Archive for September, 2008

The Republicans’ Jimmy Carter

Monday, September 29th, 2008

George W. Bush is on the verge of limping out of the White House as ignominiously as Jimmy Carter did – reviled, mocked, and bewildered. If his catastrophic 700 billion dollar giveaway gets through Congress, “W” – along with his liberal allies in Congress – will forever be remembered as the President who sold out America.

There’s no need to go over all the bad ideas rolled into this monumental transfer of public wealth to private coffers. Plenty of commentators have turned over the rocks to expose the dirty little creatures scurrying around beneath. I want to focus on Bush’s betrayal of his constituency and his country.

The Great Betrayer of Conservatism

For all his empty talk about the free market, Bush is revealing himself to be a statist who wants to manage the economy for the benefit of the wealthy. It is ironic that real conservatives are often falsely accused of promoting the American plutocracy, but it is Bush, the phony “compassionate conservative”, who is actually trying to deliver the goods. Unlike real conservatives, Bush likes the upside of free markets, but lacks the courage and conviction to accept the downside.

The premise of deregulation is that the market will be a better watchdog over financial institutions than government bureaucrats. The market has spoken. Fanny and Freddy, WaMu and Wachovia, AIG and Lehmann have been disastrously mismanaged and the market has put an end to their follies. But Bush can’t bear to let the market act when it rightly punishes incompetence. To him and his ilk, the”free” in “free market” means only the freedom to succeed; it does not include the freedom to fail. Bush wants to sacrifice America to protect members of his class from failure.

(Of course, the Pelosis and Reids of the world – along with plenty of compliant Republicans – bear much of the blame by encouraging radical organizations like Acorn to push banks into making loans that no sane underwriter would allow.)

The Great Betrayer of America

At a time when left-wing radicals like Al Franken and are making an all-out push to oust Republicans from government once and for all (as if they presented an ideological threat to their socialist dreams), Bush is trying to hand them their favorite weapon – class hatred.

In order to seize power, the radical left requires a deep-seated belief that life in America is a zero-sum game. If the rich grow richer, the poor must become poorer. Their entire political life depends on the notion that the only way “working families” can succeed is for the government to take money away from the “rich” and give it to the people who really “deserve” it – people who vote for them.

Liberals will never admit that it is capital – not government – that creates jobs, credit, and opportunities. They will never admit that the whole pie can grow and everyone’s own little slice with it. And they are committed to keeping America ignorant of those simple facts.

Bush has created a new and powerful “Main Street v. Wall Street” class war. He seems determined to prove to the American people that (a) wealthy financiers need to be protected from financial loss, and (b) only government spending can “solve” the problem. This war plays directly into the hands of liberals on both sides of the aisle (especially in the Senate) who hate democracy and hate the limits the Constitution places on their power.

Is there any hope? Not much. Even if sanity prevails and the bailout is somehow averted, Bush will turn over the White House to either McBama or OCain. The Republicans and Democrats will continue to look after their own interests. A return to such archaic ideas as liberty and fiscal sanity would require the American voters to do something they haven’t done in decades. Voters would have to look beyond their own sense of entitlement and the “journalists” who pander to it, and make some tough, responsible decisions.

That seems unlikely. Sadly, John Kennedy’s stirring admonition to ask what we can do for our country has become just another sound bite to be ignored along with the Republican and Democrat candidates’ empty promises.

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Time to vote third-party!

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

I’ve always bought into the idea that a vote for a third-party candidate was a wasted vote. No more. I’ve become convinced that a vote for a Republican or Democrat – at least at the national level – is a wasted vote. Why? Because neither party can be trusted to do what is right for America.

Consider this: Based on their relative solvency, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and AIG should be bailing out the U. S. government, not the other way around. Uncle Sam is so broke and so in debt to China that it’s folly to pretend he has the assets to save even the neighbor kid’s lemonade stand from financial ruin. And there’s no point in partisan finger-pointing. The Elephants and Jackasses have all sold us out with equal fervor.

Yesterday I briefly watched Sen. Chris Dodd blather about how, amid the feds’ .7 trillion dollar give-away, the “taxpayers will be covered”. Covered with what, he didn’t say, but he didn’t need to. When it hits the fan, the politicians and their rich buddies who created the problems in the first place will be well under cover. (See Ron Paul’s email about this vast giveaway.)

