Monday, November 24, 2008

A Visit To Juvenile Court

It is a church-like setting with rows of pews on each side of a carpeted isle. The front is finished with beautiful hardwood. Families and friends squeeze into empty spaces. There is a pseudo hush in the air as everyone keeps whispering private conversations. A strangely serious-but-jovial, older gentleman dressed in a robe presides over the gathering. But there the similarities end. The older man is a judge. Over his head is mounted the seal of the state of Tennessee. Around him scurries a bevy of officers of the court: a court recorder sits on his right, a couple of assistants are on his left, a policeman stands stage right but often moves around to whisper instructions to those standing before the bench (hats off, hands out of your pockets, etc.), representatives of the local school systems, officers of the Department of Human Services and some representatives of private family agencies shuffle around moving in and out of the room.

Every few minutes another name is called and a uniformed officer escorts another prisoner before the judge. Each, dressed in a prisoner orange jump suit, is shackled hands and feet with the hands linked to a large leather belt around the waist. A few come forward from the audience having been summonsed but not arrested. Each is a youth between the ages of twelve and seventeen. They are charged with a host of minor crimes: temper tantrums mostly, fighting at school, one actually hit a teacher who tried to break up a fight, one cursed out and threatened to beat up a teacher for insisting he turn off a video game, one pounded his fist into the wall and kicked a water fountain, a first-timer had broke into the school concession stand and stole a soft drink, one (a petite fifteen-year-old girl) broke into a neighborhood home and stole a few things, and several failed drug tests – one young woman pleaded guilty of actually going drunk to a court-ordered substance abuse program. Most of the accused were “frequent flyers” as the judge called them. One angelic looking thirteen year old was there for the seventh time.

I have been through this scene multiple times with families associated with our church. Typically, the immediate family I’m there to support does not attend church anywhere. It’s a grandparent or aunt or uncle, or neighbor who attends New Covenant. On this occassion it was a beautiful fifteen year old who’s crime was that she got into an argument that got physical with her single father. She use to attend our church and one of our young couples has offered to let her live with them. Her mother was present, but due to past problems she is not considered an acceptable guardian. The biggest crime in all of this is that the young woman has spent nine days in jail for something no one present except her father believes she should have been arrested. I grieve the injustice of our justice system. I grieve the power of sin to destroy lives and families. I grieve for the children victimized by the broken covenants of their parents.

I left with a couple of lingering observations. First, of the dozen or so youth appearing before the judge on that day, not one of them had both parents standing with them. In the case for which I had gone both were present, but one stood as accuser (I am not here judging his desires for his daughter, just stating the facts of the situation) and the other sat in the audience, afraid of creating a disturbance I suspect. Mostly, it was mothers who stood with their children. One father was there with a daughter, but it was the absent mother who had legal custody. All of them seemed lost, uncertain of where they had failed.

Second, the public systems created to educate and guide these young people are overwhelmed with troubled, smart looking, publically polite, kids who are failing their classes and wrecking havoc with the systems. The educators and social workers present appeared professional and compassionate; they were ready to go the second mile to help these kids. It seems to me the problem is a breakdown in our basic social structures more than a failure of those systems (schools, human resources, etc.) we created as backups for the family. Our problem is the disintegration of the family and the dissolution of natural social systems needed to support families, the church being the most important. Each of the teens I observed lacked a stable home environment which in turn lacked stable and extended support systems.

Error Message

For those who follow this blog you have been notified of an article "Sunday at New Covenant." I accidently posted it here when it belonged on my other blog. Sorry. Now you have a message about this error message. A vicious cycle isn't it when we fail to pay attention and "miss the mark." There's a story here, but I don't have time to tell it today.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

My Daughter Taught Me - "Thank You"

“Thank you,” she said with quivering voice and lips.

It was 1983 and Alethea was about to enter the first grade. For some unknown reason the state of Kentucky required all children to have a blood test before entering the first grade, not a prick-your-finger blood test, a sure enough needle in the arm, draw out a vile full of blood test.

