Archive for November, 2008

Palin (In Which I Explain Why I Say These Things)

Friday, November 7th, 2008

OK, I can see that we need some context here.

This is from a post on Vision 2020 I made yesterday, defending my use of words like “intellectually sluggish” in describing Governor Palin. Nothing in here is intended to blur my previous apology; it’s only to offer you a glimpse of how it started, what brought about the check in my heart, and how I frame criticisms of public figures.

Again — While this is important in establishing some context, it’s not worth anything if my previous post doesn’t clearly make the point that I am sincerely sorry if anything I’ve said herein maligns the Gospel. One way to never offend people is to just never speak. I won’t do that; that wouldn’t be faithful to my gifts and calling. But I’d be eager to hear from you how the comments below hit you, and please know that if I’ve brought disrepute to the Gospel, there’s nothing else that matters. No observation is worth that.

Vision 2020, November 6, 2008

“It’s hard for me to understand how my assessment — my opinion — of this national figure’s leadership attributes and experience can be stated without using words like “incurious” and “uninformed.” Likewise, the drumbeat of testimony that she’s a prima donna merely confirms other evidence that she’s in over her head and completely oblivious to it. To paraphrase Ann Richards about George H. W. Bush, she was placed on third base by the McCain campaign and seems to think she hit a triple. That she’s behaved boorishly and peevishly while rounding the bases is just an added problem brought about by her sudden appearance on the field.

Please note that I said she was “intellectually sluggish,” by which I mean that she seems not terribly eager to educate herself about the world around her. I think that’s an important trait for a Vice President to have. “Sluggishness” indicates a level of volition here; she is more than able to grasp things better than she does, but there’s no evidence that that’s important to her. If I said she was “stupid,” that would be mean. “Intellectually sluggish” is a nod to her responsibility for making use of the gifts she’s been given. It’s no crime to not know of any Supreme Court cases when asked, unless you’re running for the Vice Presidency with a decent likelihood of becoming the President who must choose three new Supreme Court justices. Then, not knowing anything is bad — “bad” in ways that she, and only she, can remedy. And she can. She isn’t stupid. There’s no organic deficit here. She isn’t Forrest Gump. There’s no evidence that she’s developmentally delayed or otherwise affected. She just hasn’t chosen to power up, which would be of no concern to me whatsoever if she weren’t running for the second-most powerful position in the nation. I’ll gladly acknowledge that I haven’t chosen to study much about astronomy, and I can’t imagine anyone caring — unless I were tapped to become director of Tucson’s Mt. Graham observatory.

One other point that I need to make here is that when Sarah Palin chose to grab onto the spotlight offered her by John McCain, she did so knowing that she’d take her knocks just like any other candidate. Most other candidates, though, don’t gather around them sycophants who gush over her as our nation’s “Esther” or “Deborah,” evoking Old Testament imagery to elevate Palin to the stratosphere of influence and power. She does. Most other candidates don’t take on more than they’re prepared for, because they know they’ll be sifted like flour and found wanting if they can’t demonstrate a grasp of the issues whose understanding is required of the office. She did. And most other candidates don’t risk shaming the party, much less the Gospel, with profligate spending and profligate cluelessness, with more than a sprinkling of petty nastiness and evasion. She has. These things haven’t “happened to her.” These are things she’s chosen; they’re not just random occurences over which she has no control and even less awareness.

I believe you’re aware, Roger, of my policy of not personally criticizing those who don’t identify as Christians, or, in the case of Rove and Cheney, limiting my criticisms to unbelievers whose conduct is so horrendous and yet so unblinkingly accepted by too many Christians that it requires a little Christian comment and rebuke. Further, I said from the beginning that it was wrong to criticize Todd Palin because his daughter got pregnant, and it was beyond wrong to criticize the daughter herself, or any other candidate’s children, or even how candidates raise their children. Palin, though, has chosen to barrel onto the stage unprepared, undeserving, unqualified and uninformed, and has gleefully done so while accepting the accolades accompanying the mantle of Old Testament prophetess and judge repersonified that some of the religious right has cast upon her.

I find that bothersome. I find the tone of her campaign unfortunate. I find the divisiveness she sought, stirred up, and symbolized unpleasant. But “bothersome,” “unfortunate,” and “unpleasant” is the kind of talk that keeps people convinced that it’s not that bad. It IS that bad, and bad enough that a little truth-telling among sisters in Christ probably isn’t going to shatter either of us.”

Reigning It In

Friday, November 7th, 2008

Even before receiving a rebuke on Vision 2020 and a bitterly angry off-list note from another Visionaire, I came to the conclusion that I had, indeed, crossed the line in some of what I’d said on that forum about Sarah Palin. I won’t reprint here what I wrote there, other than to say that I used words like “incurious, narrow-minded, intellectually sluggish, ethically deficient” in describing her, and I tried to contrast that list of traits, for which she is entirely responsible for improving, with what I think are out-of-bounds comments — if, for example, someone were to say she was a terrorist, stupid, ugly, a bad mom, or drug pusher.