The argument from hysteria (the politicians’ favorite way of clouding any issue) is that there will be terrible economic consequences if a handful of private financial instutions are allowed to collapse. What the politicians never tell us, however, is how much more terrible the consequences will be when our government collapses from the weight of its own spiraling debt. I – along with most of Congress – may be long gone by then, but my children or grandchildren are going to live in a debt-ridden country with a third-world economy because we took the easy way out and voted for Republicans and Democrats.

I’m voting for Libertian candidate Bob Barr and I’d encourage you to do the same. But if you want to vote for the Green candidate or the PETA candidate or dust off Ross Perot or write in dear old dead Pat Paulsen, it doesn’t matter to me. Just do it! My guy won’t win and neither will yours. No matter what happens, we’ll be saddled with McBama or OCain and it won’t matter much which one it is.

But if enough of us vote for someone who is neither Democrat nor Republican, we might put a little fear into the self-serving fat cats inside the beltway who have had their way at our expense for way too long.

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Women in the EPC: "Second-class citizens"?

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

This, of course, is the interpretation PC(USA) spin doctors put on the EPC’s local option regarding the ordination of women. With our church growing impatient with the PC(USA) and its deep dive into cultural accomodation, we are looking very hard at the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC). Ours is a church where more than a third of the elders are women and our Associate Pastor is a woman. As a member of the session, I’ve given this matter a lot of thought and study.

Peace, unity, and purity (the real deal)

Rev. Dr. Jeff Jeremiah, Stated Clerk of the EPC, spoke to our congregation last year. (The discernment process has been interminable.) He mentioned that the PC(USA) and EPC cultures were different and that they often used the same words with different meanings. He noted that one difference in culture evident to outside observers is the degree of trust and real fellowship that seem to prevail within the EPC compared with the PC(USA).

One PC(USA) pastor who attended the EPC’s General Assembly in June last year described his experience this way:

The time at the GA was encouraging, energizing, hopeful and so Christ centered that there was no mistaking why the church had gathered to do business – to best be Christ’s church for God’s glory! I was really taken with … the spirit of grace and humility exhibited by the EPC folks.

This description stands in sharp contrast to the usual wrangling and in-fighting exhibited at a PC(USA) General Assembly. There were no demonstrations and counter-demonstrations, no staged walk-outs, no horse-trading and back-room deals, and no politically-charged circus atmosphere. Instead, there was peace and unity.

Dr. Jeremiah attributed this culture to the EPC’s focus on Christ and to the absence of doctrinal warfare. The EPC knows what it believes and requires officers to share its core beliefs. They have not elevated human conscience above the essential tenets of Reformed Christian orthodoxy as the PC(USA) has. Neither has the EPC elevated the ordination of women to similar status.

Prohibiting the ordination of women

Prior to 1930, the mainline Presbyterian denominations did not ordain women. The ordination of women to the office of elder was introduced into the original PCUSA in that year. The ordination of women as ministers of Word and Sacrament came to the old PCUSA in 1956 and to the UPCUSA and via the PCUSA’s merger with the UPNA in 1958. The PCUS followed in 1964. Now, section G-6.0105 of the PC(USA) Book of Order simply states that “Both men and women shall be eligible to hold church offices”.

When it comes to ordaining women, the greatest difference between the PC(USA) and the EPC is this: The PC(USA) has a history of prohibiting the ordination of women to any office. The EPC has no such history and has never had an institutional prohibition against the ordination of women. For that simple reason, the EPC has never had to alter its Book of Order to correct its former position. Having never barred the ordination of women, the EPC has no need to explicity authorize or require it.

But, in typical fashion, the PC(USA) treated the ordination of women as both an ecclesiastical issue and a political one. Celebrating the ordination of women was transformed into demanding the ordination of women. Not satisfied with the ecclesiastal decision to allow and even encourage the ordination or women, the PC(USA) embraced a political mechanism – affirmative action – to require it. While there are no formal quotas and no set-asides, the direction and intent are clear. No dissent is allowed, no excuses are accepted.

There’s just one teeny little problem with this politicized approach. It either (1) puts God in a box or (2) denies his sovereignty. Either the PC(USA) believes that (1) there can be no church where God chooses to call only men to leadership or (2) people, not God, do the calling. My opinion is that the latter is more akin to the way our denomination operates.

