Friday, August 29, 2008

"Neither Party Gets it Quite Right" -- Wall St. Journal

Some great insights from Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal:

Democrats in the end speak most of, and seem to hold the most sympathy for, the beset-upon single mother without medical coverage for her children, and the soldier back from the war who needs more help with post-traumatic stress disorder. They express the most sympathy for the needy, the yearning, the marginalized and unwell. For those, in short, who need more help from the government, meaning from the government's treasury, meaning the money got from taxpayers.

Who happen, also, to be a generally beset-upon group.

Democrats show little expressed sympathy for those who work to make the money the government taxes to help the beset-upon mother and the soldier and the kids. They express little sympathy for the middle-aged woman who owns a small dry cleaner and employs six people and is, actually, day to day, stressed and depressed from the burden of state, local and federal taxes, and regulations, and lawsuits, and meetings with the accountant, and complaints as to insufficient or incorrect efforts to meet guidelines regarding various employee/employer rules and regulations. At Republican conventions they express sympathy for this woman, as they do for those who are entrepreneurial, who start businesses and create jobs and build things. Republicans have, that is, sympathy for taxpayers. But they don't dwell all that much, or show much expressed sympathy for, the sick mother with the uninsured kids, and the soldier with the shot nerves.

Neither party ever gets it quite right, the balance between the taxed and the needy, the suffering of one sort and the suffering of another. You might say that in this both parties are equally cold and equally warm, only to two different classes of citizens.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Rick Warren on "Evangelical Politics"

I disagree with Rick Warren on some issues, but I just read a piece that the Wall Street Journal did on Warren's view of politics, and I think he said some pretty insightful things. He neither identifies with the Religious Right nor the "new" Evangelicals who seem to be pretty staunchly supportive of the Democratic party. While many accuse conservatives of "legislating" private morality -- things like gay marriage and abortion -- are the liberals really that different when they claim that the solution to poverty and other more corporate social ills are bigger government programs? Sounds like "legislating morality" to me, as well -- just a different set of moral beliefs (by the way, I think both sexual ethics and concern for the poor are biblical). Is it any wonder that both conservatives and liberals become very self-righteous when it comes to their "beliefs"? Perhaps the primary solution to both private and corporate moral problems is not legislation at all. Warren asserts that politics, in many ways, operates "downstream to culture." I agree.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Discerning your Idols

One of the things that has really transformed the way I look at life is a really honest realization of the things that enslave me -- my idols. And I think there are three "levels" of idolatry, and I think the deeper the level of idolatry you acknowledge, the more change in your life you see.

1. Shallow level: "External sins are idols." Getting drunk, lust, crude language, forgetting to read the bible and praying. Most of us know that these things are wrong and harmful, and sometimes we do them, and wish we didn't.

2. Deeper level: "Behind external sins are deeper idols." We realize that we can't break the pattern of laziness in our lives, or our pattern of anxiety, our our patterns of people-pleasing. And then we realize that behind our laziness, is a deep fear of failure -- we run away from hard challenges, because we hate feeling incompetent. Behind our anxiety is a deep fear of not being able to control our circumstances. Behind the people-pleasing is our deep desire to be loved and accepted. All our idols are an attempt to find some kind of self-worth.

3. Deepest level: "Even my goodness is an idol." Perhaps the hardest to acknowledge and the most important idol, is realizing that even our efforts at purging our idols, when we focus on our efforts to be good, are actually still turning away from God as our savior. We want to be our own saviors, by forcing God to bless us by our good behaviors. When our goodness is our idol, we become self-righteous, proud people.

In the end, all of life is seeing our idols, and turning from them to God. Because all of our idols are worthless -- approval from people and even our self-effort may temporarily give us comfort, but the end leave us empty and wanting more, like a cheap drug -- or like a wooden idol.

...the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, 'Deliver me, for you are my god!'...Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you, you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me. I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud, and your sins like a mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you. (Isa. 44:17, 21)