Political and Social Commentary Feed

Headlines Proven Evil 37% of the Time By Team of Etho-physicists at Harvard Middle School


What made you read this far?
Two identical stories.
Two different headlines.
Maybe two pictures.
People will read the headlines.
Maybe some of the content.
Then, they will react.
Then, they will argue.
But they will not necessarily read, think, discern.
They probably will not cross-reference.
They, will seldom challenge their assumptions.
They will throw headlines, slogans, and one-liners at each other.
That is the problem with a culture of headlines.
The culture becomes the vulture.
Just this morning I read one.
Granted, it served it's purpose.
It got me to read the article.
But the article did not validate the headline.
Part of the value of headlines is they prompt us to read.
But the downside is, they may be an excuse for not reading.
We can't really get rid of headlines but ...
Those of us to make them every day should consider the dangers.
Then we should put ourselves in check.
And those of us who read them should be more careful and read more ...
... before we react and respond.

What Is Truth?


Nikolai Ge "Christ and Pilatus" (What is truth?), 1890.

The following is a Twitter thread I posted yesterday. To interact with the thread, click HERE.


Here is a good article on Truth from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Click.

It takes us back to another time when truth was considered a tool of relativity and expediency.



"An indefinable something is to be done, in a way nobody knows how ..."

"An indefinable something is to be done, in a way nobody knows how , at a time nobody knows when, that will accomplish nobody knows what." - Thomas B. Reed, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, 1889 to 1891 and 1895 to 1899

Known for his sharp-tongued wit and distaste for business as usual, Reed wanted to make the work of legislating more efficient and effective.

Time and distance have made most of the issues he addressed moot. That usually happens with the issues that fire us up. They fall through attrition.

I love the observation, however. We can use it as a template that transcends time and ideology.

Governments and most institutions are well skilled at spending a much time and effort to accomplish little.

That could  change, but Reed was never able to pull it off.

An Open Letter to Conservative C - Brian McLaren

I have been growing more and more deeply troubled by the way so many from my heritage in conservative Christianity – in its Evangelical, Charismatic, and Roman Catholic streams - have allowed themselves to be spiritually formed by various conservative political and economic ideologies. It's been disturbing to see how many Christians have begun to follow and trust leaders who live more by political/media/ideological codes than by moral/spiritual/biblical ones.

As a result, I sometimes think that Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck, and Fox News may now influence many conservative Evangelicals, Charismatics, and Catholics even more than Billy Graham, Rick Warren, T.D. Jakes, Pope Benedict, or even the four gospels. - Brian McLaren

via www.brianmclaren.net

McLaren is a lightening rod.

It is always risky to quote him - especially if one values ones relationships with other Evangelical Christians.

However, I find this quote penetrating and timely. I realize it can go both ways depending on how the tides are turning.

Our marching orders as kingdom people are probably going to be incompatible with any one political party or ideology. That does not mean we ought not join a party or develop political viewpoints.

We should always think.

And I think it is healthy if we differ, because that creates balance. We used to preach that in our biblically conservative churches.

In many ways, we have been experiencing, not a return to old fashioned values, but a departure from them.

While there are issues around which we may wish to unite and feel called by God to do so, I suspect that particular theories on health care reform, corporate bailouts, and economic policy are among them.

On these we need lively debate, even among Christians who are struggling to apply the ethics of Christ to each situation. We don't need more slogans, PR, name-calling, ad-hominum attacks, caricatures, or insults.

So, whatever you think of Brian McLaren, his is a voice that needs to be heard, especially on this general issue (the article cited is more specific and not reviewed here).

Scandals and Sandals

We've got another scandal in Washington - the kind we love, juicy, sexual, tawdry, and polarizing.

And the Man in sandals walks among us unshaken, knowing what He has always known - that we are vulnerable and flawed and ever so needy of His grace and mercy.

Here is what we do, and this is not to minimize the shock value or the horror of young people being victimized: we polarize. We let the nasty news back up what ever position we have already entrenched ourselves in:

"See, I told you that all fibberwidgets (Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, political "liberals," political "conservatives", etc... ) were ignobilities."

