Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Christian and a Liberal: Chapter 2. The Beginning of Wisdom

Chapter 2. The Beginning of Wisdom

Proverbs 4:7 “The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom;
And with all your acquiring, get understanding.”

A large part of my “salvation” experience was connected with political thought. My family was concerned about the world going to hell. Not individuals, but just civilization in general. Political turmoil, threats of communism, fears of a world government. The European Union was getting a start. It had grown to 10 countries by this time, and preachers were equating the situation to Daniel’s end-time prophesy. The new “World Government” was supposed to be this 10-nation confederacy predicted by Daniel as the toes of iron and clay he saw in his dream of the future.

The two big radio influences were Carl McIntyre’s The Old-Time Gospel Hour and Billy James Hargis’ Christian Crusade. Both emphasized the Christian roots of the United States as a nation. Both denounced Communists in government. Both used events of the world as indications that prophesy was being fulfilled and Jesus Christ was about to Return. 

As I said earlier, it was this vision of Bible Prophesy that convinced my family to turn from the gospel vision of the Church of Christ, with its message of salvation by works, to the gospel message of salvation by grace. The furor over the expected return of Christ was not a Baptist phenomenon, and certainly was not limited to the Plymouth Brethren group my family had become associated with. Carl McIntyre’s association with the Bible Presbyterian Church and Hargis’ less apparent denominationalism made the similarity of their messages all the more impressive. 

One big wave of Second Coming excitement was in 1976. Somehow that this was the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence had captured the imaginations of Christians following this anti-communist fundamentalism. 

And I was in the middle of this exuberance and expectation. Christ was coming again!

Cornelius Vanderbreggen happened to be at our church. Vanderbreggen had been an American soldier in Vietnam. His family was Dutch, and he returned to Holland as a missionary, eventually taking on Dutch citizenship so that he would have more freedom in his ministry. 

I remember him as a very personable man. He paid attention to me, which made me look up to him even more. I still have many of his books in my library. 

I know he preached that service, but I don’t remember the sermon. I do know that the general atmosphere was full of talk of the Lord’s return. And after the service he took me aside to talk. He reminded me that the Scripture warns us against thinking we know when the Lord would return. Yes, people were calculating how long it had been since Israel had become a nation. People were looking at other events. People were saying that prophesy was being fulfilled, or was being readied to be fulfilled. 

But Paul had expected the Lord’s return. “Then WE who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we always be with the Lord” (I Thes. 4:17). 

Vanderbreggen reminded me that it was 1900 years after Paul, but Jesus hadn’t come yet. Why did Jesus *have* to come this year? Maybe it would be this year (1976), or maybe next year, or maybe 40 years, or maybe another 2000. He told me that no matter when the Lord came, I should live so that I was ready for Him to come.

Vanderbreggan’s words went to my heart. I saw 1976 pass, and no Second Coming. We also did not go communist, as Hargis and McIntyre were predicting. The Illuminati, the Big Bankers (the Rockefellers), the Council on Foreign Relations — all wrapped up in a package called the “Conspiracy” — were supposed to have this immense wealth and power and were just aching to turn Americans into godless slaves. But it did not happen. 

Second Coming fever continued to rebound every few years with political events surrounding Israel. And afterward, they would recede. But the same people who had gotten excited about them before continued to get excited afterward. Books were continually rewritten to include the latest events and latest scholarship about Bible Prophesy. 

One major Second Coming excitement was around the year 1984. And yes, somehow it all tied in with George Orwell’s book of the same name! Another was tied around the year 2000 because of the second millennium. Of course, someone noted that since Christ was actually born in 4 BC, that maybe it should have happened in 1996!

In the IFB church I used to attend, a very nice older gentleman was always getting excited about the Lord’s Return, and stirred up the congregation with news articles and clippings from newsletters he would get from ministries that focused on Bible Prophesy.