It didn’t work. Some readers of Vision 2020 were still offended by what I had say, and so it’s clear to me that I need to pull it back.

Let me put it another way: I’ve said things that make some other people believe I’ve been hypocritical in my testimony for the Gospel, specifically in my criticism of the Religious Right’s treatment of the Barack Obama. It doesn’t matter if they’re right, it doesn’t matter if my comments about Palin are right. There is one thing that matters to me, and that’s that I not malign the Gospel. If I give reason — valid reason — for someone to question the sincerity of my faith, or to call me up on hypocrisy or inconsistency in living it out, any other political point I make has to become secondary.

It is necessary these days to speak strongly, and coupled with the offense to a fallen world of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it’s likely that people will feel put off or ticked off by strong language. I can’t help that; I can’t decline to speak out because I might offend someone. I can, though, be more judicious about what I say so that I don’t offend someone gratuitously, and I will try.

My prayer is that when I get it right, the glory goes to God, and when I don’t, it reflects only on me.

It’s Obama!

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

President Barack Obama. It sounds good. It sounds right. And I thank my God for him.

Why I Am Voting For Obama

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

It should come as no surprise that I’m voting, and voting enthusiastically, for Barack Obama.

My vote is entirely for the man himself; I believe that the fruit he has demonstrated in his long public career and particularly in this campaign is consistent with his professed faith in Jesus Christ, and I believe that the compelling issue for me as a Christian is to vote for whoever will do the most for those Jesus called “the least of these.” The poor, the elderly, the sick, the disenfranchised, the immigrant, the worker and her family, and those on the margins of society will do better by every measure under an Obama administration, and it matters to me because it matters to Christ.

That said, I’d like to also explain why I would never vote for McCain or Palin, or anyone else who willingly benefits from the hate-mongering, fear-ridden campaign of destruction and innuendo heaped on this country by the Religious Right. I’ve written before about my disgust with Focus on the Family President James Dobson’s “Letter From An Obama America, 2012,” in which hysteria and jaw-dropping lack of discernment and maturity pose as a pastoral warning to Christians, and I believe that should anything happen to Barack Obama, the Right, and particularly the Christian Right, will have his blood on their hands.

I don’t want John McCain anywhere near the power of the Presidency; I don’t want Sarah Palin anywhere near anyone else close to the power of the Presidency. He has proved to be erratic and unwise; she has proved to be an opportunistic climber with an astonishing lack of knowledge of world and domestic affairs. Neither of them have put forth a cogent plan to help this country — not in foreign policy, not in domestic policy, and certainly not in anything resembling the dignity and gravity of the offices to which they aspire. I’m sure they’re decent enough people, but he isn’t stable enough and she isn’t smart enough to be on the national stage, and if I were a Republican, I’d be looking hard at how it came to this. McCain will likely end his Senate career with a whimper, but the Barracuda has already indicated that her intent is to barrel back into the Presidential fray in eight years. I pray our country learns in that time to seek leadership from those who are worthy of their trust, not simply from those who say “Jesus” at the right prompting.

Barack Obama has been sinned against by every person who continues to forward emails suggesting that he’s a Muslim (as if that were in itself a disqualification from office), a citizen of Kenya, a terrorist, a baby-killer, a fan of mandatory homosexuality training for kindergarteners, a Socialist, adulterer, gangbanger, vote-stealer, or some other dangerous, shadowy, Unknown Of Whom We Must Be Afraid. It is absolutely possible, and absolutely inexcusable, to bear false witness with the push of a “send” button, and it’s shameful for Christians to shelve mature discernment and dive instead into waters of gossip, malice, and division.

Shame on the Church that promotes this, and more shame on the Church that countenances it. I’ve never felt more lonely-in-community than I have in this election, and I pray not only for an Obama victory, but for the man’s safety and prosperity. May God have mercy on those who have sinned against not only Obama but their own brothers and sisters by participating in the Religious Right’s orgy of division and bigotry, and may He be especially merciful to those clergy who let it happen without feeling particularly “led” to do a damned thing about it.

It’s absurd to repent for having gossiped against a co-worker, humiliated or insulted a friend, maligned a neighbor or caused division in their congregations while continuing to seek Dobsonite holiness in testifying falsely about a man who claims Christ as Savior. I have loads of respect for people who, having studied the issues, choose not to vote for Barack Obama. That’s responsible democracy in action. But shrill hysteria from a Church whose Lord admonishes it to “fear not” and to “stop lying about one another” has left, in this election season, a rotting stench that offends our God and nauseates those who most need the fragrant aroma of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I mentioned “the least of these” earlier, those on the margins of our society. What would our nation look like if the Church decided one day to examine its heart to see why and how they’ve been left out, and in repentance and humility worked to extend the blessings of Christ to each and every one of them — and expected its government to do the same?