And, if we happen to be elected to something and affiliated with a party, we will gravitate in one of two directions:

(1) Make political points from it.
(2) Avoid or minimize political damage from it.

And this is where the hypocrisy lies whether we were Republicans lam-blasting Clinton or Democrats roasting Foley. We take the sinless stance and gather a handful of stones. And if we happen to be related by party or ideology, we distance ourselves and change the subject.

All the while, this has absolutely nothing to do with ideology, party affiliation, or public policy. It is about human flaws.

Then we buy into the culture of cynicism and dehumanize the offender. For good insight into a piece of this, see and hear Judy Muller's commentary on NPR's Morning Edition this morning: Foley Alcoholism Should Be Treated with Care.

This would be a start: The "opposite party' keep its mouth shut and quietly communicate with the party of the offender that it wants to give it a chance to take the lead on the housecleaning. wouldn't that be something? Give the points away.

My goodness, that might actually be civil. we can't have that.

And the Man in Sandals walks among us and shakes His head.

We are entering one of those disgusting seasons where every opportunity for statesmanship is about to be shunned for good old fashioned mudslinging after which the culprits will try to convince us that because they wear nice suits and have titles such as Senator and Congressman, they are deserving of our respect and we should consider them intelligent and conscientious patriots. We are to expect them to respect us and work for our best interests when they can't even treat each other with respect, good will, and decency.

And when one of them falls in a big way, I almost gravitate toward him with sympathy because at least he is no longer actively assassinating the character of his opponents, maligning their motives, or labeling them with meaningless terms in an attempt to avoid honest debate.

Mr. Foley has done some awful things, but not because of his Republican politics. President Clinton had moral failures, but not because he was a Democrat.  Is anyone praying for Congressman in public? I am sure someone is, but I doubt that they are standing for election.

The Man in Sandals walks among our scandals, but is not scandalized.



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How to Pray in Time of War

Those of us who pray and, specifically, those of us who pray publically, are often caught in a theological and ethical crisis when confronted with certain issues. We are called to pray the prayers of the people, but also called to attempt to ascertain the general wil of God in prayer. How do we pray when there is a war between two groups of people whom God loves?

Here are some wandering thoughts I have gathered on the matter:

  • Pray for policy makers, military commanders, and strategists that they will be guided by God and will be wise and truthful.
  • Pray for our enemies that God will bless them. This is a non-negotiable command from Jesus.
  • Pray that we will have our understanding of what God's blessing is tempered by God and accept His definition of His blessings to us.
  • Pray for the sergeants and chiefs that they will be able to maintain discipline and morale.
  • Pray for the soldiers, sailors, and airmen that they will be strengthened by God's grace and protected from harm—physical and emotional..
  • Pray for a minimum number of casualties on all sides.
  • Pray for the civilian populations that they will be protected from harm, hunger, and despair..
  • Pray for righteousness, justice, and peace.
  • Pray that many will turn to God, in a global movement of seeking and awakening that will turn the hearts of people toward one another as well.
  • Pray that terrorists will voluntarily submit themselves before the bar of divine mercy and human justice.
  • Pray that they and others will be saved from sin, anger, and bitterness - this is what blessing ultimately means.
  • Pray for the success of every righteous cause.
  • Pray for an end to terrorism and injustice.
  • Pray for the will of God to be done in every dimension of human affairs and for His Kingdom to come on earth as it is in Heaven.
  • Pray for repentance and forgiveness regarding our individual and corporate offenses against God and other human beings.
  • Pray for oppressed people wherever they are to be liberated and that will be dealt with in a just and merciful manner.
  • Pray for comfort and healing for victims of terrorism and war and for their families.
  • Pray for families that are sending their sons and daughters to war.
  • Pray that we will hear whatever God may be saying to us in this hour and will comply with His will.
  • Pray that we will choose to be on God’s side rather asking Him to be on our side.
  • Pray for a new era of understanding, cooperation, and justice in the world.