Allowing the ordination of women

So which denomination has it right? Is it the PC(USA) with its demands for gender equality and proportional representation? Or is it the EPC with a policy that simply says, “let God decide whom to call”?

Is life perfect for women called to leadership in the EPC? No. The Midwest Presbytery of the EPC has never ordained a woman to the office of teaching elder. But there is reason to hope that an ordained woman from the PC(USA) seeking ordination in the Midwest Presbytery would find

Such cannot be said of the PCUSA with its political culture and its delusions of being the “true church”.

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PCUSA: Why not stay?

Thursday, September 18th, 2008

As my church struggles through an endless process of discernment, yoked to an Administrative Commission that seems dedicated to stalling and dividing us, I decided I needed a clear answer to the question “what harm is there in staying in the PCUSA?” This is what I will tell anyone who asks:

Jesus had a special warning for those who lead “these little ones astray”. Our children are watching us. The 218th General Assembly took deliberate action to discard the Bible’s clear and consistent condemnation of homosexuality. It intentionally bypassed the Book of Order and gave presbyteries permission to ordain practicing homosexuals. Our denomination has approved what the Bible condemns. By remaining a part of the PCUSA, we are leading our little ones astray.

The PCUSA is officially “neutral” on the matter of abortion, neither condoning nor condemning it. (The 217th General Assembly did approve a statement that opposes “partial-birth” abortions.) But the PCUSA has financially supported the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), a lobbying organization that opposes all restrictions on abortion. It has gone to court to oppose the federal ban on partial-birth abortions. The PCUSA went so far as to give the RCRC a “partnership in mission” award. By remaining a part of the PCUSA, we too partner with the abortion advocates.

The mainline Presbyterian church has been embroiled in a clash of world views since May 1, 1922, when Harry Emerson Fosdick, a liberal Baptist preacher, gave a sermon at First Presbyterian Church in New York entitled “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?” The “fundamentalists” he opposed were Presbyterians who believed in (1) the inerrancy of the Scriptures, (2) the virgin birth and the deity of Jesus, (3) the doctrine of substitutionary atonement by God’s grace and through human faith, (4) the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and (5) the authenticity of Christ’s miracles. Fosdick rejected those doctrines and laid out the principles of modern “progressive” Christianity that continue to divide the PUCSA. By remaining part of the PCUSA, we continue to waste resources opposing an enemy we have allowed to thrive in our midst.

Throughout its history, the Presbyterian church has declared what it believes. Sometimes this declaration has been in the form of a confession such as the Scots’ Confession or the Westminster Confession of Faith. The Apostles’ Creed is a similar statement of faith. Most Presbyterian denominations – the Presbyterian Church in America, the Evangelical Presbyterian, and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, for example – have summarized their beliefs in a handful of “essential tenets”. In fact, the fundamentals Fosdick opposed were the essential tenets of the Presbyterian church in 1910. These “essentials” are the core, non-negotiable principles that define what it means to be a Christian. The PCUSA no longer clearly states what its bedrock beliefs are. Where nothing is declared non-negotiable, everything is negotiable. By remaining part of the PCUSA, we agree that everything is negotiable.

The Presbyterian church has always respected individual conscience. As early as 1729, the Presbyterian church in the American colonies adopted measures that protected the right of the individual to disagree with the church in some areas. However, the right to declare a conscientious objection (called a “scruple”) did not extend to the core beliefs of the Christian faith. After the 218th General Assembly, the PCUSA declared that “the scrupling of either belief or practice is now allowed.” There is no longer any standard of belief or practice that presbyteries cannot waive when a candidate for ordination declares a “scruple”. By remaining part of the PCUSA, we agree that standards are whatever a presbytery and candidate agree they are.

According the Book of Order, “ordination for the office of minister of the Word and Sacrament is an act of the whole church carried out by the presbytery, setting apart a person to the ministry of the Word and Sacrament.” When a presbytery ordains a minister contrary to Scripture, every church and every member participates in that act. When a presbytery allows the candidate to “scruple” a belief or practice, every church and every member consents to that presbytery’s decision. By remaining part of the PCUSA, we join in the ordination of ministers whose beliefs and practices are unknown to us.

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