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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

Rangel Wrangle

August 13, 2010
You gotta admire NY Congressman Charlie Rangel.

More of the Same

November 29, 1999
In one of his movies Steve Martin plays an LA weatherman whose life is boring and pointless because the weather is always the same, the forecast is always the same, and he is thus in a huge emotional and professional rut. He even takes to taping the weekend weather forecasts on Friday and playing them as though they're live on Saturday so that he doesn't have to come in to the office. I have the same feeling about the news. Have you noticed that everything that's treated seriously on the news relates either to the economy, politics, or some form of human tragedy (plane crash, mass murder, celebrity death). If we ever needed proof that we are a secular society, a people content to live only "under the sun," this surely is it. News, of course, like all TV, is ratings-driven, so news producers put on the air what they believe people want to see. And what do we want to see? Whatever relates to our money, our government, or the tragedies and hardships of others (at least it's not us, you see). Is there nothing else in this country or in the world worthy of serious consideration in prime time? Granted, we hear about an occasional scientific breakthrough - some new drug or procedure - but that just comes back to the human factor and my health and wellbeing. As far as most Americans know there isn't a first-rate thinker, artist, composer, educator, or inventor in the whole of the country - or, if there is, it's not the sort of thing that interests us, at any rate. The Christian cannot allow the evening news to shape and define his worldview. There is more to life, and there are more ways to enjoy and glorify God, than what the prime time news will ever put forward for our consideration. "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it" (Ps. 24.1). Fight the tendency to think that the only important issues are political, economic, or health and happiness oriented. The glory of God is in all He has made, and, if we can discipline ourselves to slow down, pay attention, and study the works of God, we may find that the world is a much more interesting and wonderful place than the evening news leads us to believe.

T. M. Moore

The present Administration is making a concerted effort to change the face of governance in this era of image and information. These past few weeks of trying to push through a health-care reform package offer a study in the new approach to governing President Obama and his cohort have determined to pursue.

Essentially, we might call this government by campaign. The President pursues his agenda of policies and programs as if each one were an item to be elected by the people. He trots around the country speaking at town hall meetings, rallies, and invitation-only events, holds more press conferences than any president in history, and makes deals with every hesitating lawmaker in order to ensure that the votes he needs will be there when he wants them. This looks more like the run-up to a party convention than the serious business of managing the public weal.

In governing a nation, elected officials are bound by law, precedent, and the processes of legislative creation and review. This in itself can be a rather nasty business, as backroom bargains and sweetheart deals are often added to the task of vote-getting when more noble appeals, such as to the common weal, fail to do the job. Add to this the incessant campaign rhetoric - rife with cliches, anecdotes, hyperbole, and spin - that has become the stock-in-trade of this Administration, and all semblance of good governance becomes swallowed up in the imperative of getting what the President wants. Almost nothing is pressed on the basis of Constitutional necessity, sound reason, or even common sense. What matters most is accomplishing an agenda, striking while the iron is hot, while Democrats still hold a majority, in order to further and fasten the grip of government on the lives of its citizens.

But can this constant cajoling, badgering, and promising everything to the public make us a stronger nation? Or will it only wear us down, until we give away more of our liberties to elite cadres of lawmakers in our nation's capital? Campaign rhetoric is temporal, trivial, and, very often, truthless. Government control over our lives and liberties, by contrast, is difficult to roll back. If we yield to the campaigning approach to governance, we can be sure of this much: more politicians will be fanning out to fan the flames for whatever might be the next big thing, promising us the moon but leaving us only with fewer liberties.

If I thought President Obama spent as much time talking with God about his policies as he does stumping for them around the country, I might be willing to give them a closer look. As it stands, I don't believe the President is interested in governing. What the President wants, it seems to me, is to win, and winning is the work of campaigns. Serving is the work of governance.

T. M. Moore


March 18, 2010

Unable to convince members of their own party to commit political suicide, Democratic leaders are contemplating the use of a procedure called, "deeming," to bring the health care reform bill to passage. In this procedure House members do not need to actually vote for the Senate bill; they can simply "deem" it to have passed, then amend it as they like before sending it back.