Politically Incorrect

I hate to offend, but to never offend would be to never take a position on anything.

And I am not sure this is a position.

Nor am I sure I understand all the variables. I have been listening to arguments and, as with most viewpoints, people on both sides have good points and are passionate about them.

I don't see the world in black and white. God didn't make it that way and I am not about to take away the color - even if I could.

Gray is a color; isn't it?

There are those who say that illegal immigration is a really big problem in the United States and I hear what they say. I just don't think it is REALLY big, maybe just BIG or maybe just a problem, but not REALLY BIG.

There are those who say it is no big deal at all and I can't say they are right either.

Was it no big deal when we invaded the lands of the Native people of this country, raped their land, spread disease, and removed them through violence?

And terrorism is not a non-issue either in this day - although I don't think  that terrorism is the primary motivation or concern in this issue.

Nor do I think our politicians are all that concerned about "lawbreakers." What is going on here is more like the person in Proverbs who has to make an accounting of it, but is easily forgiven for stealing to eat.

I have no idea what our government should do, but I know what believers and churches must do - follow the principles of God's Word - and all that keeps coming to me is this verse:

"The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt : I am the Lord your God" (Leviticus 19:34).

That should be equally offensive to all.

Dumbing Down Dubai and Other Dangerous Diddlings

A number of days ago, I wrote an entry criticizing the President for asking us to trust the government to always act in our best interests without checks, balances, and  oversight.  It wasn't about him - but IT, the government. It was a philosophical and constitutional concern. The context was the ballyhoo over the private company in Dubai with an American CEO contracting to operate ports in the United States.

I like the President. I appreciate his faith and courage. The problem in my opinion was the resistance to accountability and insistence on trust.

We can't offer unconditional trust a leader to operate in the dark just because we like him, agree with him, are affiliated with him by partisan membership or even through the same religious faith. When he steps into the role of civil leader, he gets a great deal of trust entrusted to him, but he can only be part of one branch of government at a time and there are three - each equal to the others, intricately designed so that trust can be limited and, as Ronald Reagan said, "verified."

Having said that, I am going to jump over the fence to the other side. The President is actually right about this Dubai thing. The homework has been done; the contracts were sound; the protections were in place. It is too bad that he does not have the trust capital he is insisting upon for people to believe that - because, in this case, he is right and we ought to be able to trust the process.

He did not lose trust by being a dishonest man. I think he is honest. It was not through any character flaws. It was as a result of blind unilateralism and unwarranted secrecy. Some secrecy is necessary, but this crowd has taken it to the extreme - and it did not start with this one. It has been progressive.

I can't stomach opportunism from the left or the right. In this case, it was the thorough reporting of the often maligned-by-the-right NPR on this Dubai matter that brought me back to the administration's stand on the issue and against most of the Democrats and Republicans who cater to the simplistic rants of a public that continues to be moved by sound bytes and shock jocks.

As the Corleones used to love to say, "It's just business."

And it is. It is no more a matter of national security what company operates these ports than what I eat for breakfast. They are regulated, inspected, and observed. Dubai as capital of the UAE is not only not a terrorist state, its values are antithetical to those of terrorists. It is the Delaware of the Middle East, existing as a tax-free zone for the proliferation of international business. It has bought into Western capitalism lock, stock, and barrel.

Sure, it would be best for American companies to operate our ports, but there are not enough and they are not bidding on them. Like most political grandstanding issues, this is much ado about nothing.

So, what is the administration's responsibility in this? It is creating the hyper-secretive, trust-me atmosphere that fuels the fires of suspicion - and in this case - over nothing.

And they are responding to our fear factor. Shame on those of us who follow the Way that we are more concerned with security and safety than faith and freedom. How much of who we are are we willing to sacrifice to stay alive? What shall it profit a man?

We are well into a dumbing down process. It happens before every election. It ought to humiliate our Harvard/Yale educated elected folks to participate in it, but they seem OK with it. There's is not a dime's worth of difference between Republicans and Democrats when it comes to dumbed down sensationalism, propagation of half-truths, villainization of opponents, and appeals to visceral  ignorance in the quest for votes.

