Tag Archives: Politics

Perturbations and trembling

jeffersons-monticello

Jefferson’s Monticello

As the wired world knows, it’s time for Americans to change Presidents again. Some election years are simply more distasteful than others. I find this particular one a bit more revolting than most, but things settle, and our worst expectations seldom come to pass.

My attempt at glibness notwithstanding, I can’t stop myself from invoking (or obsessing on?) Thomas Jefferson’s words:

“Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep forever.”  (1785)

Truly. But I also reflect on what we as a nation have survived. God is just, and God is also gracious; and his grace is as matchless as it is undeserved.

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Grasshopper hunt (and various extrapolations)

“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. . .”
–W.B. Yeats: The Second Coming

I will be able conscionably to vote for exactly one candidate for office this year, out of all the presumptive hopefuls whose names will fill the federal, state, and local ballots I will receive. I had hoped there would be two, but my state’s admirable Lieutenant Governor decided not to run for a sixth term.

Things could be worse, and they are. For instance, some rough beast driving a huge white truck slouched into Nice, France during a festive celebration of Bastille Day yesterday. As if pretending the crowd were ramparts of the Bastille, he drove along the sidewalk, maniacally slaughtering 84 humans and injuring another 200-plus. This was exactly no one’s finest hour.

My cat Effie  can take down a 2-inch grasshopper, play with it, and consume it in less than half a minute. She possesses raw talent as a huntress, and reveals little evidence of malice or forethought. She descends from animals who killed other creatures for pragmatic reasons, like food, fear, survival. But I will not set up a comparison  between human and animal behavior–it makes me too nuts to think about it. I’ll just say that practically nothing is ever her fault.

P1020119Effie purposefully stalks a trophy-size grasshopper. . .

P1020138and she always gets her bug.

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Thoughtful logic from disparate thinkers

I intend to vote this year, but not for President. Yes, voting for our national leader is a privilege; but when I believe that no virtuous choice is possible, I decline to make a choice that will result in an earnest need for repentance.

I find support for my position from two very different thinkers, having read extensively from the work of both. The first is a Christian; the other is an atheist. Both arrive at the same conclusion concerning good and evil, although they have some significant disparities as to what constitutes good and evil.

“Of two evils, choose neither.”—Charles Haddon Spurgeon

“The lesser of two evils is evil.”–Ayn Rand
(Rand also cited “the evil of two lessers.”)

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Are all of our presidents going to be brambles?

As I was reading Judges last night, I suddenly realized Jotham’s parable of the trees at Chapter 9, vv. 7-15 bears an alarming allusion to our own American political time. Jotham’s insinuation tracks closely a suspicion long harbored by many Americans: the suspicion that those who desire power are those who have nothing better to do with their lives.

7 Now when they told Jotham, he went and stood on top of Mount Gerizim, and lifted his voice and cried out. And he said to them:
“Listen to me, you men of Shechem,
That God may listen to you!

8 “The trees once went forth to anoint a king over them.
And they said to the olive tree,
‘Reign over us!’

9 But the olive tree said to them,
‘Should I cease giving my oil,
With which they honor God and men,
And go to sway over trees?’

10 “Then the trees said to the fig tree,
‘You come and reign over us!’

11 But the fig tree said to them,
‘Should I cease my sweetness and my good fruit,
And go to sway over trees?’

12 “Then the trees said to the vine,
‘You come and reign over us!’

13 But the vine said to them,
‘Should I cease my new wine,
Which cheers both God and men,
And go to sway over trees?’

14 “Then all the trees said to the bramble,
‘You come and reign over us!’

15 And the bramble said to the trees,
‘If in truth you anoint me as king over you,
Then come and take shelter in my shade;
But if not, let fire come out of the bramble
And devour the cedars of Lebanon!’

New King James Version (NKJV). Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

I admit I think the worst: our coming election is going to be a tangle of brambles. But that is not unusual.

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The day’s observations in (very) brief

Observation #1. Heidi’s recent post on her blog synthesizes some things all Americans—and all who are not Americans but who think they like us, or wonder why specifically they do not like us—should probably understand. When it comes to presumptive morality, economic freedom, justice, ethics, privacy and who and under what circumstances they should have a smidge of it—much is made of the viewpoints of the major political parties. And this is scarcely odd because, parties have no capacity to have viewpoints. They tout “party spirit.” American politics are brimming with party spirit, and utterly void of distinctives. End for now of Observation #1.

