Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Christian's role in the political process

A friend and I have recently been debating the role that Christians should play in the political process, particularly American politics. Both of us see ourselves as committed Christians of an evangelical bent, and both of us affirm classical, orthodox Christianity as embodied by the Apostles and Nicene Creeds. My friend's position, broadly speaking, is that the Christian believer's primary role is to fulfill the Great Commission; as such, he sees a Christian's involvement in trying to pass laws, or "legislate morality," as a less-than-profitable enterprise.

His argument goes something like this: since Christians are called to be on mission with God in expanding God's kingdom into the hearts of all people, and since that can only be done through the individual choice of each person to accept Christ and become his disciple, it is almost a waste of time to attempt to pass a law that would burden a non-Christian with the responsibilities and principles of Christian ethics.

But it is those same Christian ethics, particularly Christ's emphases on his disciples still being in the world, being salt and light, that causes me to reconsider whether abandoning the secular, political process -- particularly when that process is a democratic one.

Certainly, God had no problem with his Chosen People's desire to mix belief with politics. It was God who called judges like Deborah to be his temporal agents; it was God who appointed Samuel to annoint Saul king over Israel, and it was God who put David in Saul's place. In the Mosaic Covenant, at least, God did not mind his faithful getting their hands into the nitty-gritty of politics.

Of course, Christians are not called to follow the Mosaic law, and it has been some time since a prophet of the Lord has gone forth to annoit a ruler over his people (despite what some televangelists might say next year). What, then, is the Christian's role in a democratic republic?

FEELING: Pensive
LISTENING TO: Some music

Friday, January 26, 2007

Look who's No. 14

In the Sports Illustrated men's college basketball power rankings. Who ya with?

LISTENING TO: If you read Annales regularly and don't know, there's no point in telling you anyway. But here's a hint.

Democrats' strategy for Iraq

A picture is worth a thousand words.

FEELING: Hopeful that Americans of all parties will not abandon the (small d) democrats in Iraq
LISTENING TO: Professor discuss the United States Constitution -- which, of course, took almost ten years to get together after the end of "major military operations" against the British

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Learning from atheists' mistakes

It is at the same time heartening and terrifying that atheism seems to be at an ebb from its mid-twentieth century high. Heartening, because it means that more people than ever are open to the possibility that God exists; terrifying, because, according to the Bible, religion, as such, will only increase as the hour approaches.

It is appropriate then, that in this middle hour, believers should take a lesson from the mistakes being made in the waning days of the antitheists. As Christianity Today editorialized:
The new atheistic rhetoric betrays panic, another sign of weakness. Atheism knows that it is losing both arguments and the global tide. Stories of the global vibrancy of religion are everywhere trumping the grand narrative of evolutionary progress. And the best philosophers are still taking the God-hypothesis seriously.

Christians should learn from the confident work of apologists who frame for our time arguments for God's existence. We should also pay attention to the state of civil society, being careful not to overreact to atheism's newly aggressive stance. In an already polarized culture, we cannot afford to destabilize the balance further.

Most of all, we must be careful to live out our faith — with demonstrable neighbor-love — rather than coasting along in a civil religion that blesses consumer culture and sings praises to the God of materialism. After all, the greatest apologia is love lived out.
FEELING: Like CT gave good advice
LISTENING TO: Professor Ross make fun of his old senior partner

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The 'compassionate conservative' is back

I was anxious about President Bush's State of the Union speech tonight. After this past November's election, and the return of a Democratic majority to Congress, the House Chamber did not look to be a friendly venue for the most unpopular President since Nixon to "recommend to their consideration such mesaures as he shall deem necessary and expedient."

But tonight, despite the war, despite polls, and despite a situation where a lesser man might "pack it up" and become a lame duck, the character of this reformed fratboy from Texas shone through.

In his delivery (measured and determined), in his policies (health care, immigration reform, social security, and education -- along with steadfast support for the nascent democracies in Lebanon and Iraq), and in his earnest sincerety (you could see it in his eyes), I saw the man who raised a bullhorn and raised a nation from despair. And it was good to see him again.

FEELING: Renewed hope
LISTENING TO: The State of the Union post-game coverage

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Ranking SEC beauty

After my little rant about the glories of the SEC, this article seemed appropriate (except, of course, for the misogynistic parts, which I do not endorse).

Preview of the rankings:

(1) Ole Miss
(2) Georgia
(3) Vanderbilt
(4) Auburn
(5) South Carolina

Where did your team end up (he ranked all twelve schools)?

FEELING: Like the author only put Vandy third because he's an alum (Law '04) -- clearly though, at least after reading this other article by him, I think he agrees with me
LISTENING TO: Vanderblit Alma Mater's second verse, "...cherished by thy sons and daughters, mem'ries sweet shall throng..." in light of the author's comments about Vandy

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Who really cares? Poor, religious Americans

According to a study by a sociologist at Syracuse University, "the further to the [political] left you are -- particularly to the secular left -- the less likely you are to donate your time or money to charity.