Before we left the apartment I had taken great care to prepare Alethea as best as I could for the realities that were coming. Quietly, I was pleading with God to let me be wrong about the test. When we entered the exam room, the nurse was kind enough to find out Alethea was left handed before she began. So I sat on her left side holding that hand while the nurse worked on her right arm.

Alethea was so brave, sitting erect with her head held high. Her lower lip quivered a little but she kept her cool. I on the other hand was a wreck. My stomach was tied in knots; my mouth was dry; and I had that car-sick feeling just trying to hold it together and be brave for her. My tension increased as I could see the nurse was unable to find the vein.

Finally, she shook her head and released the rubber hose with a snap. That’s when Alethea looked up at her tormentor and said, “Thank you.” She then looked at me and asked, “Is it over?” As I replied “no honey,” explaining they had to try the other arm, she burst into tears. She pulled herself together and sat perfectly still as the nurse proceeded. I wanted to grab her and run out the door, but I restrained myself and by the goodness of God the needle went straight into the vein.

I suspect Alethea has long forgotten that traumatic experience. I never will. Upon ever remembrance I relive that sickness and moral tension of contributing to my daughter’s anguish. It does not ease my discomfort to remind myself I was constrained by the law and my desire to be a good father. It doesn’t help me to argue it was for her good, nor that it had no lasting effect. What I know is that I continue to suffer discomfort for causing her a little pain twenty five years ago.

I suspect my ongoing discomfort has as much to do with my own sense of inadequacy to prevent the event as it has to do with her pain. Memories can remind us of who we really are while dreams on the other hand too often serve to delude us into fantasies of being who we wish we were.

This account of paternal suffering also reminds me of our heavenly Father. He too knows the anguish of participating in the suffering of his child. He chose to do the right thing rather than opting for the easy way out. However, His suffering is infinitely greater than my own. He was not inadequate. He could have prevented his son’s pain. Instead, He chose with His Son to enter into all of our sufferings and suffer with us. Beyond that He invites us to enter into the suffering of His Son by entering into the suffering of others.

Theologically, I am an Armenian; I am not a Calvinist. We have free will to choose and God responds to our choices. But I do believe God is sovereign and all powerful. Having committed my life fully to Him I must trust He leads me wherever I go. The path He chooses for me is littered with suffering, yet I believe it all works together for my good (Romans 8:28).

All of us know what it is to suffer. Followers of Christ should especially know this. The question is how will we respond to God and others when we suffer? Will we have the grace in the presence of our tormentors to look upward and say “thank you?’

[By the way, Alethea is now a pediatrician.]


1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:16-22 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.

1 Corinthians 12:18-27 18 But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. 19 If they were all one member, where would the body be? 20 But now there are many members, but one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; or again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." 22 On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; 23 and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, 24 whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, 25 so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. 27 Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it.

Philippians 1:27-30 27 Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; 28 in no way alarmed by your opponents-- which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. 29 For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30 experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.

2 Timothy 1:8-12 8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, 9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, 10 but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher. 12 For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.

1 Peter 3:14-17 14 But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, 15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; 16 and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. 17 For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Hillary for Secretary of State?

Apparently Hillary Clinton is at the top of the list to serve as Secretary of State under President Obama. For Obama this is a wise move. Clinton has proven herself adept at diplomacy having some of the skills of her husband at disarming opponents while at the same time maintaining a commitment to the party line. She would be an excellent Secretary of State for a liberal, Democratic administration, helping to nudge things toward a more centrist position. [I know most conservatives see her as extremely liberal, but I see her as much more toward the center when compared to Obama.]