Sounds all very Constitutional, doesn't it? The sort of thing the Founders would have written into the document they hoped would inaugurate a "new order of the ages." Except, of course, they didn't. Turns out our contemporary politicos are turning the novis ordo seclorum into something right out of the pages of the most egregious, self-serving, and corrupt political orders of the past and present. Most astonishing of all, they're counting on us, the electorate, not noticing - or not caring.

The "deeming" procedure also goes by the name "the self-executing" procedure, referring to a bill's ability, magically, to execute itself into law. More likely, if this procedure is used, the "self-executing" will refer to those House members who support it. It's also called the "Slaughter" provision - and that, too, may have a prophetic element to it.

Let's face it: Democrats want this bill because of the control it gives them over the private sector of American life. But they don't want to take responsibility for it. We can almost imagine House members, as the dust settles after using this procedure, Saul-like, before their constituents back home: "I didn't vote for the health care bill; the Senate, they..." And so on.

It is not comforting to know that the affairs of the nation and the common weal are in the hands of spineless, self-serving schemers, or that our self-proclaimed Christian president would allow such a blatantly dishonest and deceitful tactic to be used in the pursuit of his agenda.

T. M. Moore

The Art of Politics

March 22, 2010


As of this writing we're still awaiting the final House vote on health care reform, although, with the President's "cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die" executive order promise to Bart Stupak, the outcome seems anticlimactic. It's pretty clear that, by the time you read this, health care reform will be the law of the land.

This past year of the Obama Administration has focused the attention of the American people on the politics of Washington, D. C., like few issues I've ever seen. Politics, it is now plain (if it wasn't before), is the art of getting what you want by whatever means is necessary. Politicians are the players, together with those whom they must either manipulate or own in order to secure their desire ends. At bottom, the goal of all political activity is to secure and retain, if not increase, personal power. Politicians are drunk on power - the sense of importance and the perks and deference that come with power are, for those who have tasted it, too alluring to deny or refuse. Once tasted, power must be acquired by every possible means.

All the deals, compromises, off-line agreements, budget fixes, amendments, and assorted other legislative devices are merely ways of gaining and keeping power. You may say you need that $100 million for a hospital in your state, or that break for the elderly or those affected by natural disaster, but it's really all about you, and what you have to do in order to get the people who ceded their political power to you to allow you to keep it and keep expanding it.

The framework of American politics is just; the practice of it is corrupt, encouraging just about every form of self-serving machination anyone can invent to help make sure that everyone gets what they want by whatever means. The abuses are about equally distributed on both sides of the aisle, because the players on both sides are unable to restrain themselves when power is on the line.

I can't help but feel sad for our country as I watch this dance of drunkards cavorting around the halls of Congress and the White House high-fiving one another for their latest achievement. The process sickens me, yet the only way to change it is to stay in it and try to influence for good at least some of the players, so that matters of truth and goodness will one day, hopefully, supplant matters of mere self-interest.

But don't hold your breath. Politics is not the way to lasting change in this or any nation.

