Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wikileaks, Good or Bad for America?

Did Wikileaks do the right thing by exposing the content of private government documents?  Does it hurt our foreign policy, weakening the ability for the U.S. to negotiate in good faith?  Does it strengthen our democratic system, allowing for a more informed public to hold its officials more accountable?  In short, was more harm done than good, or not?  We can argue the wisdom of this decision until we’re blue in the face.  Perhaps only future generations will truly know.

Nevertheless, I think I understand their intent, the spirit with which they did this.  If we are to error, is it not better to error on the side of openness and transparency rather than on the side of secretiveness and/or actual deceit?  The temptation for all governments, of whatever size, type, or persuasion, is to excuse itself from prying eyes, openness and accountability; it wants free reign to do according to its own whims and wishes, without needing to explain or justify itself, believing that the end will surely justify the means.   (It’s just such an attitude in the previous administration, in my humble opinion, that so readily took us to war with Iraq; a war we started, falsely, wrongly, or naively justified, and now find so difficult to get out of!)

A healthy democracy requires a well-informed populace.  A strong democracy will hold its leaders accountable for their actions and decisions.  Thus, a thriving democracy is an open one.  During an election season, for example, the people ought to know who’s who; who are the powerful companies and particular interest groups that spend huge amounts of money on special political ads.  The people need to know who’s real interests are being promoted and why?  Accountability!

By contrast, all totalitarian and oppressive governments are secretive.  They manage and manipulate the flow of information.  Propaganda is their favorite means of “informing” the public.  Half-truths and outright lies are generally the substance of their content.  The public is generally kept in the dark as to what is really the case regarding crucial events, critical decisions, and the circumstances surrounding them by its government and their leaders.  Totalitarian governments are accountable to no one but themselves.  As an example, I give you North Korea!

There is a fine line between confidentiality and subversive secrecy.  It is true, governments and their bureaucratic machineries need some protection respecting confidentiality, privacy, if you will.  Yes, it’s possible that Wikileaks may have gone too far.  Yes, it may have caused much embarrassment to our political leaders.  But perhaps that’s one of the strengths of our democracy.  We’ll survive our embarrassment.

America prides itself in its strong values of freedom, justice, democracy and equality for all.  This being the case, we are obliged to maintain a policy of openness, truth, honesty, and integrity.  And so, with eyes wide open and with fresh clarity, newly informed as we are, we the people can review what our leaders have been really saying and doing.  We can hold them accountable and ask ourselves: Do we approve?  Are our leaders doing right by us?  In short, now that we know what we know, we are in a better position to continue to demand that our leaders maintain—act and speak with—integrity, and not just for appearance sake.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

That Time of Year Again

Thanksgiving then Christmas, it’s that time of year again!

The holidays are here.

Dreadful!  Some would say.

Fancy wrappings, holiday trimmings, season’s greetings, family gatherings, gift shopping, mall hopping, food stuffing, choirs singing, ears ringing, kids clinging, families flying, siblings crying, mothers sighing.  Overkill!

It’s just too much.  Some would say.

Why bother, what’s the big deal?  Some would ask.

Well, if the rains didn’t come, we’d have no drink; if crops didn’t grow, we’d have naught to eat?

Gods we are not.  We have no control over the seasons.  Rain, drought, earthquakes, hurricanes, snow, winter, summer, fall, or spring is beyond our doing.  We plant and we wait.  It is God who causes the growth.  And so, we are Thankful.

We are dependent.  And we are Thankful.

Oh God, do send us the rain.  Grow our crops.  Fill our baskets, feed us.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And we are Thankful.

Have we earned it?  Do we deserve it?  Are we entitled, is it our right, our privilege?  No Lord, we have not.  And so, we are Thankful.

What’s that?  Innocent, pure, holy, righteous, us?!  No, we must confess.

Pride, injustice, oppression, greed, selfishness, anger, hatred, spite, faithless and unfaithful; yes Lord, that’s us.  Guilty as charged.  We have wronged and have been wronged.  We have lied, cheated and coveted.  We have even murdered in our hearts.  This we confess.

Can you, will you, do you, forgive us?

YES!  And we are Thankful.