And Americans love it.

If we do not participate by thinking more deeply, asking more questions, and challenging the system, those of us who live in two kingdoms are not rendering unto Caesar because our taxation is primarily participation. We are Caesar and we are renderers and we need to start behaving that way. Let us commit to loving God with our minds at a higher level, rising above political partisanship, and slogan-ism to be the salt-light citizens we are called to be.

This is a rant. I have to do that sometimes. When it comes down to the it of it, I am not bothered with whether you agree or disagree with me on these points as much as that we are free to share our views and exercise that freedom along with others. If it is ever taken away, we shall remain free in Christ. At the bottom line of all things, that is the only thing that really matters and shall matter for eternity.

Trust Me

I heard our President ask us to trust him again today. It caused me some concern - especially for a guy who does not like to polarize himself or others politically. I think most of the distinctions we draw are unnecessarily divisive and intrinsically false.

But he said, "Trust me," and it  struck me as troubling. It was nothing new. He asks that of us a lot. But he really is asking a lot and needs to know that.

This time it was about foreign control over East Coast ports. President Carter agrees that we should trust him and the process. Most governors and congressional representatives of both major parties seem to disagree.

So the appeal has gone out to the American people to step up to the plate again and trust their government. After all, the government always has our best interests at heart and the government is always honest - even with itself - and never mistaken, not to mention all-knowing, all-wise, and all-powerful.

It seems that "trust me" is the one thing Americans should not be asked to do by a democratically elected government. The founders assumed that we would elect good leaders who had a strong moral compass. Yet, they understood the ambiguity of power and the need for checks and balances. So they built them into the system.

I like the President and respect him as a man of integrity and good intentions. I tend to admire presidents and always hold them in high esteem for the sake of their office, responsibility, and sacrifice. The President is a good man. I agree with him on quite a few issues including his stand against abortion and for faith based initiatives. I think less government is better ... wait a minute ... Is that one of his positions?

It seems that he is gravitating away from the traditional conservatism of less government toward more government as long as it is in the interest of "national defense."

He is not a state's rights advocate as he federalizes more and more crimes that ought to be handled locally or as he sets national standards for everything from education to drug policy. State's rights used to be a conservative position.

He is advocating less government oversight and more presidential power to be trusted to take care of everything.

The problem is with precedent. You can never get the horse back in the barn very well. Faces change; leaders come and go. Give your government an inch and it will take a mile of trust. Connecting patriotism with this blind trust is disturbing, but even now, as I question the politically correct assumptions of the day, I fear being labeled unpatriotic,

Patrick Henry said, "Give me liberty or give me death."

The current trend is toward, "Liberty is worthless if we are dead."

I thought those who were willing to lay down their lives for liberty were the people we called patriots. Is the Patriot Act really the Anti-Patriot Act? I would not want to apply that label or any label to those who disagree with me.

Conservatives of yesteryear touted, "Better dead than Red." Where did that go?

"Trust me," he says with all sincerity and the best of intentions. And he has done a lot to help us and there are many conveniences and "freedoms" that we should be willing to voluntarily and temporarily relinquish - but to trash the Constitution and Bill of Rights for safety? Is that what America is all about?

I don't think the President really understands what he is asking. If I thought he did, I'd have to reevaluate my high opinion of his morality and ethics. But I really think he is caught up in the responsibility of the moment to protect us - so caught up that he cannot and will not rein himself in. It is the checks and balance system that must do so. His job at the moment is to push the envelope as much as possible.

If we just sit back and trust our government, we are relinquishing our authority and responsibility as citizens. We are the line drawers and the line holders. We are the conscience of the nation. We are buck stoppers and fire starters. We are the citizens and we need to be able to look over the shoulders of our government.

Apparently, the President does not trust the judges on his own secret courts because he refuses to follow procedure that enables him to get a warrant after the fact. I can't imagine any other reason for not complying with an already accommodating set of rules in the war on terrorism.