Personally, I think this appointment would be wrong for her and for the country. I would like to see the esteemed Senator remain in Congress. She has the potential of becoming a dominant statesperson for the people, a replacement for Ted Kennedy if you will. While I disagree with her political philosophy, I consider her a more moderate player in practice than on the stump. I also, think the issues that concern her are issues the nation needs to address (only from a conservative point of view). In short, I think Hillary Clinton is a person who would at least listen to the conservatives in the Senate and allow them to help map out reasonable solutions to our country’s growing social and economic problems. [Granted, the conservatives remaining in Congress might not be very cooperative themselves.]
It is in the Senate that I think she could do the most good for our country. In this season of liberal dominance, I shutter to think who her replacement might be.

I suspect this post will generate strong reactions from the few who read it. If so, one of my objectives will have been achieved.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Glory of God and The Beauty of Work

Drip….Drip….Drip. My Dad was rebuilding the back steps of our house in the heat of the summer and I was watching the sweat drop from his nose. He was leaning over a 2 X 12 board, eyes fixed on the cutting line, left hand grasping the wood, and right hand pushing and pulling a hand-saw. With every down stroke the metal teeth were chewing through the wood in a steady rhythm. The sweet aroma of fresh sawdust filled the air and sweat dripped from the pores on his face and arms as his shirt darkened with the moisture. Hard work, always marked by sweat often mixed with blood, helped define the father of my childhood and youth.

[”By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return." Genesis 3:19]

“Hard work never hurt nobody; that’s what your Grand-pa always says.” Dad often quoted my mother’s father on that point. I had plenty of opportunity to watch and compare them both at work. For my father work was an honorable challenge, a job worth doing. One might even say that for him work was the purpose of life. He attacked every task with focused effort. “A job worth doing is worth doing right.” “Do it right the first time and you won’t have to come back to it so soon.” Every swing of a hoe was an assault on weeds and the construction of a protective mound around the cherished plants requiring three motions: advancing and raising the blade four to six inches above the ground, chopping back and down to destroy the weeds and jerking upward to redistribute the soil. He never stopped until the job was done, and he sweated.

Grand-pa, always dressed in coveralls and a cotton, long-sleeved shirt, never sweated but neither did he often pause for rest. For him work was the rhythm of life. As he glided down a row of beans with a hoe carefully balanced in his hands he made the weeding task seem effortless. The wide, narrow blade moving forward and back like a pendulum, advancing six to eight inches with every cycle, steadily reaching forward grasping a fresh swath of weeds: forward, upward not more than a couple of inches, down, and back, over and over and over until we reached the end of the row. He, the hoe, and the field were one, or so it seemed in my child’s eye.

[”And to the man he said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree about which I commanded you, 'You shall not eat of it,' cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field.” Genesis 3:17-18]

I wanted to be big and strong like my dad. I modeled my chopping after his. With underdeveloped sweat glands I longed for the day of my manhood. My back ached; my arms became lead; but I kept going, oh so happy when my dad would move over without complaint to my row to help me catch up. As I grew I developed my own understanding of work; it is good; it is hard; it is a way of proving myself a man. Some would say I became a workaholic, ever striving to establish my worth through productivity. (Who doesn’t teach full-time, pastor a church, garden, raise cattle and blog?) As much as I admire the courage, strength, and dedication of my father, I now wish I would have learned more of the beauty and rhythm of work from my grandfather.

Almost always overlooked, work is a major theme of creation. In chapters one and two of Genesis humans alone are create by God with the unique trait that they were formed in His image. Theologians have long debated exactly what that means, i.e., reason, moral judgment, regal authority, etc. My own conclusion is that it includes these and other dimensions of human life but at the heart of the matter is the plural but singular nature of God and humanity; God said, “let us make man...” P. K. Jewett, the late New Testament scholar, expressed it this way, “to be human is to be male or female: male and female.” Adam and Eve were each fully human, but neither fulfilled what it meant to be human. Their nature and purpose could only be fulfilled together. Of all creatures, only humans are equipped (in the image of the eternal Trinity) to know as they are known, to see themselves truly in the eyes of another. Thus, to be human is (1) to be created by God, (2) in the image of God, (3) as relational beings, (4) to share in the glory and purposes of God. To be fully human is to glorify God in our existence, our relationships, and in the work we do.

