Thursday, June 26, 2008

Open Letter to George Bush

Dear President Bush,

You have really let us down. Half the country voted for you in two elections, which you narrowly won. We had hopes that you, as a businessman and oil man, would address the energy situation. Seven years after 9/11, you have done nothing and now the oil producers have this country by the balls (I don’t know how else to put it). We are in the process of paying a terrible penalty for you (as well as 5 previous presidents) doing nothing to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

With a Republican majority in both houses, we had hopes you would accomplish something of substance, that you would begin to solve the many problems facing this country. Instead you got us involved in a costly war that we have no business being in. Like many other wars in recent history, this war in Iraq may cause as many problems as it solves, if it even solves anything at all.

You don’t know what I mean? Of course you don’t. I’ll give you an example. By eliminating Saddam Hussein, you have upset the balance of power in the Middle East. Iraq was a counter-force to Iran. Now Iran has nobody to fear, so it may become a bigger threat than Iraq ever was.

Because of your poor performance as president, you have effectively destroyed the Republican Party’s chances for the foreseeable future. In all fairness, I have to say a do-nothing Republican Congress helped seal their own fate. The Republicans’ only hope is that the people will vote out the do-nothing Democratic Congress, and may be too scared of Obama’s far left leanings that they will vote for a “safer” candidate, McCain.

Mr. President, I don’t know if you are a moron or evil – probably a little bit of both. I’m afraid you’ll go down in history as one of our worst presidents. You wanted to leave a legacy, and you did, but not the kind you wanted. You hoped to be ranked with Lincoln, Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt, but instead you’ll be there with Andrew Johnson and Herbert Hoover. History will judge you harshly, and it’s your own stupid fault.

Let us pray that our future leadership will be morally and ethically upright, will be honest and open with the people, and will have the courage to begin to solve the very tough problems facing this country. Let us pray that the citizens of this country will be willing to do what it takes to get this country back on track, and they will be willing to make the sacrifices and compromises necessary. Let us also pray to Almighty God for his mercy and grace upon a nation that has ignored him, ridiculed him, has been apathetic towards him, yet feels it deserves peace and prosperity.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Dobson vs. Obama

Dr. James Dobson, child psychologist, founder of Focus on the Family, and a leader of the so-called Religious Right, recently went on the attack against Obama. I haven’t heard or read the transcripts of his radio broadcasts in which he criticized Obama, but I am somewhat familiar with what he said. I want to make a few points on this.

(1) First, Dobson is within his rights to criticize Obama any way he wants. We still have freedom of speech and freedom of the press in this country. One can quibble about the nature of his criticism (which I’ll do in a minute) but not the fact that he has every right to criticize a candidate. Also remember, Dobson is not a clergyperson, doesn’t pastor a church, and is not speaking for the ministry of Focus on the Family, but as a private citizen.

(2) Second, I have a problem with the nature of some of the criticism (this is the quibble part). For example, Dobson found fault with Obama’s interpretation of the Bible in a number of instances. This assumes, of course, that Dobson has the only one, true, accurate and infallible interpretation. While I believe in interpreting Scripture according to the traditional understanding handed down since apostolic times and from the Patristic writers, as well as from a common sense reading of the text, there are various interpretations of the Bible based on denomination and other factors. While all interpretations can’t be right, we can’t be certain our interpretation is the absolute correct one.

(3) Third, another reason I believe Dobson was out of order in his critique of Obama’s theology (as well as his comments about McCain’s) is that we must focus on policy positions, not theology. Look at the voting record, and that gives you a pretty good indication of a person’s policy positions (regardless of what they might say). If you look at religion or theology, you may very well become misled. George Bush, an evangelical Christian, waged a pre-emptive war, probably misled the public, and has in general been a terrible president. John Kerry, a “good” Catholic according to what he told us in the last election, does not follow his own church’s teachings on abortion.

