Category Archives: Politics

Presidential Debate After-Thoughts; Did That Really Happen?

I hesitate to write a blog about politics because it is easy for people to get worked up and get personal. Don’t do it. OK? This isn’t an endorsement, it’s simply my debate after-thoughts. I have a love-dislike relationship with politics, and I mostly dislike it because people just get crazy about it. One of things that people dislike most about politics is the divisiveness that leads to impasse. So don’t add to it.

Now, on to my post-debate reflections.

Most people seem to think that Governor Romney won the debate last night (67% in a CNN poll) and many people were struck by how unprepared President Obama was. Even former Vice-President Al Gore, inventor of the Internet, must have thought Romney won because he blamed the high altitude for President Obama’s lackluster performance. Another example of the outcome is this article from Yahoo.com/news expresses the bewilderment as to why President Obama didn’t say some of the things that would have helped him. Words Obama Did not Say.

Here are possibilities I’ve thought:

  1. President Obama let his confidence get the best of him and so he didn’t prepare well and wasn’t ready. After all, many have already assumed his imminent victory based on polling and recent Romney blunders. When you are supposed to win, it is hard to get ready to win. I had even read that Mr. Obama said debate prep was a drag, so maybe he didn’t fully give himself to it. If this is what happened, I can assure you that it won’t happen next time.
  2. President Obama did it on purpose for “strategery”. (In case you forgot, strategery is a President Bush word.) Let’s face it, based on the feedback by cable news channels, including the left-leaning MSNBC, Mr. Obama was out-debated. And based on that analysis, there’s only one way to go as far as debate performance – UP! It can only get better for President Obama. This seems plausible to me since he knew this debate was going to be tough because of the facts on the ground concerning the economy; Unemployment at over 8% (at the time of debate), the deficit not cut in half as he had promised, wanting to raise taxes in a weak economy despite saying 2 years ago in a week economy that taxes shouldn’t be raised because the economy is week. Additionally, I can’t figure out why he didn’t hammer Romney on the “47 percent” blunder or Bain Capital. If this is the case, I expect President Obama to release an all-out salvo in the next couple of debates.

I just can’t believe that Obama tanked the debate like it looked. He is smarter and better than that – or maybe he just got caught flat-footed. Maybe Gore’s right; he couldn’t breathe. What I do know is that there are two more debates and Romney still has a lot of work to do, and I certainly can’t see Obama doing any worse than he did last night. The question in my mind is: “Why did he get beat by a man who’s strongest and most popular line was about Big Bird?”

My final thought is this and I think it is one we can all agree on – I’ll just be glad when the whole thing is over. And then we can have a two year break before campaigning starts up again. You realize don’t you, this will never end until Jesus comes back. So pray with the Apostle John: “Come, Lord Jesus.” (Rev. 22:20)

I’m Brent Prentice, and I approve this message.

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Obama and the NYC Mosque; Why?

I was momentarily shocked to read on Twitter yesterday (Friday, August 13th – seems fitting) that President Obama publicly supports the building of a community center that includes a mosque, just two blocks from the “Ground Zero hole.” Honestly, I was struck by Obama’s endorsement because of the political liability it is in a mid-term election year that is shaping up to be a disaster for Democrats. “A CNN/Opinion Research poll earlier this month showed that 68 percent of Americans opposed the Islamic center plans, while only 29 percent favored them.”

I have a lot of opinions when it comes to politics, however, I normally don’t blog about politics because they can be unnecessarily divisive and a distraction for the work of the gospel ministry. To quote Ed Stetzer who probably quoted someone else, “When you mix politics and religion, you get politics.” But as I said, this captured my attention and made me ask, “why?” “Why”, can be dangerous territory when it leads us to question someone’s motives, but why would Obama do this at this time? Does Obama have a political death-wish for Democrats (perhaps eventually himself) who have the unfortunate task of getting re-elected in a mid-term in a country that is very cranky from the hope of change that simply has not happened – at least economically and fiscally?

So why President Obama? Why now? Why this and why now?

Here are a few possibilities:

  1. President Obama is still trying to make peace on behalf of the U.S. with Islam. This is a viable option given the way the Obama administration has dealt with Israel and the way that Obama has gone to the Muslim world to try to soften the image of the U.S. and make us look like something other than crusading conquerors because of our invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, and our strong presence in other Middle Eastern Countries.  No doubt that is what many Muslims probably see the United States as. Perhaps then, this was a calculated diplomatic move to improve U.S. and Muslim relations. However, if this was his intent, it may have back-fired as it has only escalated the controversy that surely many Muslims are watching closely all over the world on cable news. I rule this reason out because I believe Obama and his team are smart enough to know that any U.S. image repair would be offset by public outcry to Obama’s support and the fact that it could prove to be costly politically.
  2. President Obama is covertly a radical Muslim who is trying to advance the cause of Islam. After all, his middle name is Hussein. I’m certain this is what many conspiracy theorists and crazy people are advancing, and I am not one of them. By the way, 1 out of every 5 Americans believes Obama is a Muslim.
  3. President Obama believes that the American way is to let every person have the right of religious freedom. Obama said in the article that is linked above, “This is America and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are.” I hope this is why he supports the Islam Community Center, because it certainly does not make any political sense to support it. I believe that Mr. Obama is a smart man and this is the only conceivable reason that I can think of as to why he would make such an announcement. It would have been better for him if he would have had his opinion and stayed out of the fray, but this time I am going to choose to believe, unless convinced otherwise, that Obama is standing on a strong and deeply held  American conviction of religious tolerance and liberty. If so, good for him.