But since that talk with Cornelius Vanderbreggen, I somehow escaped the ups and downs, the rising hopes and disappointments, the emotional exhaustion of the Return of the Lord. I had learned not to share Vanderbreggen’s message with others because they just did not want to hear it. To the Faithful it sounded like unbelief. But for all the faith that people poured into their hopes, for all the prayers they prayed, the Lord Jesus hasn’t come yet.

It is now 2014. That talk was 38 years ago. I do not expect the Lord to return any time soon. He can if He wants to, of course. That is His business. I won’t be disappointed if He does.


But over the years, seeing “Bible Prophesy” ministries go at it over and over again and always get it wrong, it has made me rethink the whole notion of Bible Prophesy. I will talk more about it later, I promise. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Christian and a Liberal - Chapter 1 Part 2

I was 16. I was a Christian. I was Saved. I was zealous. The preacher saw potential for me to become a preacher someday. And since my parents were homeschooling me (as other parents in that group did with their children!), it wasn't too hard to feed me books and books and more books.

Along with the themes of the Faith came themes of Politics. The group was very fond of Carl McIntyre and Billy James Hargis. They preached against sex, drugs, rock and roll, communism, liberalism, mainline churches, evolution, welfare and every side item where they saw a Conspiracy to Enslave America. This was 40 years ago, mind you. 

My mom subscribed to lots and lots of conservative and religious papers, got lots of pamphlets, and insisted that we kids (me and my two younger sisters, but particularly me) devour them as well. My aunt joined the John Birch Society, and we got lots of their books. 

My dad retired from the military and Spokane was our permanent home. We found a small house in which to live. Dad got a job as a security guard. We attended Church. We were homeschooling. Except for church we didn’t get out too much.

Virgil was an important man in the church. I can’t remember if he was married. I think he wasn’t. If he was, his wife so faded into the background as to not be noticeable. He took a liking to me. My dad liked him.

But Virgil *was* active in politics, an active participant in the local Republican Party. He had associated side interests as well -- particularly the Militia movement, also known as the Posse Commitatus. 

Eastern Washington State and Western Idaho has long been a hotbed of white supremacists. One way they reinforce and pass along their ideology is through their fervent devotion to guns, arming themselves against the day when they believe the Federal Government will come to enslave them.

They *do* believe that day is coming. It has pretty much always been immanent, just around the corner as it were. Their conspiracy theories postulate that the Federal Government has plans to completely take over every aspect of their lives, remove their weapons, and leave them as powerless slaves. Mix that belief with the Apocalyptic Vision of the Great Tribulation, the Mark of the Beast, the Rapture, and Christ coming back to establish His Kingdom, and you have a potent anti-world view. 

Virgil arranged to take me to one of the rallies the Posse Commitatus in Idaho was having. People carried and displayed their guns proudly. Books were sold. Teaser pamphlets were given away. The Time was Coming.

The only real, Constitutional law was the Sheriff. The Posse Commitatus was supposed to be the true law enforcement mechanism in each county. The Federal Government was illegal. The Declaration of Independence was more important than the Constitution. Certain Constitutional Amendments, such as the one allowing the Income Tax were "proven" to have been illegally ratified and thus had no force of law. Books were sold on how to not pay income taxes, providing legal documents one could submit to a court should the IRS attempt to charge you with tax evasion. 

I was suitably impressed. But somehow, other than getting my dad's help to buy a gun and learn how to shoot, I never went much further with the Posse. 

Virgil was, though, in all respects a dedicated activist. The first time I was invited to his house, he showed me a taped-up light switch to the front porch. He strictly commanded me not to touch it. He had filled the light bulb on the porch with gasoline in the event that the Feds came to his house. One flick of the switch, and a firebomb would engulf the hapless agent of evil and give him a chance to escape.

