The Obama Administration has rejected a call from C-Span to follow through with an oft-repeated campaign promise, namely, to allow C-Span to televise hearings and deliberations relative to health care reform legislation.
Mr. Obama didn't just make this promise once. Insisting that his would be the most transparent administration in American history, the President repeatedly declared that he would grant C-Span full and free access to all hearings, deliberations, committee meetings, and Congressional debates. All those promises are now, however, revoked.
Well, that's certainly troubling. What is the White House afraid the American public will see and hear? Deals and bribes? For sure. Congressman padding and protecting their power? Count on it. Americans being talked about as duped, uninformed, misinformed, naive, and ignorant? Probably some of that, too.
But, hey, Mr. President! We're all grownups out here. We can take it; we just want to observe it for ourselves. Because, frankly, we're rather fed up with all the ear marks, sweetheart deals, duplicitous and misleading language, and other widely-reported elements of the biggest federal power-grab in the nation's history.
Just as troubling is that Mr. Obama again misses an opportunity to put some flesh on his claims - not heard much recently, however -- to be a Christian. Because if he really is a Christian, he must know that the Scriptures of his faith insist that governments must work for good according to the criteria of divine revelation, and they must do so "in the gates" - out in public, where everyone can watch and judge for themselves the fairness of the deliberations.
See, that's the problem when government becomes a law unto itself - rex lex, as it were. Congress and the President are in the business of making the Constitution serve their purposes in reams of legalese designed to frustrate humble folk such as you and I. Timothy Geithner gave notice early on that this would happen, when he told a Congressional panel that the Constitution empowered Congress to make any laws it wanted to. Absurd.
But the Scriptures insist that the king is not the law; rather, lex rex is the proper formula. Congress and the President, however, being unwilling to be held to such a standard, will do their corrupt business behind closed doors.
Unless you and I kick those doors open at the earliest possible opportunity.
A recent poll indicates that, at present, those identifying themselves as conservatives outnumber liberals by more than 10 percentage points. That's not so surprising. What is surprising is that, for the first time in many years, conservatives outnumber moderates by 4 percentage points.
I can't get too excited about this, though, and not because I'm not solidly conservative in my own views. What we're observing, I believe, is just the latest finger-out-the-window knee-jerk reaction of an electorate that operates basically on one priniciple: What's in it for me? Mr. Obama looked like a really oh-boy neat choice a year ago - for whatever reason - and so the fickle folk marched to the polls, somehow convinced that all his impossible promises would be kept, and put in office the most unqualified man to serve as President in my lifetime.
Now, when it looks like he's going to "fix health care" at the expense of everything else - tax and premium increases, overworked medical professionals, and growing government involvement in our lives - and when his track record in such areas as hiring staff and advisors, meddling in the economy, keeping the country safe from terror, and facing down the would-be nuclear bullies of the world makes us feel not quite so safe and not quite so secure, people are having second thoughts (Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, to be fair, are also helping to tip the balance of the electorate away from the politics of equivocation, bribery, and government-grabs).
But it's the President who isn't making things better for us. And he's a liberal. So swing the pendulum the other way and put your hopes on - whom?
An ill-informed, self-absorbed, materialistic electorate, with a fading sense of history, is nothing to cheer about. If there was ever a time for serious political conversation at the grass roots level about the nature and limits of government, the meaning of the common weal, and the practice of politics without corruption, this is it. But who will engage those conversations? Who will take it upon himself to talk some sense into his neighbor about the larger issues of liberty, political responsibility, national leadership, and morality?
The Lord Jesus reminds us that "out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks" (Matt. 12.34). So what's Harry Reid's heart full of, now that we know what he privately said about President Obama back in 2008?
I doubt that Harry Reid is a racist. Senator Reid is a politician, and he has a sense of what will and will not work in American politics. Evidently, the Senator believes a "Negro dialect" doesn't work but a "light-skinned African-American" might. Is that a racist statement? You decide. For me it's more a statement of Senator Reid's low regard for the American electorate. Americans, according to Senator Reid, are, in general, still too racist to vote for a dark-skinned African-American or one whose dialect tends to reflect the environment of his upbringing. I'm a little peeved with Senator Reid, but not because I think he's a racist; I think he's an elitist, because he thinks I'm a buffoon.