The angel said to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called son of God.”  (Luke 1:35)  And the angels said to the shepherds, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”  (Luke 2:10-11)

And when Jesus came to Nazareth he went to the synagogue and stood up to read: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  (Luke 4:16-19)

And for this we are Thankful!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Power Politics and Christian Power?!

BIG mistake!  To think that the strength of the Christian message along with its principles, values, and practices are best promoted by government and politics. The more Christians seek to maintain social and political control over this nation, the less faithful it is to its true message and the more it relinquishes its real power of life changing spiritual vitality and renewal.  Christianity did not spread like wildfire within the Roman Empire by strategically taking over the Roman Senate and putting a Christian on the Emperor’s thrown.  (That came much, much later during the Empire’s decline.)  The Roman Empire was in charge when Christianity was born.  Where is Rome now?

The challenge is this: many studious observers of Christianity and Western Civilization are saying that Christianity is now on the waning side of what was once called Western “Christendom.”  That is, there was a time in both Europe and in America that almost everybody identified with the Christian faith, at least nominally so.  This is no longer the case, most especially in many parts of Europe.  Here in the U. S., our diversity is growing at such a rapid rate that Christianity may soon no longer be viewed as the representative faith of most Americans.

Yes, Christianity is becoming more and more marginalized.  Christianity is no longer our culture’s Norm setter, the provider of moral values and ethical standards for society.  It is no longer the sole vision carrier for defining Truth and Reality, Belief and Values within society.  Indeed, Christianity is fast becoming a minority voice rather than the majority voice it once was.  Our seasonal year is no longer tied to the rhythm of the church and Christianity.  Other religious celebrations (Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim), along with their own peculiar rites, rituals, and practices now mark our annual calendars.  We can no longer speak of Christmas or Easter vacation; they are now spring and winter breaks.

Thus, many Christians sense Christianity’s loss of power and influence in the public arena and are reacting accordingly.  The all too human, kneejerk-reaction to a loss of control and influence is to become hyper defensive and to vigorously fight back with the purpose of maintaining power and control at all cost, even if it means betraying one’s own heart and soul.  I believe that this is what is happening to Christianity right now, here in America. Christians are upset because they are quickly losing their privileged position and no longer have the respect and influence that comes with privilege and status.  As disconcerting and even frightening as it may be to Christians, responding to this loss of influence by adopting a fight back posture is self-defeating.

The problem is this: we are so busy fighting to have our way in the social, political, and governing arena that we are losing our heart and soul, our First Love.  We are failing to invite people to know Christ and to enter His Kingdom.  The last thing Christians should do, to reverse this trend, is attempt to enforce their own dogma upon an unbelieving populace by force of law.  The Spiritual Power of Christianity is not helped along by equating Christianity with a political party or by equating the Gospel message with elitist economics and restrictive moral laws to which a general populace does not subscribe.  The Gospel message has never been one of demanding and/or enforcing outward conformity to superimposed standards of morality upon a resistant and unbelieving public.

This loss of status and social influence can actually be good for The Faith.  Why might this be good?  Because the real power of the Christian faith does not arise from legislating morals.  Its real power is in its Good News that one is set free, loved and mercifully forgiven by a kind and gracious God.  Burdened and needy hearts experiencing renewed hope and spiritual healing through a Living Savior is how Christianity’s true power is revealed.  Spiritual awakening!

Thus, rather than from a position of political power and control, Christians must more and more witness from a position of humility and love if their voice is to be truly heard and received.  And this is exactly how Christianity first spread like wildfire throughout the Roman Empire.  Christians bore witness to a living resurrected Lord, testifying to what He was doing in the lives and hearts of His followers.  There was the power!  Awakened hearts!  People told their stories, giving personal accounts filled with substance and content of how they experienced renewed hope and healing, living accounts of God’s actual work in repairing broken hearts made whole again.  And then they began to live accordingly.  That’s what brings moral vitality to a people and a society!

Real power is Spiritual Power.  Heart pounding life-renewing power that awakens and enlightens, having a personal encounter with the Author of Life, the Light of the World!  Christians, stop grasping after institutionalized control.  Move away from outward, formal power structures and move toward inner spiritual power.  Awaken the heart and soul of a people!  Go back to a call for inner conviction.  Reawaken a desire for holy and devout living that arises from a dynamic and living faith in a merciful, loving God.  Christianity is dead without the Spirit of Christ, the source of inner vitality and inner light and life.