As God intended human existence, work is a beautiful thing. We were created for work. Well before the fall into sin Adam (and later, Eve) was placed in the garden to tend to it. [“The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.” Genesis 2:15 ] Indeed, God Himself is described as working in the six days of creation. [“And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done.” Genesis 2:2] Let me suggest that work is an essential characteristic of God’s design for human existence. Work was to be an extension of an honored position; it was to be an act of stewardship; it was to be an expression of worship. It reflects the image and glory of God.

It is sin that destroys our ability to know and be known, to live and work together in unity. Grace instills a longing to return to the garden, to find ourselves restored in wholeness of personhood and of relationships, to fulfill our purpose for being. Judgment marks the journey back to the divine order with thorns and the sweat of our brow; judgment leads to mercy. For the followers of Christ, work affords the opportunity to share now in our future and intended state. Work done in fellowship with Christ and others renews the soul by giving expression to our truest nature. It is a down payment of our future state; it is the field of our service, the chalice of our fellowship, the promise of our hope, the opportunity to bask in the glory of God. Through Christ our worship through work reflects back to God the beauty of his image and the glory of his creation.

However, we live in an age when for many, if not most people, work is a four-lettered word. Detached from our “real” lives, we “go to work” to earn money for the necessities and desires of life. Ironically, home is also a place from which to escape; there’s just too much work to be done there. We live in our recreation: sports, entertainment, vacations, etc., or so we think. When stuck at home we vicariously escape to exotic worlds through the marvel of television, the internet, or video games.

Labor has long been an instrument of oppression wielded against the powerless – think Egypt’s bondage or southern plantations or modern sweat shops. Such abuse dehumanizes by reducing the worker to an object, a resource, a tool for someone else’s purposes. This perversion of socio-economic systems inhibits meaningful relationships and the development of personal interests and abilities. It is the product of sin and robs God of the glory of His creation.

In modern times these systems have perverted our self-consciousness. Never before have we so thoroughly defined our worth not by what we contribute but by what we collect, not what we do but what we avoid doing. One day, in a graduate course on the Gospel of Luke, a student raised his hand to ask, “Dr. Tenney could you help me understand which day is the Sabbath, Saturday or Sunday. On which of those days are we supposed to rest?” The quintessential gentleman, Dr. Merrill C. Tenney responded, “It is interesting how you asked that question. In my nearly fifty years of teaching it is always asked that way – on what day should we rest? No one has ever asked me the opposite; on what days should we work? Let me remind you, the commandment begins with the words ‘on six days thou shalt work.’ Now that is the better question.”

May God give us the grace to find His presence in the people, the places, and the tasks of our work.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Prayer Isn’t Everything

[Preface: I have been open with my concerns about an Obama Presidency. I hope I have done this with respect for the man. I am concerned some may have read more into my comments than I intended. I will always speak against our culture of death, especially the use of abortion as a means of birth control. However, I do not want to ever contribute to an atmosphere of disrespect and animosity for persons. I am greatly troubled by the hateful personal comments I read on the web, especially by persons purporting to speak as Christians.]

We are all aware it is our duty to pray for our President, but praying for him is not enough. As followers of Christ we are commanded to honor and to love him (hopefully I can one day refer to “her”).

During the past sixteen years I have been troubled as our nation has become more and more polarized around our Presidents. In the midst of our culture wars we have blamed the current President (Clinton or Bush) for the decline of Western civilization or adored him as savior. Clinton was reviled by conservatives as though he was the antichrist. Bush has been disdained by the liberals (and not a few moderates) as if he was the devil himself.

As we move toward an Obama Presidency we have an opportunity to monitor our own spiritual wellbeing. Can we disagree with him on policy and still love and honor him? If it is our desire to please God, we don’t have a choice. We must hate the things God hates, love the things God loves, and obey His Word. We must love, honor and pray for our President. [By the way, for those who have despised Bush you have a couple of months to examine your hearts and pursue a more perfect way yourselves.]