Having offered my musings and opinion, let me offer a few more thoughts. I think it is a bad idea to build a mosque two blocks from ground zero. It just doesn’t make sense to me on a number of levels. Most Muslims may not be terrorists, but it does seem like salt in the wound of a city and its people. I also find it interesting that we are willing to fight for religious freedom of Muslims in this country, but highly doubt the same effort is being made for Christians in Saudi Arabia and other countries that are dominantly Muslim.

I also want to make sure that I am clear that while I believe in religious freedom and the right of every person to choose who and how they may worship, I do believe that Muslims are hopelessly separated from God as they seek to work their way to paradise. Unfortunately, Muslims are caught in the same trap as every other major world religion that does not trust in Christ to be for them what they could never be in this life, which is perfectly righteous. Muslims need the gospel of Jesus Christ, not our hatred. We will not be winsome for Jesus by denying Muslims the very same rights of religious liberty that this country was founded on as many people came across the Atlantic to escape religious bigotry and intolerance. It should not be quickly forgotten that when God finishes His work of redeeming a people for himself for the praise of His glory, many of those we worship with as brothers and sisters in Christ will be former Muslims. I hope we can all pray and work for more to be by our side before the throne of Jesus Christ.

But back to Obama. I think it is a political mistake for him to endorse this mosque. (By the way, this is not an endorsement of Obama as president, but simply my musings about this story.) I believe and hope that he is endorsing the mosque because he has a core conviction that America stands for freedom and even the freedom to be wrong about the sovereign Creator of the universe. I hope others will join with me in praying that President Obama makes wise choices in protecting the people of this great country from domestic and foreign threats. Last, while there may be many opinions about this proposed mosque in Manhattan, I hope that all true followers of Christ will engage Muslims and pray for Muslims and share the gospel with Muslims, because our greatest problem is not a mosque, though many might be afraid of what it represents, our greatest problem is that we have the religious freedom to share the gospel and we simply withhold the very thing that really matters, the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Muslim world has come to us and yet many of us who call ourselves Christians are incensed about a building with no thought that those who want to build the building are without Christ.

Which one is more troublesome, Obama’s support for building the mosque or the fact that many people care more about a Muslim building than they do Muslim people? We can ask “Why President Obama, what are you thinking?” But perhaps the best question is for Christians, “Christian, what are thinking and praying for?”

The Bible and Voting

I liken the current election cycle to the World Cup; even if you don’t want to embrace it or like it, you have to care about it  because it is everywhere. In some states the streets are littered with signs endorsing a bevy of candidates. If you turn on the television, you get bombarded with an array of commercials. On a side note, I wonder how much good could done with all the money spent on campaigns? Maybe someone could pass a law saying whatever is spent on a campaign must also be applied to paying off the deficit.  Many people try to ignore the whole spectacle and they express their apathy or disdain for the political process by not voting. Some say that we should vote because it is a privilege of freedom that has come as a result of the price of brave men and women who died to give us the opportunity to be represented. Currently, there seems to be a trend among Christians, especially among young adults, that politics and faith should have little or nothing to do with each other. One prominent writer expressed it this way, “When you mix politics and religion you get politics.”  So what about Bible and politics? Does the Bible have anything to say about voting and what our involvement should be when primaries and general elections force their way into our minds?

It seems to me that the Bible does give us a framework by which we can think about politics and make decisions on how to vote in a way that both honors God and is loving toward others (even when we are voting for “the lesser of two evils”). God and the human authors don’t dismiss politics and government in the Bible as unimportant, because all of life is important. God is not apathetic. The Bible shows that right thinking about God through Jesus leads to right thinking about all of life.

Here are eight convictions that I try to act on as it relates to the Bible and voting. I am willing to critique and change a lot of what I have written below, but the one thing that I am not willing to do is to be brain dead and apathetic about my responsibility as a disciple of Christ when it comes to any part of life, including politics and voting.