Quote of the Day

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

“Christianity is simply extended training in dying early. I do not have a foreign policy. I have something better — a church constituted by people who would rather die than kill.”
Stanley Hauerwas, Christian ethicist, teacher, theologian and pacifist

Cue The "Applause" Sign

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

A couple of local treasures to mention:

Jeff and I embarked on a festival of mozzarella and marinara with the most fabulous pizza crust I’ve ever had at Gambino’s Friday night, and I see now that their slogan — “The Problem With Eating At Gambino’s Is That You’re Hungry Again In Three Days” — is dead-on. I might well double my weight by next year. The deep-dish Chicago pizza is cheerfully lodged somewhere between Decadence and Debauchery on the Sensory Overload Guide, and of all of my guilty pleasures, it’s nearing the top of the charts. With a bullet. A rich, gooey, cheesy bullet.

We spent Saturday night at a lovely, quiet, charming bed and breakfast between Troy and Deary, and I’d recommend it highly. Burnt Ridge Bed and Breakfast has a King Suite in a 100-year-old farmhouse and two other guest rooms in a farmhouse down the road, and it’s private, spacious, and altogether delightful, with a breakfast that proved too much for this avowed non-breakfast-eater to resist. Great place, great time, and easy to recommend. Check it out at 835-5674. Dibs on the first weekend of November 2009.

No Weatherman and Me

Saturday, November 1st, 2008

The garbage on Vision 2020 from No Weatherman (as well as from No Weathermann and No Weathermen, who purport to not be him but likely are, as if making sense of this were at all possible) continues, and much of it is very personally and hatefully directed at me. I won’t repeat it here; it’s nasty, vicious, and way beyond “too much,” some of it obscene. But I want to take a moment to explain why I don’t defend myself against his attacks, many of which have come from my defending others he’s bullied and insulted.

The guy doing this — or guys, which I think is the case — has problems far greater than I can hope to address, correct, or influence his healing therefrom. He hates me, he hates Vision 2020, he hates many of my friends, and he isn’t at all shy about it. And yes, he does treat one other woman and me with far more vulgarity and viciousness than he does the men who take him to task, but it seems unreasonable to expect gender equality from someone as unhinged as No Weatherman, who has posted more than 500 times, all anonymously and almost always nastily, in a little over a month on Moscow’s community chat forum.

I believe that it would be wrong for me to not defend people I know when he unfairly maligns them, and I do. On the other hand, I won’t defend myself. Defending people he considers unbelievers is consistent with how I live out my Christian faith; working myself into a frenzy trying to defend myself isn’t. No Weatherman knows that I’m not a liar, hypocrite, or sick witch (or any of the other even uglier things he’s said). I trust that people who know me, or even who simply read me on Vision 2020, know it, too. Above all, I know that while I have a number of faults, hypocritical lying and frigid-sick witchiness aren’t among them. Another fault I don’t have is naive optimism that I can somehow make an impression on him, as if a plea from his target would penetrate his hard heart and cause a genuine change in behavior. I don’t require affirmation from anonymous, cowardly Internet posters, and I don’t seek vindication from them, either. What No Weatherman says about me is the very least of his problems. Trust me.

I have attempted to offer pastoral counsel and admonishment to him — not in response to anything he’s said about me, but to see if the Holy Spirit might use me to nudge him toward repentance. Again, any success in this area would be from the Spirit of God, not from the Tongue of Keely, and thus far he’s not chosen to reflect on anything I’ve had to say to him.

That’s not my responsibility, though. Mine is to be faithful. Whatever other body parts I lack that set me apart from male pastors, I do have a pastor’s heart, and because of that, I fear for the state of his very soul. I believe in a God, unlike our Calvinist friends, who takes no pleasure in the eternal loss of any soul, and I pray for his. I will respond to him as appropriate, and I promise that while it won’t always look “nice” — my faith requires that I be kind and truthful, not always “nice” — it will be in truth and from genuine pastoral concern. My conscience in dealing with No Weatherman, in writing on Vision 2020 for the past five years, and in engaging with allies and adversaries alike on this blog and in person is entirely clear; I’m not aware of anything for which I should repent that I haven’t already. Publicly, immediately, and specifically.

I don’t like the attacks, obviously, and I wonder what kind of person would react so angrily and irrationally to another person in a community chat forum, although clinging to Skylarking Covenant Anonymity would probably make it a lot easier. And yes, I’m archiving every single one of them, just in case I ever need to review them. But I’m not afraid for myself.

I’m very afraid for him, though, and ask my readers to pray faithfully for him, with loving concern and steadfast hope that the Savior of our souls will break through and rescue his from flames kindled by fear, bigotry, and rage.