If you recall, there was a standoff with a militia group in Montana in 1994. A group calling themselves the Freemen had established a local government they claimed was independent of the Federal government. They issued their own money, committed bank fraud as they stockpiled an arsenal. The standoff took several weeks to resolve, and the intervention of the Federal Government to restore lawful order is still claimed to have been abusive and unwarranted.

I wondered at the time whether or not I had met any of the Freemen involved in the conflict. Certainly I understood their arguments. I knew their hatred. There are lots of people who carry their attitudes even today.  


I don’t know if Virgil ever got in trouble with the law, the Federal Government, or anyone else. A lot of people play these Patriot Games, but somehow never cross any dangerous lines. I was mostly preoccupied with my job and my friends. Soon enough I would be going to college.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Christian and a Liberal Chapter 1 Part 1

Chapter 1. A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far Far Away

Well, at least to hear Katie tell it. I'm Old, she teases. 

In some ways I still feel like a child. In many ways I never grew up. 

I was born into a military family. My dad was overseas for half my childhood (at least!). It wasn't all at once. It was a six-month tour over somewhere, so we had to move off base. When he returned, he would usually have a new assignment, so we would have to move. Then a year and a half over somewhere else (we would have to move off base again). 

My mom was a single parent for half my childhood. Life was tough. I never finished a school year in the same school I started in. I made friends, but they were all pretty much short-term ones. 

So my mom took strength in being religious. She and my dad were very conservative. Very. VERY. But more about that in a bit. 

We went to the Church of Christ. One of their teachings is that you have to be water-baptized by immersion to be saved. At the age of 8 I was scared stiff at the thought of hell. I knew I was a bad boy -- my parents spanked me (paddle, belt, board, what have you) often enough. And I persuaded my parents that I really, really wanted to be saved so I wouldn't go to hell. One of the most frequent sermon themes at the Church of Christ was If You Aren't Baptized You Are Going To Hell. Another was, If You ARE Baptized, But You Sin Before You Die, You Are Going To Hell Anyway. But you didn’t have a change to escape Hell if you weren’t Baptized, no matter how good you were. 

The family changed from the Church of Christ after an introduction to Premillennial teachings through Hal Lindsey's The Late, Great Planet Earth

My mom and dad saw that premillennialism was a huge shift from the a-millennial position of the Church of Christ.  They read through every prophetic book in the Scripture. Our home Bible Studies were based on this. Finally they were convinced.

And since being premillennial in an a-millennial church is rather awkward, we accepted an invitation to a "home church," a small group of people who identified themselves as "Plymouth Brethren."

After a few Sundays, my mom "got saved." The Church of Christ was a works-salvation church. The Plymouth Brethren believed salvation was by faith, accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior. Once you were saved, you were always saved. You could not be "lost."

It took me several more weeks before I accepted Jesus as my Savior. I argued with myself that I had done that when I got baptized. But no, I was told that I couldn't come to Jesus with any works to be saved, so one night I asked Him to save me. 

I remember it well. At the home church one evening, about two months or so after we had started attending, a girl I liked (Jeanne) asked me how long I had been saved.

Heh. The question was one I could have easily answered in the Church of Christ. I was saved when I got baptized at the age of 8. But now I knew I couldn’t be saved by my good works. I just hadn’t actually asked Jesus to be my Savior, yet. I was a proud and arrogant young man. I was a “good boy.” I didn’t swear. I was a conservative. I obeyed my parents. I tried to do the right thing, to be courteous to others whether they deserved it or not. I didn’t really think I had much of anything to be saved from.

But Jeanne’s question nagged at me. I answered it with, “I don’t know, but it hasn’t been long.” At the time I said it, I knew I was lying. I wasn’t “saved.” I was still trying to save myself.

So in my bedroom that Sunday night, I got down beside my bed on my knees and told God that I was sorry. I gave up trying to be saved by good works. I asked Jesus to save me from my sins. 

That was a real conversion moment. I knew what I had done, and why. I had asked Jesus to save me, and on the reassurance of the Word of God, He had saved me. I no longer had to doubt. I was trusting Christ for my salvation, nothing else. 