"Imagine two demographically identical people, except that Joe goes to church regularly and rejects the idea that the government should redistribute wealth to lessen inequality, while Sam never goes to church and favors state-driven income redistribution. Brooks says the data indicate that not only is Joe Churchgoer nearly twice as likely as Sam Secularist to give money to charities in a given year, he will also give 100 times more money per year to charities (and 50 times more to non-religious ones). ...

"This is not merely a byproduct of our wealth. In fact, one of the most interesting observations of the book is that the most giving Americans, measured as a share of their income, are the working poor. The rich come second and the middle class last."

Read more from this Chicago Tribune review.

FEELING: Surprised
LISTENING TO: People talking in the Trial Courtroom

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Stats show why SEC is the best

First, congratulations to the University of Florida Alligators, for their resounding defeat of (the) Ohio State University in the BCS National Championship game. They really showed people why the SEC is such an amazing Conference. They, to use a term familiar to those from up-in-the-hills (such as myself), "womp-stomped" the Buckeyes right straight into the Arizona desert, by a score of 41-14.

Just for kicks, let's review Florida's season in the SEC this year:

• at Tennessee: win, 21-20 (1 point)
Kentucky: win, 26-7 (19 points)
Alabama: win, 28-13 (15 points)
LSU: win, 23-10 (13 points)
Auburn: loss, 17-27 (-10 points)
Georgia: win, 21-14 (7 points)
• at Vanderbilt: win, 25-19 (6 points)
South Carolina: win, 17-16 (1 point)
Arkansas: win, 28-18 (10 points)

Factoring in the loss against Auburn (as 10 negative points), Florida's average margin of victory in the SEC is 6.89 points per game. That's right -- the Gators don't even have a touchdown-plus-PAT advantage over their conference brethren (which, of course, is not to say anything bad about UF).

So how did the national championship game against the "mighty" Ohio State Buckeyes go? The same Ohio State Buckeyes who were all-but-crowned, presumptive national champs? Who were supposed to beat the Gators by at least 14 points?

Final score 41-14, a 27 point victory. That's right: Florida had a greater margin of victory against the so-called #1 team in the land than against their combined margin of victory over the SEC East's two worst teams: (Kentucky, 19 point margin, and Vanderbilt, 6 point margin).

It's hard to make statistics lie. Just ask Bruce Pearl (whose current least-favorite-statistic is 81-82).

FEELING: SEC pride (along with some Commodore pride, too, since we lost to the eventual national champions by only 6 points)
LISTENING TO: What else: SEC fight songs

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

If there's a war on Christmas, January 1 must be Tokyo Bay

Obviously (I say obviously, because surely-to-goodness if you've read my blog, you know this), I'm a Christian (at least, I'm doing the best that I can, with God's help). I celebrate God becoming the God-Man Jesus, otherwise known as Christmas; its prequel, Advent; and its sequel, Epiphany.

Like some people, I'm not a big fan of the generic "Happy Holidays" (important note: I do not advocate making everyone else celebrate Christmas with me, but I want people to say "Happy Hanukah" and "Blessed Ramandan" along with Christmas greetings -- in other words, I don't want the faith-filled celebrations that men and women of good cheer enjoy swallowed up by the meaningless, pointless, materialistic, and secular "winter holiday" that, to me, "Happy Holidays" connotes).

At the same time, I am somewhat annoyed by the lambasting that goes on around the whole greetings-war, a.k.a., the "War on Christmas."

It seems that every year people get up in arms about it -- and I have to admit, it has brought "Merry Christmas" back into vogue a bit. At the same time, though, I deplore the fact, noticed by Christianity Today's weblog, that some of Christmas' loudest defenders are the first to turn tail and run after New Year's.

Even Rogersville wasn't immune: our beautiful downtown, which was dressed "to the nines" for this year's Christmas festivities, was de-frocked just in time for 2007.

I think this quote from CT sums it up well:
In the Christian calendar, Christmas continues until Epiphany (January 6). So if you take your decorations down this weekend, are you part of the "war on Christmas"? On a similar note, why have almost all the organizations that made such a big deal about putting Christ back in Christmas already dropped references to Christmas from their website home pages? Was all that really just about the shopping season?
FEELING: Like celebrating Christmas 'til January 6

LISTENING TO: Voices from the "cloud of witnesses," the Christians who came before and who, for something like 1,800 years, have observed the Christian calendar

NOTE: See this article to understand the significance of the title of this entry in relation to its subject.

More 'religious discrimination' litigation

Once again, Beta Upsilon Chi, the fraternity of which I am an alumnus brother, was challenged by a state university for its so-called "religious discrimination," i.e., that it only allowed Christians to join.

And, for the second time, BYX nationals was forced to bring a civil rights action against the University at issue (this time, the University of Missouri) in order to assert its right to allow only Christians to become Brothers Under Christ.

Read the story here, from a source in Kansas City, Missouri.

FEELING: Slightly frustrated that it takes a lawsuit