Monday, November 8, 2010

America belongs to ALL of US

What is an American? Who are true Americans?

And what right does any politician have, upon being newly elected or re-elected to office, to say that “we are taking back America? “Us against them!” divisive language; it assumes that they have no right to governing power as we do. It assumes an absolute power struggle—“winner takes all.” Crying out, “We’re taking back America!” presumes that “WE” are the only one’s who have the right to America, all that it is and has to offer; contrary opinions are unacceptable and will be allowed little or no influence in the decision making process, period!

What should be unacceptable here in America is “all or nothing” posturing. What should be intolerable here in American is lack of negotiation. Accepting no alternative opinion, being intolerant of others and refusing to accommodate in order to have broader inclusiveness is what is not right about America. Pushing polarities to their extreme is to play a dangerous game of tug-of-war. The last time we were faced with extreme recalcitrant polarities, demanding total all-or-nothing sides, we fought a terrible Civil War at a great price of life and limb. There is no place for an “I win, you lose; I dictate, you do; I command, you serve; I will, you won’t” presumptiveness in a democracy. Thus, any politician that has a “my way or the highway” presumptiveness is out of line, and is being quite un-American, Right, Left, or Independent.

We are the United States, One people? We are many, we are varied. We are multiple, plural, different. We are Chinese, Japanese, Asian-Americans; we are Latin, Hispanic, and Afro-Americans. We are European, white, and English-first Americans. Still, we are ONE nation. It is not your nation; it is not my nation, it is our nation. WE are the US in the U.S. We/us have no more right to take back America than they/them have the right to claim America is theirs without including us (whoever they and we may be). We are ONE.

So, enough talk about “Taking Back America!” Give and take, measured and respectful accommodation is what is required of us all. For example, though there are many who do not like the new Health Care laws, there are many who DO want it, or something akin to it. Neither Republicans nor Democrats have all the answers. Swinging right to left and back to right again is not going to solve our problems. Neither the right nor the left, neither Democrats nor Republicans have the backing of ALL Americans. Thus, neither side should be acting as if they speak for ALL citizens. They don’t. It’s just that plain and simple.

So, dear politician, whatever party you may represent, please understand this: you do NOT represent EVERYONE and your own particular leanings are not what everyone wants or would agree to. So, please, humble yourselves a little and do not presume total right, power, and authority to act as if you must have everything go your way. You must negotiate; you must work with the opposing side(s) not simply be against them. Your opponent is not an enemy of the American way. Your opponent shares the same values as all Americans do regarding life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. So be not haughty. You and your particular party or movement is not the only American party or movement living in this land. Pride goes before a fall and before a great fall is great pride. Representatives, humble your selves and start working for all of America. Embrace the fact that America is diverse, pluralistic, and varied in its opinions and specific interests and desires. Give us something we can ALL be proud of!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Vote!

Why is it that when it comes to politics we value ignorance? Okay, by the time anyone reads this blog, the 2010 elections will be done, so my question may seem irrelevant; bad timing. Still, let us consider the rhetoric.

“Elect me!” Why? “Because I am an average Joe Citizen; I am not a ‘professional.’ I have little or next to no political experience, I’m neither politically astute nor am I highly educated; I’m just a regular Joe Blow [or Jane Doe, as the case may be] with deep conviction and energetic passion.” Really? So, I have to ask, what’s wrong with an astute, highly educated and intelligent well informed candidate that has years of experience under his/her belt? “They’ve lost touch with the common people!” Oh, I see. Hmm, is it not possible that it’s really the other way around? Perhaps the common people have lost touch with the machinery and intricacies of government.

Are we really better off electing simple but passionate, inexperienced but starry eyed, uninformed but willful candidates to high office? Is that really what we want? We shall elect a person to Congress or to the United States Senate just because they talk like plain ole country folk, are agreeable, likeable, are laid back and easy-going and have no experience in government and no personal knowledge of the workings of our constitutional laws? And then, when in office, we expect them to make smart, intelligent, well-informed decisions and to wisely participate in the legislative process to make things move, as if they are experts at it? What’s wrong with this picture?