Consider the Scriptures
Matthew 5:43-48 43 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (NRSV)

1 Timothy 2:1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. 3 This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (NRSV)

1 Peter 2:13-17 13 For the Lord's sake accept the authority of every human institution, whether of the emperor as supreme, 14 or of governors, as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right. 15 For it is God's will that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of the foolish. 16 As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. 17 Honor everyone. Love the family of believers. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Promises of Unity

If “change” was the central theme of Barak Obama’s campaign for the Presidency, “unity” was the ubiquitous corollary. He promised to unite us in solving the pressing problems of our time and to not allow ideology to divide us. This is a noble objective, but one that is doomed to failure. It is the same promise George Bush made (“I’m a uniter, not a divider”), and look how that turned out.

The promise will fail for various reasons. First, when Obama made it he seemed to always imply it was the political right that is bound by ideology and obstructing progress. He is a liberal on the far left of the spectrum and we are a nation where the majority define themselves as conservative and between the blue dog Democrats and the Republicans conservatives comprise the majority of Congress. He will have to move far toward the middle on social and economic issues if he hopes to be a lasting unifying force in America (I perceive him to already be in the middle on national security).

Second, while the process of shared problem solving is unifying, it works as a tool for unity only when (1) there is a shared agreement about the reality and nature of the problem, (2) there is a shared agreement on the priority of the problem, and (3) all parties believe their voice will be heard and respected. Ideology is a direct mitigating force in the first two factors and an indirect one in the third.

The reality is that people are united when they are conscious of shared values. They are most easily united when those values are tied to a pressing sense of need, survival for instance. Thus, we unite when we feel threatened, i.e., a terrorist attack or an economic meltdown, etc.. Our core values frame the essence of our self perception; they define who we are. They also determine our perception of what threatens our survival and what should be a priority in our lives. It is our values that shape the ideology we profess. This is not to say that everyone is consistent and congruous with their selection of an ideology. On the contrary, it is to say people are guided by core values that might not be easily expressed in an ideology; hence, some conservatives can vote for a liberal (or vice versa) if he or she taps into those deep values.

In short, ideology is nothing more than a systematized expression of values. We can set aside our ideology (i.e., liberalism vs. conservatism) only to the extent that we unite around a greater shared ideology, values that are threatened (i.e., liberty, justice, democracy). In situations other than grave crises it is our ideological differences that clarify our desires and the values that guide civilization. In a democracy we need healthy disagreement (disunity) in order to move forward with the best policies for all. These differences often serve not only to help us choose a direction, but to first recognize the need to move in any direction. They provide the energy for change and sometimes they save us from great error.

It is incredibly difficult to come to agreement on what the real problems are and what priority they should have, not to mention how to solve them without violating someone’s core values. It does not serve us well to view the minority voice as obstructionist and yet democracy is prewired to view them exactly that way. We can come together only to the extent we agree to honor each other by respecting our opposing views at least enough to give them serious consideration. When victory overshadows understanding we are destined to run ruff shod over the minority. It is not our differences nor their intensity, but what we do with them that divide us. This then becomes the Achilles’ heel for any President; time and passion stand in the way of considered listening and shared problem solving.

Let us choose to hope that Barak Obama is that rarest of politicians, one who will value everyone (specifically in Congress) enough to give them voice not only in how to solve our problems, but in the identification and prioritization of the problems. He seems to have the disposition for such listening.

Finally, he will fail because it will be out of his hands. The major problems of this country require Congressional action. It is the leaders and members of Congress who must learn to listen intently and with respect to each other. They must come to agree on the existence, nature and priority of our problems. And they must learn to do this with many of them having already established extreme dislike for each other. No matter how well intentioned and capable, this task is beyond any President’s ability. They all promise it; they all fail; so why do we fall for it? Perhaps it is reflective of the image of God that we continue to hope for unity. Surely it is the fruit of sin that we fight over our disagreements. Let us hope this will be that season of politicians learning to work together. Let us hope I am wrong in my pessimism.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election 2008 -- Observations and Predictions

Change is coming. The question is what kind of change. I have a few predictions, but first a few observations. If you follow this blog, you will recognize most of what follows.