In conclusion, we aren’t electing the theologian-in-chief, we aren’t electing the pope, we aren’t electing a religious leader. We are electing the commander-in-chief, a secular job. A candidate’s positions on issues may be informed by his or her faith and we should understand that, but we should mainly focus on positions based primarily voting records, and not necessary what a candidate says (because they’ll say anything to get elected), and not even on a candidate’s religion, theology, or pastor.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Be Prepared

In earlier posts I have referred to tough times coming. I firmly believe we face serious challenges ahead. We must be prepared emotionally, physically, and spiritually. See my earlier posts on this subject.

What I didn’t address in earlier posts is how to be physically prepared. By “physically” I am referring to materially and financially. I have a few thoughts on this, which you can take or leave. I’m no financial expert, but you can judge for yourself whether this is good advice given your situation.


Since the stock market will be volatile and may lose significant value over time as the economy get worse (as I suspect it will), I’d put my money in more conservative and safe investments. You could be super-safe and put your money in insured certificates of deposit. They may not even keep up with inflation but at least they won’t lose value. I depends on how much risk you want to take, and how old you are.

Reduce your debt now, because you will have even less money to pay down your debt as the cost of all forms of energy continues to rise. Reduce your debt, even if it requires significant sacrifice. If you can, put more into savings to hold you over in case you lose your job. If you don’t lose your job, then you have an emergency fund, a college fund, or a retirement fund. You can’t lose!


Much of our food comes by truck, and there could very well be disruptions in deliveries because of fuel shortages, trucker protests, or other reasons. I would stock up on non-perishables. If you have young children, stock up on powdered milk and things they can eat. Stockpile dried beans, canned goods, packaged rice, and other foods to last you at least a couple of weeks. Also make sure you don’t get low on toilet paper, disposable diapers (if you use them), paper towels, detergent, and other things you need on a daily basis. Buying in bulk at one of the price clubs almost guarantees you’ve got a good supply, just replenish before they get too low.

Finally, continue to pray for our country, that these things won’t happen. Pray for God’s protection for this country, your community, and your family.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Selfish Americans

I wrote in an earlier post that if this country is to move forward with respect to being greener and more energy independent, we “must overcome two syndromes: the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) syndrome when it comes to wind and nuclear, and this unrealistic fear of nuclear power.”

Everybody wants cleaner air and cheaper gas, but nobody wants to make a sacrifice to get there. Instead we whine about the high cost of gas while continuing to buy SUVs and resist anything that might help the country at a whole but inconvenience us peresonally. I think the SUV is the symbol of American self-centeredness, with the Hummer the ultimate icon of ostentation. Why do I pick on the SUV?

(1) People buy them because “I can see so much better from up there.” Right, but what about the vehicles behind you? Unless you’re in an 18 wheeler, you can’t see anything but the tailgate of one of those monstrosities when you’re behind one.

(2) People buy them because “I feel so safe” surrounded by all that steel. Wonderful, but what if you hit a smaller vehicle with one of those behemoths? You’re safe (unless the thing rolls over, which they tend to do) but the people in the other vehicle are more likely to be severely injured.

(3) People buy them not caring that they are burning precious non-renewable resources, plus polluting the air more than a car burning a lot less per mile traveled. So much for caring about future generations and the quality of the air. Why somebody needs such an enormous vehicle to haul groceries is beyond me.

If we are reduced to a Third World country because of all the problems facing us, with the main risk being severe fuel shortages, then the SUV would be the symbol of our decline. When I see somebody gassing up their SUV to the tune of $80 or more, I really can’t work up any sympathy for them. Sorry, but it’s your own fault for buying one of those.

I am writing about this because I feel it is a moral issue in any number of ways. Right now, we are taking food and making fuel from it, causing price increases that hurt the poor, many of whom can barely afford to live even at a subsistence level. We are hurting ourselves and future generations by our profligate ways.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Marketplace

When politicians don’t do anything to fix a problem, often the marketplace does it instead. Often the marketplace does it better, although usually slower than government actions. We are seeing the marketplace at work right now as people adjust to the “new normal” of expensive energy.