Even more, I wonder: had Senator Reid forgotten that those were his sentiments and that he had made those remarks back then? That's not likely. Rather, in his heart he seems to have been saying, "As long as it doesn't come out, I can get away with it." This attitude is far more troubling to me than the Senator's attitude toward me and the rest of the electorate. It makes me wonder what else the Senator is saying or doing, under the radar of legalese and behind closed Washington doors, that he thinks he can get away with as long as it doesn't come out.
These are questions of integrity. I don't know Harry Reid, and, happily for him, I don't have the opportunity to declare my view of him in a general election. But integrity matters, in politics and in life. In particular, Americans need to know that our leaders are men of their word, with hearts of integrity, honesty, and a genuine concern for the common weal. Senator Reid was elected by his colleagues to lead them in pursuing the President's agenda in the Senate. We now know that he is a man of suspect integrity. Will that bother the Democrats in the Senate?
So many questions swirl up from the rubble of the Haiti earthquake that it almost seems presumptuous to pick one as somehow of most significance. How can a country become and remain so impoverished? What kind of leaders allow this to happen, while they aggrandandize themselves on the back of their neighors' squalor? Why is the world so urgent to rush to Haiti's aid now when the disaster of Haiti has been around for many years and is largely ignored?
These are important questions, and someone should be trying to answer them. But I have a larger question, and I think it is the most significant one we can raise about the earthquake in Haiti because it has worldwide implications. We live in a secular age, where, everywhere in the developed world, school children are raised to believe that "survival of the fittest" is the law of the jungle, the central thread - sometimes referred to as "natural selection" - of the doctrine of evolution, and the only true explanation of human origins, development, and history. Oh really?
If that's the case, why are the nations of the developed world so suddenly inconsistent with this most firmly entrenched value? Why, in the face of Haiti's disaster and suffering, aren't they circling the island like buzzards, waiting for the weak and impoverished to die off, so someone somewhere can turn this place into a money-making resort paradise? If "natural selection" is, indeed, the order of the universe, then it would seem that "nature" has made its "selection." Now, instead of coming to comfort, feed, heal, and rebuild, the nations of the world should be kicking the last remaining Haitians off the island and snapping up the spoils for themselves. That is, if they really believed all that "natural selection" and "survival of the fittest" stuff.
But they don't. Deep inside we are moved to compassion for sufferers because we are made in the image of God, Who has compassion for the poor and suffering, and we cannot help but be like Him when push comes to shove in a tragic place like Haiti. The human community ceases to be the crude, gene-driven beasts they otherwise trumpet themselves to be and becomes the next best thing to angels in the face of tragedies like this because it's who we are, what we are, and what we know we must do - love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
The outpouring of compassion for the people of Haiti will continue until the last home is rebuilt and the last wound healed. And this is as it should be, and as it always will be, because we are not merely higher forms of animals. We are the image-bearers of a God Who cares, loves, has compassion, heals, and redeems.
The Massachusetts special senatorial election on Tuesday is being touted as a referendum on the Obama Administration and its centralist agenda. Perhaps it is. Conservatives in Congress and the media insist that, no matter the outcome, the people of the Commonwealth are voicing their outrage and that they represent a microcosm of the American electorate.
That may be true. I'm not sure. I want to think it matters a great deal, that replacing the likes of Ted Kennedy and dozens of other progressive politicians would be a good thing and would set the country back on a proper course. But I am not persuaded. America's deepest needs are not political; they are spiritual and moral. And with the likes of John Ensign and Mark Sanford on the side of conservativism and Christian faith, we need to be realistic concerning the state, not only of opposition politics, but of Christian faith in general.
To be blunt, American Christians don't strike me as a very serious lot. Oh, they're nice enough. They go to their Bible studies, take time to pray each day, are faithful in their churches, and generally try to keep their noses clean - well, their public noses, at any rate. And there are millions of us - scores of millions of confessing Christians in well-funded churches that sponsor an encyclopedia of ministry opportunities to meet the felt needs of anyone who happens to wander in the door.
But it's not working. We are squeamish about evangelism, and, when we do it at all, tend to leave out the hard parts and difficult demands of the Gospel. We excuse ourselves from submitting to the Law of God, which, if we would heed it, could put us on a course of moral, social, and cultural renewal that this country has not seen in years. And our worship: we have reduced worship to a kind of therapy where everything is constructed to make us feel OK and be happy-and-we-know-it, clap our hands.