Observation #1: This is a truly historic election (and it should be celebrated both that an African American and a woman – for the second time - were on major party tickets). It is phenomenal that we have elected an ethnic minority, a Black, as President one hundred and sixty years after the Civil War, forty years after Dr. King's "I have a Dream" speech.

Observation #2: The Obama campaign is truly historical in funds raised and spent. It might be argued his supporters bought the election. His opponents can complain about his broken word about Federal matching funds, but his funds were apparently raised in a most democratic fashion.

Observation #3: Obama was as negative as McCain, i.e., he spent as much or more money on negative ads. On top of that he was effective in attacking McCain for being negative because most people already perceived McCain as being more negative. As I have sometimes said, “if you have to back-bite against somebody, make it a back-biter; you can always get away with that.” His portrait of McCain as being negative typically transitioned to a self portrait as a uniter (bridge builder) which was immediately followed by a blasting of conservatives as those who divide.

Observation #4: Gender prejudice is stronger than racism in this country. This was seen in the Democratic primaries and the race that followed. Regardless of what you think about Governor Palin, the media was biased against her and much of that was gender based. To some degree this was to be expected because she came from nowhere and had not been vetted on a national level, but the feeding frenzy highlighted the bias. Her words were often twisted while Joe Biden was given a free ride on his open gaffs. Consider the level of coverage of the one investigator’s conclusion she violated ethics standards in the trooper gate events with the level of coverage on the commission that recently concluded to the contrary. (I suspect most people did not even know a report was just released to that effect.)

Observation #5: McCain ran a poor campaign until the final days. He seemed lost when the focus shifted from Iraq to the economy. Obama had clearly prepared for that shift. History (a favorite subject of McCain’s) reveals McCain should have anticipated the shift and had a strategy in his back pocket. During a term limitation transition, no incumbent party has retained the White House during an economic downturn in the last century.

Observation #6: Obama could not have won without the support of a sizable number of Evangelical Christians. I applaud the shift away from being single issue voters. It is well past time they became concerned about war, social needs and the environment. However, I despair in their failure to take a stand on the single issue that will determine the fate of the weakest members of our society, late-term abortions. In light of his openly stated positions on abortion, the homosexual agenda, and judicial appointments, all who voted for him must share in the responsibility for the change both good and bad that is coming.

Observation #7: Obama won this election through an appeal to classism. In a time of economic uncertainty he pitted the middle class against the upper class. His and Biden’s appeal to fairness in taxation failed to present the case for why it is fair for the more affluent to pay a significantly higher tax rate. Instead they relied on the emotions of difficult times to argue for them.

Observation #8: Both parties ignored the needs of the poor and marginalized. Even their arguments for improved healthcare, centered on the needs of the working middle class.

Observation #9: McCain did considerably better than the polls indicated.

Observation #10: In spite of my philosophical pessimism, this election is good for democracy. The inclusion of masses of a new generation and record numbers of minorities offers the hope of greater inclusion in all aspects of our society.

Prediction #1: The transition will be nearly flawless. The fly in the ointment might be if Obama is perceived as acting as if he is already President especially in international economic affairs. Obama’s appointments will be diverse representatives of the sectors that elected him with more than one moderate Republicans in high positions. He will get off to a good start.

Prediction #2: Obama will keep many of his promises. With the support of a Democratically controlled congress, he will claim a mandate to push through his agenda. There will be a flurry of passed legislation. At the front will be commitments to energy and the environment. He will push through the Freedom of Choice Act overturning any states ability to restrict abortions and thereby increasing the number of abortions, including partial-birth and other late-term abortions. The number of late term abortions will go up significantly. However, Republicans in Congress will become more vocal and articulate in their conservative philosophy.

