Blogs for Fred

I’m proud to announce the creation of a new site that Joe Carter and I have been working on: Blogs for Fred. The site is just as its named — a rally point for bloggers who support Sen. Fred Thompson for president. Yeah, I know he hasn’t officially announced yet, but it’s kinda like the suspense that ensues when everyone wonders whether or not the president will pardon the Thanksgiving turkey. It’s pretty likely.

Regular readers of my blog won’t be surprised to discover that I’m supporting Sen. Thompson. I voted for him when he ran for Senate, and I look forward to doing so in the Republican primary and the 2008 presidential election. Go visit Blogs for Fred now!

Evangelicals, Rudy Giuliani, and the Republican Party

On Tuesday, Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani will make yet another attempt to court the vote of evangelical Christians:

In what may be one of the most important speeches of his campaign thus far, Mayor Giuliani will make his pitch tomorrow to Christian conservatives, aiming to convince them that his bona fides on leadership and fiscal discipline should trump his views on social issues like abortion.

The Mayor should save his breath.

Giuliani has never had any real traction among social conservatives, especially after his stated support for public funding of abortion. His unorthodox stances have even raised questions within his own Roman Catholic Church, where Guiliani seems to be on the verge of excommunication. But what of evangelicals?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but the thinking seems to go like this: evangelicals are (rightly) concerned about terrorism. Rudy has positioned himself as the “strong leader in the fight” candidate. The Democrats’ leadership in that arena is lacking, to say the least. Therefore, evangelicals will vote for the pro-abortion, pro-gay rights Giuliani in this time of crisis.

Besides, for the last quarter century, evangelicals have voted Republican for president. There’s no way they’d cross the aisle for Hillary, right? Evangelicals will have no other choice but to vote for Giuliani.

This line of thought is correct insofar as most evangelicals aren’t going to vote for Hillary. But would they leave the Republican party over simple social issues like abortion?

If necessary, they will.

What Mayor Giuliani is forgetting is that evangelicals are the heirs the Protestant Reformation. In the sixteenth century, their forbearers saw corruption and misrepresentation in the established ecclesiastical body of their day. They left the Church of Rome, often at great peril. Leaving a political party is second nature after leaving a church. They can and will leave if the candidate leaves them.

Should Giuliani win the Republican primary, there will inevitably be some evangelicals who will vote for him. Some. Not the already slim margin that’s needed to win. If Rudy Giuliani wins the Republican primary, we should all be prepared to say “Madam President” in January of 2009.

The good news is that there are other candidates who are more representative…

Books you should read this summer

It’s summer — the season when kings and princes go off to war, and citizens depart for the beach. High schoolers are introduced with much shock to the reality that they have assigned reading over the summer. Those of us that didn’t get the memo that summer wasn’t for reading compile lists. Here’s mine:

Guests of the Ayatollah: The First Battle In America’s War With Militant Islam

Mark Bowden’s, Guests of the Ayatollah: The First Battle In America’s War With Militant Islam is essential reading if you want to be in-the-know on what is happening in Iran. Sure, it covers events that occurred nearly thirty years ago, but it the Iran embassy hostage crisis in 1979 is not unrelated events today. Bowden’s compelling narrative of the event provides a page-turning account of the lives of the hostages, the hostage takers themselves, and the often Keystone Cop-like efforts of American politicians who wanted to end the crisis. Based on painstakingly detailed interviews, Bowden’s account will emerge as the definitive work on the crisis — if it hasn’t already.

The Second Coming

Walker Percy (sorry, not related to Walker, Texas Ranger) is like Dostoevsky with wit. His novels explore the depths of life’s ultimate questions in a way that leaves the reader wondering how such quirky characters carried them to the edge of such profound ponderances. The Second Coming is a novel about rich, middle-aged man who may or may not be going crazy, and an escaped mental patient who has already been down the crazy road for quite some time. All of this craziness leads up to, in typical Walker Percy fashion, unparalleled sanity.

Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be

There’s nothing like setting out the chairs by the surf, putting up an umbrella, and curling up to a good book about sin. Doesn’t that whet your appetite for Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.’s book, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin? I thought so. A topic often avoided these days, this book tackles things like why we sin, the relationship between addiction and sin, and perhaps most important: what sin is. Plantinga describes it as a breaking of shalom — like the title, it means that the fruits of sin are that things are not the way they are supposed to be. A thought-provoking look at a topic we all deal with and wished we didn’t.

The Children of Men

A society where the accepted norms are based on fiction often needs fiction to show it the truth. In western nations, where life is often more of a question than a privilege, exaggeration of experience can shed light upon areas and ideas that would otherwise be obscured. P.D. James’ 1993 novel, The Children of Men is a work where such exaggeration takes place. More poignant (and profoundly Christian) than its 2006 cinematic counterpart, the novel reflects the outworking of a society of extremes where people will eschew all ethical boundaries in order to bring about life, all the while seeking any way possible to attack the lives of those most helpless. A haunting read. Don’t see the movie on this one. Read the book.

Struggling with Euphemisms: How Evangelicals Soften Sin and Sidestep Guilt

A few years ago, I wrote here about how our culture at large tends to marginalize the concept of sin by softening the terminology used to describe it. Sins become “mistakes” or “errors in judgment,” leaving the perpetrator a little less guilty in his or her own eyes.

Sadly, this societal trend has crept into the church as well. If you’re an evangelical Christian, you’ve no doubt heard a phrase like this, “I’m struggling with ____.” Within that blank is any number and manner of sins. These days, it seems, a person doesn’t sin anymore so much as they struggle with sin.

A person who lusts becomes a person who is “struggling with lust.” Someone who is proud becomes someone who is “struggling with pride.” A person who views sexually explicit material becomes one who is “struggling with pornography,” and so on and so forth.

Look closely at what has happened here: uncomfortable with facing head-on the ramifications of saying “I sinned,” the sinner chooses a different route. The guilt of having committed the sin is seemingly alleviated by couching it in the language of struggle.

There are two severe problems with this practice. The first is that Christians should be struggling with sin. It should characterize every Christian that they struggle with pornography, greed, or pride. Since few others seem to fight against these vices, Christians should be on the front lines. Struggling with sin should not be seen as something to get away from.

The second problem is that the soft edge seemingly given by these euphemisms is a lie. Restating the problem of sin doesn’t make it go away. The cross of Christ is the only remedy for sin, and to ease our guilt by wordplay is a fruitless self deception.

“If we confess our sins,” the Scriptures tell us, Christ “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We should do just that — confess it for what it is and accept his forgiveness. The sin should end and the struggle should go on.

Truth vs. Humor

Ever wonder why conservatives have such a difficult time in getting their message across in the marketplace of ideas? One reason might be that we’re not fighting with the same artillery:

So, how can you criticize someone who makes no positive assertions to criticize? Or even more difficult, how do you do it when his or her negative judgments are funny? Much of the power of cynicism comes through wit and humor. To question truth claims of cynical judgments often requires an unnatural shift of your whole state of mind or of the momentum of any given conversation. Imagine questioning the truth of some of the claims of the political satire on Saturday Night Live. You may not object that this is just light entertainment, and so of course you cannot “agree” with caricatures as if it was serious political discussion. But that is just the point. It is entertainment, but nonetheless it is powerful in communicating ideas and impressions about important subjects and people. Presidential candidates have altered their campaign strategies as a result of watching the way they were being satirized on Saturday Night Live. (p.14)

So says Dick Keyes in Seeing Through Cynicism: A Reconsideration of the Power of Suspicion — a book that’s giving me much pause as I read it. The point here is that it’s often fruitless to argue truth against cynical satire. It doesn’t mean that truth shouldn’t be argued and proclaimed, but it shouldn’t surprise us when completely rational arguments are summarily dismissed.