Bush on the Ballot in San Francisco: Part II

Yesterday, I quipped that some in San Francisco were hoping to vote George W. Bush into an environmentalist. In reality, they intend far different. They hope to shame him. They hope to humiliate him. They hope to dishonor him. Today, I want to address this facet of American life that knows no political affiliation.

First, God clearly mandates that we give honor to those who hold positions of authority in our lives. Naming a sewage facility after a sitting President for spite does not fit into this category. Now, before the conservative side of my readership (all two of you) cheer, we must remember that those who do not hold the power often imitate their predecessors when they take over. Note this post to see my point. You see, the liberals watched for eight years as conservatives ridiculed, belittled, and dishonored President Clinton. With Rush as their champion, conservatives held the power position of dishonoring speech. The liberals are following the conservatives’ lead.

How do you treat those in authority over you? From your boss at work, to the mayor, to your legislator, to the President, how do you speak of him or her? Do you pray for this person? Do you laugh along with the jokes, however crass?

Now, I do not believe that God’s desire to honor those in leadership means we do not have the right to question and disagree. It must not be done, however, in a dishonoring way. Many vehemently disagree with Bush’s handling of foreign policy. They have the right to speak their minds, to seek the truth, to seek to vote him out of office. Spewing venom, harboring bitterness, and performing actions out of spite do not solve any problems.

Will naming a sewage plant after Bush really resolve people’s feelings about the war in Iraq? Will it make someone feel better? Will it reverse eight years of foreign policy? No. If this passes, it will make San Francisco look like a little boy, sticking his tongue out at his older brother for keeping a secret. The older brother will head off to the ranch, ignoring his brother. The little brother, however, will find that his tongue won’t go back in, and he’ll walk around looking silly for a long time. 

Bush on the ballot in San Francisco

Residents of San Francisco have a big decision ahead of them. Come November, many will be voting for George W. Bush. 

No, Obama hasn’t picked Bush to be his Vice-President. It seems some want to rename the water pollution control plant (that’s a sewage plant for those of you like me who come from a small town) after him. 

We think that it’s important to remember our leaders in the right historical context,” said McConnell, a member of the group that was formed after friends came up with the renaming idea. “In President Bush’s case, we think that we will be cleaning up a substantial mess for the next 10 or 20 years,” he said. “The sewage treatment facility’s job is to clean up a mess, so we think it’s a fitting tribute.”

The public utilities commission spokesman had this to say about the idea:

The plant that they’re seeking to rename really offers extraordinary environmental benefits.

So there you have it. The people of San Francisco can now use the power of the ballot box to turn Bush into an environmentalist. 

Tune in tomorrow for a different take on this story.

The power of love

I must confess that I was not looking forward to reading Cry, The Beloved Country. After reading Things Fall Apart, which I particularly enjoyed, I didn’t know if Paton’s could live up to Achebe’s. Seven chapters in, I am impressed. Paton does  great job of capturing the emotion of Kumalo’s first visit to Johannesburg. At the end of chapter seven, Kumalo is talking to a fellow priest, Msimangu. They are discussing Kumalo’s brother:

Because the white man has power, we too want power, he said. But when a black man gets power, when he gets money, he is a great man if he is not corrupted. I have seen if often. He seeks power and money to put right what is wrong, and when he gets them, why, he enjoys the power and the money. Now he can gratify his lusts, now he can arrange ways to get white man’s liquor, he can speak to thousands and hear them clap their hands. Some of us think when we have power, we shall revenge ourselves on the white man who has had power, and because our desire is corrupt, we are corrupted, and the power has no heart in it.…Yes that is right about power, he said. But there is only one thing that has power completely, and that is love. Because when a man loves, he seeks no power, and therefore he has power.

And to this Jesus would give a hearty amen.

You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of man did not come to be served to to serve and give His life a ransom for many.

And

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

Who had more power than Christ? Who willingly gave up that power? Who now has more power than Christ? Through love we gain power. Through sacrifice we grow strong. Why? When we seek power, power enslaves us. Power, not us, becomes the master. When we freely give it up, the enticement, the lure, the enslaving power of power is broken, and we are strong. When we are not after power, we will not be tempted to take short cuts to retain it; we will not be tempted to put someone else down who threatens our hold on it; we will not be tempted to manipulate to get more of it. And just in case you’re not convinced, the great theologian Huey Lewis has this to say,

It don’t take money, and it don’t take fame

You don’t need no credit card to ride this train

It’s tougher than diamonds and stronger than steel

You won’t feel nothing until you feel

The power of love.