And yes, I told Jeanne the truth the next time I saw her. I told everyone that I had gotten saved. It was a powerful moment that has never left me. The memory of it has never dimmed. The emotions, the tears and the relief I felt I still feel when I remember that night.

A Christian and a Liberal - Preface

A Christian and a Liberal

Preface

A WHAT? You saw the title. 

That's right. A Christian AND a Liberal. Here I am. A lot of people have said it can't be done. But I am a Christian. I am a Liberal. I have my reasons.

I would like to share them with you. I won't bore you with a complete autobiography (the life story of a car?). Sorry for the pun. Well, not really. I just can't help it sometimes!

But what I want to do is share with you the ideas, perspectives and events that changed me from a borne, bred, baptized and (drat! I can't think of another b-word at the moment!) fundamentalist to a Liberal who retains faith in God. 

There will be vignettes, small pictures of events that gave me a different point of view. Usually they were very small, but sometimes they were earthshaking. 

There will be musings. There will even be discussions about theology (gasp!). I promise to warn you about these. 

The first few chapters will be autobiographical in nature. You need to know where I have been so you can see that there have been real changes in my life over the years. What you see now is not what I have always been. 

I am dedicating this book to the daughters in my family -- yes, Katie, Kara, and Crystal. Katie, you were growing up as I was making the transition. I know it has confused you. Kara and Crystal, you married my sons. I think you deserve to understand who your father-in-law is. 

And I would especially like to thank my Tracey, who stuck with me through the conversion, and who loved me through the changes. I know you have been bewildered, too, at times. I am grateful you have accompanied me on my strange journey of faith. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Three Years

Three Years

Yes, three years. Three years since I posted here last.

In that time I have been busy teaching, dealing with diabetes, and generally living life as fast as it came at me. My daughter has gone from 11 to 14, nearly 15. Wow! Time flies.

And I have now begun to take up writing again.

Hopefully the stream of consciousness will not be dry from now on. Life still begs to be lived. But I need to write, to slow down enough to hear my own thoughts.

Thank you.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

My Interview With Justice Roy Moore

Justice Roy Moore of Alabama is exploring running for President of the United States. In case you are not familiar with Justice Roy Moore, he is the famous Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama who proudly installed a two-and-a-half-ton monument of the Ten Commandments in the Rotunda of the Supreme Court Building, and then equally proudly defied a Federal Court order to remove it.

With this claim to fame and a preacher's zeal Justice Moore is looking at the Presidency. He is absolutely sincere. He calls things like he sees them. He can quote case law, and he knows it in abundance. One may not necessarily agree with his conclusions, particularly in light of America as a pluralistic society, but one cannot doubt his sincerity.

I received a rare opportunity for a little-known blogger. I had expressed interest in writing about Justice Moore on my blog. Then came an invitation to come to a Meet and Greet with him. The invitation was modified slightly so that I would be able to interview him. Wow!

The first thing that strikes you about the man is his unabashed expression of his faith in God. The next thing that strikes you is his absolute sincerity. The third is his complete confidence in his convictions. The man is totally real, much more of a preacher than a politician. As far as I can tell, he has no grand idea for building the economy, reducing unemployment, or for promoting America's place in the world. His vision is to return America to God.

And in that, I think Justice Moore would be a far better preacher than a politician. His vision of God is absolutely and entirely Christian. Today's United States is a very diverse nation, including a wide variety of faiths -- and nonfaiths. He states that belief in God is an absolute prerequisite for morality. I don't think he can conceive of a "moral atheist". Although I am acquainted with several myself, his inability to understand this point, along with quoting eighteenth- and nineteen-century jurists and presidents on the matter would be sure to rankle many.