Spiritual disciplines languish. Church discipline is almost non-existent. Giving is a pittance of what it should be. Concern for culture is taken captive by a desire to be entertained rather than to glorify God.
No amount of political change will bring to this nation the restoration of greatness and honor that so many suppose. What we need is spiritual change - revival, renewal in our mission to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom, and this leading to a worldwide awakening such as has happened in the past.
But who wants all that, anyway? Do you? Do these words - revival, renewal, awakening - fill your prayers? Is seeking the Kingdom of God the all-commanding priority of your life? Are you as outraged at the way we as a community have trivialized the faith of Christ as you are at the way the present administration is plundering the economy? Christian friend, what do you really want in life? The election on Tuesday will come and go, and, be sure of it, the euphoria - one way or the other - will quickly fade, and the nation will continue its drift into pragmatism, relativism, utilitarianism, and the wrath of God. I'm not counseling political apathy
The outpouring of help to the people of Haiti has grown from a trickle to a stream to a flood. Relief is pouring in from all over the world in what is becoming the worst single-nation disaster in human history. Everything from food and water to medical assistance, clothing, rescue teams, temporary housing, and more is coming in to a nation which has nothing, nothing to offer in the way of economic, strategic, or physical capital to the rest of the world.
What's the logic here? It's really quite simple: Human beings are suffering and we can do something. Does anyone stop to ask, Should we do something? No. The response is visceral and automatic. The world expects nothing in return. Moved by sympathy, energized by the urgency of the moment, and giving in sacrificial and self-denying ways, the world is acting out a drama of human compassion and unity. We are human beings. We know what suffering is like, and we care about those who, through no fault of their own, have been subjected to unspeakable horror, deprivation, suffering, and loss.
Why do we do this? We can do no other. Human beings are made in the image of God, Who Himself is full of compassion, abounding in mercy and steadfast love, and Who takes the initiative with those who cannot save themselves, to draw them to Himself and deliver them to newness of life. Materialistic evolutionism cannot explain this. Postmodern relativism cannot explain this. Materialistic naturalism cannot explain this. Utilitarian pragmatism cannot explain this. None of the reigning secular worldviews can account for the behavior of people suffering with people they've never met, never will know, and from whom they can expect nothing in return. And the failure of these pseudo-worldviews to account for such behavior in ways consistent with their most fundamental philosophical tenets demonstrates the utter impoverishment of these viewpoints to command the allegiance of any human being.
It's just that we're a little like God, Who is a lot like this toward the likes of us. Only Christianity can account for this. Why not tell a friend?
For months now we have been hearing that the Republican Party is in complete disarray - no viable leader, no agenda, and little or no voice in matters of public policy. Now it seems the Democrats have also taken out membership in that elite club.
The victory in Massachusetts of Senator-elect Scott Brown has the Democrats scurrying along two fronts. First, how do they alter their political agenda so as to avoid further antagonizing the electorate while still pursuing their progressivist aims? Second, how do they keep from losing the House and the Senate next fall?
To say the least, this is going to be an interesting year politically, with squirming and positioning on both sides of the aisle in order to make the most of the Obama Administration's precarious political perch. It's too early to tell what the outcome might be, but we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that all the members of the House of Representatives and a third of the Senate are strategizing and plotting how to secure political power after the second Tuesday in November.
And we can also pretty much bet on the following as well: Most Americans, sensing an opportunity, will become even more politically informed and active than they have been to date. Which means that their hope for economic, social, and personal improvement will be more anchored in political aspirations than ever before.
The Church cannot allow itself to fall into disarray - any more disarry, that is, than is presently in evidence. Pastors must take the lead in reminding the people of God what the specific mission of the Church must be, now as always: making disciples. The time for sponsoring feel-good faith from the pulpits and in the ministries of local churches must come to an end, and we must resolve once again to devote ourselves to the task of building the Church by calling nonbelievers to repent and believe the Gospel and taking up the pursuit of holiness in the fear of God with greater urgency. We will miss an extraordinary opportunity to re-assert the primacy of faith in Christ and seeking His Kingdom if we continue along the same self-serving, narcissistic lines of activity that have seen the Church drift to the margins of society
The tragedy in Haiti gives American's an unprecedented opportunity to consider our approach to renewing a nation. Right now, thousands of self-denying, heroic American men and women are working around the clock to help the battered and suffering people of this sad island. Untold thousands more have given money and in-kind gifts to relieve the suffering.