People are driving less, buying more efficient cars, and industry is working hard to develop new methods of propulsion for cars. General Motors has the Volt, an all-electric car coming out sometime in the future, and hybrids are proliferating. To accelerate the process of becoming not only greener but oil independent as soon as possible, I believe some government intervention is necessary.

Tax incentives and disincentives have been historically used by government to promote social policy. While sales of SUVs and other gas guzzlers are down, a gas guzzler tax would accelerate their demise.

I believe that that government must establish an electrical energy policy that promotes nuclear energy, and tax incentives to rebuild and strengthen our electrical grid. If we’re going to have more and more electric cars, continue to run our electrical appliances and computers, and still want to cut back on carbon emissions, our whole electrical system must be overhauled. I’m of the opinion that nuclear power generation – correctly done, properly controlled, and technical obstacles overcome – is the wave of the future.

Passive energy sources (wind, solar, etc.) will play only a minor part, but of course must be included in the equation. In order to accomplish these goals, this country must overcome two syndromes: the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) syndrome when it comes to wind (it wrecks my view) and nuclear (we’re gonna get fried from the radiation), and this unrealistic fear of nuclear power (we’re gonna die!). Properly done (as the French do it), nuclear power is safe, clean, and reliable.

In the short term, we should not let this country be controlled by a bunch of radical environmentalists. We must drill in new areas to meet domestic demand and stabilize oil prices in this country. Prices won’t come down, but we can slow the increases. We must remember that new drilling, while critical, is merely a stopgap measure until we start using less petroleum and become oil independent.

In conclusion, I believe the marketplace and wise government policy (and not bowing to special interests) will get this country back on track. If not, then God help us.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Tough Times Coming (Part II)

I’ve talked about preparing for tough times– let me explain what I mean. First of all, there are personal tough times which we all experience, such as the death of a loved one, a terrible diagnosis, loss of a job, things like that. Second, there are the tough times caused by national or global events, such as those which caused the Great Depression and World War II. Those global or national events affect everyone personally as well: disrupting lives, causing economic hardship, loss of loved ones, and so on.

As I said in an earlier post, I’m not usually a pessimist and I’m not an alarmist, but I am not at all optimistic these days because of some of the trends I see in this country and in the world. There could be a convergence of a number of trends, that when taken all together, may possibly result in an economic crisis in our lifetime (see my earlier post). I’m not saying this to scare you, but so that you and I are prepared spiritually and emotionally for what might lie ahead in the not-too-distant future. Who knows whether these will cause a serious and prolonged economic downturn or not? We just don’t know, but they could, and you and I should be prepared.

Of course expensive energy has become the “new normal” and we’ll have to adapt to it (people already are making changes in their driving habits, which is good). It’s a question of what else might happen that could put the economy into a tailspin.

Build Up Your Faith

So what should we do to prepare for the possibility of tough economic times? Most of all, you and I need to be mentally, emotionally, spiritually and economically prepared for any circumstances that might occur. From my perspective, being prepared spiritually is the most important, because if you’re spiritually strong, the other things will pretty much fall into place. We should continue to build up our faith by spending more time with God: in regular worship, in daily prayer, and in Bible study.

As our faith grows by the grace of God, we will be in a better position to deal with adversity, just as our parents and grandparents were during the 1930’s and 1940’s. As we develop a closer relationship with God, he will change our attitudes, our priorities, and our hearts. As transformed people, we will be better able to do what Jesus said in Matthew 6:33:

“But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” NRSV

Some of us may have learned that verse this way:

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” NKJV

So let us commit to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and trust that all else will be provided to us by God according to our needs.