Justice Moore seems weak on economic policy. He is not very familiar with the Ryan plan. His talk on economics is broad-brushed, something he doesn't seem to feel comfortable with. Give him something to quote case law with, and he will give you precision answers to make his point. But to compete in a campaign for the Presidency, I think he will need more than a preacher's zeal and a preacher's grasp of economics. He will need to brush up on economics and the great concerns in the nation on the budget, jobs, medicare, social security, financial protections, and the like. As for his openly anti-gay position (you can find this on http://morallaw.org/), he does get a bit touchy on it. To his credit, he later apologized for losing his temper.

This is my very first attempt at such an interview. The questions on my list are below (I didn't get to all of them). The questions didn't always come out quite like I had them on paper. For example, I stutter a bit. Yes, I was nervous (did I say it was my first attempt at such an interview?). At one point I got a well-deserved rebuke. On my last question he rebuked me for using Wikipedia as a source (a rebuke I accept and a mistake I will not make again!). And yes, the interview was done in a car -- on the way from a Meet and Greet to his speech at a local church.

As a note, before the interview and when the interview started, I told Justice Moore to regard me as the liberal press. He said that was fine with him, if I remembered he would answer me as if I was the liberal press.

--  

I am interviewing potential presidential candidate Roy Moore, who had been Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama. Today is Tuesday, May 24, 2011.

I want to thank you, Justice Moore, for this interview. A few questions.

1.  Your claim to fame is the controversy with the Ten Commandments -- both the monument issue which eventually led to your removal as Chief Justice, but also the hanging of the Ten Commandments in your courtrooms previously.

  As President of the United States, you will be required to "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

  How can you do this when you willfully defied a Court Order? In November 2003 you asserted that you would defy another court order  if given an opportunity.

2.    Do you think that the United States is a Christian Nation?

--  Even when the Founding Fathers disavowed such an idea? and Jefferson talked about a "wall of separation" between Church and State?

-- Do you believe that Biblical Law supersedes the Constitution?

-- Do you think the Constitution should be amended to require a religious test?

3.  Do you approve of the Ryan Plan for the Budget, which would replace Medicare with a voucher system that would require Seniors to attempt to purchase Health insurance on the open market?

4.  Do you think we should continue to pay subsidies to the Oil Companies?   (Didn't get to this one.)

5.  Do you think Social Security should be privatized?

6.  Since the removal of the Glass-Steagall restrictions, banking has moved to increasingly risky investment strategies, derivatives, securities, the housing crisis, etc. In response to the various crises making up the Financial Crisis, Congress voted to create a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This agency has been attacked as unnecessary. What is your position on the need for additional consumer protections in the Financial Marketplace?

7.  D.H. vs. H.H.
In February 2002
Your court decision: The State carries the power of the sword, that is, the power to prohibit conduct with physical penalties, such as confinement and even execution. It must use that power to prevent the subversion of children toward this lifestyle, to not encourage a criminal lifestyle...

Do you still consider homosexuality to be an act that warrants execution?

---

OK, right at the last was where I made my mistake. I took this from Wikipedia.

He said I misquoted him. Granted, I quoted part of the decision (I only had a couple of minutes left). But from http://caselaw.findlaw.com/al-supreme-court/1303306.html , I can find this:

To disfavor practicing homosexuals in custody matters is not invidious discrimination, nor is it legislating personal morality.   On the contrary, disfavoring practicing homosexuals in custody matters promotes the general welfare of the people of our State in accordance with our law, which is the duty of its public servants.   Providing for the common good involves maintaining a public morality through both our criminal and civil codes, based upon the principles that right conscience demands, without encroaching on the jurisdiction of other institutions and the declared rights of individuals.

The State may not interfere with the internal governing, structure, and maintenance of the family, but the protection of the family is a responsibility of the State.   Custody disputes involve decision-making by the State, within the limits of its sphere of authority, in a way that preserves the fundamental family structure.   The State carries the power of the sword, that is, the power to prohibit conduct with physical penalties, such as confinement and even execution.   It must use that power to prevent the subversion of children toward this lifestyle, to not encourage a criminal lifestyle.