T. M. Moore



We have become so accustomed to the language of rights in our society that we're beginning to miss the trap that lies beneath that bait.
Governments move to establish and preserve the rights of certain parties only because those who have particular responsibilities are failing to fulfill them. Take the civil rights movement. Why did the government have to draft civil rights legislation? Because so many people were failing in their responsibility to love their neighbors as themselves - in many cases, even with the approval of their churches. We are our brother's keeper; we have a responsibility to defer to others, care for their needs, acknowledge their instrinsic humanity and dignity, and treat them justly and in love. When many people in our society failed in that responsibility, African-American leaders appealed to government to redress the situation. Government should have struck down unjust laws and admonished churches to do their duty in teaching people to act responsibly as Christians and citizens. Instead, they created a raft of legislation, and have added to it since, along with various court rulings, so that now "rights" are secure and responsibilities are more tightly circumscribed than previously.
The worst part of this process, however, is that the government managed to position itself as the definer and guarantor of rights. Now it makes up rights to suit its own purposes - such as the right to universal health care. Where is that right guaranteed, either in Scripture or the Constitution? Nowhere, but by defining and now legislating that right, government makes itself the arbiter of what the right consists of and how it is to be enjoyed. This is done not so much for the sake of any real rights, but so that government can flex and extend its power over the electorate (together, of course, will all the perks that come with having such power).
Soon enought the electorate, at least, significant numbers of them, will begin to enjoy this right. Then, when government wants more reach and grasp, it will invent another right - the right, let's say, for every American to have free Internet access. Then it can require every American to purchase a computer and subscribe to a service, every small business to go WiFi, and every person with an income over $250K to pay for it through taxation. It may even step in to "oversee" Internet access and traffic, just, you know, to ensure that this "right" is protects. Those who are the beneficiaries of that "right" won't soon want to give it up. Neither will those who get the taste of federally-underwritten health care.
At some point we need to begin stressing responsibility again, beginning with children and young people. But they're not likely to listen too closely if those who teach them aren't acting responsibly in every area of life. It may be too late to make that "old fashioned" argument, but teaching responsibility comports better with Scripture and the Christian worldview than does the language of rights. Rights are dangerous, because they can be extended and withheld by whoever grants them. Responsibility must never be set aside - especially given that one day we will all be held accountable before the Judge of all men for the stewardship we have exercised over our responsibilities, and not for the extent to which we have secured all our "rights."
T. M. Moore

Words and the Word

March 26, 2010
I spent a good part of yesterday catching up on some of my journals and periodicals. I must have read a dozen articles in three or four different publications.

There was an interesting article about the competition in ebooks now that Apple's iPad is out to rival Amazon's Kindle. A musing on how inflation might be just the thing to cure our national debt. A piece by a writer about his early years as a literary agent (so to speak). An assessment about the state of marriage in America. Four or five poems - one about trout fishing, with intimations of transcendence.

Now all these pieces were interesting; however, none of them really matters. Nothing is going to change as a result of the thousands of words these writers bothered to inscribe in their separate periodicals. But there they are anyway. A writer's gotta write, I suppose, even if his words are little more than trivial. Makes me wonder why people like me pay good money to subscribe to journals of so little consequence.

But maybe having no consequence is the point? Do writers just need to write, as if writing were an end in itself? Do we need to keep saying to ourselves, over and over, "There's this and that, and those things over there; and while none of it matters in the long run, well, there it is." Is the art of living just a matter of observing, reflecting, and commenting, without any thought of why or to what end?

And what about conversation? Do people just talk to fill up dead space with meaningless vocalizations to act like they're interested in one another?

People of the Word should be careful with their words, don't you think? Both the words they consume and the ones they produce. The Word of God tells us that everything matters and that we will be accountable for every word we speak. Perhaps we should consider the implications of that for how we use our words day-in and day-out?

Do your words matter? You who read and study the Word of God, do you consider your words carefully, deploy them adeptly, and bolster them with additional words aimed at the same purposeful result? Do I?

A Gresham's Law of words is threatening to bury meaning-full discourse in our day. The least we, the people of the Word, can do is to make sure our words are thoughtfully chosen and fitly spoken, no matter what the subject of our speech or writing might be.

T. M. Moore

Invest Now!

March 29, 2010
The tentative state of all things economical has spawned more commercials for banks, investment houses, and retirement programs than I've seen in a long time. The message sounds a little like, "Hurry! While you still have some money! Invest now!"

Undoubtedly there is wisdom in seeking to make the best decisions about long-term financial needs. So I don't begrudge these commercials; they're just trying to encourage people not to get so bogged down in the present gloom that they lose sight of the light they'll want to have at the end of the tunnel.