Let me be clear on this point: our faith and trust in God won’t spare us from some amount of hardship, suffering, and even worry. But if we take that worry to God in prayer, he will reduce the worry and stress. God will help us through whatever tough times may come our way. As believers, you and I aren’t immune from trials, but we are helped by God, and we have this promise from Hebrews 13:5b: Be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” NRSV

Even in the midst of sacrifice, we should also be thankful to God, and be content with what we have – even if it is less than we had before. We have to remember that we are still better off than most of the world. Let me end with a psalm of encouragement from Psalm 34:4-10:

I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
he saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them.

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.
Fear the Lord, you his saints,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. NIV

As you and I know, God may not give us everything we want, but he will make sure we have all that we need. So I’m not going to worry. I trust in the Lord, and I am confident he will take care of me, because he’s done so in the past in many ways. I hope you’re trusting in the Lord as well.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Tough Times Coming (Part I)

One of the reasons there will most likely be tough economic times coming is that for the past 30 years, six presidents and Congress have done little in those problem areas listed below. Obama now promises “change”, something that every president promises but rarely delivers.

What we as voters must do is make sure “change” really does take place. We can no longer have business as usual if we are to survive as the nation we believe we are. We must hold our representatives in Congress and the statehouses accountable. We must pin down the presidential candidates regarding specifics – what will you do to make this country energy independent, for example?

Obama gave a rousing speech in St. Paul on Tuesday night, filled with platitudes but no specifics. He and McCain must give specifics, and then we the voters must hold them to it. We may not like some of their solutions to these problems, but we as a people must be willing to make sacrifices for the common good. We can’t go on as we have been. These problems must be fixed now – we can’t wait any longer.

I’m not usually a pessimist, and I’m definitely not an alarmist.

However, I am not at all optimistic these days because of some of the things I see happening in this country and in the world.

I believe there is a convergence of a number of trends, that when taken all together, could possibly result in a severe economic crisis in our lifetime.

· The high cost of energy, which causes everything else to become more expensive;

· The higher cost of food, resulting from both higher energy costs and the diverting of corn and wheat to the making of ethanol;

· The higher costs for other things, reducing people’s buying power and creating the risk of inflation;

· Our dependence on foreign sources for oil, with the risk of serious disruptions in supply, with not enough domestic supply to fall back on;

· Disruptions in the oil supply could result in disruptions in the food supply and other critical items that are transported by truck;

· The unfavorable trade balance resulting from importing about 60% of our oil and buying so many foreign made products;

· The offset to this unfavorable trade balance is significant foreign investment in the US, which if pulled out, would have devastating economic consequences.

· Our continued exporting of jobs overseas, which results in either unemployment or under-employment (again reducing buying power);

· Running a huge federal budget deficit, which is unhealthy for the economy and limits what the government can do to help get us out of a recession;

· The large national debt, which will cause hardship when we start to pay it down;

· A social security problem that, when finally addressed, will cause taxes to go up significantly;

· A deteriorating and often inadequate infrastructure (roads, electric grid, bridges, etc.) that will cost a lot to fix because of decades of neglect (and the money that was supposed to go into funds to pay for upgrades was diverted to other uses by our politicians who used them to pay for their favorite projects instead of the purposes for which they were intended);

· Instability in the Middle East, with all the risks that it implies.

I’m not saying these things to scare you, but to prepare you spiritually and emotionally for what might lie ahead in the not-too-distant future. More on this in a future post.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Signs, Wonders, Healings, and Driving Out Demons

Some churches are big on what they call signs and wonders. They teach that if you have enough faith, you will be healed of your diseases, and will be able to even drive out demons. I believe they are wrong on this.

I certainly do believe that miracles occur. I believe they occur more frequently than we realize, and many of them either go unnoticed or are attributed to “luck.” One of the more recent miracles occurred on 9/11/2001. When you consider that 40,000 – 50,000 people occupied the World Trade Center complex on any weekday, it is a miracle that less than 10% of that number perished. Of course that is no consolation to those who had loved ones, friends, or coworkers killed or injured ( lost several co-workers), but the fact remains that the casualties were much smaller than one would have expected.