The family unit does consist, and always has consisted, of a “father, mother and their children, [and] immediate kindred, constituting [the] fundamental social unit in civilized society.”   Black's Law Dictionary 604 (6th ed.1990).   To reward a parent, who steps outside that unit by committing a “crime against nature” with custody of a child would represent a reprehensible affront to the laws of family government that the State must preserve.   The best interests of children is not promoted by such a subversion of fundamental law, the very foundation of the family and of society itself.   The State may not-must not-encourage the destruction of the family.

So I don't think I misquoted him. But like I said, the way I said the questions didn't always match what I had on paper. The way the last one came out was, "Do you sir, at this point, think that homosexuality should be an executable offense?"

Perhaps that was a teensy bit more inflammatory? I don't know. In any case, by that time we had gotten to the church, Judge Moore terminated the interview, and we went inside. After his speech he came to me and apologized for his reaction. I told him it was alright.

I do think he will need to define his position on minorities and minority rights -- even for the LGBT communities. After all, one cannot be a President for only part of the population. One needs to be a President for all the people.  

Below is the interview, unedited, and the meeting at the church afterward. Critiques (criticisms) of my fledgling interview (non?) skills will be cheerfully accepted. But perhaps this will help you get to know Judge Roy Moore better.

video
 

He spoke for nearly an hour, so I have split the file into four parts.

video

video

video

video

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How To Balance the Budget in One Easy Step

How To Balance the Budget in One Easy Step

We are living in tight economic times. Banks are tight with their lending -- for most people. Interest rates not controlled by law are pretty high. Money flows to where it can be the most productive, and these days that seems to be in oil speculation, in derivatives, the stock market and other speculative interests.

The speculation markets are hot. Factories and sales are not. Employment is down, and while businesses keep lobbying for tax breaks to make them willing to employ more people, the fact is that unless sales go up, they won't employ anyone else. Consumption goes before hiring.

This turns the Republican model on its head. Trickle-down economics has become trickle-on economics as the middle and lower classes seem to be getting the wastes from the upper class. As the lower and middle classes get poorer and the rich get richer, adding tax burdens to the lower and middle classes makes no sense. They *can't* pay it.

So we need to go to where the money is.

The Bush tax cuts did not go to hiring, they went to the speculative markets causing the oil bubble (among others). The success in the oil market has speculators bidding on wheat, corn, and other products they don't intend to actually buy, but control and sell for large profits.

If we can't stop the speculation, we can at least tax it.

I propose a 1% Financial Transactions Tax. You buy stocks worth $10000, you pay up front 1% of that, $100. You sell the stock for $12000, the buyer pays up front $120 to do it. As with a sales tax, the FTT is buyer-oriented. Buy a house for $100000 and you owe an FTT of $1000.

All derivatives would have to be declared. All securities would have to be declared. The purchaser of insurance would have to pay a 1% FTT. If the premium for life insurance is $60 per month, add 60 cents for the FTT.

No FTT would apply to depositing money into a bank account or withdrawing money from a bank account. But if you use an ATM that charges you $2.50 to access your money, an extra 3 cents charge would apply.

For most people whose lives aren't caught up in currency trading, playing the markets, etc. the tax would bother us very little. The rising price of food affects us a lot more. But the FTT would make those who play with their money in the market instead of making their money work in increasing production of goods at home and hiring people pay just a little bit more for their fun. They borrow the money short-term anyway. 10% down leverages a large contract. A 1% additional cost would not be a great burden to such players.

We need to understand that there are trillions of dollars worth of transactions in American markets. And no, a 1% tax would not drive away investors out of the US. US laws are relatively lax compared to many other markets, and while you can bet that Wall Street would scream and howl, they can easily afford this.

America needs the revenue. We need to go where the money is.