Texas vs. The World

The World Court has ordered the U.S. to stay the execution of some Mexican Nationals, one of which is Jose Medellin. It seems Mexico appealed to the World Court on behalf of this (and others) confessed murderer and rapist of two teenage girls because he and his gang buddies were denied help from their consulate following their arrest. Texas, however, has thumbed its nose at the World Court and President Bush. The U.S. Supreme Court has sided with Texas, telling Bush he has no authority to tell a state court to comply with a ruling from the Hague. 

The article ended saying the World Court had no authority to enforce its rulings. I wonder how long that will last.

Sorrow: Proof of God’s love.

I have been working on an OT survey curriculum that I will be teaching to middle school kids in the fall. This morning I have been wrestling through Genesis 16 and the story of Sarai and Hagar. As I am trying to figure out how to take something 4000 years old and make it real to the kids, I think about the big issue of Christianity borrowing ideas from the culture. I hope to discuss this in detail.

But something else has been fermenting in the back of my mind this morning. While the word regret does not show up in the text, it seems that plenty of it shows up in Sarai’s heart. Why is it that we only regret after sinning? Couldn’t we save ourselves some trouble if the regret emotion would just kick in a little sooner?  I know conviction can set in pre-sin. I praise God for that. But if we could just feel the regret, sense the agony of our poor choices before we make them…

As these thoughts were ruminating,  2 Corinthians 7 came to mind. The context is sorrow over sin:

For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance, without regret, leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death.

My whole perspective changed. I do not want to downplay sin—Sarai’s or mine or the kids—but I am floored at God’s hand in the post sin aspect of our lives. The role of the Holy Spirit in the process is restoration not condemnation. Notice the pattern: sin, conviction, sorrow, repentance, life! The other option is a downward spiral that leads to death. Regret that grows and festers and buries itself deep in the heart does not come from God. The Holy Spirit moves the believer back into relationship with God not away from him in self pity and anguish. 

But make no mistake, God does take sin seriously. That is why we have His Word. It teaches and informs and encourages us to walk in love by the Holy Spirit and not according to the flesh. It challenges us to think about how we think. It admonishes us to think correctly as wrong thoughts lead to wrong actions. I think that Sarai and Abram knew that this “Hagar solution” was a shortcut that God did not intend. We still experience the consequences of this choice today. Sin is deadly.

Thankfully, He also takes His relationship with us seriously. He desires reconciliation. It may be that when I said earlier that I wish the regret emotion would kick in a little earlier, that what I am describing is Biblical sorrow. I am grateful for His constant ministry in my life of conforming me to the image of His Son. I am thankful for the concept of repentance. So while sometimes I wish I would “feel” a little more acutely the consequences of my poor choices before I make them, words cannot express the joy and comfort of the Holy Spirit in my life—pre and post-sin.

Can you distinguish between regret leading to death and sorrow leading to life?

The purpose of people

I was reading John Shore today, and he was talking about God using people (imagine that) to share God’s message. I was reminded of the first time I read the story of Peter and Cornelius. I thought, “The angel was already there. Why didn’t he just fill him in instead of sending him to Peter, giving Peter this vision to help him understand, and then having the whole group travel back to Cornelius’s house?”

Well, it’s because God uses people to spread the gospel. Crazy huh? Wouldn’t it be easier to hire one of those sky writers and paint it across the heavens. Heck, why not just rearrange the stars. Surely even Richard Dawkins would be convinced by that! (oh wait, he doesn’t like our God, so even if he was convinced God was real, he wouldn’t worship him.)

John goes further though. It’s not just Christians who broadcast God. According to John, everyone does. At first, I was taken aback by that sentiment, but then I thought about all I write about here. I find God and His hand prints in so many things that I read. We are, after all, created in His image. So while the image may be damaged, blurred, crusted over with grime and sweat and goo, we still bear the image and still broadcast Him, often without knowing.

I am not advocating universalism in regard to salvation, just in image. His ubiquitous finger prints leave no doubt of His hand in creation. Yes, even Richard Dawkins and the rest of the new atheists bear that image, and so, as John adequately expressed, they too cry out to be loved.