Eight Convictions:

  1. Rights and advantages provided by God through government and politics can be used for the gospel and for justice toward others. Paul in Acts used his Roman citizenship to advance the gospel by appealing to Caesar (Acts 25:11-12). Paul’s goal was to go to Rome and beyond to share the gospel and it was his appeal as a Roman citizen to go to Caesar that God used to get him there. Additionally, Paul is largely silent in regards to slavery, but says in 1 Corinthians 7:21-22 that if a slave is able to become free they should do so. Paul used what was available to him and others when appropriate to his greater mission, the gospel.
  2. This doesn’t mean we ought to act like idiots. As has been pointed out by others, it is harmful to the cause of Christ and Christians to hold up hateful signs and write hateful notes and rail against politicians and people in the name of Christ. Christ did not do this, nor did Paul or any of the other writers of the New Testament. We can disagree with people strongly, but we ought to do so with love and tact.
  3. We ought to have a biblical framework of priority by which we vote. We are Christians first and Americans second. We are Christ-followers first and then members of a political party. We are loyal to Jesus not people or political systems or ideas. So again, we ought to vote biblically, but now we encounter a problem because the Bible talks about caring for the alien, the widow and the fatherless. It talks about caring for least of these; it talks about caring for the sick, the old, the poor and the defenseless. There are a lot of people like this in the world today and even in the United States. So how does a person vote when in the U.S. we have two parties and one party says it is more sympathetic to lower income families and those who need “safety net programs” and the other party says it is more pro-family and pro-life. How does a person vote? In short, my own personal conviction is that God values people because they were created in His image and His likeness. People are the crowning achievement of God’s creation. Genesis 9:1-7 says that if a person takes the life of a person his life will be demanded, which shows the importance of life. It shows that life is not trivial. So God as creator values life. The primary purpose of government is to protect people from enemies both domestic and foreign (See also Romans 13:1-7). Therefore, government ought to protect the lives of all people, but since there are those persons who are more vulnerable or poor, namely unborn babies, who have no way of protecting themselves, then I can’t vote for anyone who won’t protect the most vulnerable in society. If a person can’t protect unborn life, then how can I expect they are going to protect my family from terrorist or any kind of lawlessness? So one candidate might be better for the middle-class and the disadvantaged, and they might even be better for the economy, but these are secondary issues for me personally as I try to have a framework of priority based on the Bible and the role of government. (This is a rather over-simplified example that is worthy of more explanation.)
  4. We should vote as though we weren’t voting. Click on this link to read John Piper’s application of 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 Let Christians vote as though they were not voting.
  5. Realize the benefit of being politically informed as opposed to politically ignorant. It probably isn’t a good idea to watch hours of FOX News, CNN or CSPAN, but it is a good idea to watch some news and read a little of the newspaper so that the next time you are out “going” and meet someone you can use something popular like politics to talk about the hope you have in Jesus (1 Peter 3:15). A lot of people might not care about Jesus or see him as relevant to an election, but perhaps engaging people where they are will turn into an opportunity for the good news of Jesus to be shared in a considerate and loving way.
  6. Remember that God is sovereign and supreme over everything, including politics. I often say things like this and then wonder how it is true, but the Bible is clear that God reigns over the good and the bad and that somehow he uses undesirable things to bring about good things. In Romans 12:14-13:17 Paul gives instruction to bless those who persecute you (12:14) and then in 13:1 says that God establishes governments and there is no authority except that which is from God. These statements give me cause to pause because historically we know that it is the government that does the persecuting. Tradition holds that Paul was executed by Nero, the emperor of Rome. God put or allowed Nero to be in power and Nero killed Paul. We may not like what we get on election day, but God is in control and we ought to respond and live like it is true, because it is, lest we resist God himself (Romans 13:2).
  7. God will one day right every wrong by every person, including politicians. Paul tells us that it is not our place to carry out vengeance because that is God’s to do because He alone is just (Romans 12:19). I must trust God and His promises by living responsibly and warning people about the wrath to come for those who are not in Christ Jesus (Revelation 19:11-16). No politician or government can save a person from their sin, so let everyone of us who believes in Jesus use politics as an opportunity to advance the kingdom of God as is fitting and to love others with the truth that Jesus died for all who would call upon the name of the Lord while they are sinners.
  8. Morality can be imposed outwardly by law but it can’t change a person’s nature. I think this is what William Wilberforce (1759-1833) meant when he said,

The fatal habit of considering Christian morals as distinct from Christian doctrines insensibly gained strength. Thus the peculiar doctrines of Christianity went more and more out of sight, and as might naturally have been expected, the moral system itself also began to wither and decay, being robbed of that which should have supplied it with life and nutriment.

Wilberforce was right to think that a person’s righteous behavior is the outflow of a changed heart and right thinking. We can tell people they ought not to kill babies or steal from the poor, but until they know why and are changed from the inside-out, morals will only wither and decay. Lasting morality is the result of a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17), and unless God changes the hearts and minds of people we are only delaying the inevitable reality of eternal separation from God.

But let us not think that the fight for justice and morality is wrong or unwarranted. We certainly would not write off the efforts of a man like Wilberforce as stupid or pointless. After all, Wilberforce gave his life to the abolition of the slave trade in Great Britain from 1787 to 1833. He was defeated in this attempt eleven times and only gained the decisive victory three days before he died in 1833. But he is right, low morality comes not from lack of laws but from not having the heart changed by the power of the gospel.

So vote. Exercise rights and privileges that so many in this world long for in the ability to vote, but foremost put your hope in God through Jesus. He is the one the brings lasting change and justice to every person who believes.