Observation #2. I find it curious that Effie seems to love nibbling Russian thistles almost as much as millet. My husband’s theory is that she enjoys the thistles for their artichoke flavor. I remain skeptical; I’m not so sure cats have an affinity for artichokes, but maybe it’s an acquired taste. I will continue to observe this; it’s kind of adorably bucolic. (Effie refused to nibble thistles when I brought my camera.) P1000639R

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Extraordinary activities

Suddenly I find myself doing things that for me are probably beyond the unusual and well into the extraordinary. I doubt it has much if anything to do with the emphatic assertion of Fall. But the thermometer displayed its red line only to the 40° mark this morning: its first such display since last year’s leaves began to bronze.

It was extraordinary for me to watch the Presidential debate. It was extraordinary because I have no interest in the election. Gay marriage vs. magic underwear—who cares? Still, the debate interested me. I got to see a surprisingly kinetic candidate I had previously thought was in early algor mortis; and I saw a stiffly braced candidate I had previously thought of as kinetic but insubstantive, looking very resentful to no real advantage. I don’t know why these things interested me, but they did. But I still can’t get past the magic underwear thing.

It’s extraordinary for me to fill out financial aid forms, but if the hospital wants to reduce my bill for my two extraordinary visits, I will go the extra mile and ask them to.

It’s extraordinary for me to read an entire book on history. I’ve tended to attribute my indifference to the subject to poor writing on the subject. I’m reasonably well versed through the Bronze Age, but my conversancy takes a dive from there. And now, here am I, 24% through Churchill’s second volume on World War II. What next? Volume 3. It’s amazing how an educated person in this country can know nothing about the events most impacting her parents’ generation, except the gruesome details of the concentration camps. And I know I’m not the only American like me. That’s probably why our country is still acting like a dumb little kid standing in the snow without his boots on, throwing snowballs with all his might.

I’m also reading Les Miserables; I have been reading it since June. It is extraordinary that I would spend four months reading a novel, but it is long and I have been reading other things concurrently. Now that I am 92% of the way through Hugo’s monumental tome that touches on every conceivable aspect of life except the reality of divine sovereign grace, I am starting to think I don’t like the book after all. But I will finish it, because I am a finisher.

I can’t think of anything else going on that’s particularly extraordinary, even for me.

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How to Survive the Coming Campaign Year: a Pictorial Primer

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Lessons from Gilgal

Saul had been king of Israel only two years when he made the big mistake that ultimately cost him his kingdom. He was to wait for Samuel at Gilgal; for Samuel, as priest, had the exclusive charge of making the burnt offerings and sacrifices of peace offerings (1 Samuel 10:8). But Saul lost heart and disobeyed Samuel’s order, and when Samuel was delayed, Saul offered the sacrifices himself (1 Samuel 13:7-9). Saul’s disobedience resulted in God’s withdrawal of His grace from Saul’s kingdom (1 Samuel 13:13-14).

Kings are not to be priests, and vice versa. Christ, after the order of Melchizedek, is the sole exception. People don’t always like it, but that’s because we are rebellious sinners who favor our own will over God’s; and let’s face it: kings and aspiring kings are willful people.

Throughout the New Testament, the proper environment of prayer is within one’s church assembly and within one’s closet. Prayer is never represented as the purview of political leaders or aspirants. It is appropriate, and indeed necessary, to pray for one’s leaders and one’s country, for the mercy of rain, or any other good. And these prayers properly occur within churches and in private. Public prayer is, in fact, associated with hypocrisy (Matthew 6:5-6).

I don’t want to get too much into this, but here is a column by someone with whom in this case I am in substantial accord on the subject.

(Shep — I’m trying to KMPD….)

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prisoner of hope

I was thinking recently about hope, with some fairly random thoughts circulating, like planetary rings, around some sort of core of specificity, but they didn’t come into focus until I was reading Lamentations this morning. The streets of Jeremiah’s Jerusalem somehow began to trigger an image of Europe’s imaginable future, a grim image set off by the mayhem of London’s recent riots. Brits are not emotional, downturn-crazed Greeks. The riots that made me wonder where Mayor Sam Yorty was when we needed him were ignited by the architects of our republic. And it made me specifically nervous. How close the push in my country is to a shove, and when the shove might come, I couldn’t bring myself to consider.

But something stayed my mind from wandering too far, a sensibility I too seldom grant landing rights. It was murky at first, like a large but flawed diamond, but I recognized the sensibility as hope. And providentially, hope was all over the pages I was reading today.