In due course the rubble will be cleared and the rebuilding will begin. And, count on it, because that's the kind of people we are, Americans will continue to pour in help and cash to get this nation back on its feet. Ultimately, Haiti will be rebuilt, the infrastructure will be back functioning, and people will start working and living normal Haitian lives once again.
Then what is that Haiti will still be Haiti, lacking the resources, experience, leadership, will, and worldview to be anything other than Haiti. Making Haiti something other than Haiti will take more than money and sweat thrown at specific problems. This is a worldview issue, and, as far as I can tell, the Haitian government and people do not have the worldview to be anything other than Haitians.
But before we get too critical and cynical, look to ourselves. Right now we are throwing cash and sweat at a broken economy in the foolish belief that more money and jobs will fix what ails us. When this economy is back on its feet again, Americans will still be Americans - all our social institutions pervaded by corruption and decay, our culture in moral free fall, our schools getting worse, and we more self-centered and narcissistic than ever. Yes, we rise to the occasion when another nation is in trouble, but we do not have the worldview to repair the moral and spiritual infrastructure of our own country.
Meanwhile, the churches - which know better, or should - are so preoccupied with their own interests and concerns that seeking lost neighbors is way down on the list of things to do. We need revival, but aren't willing to pray and plead with God to send it. We need the Gospel of the Kingdom, but we have become comfortable with a gospel of forgiveness-and-going-to-heaven. We need to make disciples, but it's so much easier just to run programs and teach classes.
In other words, America and her churches are Haiti, only on a larger scale.
Flailing in a turbulent sea of unwise policies and bad decisions, the Obama Administration is grasping at everything it can to stay afloat. The latest life preserver is the budget freeze the President will announce tonight.
No matter that it has but very little substance - given the unprecedented budget increases approved last year, the fact that the "freeze" is to be only narrowly applied, and the $1.35 trillion proposed deficit for the new budget. Administration officials think the phrase "budget freeze" has a nice populist appeal and can easily be trilled off the tongue in press conferences, town hall meetings, and on the Sunday morning talk show circuit.
Because, evidently, the Administration has decided that the electorate is not a very thoughtful lot and a little euphemism goes a long way with our sound-bite generation.
The "budget freeze" is an insult to the intelligence of American voters. Whoever in the Administration is dishing out the wool needs to know that we aren't pulling it over our eyes, and this cheap trick won't sway the hearts of voters or convince us that the Administration is drawing back from its desire to expand government into more and more sectors of the private lives of Americans.
Let's imagine how this came about. A late night meeting. All the President's "advisors" around the table. Someone asks, "What will calm the storm, if only to give us some breathing space?" Several ideas are wafted. Then someone says, "Budget freeze?" The President brightens. Yes, it turns out, that will do it. The very words will ring like a charm in the ears of the mindless public, all the hubbub will abate, and we'll get a little time to think up the next way to continue pursuing our progressive agenda. Budget freeze it is.
But, of course, it ain't. And, Mr. President, we ain't stupid,either. How about trying another question, Mr. President? You who claim to be a Christian, why not pursue this tack a while: "What can we do to bring our government into line with God's good purposes for this, the greatest nation in the world?" Aside from several of his closest aides going into apoplexy, that line of questioning just might yield some new and more beneficial results.
Ford Motors announced yesterday that it will make a $3 billion profit for 2009. Neither GM nor Chrysler will make any profit whatsoever. It is instructive, I think, to recall that of the "Big 3" automakers, Ford is the only one who did not take federal bailout money or succumb to the lash of federal regulation. All Ford did was do business.
At some point, evidently, Ford executives made an important decision - one every American and every American institution needs to own. They determined that they and they alone would be responsible for the wellbeing of their enterprise. That meant they would have to plan carefully, know the market, give up sacred cows, and make the best products for the most reasonable price they could. And, apparently, they have - without any assistance from the Obama Administration.
It's interesting to speculate what our economy might look like today if, for example, all the other American institutions - including the federal government - had made that same decision. Instead, we have irresponsible corporate executives, dependent citizens, and an all-too-eager federal government throwing off their God-given responsibilities and throwing the economy - and the nation's future - into the lap of the worst possible manager: Washington.