In speaking to survivors, you hear story after story of how someone was running late, someone missed the bus and arrived to work later than usual, someone had to stop and pick up dry cleaning, someone went to vote first, or someone went to an appointment somewhere else that morning. To me, each one of those was a miracle.

Is it that those people who survived 9/11 had more faith than those who didn’t? Of course not. Yet those who preach about signs and wonders tend to base it all on your faith rather than the power of God. It is the power of God that is in operation, of course, but they teach that your faith essentially drives God to make the signs and wonders happen. I don’t believe that is how it works (although there are many who would disagree with me on this).

The problem with such beliefs is that it can put people on a tremendous guilt trip. “If only I had more faith, my wife wouldn’t have died.” “If only I had more faith, I would be healed of this cancer.” You can have tremendous faith, but eventually you are going to die. I don’t believe that the power of your faith heals you, although you certainly should pray to God for healing. Often healing takes the form of acceptance. God in his sovereignty will heal whom he will heal, and won’t heal those whom he won’t heal.

Believing your faith can produce signs and wonders is similar to those who put an emphasis on speaking in tongues (Glossolalia). The belief there is that you haven’t been baptized in the Holy Spirit (and thereby truly saved) unless you can show the outward manifestation of that baptism by speaking in tongues. Again, that puts people on a guilt trip because the faith of those who haven’t been given the gift of tongues isn’t strong enough. It’s unfortunate that Christians are put into this kind of bondage.

We have to remember that God is sovereign, God is merciful, and God’s blessings and salvation can’t be earned. Faith is extremely important, because we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8; Romans 3), but we can’t control or manipulate God by our faith. God works in and through us when we place our faith and trust in Jesus.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Spiritual Life

Many people claim to have a strong faith, but have their own kind of spirituality. Such people don’t attend church regularly, if at all, and say they find God in other ways. In reality, they don’t have much of a spiritual life, which, as far as I’m concerned, should include regular worship, Bible study, daily prayer and devotions, and serving God by being active in some sort of ministry. If they aren’t doing those things, then I’m not quite sure how they’re “finding God.”

I’m not being judgmental with respect to such people, but I believe much of their faith may be more intellectual assent than it is conviction and commitment. While they may be convinced that God exists, God was behind the creation of the universe, and God loves them, there isn’t much evidence of strong belief. They aren’t nourishing their spirit, and so they are, I believe, spiritually stagnant.

I agree with Rick Warren and what he wrote in his book The Purpose Driven Life. I believe that to not only be spiritual but to grow in the faith (whatever your faith tradition), you should be active in the five God-given purposes of life:
· worship (communal worship on a regular basis);
· fellowship (spending time with fellow believers);
· discipleship (growing in the knowledge of God and maturing in the faith);
· ministry (serve in your place of worship or in some kind of ministry or charity);
· evangelism (tell others about God).

I pray that if you claim to be spiritual (and I’m sure you are) but don’t do much to nourish that spirituality, that you will become active in a place of worship in which you feel comfortable.

If you are Catholic, become more active in your church. Don’t just put in your 40 minutes once a week and that’s it.

If you’re Protestant and not regularly attending a church, check out the churches in your town and start becoming active in one that seems to work for you. Attend a Bible study, and become an active member of the church.

If you’ve fallen away from your Catholic religion, either consider going back, or, if you have been completely turned off for whatever reason, try a Protestant Church. You would be comfortable in an Episcopal, Lutheran, or Methodist church because most of them have a more traditional worship style with a liturgy.

If you are Jewish, attend schul more frequently and participate in the synagogue’s activities. You will be blessed.

If you don’t have a faith tradition, check out the churches that seem to have lots of activities. You’ll be surprised how comfortable you will feel in at least one of them, and then make it your church home.