Jeremiah grieves the horrific, barbarous destruction and humiliation of his beloved city and people. In anguish he recites his lament to the God who has filled him with bitterness and made him drink wormwood (Lamentations 3:15). But then, his anguish is quickly displaced by hope. He remembers his “affliction and roaming, the wormwood and the gall” (v. 19). Then he comes to himself. “My soul still remembers and sinks within me. This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not” (v. 20-22). Jeremiah continues with a discourse praising God’s goodness and mercy.

Later, I was reading a book on prayer by Matthew Henry, and he was talking about God’s covenant with His people, citing Zechariah 9:12, “Return to the stronghold, you prisoners of hope. Even today I declare that I will restore double to you.” Our God of wonders — our Stronghold — makes His people prisoners of hope. Mercifully, there is no escape from hope.

I have been indifferent as non-solutions are proffered and applied to the economy, like so much paste wax, because we are too afraid to let go of failed monetarism and bear a season of acute pain until we settle into a market-driven economy. Yes, I actually live in a state of diehard hope of such a thing, but it is not a sure hope. But Russia did it, and now Russia has a sound economy, while the United States is compared to Greece and Venezuela. If pride alone gets us back on track, then good for pride.

I’ve been equally indifferent to all the campaigns and debates. Scoffers malign Ron Paul for telling the truth in a way reminiscent of the treatment received by Jeremiah the prophet, whose words came true. I have hope that Ron Paul will be President, but not a sure hope.

Our money may fail, atrocities may strike our cities, and Ron Paul most likely will never be President. There isn’t anything I can do about any of it. For prisoners of hope, the war goes on, within ourselves, “casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

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From the quiet road: thoughts on immigration policy

I was walking a short length of our quiet rural street, looking at the hills and the maybe thousand cattle on them that are God’s, feeling grateful that a neighbor’s dog could multitask — he could bark and stand still behind his fence and wag his tail at the same time — while thinking thoughts of frustration and perplexity about the so-called immigration problem currently fueling people who are aspiring to be problem-solver-in-chief.

True, as a sovereign nation, and may we by God’s grace always be one, we have an absolute right to establish borders. And true again, we can’t have non-citizens voting in our elections. But some citizens vote more than once, and some felons who have lost their right to vote, vote anyway, and some non-citizens vote, too. Stuff falls through the cracks all the time and our house is kind of a mess. But we don’t get into multiple voting scandals, and we don’t resort to felon-bashing, at least not interminably, after an election result we don’t like. Nepotism threatens jobs and people ignore it. If immigrants are seen as threatening jobs, people become hateful about it. What people seem to want to perpetuate is alien-bashing.

Granted, I live in a small northwestern town of about 7000 people, and we don’t exactly have an overwhelming international presence. But I’ve lived in cities like Houston and Tacoma and San Diego, where an entirely different demographic is represented, and I felt the same way there as I do here. You don’t swap out a set of ethics according to your environmental circumstances. Or at least, I think you shouldn’t. But what I find specifically frustrating about alien-bashing is that it typically is perpetrated by otherwise liberty-minded people who seem not to get the obvious consequences.

The obvious consequences of immigration-enforcing laws like Arizona has, and like Alabama desires to have, and of policies espoused by all conservative and supposedly liberty-minded candidates right now, is that such law and policy tends to promote an environment of suspicion. We’re going to question people who give people rides? How can you tell a first generation natural-born American from his immigrant, undocumented parent? Everyone becomes a suspect. And an environment of suspicion is conducive to a police state, because we need to have authoritative questioners to examine suspicious people.

In other words, if we like the TSA groper routine, we’ll love a state of constant suspicion and the force authorized to check it out as a routine presence in every personal sphere we move in. We can all multitask, just like my neighbor’s dog: we can be citizen informants and citizen suspects at the same time.

It’s annoying when anyone breaks the law with impunity, no less if they are an illegal alien, but no more, either. But a well-regulated police state to enforce what might not be the most harmful problem facing our nation doesn’t strike me as the most charming scenario. I haven’t been in an airport since 1998, and I desire less than ever to fly, because I have no desire to be an a priori suspect simply because I am flying. So no, I’m not big on having TSA types in my local mall.

If our economy and our tax policies generate class conflicts, that is an unfortunate thing; but it would be far more unfortunate if those conflicts became fueled by racial hatred for the status crime of existing somewhere without permission.

I estrange friends every election year. I never look forward to these things.

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