When do we say enough is enough? When do we decide it's up to us to be responsible people in our own spheres according to our own obligations and abilities? The way things are going, people who refuse to take responsibility for the lives - and the consequences that go with responsibility - will too late discover that they are feeding a Jaba the Hut government that eats and eats and gives back only reluctantly - if at all - whatever it consumes.
This is contrary to the purposes of the divine economy, so it can only fail. Let's make sure we learn a lesson from Ford and not contribute anything more than is absolutely necessary to this doomed project.
Asked by ABC news' Barbara Walters about his views on abortion, Senator-elect Scott Brown insisted that he would oppose federal funding for abortion. He then hastened to add that he is "pro-choice" and believes that "such matters" are best decided between a woman, her family, and her physician.
It's what we always hear. But let's be clear about what "such matters" entails. A woman has to decide whether the "thing" in her womb is to be regarded as a person. That it is a living "thing" of some sort, no one denies. The question is not whether it's alive. The question is whether it's a person.
What I want to know is what qualifies a woman, her family, and her doctor to make that determination? What special training, inspired insight, or infallible hunch do such people possess that empowers them to decide whether a living "thing" should be allowed to continue living or be scalded or hacked to death in the womb?
It is precisely the kind of smug nonsense the pro-choice side always parades out, to the nodding approval of "sophisticated" interviewers. This is evil of the worse kind, costumed in tolerance, freedom of choice, and pseudo-ethical superiority. But it is evil nonetheless, and no amount of euphemism or deference to a woman's right to choose can avoid the fact that "such matters" are almost always decided not on any scientific ground, but on the basis of mere convenience.
The god of convenience is the Moloch of our secular age. Abortion is an abomination to God, and they who support it, genuflecting at the altar of convenience, can expect to be opposed in their treachery by that Divine Judge Who commanded that the little children should be brought to Him.
So let's not get too excited about Mr. Brown just yet. Because if the bottom line for him is convenience, then we may as well have Teddy Kennedy continuing in that seat.
The backlash against the progressivist policies of the Obama Administration is now taking a definitive political shape. The primary focus of the Tea Party Movement and aspiring Republican officer-holders is on fiscal conservativism - saving the country from a crisis of debt, inflation, and renewed recession.
Senator-elect Mark Brown has made his fiscal conservatism clear. So also has Rep. Mark Kirk, the frontrunner to capture the Illinois Senate seat vacated by President Obama. Both men have tasted the political wind and seem to understand clearly which way it's blowing. And both men have declared themselves to be pro-choice social moderates.
The Fox News Tuesday panel, including two conservative journalists, have also made their social moderate views known. Both Steve Hayes and Charles Krauthammer went on the record in support of allowing gays to serve openly in the military. Both men acknowledged that social mores have changed in America, and the only reasonable course is to give in to the moral drift of the day and grant homosexuals institutional recognition, beginning with the military.
This signals a clear break with social conservatism. It does not seem possible, in the near term, to expect Congress or the Court to roll back the tide of immorality that has been the popular norm for at least two decades. Over the past generation Christians have placed their hopes for moral reform on conservative lawmakers and judges, only to be continually disappointed. Now it seems that politics will not be a viable means for recovering standards and practices more in line with Biblical morality.
So before Christians make the mistake of throwing more money and energy at the political arena, in hopes of returning the nation to more traditional moral footings, they should observe present trends and realize that this way lies no solution to the nation's moral ills. And this should tell us that the only place to begin a moral reformation is not in Washington, but in the churches of the land. Pastors who have given up preaching the Law of God and practicing meaningful disciple-making and church discipline must admit that their present approach to ministry has failed the Church and the nation.
The only hope for real renewal is in awakening, and awakening will not proceed without revival in the churches and renewal of their historic mandate to evangelize the lost and make disciples of the saved. Let's face it: we're doing neither of these now. Not there isn't a good deal of preaching and lots of Bible studies and discipleship programs. But with nearly half the nation professing to be born-again believers, we have precious little to show for it.
We must review our practices and renew the work of spiritual formation and moral instruction which our forebears practiced. If we do not, given the political focus of our day, we can only expect that the nation this generation leaves to its children and grandchildren will be more morally corrupt and dangerous than it is at present.