Prediction #3: Obama will get his tax proposals and related programs approved. In some cases he will get more than he promised. In terms of healthcare, he will get most of what he wants but the debates will heat up. All of this will prolong the economic downturn, although there will probably be a short-lived upturn from now through the first six months of his Presidency. Unemployment will increase. Before his Presidency ends, the middle class tax cuts will be more than lost through increases in indirect taxes. Many of our trade treaties will be rewritten; we will become much more protectionist and trade will never-the-less become more unbalanced. In the end, the economy will improve because “the fundamentals are sound.”

Prediction #4: Obama will attempt to keep his promise and push for a repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. It will be close but the reversal will fail. Congress will bow to the will of their constituents. – This may be wishful thinking.

Prediction #5: Obama will appoint at least one activist judge to the Supreme Court, more if given a chance.

Prediction #6: Obama’s honeymoon with Congress will end in a couple of years with battles over fiscal restraint (balancing the budget) and that centering on a coalition of Republicans and the “Blue Dog” Democrats in Congress. Like Bill Clinton before him, he will shift (but less noticably than Clinton) toward the middle.

Prediction #7: Joe Biden was correct; Obama will be tested by an international threat early in his Presidency. Actually, there will be more than one crisis. Israel will bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities during his first two years and the world will deem his response his response to be too little, too slow, and too complicit.

Prediction #8: President Obama will excel in international relations except Islamic nations, Russia, and Latin America (which will be put off by his protectionism). In short, he will be phenomenal with our Western Allies and most of Africa; he will be less than stellar with our enemies, especially Islamic nations. This will seem strange to many given his unique connection with Islam. I truly hope I am wrong on this. He has the best personal gifts for diplomacy that I have seen in a political leader. (My problem is not his ability, but his direction.)

Prediction #9: Our troops will leave Iraq during the first two years of Obama’s term; things will go poorly for that country as they will not be ready for full self-governance and internal security. America’s standing in the region will continue to decline.

Prediction #10: Obama, as promised, will increase our presence in Afghanistan. He will act unilaterally to attack Al-Qaeda sites in other countries. Our relationship with Pakistan and Syria will especially continue to deteriorate.

Prediction #11: During this term President Obama will engage American military might in some other country, ostensibly for humanitarian purposes.

Prediction #12: The roll of minorities in American politics has been forever changed for the good. The days of the Caucasian, good-old-boys-club-in-power is over. Minorities will rise in leadership in both parties but especially conservatives in the Republican Party. – Perhaps some delusional wishful thinking here. The Parties will become more ideologically defined and stress ethnic coalitions with a greater social purpose.

Prediction #13: The world will not come to an end on January 20, 2009. Conservatism is not dead. Obama will in many ways be an outstanding President effectively motivating Americans to consider the future in ways we never have.

Prediction #14: Sarah Palin will not vanish into the polar night; she will soon be a Senator from Alaska. John McCain will become more of a statesman in the Congress reaching out to help Obama cross the isle.

Well, I’m out on a limb on a lot of things. Most of these predictions are well considered. Some are more off the cuff. Somebody hold me accountable for their accuracy.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Let Us Pray

I am preparing a list of observations on the election and predictions for an Obama Presidency. But for tonight, let us celebrate the election of an African American to the highest office in the land. I remember “whites only” signs and I am truly thankful to have lived to see this day, regardless of political opinions.

Let us pray for President Elect Obama. Let us pray for him and his sister as they grieve the loss of their grandmother. Let us pray for his safety and for the safety of his family and those who protect them. Let us pray for him as one appointed by God to lead this country in this season. Pray that he will be open to the voice of God, that he will have a heart for peace, a passion for righteousness and justice, and a desire for truth and wisdom.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Presidential Prediction

It’s Monday evening before Election Day and I thought I would offer a couple of predictions/guesses. First, I think the popular vote will be much closer than the polls have indicated with a less than three percentage point difference. Second, I think the Electoral College will be a blowout in Obama’s favor.