Actually, this is a message I'd like to hear more of from churches. Not with a financial focus, of course, but with a view to eternal rewards. The focus in churches these days seems to be, in large part, on trying to get as much as we can from God here and now, whether what we seek is material prosperity or just peace of mind. The faith of Christ is, in the main, presented as proffering something for everyone, whatever you need (within certain moral bounds, of course).

But, "Hurry! Invest now!" is really the Lord's message to all who choose to follow Him - right out of the parable of the talents (Matt. 25.14-30). The servant who was most commended was the one who, having received his endowment, "immediately" set about working to create a return on investment for the Master.

Everything we have comes to us from the grace of God. None of it is our own. We are not our own. We belong to the Lord, and He calls us to invest everything we have and are, all we say and do, every relationship, role, and responsibility, toward bringing the knowledge of the glory of God to light in our everyday lives.

Whatever lies ahead of you today, whatever you do with whatever you have, "Hurry! Invest now in the Kingdom of God!" The servant in that parable who did not follow this tack, you will recall, was the one from whom his endowment was taken, and he was cashiered.

T. M. Moore
I think I first began to be aware of how powerful the idea of feelings had become in our society back in the early '70s. Olivia Newton-John sang, "I love you, I honestly love you" in a breathless voice that seemed so sincere. Then she explained that she knew this was a true and genuine love because "it's comin' from my heart and not my head."

Thus she enthroned the idea that if you feel something really strongly - "honestly", as it were - it must be true. Feelings have become more reliable for many people than even sound reason. Christians are not exempt from this folly.

Matthew Mutter provides a solid overview of the state of thinking about feelings in a review article in the current issue of The Hedgehog Review. In a survey of recent scholarship on feelings Mutter explores the wide range of ideas about what feelings are, how we can assess them, what is the nature of their relationship to reason, and so forth. It's clear that, even at the highest levels of thinking about feelings, we're as confused today as we've ever been.

Mr. Mutter suggests that what would help all this muddle is if we could decide on some moral framework for thinking about feelings. This is what Jonathan Edwards supplied in his work, A Treatise on the Religious Affections - still the best book you'll ever read about emotions, why they matter, how they work, and how to discipline them for godly living.

Simply feeling some way is no valid criterion for acting according to your feelings. The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked (Jer. 17.9). We need to keep a close watch over our feelings, in order to make sure that they do their proper part in helping us to serve the Lord (Prov. 4.23). Feelings are important, and the world is confused about them today. So perhaps there is an open door of opportunity for Christians here, to rediscover the proper role of feelings in our lives, and to fine tune our feelings in such a way as to show the love of God to our neighbors. Edwards is as good a place to start as you'll find.

T. M. Moore
The Fox News network is the most powerful and influential cable news network in the world. Two of its star commentators, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, are near the top of their field. Each of them commands a large following, both on television and through talk radio; each is devoted to a conservative political agenda; and there is in the programming of each them an overtone of revival that, we might think, would cheer a revival-hungry heart like mine.

But it does not. The view of revival hawked by Glenn Beck is misguided and misleading, and the self-serving way that Sean Hannity promotes revival is flatly offensive.

Beck's program on Fox News is routinely filled with all kinds of God-talk, especially when he harangues his audience about the faith of America's founders. He has even created icons of three of the founders with the words, "faith, hope, and charity", inscribed beneath them. Beck wants a revival of the civil religion that became the faith of America early in the 19th century and survived until the 60s. He's not really interested in a genuine revival of God's Spirit in His Church.

Hannity has a vulgar way, in "comforting" his audience, of saying "let not your heart be troubled" as he smiles his reassuring smile (Sean has landed; the situation is well in hand), as though Sean Hannity were the key to overcoming our present fears and discovering the way to a new future.

I find each of these men offensive, misleading, and misguided - which is not to say that I don't agree with much of what they preach. America does not need a revival of civil religion, and we don't need demagogic pundits who think their latest book is the answer to all our needs to rally us toward a conservative political renaissance.