Why is ignorance and non-experience better than knowledge, education, and tried and true practiced experience in our ideal of a good candidate? Is running the government of the Unites States of American mere child’s play, such that we should assume that any Joe Blow or Jane Doe citizen can be put in office to do it?

Is it possible, just possible, that it is not the highly educated, well trained, and deeply complex thinker that is taking our nation down the wrong path? Rather, might it be that it is the naïve, the simple-minded, the un-informed, the provincial (those who are narrow and limited in outlook), or just the plain ole ignorant (lacking substantial knowledge in content) that may be doing this nation the most harm?

This is a valid question. It seems to me that we are distrustful of intelligent, highly educated, and well-informed politicians. Politicians who speak insightfully and wisely about complex issues seem to be distrusted, as if the fact that they are smart, well-informed, and are able to see more than one side to an issue automatically makes them shifty and unreliable and therefore untrustworthy in office. Why is that? A politician is caught admitting that certain national issues and concerns are complex and that there is no one easy solution to resolve them, suddenly they’re seen as slick and sly, underserving of our full confidence. How foolish we are. The problem is, we want immediate gratification, no matter what the long term consequence or outcome may be to the nation’s welfare as a whole—that is, we don’t care to think too deeply about the issues and we certainly don’t want our representatives to think too deeply about them either, we just want things to go our way and that’s that. This kind of attitude is a recipe for making very bad and very poor political decisions for long term solutions.

And so politicians are giving us what we want. We are drawn to the simple home spun politician who comes out with short, pithy, three word little slogans: I’m for you! I’ll fix it. I’ll fight it. I’ll change it. I’ll reduce it. I’ll correct it. I’ll put things right! We hear this ad nauseam. The thing is, they never say just exactly how they will fix, change, fight, or correct the problem, other than shout all the more loudly to say that they are against the opponent’s solution, whatever it is, good bad or indifferent, and are for us the voter.

In short, neither politicians nor voters want to really understand the complexities of an issue; nor do we have the patience to allow time for working out practical solutions. We simply choose sides and tear apart the opposing side. We don’t care to ask intelligent questions. We hear what we want to hear; my side and my side only! And, if a real intelligent answer is actually given in response to an intelligent question, we’ve already tuned out, short attention span that we have. Or, worse, we’ve shut out the answer because of a narrow-minded unwillingness to hear something that might correct our own half-baked thinking on the subject. We’re like the child that cups hands over ears and shouts, “I’m not listening! I’m not listening! Nah, nah, nah, nah, naaah!” Yes, as a nation we are becoming childish in our political antics.

Political campaigns that incite the passions—fear, anger, hatred, and contempt for the other side (“the enemy”), is politics based on ignorance; ignorance in that there is no desire to inform and to enlighten. Having no interest in bringing knowledge and understanding to an issue, politicians and special interest groups hide behind a wall of misinformation, innuendo, re-direction, and secrecy (if not outright lies). Why, because the real truth—actual facts, figures, and informed content—may hurt their election! And be bad for particular interests groups.

So, if we don’t want highly educated, knowledgeable, intelligent, and experienced, wise, insightful, and well-informed individuals working in the great halls of our legislative branches of government, so be it. If we don’t want to know the truth about the issues at hand (whether we like what we hear or not), and if we don’t care to understand their complexities, and if we’d rather pretend that every problem has easy simple solutions, and if we want to think and act as if the opposite side of the political spectrum is totally to blame for all of our nation’s ills while our own political side is as innocent as a choir of angels, let us enjoy our blissful ignorance.

But let us remember, as things go wrong and our nation continues to struggle with bitter divisiveness, it is we, the voters, who chose to remain in the dark—naïve, ignorant, and uninformed—by not demanding better of our politicians. It is we who are allowing our politicians to dupe us with quick easy and inane slogans rather than demanding of them some real content with actual factual and intelligent answers. Not even the media seem to be asking the crucial and important questions regarding the complex national and international challenges that our nation faces. All we get are jokes, bashing, demonizing, and castigating accusatory innuendos like, “he can take… and shove it!” And it seems that that is all we want of our politicians. How ignorant is that?!