If he cannot trust the government (Yes there are three branches), why should he ask us to do it.

Again, I stress that this man is a hard-working, morally sound, ethically driven, good natured, kind leader who is my brother in Christ. I doubt none of that. I would trust him with my wallet ,or my wife, but I cannot give him the rope to hang himself with unrestrained absolute power. It is not right and it is not American. It is certainly not patriotic in my understanding of the term.

I am praying for the President of the United States and our troops. May the heroes return safely to their families and may freedom ring throughout the earth. God bless America.

Just my opinion.

State of the Union Speech for Sale

President Bussh apparently had some good things to say in his speech last night. I was a bit distracted by trying to keep score of who was applaudng and who was sitting with folded hands on which points. I did not realize that the nation's father's envisioned the the State of the Union report as a score card.

So, it looks like the President put out some good ideas - especially about ending oil dependence and increasing the number of educated scientists.

Otherwise it was pretty much a series of short statement and answer polls, punctuated with opportunities for applause or silence. There was nothing really new. At least that is what I thought in my distracted state. It turns out that I missed a few points. Listening to the replays can be helpful in a sporting event.

He did seem to learn to pronounce "nuclear" which would have made it worthwhile. However, some friends have informed me that they heard it differently.

It was a good speech - well written, well delivered, something for everyone to agree with, something for many to dispute. I could nod at many of his points.

I was thinking of posting my party's response. What is my party? How about the Party of One?

Then, I wondered how I might do my state of the union if I were the Prez. Wondering led to cogitating and gogitating led to typing and I decided that the best contribution I could make would be a generic introduction that any President can use from any party at any time. It will be here on the Internet in case future administrations wish to purchase it from me. It is, of course copyrighted, but I might be able to work out a patriotic discount for the leader  of the free world.

This would be a strange opening, but it is the one I propose:

"Folks, I am going to ask you to hold your applause until the end because I want to challenge your thinking. The problems we face are not superficial and they are not partisan. There are no easy answers. We need to give them a great deal of thought and I want you to think very seriously about what I have to say. Don't rush to any conclusions. Give it a fair hearing. It is going to take all of us working together and contributing our ideas to keep this country great. "

"We are all Americans and we all have different perspectives. I offer you mine and I want you to know how I will be leading you over the next year. In many ways, we might all be partially right and all partially wrong, but that doesn't matter. If we all pull in the same direction, we can make midcourse corrections because we all want what is best for America. There is no limit to what we can accomplish if we don't care who gets the credit. We can fix any miscalculations if we are unconcerned about passing the blame around."

"I realize that this platform is often used for theater and that the really great ideas are those we discuss in less public settings.  I know that we all see this as a time to polarize and posture with the next election in mind. Let us set aside that pattern for tonight. For once, let us wrap our minds together around solutions to the problems we face together as Americans. All of this acrimony is  just silly. We can respect each others' differences and agree to disagree without being disagreeable."

"Let us utterly reject such vile and divisive designations as "red states" and "blue states." Perhaps we should even suspend the overuse of such relative and meaningless terms as "liberal" and "conservative" excpet when they are used correctly and relatively. Let us be careful with our words. Let us respect one another."

" I refuse to villify my opponents and I ask for the same courtesy. I do not question the motives or patriotism of those of you who do not see eye-to-eye with me. I know that you love this country. Of course I believe that I am right in my views. If I did not, I would not set them forth. In these hallowed halls, great issues are debated by men and women of good will in the common quest for truth."

"With these things in mind, I ask you to listen carefully as I set forth my vision for our nation and for the state of our great unon. Join me as we attempt some great things this year. Here is what I propose ..."

This speech will never be given - especially the "hold your applause" part. However, imagine how much could really be said if Presidents didn't have to limit entire thoughts to one sentence summaries that skim over the issues.

On the outside chance I am wrong, remember that is TOM SIMS. In fact it is (c) 2006, Thomas B. Sims, All rights reserved, but I would gladly relinquish some of them over this speech for the good of my country. As I said, it is for sale.