America needs genuine revival, and genuine revival is God's work, which we must seek from Him in prayer. For if we do not, we will not be revived, and, given the state of things economically and morally in this weary land, not even a conservative renaissance will stay the hand of judgment against us.

T. M. Moore
Everywhere I look, the nation feels adrift. Politically, we're more untethered from our founding concepts and ideals than we've ever been. The economy is in a state of flux, obviously. Even though Wall Street seems to be on a rally, it's difficult to tell if this is the harbinger of a true economic rebound or just the effects of artificial government props and promises. The schools are devoted to relativism, materialism, and individualism; pop culture undermines long-standing values and all things non-trivial; the nature of the family is up for grabs; and the churches are more marginal than they've ever been.

And, of course, there's more. The Republicans, meanwhile, intend to make a run for the Congress by focusing on everything about President Obama that they're against. Very inspiring. The Tea Party Movement continues to grow, but they don't seem to have many serious ideas or people in their entourage. The only clear and resolute vision for the country is emanating from the White House, and, increasingly, most Americans are not in favor.

A people without a vision becomes grasping and opportunistic; we hold on to whatever is familiar and seems secure as we lunge for whatever promises to deliver us from whatever we dislike or fear. No one seems to have a vision to capture the imagination of the American people. This is the fruit of a generation devoted to the pursuit of self. Self and the satisfaction of its needs does not a compelling vision make for the nation as a whole. And where there is no vision, the result isn't pretty.

Shame on the churches of the land, and, in particular, the preachers. Why is there no vision resonating from the pulpits of the land such as moved our forebears to stand up for liberty even at the cost of their fortunes and lives? If this country continues to unravel as it has over the last two generations, don't blame the politicians, and don't blame the Wall Street financiers. At least, not in the first instance. Blame the churches, and especially blame the preachers of God's Word. Here is a Word filled with hope, wisdom, and power for newness, reconciliation, righteousness, peace, and joy. But, for some reason, we don't hear much of that, nothing like a vision for the revival of the Church, the renewal of the nation, and the awakening of the world.

Those preachers who turn the faith of Christ into a salve for the self will have to give an account one day. Do them - and all of us - a favor: insist that your preacher search the Scriptures for a new and compelling vision of what God might do in our midst, then insist that he preach it and preach it until we begin to hear and are revived.

T. M. Moore

The Shame of Rome

April 07, 2010
I am not one to be a knee-jerk critic of the Roman Catholic Church. As a participant for fifteen years in the discussions known as Evangelicals and Catholics together, I have made many friends within that communion and have come to appreciate - without wholeheartedly embracing - its theology and methods, as well as its heritage and vision.

The sex scandals coming, with increasing regularity, to light within the Church, however, leave me disgusted. Why does it always seem that the Church's first response is to protect the Church from embarrassment, by hushing allegations, moving offending priests away into safer confines, and refusing to discover and resolve whatever the root causes of this horrible evil might be?

The Church in all its communions exists as the Body of Christ to overthrow the works of the devil, not to shelter them. Our first response when sin comes to light must not be to protect offenders but to purify or, that failing, purge them.

How can any communion of Christians expect its message to be taken seriously when the most visible communion acts as shamefully as Rome does each time these perversities come to light? It is time for judgment to begin at the household of God, no matter where it needs to fall. And let the other communions of the Body of Christ take note and take action to cleanse themselves of whatever shameful little secrets they are presently refusing to address.

This is an occasion for tears. All the Body of Christ stands convicted in the shameful actions of one of its members. Do we need yet more evidence, or any more pointed word from the Lord, that the time for repentance has come? If we condemn Rome, while holding on to our own sins, or if Rome treats this latest round of scandal they way it has in the past - only acting with a modicum of justice when they're finally outed - then the Church as a whole will suffer yet more scorn and despite.

If, however, we repent with tears, pleading with God to cleanse and renew us, our tears of sorrow for our sins, coupled with earnest prayer for reviving grace, may bring a season of refreshment at last.

T. M. Moore

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