. We all know when we’ve been blessed; we tend to explain away when we’ve been disciplined or placed under judgment by our Lord. Those who call us a “Christian nation,” who kindle fires of hostility and division and trade in violence and bigotry, who trample the poor under their well-shod feet and pretend not to notice, and who wail about the killing of fetuses (who I believe are children, by the way, known and loved by God) while applauding the killing of innocents abroad and the slow death of those at home, are the ones who’ve brought about the judgment of a God who takes no joy in levying punishment, but also brooks no favor with those who mock Him.

The reality that we chose to be governed by a man so ill-prepared to be president, just because he claimed Jesus as Savior, and that we gave a second term to the arrogant-bumblers-turned-vicious-mercenaries he chose to surround himself with, is sobering. I imagine historians will puzzle over it for decades, perhaps centuries. But right now is the time to realize that God judges nations who seek blood and trample the poor and dispense with justice, and our national religion of flag-waving and Jesus as Best Republican not only doesn’t shield us from judgment, but invites it.

May God have mercy on us all.